Sunday, November 19, 2006

Absolute Clarity

I was catching up on my reading today, and browsing through Don Surber's blog, where he posted a quote from British Prime Minister Tony Blair that displays his absolute clarity and resolve about the situation in Iraq:
We are not walking away from Iraq. We will stay for as long as the government needs us to stay. And the reason for that is that what is happening in Iraq, as in Afghanistan, as elsewhere in parts of the Middle East, is a struggle between the decent majority of people, who want to live in peace together, and those who have an extreme and perverted and warped view of Islam, who want to create war. In those circumstances, our task has got to be to stand up for the moderates and the democrats against the extremists and the sectarians. They are testing our will at the moment, and our will has not to be found wanting.
Farther down, Don posted a long comment from blogger Amy Proctor. Money quote:
There is no way a bunch of terrorists could ever defeat America if we were unified. The division is what is prolonging the engagment in Iraq. It's that simple. I hold Democrats personally responsible.
Her lengthy comment made me curious, so I followed the link to her blog Bottom Line Up Front and found wonderfully cogent posts on the war and related politics. Some recent headlines and ledes:

Kissinger Debunks Dem War Rhetoric

Bottom Line Up Front: In contrast with Democrats, Henry Kissinger says the conflict in Iraq cannot be won without a U.S. military presence.

Why the U.S. Cannot Timetable Iraq

Bottom Line Up Front: A timetable for withdrawal in Iraq would be a disaster.

Unlike Democrats, Romania Will Not Abandon Iraq

Bottom Line Up Front: Romania's honor is greater than the Democrats'.

I look forward to reading Amy's blog regularly! I've added her to my permanent blogroll under Military & Milblogs.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Changing the Conversation

President Bush has done a fair job of crafting a vision of hope for the Middle East. His stirring words have been a catalyst for remarkable changes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Here's a sample from his speech to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2006:
At the start of the 21st century, it is clear that the world is engaged in a great ideological struggle, between extremists who use terror as a weapon to create fear, and moderate people who work for peace.

Five years ago, I stood at this podium and called on the community of nations to defend civilization and build a more hopeful future. This is still the great challenge of our time; it is the calling of our generation. This morning, I want to speak about the more hopeful world that is within our reach, a world beyond terror, where ordinary men and women are free to determine their own destiny, where the voices of moderation are empowered, and where the extremists are marginalized by the peaceful majority. This world can be ours if we seek it and if we work together.

The principles of this world beyond terror can be found in the very first sentence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document declares that the "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom and justice and peace in the world." One of the authors of this document was a Lebanese diplomat named Charles Malik, who would go on to become President of this Assembly. Mr. Malik insisted that these principles apply equally to all people, of all regions, of all religions, including the men and women of the Arab world that was his home.

In the nearly six decades since that document was approved, we have seen the forces of freedom and moderation transform entire continents. Sixty years after a terrible war, Europe is now whole, free, and at peace -- and Asia has seen freedom progress and hundreds of millions of people lifted out of desperate poverty. The words of the Universal Declaration are as true today as they were when they were written. As liberty flourishes, nations grow in tolerance and hope and peace. And we're seeing that bright future begin to take root in the broader Middle East.

Some of the changes in the Middle East have been dramatic, and we see the results in this chamber. Five years ago, Afghanistan was ruled by the brutal Taliban regime, and its seat in this body was contested. Now this seat is held by the freely elected government of Afghanistan, which is represented today by President Karzai. Five years ago, Iraq's seat in this body was held by a dictator who killed his citizens, invaded his neighbors, and showed his contempt for the world by defying more than a dozen U.N. Security Council resolutions. Now Iraq's seat is held by a democratic government that embodies the aspirations of the Iraq people, who's represented today by President Talabani. With these changes, more than 50 million people have been given a voice in this chamber for the first time in decades.

