big surprise

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Okay, a person doesn’t watch conventions for the shock and surprise. That’s of an era gone by.

That being said, there is a surprise, something shocking, something way outside my expectations.

A Baldwin brother, Stephen Baldwin, is at the Republican convention. There’s more.

He’s there because he wants to support the candidate “of faith” because he feels the country has spent too long moving away from God. “As a born-again Christian” he feels it important to choose the man who is led by God.

Then Stephen proceeds to tell the gospel message to the MSNBC reporter, about how Christ has changed his life.

Didn’t expect that.

Tombstone

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While the edges of a monsoon fills the night air with rain and lightening.

Why!? Why!?
Tombstone at Night

My brother took the pictures on our Tombstone trip… so I didn’t. Now, I have those pictures, and will put a goodly number online.

Here’s a taste from the Town Too Tough to Die:
in front of the Bird Cage

religious left

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C-Span is broadcasting uninterupted coverage of the protests in New York, which is another reason C-Span may be now the best news source on television.

In some ways it’s comforting. Crowds are walking down the street, carrying signs, voicing their pet protests, mingling together more like a turbulent stream than a crowd of people.

Their voices combine, their words jumbled, creating a soft roar. The asphalt bed, and concrete banks, secluded in the steel and glass cliffs, reveal how easily people can simulate nature.

Another thought strikes me as I watch. This is not a political event, this is religious. Politics and protests deal with an issue, debating rationally and consistently the pros or cons of a societal state. Civil Rights or Vietnam were protests over the ending of a specific fight, with victory coming from whoever would provide the answer.

Now, this is not about an issue, its about an ideology, a worldview which could hardly care about how specific issues are resolved. If a Democrat had invaded Iraq these people would not be out protesting this way. They are not pro-anything, let alone pro-Kerry. I’ve seen one sign mentioning Kerry.

They are against a worldview, fighting and crying for the very salvation of this world through the embracing of the liberal dogma, which is manifested in various ways.

Their hatred of Bush, and fear of the continued administration are not like political arguments, they remind me of sitting in Pentecostal congregations and hearing the rants against the wiles of Satan.

No, this isn’t politics, this is liberal fundamentalism, no different than Christian Fundamentalism in its attempts to drown out opposing voices, harbor no dissent, and assert right through rhetoric and noise. They preach to the choir, and can’t stand it when heretics dare speak otherwise (hence the “F*** Fox News” chant which went on for a good five minutes. They do not debate, they preach, depending on their own preachers to give them new Scriptures.

Does anyone really pay attention to protesters on a rational level anymore? Of course not. They are there to boost their own opinions of themselves and their cause. They fight a religious battle for a vague god, replacing (for the most part) an established religion, for a set of beliefs which over the last forty years have hardened into dogma and theology.

Today is a holy day for their religion, where they have gathered to worship together and praise their gods, finding community through their devotion, and honor in their service. There are the nominal, the serious, the devoted, the casual, the intellectual, the passionate.

A new religion has been born, one without a clear pantheon, but with a strident dogma.

Vietnam protesters, agree with them or not, wanted to end the war, a palpable cause, and sought to influence politicians. Civil War protesters sought for equality, a noble cause, and for America to live up to its own values.

What do these people want? They want the removal of a single man, the destruction of an opposing political perspective. They argue not as political debaters, but as a Muslim would argue against a Christian, or as a Christian would argue against a Buddhist, with dogmatic assumptions flying about.

That is why they despise and fear the religious right, why ‘fundamentalists’ have become a curse word, why fox news is attacked for showing a bias no greater than any other news organization only not according to the protester’s religious ideology.

What is their cause? There is no focus, no issue, no banner which serves as the uniting platform. They are Protesters, not people protesting. For them it is a religion and this scene is their church.

This is also why trying to argue specific points as Kerry’s service, or Bush’s international policies are worthless. Both sides spout their dogma.

Fundamentalists assert their position by trying to drown out others, and by forcing their view onto everyone else. Those who agree are ‘good’ those who oppose are ‘evil’ and worthy of derision not argument.

I sit and watch their liturgy, and listen to their worship chants. They despise the religious fundamentalists because if there is one thing a fundamentalist cannot stand it is other fundamentalists with opposing perspectives.

They have found their gods, and their spiritual enemy. They hand out tracts, carry signs, deriding their opponents as stupid, or worse. Salvation comes through defeating George Bush, sanctification through opposing Israel, and whatever else breaks their conception of a holy world.

There is no cause, there can be no accomplishment through this protest, no palpable victory, for theirs is a religious cause, and can only be successful through conversion of the masses to their beliefs. Protesting now serves as a Church for these people who have rejected other civil and religious organizations. This Protesting serves the exact same function for the Protesters as a Baptist Church serves a Christian fundamentalist.

Nice to know religion really is still alive in this country. And I’m enjoying watching the protests still. Watching the traditions of various religions is quite informative. What’s nice is now that mainstream Christianity is more accurately described as Evangelicalism, there’s a grandly appropriate term open for use: the religion of Protesters, as displayed so reverently on CSPAN can be called Protestantism. While the Republican Convention happens this next week, Protestant Fundamentalists will be filling the streets, trying to save the Lost, and asserting their dogma for the sake of their own salvation. It is a religion of works you know.

Though, I think I’ll stick to my God. A bit more depth and power there.

