Friday, March 2, 2012

A Civil War of Ideology

Good leaders lead in spite of the odds stacked against them. They seldom make excuses about what other leaders did or left undone. People worth following inspire others to follow them no matter how bleak or intimidating the road ahead. I have been inspired in the last few weeks in reading about the stalwart leadership and unflinching resolve of two gentlemen. These men are Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

These two men loomed large in an era that arguably was the toughest that our nation has ever faced. In doing so, they distinguished themselves as men who were able to stand against popular opinion, as men who were able to set aside personal prejudice and fear and change a nation. The United States were a veritable timber box that would explode into the bloodiest chapter of American history, the Civil War. Brother was pitted against American brother in a battle over the nation’s soul. Would America be a free or a slave country? These accounts were even more poignant to me as I considered the civil war of ideology that our country is entangled in today.

In spite of her history good and bad, Lincoln and Douglass sought to keep America intact. America was and is still the best hope for mankind. Lincoln once said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.“ When I juxtapose these words against these words from Frederick Douglass’ speech, What the Black Man Wants, an inescapable parallel is drawn between this fateful time and our present day.

“…What shall we do with the Negro? I have had one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by natures plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall also. All I ask is give him a chance to stand on his own legs! ... If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as the white man” ~Frederick Douglass

We have taken liberty for granted for so long that we scarcely recognize it. Too many Americans are wholly in fear of liberty. I have to confess a certain level of comfort in the various trappings and safety nets of our society. At the same time I am becoming increasingly aware of the follies of ceding liberty for comfort. We stand at the precipice—or as stated before perhaps we have already entered into a civil war of ideology. There are forces that in their seeming benevolence would help Americans even if it means controlling them to some extent. There are others that would gladly stay on Frederick Douglass’ apple tree or even fall off if it meant that they “held strong to the tree” or fell within the blessings of liberty.

What’s worse is we have leaders that seem content to stoke the flames of class warfare and jealousy in order to try and achieve the fool’s gold of cosmic justice even at the expense of the very liberty that many of us still cherish. These men will pit the apples that may be “worm eaten at the core” and the ones who may be “early ripe and disposed to fall” against those who just might be able to “remain on the tree of their own strength.” They would have Americans be equally bound to the tree to keep us all equally safe from calamity. Those of us who love liberty more than safety are incensed by this. Those who want safety and an alleged notion of equality more than liberty encourage this. Our house is divided.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well in new—North as well as South” ~Abraham Lincoln

I hesitate… a little-- to draw this comparison, but slavery has new advocates today and they are cleverly shrouded in feigned egalitarianism and benevolence. They approach stealthily with entitlements, benefits, money, security, equality promised prosperity in one hand and shackles and whips in the other. Their aim is to convince Americans that they cannot succeed without being under the purview of their watchful and expert eye.  They think that Negroes then… or todays“everyday” Americans now are incapable of self governance and sustenance. According to these people, Conservatives, Republicans, Tea Party Members etc. are the equivalent of radical abolitionists bent on upsetting their vision of the perfect societal order in which a governing elite class tends to the affairs of the proletarian masses keeping them safe from harm, well fed and dependent.

By God’s grace and His sovereignty, our house will not fall a moment before it suits His purposes. I pray that Americans will think long and hard about the direction in which we want this country to travel. Our travel has not been without blemish but liberty has been the lifeblood of our nation. In the war between liberty and security I pray that we will always choose liberty. I pray that we will always fight bravely and selflessly for liberty as Douglass and Lincoln did. If we relinquish our lifeblood of liberty, we will destroy ourselves just as Abraham Lincoln predicted.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why This College Educated Black Man Became a Republican Part II: What Do Democrats Really Stand For?

My odyssey to becoming a Republican has gone through many twists, turns and sleepless nights of intense introspection and reflection. As I stated in an earlier blog post, I have voted for Democrats for my entire life up to and including the historic 2008 election. My values haven't really changed much during my adult life but my knowledge and understanding have. Barack Obama was a magnetic figure during that election and his presence and persona actually inspired me to begin to take a much closer look at my politics. As you may imagine, I was quite surprised with what I discovered. Needless to say, these revelations compelled me to move my allegiance from the Democrats to the Republicans.

