Category Archives: politics

Talk to the Rock

A while back, I wanted to learn what the Bible said about the various types of spiritual expressions we commonly call gifts. And, I didn’t want to use the usual lists of various gifts that Paul talks about. Rather, I wanted to see how gifts were expressed in the Bible. What does it mean to be a prophet? Well, I looked at the prophets. What does it mean to be someone who has discernment? Well, I looked at the men and women who were commended for seeing truth even when there were shadows and mists. What does it mean to be a leader? I looked at the leaders in the Bible.

This latter study was more than a little bit disconcerting. There are a lot of leaders in the Bible, be it kings or priests or judges or generals.

Leaders of all kinds abound in the stories. The trouble is that the percentage of leaders leading the people to God is pretty small. Most of the leaders in the Bible did not serve God. The other trouble is that their negative example does not mean they were bad leaders.

For instance, we have someone like King Omri of Israel. First Kings 16:25 has this to say about him: “Omri did evil in the eyes of the LORD and sinned more than all those before him.” On the other hand, archaeologists and others who study the history say that as a leader, he was pretty good! He orchestrated a lot of building projects and otherwise secured enough wealth and support to pass the kingdom on to his son, Ahab.

How about an example from the New Testament? Paul had to confront Peter when he learned that Peter stopped eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11ff). Peter influenced Barnabas and others, and had to be corrected, because they, as Paul puts it, “were not following the truth of the Good News” (Gal. 2:14). The practice of Peter was not reflecting the call of God in or for the church.

With this in mind, I now turn to the topic of worship. It’s not uncommon for me to be singing along during a service and realize I’ve just sung something I didn’t, or shouldn’t, believe. This isn’t limited to singing, either. For the most part, many of the approaches, use of space, wording, and other aspects of our gathering together are more like Peter’s faults than Paul’s goal. They might be engaging, or they might be traditional, or they might be functional, or whatever reason under the sun, but they are not when examined more closely, “following the truth of the Good News.”

Now more formally, this “truth of the Good News” could be gathered together under the theme of theology. That’s what I think theology is and should be about, at least. It is the reflection on the actions of God and his declarations that point to a more cohesive expression of God’s work and being. It can be expressed using four syllable words or it can be expressed in a dance, or in a liturgy, story, or song. But, in being expressed in some ways it is saying that it is reflecting the God who is. Theology, then, should be a pretty important issue in discussions of worship.

God does not, we learn from Scripture, like to be misrepresented in word or deed.

This is probably most clearly expressed in the story of Moses. In Numbers 20 we read a very disturbing story. The people were complaining, again, about having no water (the nerve of them!). They rebelled, Moses prayed at the Tabernacle, and God told him what to do.

Moses gathered the people, stood before them, shouted at them for their rebellious ways, and then hit the rock twice. Water gushed out.

But God was not happy. “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel,” he said to Moses, “you will not lead them into the land I am giving them.”

Moses, you see, was supposed to command the rock to bring forth water. He wasn’t supposed to hit it. God was not just interested in the result. His holiness is about the method, the act, the approach, the whole context. God’s revelation is holistic and he calls those who would lead his people to reflect this holiness in ways that match how he has chosen to reveal himself.

We can’t just hit the rock and say that’s God’s work, even if water comes out. Because the method is as much part of the message as the result. He’s telling a different story in the midst of this world and that means leading people to live in particular ways, ways that might not immediately make sense. But it makes a difference in the long run. Just as the method of the cross makes a difference not only in salvation but also in how we respond to the systems of this world.

We have to listen to God, reflect on his ways, and then we have to talk to the rock.

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election advice

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and I advised them: 1) To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy: 2) To speak no evil of the person they voted against: And, 3) To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those who voted on the other side.”

~John Wesley, October 6, 1774.

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A Political Lament

We are easily seduced by the forces who emphasize division and anxiety to rally against those who share our common confession of faith.

This political season exemplifies how easy we become Cain, or Joab, or Judas.

Left and Right both do it, finding it all too easy to establish identity and meaning and hope in a candidate. We rail against the other, making our brothers and sisters the others, condemning them for their intransigence even as we are exactly the same.

We assume we are on the side of Christ because we abhor the right people and their representatives.  Crucify them, we yell, they deserve it.

We say, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people.”
“Thank you I am not like those Trump supporters.”
Or, “Thank you I am not beguiled by the Clintons.”
“Thank God I  do not join with those evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”

There is no liberation in this. There is no peace.

We are poseurs not disciples.

