Presidential Controvercy – part 1

Obama HeaderA couple of weeks ago, President Obama gave a speech to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in support of Hispanic Heritage Month.  His remarks sent the blogs and talk shows all aflutter.  During his comments, which I have linked below, he talked about the great diversity of people that have always made up our country, saying:

We didn’t always get along. But over the centuries, what eventually bound us together —
what made us all Americans — was not a matter of blood, it wasn’t a matter of birth. It
was faith and fidelity to the shared values that we all hold so dear. We hold these truths
to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights:
life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

What upset many people was the omission of the words “by their Creator” from Obama’s quotation of the Declaration of Independence, and that certainly is an area of concern.  I have heard commentators mention that Obama, who always uses a teleprompter when he speaks, hesitated very noticeably when it got to that part, proving that the “under God” was there, but he decided to remove it.  That argument is quite weak though, since it could have been missing from the prompter, and he could have been debating putting it in, but decided that the speech writers knew best.  All of this is extreme navel gazing of the sort that greatly annoys me.

In my mind there are a few other much more significant issues about the speech in general, that need to be mentioned.  I will spend the next few blog posts explaining what I believe are the areas of real concern that the circumstances of this speech should be bringing to the surface, starting with the very occasion for which his remarks were given.  But before we continue, consider taking the time to listen to Obama’s speech in its entirety.  It is one of his more eloquent and brief appearances.  The most controversial part is at 21:40.

Malignant Segregation

First of all, the whole [insert politically correct cause here] Heritage/History Month trend has got to stop.  For those of us who are not politically savvy enough, let us make up a fanciful illustration to illustrate the reality of how all this works.  The National Association for Annoying Political Correctness (known as the NAAPC), an advocacy group, gets together and brain storm ways of making more people pay attention to them.  The term advocacy group is usually just code language for a group of people who want more political power.   Like a 3 year old child, the worst thing that any advocacy group can imagine is to be ignored.  They are like fairies from Neverland, if you say you don’t believe they exist, they die.  They can only be revived by clapping.

So the NAAPC realizes that they need to be creative and do what every other advocacy group is doing, which is to create their own holiday.  There was a period of time in the late 80’s and early 90’s when they all came up with their own day to celebrate.  The NAAPC had Shove Through Ur Politics Day (STUPD) in ’91 and ’92, but soon after, they followed all of the other advocacy groups and expanded to a whole month.

All they had to do in order to get 1/12 of a year of attention instead of 1/365 was to send out a press release and print a few thousand free promotional calendars with the dates on them.  It all happened quickly, despite a few intense meetings on what to call the 25th of December, instead of Christmas.  They settled on Cold Celebration of Things Inoffensive. They were originally going to call it Winter Celebration, but people got upset that the other seasons weren’t included.  Kwanza made the cut, but the dates for Hanukah were removed entirely, leaving only blank calendar squares.

The news media was all too happy to do a whole series of stories about PCHM (Politically Correct History Month) because the Democratic National Committee was only producing enough material for 15 minutes of the newscast.  So they only did the weather twice during the half hour broadcast (instead of the usual 3 times) and cut out the stories about Rocky the water-skiing squirrel, and why you shouldn’t leave your pets in the car when it is 100 degrees outside.   This left a full 15 minutes of each newscast to advertise Politically Correct History Month.

Suddenly the entire country was celebrating a whole month of Political Correctness as if it had been handed down by the Holiday Gods.  Hallmark was even making some cards for people to buy, and the NAAPC had a few big parties to celebrate, which they bankrolled with all the new donations coming in.

Back to reality:

The NAAPC is fake, but the situation is all too real.  These organizations aren’t trying to be malevolent.  They are catering to their own interests.  That, my friends is why every month is now covered by some special interest group, telling you about their history.  My personal favorite is Women’s History Month, which isn’t really about the history of women, or it would be all about how an egg got fertilized in the first place, Eve, and evolution.

So here is Barak Obama giving a speech about how we are unified, while at a meeting of only Hispanic people, talking about Hispanic issues, for a holiday invented by people who want more attention for Hispanic causes.  Keep in mind, I am not anti-Hispanic.  I am anti special interests.  If a group is being seriously abused, minority unity is important to get past the repression.  But in all circumstances, special interest groups exist to separate themselves from the bulk of the population and segregate.  If you don’t believe me, listen to where the applause is during the speech.  The cheering does not come when Obama talks about unity.  The people applaud when he says “Mexico.”  Crowds are actually pretty easy to psychoanalyze.  They cheer for the things they are committed to, and boo or ignore the things they aren’t.

