Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Incompetence of President Bush

The anger exhibited by former President Clinton toward Chris Wallace this past weekend on a FoxNews interview has been news itself for the weekend and the first of this week. I can't really blame President Clinton for reacting angrily to what many of us perceive is a deliberate distortion of history in order to sway public attention away from the incompetence of the Bush Adminstration. In fact, the same idealogues who continue to attack the Clintons now (did you see Jerry Falwell's comment yesterday about Mrs. Clinton?) are the very people who have absolutely loathed them since they first stepped into the public arena in 1991. So, I don't really expect anything different from them. Ultimately, they will probably get their wish and Hillary Clinton will not run for president, or at least not be elected if she runs. She will remain in the Senate as a very powerful force for years to come though. And, if she ever becomes majority leader, watch out!

But, what President Clinton said in his anger with Chris Wallace must be kept in mind. Here's a quote from the transcript:

"What did I do? What did I do? I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president, we'd have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. Now, I've never criticized President Bush, and I don't think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is only one-seventh as important as Iraq. And you ask me about terror and Al Qaeda with that sort of dismissive thing? When all you have to do is read Richard Clarke's book to look at what we did in a comprehensive, systematic way to try to protect the country against terror. . . And so, I left office. And yet, I get asked about this all the time. They had three times as much time to deal with it, and nobody ever asks them about it. I think that's strange."

He tried to get Bin Laden and when he bombed Bin Laden's camp, Senators and Representatives from Ashcroft to Coats, to Specter blamed him for trying to take the national attention off of the Lewinsky scandal ("Wag the Dog"), a scandal created I might say by the extreme right wing in the country.

All that aside, let's assume Clinton didn't do all he could to get Bin Laden. Let's assume everything said about him is completely true. The fact of the matter is that when President Bush became president in January, 2001, the nation knew that Bin Laden was an imminent threat. They were getting daily intelligence briefings indicating that he was a dangerous risk. And, the one person in the govt. who knew more about it than anyone else was Richard Clarke, certainly not a partisan politician. And, they demoted Clarke and paid no attention to the Cole matter or to anything related to Bin Laden. When 9/11 happened, instead of embracing the world's compassion toward the U.S. and asking their help in going into Afghanistan to get Bin Laden, President Bush and his administration turned the nation's attention toward Sadaam Hussein, who had no direct ties to Al Queda. And, it as it turns out now, had absolutely no weapons of mass destruction. And, then after 9/11, even to this day, we have more troops in Iraq fighting a war that now the NIE says is creating more terrorists rather than less terrorists, and not nearly that many troops in Afghanistan trying to kill Bin Laden. So, who is the real incompetent president?

Go figure!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Gospel According to Archie Bunker

(Hebrews 11: 1-4)

During the 1970s one of the most popular critically acclaimed television shows was “All in the Family,” starring Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, and Sally Struthers. “All in the Family” was indeed a ground-breaking television show, because, it brought to audiences a hard-hitting, realistic satire, rather than the na├»ve comedy escapism of the 1960s.

The main character of the show was “Archie Bunker.” I have always enjoyed the show. But, what I have particularly enjoyed is the theology of Archie Bunker. From time-to-time the show brought in themes of religion because Archie’s son-in-law, Mike Stivic was an agnostic. Although Archie himself never attended church in the storyline, he was an opinionated expert on theology. Here are just a few of his theological “Archieisms.”

In the famous episode which guest-starred Sammy Davis, Jr., Archie said, “Now, no prejudice intended, but I always check with the Bible on these here things. I think that, I mean if God had meant for us to be together he’d a put us together. But look what he done. He put you over in Africa, and put the rest of us in all the white countries.” Then, Sammy Davis, Jr. said, “Well, he must’ve told’em where we were because somebody came and got us.”

Once, in an argument with his son-in-law Mike, Mike reminded Archie, “Remember that Jesus was Jewish.” To which Archie replied, “Yes, but only on his mother’s side.”

Concerning the divinity of Christ, he said, “All over the world they celebrate the birth of that baby, and everybody gets time off from work. Now if that ain’t proof that he’s the Son of God, then nothing is.”

On the nature of God, Archie said, “God don’t make no mistakes, that’s how he got to be God!”

Concerning the inferiority of women (in Archie’s theology), he said “God made Adam first, and then he made Eve out of Adam’s rib—cheaper cut.!”

But my very favorite Archieism that leads to the point of this sermon is the one statement theologically that I believe Archie got right. Talking to Edith on one episode about faith he said, “It ain’t supposed to make sense; it’s faith. Faith is something that you believe that nobody in his right mind would believe.”

What a profound statement! “Faith is something that you believe that nobody in his right mind would believe. The passage of scripture cited above is the Bible’s definition of faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” The NIV puts it this way, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.” The CEV translates it “Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.”