God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Because I am seduced in the same ways.

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Put more simply in light of Wheaton’s statement:

“You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

This is Hagar’s response as noted in Genesis 16:13, speaking of God, in light of God’s looking after her and her son Ishmael.

Does Wheaton College believe the Bible is true in regards to Genesis 16 and 21?

Is Wheaton committed to its actual statement of faith or to contemporary biases?

If there is more to this story that relates precisely to Wheaton’s statement of faith, I very much would value hearing about it and will be happy to update any responses I have.

Otherwise, I can’t see how Wheaton can keep its decision to put Dr. Hawkins on leave and still maintain its statement on the authority of the Bible.

Does Wheaton see the God who saw Hagar?

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politicizing tragedy

The trouble with politicizing is not that issues should go unaddressed. Rather, the trouble with politicizing is that the issues usually addressed are 1) not the core issue really at hand 2)tends to both confirm the speakers pre-established ideas and seek more authoritarian power for the people they support.

Politicizing is de-humanizing, because it makes a real person with real problems in a real tragedy that caused real pain to many into yet more political theater.

The guy was emotionally damaged, angry, alone, stewing in his frustrations. The media attention on every other shooting provided him some hope for identity. People care about his name because of the violence. Herostratus in contemporary expression.

Are there issues to address? Yes. What about the breakdown in his family life that left him isolated? What about the absence of community in his life? What about the rhetoric about the evils of religion (Christianity especially), which became the target of his rage? What about the divisive rhetoric that played into his increasing isolation, radicalizing him and suffocating him at the same time so that he embraced death as his only path to meaning?

Those are a lot more complex issues and less easily legislated and also don’t give power to people who don’t care about real loss or real suffering but just want to maximize their own sense of moral superiority on a narrow set of issues they feel self-righteous about.

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Summarizing contemporary politics and “ethics”

Just finished reading Niklas Luhmann’s Introduction to Systems Theory.  First, I’ll say this might be the most difficult book I’ve read.  Partly because I don’t have a background in sociology, mostly because Luhmann is a very dense and meandering writer.  But, I think there’s something in what he writes that is worth considering, and that really describes the state of society as well as any other.  The trouble is that the state of society should not itself be a model for Christians or the church. Yet, far too often Christians attach religious justification for acting just like the people around them are acting.  Both sides do it, and that embeds conflict within what should be a unified voice in Christ.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not a system within the world, but too often the language of the Kingdom is used in ways to perpetuate the systems of the world. Neither is the Kingdom of Heaven a later, supernatural reality. It is the expression of the Lordship of God in and through our whole lives, God’s will be done on earth as in heaven put into practice in daily and particular situations.

This has been part of my frustration with a lot of Christian ethics over the last many years and always pops up again when there is some kind of national news that highlights the conflict.  Those in the Church do not offer a unique voice (like Jesus did) but far too often position themselves among the established sides.  Jesus never dodged questions but he did reinterpret the underlying reality that should be addressed. Far too often, we (and I’ll include myself) take the contemporary systems at face value, adopting their forms of truth and priorities and values, then become more aligned to others within that system than with those who share the same supposed confession in Christ.

Anyway, this came to mind because of something Luhmann wrote near the end of his text:

The key statement for this purpose is my claim that conflicts themselves are systems. Conflicts are systems because one creates a situation that limits the bandwidth of variation concerning the other, if one treats him as an opponent and acts in a correspondingly aggressive, defensive, or protective way in his presence. He can no longer proceed at will. Of course he can (if he really can) walk away, shrug his shoulders, and say that all this is of no interest to him.

In typical social situations, however, when one does not have the option of leaving, the notion that there is in fact a conflict, or even a mere insistent “no’ as an answer to repeated interpretive offers, is a motive that produces a system, which is to say, a motive that organizes connectivity.

For instance, it may lead to the creation of coalitions, to the search for resources, and to the idea that everything that is to the other’s disadvantage is to my advantage. A friend/enemy relation is formed, which is an extreme simplification of the real situation…

Here, the organizing power of conflicts can be seen in social coalitions as well as in their themes. If someone contradicts a partiuclar point I have made, I generalize his opposition and suspect that he will also contradict me on other issues. From this viewpoint, moral perspsectivs serve to generalize conflicts. After all, if someone has shown himself to be ignominious, he is so in every respect and not just hte one that I happned to notice.

