Should THIS be called a victory?

September 24, 2004

Our hard working friends in the House have recently passed a bill, no doubt at the urging of the so-called Christian right which seeks to deprive the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear cases relating to the wording of the pledge of allegiance. The rather transparent objective of this maneuver is to prevent the federal courts from strking down the “one Nation, under God” reference in the pledge.

As Glenn Reynolds has pointed out – however – the bill, which does not (and could not) affect the jurisdiction of state courts to hear the same issues, may ultimately serve only to create a void of precedent which could be filled with findings by left-leaning state courts that the “under God” wording is unconstitutional.

But even if this rather bizzare ploy survives a Senate vote and makes its way to W’s desk (where it will almost certainly be signed, with appropriate pre-election spin), and even if all of the blue state Supreme Courts fail to act, is this really the sort of thing that Christians want to characterize as a victory?

C’mon, folks! People are filing these constitutional challenges for a REASON. They don’t WANT to talk about how this nation is “under God” because they don’t believe it. Do the anti-pledge-changing folks really think they’re going to win these folks over by using their influence at the highest levels of power to create legal weapons that can be used to cram these constitutional attacks down their opponents’ throats?

Here’s a radical idea, on which – I must again say – Mike (bless his heart) has got me reflecting.

Maybe mainstream America isn’t now (and never was, really) “Christian,” at least not in the sense that the majority of its citizens are serious about discipleship (as opposed to just showing up at church on a semi-regular basis and claiming the “C” label). Maybe, as a lot of Chrisitan leaders are beginning to point out, the Church now finds itself in a secular society which values material gain and the preservation of capital and youth and “sexiness” more than it does anything that comes close to the values of Jesus. Maybe we need to come to see ourselves – again – as foreign missionaries in a strange land, rather than the heirs of a religious/political system that needs to be defended.

If that is the case, then perhaps the best solution is not a political one, nor a social one, nor a legal one. Perhaps the best solution is to stop fighting to preserve an illusion of what this country is about, and to instead focus on bringing the presence of Jesus back to the streets. Feed the hungry. Clothe the homeless. Heal the sick. Lift up the downtrodden. Proclaim good news to the poor. Become a beacon of light in places in the world where there is suffering.

Perhaps the real pathology in the pledge battle is in the Christian camp. Somehow, some of us have been convinced that taking a stand for our values means manipulating the political and legal system to our perceived benefit. But does “winning” that battle fix anything?

Instead of forcing people to say this is a nation “under God,” why not put away the briefcases and legal pads and briefs, and bring the REAL Kingdom to the streets?


Once a Dork, Always…

September 22, 2004

If anyone suspects that age has eroded my “nerd” credentials, I have receipts from Circuit City proving that I purchased the Star Wars Trilogy DVDs and Star Wars: Battlefront (for X-Box) at around 1:30 p.m. yesterday. (For those who have no cultural awareness on such important subjects, both of these items appeared in stores for the first time yesterday).

Our entire family watched the 10 minute preview of Episode III last night. I’ve got to say that it looks very dark and very cool, all at once.

As we watched the preview, I was struck (not for the first time) by the impression that George Lucas is a really good storyteller. He understands and creates mythology as well as anyone in American pop culture. The special-effects laden space opera is intriguing and fun to watch. But the questions Lucas poses in his story are even more interesting: How do good people become evil people? Why do large governments and empires become corrupt and collapse? Why is power so easily abused? Should a person ever be forbidden to (romantically) love or to marry? When people are truly evil, can they be redeemed (despite what Yoda says)? Should a person honor an oath that is given to another, even when they develop subsequent reservations about whether it is the right thing? What would have happened to Anakin if he had simply been left alone, rather than taken from his mother and home and made into a Jedi? Would he have risen to bring freedom to the Republic without his detour down the dark side? Was it really necessary that he become part of the human “system” for maintaining order, or did the “system” only make him all the more vulnerable to the corrupting influences of pride and arrogance?

Say what you like about Lucas’ screenwriting and directing skills, and his over-reliance on special effects (and many do), but I will always have a great love for this story about the fall (and return) of Anakin Skywalker.

On a related note (related only in the sense that it is another experience that has me reflecting about life “back in the day”), I have been having a blast reading through two collections of comic strips from Berkley Breathed’s Outland during the last few weeks. I had pretty much lost track of Breathed since Bloom County drew itself to a conclusion more than ten years ago, and I have been happy to discover that his witty social commentary remains sharp as ever and that his characters remain as cute and as innocent as ever. One glance at Opus (his most well-known character, who is an overly impressionable penguin) in his twirly-hat and I was grinning from ear to ear.

When Silence Falls

September 10, 2004

Take a deep breath and reflect for a few minutes on this quotation from Walter Brueggemann, and on these words from Tim Hughes:

I’ve had questions, wihout answers
I’ve known sorrow, I have known pain
But there’s one thing, that I’ll cling to
You are faithful, Jesus You’re true

When hope is lost, I’ll call you Savior
When pain surrounds, I’ll call you healer
When silence falls, You’ll be the song within my heart

In the lone hour of my sorrow
Through the darkest night of my soul
You surround me and sustain me
My defender, forevermore

I will praise You, I will praise You
When the tears fall, still I will sing to You
I will praise You, Jesus praise You
Through the suffering still I will sing