–note, I’m not saying this is true of all people who share a liberal political bent. It can be a political perspective. Protesters have made it into a religion.

history repeating and the 14th amendment

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Saw this in the Christianity Today weblog and found it quite fascinating:

“The United States Supreme Court has held that the unborn are not included within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment, which contains the Equal Protection Clause. That Court held in Roe v. Wade that the word person, as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn. While the Supreme Court has acknowledged the state’s interest in the life of a fetus before birth, it has never repudiated its holding in Roe that the Equal Protection Clause does not apply to a fetus. The Legislature may therefore extend wrongful death and survival causes of action only to persons that are born live without violating the federal Equal Protection clause.”
—Texas Supreme Court, that parents of a stillborn child can’t sue a Fort Worth hospital for negligence because their child was not a person. The Houston Chronicle notes that Texas is one of only 10 states that don’t allow wrongful-death claims for stillborn children.

So basically they are saying that preborn babies have no rights which a full grown man was bound to respect. If only there was a Frederick Douglass of fetuses, but I guess that’s what we who were born after 1973 are, freed fetuses blessed by loving parents, or at least the fortunate ones who escaped the tyranny of someone’s ‘choice’ being afflicted on us.

The shadows of Roger Taney and Dred Scott are long indeed. Now the answer to that problem, the 14th amendment, becomes the foundation of refusing important rights, the most important being the right to not be killed.

weather update

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It’s August 22. Two forty in the afternoon.

And I’m a bit chilly.

Love this weather.

ESP — Evangelism for Shy People

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I was talking to someone about my recent evangelistic enterprise and that person suggested I write here what I said in regards to my meaning.

Christians, as most folks know, are not always the best at laughing at themselves or even understanding parody. As Mark Twain is my hero in writing, it is not surprising I slip sometimes into a less than reverent perspective.

All parody has, or should have, a point. Mine is clear, at least to me. Contemporary churches now tend to function apart from Paul’s admonitions in regards to the body. Having a presentable personality does not mean one has gifts in specific areas, nor does having a lack of dynamic social graces imply that a person has no, or little, part in the kingdom.

The difficulty is that we have become so obsessed with Evangelism, we have lost sight of the Good News, which is revealed in manifold ways through diverse people. So, in order to become involved a person feels a need to become someone else, to act against their natural tendencies, to try and diminish real interests for the sake of some higher mission.

The reality is that the Holy Spirit has designed and filled us, so that who we are is sanctified. We are not to try to become someone different, we are instead urged to truly become ourselves. For some this means going out and preaching. For others this means serving the poor. Everyone is unique, and has a unique blend of gifts and talents and personality which makes us all essential colors on the divine palette. Together, as a body, we preach the Good News in ways which are not always obvious, but through the Spirit are effective.

Sadly, we do not trust the Holy Spirit, and see Christ as a powerless figure dependent on us to do the work. We emphasize our own efforts, and go overboard in trying to let others see how much we are doing. The goal is not God, but ourselves in this, with Pride a very similar taste to Faith. Each generation and community has a gift or set of gifts which then make the body unwieldy or misshapen.

For the Corinthian Church this over emphasized gift was tongues. Our generation has taken Evangelism and made it the sign of holiness. The fact is that a person can evangelize, even effectively, and not even be a real Christian. As we read in Matthew 7:

“Not everyone who says to me, ” Lord , Lord ,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, “ Lord , Lord , did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ”I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

Our goal is not to do what seems impressive to each other, or try and become heroes to a world which measures success through numbers. Our goal is obedience, to follow the movement of the Spirit with passion and discernment.

Of course evangelism is wonderful and needed, but only if empowered, directed, and focused by the Holy Spirit. And not all, in fact not very much, of what we pass off as evangelistic in our world fits into that category. When it does there is power, and there is change, all the fruit of the Spirit ripens.

Sometimes following the Spirit means jumping at a chance, and sometimes it means backing off until the time for fulfillment has come. Above all following the Spirit means learning to embrace what the Spirit is doing in us, and doing in others, rather than trying to make everyone fit, however imperfectly, into some ineffective mold.

politics

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So, realizing my apparent political bent in conversation I always like to take these little quizzes.

politics spectrum

I score a 21. Meaning I’m just the slightest bit to the right of Colin Powell.

Not a bad place to be, I suppose. There, I’m not a ranting right-winger. Satisfied?

I have a friend…

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…who is spending the next month in Asia, traveling about all by her lonesome. Well, at least as lonesome as being in Asia allows. She’s bound to meet people but will be moving from place to place without specific company.

She’s taking notes.

What makes this interesting to me is that it doesn’t fall into the normal categories of travelers I know. She’s neither on a missions trip, nor is she staying in fancy hotels. She’s wandering about in relative traveling poverty, a hoopy frood who has made sure to bring her towel.

Plus, an Ivy League background, a UCLA JD, with a current interest in Ancient Jewish/Christian relations as she pursues her master’s in theology from Fuller Seminary, an EU citizenship, Austrian homeland, US green card, who minored in Japanese while an undergraduate, but has never traveled over the Pacific, are reasons these thoughts may be a a fair bit interesting.

mystery worshippers

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I know I’ve mentioned shipoffools.com before. Today I was looking at it again and realized, again, how great a resource it is. Back in the day when I was an eager evangelical, earnestly preparing for a sunday night service, I and some others visited area churches, taking note of their highs and lows.

In shaping something, it is so important to get out of the front, and sit amidst the pews (or chairs, or cushions, or sofas). Bright ideas don’t burn as long when they seem sad when others try it. Important aspects which wouldn’t occur to a brighteyed pastor become strikingly evident. Most of the ‘worshippers’ aren’t trained theologians, so come off like a congregation member would. Like in writing, ministry needs good editing. Only arrogant ministers would think otherwise.

Comments on sermons or other aspects as found in the shipoffools Mystery Worshiper section are invaluable. Follow the comments and thoughts, and a service would put itself together, methinks.

new ministry

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In my continuing tradition of developing important ministries for overlooked Christians, I humbly offer for your perusal, eSp: Evangelism for Shy People.