Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Politicians and other Chameleons

I must admit to being bemused by the news that Pennsylvania senator Arlen Spector is switching political parties. Spector, a long time senator who was first elected in the Ronald Regan era, announced that the Republican party had gone too far to the "right" for him. This puts the senator about as far away from me as one can get on the political spectrum. I find it amusing because I am of the opinion that it is not the Pennsylvania Republican party that moved, or for that matter, the Senator. You see, Senator Spector has been consistently on the left side of the political spectrum for his entire career. If anything the Republican party has come more towards the Senator's side of the aisle than anything else. The GOP has seemingly abandoned its historical moorings and become something akin to "Democrat Lite," as evidenced by the most recent President's propensity to elevate spending in such a way that would have made FDR giddy and his little more than lip service to a number of social issues (Supreme Court appointees notwithstanding).

Paint me a cynic, but I believe that the Senator's change was brought on more by a desire to hold onto the reigns of power and influence more than anything else. The perks and privilege of power are nearly irresistible. We all like to be stroked, to feel wanted, and to be the coolest kid on the block. But compromising one's foundations (are you listening GOP?) often comes at a heavy, and unexpected, price.

Consider the mainline denominations. The past forty years have seen one denomination after another grapple with "hot button" issues such as abortion, women clergy, the inerrancy of scripture, and most recently gay rights. These mainline denominations have, for the most part, abandoned the biblical positions that they had long held. They have been praised by the liberal media, political left and activists for the causes they adopted. But at what price? The United Methoditst Church, whose slogan is "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors" has seen those doors swing open to thousands of members leaving their denomination. The Methodists are not alone, the same has happened to the Presbyterians, Episcopalians and any number of other groups.

The church, unlike politicians, should be immune to the ever changing whims of culture. I'm not saying that we should all go back to worshipping in Latin or forsaking electricity or locking women in closets. What I'm saying is that we must never compromise the plain teaching of the Word of God just because the world thinks that biblical truth is old-fashioned. Those who compromise foundational values don't become more popular, they eventually are ignored and marginalized. The church has become weak not because the Bible is untrue, but because we have adpoted too much of the world's ways of living and thinking and tossed aside the Word of God.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I grew up in what could be described as a "dysfunctional" home. Mine was a home filled with vulgarity. I was regularly degraded and spoken of and to in profane terms. The old cliche' "cuss like a sailor" was an appropriate description of the lanugage used by my parents. I remember as a child being keenly aware of the difference in the language used at my home and the language I heard at school and other places. Someone once told me that language revealed character. How true those words have become.

Sadly, dysfunction has become commonplace in our culture. Just how common has become all too apparent in the recent flap over the response of a Miss USA contestant to a question concerning her opinion on homosexual marriage. The questioner (himself a homosexual) did not like her response and proceeded to let the world know in no uncertain terms what his opinion was.

His language, and the language of many who both agree and disagree with her opinion, has been vulgar, demeaning, and revealing. One's stand on homosexual marriage notwithstanding, the language used reveals just how dysfunctional our culture has become. The words used to condemn this young woman reveal the sad fact that we no longer know how to disagree respectfully or how to voice that disagreement in a mature way. We seem to have forgotten civility and respect, as modern entertainment and politics so powerfully demonstrate. Our culture has descended into a "loudest voice wins" approach to settling disagreements.

It seems to me that in all the clamor for "respect" and "rights" what we are really calling for is privileged status for our own opinions at the expense of those who disagree with us. The problems with this line of reasoning are legion and the topic for another day. Suffice it to say that opinion is formed by interpretation of truth and the modern abandonment of absolute truth leaves all jockeying for the ears of our audience. Our audience, itself with no binding definition of truth, grants an audience to those who can capture and hold their attention for more that a second or two. Hence the rising volume and low levels of civility in today's so-called "debate."

I find it fascinating that a beauty pageant, excuse me, a "scholarship contest" (no offense intended...just poking a little fun!) could be so culturally illuminating.

Until next time....