Some of the changes in the Middle East are happening gradually, but they are real. Algeria has held its first competitive presidential election, and the military remained neutral. The United Arab Emirates recently announced that half of the seats in its Federal National Council will be chosen by elections. Kuwait held elections in which women were allowed to vote and run for office for the first time. Citizens have voted in municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, in parliamentary elections in Jordan and Bahrain, and in multiparty presidential elections in Yemen and Egypt. These are important steps, and the governments should continue to move forward with other reforms that show they trust their people. Every nation that travels the road to freedom moves at a different pace, and the democracies they build will reflect their own culture and traditions. But the destination is the same: A free society where people live at peace with each other and at peace with the world.

That rhetoric is important, but Americans seldom hear it. The media treats us to endless stories of mayhem and bloodshed in Iraq, but few of the compassion and caring our troops provide nor the incredible strides made since Saddam Hussein was evicted from power. In the recent campaign season, I heard no one proclaim a positive vision for America, reminding us of who we are and what we're about. The candidates and their supporters were too busy complaining about the enemy, whether the other political party, President Bush, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Israel, the UN, or Al-Qaeda. There was mud-throwing, and scolding, and general unpleasantness. But I heard none that sought to inspire us to greatness.

President Reagan was an aspirational leader, preaching hope and high ideals:
And whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp guiding your steps and opportunity's arm steadying your way. My fondest hope for each one of you -- and especially for the young people here -- is that you will love your country, not for her power or wealth, but for her selflessness and her idealism. May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will make the world a little better for your having been here.

May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never lose your natural, God-given optimism. And finally, my fellow Americans, may every dawn be a great new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city upon a hill.

President Reagan delivered this speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston.
Now that the election is behind us, it's time to change the conversation. Quit complaining and change the world!

Related posts:

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Litany for Liberal Christians

Dr. Sanity's Quote of the Day on Monday is from Tawfik Hamid. She says he "is furious at the West and their response to Islamic fundamentalism, which he also says is the dominant version (not the "minority") of the religion and is taught in almost every Islamic university in the world."
Stop asking what you have done wrong. Stop it! They're slaughtering you like sheep and you still look within. You criticize your history, your institutions, your churches. Why can't you realize that it has nothing to do with what you have done but with what they want?
I couldn't agree more. So in light of that quote and my post below, I think it's high time to dig out my "Litany for Liberal Christians":
We have focused on our own short-comings as individuals and as a nation with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but failed to move forward and seek constructive ways to build a better world.

We have been fearful of change, clinging to failed policies and ideologies, unwilling to face realities that don't fit neatly into how we understand the world works.

We have learned the wrong lessons from history, focused on our mistakes and ignored our victories.

We have cheered when cartoon heroes fight evil doers, but declined to call evil by name in the real world. We have apologized to our enemies for our very existence while rebuking our leaders for fighting that evil.

We have been hypocrites, piously intoning our commitment to freedom and self-determination for all people, freedom of religion, economic justice, and women's rights, while castigating those who are working to achieve those lofty ideals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, and elsewhere.

We have been timid in our Christianity, instead making sacrifices at the altars of "multi-culturalism" and "political correctness" that have sapped our strength and undermined the Great Commission to proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Great God, forgive us.

Originally posted as part of Why I didn't go to Church today, 9/11/05.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Inflection Point

It seems to me that we're at an inflection point in history: the shape of the future is unsettled. Our civilization hangs on the decisions we make now. Do we move forward to win the peace? Or retreat and cower before the thugs of the world? Do we give up hope and doom millions to misery? Or should we dream large and work to achieve a bright shining future?

If we want to change the world, I say it's time to dream large. You think that's too hard? Consider the story of Alex Scott. A mortally ill little girl with a lemonade stand raised more than $1,000,000 for childhood cancer research before she died at age 8. How could a mere child accomplish so much?

A success coach would encourage you to practice visualization, being very specific about the sensory input associated with achieving a given goal, such as running a race. Then you have to add emotional overtones, imagining how you'd feel when you've achieved your goal. The third step is taking action to acheive your desires. The theory is that you are what you think about. Think depressing thoughts all day, and your life will be miserable. Think inspiring thoughts and you can achieve amazing things.

