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Although the majority of evangelical Chrisians voted for John McCain in 2008, Christian leaders I’ve talked to said that it was the Obama campaign that did a far better job courting the evangelical community.  Obama seemed to better understand and relate to evangelicals, and indeed, far more voted for the Democratic ticket than in previous presidential elections. Now, writes evangelical ethicist David Gushee of Mercer Univeristy, Obama’s action on life issues has disappointed the evangelicals who supported him.

Gushee writes in USA Today:

What has occurred are a series of disappointingly typical Democratic abortion-related moves:

 First, the new president followed precedent by overturning the so-called Mexico City policy, which basically had withheld U.S. Agency for International Development funding from any organization that discusses, advocates or provides abortion as a method of family planning. Republicans withhold the money; Democrats provide it. Not great, but predictable. I stayed quiet on this one.

 Next, Obama revoked the “provider refusal” rule that President Bush promulgated by executive order very late in his presidency. The stated aim of this rule was to protect medical professionals from being forced as a condition of employment to provide health care services or information about services, such as abortion or contraception, that violated their consciences. Provider-conscience exceptions related to abortion are not new; the concern from the pro-choice side was that Bush’s version of that rule had become too broad. Concluding that the basic idea of conscience exceptions was probably safe, I stayed quiet again.

Then the president nominated Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to be head of the massive Department of Health and Human Services. The nomination of Sebelius, a Catholic whose bishop has condemned her stance on abortion, has gotten entangled in both national and Catholic abortion politics. Her opponents argue that she is a pro-choice extremist; her allies say she is a conscientious Catholic who has reduced abortion by 10% in Kansas. I signed on to a statement that was viewed as offering uncritical support for Sebelius. What I meant to say was that given the inevitability that Obama would choose a pro-choice HHS secretary, it seemed positive he would pick one with an abortion-reduction track record. I wish I had stayed out of this one, too.

 Finally, last week Obama signed his long-promised reversal of Bush policies on embryonic stem cell research. Again, this was not a surprise, either politically or, sadly, morally. A country that is willing to permit the destruction of a fetus at five months, when that destroyed fetus can provide no conceivable utilitarian benefit to society, is certainly going to permit the destruction of a leftover frozen embryo on the promise that it can contribute to medical breakthroughs someday.

He adds:

My understanding of the majestic God-given sacredness of human life tells me that a society that legally permits abortion on demand is deeply corrupt. It pays for adult sexual liberties with the lives of defenseless developing children. That practice, in turn, desensitizes society to the implications of paying for prospective medical cures with defenseless frozen embryos, which themselves are available because our society pays for medically assisted reproductive technology by producing hundreds of thousands of these embryos as spares. And yes, that same commitment to life’s sacredness has grounded my opposition to paying for national security with torture, or paying for today’s affluence with tomorrow’s environmental destruction.

Gushee is a thoughtful and principled evangelical centrist who is profoundly disappointed in a politician who appealed on the possiblilities of compromise producing some movement on life issues, but has not only failed to deliver on promises, but advanced policies that are totally contrary to the protection of life. 

Hope unfulfilled. 



It’s all a matter of timing

From President Obama,

Today, …the United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility.

This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant. To achieve that goal, we will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe-haven to terrorists. We will help Iraq build new ties of trade and commerce with the world. And we will forge a partnership with the people and government of Iraq that contributes to the peace and security of the region.

The only thing new about this strategy is that Obama has shifted (i.e., changed his mind) regarding his approach towards our presence in Iraq. Remember, this is the same person who opposed the Surge, who once gave up hope on succeeding in Iraq, and who once stated that the lives of troops killed in action were “wasted”. (HT: HotAir)

Life is, by no means, fair. Many times, our fortune, or failure, is simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time – of having that lucky break. What we’ll see, in the next few years, is Obama receiving the accolades for any progress to be displayed in Iraq. Bush, in our media’s shortsightedness, will take more than his share of the blame for what it cost to succeed – the failures, mistakes, and blood. Yet, he is the one who was fated to do the dirty work.

And, I think that history will eventually provide us with the clear picture of who accomplished what.

Greening the Hood

Leroy Barber, a new friend who is president of the innovative Mission Year program that facilitates the placement of suburban Christians to live and minister in urban comunities, has an interesting take on the importance of healthier environments in urban settings.  See his post on “greening the hood.

What is his Thing Called “I”

One of the critical points of disagreement in the abortion divide is notions of personhood. So it seems one interesting thing to examine might be what comprises notions and ideas of personhood and on what basis these ideas are founded.

There are role based notions of personhood. I’m told that in Bali for example, your personality (and in fact your name) is dictated by the order of birth. You are “first son”, or “third daughter” a name which indicates who you are. In Rome the notions of personhood and identification of a person was primarily a legal concept. Your status of citizenship, your membership in guilds and other associations defined your legal notions of personhood. But legal and definitions of personhood based on birthplace or occupation are foreign to members of the modern western world.

