Saturday, September 09, 2006

MP3s, AFR, and WWJD

My wife bought me a cool MP3 player for my birthday - it looks kind of like a jump drive, and you load music on it (and recharge the battery) by plugging it right into a USB port on your computer. I've been listening to it on the way to work using an FM tuner - a handy device that you can plug into your MP3 player (or whatever else) and transmit a signal directly to your radio. I've been using 88.3 as the signal, and as fate would have it, that station is the local American Family Radio station. I had forgotten why I stopped listening to AFR a number of years ago, but as I heard them over the airwaves Thursday morning, I began to remember.

They were so negative. What sticks out in my mind is the constant barrage against Disney, though the specifics escape me now. For a network that considers itself Christian, I was often put off by the negativity that seemed to exude from it. When I turned the car on Thursday, I was immediately assailed by James Dobson taking a stance on what appear to be the only two issue important to Christians this election season. They are, of course, gay marriage and abortion. I recalled an article I read awhile back - an interview with Brian Mclaren - where he talks about the amount of energy spent to discuss the danger of someone like him. And he says, "what about the danger of Jerry Falwell, or...James Dobson or...Pat Robertson." And I remember thinking, What?!? The danger of James Dobson?? But, I think I'm beginning to piece that together. When you take a look at the "religious right" and how they are supposed to represent Christianity, and thereby represent Jesus, it makes me wonder what kind of message is being sent to the world.

I'm reminded of a recent post on Mike Cope's blog about the stewardship of our world. He talks about how the National Association of Evangelicals had taken a stance on the care of God's creation, and how a letter addressed to the NAE, from several leaders of the Religious Right, including Dobson, seemed to imply that they should stick to more core issues - like abortion or gay marriage. (Read that post for a more in-depth discussion.)

Is this the best way to carry out the great commission of Jesus? I have strong feelings on these issues, but I'm not sure that making them the central part of a religiopolitical campaign is how Jesus wants us to share what He's about.

And, are these the only issues Christians should be concerned about? This is why people have the view of Christians that they do, and why they have a view of God as primarily judge, jury, and executioner. This is in direct opposition to John's statement that God is love. I don't think that means we ignore what He wants and how He wants us to live; but when we put that face to the world, that that's what God wants more than anything; I think we're turning people away.

What about love? Compassion? Helping the poor and needy? What about what Jesus said were the most important commands? What about Paul said was of first importance? What about what James said about pure religion? Are the answer to these questions found in politicking against homosexuality and abortion?

Maybe I'm reading my Bible wrong - but I seem to recall that the most important commands have to do with love; that what was of first importance was Jesus; and that pure religion is helping those in need.

There are a lot of bad things in this world - genocide, war, starvation, a global AIDS crisis, widespread prejudice. Are these things even worth campaigning about?

We're worried about the breakdown of the traditional family in America. What about the breakdown of love and compassion over the entire world? I'm worried that we are becoming more concerned with our personal rights and our personal way of life more than we are about sharing Jesus with the world, or about sharing compassion and love.

What would happen if we truly acted like Jesus? As a whole, as a Christian community; what if we truly walked in His footsteps? Would we have more or less impact on society?

But maybe I'm just full of crap. I often soapbox here - it is called Jim's Running Commentary, after all; but I don't tend to get political - I tend to leave that to Krista, who's much smarter than I am; I figure I'll just end up looking stupid. And I don't normally solicit comments, but I think that most of the people that read this are people I know personally. What's your take? I'm really curious to hear.


  1. i think it's all very simple. we need to instead encourage each other to "take a stand" on a political issue we all live FoR others, not ourselves or how to make ourselves better.

    we'll get self-improvement and understanding by forgetting ourselves and helping others.

    simple. be active. pray for where He needs our hands to be His the most.
    then LiStEn and Do!

    (sometimes not so simple) but conceptually simple.

  2. Listen and do...and live for others.

    I like that. Thanks.

  3. IMHO--

    The religious right is about controlling others. . plain and simple. IT is about being able to tell others what to do, largely out of fear of diversity--of those who are different than we are.

    The religious right would LOVE to have a totally homogeneous world. . .where everybody thinks, beleives, dresses, and talks the same.

    What did JESUS say about homosexuality? ZERO.

    What did Jesus say about abortion? ZERO.

    I am not saying that either of these issues are right or wrong, but for "christians" to make these two issues the primary issues of the so-called "ministries" is far from following the pattern of Jesus, who was silent about these two issues, and overall dealt with sexual sins with mercy, gentleness, understanding, and forgiveness.

    True Christians need to actively work to take their faith back from nuts like Robertson, Falwell, and Dobson. people like these are doing FAR more harm to christianity than ANYTHING else that is going on today.

    as a skeptic, and a non-christian, i can honestly say that it is foolishness like this that sullies a message which is generally one of love and reconciliation. The "evangelicals" push far more people away form christianity than they bring to it.

  4. thomas calls himself a "non-christian"? how, when and why?
    lots of good points. i remember hearing about the skeptic part...

  5. Well,

    if you guys would ever COME DOWN TO VISIT, I 3will brew a great big pot of coffee, make a home made cinnamon roll, and tell you ALL about it!!!