I understand what Republicans are supposed to stand for. Their ideals make since to me. I remember actually going to the GOP website and viewing their principles and stances regarding various issues. Here are a few principles from the GOP website of my county:

I BELIEVE . . . That the proper function of government is to do for the people those things that have to be done but cannot be done, or cannot be done as well, by individuals, and that the most effective government is government closest to the people.

I BELIEVE . . . That good government is based upon the individual and that each person’s ability, dignity, freedom, and responsibility must be honored and recognized.

I BELIEVE . . . That free enterprise and the encouragement of individual initiative and incentive have given this nation an economic system second to none.

I BELIEVE . . . That sound money management should be our goal.

I BELIEVE . . . In equal rights, equal justice, and equal opportunity for all regardless of race, creed, age, sex, or national origin.

I BELIEVE . . . We must retain those principles of the past worth retaining, yet always be receptive to new ideas with an outlook broad enough to accommodate thoughtful change and varying points of view.

I BELIEVE . . . That Americans value and should preserve their feeling of national strength and pride, and at the same time share with people everywhere a desire for peace and freedom and the extension of human rights throughout the world.

FINALLY, I BELIEVE . . . That the Republican Party is the best vehicle for translating these ideals into positive and successful principles of government. 

These make very clear since to me. They are concise and sound. I was further taken by the following "cannots" that I learned from the Republican Party of my county:

  • You cannot bring about prosperity discouraging thrift.
  • You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
  • You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
  • You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
  • You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
  • You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
  • You cannot further brotherhood of men by inciting class hatred.
  • You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
  • You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative.
  • You cannot really help men by having the government tax them to do for them what they can and should do for themselves.
These ideas are short, sweet and to the point. They rang very true to me the first time I read them and I immediately knew that my political allegiances warranted further introspection. There was something spiritual that I felt as I learned the principles. They ring with the truth of God and an understanding of the fallen and imperfect mankind. The Republican way seems to at least tacitly acknowledge that God is the only one who can be trusted to be infallible. The Republican way seems to understand that mankind's vices can only be managed-- not eliminated. All of their policy seems to be built upon this foundation.

I began to search out the Democrat's guiding principles. I truly was trying to find a way to justify my being a Democrat in spite of many of my core beliefs. I found them elusive, verbose and vague. You can review some of them here:

Something struck me as I was on this journey. Democrats, as a movement seem to have an unreasonable faith in the benevolence and potential of man. They may acknowledge God, but the object of their faith is mankind. They seem to have an aversion to all things traditional and seem determined to prove that they can find a way to do things better than that which has been proven true and sound. Their foundation seems non-existent at worst and situational at best. It seems as though they must lick their finger, put it into the wind and try to determine what popular sentiment is before they jump out in front and try to lead.

It is impossible to explain what Democrats stand for in short simple sentences. If you try to describe their views in a concise way (Socialism, Pacifism, Globalism, Ecumenicism, Pluralism, Multi-Culturalism etc.) they will quickly denounce you as an ignorant, fundamentalist bigot. It's as if they think they are inherently smarter than you because it takes them a half hour to describe what they believe an economic system should look like. As stated before, the only thing that seems consistent in their views is that they believe man is capable of solving all of mankind's problems in of himself and his ingenuity and there are no moral absolutes. They have to hide their values in seemingly benign language-

-Woman's Health
-Comprehensive Immigration Reform
-Social Justice
-Equal Marriage Rights
-Investment in _______

Am I missing something? Perhaps you can help me? This is an honest question. Can anyone out there explain what Democrats stand for in a concise way? Republican principles are plain and simple and out there for all the world to see. (even if they don't always live up to them-exit RINOs enter Tea Party) They don't require a dissertation to declare them. It is because they are impregnated with the truths that the Bible and generations of human history have taught us. I believe that some of you can actually explain what Democrats stand for in a concise paragraph. Unfortunately, Democrats know that if they boil down what they stand for too much, the finished product would be unpalatable for the vast majority of Americans.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Goodness, Life and Principle

The other night during some quiet time I was reflecting on the permanence of God and the temporal nature of mankind and the Lord brought Isaiah 40:6-8 to my mind.