The words of the Declaration say,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…[skipping to the end] And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

So, Obama’s speech at the Hispanic Caucus was troubling not just for its omission of God, but for its catering to a continued idea that celebrating America’s diversity is best accomplished by segregating its citizenry. We won’t be truly diverse when every interest has its own day, or month, or colored ribbon.  We will be truly diverse when no one desires any of those things at all.

Fall Again

Fall Again Header

Fall descends, a blanket lifted

The stuffy wool of summer gathered up and put away

Fresh air breathes in puffs, the evening sun in golds and cherry reds

The light filtered through trees and clouds, showing a new deep content

Leaves rain on each new breath, and we laugh and sigh, with ciders, and coffees, and baked goods with pumpkin and spice

It will end, the world will turn, and new blankets of frost and snow, like the tightly made beds ready for sleep.

But in this time, lengthened and melancholy, all is just good.  Not shouts of Summer, or Christmas revelry

This still moment, content in itself.

Indoctrination – part 2

Indoctrination header

This is part 2 in a 2 part series.  If you missed it, you can read part 1 here

What frustrates me about the indoctrinational aspect of Sunday morning worship is that so much of it is often so half-hearted.  This seems most clear to me whenever I’ve sung the song, I Could Sing of Your Love Forever.  I have to note that I have no theological, or artistic problem with the song.  I enjoy the work of Delirious? very much.  My problem is with the way we sing it (and yes, I realize that fortunately the era of singing this one to death is long past).

I could sing of Your love forever, (Repeat endlessly, or 4 times, whichever seems longer)

Oh, I feel like dancing – it’s foolishness I know;
but, when the world has seen the light,

they will dance with joy, like we’re dancing now.

Every time I’ve sung this song, I have had two main thoughts.  The first is about whether anyone in the room is thinking, “I really wish that this worship service would never ever end.  I am just going to quit my job and everything I do so that I can just do this from now on.”  The second thought involves me noticing that everyone is just standing there singing until it reaches the line about dancing, and then they step side to side for a couple measures, so that they aren’t actively lying to God.  If they didn’t do this, someone might stop them after church and say, “Why are you hurting God’s heart by not doing the Worship Two-Step?”

Now contrast that with the scene in Isaiah, chapter 6 where Isaiah is brought into God’s throne room.  I love the first verse, which just nonchalantly says “I saw the LORD, seated on His throne…” right after a detailed description of the timeframe.  It is like slipping you winning the lottery into a diary entry on what happened during your day.  Reading it that way, I imagine Isaiah on an anonymous Thursday afternoon when, BAM, he’s in front of God, and everything goes into overload.

As Isaiah describes the scene in this throne room, he is wrecked.  He’s lying face down on the ground screaming at God that he isn’t worthy to be here.  All he can think about is how his personal dirtiness is so vile in the presence of god.  I don’t sense Isaiah thinking much about this, just falling and screaming.  God picks him up, dusts him off, cleanses him, and starts talking to him as a son.

Bear in mind that Isaiah didn’t come to this little party as a heathen.  He was already a prophet of God.  He was one of the good guys.  But Isaiah suddenly had a new realization of who God actually is, in a deeper way than he ever had, and he could no longer even stand up.

I bet Isaiah would have quite a chuckle as he watched us sing many of our worship songs.  I guess that most of the characters in the Bible would.  David danced around the city semi-naked-ecstatic.  Paul worshipped as he sat chained between soldiers in prison. So did Daniel as lions licked their lips and imaged him as a roast, Wile-E-Coyote-style.  They did all this without even having video projection.

I bet many churches throughout history have worried that they are secretly the church of Laodicea.  I worry sometimes too.  I don’t think we are, but I bet that the church of Laodicea thought they were quite awesome at their worship too.  Jesus was out front banging at the door for them to invite him to the party, but they couldn’t hear him over the sub-woofer.

I hope God doesn’t hear our worship and get really upset at how polished and hollow and arrogant it is.  Sometimes I approach worship so arrogant and distracted.  I hope I never have an Isaiah experience that leaves me wrecked, but I bet Isaiah would have counted it as the best moment of his life.  Maybe in that light, my worship is pretty hollow. -Ryan


Today’s Video Infection

OK, I haven’t had one of these in a while.  This makes me feel less bad about all of my sports inadequacies, and although this looks pretty foolish, if most of us are honest, we can admit that we’ve made mistakes that are just as foolish–but hopefully weren’t put on YouTube.