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Celebrating America in Our Churches

We saw this sign on the way home from the pool today. It sits in front of a large church here in town. Obviously, it’s referring to the Sunday services held yesterday on the Fourth of July.

My question to you: Is this a good idea or a bad idea?

President Obama’s Bad Boy Streak

President Obama has been ruffling feather as of late.

Ever since he’s stepped foot into office, he’s been breaking the rules and doing things that “shouldn’t” be done; things that 43 other Presidents before him have never attempted or tried because they’ve been told “no, you can’t.”

  • He refused to give up his Blackberry. “Sir, it’s not safe,” they said. “Make me a new one that is,” was the reply. Obama still carries a Blackberry.
  • He went on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, something no active President has ever done. “Have some respect for the office of the President!” they said. Obama went on anyway, giving real people a chance to hear him speak candidly about complex political issues. Plus, we all got to see that Obama is, “a real dude,” as a friend of mine said. It was Leno’s fourth highest audience ever and it tripled the Tonight Show’s average nightly audience.
  • He built a playground outside the Oval Office for his kids, Sasha and Malia. Apparently this made some people uncomfortable. Now Obama gets to watch his kids play while he leads the free world.
  • He puts his weekly national addresses on YouTube, giving people 24-7 access to what’s going on in the government.
  • He spoke Farsi (a native language in many Muslim countries) to a group of Iranians wishing them a happy new year.
  • He initiated Data.gov, a website that will give anyone with a web browser access to information on anything from how the U.S. government is structured internally to agricultural statistics.
  • Sometimes, he doesn’t wear a jacket in the Oval Office; a rule that has been in place since the Reagan years. (To some this is a very big deal.)

Like him or not, Obama is a significant player in the cultural change that is occurring here in the U.S. (and abroad, for that matter.) Plus, I like the fact that our President is willing to break the rules. Not in an obnoxious way, but in a way that says, “I understand this is how things have always been. I appreciate and respect that. But that’s not how they’re going to stay any longer.

What things in your life are you re-thinking? How are you changing the way “things have always been done”? How are you thinking differently about today?

Obama’s New Phone.

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but President Obama is a poster boy for Blackberry. Dude loves his device so much he refused to give it up when he became Commander-in-Chief. (Apparently when you’re the leader of the free world, people want to read text messages from the First Lady that say, “Pick up some milk on the way back from addressing the nation.” Who knew?)

One of the reasons that I “heart” our new President is because of his love for technology. Everybody said, “Sir, it’s time to hand over the Blackberry,” to which Obama defiantly said, “Security threat? Fine. Make me a new one that’s not.”

And behold, it was done.

What do you get when the Commander-in-Geek wants a wireless version of Fort Knox? This:


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This, in a word, is awesome. Encrypted everything. More buttons than a spaceship. A wicked piece of machinery.

I love this guy for no other reason than his quiet, confident, respectful defiance of that way things “have always been.” Obama’s shaking things up, and it’s starting with a Blackberry.

The Day Everything Changed.

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I heard someone say on the radio today, “What’s the big deal about the inauguration? It’s just another President!

Respectfully, I disagree.

There has never been another time like this in the history of our country. Ever. The peaceful transfer of governmental power is a unique distinction of the United States of America. This is a feat in and of itself. Most other countries transfer power in the same way that a tooth is ripped from the jaw: Painfully and with lots of blood. No, this inauguration day is different for another reason: Hope.

When Barack Obama became the 44th President this afternoon (after a bumbling, stumbling swearing-in ceremony thanks to John G. Roberts), the nation took a deep breath and exhaled together with a collective word: Hope. It feels like this country has hope again.

How do I know? I felt it. Didn’t you?

Sitting in my living room, by myself, eating a salami sandwich, I felt it. Deeply.

While watching, I was taking notice of how deeply I was being affected by the events I was witnessing:

I felt the relief of people of color as they watched “someone like us” take the highest office in the land. What an incredibly empowering turn of events, when only 40 short years ago in this country, minorities, specifically African-Americans, were met with fire hoses and police dogs, not cheers and inaugurations!