 6The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
 7The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
 8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

The grass is an illustration of the temporary and perishable nature of mankind. What is interesting to me is the phrase "all the goodliness thereof." Goodliness is the Hebrew word checed. Here it describes the goodness, kindness and faithfulness of man. Isn't it interesting that the Lord tells us that while our flesh is indeed temporal in nature, our goodness, kindness and faithfulness is even more fleeting! Flowers though very pleasing to all the senses are beautiful but for a relative moment. The same is true of our good works and the best of our intentions only last a moment. Far more pervasive is our penchant for sin, decay, destruction, corruption and evil. The Bible teaches that there is none righteous. (Romans 3:10) This is why we need the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ!

The other part of this that encouraged me this week is the reminder that the Word of God stands forever. My pastor said something Sunday that made an impression on me. He asked something to the effect of, "If you don't believe in God, then how do you explain the mess we are in?" The smarter we get and the more we evolve, it seems we are only capable of creating bigger messes and more strife. We are incapable of fixing our own problems in our own strength, much less the ailments of the world. As our culture strays further from God's word it deteriorates more and more.

God's word and principles are tried and true. They cannot be displaced or replaced no matter how hard man may try. I encourage you to stand firm on the promises and the principles of God's word in your life. The world doesn't need us to do more of what they are already doing. We will impact the world by being the salt and the light that Jesus calls us to be. Let's get salty!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Color Blind? Culture Blind?

I just had to share a quick thought…

I truly love the fact that racism seems to be on the decline in our great nation. There is not much that warms my heart more than to see people of diverse skin colors working and flourishing together absent of animosity and antipathy. It seems to be all the rage to be colorblind these days. In fact I often hear people who I greatly admire declare that they are colorblind and race simply doesn’t matter. I too believe that colorblindness is a noble ideal. The color of one’s skin has absolutely nothing to do with the content of one’s character. But stealthily hidden within attempts at colorblindness is a blind spot of culture-blindness.

While it is true that color is not an indicator of the content of character of a group of people, culture often is. There are cultures that live among us that have very distinct values and characteristics. These characteristics often define and influence behavior patterns among these groups of people. These characteristics often indicate patterns of consumption and production. There are characteristics of cultures that have been beneficial and detrimental to various socio-ethnic groups. Surely it cannot be bigoted to recognize, analyze and plan based on this knowledge?

I find culture-blindness particularly debilitating to ministry. I pause just a little bit when I hear people say, “It shouldn’t matter what color you are. You should be able to come in here (church) and worship God.” This is indeed a true statement but I find that many of those who say things like this are in an environment in which they are very comfortable and perhaps a little unaware of their culture-blindness due to their noble penchant for colorblindness. Color doesn’t make a difference but culture surely does.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Naturally, Collectivism Doesn't Work

Collectivism doesn’t work for the same reasons that collectivists say we need it. Collectivists say that their aim is to protect the “people” from those evil people that would take advantage of and subjugate them. The reason it won’t work is that you can’t eliminate the most basic impulses of humans. That is the impulse to act in accordance to one’s self interests. We can keep that impulse in check and subdue it in an effort to help others and promote the greater good, but it cannot be totally eliminated. 

I believe the unrest we are seeing in this country and what is being displayed in other places around the world is a groundswell of collectivist thought. When you listen to President Obama speak of the “people,” he speaks as if deep down inside all people really want the same thing. He and others that think like him really believe that deep down inside everyone wants peace, justice and equality. Collectivists are trying to make connections between unrest in many of the countries in the Middle East and the public labor disputes in the US. In all of these cases, they say it is the “people” who are rising up and demanding their “rights.”

Collectivists think that if anyone doesn’t feel this way, they can be coaxed into ameliorating their ways through discussion and enlightenment. Because the “people” want this or that, the powerful ought to acquiesce to their demands. I am not excusing excesses and abuses by the powerful. I am highlighting the fact that the only thing that the people uniformly want is exactly that—they want what they want. People want things. Whether it is a multi-millionaire tycoon or a union firefighter, people have interests. Deference is not the natural inclination of man. By default, all people are inclined to act in their own interests.