Whenever I argue morally, I have the tendency to generalize conflicts! The formula is that conflicts are an excellent principle of system formation…

The question is whether such a formed system can be justified in light of Christ’s work.  Even when pacifism finds empowerment in this system of conflict, there is a self-contradiction at work that suggests a less than thoroughly Kingdom oriented ethic.  Or, when supposed Christians insist on establishing the inerrancy of the Bible through the embrace of this conflict established system, they too are self-contradicting the supposed example we see in the New Testament Gospels and letters.

When we embrace the system of conflict in the cause of Christ, we are taking the name of the Lord in vain, taking up God’s cause but rejecting his method, his model, his Kingdom that is not the peace of Rome but the peace of Christ.

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The economizing of everything

Talking about Bonhoeffer’s writing, Moltmann said, “He wrote this in a totalitarian regime, where everything was politicized. Now we live in a totalitarian regime where everything is economized. Everything is made into a commodity. You pay for it and you get it.” I note this is true even in church, and Moltmann agreed. He went on to say:

In this situation it would be good to say a Christian church functions differently, not like a firm or a bank. A university is not a bank. A hospital is not a shopping mall. They have different forms of life and these different forms of life must be respected. Just as we respect that competition is a tool for good in an economy. But it’s not a life and death competition. Those who lose must survive, like a football game. They cannot kill you. So there’s rules and limits in which economists should think economically and church people should think theologically. The university is also different. We have this overall economization of life at the present, and this is repressive.

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In the Days of Caesar — a review

There are books which contribute small aspects to a topic, there are books which offer nuances to arguments much made, there are books which summarize other books, there are books which occupy the shelves among many other books saying pretty much the same thing. Then there are books which are groundbreaking, thrusting themselves into the conversation, and as such become necessary reading for any interested in contemporary discussions of the topic.

In the Days of Caesar is a great example of this latter type of book. Amos Yong has already established himself as one of the leading theologians of his generation, and one of the key theologians contributing to a new wave of Pentecostal academic thought, so it is not surprising he has worthwhile thoughts on the subject of political theology. He does not, however, simply rest upon his reputation nor merely offer simple reflections on the relevant topics. Rather, this book is a tour de force in both research and constructive formulation that, in my estimation, offers an extremely helpful paradigm for political and cultural action not only for Pentecostals but also for the wider church in our era.

Yong begins his book by giving a brief overview of both Pentecostalism and then Political Theology as they have developed. While relatively short compared to what might, and has been, written on each of these topics, Yong’s concise, tight writing style offers what are, even apart from his later chapters, very worthwhile surveys of these two areas of study. Having built these foundations, Yong then turns to create a new approach for political theology in light of Pentecostal priorities and values. At the core of his contribution is his theme “many voices, many approaches” which comes out of the Pentecostal experience of tongues. As an expression of the work of the Spirit, the gift of tongues does not establish a single practice in every situation, but gives contextual expression of the wide work of the Spirit, who calls each person, in every context, to be full of Christ, resonating Christ into their own contexts. This frees expression from being rigid, and is expressed in a multitude of ways, always dependent on the Spirit who is working.

In the same way, our political interaction, as expressed in our many different modes of public interaction, takes on a contextual expression that responds to the particular instances in light of the work of Christ. With this in mind, then, a Pentecostal political theology does not mandate a specific response that must be applied in all settings, but rather builds a framework of values and priorities which give freedom to those in each setting. This framework is not a wishy-washy approach, suggesting that whatever is done is always baptized in the Spirit, but instead offers freedom within the context of responsibility. We who are Christians, who seek to participate in this world in the power of the Spirit, do so in light of Christ’s own calling, and it is as such that Yong formulates his constructive theology.

After establishing his core method and approach to such in chapter three, Yong moves on to develop a political theology based on the historic Pentecostal understanding of the five-fold Gospel. In the context of politics and power, Yong emphasizes the place of Jesus as Savior. In the context of culture, Yong emphasizes Jesus as sanctifier. In the context of prophetic civil action, Yong emphasizes Jesus as Spirit baptizer. In the context of economics, Yong emphasizes Jesus as healer. And in history and where society is headed, Yong emphasizes the role of Jesus as Coming King. In each of these chapters, Yong masterfully blends very thorough research with a insightful, and passionate, Pentecostal understanding.

Yong is also quite worthwhile because he is very intentional about this book not being simply a text reflecting US experiences, but rather we find a global emphasis throughout this text, offering insights and examples from a wide variety of settings. He places this global approach in the context of a historical and contemporary expression that draws deeply from the well of both historical and contemporary theology, while always keeping sharply focused on the goal. His style is highly succinct and very approachable, even as he is writing fairly complex ideas, which he is able to do by making sure to help the reader along by being clear about his outlines, goals, theses, and such along the way.

