It has been interesting to observe the public debate over Barack Obama’s associations with individuals whose personal histories can only be categorized as radical. Bill Ayers is a former terrorist. Jeremiah Wright preaches race adversarialism. For the most part, Obama’s friendships with these men has been water off a duck’s back for the electorate.
Imagine a different scenario. There is an evangelical candidate. He is the best evangelical candidate ever. A Rhodes Scholar, a distinguished lawyer who has argued before the Supreme Court, astoundingly eloquent, you get the idea. This candidate is a conservative, but answers all questions in such a way as to avoid making anyone uncomfortable. He hits all the right chords.
Further imagine that the record shows this man was once heavily involved with Christian reconstructionists who believe stoning should be re-instituted for adultery. He went to a church for two decades where a Christian reconstructionist preached each Sunday. One of his mentors was part of a group that bombed abortion clinics.
Where would that candidate be right now? And how different would that candidate be in terms of associations from one Barack Obama?
I am a college professor and administrator. I am 38 years old.
Yesterday, I saw one of my students walking through the parking lot. She is a young woman of about 19 years of age. Struggling to find something to say as she strode toward me smiling, I came up with this gem:
“So, are you going trick or treating this weekend?”
When I was a teenager, I can distinctly recall my father telling me that he realized abruptly at age 35 that he was no longer a young person. He heard a group of early twenty-somethings talking. Their concerns were different from his concerns. Their interests were different from his. Their language was different. Their clothing and hair was different.
That is happening to me. Thank heaven I can talk about some really old stuff (like Augustine and Aquinas and Machiavelli) secure in the knowledge that I won’t be out of date and knowing that some young people will really be interested in hearing about it, if for no other reason than that it is really old.
There are other impacts to not being a young person. I am slowly divesting myself of the feeling that I am junior to everyone on the campus who is not a student. I don’t have to cover myself in disclaimers if someone should happen to call me “sir”.
I have also become somewhat protective of my own dignity. A friend called me out on something on an email list full of peers. I wrote him back privately informing him that I am of an age where I just can’t handle being publicly corrected! But do please upbraid me in private. I will respond in a reasonable fashion.
On the other hand, I am nowhere near middle-aged! I refuse it. I’m just not young. That’s all.
Wes Anderson meets John McCain ad parody. Super incredible awesome. I’ve watched it about ten times. I may set it on a permanent loop in my office.
I really enjoyed McCain’s speech at the Al Smith dinner and have been waiting to see a transcript. Thanks to the Kansas City Star, I can provide it. Do yourself a favor and read this all the way through. He brought the house down.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Your Excellency and Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson, Senators Schumer and Clinton, Senator Obama, Al and Nan Smith, thank you all for the warm welcome.
It’s a privilege to be with all of you for the 63rd anniversary dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation.
And this is a very distinguished and influential audience and as good a place as any to make a major announcement.
The Princeton philosopher Robert George takes a backseat to no one when it comes to thinking and writing about abortion and the sanctity of life. Professor George has taken the time to carefully parse Obama’s positions on life issues.
I am going to list the more spectacular points. All are direct quotes from the article:
- For starters, [Obama] supports legislation that would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which protects pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions that are not necessary to save the life of the mother and are not the result of rape or incest.
- [Obama] has promised that ”the first thing I’d do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act” (known as FOCA). This proposed legislation would create a federally guaranteed ”fundamental right” to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy . . .
- Obama, unlike even many ”pro-choice” legislators, opposed the ban on partial-birth abortions when he served in the Illinois legislature and condemned the Supreme Court decision that upheld legislation banning this heinous practice.
- Appallingly, [Obama] wishes to strip federal funding from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers that provide alternatives to abortion for pregnant women in need. There is certainly nothing ”pro-choice” about that.
- Senator Obama, despite the urging of pro-life members of his own party, has not endorsed or offered support for the Pregnant Women Support Act, the signature bill of Democrats for Life, meant to reduce abortions by providing assistance for women facing crisis pregnancies. In fact, Obama has opposed key provisions of the Act, including providing coverage of unborn children in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), and informed consent for women about the effects of abortion and the gestational age of their child.
- [A]s an Illinois state senator Obama opposed legislation to protect children who are born alive, either as a result of an abortionist’s unsuccessful effort to kill them in the womb, or by the deliberate delivery of the baby prior to viability.