The jihadists have it all over Westerners in the visualization department. They know exactly what they are trying to achieve, and have oodles of religious fervor adding the emotional punch. They definitely believe "Where there's a will, there's a way." And they are willing to persist in their quest over decades, if not centuries.

Western leaders, on the other hand, tend to blather platitudinous goo. They do not enlighten, or encourage, or inspire. They speak of Iraq as a problem to be solved and prefer "realism" to idealism. However, Michael Rubin writes that, "Realism promotes short-term gain, often at the expense of long-term security." He continues,
Both realism and progressivism have become misnomers. Realists deny reality, and embrace an ideology where talk is productive and governments are sincere. While 9/11 showed the consequences of chardonnay diplomacy, deal-cutting with dictators and a band-aid approach to national security, realists continue to discount the importance of adversaries' ideologies and the need for long-term strategies. And by embracing such realism, progressives sacrifice their core liberalism. Both may celebrate Mr. Rumsfeld's departure and the Baker-Hamilton recommendations, but at some point, it is fair to ask what are the lessons of history and what is the cost of abandoning principle.

The Christian church is not immune to fuzzy thinking about its identity and mission. When the newly ordained Episcopal presiding bishop is loathe to proclaim her own faith as the route to salvation, we have a problem. When Europeans wonder if the Catholic Church is committing slow suicide by enabling those that would destroy it, we have a problem. In their quest to avoid being judgmental, PC Christians forget the need for discernment. Discernment requires making distinctions, to recognize the difference between good and evil, truth and error. Discernment leads to clarity of thought and action.

Westerners need to create a clear and compelling vision of the future world we want to inhabit, one that we can fervently and enthusiastically join together to make a reality. Setting the agenda, not just reacting to world events, requires a well-developed sense of how we want to improve ourselves, our cities, our states, our nation, and our world. Presidents Reagan and Clinton both understood the need for aspirational leadership, conveying their visions with consummate story-telling.

The stories we tell ourselves say a lot about what we want to do, and what we think of ourselves. Stories help us tether abstract ideas to the real world, providing concrete examples of the principles the leader wants us to consider. The language we use is important, for it can inspire us or depress us, encourage us to find new answers or chastise us for trying to change the system. We can imagine the best of all possible worlds, or worry ourselves into a pit of despair.

Fortunately, we don't have to wait on our politicians or prelates to tell us what to aspire to. If a little girl with a lemonade stand can change the world, imagine what each of us can accomplish!

Food for thought:
[Update 11/17/06] Follow-up post: Changing the Conversation

Friday, November 10, 2006

Encouraging the Enemy

Elections have consequences. The headlines at Lucianne.com this noon show just how quickly the Democrat victory in the congressional elections, coupled with the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, has Al-Qaeda cheering:

I'm not encouraged by the news. There's more at Drudge:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Amok Time

Now that the election is over, and the electorate has put the Congress in the hands of the Democrats, I think a quote from Star Trek is appropriate:

After a time you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting.
It is not logical, but it is often true.

(Spock to Stonn, T'Pring's preferred mate, after T'Pring tells Spock to pound sand.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Only Issue This Election Day

Orson Scott Card has an extraordinary article today at Real Clear Politics:

There is only one issue in this election that will matter five or ten years from now, and that's the War on Terror.

And the success of the War on Terror now teeters on the fulcrum of this election.

If control of the House passes into Democratic hands, there are enough withdraw-on-a-timetable Democrats in positions of prominence that it will not only seem to be a victory for our enemies, it will be one.

Unfortunately, the opposite is not the case -- if the Republican Party remains in control of both houses of Congress there is no guarantee that the outcome of the present war will be favorable for us or anyone else.

But at least there will be a chance.

I say this as a Democrat, for whom the Republican domination of government threatens many values that I hold to be important to America's role as a light among nations.