One slight critique is that Yong is, perhaps, far too gracious along the way in his analysis and discussion of both popular Pentecostal expressions and other formulations of political theology. Yet, as the book progressed, my eagerness to see Yong sharply repudiate some of what I see as aberrant expressions of faith (such as the extreme Health/Wealth preaching) was stilled, and I learned not only from Yong’s great content but also his gracious method. His goal is not to establish himself by knocking others aside, but to comprehensively explore the contexts so as to better understand the core motives, yearnings, and responses others have offered, learning from these and in doing this offering a constructive political theology that is not only a coherent system, but which has a deep integrity with global Pentecostal priorities and lived experiences. A great example of this comes after he examines the contributions of one very popular preacher who has come under attack by many others both for reasons of practice and theology. Yong does not attack him, offering what at first seems a sympathetic perspective, writing however, “My goal is not to defend [him] — any humanly conceived program can be criticized — but to understand his achievements within the larger matrix of changes that have taken place” in the discussed tradition in general and as it is particularly expressed in Pentecostalism. Yong seeks to understand the motives, drives, responses, and in understanding these to help focus the overall Pentecostal theology to be even more true to itself and to its calling in this world.

Overall, this book is extremely worthwhile to any Christian interested ways to approach engaging the broader society. This sanctified approach rejects a narrow rigidity and celebrates the imaginative work of the Spirit, who draws all to Christ in creative expressions that does not make all people the same, but gives to each a sanctified voice in their particular contexts. Yong has produced a comprehensive study that can serve as a great survey of political theology or a great overview of Pentecostal theology. Its greatest contribution, however, is as a constructive and substantive text that helps frame involvement in this world in creative, refreshing ways that prioritize the calling of Christ in our lives for the sake of resonating the Gospel in this world.

I personally learned a great deal through his wonderful interaction with a multitude of sources and find myself continuing to reflect on both his method and his theses. He has stirred the debate and contributed what I think should be necessary reading to any interested in political theology, Pentecostal theology, or theology and culture.

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Analysis of the situation

An excerpt from my presentation today on the introduction and first chapter of A Theology of Liberation:

Gutiérrez identifies “theology as wisdom” and “theology as rational knowledge” as two classical functions of theology. The former relates theology to the spiritual life, charting out the ideas and patterns for a developing communion with God. Theology was, in many ways, a monastic task, with practice and thought interacting without division. This changed around the fourteenth century, when as Gutiérrez notes, “a rift appears between theologians and masters of the spiritual life.” In the twelfth century a transition began that led theology to de-emphasize the spiritual life and began to strongly emphasize the life of the mind. Both aspects of theology are necessary for a holistic understanding. Yet, the division of these two functions has led to various “deformations” throughout history, requiring the need to salvage theology from wrong turns and distorted priorities.

Gutiérrez thus moves to define the theological task as “critical reflection on praxis.” He lays out seven reasons why the “existential and active aspects of the Christian life have recently been stressed in a different way.” He begins by noting that charity “has been fruitfully rediscovered as the center of the Christian life”, writing that it is the “foundation of the praxis of Christians, of their active presence in history.” Second, he sees a significant evolution of Christian spirituality. “This process… culminates today in the studies on the religious value of the profane and in the spirituality of the activity of the Christian in the world.” Third, there is “a greater sensitivity to the anthropological aspects of revelation.” This means theology is not only supernatural and God-oriented. Rather, included in God’s revelation is a revelation about how we are to interact and emphasize our fellow humanity. We are to love God and our neighbor in fulfillment of God’s call upon us. This includes more focus on the particular problems of human interaction and ways in which the Gospel calls us each to live with each other and for each other.

Living with and for each other is an aspect of community, and so a fifth reason for new stress on praxis is a developing understanding of the life of the church as a locus theologicus. This is a theology that relates to service as led by the Spirit. Beyond the limits of the church, there can be, with this, a “theology of the signs of the times” in which broad pastoral activity, commitment and service become key theological aspects for all Christians. The role of theologians “will be to afford greater clarity regarding this commitment by means of intellectual analysis.” From this, Gutiérrez adds as his sixth reason what can now be seen as a more controversial contribution to the overall theological approach. “To these factors can be added the influence of Marxist thought, focusing on praxis and geared to the transformation of the world.” It is in confrontation with what some then saw as a pinnacle of philosophical thought that theology is pushed to reflect on “the transformation of this world and human action in history.”

