Where you can read the relatively rational ramblings of a silly half-monkey, half-boy. This freak of nature is named Joel. He also responds to the name 'Bart Wang'.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Socialismo o muerte

The election hubbub is over and we have a new prime minister. His name is Stephen Harper. He's from Calgary and he's a Conservative. Word is he is also a Christian. That's a lot of 'c' words. Anyhow, there's been a lot of mud thrown at Mr. Harper over the years because he's a Conservative and because he's a conservative Christian. Politics is such a messy game. At the same time, there has been a lot of defending Mr. Harper by Christians. Why? Because he's one of us.

As Christians, we have a nasty habit of dividing the world into categories. One category contains 'us' and the other category is 'them'. Everyone who is not a Christian is not allowed amongst 'us'. They belong to 'them'. Oh, but whilst it appears to be simple, be confident that there is a whole lot of fighting about whether or not some is a true Christian and whether they're allowed to be in the 'us' group or if people would relegate them to the 'them' group. Crazy, ain't it? Who are the gatekeepers? I suppose each person plays that role for them. They likely surround themselves by people who support similar ideas so there is little conflict amongst 'us'. Or the small pocket of 'us', at least.

Now, as for Christians and politics... It gets confusing for me here, if it wasn't already in the discussion above. Christians tend to vote based on two issues: abortion and gay rights. These are the defining issues for civilization as we enjoy it in North America, according to the words and actions of many Christians. You will find almost single-minded allegiance to the Conservative party in Canada amongst 'us' (i.e., Christians) because they have, historically, opposed abortion and gay rights. For many Christians, the good news of love, acceptance and freedom found in the person of Jesus involves no abortions happening and no homos getting married. What? Yeah, it is stupid, isn't it?

I should have thought of it earlier in the campaign but I didn't until a few hours before the polls closed. I sent out this article and a brief message to many of my Christian friends in the hopes that they would begin thinking more about their political positions. As of last year, the Conservative party no longer opposes abortion. Well, individual members might but it was no longer a defining issue for the party as a whole and it was dropped from their platform. I just happened to see it in the newspaper (which I just happened to get for free that day) and I copied it out so I could share. This is what it said.

Abortion debate shot down
Maria McClintock
Toronto Sun - Sunday, March 20, 2005
Ottawa Bureau

The Conservative party moved closed to the moderate middle yesterday after convention delegates defeated many Reform-era policies and shot down attempts to re-activate the debate on abortion.
Throughout the policy debate in Montreal it was clear the 3,000 party faithful heard the signal sent by leader Stephen Harper in his keynote speech Friday night – that he would not legislate abortion, and that party members should focus on issues that Canadians care about.
Despite that, the door remains open for MPs to bring forward legislation in the Commons on any issue they choose.

Slim margin
New Brunswick delegate Nargis Kheraj was pleased the members shot down the abortion motion although it was by a slim margin.
“This battle has been fought before. Women have been fighting this for a hundred years … we do not need to revisit it,” said Kheraj, who urged delegates to end the debate on abortion once and for all.
“I’m really pleased we really got to the point, that we have agreed that abortion has no business being on our platform.”
Other motions on euthanasia, referendums and the notion of recall of MPs were all defeated, a signal party members want to convince Canadians the party is prepared to have more mainstream policies on its books.
While there was an apparent shift, it ground to a halt on the divisive issue of same sex marriage. An overwhelming 75% of delegates voted in favour of a Conservative government introducing legislation to keep the traditional definition of marriage – a stand MP Belinda Stronach said will have political implications on the party.
“We are all here because we want to form government. We want to broaden the base of support, we want to be inclusive, and we want to form a pan-Canadian party,” Stronach said following the vote.

‘I want to win’
“Yes, I am worried about the political impact that this will have on the party. I’m in this because I want to win and I believe we must show that we are an open and inclusive party.”
Attempts to establish a youth wing of the party were also shot down after a lengthy debate, so the party will continue with the status quo of developing its campus clubs at universities and colleges.
Also removed from the party’s platform were planks calling for the creation of a citizens’ assembly to adopt proportional representation, holding elections on fixed dates, referendums for constitutional amendments and general referendums for issues of national importance.

I hope that this causes a lot of questioning on the part of Christians in regards to their voting patterns. Do I like abortions? No. Do I think it is killing a child? Yes. Do I wish that no woman was ever put in a position to consider abortion? Yes. Do I believe that the abortion industry is dominated by men and continues to contribute to the 'glass ceiling' and the feminization of poverty? Yes. Do I think Christians should vote for a person or party based on one issue? ABSOLUTELY NOT! It's illogical, unreasonable and useless.