But there are no values that matter to me that will not be gravely endangered if we lose this war. And since the Democratic Party seems hellbent on losing it -- and in the most damaging possible way -- I have no choice but to advocate that my party be kept from getting its hands on the reins of national power, until it proves itself once again to be capable of recognizing our core national interests instead of its own temporary partisan advantages.

Go read the whole thing and Vote!

H/t Lucianne.com

Monday, November 06, 2006

Win the War! Vote Republican!

On the way home from church yesterday, I saw a man holding a large campaign sign that said: "Elect Menendez. Stop Bush." Nancy Pelosi said on '60 Minutes' that she'd be happy to make President Bush a lame duck for the next two years.

I'm sorry, "stopping Bush" is not a constructive agenda. That approach doesn't promote dialog. It does not encourage people across the political spectrum to figure out a good way forward together nor provide bright ideas that may not have been considered before.

Pulling out and declaring defeat álà Vietnam won't make the world a safer place. We know that ignoring Osama bin Laden and his ilk actually encouraged more terrorist attacks. They considered the US weak-willed and decadent. (If you need a reminder of the carnage, see the Army's Timeline of Terror).

Confronting the jihadists in Afghanistan and Iraq has definitely helped drain the swamp, and brought hope to millions. General Casey notes that Iraq isn’t “awash in sectarian violence.” Most sectarian violence in Iraq is concentrated across a 30-mile radius around Baghdad, and, 90 percent of all violence in Iraq is taking place in five of the country’s 18 provinces.

In today's Washington Post, there's a story about what the troops in Iraq think about their situation. Ed Morrissey comments:

The mission has had its failures, but it has had tremendous successes as well. If the US turns its back on the Iraqis now, Somalia will pale into insignificance in comparison to the disaster, both militarily and strategically, we will have brought upon ourselves. Native populations will never -- never -- trust us to stand by and protect them after risking everything to assist us. Tyrants and terrorists will laugh at our threats, knowing they can outlast us, especially if they can create enough propaganda to distract American voters.

The soldiers and Marines understand that victory cannot be replaced by "phased redeployment". If the tactics need changing or adjustment, then bring in better ideas -- but we cannot allow retreat and capitulation become the only other option for Iraq.

We can't afford an obstructionist Congress. Vote Republican!

*******************
For more perspective, historian Victor Davis Hanson has written several articles recently to remind people about what we've accomplished, e.g. "The Wonders of Hindsight," and "Before Iraq."

And The Anchoress has an excellent post tonight, "Believe the troops who are there or the pols who are not?"

My Related posts:

Saturday, November 04, 2006

T-2 Days and Counting: Voting God's Politics

My sister sent me the following column by Jim Wallis at Sojourners, discussing the need for Christians to vote their values and priorities. While the premise is honorable, the specifics got my dander up!

Jim Wallis: Voting God's Politics

Jim Wallis For years, we have watched the proliferation of voter'’s guides from the Religious Right that did all but actually endorse only right-wing Republican candidates. Before the 2004 election, their narrow list of "“non-negotiables"” included abortion, stem-cell harvesting, homosexual marriage, human cloning, and euthanasia. All the wider issues that the scriptures speak to were simply ignored. Never have we seen such a partisan use, abuse, and manipulation of religion. Well, those days are over, as many Christians, including a new generation of evangelicals, are demanding a broader and more biblical agenda - one that could challenge candidates on both sides of the aisle.

Oh, where to start! As I posted previously, politics is about a hierachy of values, and it behooves us to identify which candidate and party best represent us. If the Religious Right considered that Republican candidates were more representative of their beliefs, values, and concerns, I would certainly expect that those candidates would be endorsed.

He complains that the Religious Right had a narrow agenda. Maybe it was narrow because it was a list of their highest priorities, where they were most concerned with the direction our society was heading. To have a short list to focus people's energies and resources upon increases leverage and improves the chances for real change. A too-long list of "priorities" means that none are, and little is likely to be accomplished because efforts become diluted. When was the last time you were truly inspired by an over-long legislative laundry list included in, say, the President's State of the Union Address?