It is because of this there will always be powerful and the not so powerful. There will always be the influential and those who wield less influence. Unfortunately, there will also always be people who are rich, poor and all points in between. This is because there will always be those who are very skilled at fulfilling their interests. There will also always be those who do a really poor job of working in a way that promotes their interests. This is an unfortunate fact of life.

So, who will be the powerful, influential and wealthy?  Collectivists think they can really divvy up everything among the “people” and everyone will be happy. What they often fail to see is that their precious equality is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. Even if they achieve it, someone or something with some amount of power, influence and wealth will have to maintain it. Who is capable of wielding that type of power without ultimately acting in a way that is advantageous to their self interests? 

We needn’t single out the powerful. Members of a collective will act in their own self interests just as consistently as individuals. A group of individuals collectively acting in their own self interests without the counterbalance of negative consequences is just as dangerous as a malevolent, oppressive and greedy individual. I am reminded of the words of Thomas Sowell—“liberals would hold us collectively responsible for everything and individually responsible for nothing.” Collectivism, quite naturally, doesn’t work.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why This College Educated Black Man Became a Republican

A better title for this post could be Why this College Educated Black Man Came Out of the Closet and Stopped Being Ashamed of His Conservatism. That's just too long though... I want to try and make this as concise as possible. Many of my friends and many new adversaries have not been shy about giving me their opinion as to why I am suddenly so "political" and pro GOP.

~"You just like going against the grain."

~"You're brainwashed."

~"You better stop tryin' to impress those white folks at your church."

I'd like to make it clear for those who are truly wondering what is wrong with me and I would like to set other closet conservatives free to express and be what they believe. I'm still the same nice guy that most of my Facebook friends have come to know and love I've just realized something with age. Are you ready for the single biggest factor in kicking me out of my conservative closet? Here it is.

Yup, that's it. I can practically hear heads exploding already. When I say I am a Christian I don't mean I am one of these folks that attends church sporadically as a duty to help me be a better person. I believe every word of the Bible. I believe that Jesus Christ was dead, buried and risen on the third day.  I believe that Jesus Christ my King is coming and is coming soon. I also believe that He is the ONLY way to heaven PERIOD. We need Him because mankind is fatally flawed and marred by sin and is in desperate need of a Savior.

SO if you believe these things as well, please read on, if not, the rest of this post will just frustrate and quite possibly infuriate you and make you like me less so please stop.

I'm not even referring to abortion or traditional marriage right now. As a matter of fact, when I was still in the closet I would actually tell people that "you can't let those two factors alone dictate your vote." I won't even say that you can't be a Christian and Democrat/Liberal the way some of my friends do. (Though I will say you have some praying to do) I do believe however that if you allow your faith to fully inform your politics you will also come to the conclusion that progressive liberalism and Christianity are wholly incompatible. I have found the intersection of my faith and my politics.

I've had liberal pastors lecture me on how their faith compels them to vote Democrat. They tout that Jesus would have us to care for the poor. They lament that Jesus doesn't want us going to war. They are right. Where they are wrong is how the poor should be helped and who should do it. They are also wrong in their understanding of evil. A fundamental flaw in progressive thought is the notion that mankind is inherently good and somehow can be perfected through the effort, innovation and ingenuity of mankind. They believe that if the right people are in charge they can fix everything. They think that man's flaws are due to flaws in his environment and it is their mandate to perfect everyone's environment. Progressives say things like:

-When someone is poor it is because they weren't afforded the right opportunities.
-If someone is a criminal it is because they lacked proper education.
-If one is a TERRORIST it is because his people were oppressed by greedy imperialistic societies.
-All cultures, societies, religions etc. are equal and of equal good and importance and we are all connected. There is no place for nationalism or individualism. They just breed resentment.

All of this sounds great and noble. The problem is that my Bible and history have taught me that man is perfectly incapable of solving his problems. There are some hard truths that are true as a result of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden-

-People will always die
-Everyone will not make it.
-People will always lie.
-People will always steal.
-People will always disagree. There will be wars
-There will always be poor people.
-People will almost always ultimately work in and for their self interests even to the detriment of others.