What do I think is of equal importance to unborn children? Women, children and men who suffer daily in our own country. You have poor people, disabled people, lonely people, imprisoned people, abused people, hungry people and disadvantaged people throughout your community. It makes a whole lot more sense to vote for the candidates who will seek to assisted those in need than just think that ending abortion (which NO party in Canada will do) will solve these problems. It won't. It can't. It's too widespread. Here's an alternative strategy though... Women with adequate financial resources and social supports may not pursue abortion as a solution to an unplanned pregnancy. What about that? Or would you rather have women mired in poverty, struggling to survive and killing themselves and their children because we're so selfish? I know where I stand.

Couple of Bible passages that I think speak to this issue directly. First off, my favourite section of Scripture, Matthew 25:31-46 (New Living Translation). Here, Jesus says:

31 "But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. 34 Then the King will say to those on the right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.'

37 "Then these righteous ones will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' 40 And the King will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'

41 "Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, `Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his demons! 42 For I was hungry, and you didn't feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn't give me anything to drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn't invite me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me no clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn't visit me.'

44 "Then they will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?' 45 And he will answer, `I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.' 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life."

Abortion, anyone? The rights of gays and lesbians to engage in civil life like anyone else? Nope, not a single mention. You can read the same passage from The Message translation HERE.

The next verse is from Jesus' brother, James. He wrote, in James 1:27 (NLT):

27 Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.

A relationship with Jesus inherently involves no rituals, routines or regulations. It's knowing Jesus. Religion is mechanizing a relationship, doing things and making rules about how you act when you're trying to follow Jesus. The two are very far apart. Now, don't get me wrong, acting a certain way will necessarily flow out of a relationship. Since I love Melanie, I will act in loving ways toward her, seek to make her a priority above my own desires. Knowing Jesus and engaging in a relationship with Him is what is of primary importance to God. However, if you are going to do things (i.e., religion) for God, James lays out what matters to God - taking care of people. That's pretty simple but we need a lot of work to change our priorities. Jesus charged 'us', His people, to do that. We don't a shitty job of it, though. If you're going to vote for change, how about changing the current social structures that keep people in poverty? Christians get flack when it comes to politics because, I believe, they have screwed up priorities. And we become 'them' and the non-Christians become 'us' because they (this is becoming confusing again, isn't it?) worry that we'll do all sorts of things they disagree with because we believe we have moral superiority and the key to all knowledge and decisions. We aren't taken seriously and are ignored or belittled or disrespected because we do the same thing to everyone else who isn't in the 'us' category. Stop it. Now.

Another thought that the teaching pastor at my church shared which really resonated with me fits in with this discussion (or, as it is a blog, a monologue). Christians need to stop trying to use politicians (and other methods) to force non-Christians to act more like Christians. Jesus' followers should focus on making more Christians act like Jesus. Makes sense, doesn't it?

And here enters another challenge for me... An old friend from high school (hi Serina!) was on MSN Messenger the other day and had her MSN name say something to the effect of, 'Great, another man to take away a woman's right to choose and ban gays from marrying!' I haven't talked to her in way too long but felt I should let her know that the Conservative party (which, let me be clear, I do not support) no longer opposes abortion and is not making it a platform issue. She responded with skepticism and questioned whether or not the Conservative party would revive the old debate.

I felt trapped. On one hand, I have my brothers and sisters who vote ignorantly based on poor or a lack of information (i.e., Conservatives oppose abortion). On the other hand, I have my brothers and sisters fighting the Conservatives because they still believe the party will oppose abortion. Neither one believes it is a non-issue at this point so there can be no movement by either side. The Conservatives can go so far as to say it's not something they will look at again but then they are told they are lying and they will go back on their word. I suppose it is possible. But what point does that serve? I'm trying to move the political discussion forward and both sides are refusing to budge. I suppose a similar argument can be laid at the feet of all non-Conservatives. Let it go. Don't vote for a candidate or party based on one issue (i.e., abortion). There are hungry, cold, naked, poor people in the community with a myriad of needs that we can try to meet. Instead, you hold back the debate yourself with clinging to stereotypes. I think my opinion is pretty clear on this so I won't beat anyone over the head any longer. Let's move forward. If neither side will bring down their guard, be sure that the fighting will continue endlessly.