Please note, that for Conservatives, the narrow list of "“non-negotiables"” includ[ing] abortion, stem-cell harvesting, homosexual marriage, human cloning, and euthanasia falls into two categories of major concern: the sanctity of life and values that support strong families. Rev. Willis claims below that he cares about these issues too.

We have insisted that God is not a Republican or a Democrat, but we do believe there are principles and guidelines that should inform how we vote. This year, we have distributed more than 300,000 "“Issues Guides,"” which cover a broad range of Christian ethics and values that should inform our political decisions. You can still get a copy of the "Voting God's Politics Issues Guide."

We have highlighted the following principles and policies as a critical framework to shape our perspective on public policy and political leadership, and the questions by which all candidates should be evaluated.

Good. Rather than just complaining about the influence of the "Religious Right", he's entering the public debate. The down sides are that a) he implies that good Christians must necessarily agree with his interpretation of the Bible, b) that we must worry about everything rather than focusing our energies, and c) his framing of the issues is at times contrary to the way I and many others interpret the world around us.


Compassion and Economic Justice

They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands (Isaiah 65:21-23).

God shows a special concern for those in poverty and acts in history to lift them up. The Bible teaches that societies should organize so that all members have genuine access to the resources needed to live a decent life and provide for those who are unable to care for themselves.

Does the candidate support measures that provide for family economic success and security by "“making work work",” that promote fair and decent wages, that show a serious commitment to lifting children out of poverty, and support policies on aid, debt, and trade that would bring extreme global poverty to an end?

That passage from Isaiah can also be read as a rebuke of wealth redistribution through taxation, government subversion of property rights (Kelo, for instance), windfall profits taxes, or other policies that separate productive citizens from the fruits of their labors. Is it economic justice when the "top one percent of tax filers paid 34.27 percent of federal personal income taxes in 2003, while the top ten percent accounted for 65.84 percent of these taxes"? (Source: Joint Economic Committee, "FEDERAL INCOME TAX SYSTEM IS HIGHLY PROGRESSIVE AFTER RECENT TAX CUTS". H/t TaxProf Blog)

The policies that Rev. Wallis thinks candidates should endorse sound good, because they show how much we care for those less fortunate. But the real test is whether the policies work in the real world. To take sub-Saharan Africa as an example, billions of dollars in public and private aid have been sent there over decades with little to show for it. One critic states, "Aid has destroyed the concept of civil society in Africa."

The term "fair and decent wages" sounds like code words for raising the Federal minimum wage, which is arguably part of the Democrat's non-agenda if they win control of Congress this election. But raising the minimum wage isn't necessary (and may be counter-productive, reducing availability of entry-level jobs). Real inflation-adjusted after-tax wages are rising because labor markets are tightening as the economy keeps adding jobs. The national unemployment rate just dropped again to 4.4%.

Peace and Restraint of Violence

They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:4). Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).

We face a major challenge of how to resolve conflicts, reduce violence, and defeat terrorism without endless war. War has become a first resort instead of the last resort. In a world full of terrorists, terrorist states, unilateralist superpowers, and weapons of mass destruction, we need practical alternatives to an endless cycle of violence.

Is the candidate committed to a serious plan for ending the war in Iraq, to joining a real national debate on how to remove American forces while seeking both security and peace for Iraq, to the elimination of nuclear weapons, to supporting security and freedom in the Middle East, and to strengthening international law to fight terrorism?

Claiming that "[w]ar has become a first resort instead of the last resort" is a serious distortion of the Administration's policies. Iraq was invaded after 12 years of diplomacy and sanctions failed to induce Saddam Hussein to abide by numerous UN Security Council resolutions and prove that he had destroyed his WMD. The President has been criticized for the "rush to war" in Iraq, and for "unilateralism", yet the same critics complain that he insists on multi-party talks with North Korea and letting European nations lead on diplomatic efforts to constrain Iran.