One of the common notions of self is based on memory, that is you are the sum of your memories and that your memory is the basis of your continuing notion of self. But this is incomplete and insufficient. If, in some speculative fiction, a persons memories are erased we still think of them as the same person, just that they being the person whom they are is now that person sans memory. That is, the memory did not define self. Similarly if, one person’s “memories” in a scenario such as the Total Recall movie were taken and transplanted into another person … that other person would not thereby “be” identified as the original person. We have a common notion that these to persons are in fact distinct. Memory it seems does not define person. Another example that comes to mind is Latro in the Gene Wolf novels whom awakes each and every morning with no memory of his past. How is “self” or concept of ego considered for someone like him.

Organic identity as well does not define person. Again in speculative fiction not just modern science fiction, there are ideas of a person being transformed into something else. He becomes the ghost in a machine (modern computer or whatnot) or earlier works in which his self is moved to another person, animal, or magical animate object. If the ego, the “I”, can be radically transmuted and that memory of whom I am is not self either … what is the constituent thing which identifies self?

One suggestion, given by the early 4th and 5th century Eastern church, expanded by the 8th century theologian St. Maximus, and put into modern context by  and John Zizioulas is that personhood and self are defined relationally. That your continuity of self and in fact your very notions of self are defined only in relation to “Other”. If we refer to the above identification of self through radical transformations, we recall from those stories that the validation of self past the transforming event is that one recovers and is recognized via re-establishing and restoration of those connections with those others with whom one was formerly connected.

Missing the point, is the problem on both the right and the defenses from the left.

The point isn’t Mr Ayers regrettable (and alas not-regretted) past. It isn’t how close in bed where Mr Obama and Mr Ayers and what did who know when. That is a political wart which will not change the election. But …

The point is they both miss the point on education. Badly.

Mr Obama in a commencement address earlier this year spoke to college grads of not giving themselves to money and career but “doing something for change”. Mr Ayers also sees education as a platform to educate “children for freedom and against oppression”.

Alas, that ain’t the problem. The problem is the scarcity of good engineers and scientists coming out of our schools. It isn’t “more poetry and freedom” that needs to be taught, it’s path integrals and Riemann surfaces. It’s tensors and logic and PLL amplifiers. Mr Ayers (and Mr Obama) are brought up looking in the wrong direction for the “problem” and … that is the problem with their association.

Things Heard: e36v1

Mr Obama and Mr Ayers

From a comment string, which I’m not promoting here for more exposure about the connection between Mr Ayers and Mr Obama. The contention (from the left and Mr Obama) is that their relationship was casual and distant. Mr Kurtz has dug up some at this stage possibly circumstantial evidence that it was more than that. There is support in Mr Obama’s own writing that this is likely not to be truthful. Recall at this point in his campaign, Mr Obama has well established that like Mr Clinton before him, and perhaps like many modern educated lawyer/politicians, he has at best a spotty history at being forthright and truthful about his past.

Consider the following excerpt:

To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our stereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society’s stifling constraints. We weren’t indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.But this strategy alone couldn’t provide the distance I wanted, from Joyce [a former girlfriend] or my past. After all, there were thousands of so-called campus radicals, most of them white and tenured and happily tolerated. No, it remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.(pp 100-101 of Dreams

Now consider that young man going to Chicago. Might Mr Ayers qua Mr Ayers-the-bomber cum activist/radical be exactly whom/what a young Mr Obama would seek as an acquaintance? After all, here is a person for whom the accusation “sellout” and who “showed whose side he was one” was established.

If that is in fact the case, I’ll admit that many on the left who idolize and view with rose tinted lenses the “heady activism” of the 60s and 70s don’t find such things off putting and therefore find there no reason to disassociate oneself from Mr Ayers company. However in the center and the right … a past which includes preparing nail bombs to use on military bases at best makes one a pariah.

I find it unlikely that Mr Obama, on (and before) meeting Mr Ayers, did not know of his past. I for example did not, and would not have, for I have not even a passing interest or knowledge of the membership of the “who’s who in the hagiography of the radical loony left.” It is hardly feasible that Mr Obama, on the other hand … had such lack of knowledge. And from that account it is also highly likely that he sought out Mr Ayers friendship and company. I also find it disingenuous at best to think that interviews of the people in question will be forthright about answering question at this date about such a relationship.

The real question isn’t however “what did Mr Obama see in Mr Ayers”, but the converse, i.e., What did Mr Ayers see in Mr Obama which he found worth promoting?

I will also observe, being a contemporary of Mr Obama’s, myself at the U of Chicago while he at Columbia … I will say that there were some small number of campus “activists” who might be similar to Mr Obama’s disposition/description. I didn’t think much of them then. I have to say I haven’t  changed my opinion on that now almost 30 years later (We stayed up at night discussing things like <em>Godel Escher Bach</em>)

Will It Matter

Apparently both Mr Obama and Mr Biden voted for the bill and down a revision which which was aimed at the removal of Mr Stevens “bridge to nowhere”. Mrs Palin, whom the Obama campaign targeted as “for earmarks before she was against them” of course has absolutely nothing to do with earmarks … unlike the Senators. Because, as we all know, Legislation (and earmarks) are enacted by Congress … not governors. So I guess Mr Obama and Mr Biden where, uhm, substantially for the earmarks in question but are now actually (perhaps) against them, now that that position is politically convenient.