I felt the relief of a younger generation–my generation–feel as though they have someone in the office of the President who understands how we live (for crying out loud, Obama’s a poster boy for Blackberry! His weekly updates are on YouTube! This is a guy who gets communicating with a younger generation.)

Most of all, I felt the relief of a country that is tired of being divided. I felt as though we, as a nation, said to one another, “Truce?” Enough with the bickering in Washington. Enough of the conservative whining. Enough of the liberal agenda. (Which is why I am so disappointed by Christians who are still under the delusion that it’s their job to “win the country for Jesus.” Please, let it rest. Jesus could have conquered Rome in an instant, yet he didn’t. Read the Gospels to find out why.) Enough of the negativity and writing people off before they even have a chance to prove themselves. Enough.

I don’t know if Obama will be a good President. I hope he is. I do know that Jesus said, “You will know a tree by what kind of fruit it produces.” For that, first and foremost, I look to Obama’s family. From what I can see, his girls love him and honor him, and his wife cherishes him. For the record, that’s a good sign. That’s good fruit.

I want to give you, Christian or not, permission to be excited if indeed you feel that way. You have no reason (yet) not to be. God bless Barack Obama. Amen!

Rick Warren and Barack Obama

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The inclusion of Pastor Rick Warren in Barack Obama’s inaugural day activities has caused quite a stir. Warren will lead the inaugural day prayer on January 20th, 2009 as Barack Obama becomes the 44th President of the United States. This has a lot of groups up-in-arms primarily because of Warren’s position on gay marriage: He doesn’t buy it.

Warren was a vocal proponent of Prop 8, the amendment to California’s constitution that solidified marriage in the state’s eyes was between a man and a woman. He’s also compared gay marriage to adults marrying children (some call that incest), and this has gay rights groups very, very upset about his involvement in anything Obama-related. “He doesn’t think like us!” they cry. “He’s a bigot - he doesn’t agree with our way of life! He hates gays!” This is, by and large, how Warren has been portrayed by the media.

On the flip side, we have Christians in this country who openly called Barack Obama “Hitler” during the past campaign season and likened his election to the coming of the antiChrist. I was forwarded numerous emails (as I’m sure you were to) from people of faith declaring that Obama was a closet Muslim and that once he became President he would reenact Sharia law. He also was a closet homosexual, a closet crack addict, and a closet black liberationist theologian, as evidenced by his attendance (for 20 years, don’tcha know?) at Jeremiah Wright’s church. It seemed no matter what Obama did, he was always doing it under a shroud of secrecy and could never keep the Christian population happy.

Ultimately, here’s what I don’t understand: Proponents of gay marriage say, “Accept our opinion … Or else!” Opponents of gay marriage, essentially, say the same thing, “Accept our opinion … Or else!” Each side attempts to intelligently argue their rationale for holding their respective position (i.e. “it’s not a choice to be gay, I was born like this” and “the Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman.”) But when push comes to shove, each end of the argument breaks down to a grown-up version of “I’m taking my ball and going home.” In a word: Whining.

God bless Barack Obama for reaching out to Rick Warren. God bless Rick Warren for reaching out to Obama. I like what openly gay columnist Bob Ostertag said in the Huffington Post, “I am delighted that there is a new generation of evangelicals that thinks the biggest issue isn’t homosexuality but global climate change, AIDS, and poverty [...] I am so ready to make common cause with them. I couldn’t care less about what they think of gay marriage.” Amen.

When did disagreeing with someone start to mean the same thing as hating them?

Update: Want to hear a lively discussion about this very topic? Tune in on 12.22 to 98.3 WOW-FM from 2 to 3:15 pm CST. I’ll be on Bradshaw’s show in the Des Moines metro area. Otherwise, check it out online here.

Praying For a Bailout.

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Government bailouts are a terrible idea. Or so I thought. The idea of “We The People” as co-owners in everything from banking to private residences to the auto industry has never appealed to me. “Is this how capitalism is supposed to work?” was the pervading thought in my head.