Finally, there has been a rediscovery of eschatology. This is not a limited perspective on end times or a focus on dismissing the present for hoped for future rewards. Rather, there is “an opening to the future” in which “we orient and open ourselves to the gift which gives history this transcendent meaning: the full and definitive encounter with the Lord and with other humans.” This full encounter insists not only on having the right set of beliefs about God, but also the right set of actions with the God who is not waiting for a future event but is already working within this world, for this world. This right set of actions is termed “orthopraxis”. Gutiérrez writes, “the intention is to recognize the work and importance of concrete behavior, of deeds, of action, of praxis in the Christian life.”

With all of this, liberation theology according to Gutiérrez is taking up “the classic question of the relation between faith and human existence, between faith and social reality, between faith and political action, or in other words, between the Kingdom of God and the building up of the world.” Though traditional, these questions have also become tangential to many of our contemporary concerns, offering often vague or incomplete statements in lieu of what might be more difficult, and controversial, attempts to bring practical clarity to what are more substantive problems than previous understood. For Gutiérrez, the “task of contemporary theology is to elucidate the current state of these problems, drawing with sharper lines the terms in which they are expressed.” Orthopraxis calls for confrontation with unjust realities, and to respond effectively such realities must be discerned for what they are and why they exist.

One key aspect to this development is humanity’s own growth of self-awareness. As Gutiérrez puts it, “the social praxis of contemporary humankind has begun to reach maturity.” This maturity brings with it heightened awareness of social inequalities, injustices, and oppressive political structures that are no longer understood as inevitable but rather can be transformed, leading to a new liberation for the oppressed. In their maturity, people have embraced a universality of the political sphere and seek concrete answers to longstanding issues. This pursuit of concrete answers in the political realm has led to an “increasing radicalization of social praxis.” Deep problems have deep causes, and these deep causes are not easily pushed aside or susceptible to quick reforms. Rather, these deep causes are now seen as requiring confrontation in order to replace one vision of society, where there are oppressed and oppressors, with another in which holistic justice is a priority. Social praxis, then, is not about moral duties or particularly intra-Church actions, but is more fully an expression of living the life God has called Christians to live within this world and for this world in the pursuit of God’s priorities, which include justice, love, and hope for all. At issue, for Gutiérrez, is the central question of “What does it mean to be a Christian?” The answers for this can no longer be formed in vague, ethereal generalities, but rather have to confront the more pressing answers for what it means to be Christian within the conflicts this present world presents. These answers insist on both a realistic appraisal of these contexts as well as a humble awareness of the answers others throughout the historic Christian community have given.

Read the whole thing!

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The Stakes

I’ve not been political this time around, unlike in 2004 when I was just getting a blog started. There are a lot of reasons for that. Mostly, it’s because politics is bad for the soul, seeking partisan answers to deeper questions, inflicting disunity among communities for reasons that have, on the surface, logical reasons but are really more to do with aesthetic and social preference, which we then package with all kinds of more objective sounding arguments.

I’ve sat and listened, or read, a lot of my good friends voicing their support for Obama, sat and listened mostly in silence, not because I respect Obama but because I respect my friends and want to hold onto unity. I’ve sat and watched the people who were most appalled by the Christian Right take on a lot of the Christian Right’s arrogance and style, inflicting their opinions on vague issues and calling it the “Christian Way.”

We can and should discuss issues like poverty and war. However, voicing opposition to poverty and war does not end these or solve these. Indeed, sometimes, as in the 1930s, it exacerbates both. The poor are not helped by self-righteous hand-wringing and the victims of violence are not helped by earnest sounding disapproval.

Both the poor and the victims need help.

How this help is best accomplished is the real conversation on politics, and the real disagreement among those of us of faith. I’ve seen hypocrisy and corruption on both sides, with each side ready to eviscerate the other while dismissing their own faults.

I lost a lot of respect for the Christian Right in the past, and this season I’ve lost a whole lot of respect for the Christian Left, and those who hold to its causes. They are the same to me, which is sad to see. But they are so clearly expressing the same pharisaic mentality, always eager to judge the other.

I lean to the right, still. And reject any attempt for any other Christian so-called to judge me for my political positions. Indeed, I reject their faith as valid if they attempt to do so, putting their politics above their religion, and putting their unity with those who mock the faith against those who share it.

I reject any attempt to enlist Jesus as a political compatriot, for Jesus offended Left and Right, having words for all those who sought to assault others, while denying their own blind hypocrisy.