The recent decision by North Korea to return to the six-party talks has been attributed, not to US saber-rattling, but to consistent pressure to cut off Kim Jong Il's cash flow and access to the international banking system. Additionally, the US has spear-headed a coalition effort called the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) . (Info on 2006 exercises in Baltic, Persian Gulf, and Australia.) The Administration appears committed to finding practical alternatives to all-out war.

I totally disagree with Rev. Wallis' candidate checklist on this issue. What's wrong with winning the war in Iraq? Why is absenting ourselves from Iraq considered more important than promoting justice (especially for women!) and helping the oppressed? Removing American forces before the job is done will only reinforce the enemy's impression that Americans have no stomach for long conflicts.

President Bush was absolutely correct when he said, "They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause government to withdraw." He also reminds us that "We're in an ideological struggle between people who hate and people who have hope. We've been through ideological struggles before. Freedom wins every time if we -- if we don't lose our nerve." (See my posts here and here.)

Consistent Ethic of Life

Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).

We believe that all life is a sacred gift from God, and that public policies should reflect a consistent ethic of life - and address all the places where human life is threatened. We believe abortion is always a moral tragedy, but how do we find real solutions for preventing unwanted pregnancies and supporting women caught in very difficult and desperate circumstances?

Does the candidate support policies that will dramatically reduce the number of abortions, end capital punishment, and stop genocide, especially in Darfur?

I can't fathom why Rev. Wallis maligns the "Religious Right" when the issues list he ascribes to them is primarily concerned with promoting a "culture of life" instead of a culture of death. In March 2005, Brendan Miniter of OpinionJournal.com wrote :

A flashpoint has long been abortion, but it's wrong to think this battle is entirely about "a woman's right to choose" or about protecting only unborn life. A large segment of the population feels that there has been a coarsening of our culture, that as a society we no longer view life as precious and valuable in all its forms. Abortion on demand is a sign of that coarsening, but so is euthanasia and the push to use stem cells from frozen embryos and tissue from aborted babies. Like Terri Schiavo's family, many Americans have decided they aren't going to remain silent as lives are discarded as "worthless."

As for Darfur, no one has figured out what to do. Even the UN can't make headway: its chief envoy was recently kicked out of Sudan for suggesting UN peacekeepers be employed.


Racial Justice

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

Full humanity and dignity are denied when people are discriminated against for ethnic or racial reasons, whether intentionally or due to systemic structures. Racism is a sin and undermines the integrity of a society.

Is the candidate committed to reversing and ending racial discrimination in all aspects of our society, especially in the criminal justice and education systems?

Is Rev. Wallis willing to consider promoting a color-blind society by abandoning Affirmative Action in all its insidious guises? Over at Powerline, Scott Johnson writes:

The great victory of the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of moral persuasion: King persuaded Americans that it was wrong and deeply unAmerican to treat people differently based on the color of their skin. That victory of moral persuasion was translated into the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex in employment, public accommodations, and federally funded programs (including colleges and universities).

As Professor Edward Erler has commented, "No more powerful expression of a commitment to equal opportunity can be found in the annals of modern legislation anywhere in the world."

Despite the legal mandate of equal treatment, for the past 30 years many of America's educational institutions have blatantly violated the law in the name of "affirmative action" and "diversity." In reality these terms are extremely misleading euphemisms for the practice of gross racial discrimination.

Equal opportunity and equal protection under the law are important precepts in American government. However, many confuse equal opportunity with equal outcomes and presume that unequal outcomes are always the result of illegal discrimination. But Justice Clarence Thomas pointed out that "Government cannot make us equal; it can only recognize, respect, and protect us as equal before the law."