With the heads of the “Big Three” (GM, Ford, Chrysler) pandering Capitol Hill for some much needed dough, I thought I had reached a place where I could say, “if they fail, they need to fail.” After all, businesses close all the time (Kate’s in West Glen and Billy Joe’s most recently here in the DSM metro) with little to no help from the government. “What makes the ‘Big Three’ so special?”

The answer to that is a complicated one and outside of my understanding. There are a lot of jobs at stake (some estimates say 2 million); there’s a lot of money at stake (execs are asking for $25 billion); there’s a lot of emotions involved on either side of the struggle.

Bailouts seem to be an easy way to “fix” (and by “fix” I mean temporarily stop the bleeding) a gaping economic head wound. You may not agree with that opinion, and that is perfectly okay. However, I saw something on the news this morning that made me step back and think, “This isn’t as easy as a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer” when questioning whether or not to bail out a a struggling industry.

I watched a story on how Detroit churches were “praying for a bailout.” They showed footage from services held in Detroit churches this weekend past where the pastors were fervently leading their congregation in prayers to God asking for Congress to pass the proposed “bridge loan bailout.” Here are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, faithful followers of Jesus, asking God for something that I fundamentally do not agree with. Wow. How’s that for a test of your theological beliefs?

To a single mother of three who lives in Detroit and works at a GM plant putting fenders on cars for a living, this bailout is a very good thing for her family. It will allow her to continue in her job, which provides a salary, which provides her the ability to buy food, shelter, clothing, etc. for her family. Contrast that with someone like me who thinks bailouts are a bad idea. Someone as far removed from this situation as possible, other than the fact that I drive a car and will probably buy one another one in the future. Simply put, I would prefer this bailout to not pass.

It got me thinking about perspective. God’s perspective, more precisely. This whole issue boils down to perspective. If I see God as one who “picks and chooses” what prayers he answers, I will have a strange picture of God. If, for whatever reason, this bailout doesn’t pass, does that mean that God did not answer the prayers of our single mom in Detroit? Does it mean he did answer the prayers of those faithful Christians who are praying against a bailout? Either situation puts one party in an uncomfortable position.

As Americans, we can argue all day long regarding whether or not the bailout is a good idea. But what we cannot do is teetotal a situation as complex as this one is with a blanket of “wholly good” or “wholly bad.” As a Christian, I cannot assume that I possess the knowledge of what God’s sovereign will is with this situation. There’s nothing in the Bible about governments bailouts of giant conglomerate auto manufacturers.

I have to be willing to believe that I could, in fact, be wrong about my beliefs in this situation.

So, to my brothers and sisters in Detroit and to those around the world who will be affected by this decision (either way), I pray that your trust and faith in God will increase, no matter what. That, I believe, is the faithful position to hold.

Honestly, Is This Helping Anyone?

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Is this really necessary?

Is Obama the First Postmodern President?

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While watching the election coverage last night with my wife, I heard Tom Brokaw say something that stopped me in my liveblogging tracks: “Obama could be the first postmodern President.”

At the time, Obama and McCain were still slugging it out for electoral votes. Now they’re not. Now it’s over. Brokaw’s “could be” can be replaced with an “is”:

Barack Obama is the first post-modern President.

Obama is also the first African-American President, which is a breath of fresh air for a country that, historically speaking, has only recently given people of color the right to vote. This is nothing less than stunning in the best sense of the word, but it is a separate post altogether.

I do believe that Obama being the first post-modern President could have as great of an effect on this country as him being the first African-American one. Maybe an even greater and sustained one.

“What exactly is a post-modern President anyway?” you might find yourself asking. Valid question. Defining postmodernism has been likened to trying to nail Jell-o to a wall, so I’ll spare us the agony of trying to accomplish that task. But for the sake of discussion, and in Brokaw’s context, it means a President who is not a Boomer. “Post-boomer” was the word Brokaw used. (Or perhaps Chuck Todd? After four hours of coverage, the voices kind of blend together!) Obama, at 47, while officially belonging to the “Boomer” demographic, functions as a “post-boomer”, the analysts said.