There is much more in Professor George’s article. He has painstakingly put it all together for anyone who wants to make a decision based on all the information to do so.
On October 10, 2008, Christopher Buckley, the son of the great William F. Buckley, author of Thank You for Not Smoking and National Review shareholder/back page columnist, informed the waiting world that he’s pulling the lever for Obama in November. He unburdened himself on a website appropriately named The Daily Beast. Ron Reagan, Jr. has owned the genre of true confessions by sons of famous conservatives, but here we had Chris Buckley, a well-known author in his own right! No matter how unpleasant, surely Buckley the younger would deliver a wallop.
Regrettably, the read is scarcely worth the click. Buckley provides a mundane and unconvincing explanation for his desertion of party and candidate. It is as though he couldn’t quite get his heart into it or worse is like a hostage trying to signal with his eyelids that what he’s saying isn’t true. Because Buckley is justly known as a comic author, one wonders whether he is kidding and simply failed to develop a good punch line. Whatever the reason, the result is disappointment. After all, this is the scion sprung from the loins of the founder of National Review, the mightiest political provocateur of his age. Continue reading
I have spent the last five years of my life with two goals.
One has been to write a book about secularism which would demonstrate what I believe to be the uselessness of the concept. That goal has been achieved. The End of Secularism comes out in August 2009 with Crossway Books.
The other has been to do anything I can to take Christian higher education to the next level. I worked to that end while trying to save the presidency of Robert Sloan at Baylor University. What I saw there was a growing community of serious Christian scholars taking shape. Those on the outside can laugh if they want, but what I saw happening there in Waco was the first emerging signs of a Christian Ivy. Baylor is surprisingly large with about 15,000 students. It is part of the Big 12 athletic conference. The endowment is over a billion dollars. However, since Dr. Sloan left Baylor the basic identity of the school has remained in doubt. I cannot say who will prevail. It will either be an alliance of iiberals and Christian pietists who think their faith is private or it will be Christians dedicated to bringing their faith and scholarship together. I certainly hope the latter group eventually runs the school.
I just received the latest issue of the Baylor Alumni Association’s magazine. They have consistently been against the Sloan vision for a renaissance of Christian higher education. The issue contained a series of suggestions from various alumni and other stakeholders on how to unify Baylor. I was particularly repulsed by a letter from retired professor Rufus Spain who dripped contempt for the new “world class” (quotes added by him) faculty at Baylor. I don’t get that. Why wouldn’t you want your university to improve? Why wouldn’t you be happy to be associated with people who have reached the top rank of their profession? I don’t fancy myself a great Christian scholar, but I am thrilled to see them do their work and to help them influence the culture.
I finished my own doctoral work in December 2007 and have joined Dr. Sloan at Houston Baptist University to continue the project of renewal for Christian higher education. I have been there nearly a year and a half and have never had such good work to do in all my life. Culturally speaking, we dare not ignore the university. College students are amazingly open. They are thinking everything through and are figuring out:
- What work they will do
- What their view of the world is
- Whether they will go to church
- Whom they will marry
- How they will vote
And a number of other things about life. Christian universities need to be attractive and ready to meet the challenge of mentoring students. It is clear to me that while it is good to have big cultural ministries like Focus on the Family, we have underinvested in colleges and universities. These institutions are force-multipliers, better than think tanks and policy institutes by far. At our colleges and universities we can have both character and worldview formation of the young AND research and publication by our faculty. This is where many of us need to be working and giving today.
During the summer, I watched a film starring Robin Williams in a dramatic role. Contrary to his comedian image, I’ve always thought he was better as a serious actor. This particular film, The Final Cut, was about a future in which it is possible to have a bio-implant that essentially records every event of one’s life. At death, it is removed and a “cutter” reviews the material (organized by the software into amazing categories) for compilation into a remembrance.
As you might imagine, the raw footage is all too honest. The only people who ever see it are the cutters. They know the real truth, but rarely show it. The surviving friends and relatives don’t want that. They want an idealized memory.
I recommend the film, but the bigger point is that it is provocative of thought. As I watched, I kept thinking about how people would think or how they would live their lives differently if they knew they had such an implant. What would that be like?
Then I realized that we do have an implant like that. It’s called a soul. And God will be the one who judges our lives in their entirety. You think about that and you know you need a savior. You know you need someone to make up for everything you failed to do and for every wrong decision you made. You know you need someone to help you account for the sheer waste and lack of human sympathy in your life.