I lean right because I reject the maybes, the hope so, the promises without foundation. If there was really clear, undeniable help for the poor, I would go that direction. But it’s all politics, as the recent financial crisis shows.

So, I stand on the things I can be assured of. Not that these are the whole of the Christian stance, but they reflect at least a guaranteed part, as opposed to rhetorical, bureaucratic dances.

Why am I voting Republican? This latest from Sarah Palin explains some reasons:

“In this same spirit, as defenders of the culture of life, John McCain and I believe in the goodness and potential of every innocent life. I believe the truest measure of any society is how it treats those who are least able to defend and speak for themselves. And who is more vulnerable, or more innocent, than a child?

When I learned that my son Trig would have special needs, I had to prepare my heart for the challenges to come. At first I was scared, and Todd and I had to ask for strength and understanding. But I can tell you a few things I’ve learned already.

Yes, every innocent life matters. Everyone belongs in the circle of protection. Every child has something to contribute to the world, if we give them that chance. There are the world’s standards of perfection … and then there are God’s, and these are the final measure. Every child is beautiful before God, and dear to Him for their own sake.

As for our beautiful baby boy, for Todd and me, he is only more precious because he is vulnerable. In some ways, I think we stand to learn more from him than he does from us. When we hold Trig and care for him, we don’t feel scared anymore. We feel blessed.

It’s hard to think of many issues that could possibly be more important than who is protected in law and who isn’t – who is granted life and who is denied it. So when our opponent, Senator Obama, speaks about questions of life, I listen very carefully.

I listened when he defended his unconditional support for unlimited abortions. He said that a woman shouldn’t have to be – quote – “punished with a baby.” He said that right here in Johnstown –“punished with a baby” – and it’s about time we called him on it. The more I hear from Senator Obama, the more I understand why he is so vague and evasive on the subject. Americans need to see his record for what it is. It’s not negative or mean-spirited to talk to about his record. Whatever party you belong to, there are facts you need to know.

Senator Obama has voted against bills to end partial-birth abortion. In the Illinois Senate, a bipartisan majority passed legislation against that practice. Senator Obama opposed that bill. He voted against it in committee, and voted “present” on the Senate floor. In that legislature, “present” is how you vote when you’re against something, but don’t want to be held to account.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, described partial-birth abortion as “too close to infanticide.” Barack Obama thinks it’s a constitutional right, but he is wrong.

Most troubling, as a state senator, Barack Obama wouldn’t even stand up for the rights of infants born alive during an abortion. These infants – often babies with special needs – are simply left to die.

In 2002, Congress unanimously passed a federal law to require medical care for those babies who survive an abortion. They’re living, breathing babies, but Senator Obama describes them as “pre-viable.” This merciful law was called the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Illinois had a version of the same law. Obama voted against it.

Asked about this vote, Senator Obama assured a reporter that he’d have voted “yes” on that bill if it had contained language similar to the federal version of the Born Alive Act. There’s just one little problem with that story: the language of both the state and federal bills was identical.

In short, Senator Obama is a politician who has long since left behind even the middle ground on the issue of life. He has sided with those who won’t even protect a child born alive. And this exposes the emptiness of his promises to move beyond the “old politics.”

In both parties, Americans have many concerns to be weighed in the votes they cast on November fourth. In times like these, with wars and a financial crisis, it’s easy to forget even as deep and abiding a concern as the right to life. And it seems our opponent hopes that you will forget. Like so much else in his agenda, he hopes you won’t notice how radical his ideas and record are until it’s too late.

But let there be no misunderstanding about the stakes.

A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for activist courts that will continue to smother the open and democratic debate we need on this issue, at both the state and federal level. A vote for Barack Obama would give the ultimate power over the issue of life to a politician who has never once done anything to protect the unborn. As Senator Obama told Pastor Rick Warren, it’s above his pay grade.

For a candidate who talks so often about “hope,” he offers no hope at all in meeting this great challenge to the conscience of America. There is a growing consensus in our country that we can overcome narrow partisanship on this issue, and bring all the resources of a generous country to the aid of both women in need and the child waiting to be born. We need more of the compassion and idealism that our opponent’s own party, at its best, once stood for. We need the clarity and conviction of leaders like the late Governor Bob Casey.

He represented a humanity that speaks to all of us – no matter what our party, our background, our faith, or our gender. And no matter your position on this sensitive subject, I hope that spirit will guide you on Election Day. I ask you to vote for McCain-Palin on the November fourth, and help us to bring this country together in the rational discussion of compassion and life.”

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