There are two points to this definition of faith.
I. What Faith Has

The first part of the verse explains to us what faith “has.” “It already possess in the present what God has promised for the future.” (Tom Long, Interpretation (Hebrews), 113).
There are two aspects to this, both an inward and outward aspect according to Tom Long. Long says, “Inwardly, people of faith have a confidence today, here and now when all hell is breaking loose around us, that the promises of God for peace, justice, mercy and salvation can be trusted.” (Long, 113). Faith therefore becomes a response to the trustworthiness of God. It is like swinging “out on the vine of God’s promises over the chasms of life, trusting that the vine will hold.” (Long, 113)

But, faith is more than just an inward assurance. It is the very being of God’s promises. “It is more than the inner confidence that the powers of the world that press down and destroy human life will eventually yield and that God’s promises will be fulfilled someday; it is the reality of those promises moving as an advance force and operating behind enemy lines.” (Long, 113).

Therefore, “faith inwardly sings “We Shall Overcome.” Faith as an outward reality marches at Selma. Faith as an inward reality trusts God’s promise that “mourning and crying and pain will be no more (Rev. 21:3). Faith as an outward reality prays boldly for those who mourn, serves tenderly those who weep, works tirelessly to ease the pain of those who are wounded. Inwardly, faith moves hearts; outwardly, faith moves mountains.” (Long, 113)

I read once about a woman who was called to serve as a missionary to the Apache Indians out west. She packed her belongings and drove out in the desert to her post. She was so excited that she drove past the last gas station for hundred miles without noticing that she needed fuel. She ran out of gas about a mile down the road past the station.

She walked back to the station. The attendant came out of the office and met her to see what he could do to help. She explained that she had run out of gas about a mile down the road and didn’t have anything to transport the gas back to her car in. The attendant went around back of the station to an old shed to see if he could find anything with which she could carry her gasoline. The only container he could find was an old hospital bedpan. She told him that it would work just fine and that it would give her enough that she could get back to the station.

So, she carried it back down the road to her car careful not to spill any of the fuel. When she got to her car, she carefully poured the contents of the bedpan into the tank of her car. A truck driver pulled alongside the car just as the lady was emptying the bedpan into the tank. He rolled down his window and shouted to her, “Lady, I wish I had your faith!” (SermonCentral.com, Sermon by Michael Luke, www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=62412&ContributorID=6734)

The great theologian Augustine once said, “Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.” Clement of Alexandria said, “Faith is voluntary anticipation.” Faith is that quality of assurance that when life tumbles in on us, that ultimately there is still a God on control. And, that while we do not have the answers right now, we can still trust that God will bring about calm in the midst of the storm.
II. What Faith Perceives

The second aspect of faith is the evidence or conviction of things not seen. This points to the capacity of faith to see things beyond the naked eye. In 2 Corinthians 4:18 and 5:7 Paul says it this way: “What can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” “We walk by faith, not by sight.” (Long, 114)

To the person of faith, the universe has purpose. It is not just a random swirl of matter. John Calvin says, “If God should withdraw His hand a little, all things would immediately perish and dissolve into nothing.” (Quoted in Long, 114)

The naked eye sees trouble all around. But to the eye of faith, through toil and adversity another reality can be perceived. “What the naked eye can see is a world of suffering and setback, violence and hardship. Given the harsh realities of the world, faith is the ability to see with the inner eye, to see what cannot be seen with the natural eye.” (Long, p. 114)

Martin Luther said it this way in the 3rd verse of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God:”
And tho’ this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph thro’ us,
The Prince of Darkness grim
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

Charles Swindoll, in his book Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, tells the story of a man lost in the desert, about to die from thirst. He came upon an old, run-down shack and went inside to try and find some shade. As he looked around he saw an old water pump on the other wall of the shack. He grabbed the handle and began to pump up and down. But nothing came out. Disappointed, he staggered back to a corner, but then noticed an old jug off to the side. He looked at it, wiped away the dirt and dust and read a message on the jug that said, “You have to prime the pump with all the water in this jug. P.S. Be sure to fill the jug up before you leave.”

He popped the cork, and the jug was full of water. Now he had a decision to make. If he drank the water, he’d have his thirst quenched and he would live. If he poured the water into the old rusty pump to prime it maybe it would bring fresh, cold water from down deep in the well, perhaps all the water he wanted, and even enough to allow him to complete his journey. But, what if the pump no longer worked? And, how long had the jug of water sat in the old shack anyway.

He studied his options and reluctantly decided to pour all the water into the pump. Then he grabbed the handle and began to pump. He pumped, he pumped, and he pumped. Finally came a little trickle of water and then it all began to gush. Cool, fresh water from deep in the ground below. He filled the jug and drank from it. He filled it again and drank it again. Then he filled the jug to the top for the next traveler. He put the cork back on and added this to the note, “Believe me, it really works. You have to give it all away before you can get anything back!”