Most Conservatives understand that mankind is fundamentally flawed and fatally limited by these flaws. Thomas Sowell calls this a constrained view of mankind in his book Intellectuals and Society. These flaws will not be fixed no matter how well meaning and smart we are. Many children, most adolescents and Liberals have an unconstrained view of mankind. They think that they are perfectly capable and are generally incredulously willing to try anything their whimsical little hearts can cook up when they are striving for world peace or trying to eradicate hunger... or childhood obesity.

As I stated, these are often noble aims that are undertaken by truly noble and benevolent people. I have just come to realize that much of their ideas are simply misguided and therefore ill fated. They may show up front success and effectiveness but the inevitable unintended consequences often leave things worse than they started. Welfare, Democratic Socialism and Pacifism are all seemingly harmless and beneficial ideas that come to mind that have had as much or more catastrophic long term side effects than whatever the immediate benefits have been.

Please understand, It's not that I don't care about issues such as poverty, hunger, oppression the environment etc. Most true Christians care about these issues. I fundamentally disagree with most progressive ideas for solving them. I find that too many offer a quick band-aid but fail to address or even understand the fundamental causes of calamity in the world. I care deeply about these issues but I have grown to realize that they need a far more holistic and fundamental approach than many Progressives and Liberals have the stomach for...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Racism and Prejudice: Part II

If you read my last blog entry you'll see that I believe that some level prejudice resides in all of us. What we do and how we act in light of that prejudice determines how we interrelate with other races, cultures and people who are different than us. I like to think of myself as a person that loves people. Learning about other people and the things that make them unique as individuals is refreshing to me. I often try to challenge my prejudices and do what I can to get to know different people.

I am an Evangelical Christian. When my family and I moved to St. Augustine, one of our top priorities was to find a strong, Bible teaching, Evangelical church. We also really wanted a church with a strong expository preacher. My entire life has been spent in Black churches. Racial makeup of the congregation really wasn't important to me but it was important to me that my next church home be a place where I can feel totally comfortable inviting anyone. I wanted a place where I knew that my guests would be treated with love and respect and they would hear the Gospel no matter what their skin color or socioeconomic status was.

We visited a number of churches. Some of them were predominantly black, others were predominantly white. We visited a couple Southern Baptist Churches and ended up settling on Turning Point @ Calvary in St. Augustine, Florida. Southern Baptist churches are known for expository preaching and we found a home that we are desperately in love with. For those of you who may be history buffs, you know that Southern Baptists are overwhelmingly Conservative and don't quite have an exemplary record when it comes to relations with Blacks in the past. (At one time they supported slavery and segregation)

If one were going to find racism in a church, they might be prejudiced to expect to find it in a place with ties to such a troubled racial past. My family and I are among perhaps eight to ten African American people in this congregation of well over a thousand. At the time of our joining, I never noticed more than two or three in regular attendance. This could have been a prime time for me to be guided by my prejudice. I could have said to myself, "Where are all the Blacks?" "I'll bet these folks will act funny towards us because we're black." It didn't take me long to realize that these prejudices couldn't be further from the truth.

I've found this church to be the single most inviting and loving congregation I have ever had the pleasure to interact with. While I'm sure that there are some that have certain prejudices about me as I do them, the love of God is evident in their interactions with me and my family and others. The Word of God is taught without compromise and God's work is evident in the life and deportment of the congregation. I am learning that white people are a lot like me. They work, pray, laugh, love and cry just like me. Many of my prejudices are being further broken down and I hope that many of their prejudices are being challenged by my family.

From time to time some well meaning person will say something to my wife like, "Sing soul sista" or some well meaning gentleman will make it a point to let me know how many Black people he knows in one of our conversations. Some would choose to be offended by these episodes in a kneejerk fashion. This is not how we are going to move forward into a real post-racial America. There are substantive differences among the cultures of the people of this great land. How will we ever learn to appreciate one another if we don't have patience and take the time to understand each other?

Sometimes we toss around the word diversity. What was the last thing that you did to actually promote diversity? When was the last time you intentionally befriended someone who perhaps is a little different than you? Maybe if more of us would take the steps to understand each other we could really move closer to a post racial future.