Monday, July 25, 2011

Which America needs to tighten it's belt?

It's the economy, stupid!

We need to tighten our belts. We need to limit spending. We need to be responsible and not leave our children with massive debt.

Sounds like a broken record, but it's something we can all agree on. We keep hearing that our government needs to act like the millions of families in America who are tightening their belts. They're getting thrifty. They're carpooling. Or cutting back on the family vacation this year. Or buying store brand cereal instead of name-brand.

I agree. That's a great policy to have. In general. As a country, we should spend tax dollars on what is needed. Our spending should be efficient. We should be getting the most out of our budgets.

But that's only part of America.

All this austerity-speak seems to be speaking to the parts of America who have jobs. They are still able to pay their bills. They are able to access health care because they have insurance. Maybe they have a high deductable, but they can pay it. They have homes that are not under water, mortgage-wise. They are consuming. They're going to the mall, debating between this name-brand sneaker and that one for their kid going back to school. They're eating out at nice restaurants. They're still vacationing, only less extravagantly.

But what about that other America?

You know the one. They one you're not hearing about on the news, but you probably know someone who lives there. They've lost their jobs. They've lost their home or they owe more than the house is worth. They're applying for food stamps or medicaid for their kids. They're not going to the doctor or are facing medical bills which will bankrupt them. They're worried about filling their child's belly at night and wondering if all the cuts at the school will result in a child who won't be able to compete for any but the most menial of job. They're probably feeling ashamed and worthless and they may have turned to drinking to numb the pain. And vacations? The extended one they've had since the last layoff is quite enough, thank you.

For so many families, they're out of belt to tighten.

These families would like to hear their elected officials - the President and both houses of Congress - talk about how to get our people back to work. They want to hear how their kids who are graduating from college will be able to find jobs that will allow them to pay off those student loans. They certainly don't want to hear how their parent's Medicare is going to be stripped down so much that they have to bury their parents sooner than necessary.

Maybe after this America gets back to work we can talk about belt tightening. Maybe after this America is able to buy the belt.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


One of the greatest freedoms of this country is encapsulated in the first ammendment to the constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In this country, you are free to speak your mind. No matter how much it disagrees with someone elses'. You are free to practice your religion. You are free to assemble. Perhaps it is the ubiquity of this freedom that maybe makes us a little numb to it's importance. For most of us today, we have no real idea of what it might be like to NOT have these freedoms.

So here is where Civic Tami meets up with Religious Tami and they might have some conflict. This is a pretty good article about a proposed change in how health insurance is done. It says that health insurance providers must provide many preventative services, including contraceptives, without copay in their health plans. This is a good summary of the opposition to making contraceptive coverage mandatory without co-pay.

I encourage you to read both, but the basic idea of the first article is that being able to delay or prevent pregnancy is a good thing. Women are more able to participate in the work force at higher paying jobs. A good percentage of pregnancies in a given year are unintended and a good percentage of unintended pregnancies end in abortion. It makes sense that we would remove the barrier of cost as a matter of preventing abortions. At least it makes sense to me.

In the second article, you will find a good quote by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. What he seems to find objectionable is that many will be paying health insurance premiums and those premiums will fund contraception for someone.

I'm stymied by this line of thinking. An all-male, celebate clergy has for generations, forbidden the use of artifical contraception. Interestingly, those affected by this edict don't seem to follow the Vatican's way of thinking.

In a recent post, I pondered why it is that Herman Cain thinks that Islam is unique in that it is a belief system but also a system of law. The Rev. Dr. C. Weldon Gaddy did a good job of pointing out the flaw in that argument. But if lawmakers bow to pressure from the religious right, and contraceptive services/supplies are not covered, without copay, by health insurers, what message is sent?

This is the message I hear: "My religion trumps all. If I can finagle a way for every single policy regarding my pet issues to be religious in nature and if I can find ways to make it the law that my religious preferences are followed by all, I will surely do so."

Yeah. It's sorta confusing. And convoluted.

Is it wrong?

Should one faith tradition - Christianity - be able to tell the rest of our country to quit having sex? Should one faith tradition be able to tell the rest of the country who to have sex with, how to balance their family budgets and what to prioritize in their lives?

Yes. And no.

Yes. If you ask me, I'm going to tell you that if you're not married, you shouldn't have sex. There are myriad of different aspects of my daily life that arise directly out of my faith. I try not to tell even "little white lies." I try to be kind whenever I talk to people. I try to remember to listen once, twice and even three times before I speak. I try to be patient and slow to anger. All those things come from how I believe my faith is to be lived out. I would also expect that those who identify themselves as following my same faith tradition would have very similar ideas, habits and worldviews.

But here's where the no comes in. All those things come from inside me. They come from a relationship I have with a God I believe to be personal not just universal. I recognize that most of those aspects of my character have come from decades of practicing that religion and growing in devotion and faith. They don't come from pressure from the outside. The right-standing with God that I may or may not enjoy comes from my devotion to Him and His commandments. Not because I'm bowing to legal pressure.