How's that for a long and winding post? Egads. I hope it was interesting and thought-provoking on some level. Ideas? Leave me a comment. I'm always excited to read that someone has checked this stupid thing. Melanie has banned me from the kitchen for the time being because she's making me something delicious as a surprise dinner. Two of my favourite things - surprises and dinner - brought together in one scrumptious event! I hope you're all ready for the weekend and get to enjoy some time off. Too bad for Taxman, he's worked every day of this month (yes, Saturdays and Sundays too). Damn you, Dofasco!

It's only one week until Andria and Mike get married. That's going to be a fun time. They are two of the bestest people I know. Mike laughs at my stupid comments and can be as sarcastic and witty as the best of them (oh, he's nice too) and Andria puts up with him. Awesome!

I'll leave you with some links to dig into if you've got any interest left in my brain. You probably know I love Dog The Bounty Hunter. Here's a cool interview he did with HM Magazine. For some visual entertainment, check out this quickly compiled short film, Catch Me Sleeping, by a Blondel's neighbour named Aaron. The Third Space site says that Todd posted it on his site too. If you look at the links page on the Third Space site, the picture includes me. That's my shoulder you're looking over, buddy. And it's the worst links page ever, containing no links. Get on it, Blonsi! PEACE!


Anonymous Mr. C said...

I never really got the politicization of GOD. I'm pretty sure JC didn't align himself with any political parties to gain a fat pension. He didn't wear a tie and didn't have a symetrical part in his hair. I don't think he ever used slanderous TV ads against anyone either. You can say you go to church on Sundays, but you can't get my vote that easily.

6:35 p.m.

Blogger 2Pete said...

Nice work, my friend. Here's an article I wrote for Relevant Magazine recently...

Abortion Revisited

Peter Walker

The issue of abortion used to be fairly simple: either you were for it or against it, and both sides had a pretty clear understanding of what they stood for. Not so today, where much of America has stopped asking this question at all, leaving only the politically inclined to speak out, using the same arguments they always have.

But other, quieter Christians are still working for the sake of life in ways the rest of us would do well to emulate.

“If the body of Christ were more involved in people’s lives, we wouldn’t be dealing with abortion like this,” said Shelley Herndon, director of New Hope Pregnancy Center in Albany, Ore. “If we helped women understand their value, the crisis wouldn’t exist. We need to be about caring for people.” Herndon was pointing right at my own misunderstandings—my tendencies to look past people as I search for the quantified, black-and-white answers of pop-rhetoric and debate.

Ten years ago I placed third in a statewide right-to-life oratory contest. I wrote a poem called "And the Band Never Played," which was supposed to allude to "And the Band Played On," a short story about AIDS. I was trying to highlight the fact that babies who aren’t born don’t get to play music at all, much less be in a band or speak about their plight or make TV movies.

I don’t think many people made the connection because I don’t know many Christians who concern themselves with AIDS.

The boy who won the contest and the girl who took second were both very passionate. They talked a lot about the evil Supreme Court that had allowed abortion be legalized and the murderous doctors and would-be mothers who hated life and the corrupt liberal media, which propagated lies about freedom of choice and women’s rights.

It’s too bad that none of our speeches dealt with the misnomer of “Pro-Choice,” because women too-seldom have any viable choices in our quick-to-judge society. It’s abortion or raising the child alone, often in poverty.

When I went to visit Herndon, I knew she would be able to offer far more insight and experience than stale arguments or cold statistics might show. I wanted desperately to find a workable alternative to picket signs and protest.

I sat down in Herndon’s office, and we began to talk. “I’m not very current on the state of national abortion issues,” she first confessed. It seemed a little refreshing. Her face was sweet and kind, but her eyes carried the weight of too many tears, and even in laughter the sadness seemed to linger. I wondered about the stories she had heard and the lives she had loved.

“Today, one in six abortions are by Christians,” Herndon began again, and though her information was practiced, it resonated with sincerity and heart. “Most women, even those who have abortions, don’t think it’s a good thing. But they are trapped in the immediate crisis. The attitudes and environments in America have changed.”

She explained that even for many in the Church, abortion is being viewed as a necessary evil. If such tendencies continue, then the rightness or wrongness of the issue will be almost irrelevant for efforts to reduce pregnancy terminations in America.

“The Pro-Life movement did itself a real disservice by focusing so much on the baby’s life and whether it was life at all. The life of the fetus is not even a medically debatable question any longer. Science proves that it’s a life, but that hasn’t changed people’s attitudes. We were focusing on the wrong questions.”

