Thursday, September 27, 2007

If You Care

Last election cycle, we had a herd of contenders jostling for the Democratic presidential nomination. The final head count going into the primaries was nine. It was natural enough to refer to them as the nine dwarfs, the trouble was deciding who was Grumpy (Howard Dean?), Sleepy (not Howard Dean), Happy (not Howard Dean), Dopey (a nine-way tie), etc.
Well, my fellow Republicans, I am about to transgress Ronald Reagan's eleventh commandment.
On the Republican side you have what looks like a line forming at the water fountain.
Have you ever seen anyone looking presidential in line at the water fountain?
The top-tier candidates (new media obsession word) which now appear to consist of Guliani, Thompson, non-candidate Gingrich, and Romney are enough to make me consider not voting. I know I cannot conscientiously not vote, but, I'm also wondering how I can conscientiously vote, particularly if I'm faced with Guliani, Gingrich or Thompson.
RINO does not even begin to describe the New Yorker's New Yorker Guliani. If you are tempted to start viewing Guliani in the stage lights of electability, ask yourself how much better off we would be if we sold our soul to the devil to elect a Republican. I understand there is such a thing as throwing your vote away on an unelectable candidate, but you must have a rudimentary knowledge of New Yorkers' values. They have none. I admit I would be stunned if a pro-choice, pro-civil union, pro-gun-control (yes, I know he addressed the NRA, and I've never heard a Republican sound so much like a Democrat) candidate won the GOP nomination, but stranger things have happened. Northeastern Republicans are mystifying to anyone living below Pennsylvania. It's not unlike being a Unitarian and attending the Southern Baptist Church.
Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, carries some socially conservative credentials. He carries them everywhere he goes, like a driver's license. If he's pulled over by evangelicals, he's covered. This is what bothers me. I would prefer he carry them like a concealed weapon.
His affair is also problematic. Marvin Olasky of World Magazine recently wrote an article in which he discussed the findings of researchers who have found that candidates who struggle with honesty in their marriage tend to struggle with honesty in other areas as well.
What a shock. His point, though, was a good one. Can we trust the country to a man who was unable to keep the most basic vow to his wife?
The man is fiscally brilliant and articulates conservative economic policy like no other. So I think he should stick to his political action committees and leave leadership to leaders.
Now, ol' Fred.
I have a personal sticking point with Fred Thompson. I know we're not electing a pastor here, but a 65 year old man with a ten month old son and an eighteen year old wife just creeps me out.
Not to mention his eighteen year old wife (little exaggeration there) dresses like a seventeen dollar hooker.
James Dobson, not the Apostle Paul by any means, but a very good source of information if you happen to be a Christian and you happen to vote, rained all over Thompson's parade in an e-mail to friends. Thompson "has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent 'want to' " and furthermore, "can't speak his way out of a wet paper bag." He also pointed out that Thompson opposes a constitutional amendment to defend marriage and supports McCain-Feingold finance reform.
Mitt Romney. I am suspending judgement on Romney, but I'm definitely not excited about him.
If you don't mind me quoting Olasky again, Romney is "slick."
And his pro-life credentials are somewhat suspect as well. They look a lot like George Bush Sr.'s in 1988. Can a man change his mind? Absolutely. About whether murder is murder? Possibly. It just stinks when a Massachusetts governor suddenly changes his mind about abortion with the national scene looming in the distance.
The fact is, they all look mighty small standing in the shadow of the current president.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Who wants to be strong?

Three of the people reading this blog will find it recycled.
There was a recent book published about Mother Theresa entitled Mother Theresa: Come Be My Light that included some of her personal correspondence with friends and confessors that reveals a side of this servant of humanity that hostile non-Christians will wave around like a smoking gun.
Nominal positive thinking Zig Ziglar Christians will find it uncomfortable reading and likely move on to something else.
Mother Theresa was obviously Catholic.
I am obviously Protestant.
My belief that she made it to Heaven is not to say that doctrine is unimportant.
Doctrine is extremely important.
God is more merciful, however, than doctrine is important.
Mother Theresa, it seems, suffered a lack of good feeling.
I stated this in an intentionally trite manner.
For over forty-five years, from the early 1960's, until the day she died, she went through what St. John of the Cross termed "the dark night of the soul." That is to say, she suffered an absence of the felt presence of God.
(And read the letters before you say, "Sure, she didn't feel God's presence! She was Catholic!")
She suffered bitterly under a "dryness", a "darkness", a "torture."
"This smile," she wrote of her everlasting beaming craggy visage, "is a cloak that covers everything."
"Such deep longing for God- and. . .repulsed -empty -no faith -no love -no zeal."
Do we understand the desperation of the beggarly position God wishes us to come to?
It is truly a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Even for a Christian to fall into God's forge . . .
As C.S. Lewis said of Aslan in his mildly successful children's book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, "Safe?! Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn't safe! But he's good."
Our spiritual life is typically cyclical. We loathe the valleys but recognize that a valley lies between mountains. And so we are comforted.
God, however, wants to really test us. And thus some find themselves following a valley (as following the road God would have us take) as it winds perpetually down between mountains rather than simply passing through the valley to ascend the next peak.
To be comforted at all in this life is to be the faint-hearted recipient of God's tender mercy. At times, we comfort ourselves with remembrance and reiteration of God's promises.
Still other times, fewer and farther between, are times of God's personal reassurance.
But these rapturous experiences are not what God wishes us to live for.
They are brief respites, points by which we erroneously measure our progress, when the real distance is gained when we are slogging along with no landmarks in sight.
I am caused to wonder whether comforting ourselves, that is, pushing the encroaching darkness back with a waving candle is not getting ahead of God.
Perhaps He wishes us to not grow accustomed to the darkness, but not fear it, trusting that He will lay no stone in our paths to stumble over.
I don't mean that we should ignore or take no comfort in the promises of God, I am saying that shouting them out in the darkness with a quavering voice, or worse still, mumbling them frantically to ourselves with our head stuck in the sand gives the lie to what we are saying.
God may let us take comfort or rest in nothing.
He may cause the blessing of family to be done away with. He may deny you friendship, and He may sequester you in an emotionless vacuum. He may cause the end-all, the hope of Heaven itself, to become clouded and nebulous in our minds. Everything is fair game, in His insane quest to gain our true trust.
In a dark room, on a moonless night, your pupils will eventually dilate enough, using what luminosity there is from the stars, or a distant streetlight, to gradually outline the bed, the chairs, the curtains.
But in a room with no windows, and no doors, your eyes will not assist you.
Do you suppose Thomas ever wished he had believed before he saw?
I am gradually learning not to take placebos. It's not easy. We are programmed to seek resolutions to our disillusionment; a weepy emotional conclusion to a dry spell, an epiphany, something to testify about on Wednesday night, "All week long I struggled, but I was having my devotions, and the Lord broke through. . . ."
I have reassured myself a thousand times that emotion is not important.
And each time I do, I feel better.