Mr Obama different, how? Perhaps he’s dropped the “Change Change Change” mantra because its becoming increasingly clear that he is emphatically not a change. Why do his supporters think that he’s going to be not just a less experienced replay of Jimmy Carter in office is beyond me. If I was a little more cynical, I think I might start supporting him. If he wins, it will take decades for the Democratic party to recover the damage that I think he will do.

Comparing Alaska and New York City; Does size matter?

In Obama and the Palin Effect, Deepak Chopra states,

…On the surface, she outdoes former Vice President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing. Her state of Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City…

Now, that was an interesting comparison, wasn’t it? Chopra is arguing that because the number of Alaska’s 683,478 residents is about one-tenth the number of New York City’s 8,274,527 residents, the task of governing Alaska must also be about one-tenth the job of governing NYC.

But let’s take a look at this graphically. Below is a bar-chart histogram which compares both New York City (NYC) and Alaska (AK) with regards to their population levels.


Clearly, the population of NYC dwarfs that of AK.

However, what if we were to look at the size of NYC as compared to that of AK? The chart below illustrates this for us.


So, in terms of area (square miles), Alaska’s size (656,424 sq. mi.) so overwhelms that of New York City’s (469 sq. mi.), that NYC doesn’t even register on the chart. Simply put, Alaska is 1,400 times the size of New York City.

Using Chopra’s reasoning, this must mean that, in terms of area to govern, the job of running Alaska is expanded to the scale of running 1,400 New York Cities!

I wondered how these resource-based comparisons played out when comparing Obama’s state of Illinois to that of Palin’s Alaska. So I did a little bit of research. I found the results interesting.

Read the rest of this entry

Words Fail

Many of you have probably seen this Obituary from the Washington Post, as reprinted in National Review Online’s Corner. If not, read it, especially if you’re a father.

More commentary at this post in the Corner. Pray for this family, especially the son. I know he has close remaining family but I cannot help wondering what he’s going to do with his dad gone.

Poverty, Gospel, and Mr Myer’s Hermeneutic

Dan asked for a few examples from the text. Find them below the fold. Read the rest of this entry

If I Were An Obama Supporter…..

Come November, I intend to cast my vote for John McCain. Like many other conservatives, I’m not terribly happy about having to vote for McCain but I really have no other legitimate choice. But if I were supporting Barack Obama, I would be increasingly worried about my candidate.

Given his recent track record of major flips on a variety of issues, Senator Obama is quickly making John Kerry look like a principled politician. It is becoming clearer by the day that the Senator is willing to do and say anything in order to get elected. It’s not hard to imagine that if Obama wins the election his first two years in office will be marked by a hard tack to the left.

Senator Obama has been able to clinch the Democratic nomination by preaching an ambiguous message of hope and change without delving into much in the way of policy specifics. But as this campaign move into the more serious season he’s going to have to make it clear what he stands for. Otherwise the “Change We Can Believe In” will be his platform that alters direction based on which way the political winds are blowing.

Democrats, Do Overs, and Disenfranchisement

These are tough times to be a Democrat. After months of battling through primaries and caucuses, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are practically deadlocked in the race for their party’s presidential nomination. Even though several states are still slated to hold their primaries they aren’t going to ultimately decide who the nominee will be. That decision will be made by 796 “superdelegates” who are party officials who will ultimately select the nominee. Never before has the Democratic party had to rely on these unelected delegates to decide a nomination. This was the year the Democrats were supposed to win back the White House. Now, it looks like the party may implode before they can select a nominee.

To make matters worse, Senator John McCain has already wrapped up the Republican nomination which means he can focus on the general election and raise a boatload of campaign cash.

The question now facing Democrats in how to bring their nomination process to a peaceful end. Unfortunately for them, no one has a good solution.

Read the rest of this entry

Are the Primary Debates Necessary?

In the aftermath of Wednesday night’s CNN/You Tube debate debacle, one of the questions that should be asked is whether the primary debates are really necessary?

Yes, CNN bungled the debate. Given how they did during the last Democratic debate, hopes for a dramatic improvement when the Republicans took the stage were grossly misplaced.

Some would argue it was helpful for Republicans to be put on the spot to answer tough questions. While that may be true, Republicans generally face more adversarial questions from the MSM so I don’t know that the debate questions necessarily helped. It struck me that the focus of the debate became more about creating “gotcha” moments that the MSM could endlessly club the candidates with in the coming weeks.

The fact is that this year’s debates have been more like Presidential beauty contests than honest debates designed to bring out not only differences in policy positions between the candidates but reveal their character as well. Rather than focusing on clear policy differences (if there really are any) success in the debates comes down to who can come up with the best soundbite that can be replayed on talk shows and in news reports.

The debates also force voters to focus on who is most “electable” rather than vetting the candidates (think John Kerry in 2004).

As this year’s primary debates come to a close, both parties would be well advised to carefully examine what went wrong during this year’s debates and how they can improve them. It is the only time that Americans get to see their candidates without the benefit of media or campaign spin. Voters need to know who the candidates are and what they stand for. Based on this year’s debates, that’s hard for anyone to figure out.

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