What does this mean?

Answer: A lot. This has implications for every area of life, from the workplace to the pew and back again. The fact remains that Obama, regardless of where you stand on his political stances, has mobilized younger voters to actually show up at the polls, something that campaigns in the past have been powerless to do. (Remember all the hype for MTV’s “Choose or Lose” and “Vote or Die” campaigns aimed at 20-something voters in 2000 and 2004? They largely failed. They generated much excitement, but little voter turnout for Gore or Kerry in their respective elections.)

Younger voters (and thereby younger Americans) turned out to not only vote, but to vote for Obama and propel him forward into the White House. He did this by speaking their language. He utilized communication tools like Twitter and Facebook. He bought ads in video games like “Madden 2009″, effectively reaching a demographic (18-25 year old males) that is notoriously hard to reach. He spoke to the heart of young adults by saying, “Your voice matters. It matters to me and it matters to the future of this country. I’m listening.

What does this mean?

Answer: Everything.

It means that if you are an older American and you are in a place of authority and leadership, you will need to pay attention to the younger voices around you. You will need to listen or your company/church/organization will not have anyone to pick up the baton after you’re gone. It will die.

Shane Vander Hart notes: “Generation Y/Millennials will be in positions of leadership and influence soon.”

It means that young people will desire to move into places of leadership not because they feel entitled, but because they feel empowered. There’s a huge difference between the two.

It means that churches, for instance, need to study the way in which Obama reached a younger generation. A generation that is typically non-existent in the church. Obama reached them and he reached them well and it paid off. Big time.

It means that the stagnant security of the “same ol’ way” of doing things is less appealing than the riskiness of change.

This is not so much a political take on Obama’s election but a sociological one. Paul Stewart rightly notes:

“By 2050 the “minorities will be the majority” in this country and those young “millennial” voters will be running it. For better or for worse our nation will never be the same, and the church had better pay attention.”

What does this all mean? It means you don’t have to be a democrat, or even an Obama supporter to realize that his election into the White House is causing a lot more people to stand up and say, “Yes. We. Can.”

BeDeviant.com Election Liveblogging!

Come early, stay late! A running commentary on Election 2008. A lull in the conversation? Check out some popular political posts here on BeDeviant.com.

25 Things I Don’t Understand About the Election.

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I don’t understand politics.

I don’t understand why people allow themselves to get so upset. On November 5th, Starbucks will still brew coffee, traffic lights will still turn green, and the U.S. will still be the U.S.

I don’t understand conservative talk radio.

I don’t understand media bias. At all.

I don’t understand how McCain won the GOP spot on the ticket.

I don’t understand why Obama smokes.

I don’t understand attack ads. Why not just tell me why you’d be the best candidate?

I don’t understand Focus on the Family. I don’t understand how someone(s) can honestly state they know which way God is leaning politically.

I don’t understand the debate between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. It’s not that easy. It usually never is.

I don’t understand extreme liberalism.

I don’t understand extreme conservatism.

I don’t get people who don’t vote.

I don’t understand the electoral college but I feel like I should.

I don’t know when the U.S. became the center of the universe.

I don’t understand how you can compare Obama to Hitler. It’s been done, numerous times. I don’t get that.

I don’t understand how five-year-olds can learn to dislike each other based on how their parents vote. That’s a mystery.

I don’t understand how Katie Couric can continue to do her job with any sense of integrity after her interview with Sarah Palin.

I don’t get why a majority of young people are voting for Obama and a majority of older people are voting for McCain.

I don’t get why McCain can’t lift his arms above his head. I know there’s torture involved, but I can’t figure out why his arms can’t heal.

I don’t understand why, even if it’s true, people are so upset that Jeremiah Wright is a black liberation theologian.

I don’t understand why there’s not a viable third party option.

I don’t understand how they count votes so fast.

I don’t understand the reasons behind choosing an elephant and a donkey as a mascot.

I don’t understand how some politicians sleep at night.

I don’t understand the obsessive outrage of Roe v. Wade.

Interested in checking out realtime results for the election? Check out election.twitter.com.

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