The mortgage based security crisis has confounded me because I keep thinking, “So what if the mortgages fail, that’s what the underlying asset is for. Why is this thing so intractable?”
One gentleman in particular seems to have it laid out in a sensible and understandable fashion. I give you the thoughts of a fella named Uncle Bud. Here’s a taste:
As is the case with most scams, this one involves greed, deception, illegality, collusion, intrigue and gullibility. There are plenty of guilty parties including politicians, bankers, brokers, Wall Street executives, corporate executives, sales people and yes, house buyers.
Uncle Bud goes on to break the problem down into comprehensible chunks. Check it out.
I have read Brian McLaren’s work to the profit of my own thinking. He has many good ideas and has stimulated the church in important ways.
However, I think he has a major blind spot when it comes to politics. McLaren recently came out in support of Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency.
Now, before I go on, I understand how a man like McLaren could support Obama. You say, “Look, this man will begin programs for poor people. He will save the environment. He will bring healing to the racial divide in this country. Most of all, I like the way an Obama presidency feels.”
Aside from the last point, I will not even bother to rebut, though I could. I suspect the feeling about Obama may be the most important part. Many Christians have an averse reaction to conservative Christians in politics because they don’t like the tone. They don’t like the style, the apparent judgmentalness, the hardness of it. McLaren is one of those who has the averse reaction. Though I am far more conservative than McLaren, I’ve had the reaction myself in a room with certain types of people.
Unfortunately, McLaren is making a terrible mistake. If we agree that abortion is a terrible evil, which it is, then we must ask who is aiding that system of killing. The answer is simple. Obama aids it. He praises the funders and practitioners of it. He promises never to let it be limited or constrained. The one place where he is certain he favors free markets and laissez faire is with regard to abortion.
One could say it is but one of many issues, but so what if the issue is properly basic? Protecting unborn life is a yes or no answer pretty much like segregation is. Either you affirm humanity and its most basic rights or you do not. How would McLaren react to a candidate who supported everything he supported except that he proclaimed the question of segregation above his pay grade? Would he support that man or woman? I suspect not.
Brother McLaren, if you can’t go Republican for various reasons, your option would not be cooperation with a program of clear wrong. Your option would be to sit out until you can find a Democrat not actively at odds with one of the most basic tenets of the church (including the early church).
Daniel Larison of The American Conservative takes issue with my taking issue with the conservative Palin critics. He feels pretty strongly she’s an empty suit (empty skirt?).
He thought her convention speech was substance-free and her debate performance was mediocre. I view things a bit differently. That convention speech was one of the finest political performances I’ve ever seen. The line about not seeking the good opinion of the media/political elite alone was worth the price of admission. And not just in entertainment value. That was substance. It was about embracing a different scale of values than those some think are so dominant as to brook no dissent.
But leave that aside. Sarah Palin has a political record. Let’s forget the ups and downs of her public speaking career and consider that. Are there conservatives who are going to argue her record is less than admirable? I don’t think it can be done. (No, this is not a challenge to see whether conservative contrarians can provide great e-alert material to the Obama camp.)
Palin is still imperfectly seasoned, but I think she’s going to be a transformative political figure in American politics. We’ll have to revisit that question in due time.
We’ve got our Conor Friedersdorfs and Kathleen Parkers shooting at Sarah Palin and Erick Ericksons defending her. The defenders wonder what team the critics are on. The critics appeal to intellectual honesty.
I appeal to the concept of edificiation. Do the words we write or say actually contribute anything to the election and to the civic discussion? Are they adequately considered after time to look at all the evidence? If I look at it in those terms, I have to side with the defenders.
The only possible way the critics could be in the right is if the writer really believes Palin is unfit to serve. I have a hard time believing that a bad interview demonstrates that. The situation is simple. A person with a career in state and local government, so greatly cherished by conservatives who love federalism, needs a little time to adjust to the national frame. I think it is really that easy. Patience is a virtue, friends.
I think the problem is endemic to the pundit class. We feel a need to produce a product, which is opinions, and so any thought that might have any possibility of generating a little action or emotion is vomited into the ether. When it comes to punditry, the idea of holding one’s tongue (or pen or keystroke) is counter to the entire business as it has evolved in the internet era. Words are free and readers are checking for updates constantly.