So I'm left to wonder what the Catholic bishops and those who follow that line of thinking might be trying to accomplish.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What is beautiful?

Rachael Held Evans

Tim Challies

Rachel again

female beauty matters

I think I have the order right. The Evans piece is first, and references an old tirade from Marc Driscoll. The Challies piece came next, followed by the CBMW blog post.

It used to be that a Christian woman need not worry about being beautiful except to her husband and he should love her "unvarnished." But it would seem that today, a Christian woman needs to worry about both inside AND outside beauty.

I can say that I come down on the side of Evans in this whole debate, and it's sister debate, modesty. There are things about which the Bible is very clear. How we are to treat the less fortunate, for instance. But there are also things about which we have less certainty.

What are your thoughts? Is a Christian wife who "lets herself go" responsible for her husband's infidelity? Even in part?

What does it mean to "let yourself go?"

Does a Christian, man or woman, need to concern themselves with outer beauty?

And if outer beauty is a spiritual matter, where is it defined for us? What standard do we shoot for?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I think I might have had a bracelet, back in the day, with WWJD? on it. Or maybe I just bought some for my kids. Either way, we all know what those four letters mean.

What would Jesus do?

For a while it seemed, every single action was rejoined with those letters. You were forced to think about how you'd feel if Jesus walked in while you were doing whatever it was. I think it got out of hand and the fad of it has largely died away. But as a barometer for my actions, I think it still rocks. Mostly. I would not want Jesus to walk in while I was on the toilet, but I don't see anything wrong with answering my body's needs that way. The same as intimate relations with my significant other. I don't want anyone walking in, even Jesus. But I digress...

Here's where it rocks: how do I act in a given situation?

That situation could be just about anything. It could be work related. It could be in a relationship. Usually it's something about my character. Sometimes it's interchangeable with the 10 Commandments.

Here lately, I find myself asking WWJD? in regards to voting and how do I view the current economic problems facing our country. How do I view charity from the church vs. social programs from the government. For me, all those things have a WWJD? in them.

Since I have not been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, I have watched the reactions to the Casey Anthony verdict. Well, "watched" might be a little strong. I've tried to avoid it like the plague. But this caught my eye.

What would Jesus do?

Check out the links the author included. The one verse I had hoped to see was not linked. Probably the only one that should have been linked if one wants a Christian response would be Ephesians 4:32.

I am actually very thankful that God, in Christ, has forgiven me. I have no room to point fingers because the same punishment awaits people like me as awaits people like her without the intervention of the saving grace of a Sovereign God.

So - no injunction in Scripture exists to excoriate Casey Anthony. None suggest we threaten her or stalk her or make it so she can't live the life God gave her. So what is the real Christ-like response?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A little inconsistent?

Herman Cain on Mosques

I will not argue the merits regarding the concept of Separation of Church and State. I will not argue nor try to go around the obvious fact that if you hold any devout religious faith, it will go with you into the ballot box and it will go with you into your job and if you job happens to be an elected office...well, you can see where that's going.

What I would object to is inconsistency. I know I have friends (or Friends as the case may be) who are avid proponents of something called Take Back America They seem to want exactly what Mr. Cain is saying Muslim's can't do.

So, you think Americans should be able to tell one religious group that they are not allowed to build houses of worship? Is it okay as long as it's not MY group? Or do you see this as I do...a very short slide to Americans telling ALL religious groups not to build their houses or worship or practice their religion?


You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. Matthew 5:12-14

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6

Lately, I have heard the idea of "being salt" to the world thrown around by Christians. Without exception, it is in the context of disapproving of something. Abortion. Girls in short skirts. Homosexuality. Voting Democrat. When it is suggested that perhaps the person doing the opposing is wrong, the defense is always the same: We're supposed to be salt in this world.

So I got to thinking about it. What is salt? What does salt do?

Salt is a preservative. Salt keeps things usable; keeps things like meat from rotting.

Salt is valuable. It was even used as money in the ancient world. In the Old Testament, there are references about salt's symbolism to the Covenant with God.

Salt is flavorful. It makes the food of bad cooks palatable. It adds a good flavor and aids in chemical reactions to make delicious dishes.

When a Christian is concerned with being salt in his or her world, they should be concerned about preserving relationships, not destroying them. They should recognize that their words are valuable and not cheapen them with any sort of falsity or vanity or stupidity. And most of all, they need to remember that salt is used to make our food taste better; to be more enjoyable. Words intended as "salt" should taste good. They should draw the hearer to the Truth, not push him away.

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Is this thing on...?"


In polite company where I grew up, you didn't talk about politics and you didn't talk about religion. There's also health care and the cost thereof, and gender issues which seem to be "an issue" only for church folk. Expect to see lots of articles linked and dissected. And really, any issue of faith as it is lived out and just might step on someone's toes...that was out.

This is the place I will expound on issues of the day that have the effect of dividing people. They don't have to, but it takes a discipline many do not possess.

Comments will be allowed, and for now, not moderated. Be nice.