Human Rights, Dignity, and Gender Justice

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

We recognize each human being as created in God'’s image. We urge policies that both protect life and promote human dignity. On the issue of torture, for example, it really isn'’t the terrorists and what they stand for; it is about us, and what we stand for. On immigration, how do we welcome the stranger, respect the law, and insure national security? And how do we combat the growing epidemic of sexual trafficking and virtual slavery?

Does the candidate support humane and holistic immigration policies and comprehensive immigration reform? Do they insist on policies that end torture, stop human trafficking, promote religious freedom, and protect women?

The US Department of Justice hosted the second National Conference on Human Trafficking in New Orleans, LA from October 3-5, 2006. Numerous articles are available on the conference Resources page. More information on US efforts are at the USINFO Human Trafficking website.

Immigration policy is an absolute mess. 'Nuff said.


Strengthen Families and Renew Culture

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God (Romans 12:2).

Strong families are the essential foundation of a good society. A culture that promotes healthy families is necessary to raise our children with strong values. And parenting has become a countercultural activity in America. How do we find real solutions, and not just scapegoats?

Does the candidate support policies that strengthen marriage and families, restore integrity to our civic and business practices, and act to prevent violence in our society - especially the alarming incidence of domestic violence against women and children.

Many argue that social policies of the past 40+ years have undermined marriage and families, especially welfare policies. Thomas Sowell enumerated the failures of the War on Poverty. Rick Santorum pointed out that violence comes from neighborhoods where common denominators are lots of violence, broken homes, and absentee dads. He sees promoting marriage and reconnecting fathers with their kids as part of the solution.

Societal norms play a large role. Bill Cosby and Juan Williams argue that blacks embrace victimhood rather than empowerment. Says Williams, "I think it's a terrible signal to our young people about who black people are to have us constantly wrapped in the cloak of victimhood, and to have black leadership that in a knee-jerk fashion defends negative, dysfunctional behavior."


Good Stewardship of God'’s Creation

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). The earth is the Lord'’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it (Psalm 24:1).

The earth and the fragile atmosphere that surrounds it are God'’s good creation for the sustenance and enjoyment of all things. We support policies that protect creation from interests and activities that damage it. We believe global warming is a religious issue.

Does a candidate support protections to clean air and water, to reduce the dangerous emissions that cause global warming, to shift from our addiction to oil and fossil fuels to cleaner, safer, and more renewable energy sources? Do they support the transformation to conservation and new energy sources that could provide jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, help solve the Middle East crisis, and even reduce the threats of terrorism?

Two of the most memorable images I remember from the Apollo program were the "Big Blue Marble" and "Earthrise at Christmas." They drove home the concept of our planet being unique in the universe. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, we've made tremendous strides in cleaning up pollution. Even the once heavily-polluted Cuyahoga River has fish in it!

And yet, it's prudent to ask if spending large sums of money for small marginal improvements is necessarily the best use of resources. In a recent Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal, Bjorn Lomborg wrote:

Last weekend in New York, I asked 24 U.N. ambassadors--from nations including China, India and the U.S.--to prioritize the best solutions for the world's greatest challenges, in a project known as Copenhagen Consensus. They looked at what spending money to combat climate change and other major problems could achieve. They found that the world should prioritize the need for better health, nutrition, water, sanitation and education, long before we turn our attention to the costly mitigation of global warning.

He makes the case more authoritatively than I: we have more pressing problems than trying to counteract the presumed human contributions to global warming. If nothing else, the fact that the Stern report he dissects is full of errors and exagerations should encourage caution in making costly decisions based on questionable science. (Related post here.)

Next Tuesday, we will not establish the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not on the ballot. But you can vote to strengthen the common good. There are important things at stake in this election, including many lives in the ongoing war in Iraq. This is an important election for our country, and I urge all Christians to take time this weekend to think and pray about their choices, evaluate candidates on all these issues, then go to the polls on Tuesday and vote.

And after we vote, no matter who wins, we must be at the doorstep of politicians the next day to hold them accountable to the issues that arise from a broad biblical agenda.