    Love ya!

  6. Most of the evangelical Christians I know have always thought Falwell and Robertson were nuts. To me, Dobson always seemed to be the guy who just dispensed parenting advice...I'm hoping we can just push the issues aside and start showing Jesus. And, BTW, Thomas, I am praying you find your way back to Him. Maybe we can get together sometime soon...

  7. Okay, you're going to wish I hadn't read this. :) "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." We are at war.

    I have to disagree about James Dobson. Have you read much of his work? Some of it IS negative but negativity is a part of life. I love that he points these things out to warns us then helps us deal with them (especially in books like "Bringing Up Boys").

    As for his political views...this is from Focus on the Family's Social Issues page. "This Web site serves to bring timely, critical analysis to bear on the most important cultural and policy issues of the day. Written and edited by some of the country's most knowledgeable family advocates, the resources featured here are designed to educate and energize concerned citizens within religious, political, educational, and activist spheres working to apply Christian principles to the struggles that face our nation." Abortion and homosexuality are very telling issues. If a politician will stand up AGAINST those two things, he's taking a risk...possibly political suicide. If he's willing to stand up against those things, chances are he's willing to stand up for other unpopular, politically-INCORRECT issues, too.

    I didn't know how to say this next part without sounding argumentative so here goes. "The idea of a subject being unimportant just because it was not mentioned by Jesus is foreign to the gospel writers themselves. Are we really to believe that Jesus did not care about wife beating or incest, just because He said nothing about them? Are not the prohibitions against incest in Leviticus and 1 Corinthians, as well as Paul's admonition to husbands to love their wives, enough to instruct us in these matters without being mentioned in the gospels? Likewise, Jesus' silence on homosexuality in no way negates the very specific prohibitions against it which appear elsewhere, in both Old and New Testaments." I realize the Bible is not the belief standard for many people but non-believers cannot argue with statistics. Sorry, but I'll refer you to James Dobson's "Bringing Up Boys" again here. LOL

    Abortion is arguably the most contentious social issue of our time. "The across-the-board legalization of abortion by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 not only opened the door for a drastic increase in the number of abortions but also for an ongoing and heated public debate." Conservatives are NOT the only ones who focus on this issue. Liberals LOVE to point out and ridicule pro-life politicians.

    This is from Focus on the Family's website. "Abortion intersects with law and medicine, yet it also touches the most personal aspects of our lives — affecting our relationships, families, and children. The outcome of abortion is always fatal for the preborn child, who loses his or her life as a result of this violent and intentional act. The impact of abortion on women is only partly known, as physical complications often go unreported and the psychological impact is not always immediately known.

    "Traditionally, the pro-life view on abortion has understandably centered on the preborn human life that is destroyed. While concerns for the preborn continue to be paramount, additional information in recent years about the adverse effects of abortion on women also bolsters the pro-life case...

    "Women and their preborn children deserve better than abortion. It is incumbent upon all Americans — regardless of their view on abortion — to offer women the support they need in order to carry their babies to term, rather than face abortion as their only 'choice.'"

    Maybe some call that negative. I call it loving, too, though.

    Can you tell I feel strongly? :)

  8. Yes, we are at war. But how do we "fight" the war? And what are our causes in this war? My points were not specifically about the rightness or wrongness of gay marriage and abortion, but about whether or not those need to be central battle cry in this war. I just can't disagree more that these are the the most important cultural...issues of the day.

    Jesus was the one that said that love is most important. His brother was the one that said that pure religion was helping those in need. It was the apostle Paul that said that what was of first importance was that Jesus died and rose again.

    I'm sorry, but I think that Christians would make a much bigger statement and have a much bigger impact on the world if they lived like that than if they stood up and voted on some issues a few folks are trying to tout as "most important".

    The problem in America isn't that there aren't enough people to vote against abortion and gay marriage. The problem in America is that there aren't enough people that love. There aren't enough people that show compassion. There aren't enough people to help the needy.

    The truly interesting thing is that these tendencies seem to be more evident in the so-called political "left" than in Christendom. In my experience in the evangelical Christian world for 35 years, I've seen love and compassion too lacking. That's first-hand experience, not hearsay. That's a sad fact I think we've got to turn around if we are going to truly make an impact on this world.

  9. i have loads to say about this...some of the things most often on my heart. BUT, i think i best reserve comment here, lest i say what i haven't quite yet thought through.

    although i do think it would be VERY interesting to lock Jim and Amy in a room for a week - they seem to both be cranial and passionate...and at completely different ends of the would be quite the show. :) thanks for modeling mature christianity in discussion -love ya both!

  10. Jim,
    I've spent most of today in front of the TV, but I did take a short break to go to the bathroom and read your contoversial blog.


  11. Mark - you're one of those people who have a 30 minute conversation with someone and leave only remembering one little phrase out of context, aren't you?

  12. I didn't know I was "one of those people"? Thanks for letting me know. Oops - I think I may have taken another phrase out of context?

    Or, perhaps I'm somebody who likes to make jokes and not be very serious? Come on Jim - laugh a little!

    I've got 10 bucks on Amy

  13. If you're going to dish it out, you've got to take in!

    And I know there's much truth in jest!

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