I clarified, “Is the panic, the immediacy of a crisis pregnancy what makes the question of life less relevant?”

“I think so,” she answered.

I asked what else makes the current environment different. “Well, it’s easier to talk about these days. The subject is open; it’s in your face. Even young men come into the clinic to talk about what they’re going through. That didn’t happen 10 years ago. But while abortion numbers have gone slightly down, those considering or seeking abortions are increasing.”

“What can we do?” I asked. “Do we take picket signs to the capitol building? Does that really do anything positive?”

“I think there’s a place for that, but I’m not political,” she said. “I’m not part of the Pro-Life movement. I support them, but we are called to do different things. I think that we, the Church, everyone needs to get into people’s lives and love them. It’s all about relationships. I even think there is common ground for both sides. Those who are Pro-Choice have the Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence and other organizations, which take care of women. When we take care of people, love them, meet their needs and give them worth, the abortion problem gets much smaller.”

And the problem desperately needs to get smaller, but not just for the unborn child. Too often we overlook the precious lives of the women who are so desperate for a solution. We condemn but leave no alternatives.

I have a friend who had two abortions during college. Her name is Annie, and her boyfriend wouldn’t wear condoms. The truth is, I don’t know if her self-esteem kept her from saying “no,” if her religion told her to submit or if she simply didn’t think about it. But she wasn’t on birth control at the time, so twice she and her mother made the terrifying trip to a local clinic.

I asked about her memories. What was it like? How did she come to the decision? “It was terrible,” Annie said. “I felt like a murderer, but I wasn’t ready to be a mom. He wasn’t ready to be a dad …”

Most of my Christian friends become very condescending when I talk about Annie. They roll their eyes and scoff at such poor decision-making. They say, “That’s ridiculous! I don’t have any sympathy. She should have been on birth control if she was going to have unprotected sex.” And I guess they’re right, but their judgment doesn’t do much for my lonely, hurting friend who shares the same guilt as you and I: imperfect decisions in an imperfect life.

Maybe Annie carries even less guilt than you and I, because maybe we could have helped her but didn’t.

After my Pro-Life speech contest all those years ago, I remember wishing I had focused more on demonizing the Pro-Choice movement. It may have helped me inch ahead with the judges. But while that tactic might have worked back in 1995, the climate in which abortion exists today is increasingly different. The black-and-white truth we once stood on exists now only in an ideal moral theory. We can still hope and pray for those ideals, and as Christians we should, but the inevitable failure of human righteousness must remind us, with broken hearts, to function in the dirty grays of compassion.

Until the people of God rise up and give practical hope and realistic solutions to the women of America, abortion will continue. We cannot value the children and leave our women alone in the streets, hiding in the shadow of unsympathetic judgment.

It is time to drop our pretenses, rediscover a painfully real love and start getting into people’s lives.

8:40 p.m.

Anonymous Michelle said...

Politicans should not be playing the role of God that is, they should not bring moral issues to the table to be decided by 301 people. I feel that this is an area better suited to our own homes and those with which we surround ourselves.

It always amazes me how some feel that political parties are single minded. I cannot imagine that the NDP are all about social programs nor the Liberals only about gay marriage. The Conservatives (in whatever name package they present)in recent memory have always had a varied and clear mandate as created and voted by the grassroots party members.

I am Christian because I believe in Christ. I have attended numerous Conservative policy conventions over the years. With the exception of the marijuana debate which was presented criminal vs science, there was little discussion regarding infringing on individual rights. No one has ever stood up and said "the bible says" or "I am a God loving Christian". People can detect those who attempt to act insidiously - Conservatives are actually not all retarded gun toting, bible thumping red necks.

I also do not think that the Christians referred to in your blog (not sure if you are talking about fundamental or any Christian)live soley to fight the abortion issue. They work and pay taxes and likely try to live honestly and perhaps with integrity.

Much of social programming is provincial jurisdiction. What people should consider is the amount of our taxes being given to provinces by the federal government. The idea here is that provinces be accountable and spend however they deem necessary. If they want to make safe abortion available to woman, as it is currently and has been for some time, then they can spend their money that way. When it comes to health care, if it is not medically neccessary, then it can be offered as a paid service or whatever.

If one chooses to vote soley on a political party's approach to social issues, then perhaps one is missing the point of politics. I agree with your sentiment that you should not vote based on one issue and while it took a long time for you to make that point (hehe), I feel that this point is bang on (do you hear my gun?) and as always, I appreciate your opinion.

1:40 a.m.


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