As individuals, we need to identify our priorities and pick our battles accordingly. Politicians aren't the only ones who need to be held accountable. Our community and religious leaders need to be held accountable too, Reverend Wallis.

[Update: 11/5, 8:35 pm] Welcome Beliefnet readers! Sacred Frenzy tracked back and rectifies "The Great Omission". I also cleaned up some typos and formatting.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

T-7 Days and Counting: History Lessons

Once upon a time, there was a newly-independent country. It had some growing pains as it figured out the best way to govern itself. From the time it declared independence from a tyrannical sovereign until its present Constitution was ratified was 12 years. The country? The United States of America.
  • July 4, 1776 – Declaration of Independence
  • November 15, 1777 – Articles of Confederation passed by Congress
  • March 1, 1781 – Articles of Confederation in force after ratification by Maryland
  • September 17, 1787 – US Constitution signed and sent to the states for ratification
  • July 2, 1788 – Confederation Congress learns New Hampshire is 9th state to ratify
  • December 15, 1791 – Bill of Rights ratified
  • May 7, 1992 – Amendment XXVII ratified
I stuck in that last item to point out that the process of perfecting our constitutional government has taken more than 200 years. Pacifying Germany and Japan after their surrenders and nurturing their new governments took years. The efforts to develop constitutional governments in Iraq and Afghanistan are only a few years old.

President Bush puts it in perspective:

But I wanted to tell an interesting story. It's a story about a Navy fighter pilot who, at the age of 18, volunteered, and he said, I want to serve my country because the Japanese have just attacked us. You've got relatives who did the same thing. You've got a grandfather or a father, like I got, who said, I want to fight the Japanese. They were the sworn enemy. Thousands of people lost their lives. This country went to war against an enemy which attacked us.

You know, what's interesting, on the way down from Washington to Memphis, Tennessee, right there on Air Force One, Prime Minister Koizumi -- the Prime Minister of the former enemy of the United States of America -- and I discussed the peace. We talked about the fact that this country had a thousand troops in Iraq to defend the young democracy. He knows what I know. We're in an ideological struggle between people who hate and people who have hope. We've been through ideological struggles before. Freedom wins every time if we -- if we don't lose our nerve. (emphasis added - ed.)

And that's the lesson I learned from my friend, Prime Minister Koizumi. It's amazing what has happened between when 18-year-old fighter pilot George H.W. Bush fought this -- fought the enemy, and his son is talking about keeping the peace with the same country. And the lesson is liberty has got the capacity to change enemies into allies. And my citizens, liberty has got the capacity to turn regions of hate to regions of hope. Liberty has got the capacity to yield the peace we want.

Someday, an American President will be sitting down with duly elected leaders talking about the -- duly elected leaders from the Middle East talking about the peace, and a generation of Americans will be better off for it.

For further reading, The National Archives has a nice history of the Constitution.

Santorum at Rally For Troops tonight

[Update 11:00 AM] From NBC10 News:

Sen. John Kerry has canceled his visit to Philadelphia Wednesday night.

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Santorum at Rally - 18th Street Between Arch and Cherry
November 1, 2006

Your attendance is requested

Show YOUR support at a press conference for our troops in light of recent derogatory comments made by Senator John Kerry.

“YOU KNOW EDUCATION, IF YOU MAKE THE MOST OF IT, IF YOU STUDY HARD, YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK, AND YOU MAKE AN EFFORT TO BE SMART, YOU CAN DO WELL. IF YOU DON’T, YOU GET STUCK IN IRAQ.”
Senator Kerry is visiting Philadelphia on Wednesday, 11/1 in the evening to raise money for Bobby Casey at this location. At that time, Senator Rick Santorum will join veterans and families in rallying in support of our strong and intelligent men and women serving their country with pride and protecting our freedom.

PLEASE JOIN US AT:

5:30PM
18th Street Between Arch and Cherry
PHILADELPHIA, PA 19103

Philadelphia Young Republicans
email: mara@philadelphiayr.com
web: http://www.philadelphiayr.com