Friday, January 30, 2009

Prolife Superbowl Ad? Not if the network refuses to run it

I guess all dollars are not equal.

A short pro-life video ("beautiful", "tasteful", and "inspiring" are among the comments often evoked) is not acceptable as an advertising spot during the Superbowl, NBC has decided. The video has become a viral hit, with over 700,000 viewings over a one-week span.

According to published reports, NBC indicated that they are "not interested in advertisements involving political advocacy or issues." That makes me wonder. What would happen if the national election were held two months after the Superbowl rather than two months before?

Is the video offensive? Is it political? You be the judge.

Update: I went to the Anheuser Busch website and sent them this message:
NBC has declined to accept the video from as a Superbowl advertisement. It is my intention to make note of all Superbowl advertising sponsors and stop purchasing their products if this video is refused. It is also my intention to communicate this to people on my blog, hoping that others spread the word and imitate.

Anheuser Busch has always had the most (and most amusing) commercials during the Superbowl. I'm sorry this will be for naught this year. I'm sure I will enjoy them, but I will stop purchasing your product.

I suggest you contact NBC and ask them to make other arrangements.

Very truly yours,

Rosalind xxxxxxxxxxx

Does anyone want to join me?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just talk to him

I read something that was a great encouragement to me, so I wanted to share it with you. It's written (or translated into) the English of an earlier time, so I'm going to update it slightly to read more familiarly, so the impact isn't diluted by a (to our ears) awkward phrasing. It's from How to Converse with God by St. Alphonsus Liguori.
Act toward God as you act on occasion toward those who love you and whom you love.

God delights that you would relate to him confidently. Speak with him of your business, your plans, you griefs, your fears — of all that concerns you. Above all, do so (as I have said) with confidence, with an open heart. For God does not as inclined to speak to the soul that does not speak to him since, if unused to conversing with him, we would be unlikely to understand his voice when he spoke to us.

God will have himself esteemed the Lord of surpassing power and terribleness when we despise his grace, but on the contrary he will come to us as the most affectionate friend when we love him; and to this end he would have us often speak with him familiarly and without restraint.

Reading this stirs up the hunger in my heart. I want to be right next to the heart of God, sitting next to Jesus on a bench murmuring to him, having him answer, taking time for companionable silences, having lots of time stretch ahead to just speak from my heart and be delighted to hear him answer. Apparently he wants this, too. Is it only my reluctance, my distractions, my self-imposed criteria, my unconfesssed sins that keep this from happening? It seems so.

Well, St. Alphonsus gives a gentle and easy way. Just talk to God. Tell him what's going on, even if I'm sure he knows it already. Let him know when something's hard for me. Tell him the problem even before I know the solution I want him to help me with. Tell him I'm confused, I'm resentful, I feel sucked dry, I'm procrastinating and I don't know why. Ask for help. Tell him I don't feel like I even want his help. Just talk to him.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An open letter to my Democratic friends

I myself am a Democrat. Or at least, I was. But since the days of Jack Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, I have been orphaned by the party I loved. It moved elsewhere, leaving me now with no recourse but to pull the Republican lever. As you might suspect, these are hard times for someone in my position.

In the midst of the joy and acclamation over the recent events in Washington, I am finding the inner resources that enable forbearance wearing a little thin. I choose to assume that those who are causing my pain would welcome clarification so they could refrain if possible. Therefore, I would like to propose some reciprocal understandings in the interest of preserving mutual charity and respect during the next four years.
  1. I am glad that you are rejoicing over the election and inauguration of Barack Obama. I will refrain from verbally raining on your parade, even though I do not share your joy and optimism. This does not mean I share your views, but I respect them. I would appreciate your exercising similar consideration by refraining from speaking as if yours is the only legitimate point of view. It is not necessarily true that every individual with (a) a heart not made of stone, or (b) the brains God gave a goat will see it your way.

  2. Yes, I am happy that the United States of America has come to the point that a black man (or woman) can be elected to the highest office of the land. I do not, however, consider that this accomplishment necessarily implies that the electorate was on the side of the angels. (We could have gotten there much more quickly if we had accepted the offer of service tendered by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and we know how that turned out.) I extend President Obama the respect that I would extend to anyone -- I will evaluate his presidency by his performance. I will judge him, not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

  3. I have, from time to time, been accused of not wishing our new president well. "I bet you're hoping he fails!" is among the remarks I have heard.

    Well, that depends. Do I want him to discharge the duties of the office ably, responsibly, in a way worthy of respect? Yes. Do I want America to thrive under him? Yes. Am I hoping for a disaster that can be laid at his feet so I can say, "I told you so?" Not at all.

    But do I want him to successfully implement many of the things that his statements and his record indicate that he will pursue? By no means. This is called "having a different opinion." It's okay, really.

  4. I would appreciate your respect in return. There were two reasons I declined to vote for him, both arrived at after careful consideration: (1) I am not confident that he has the character, presence, experience and abilities to meet the challenges of the presidency in the 21st century; and (2) I believe that many of the things he will try to accomplish, together with the goals of the interest groups to which he is beholden, would be contrary to the best interests of the United States. You came to a different conclusion. Welcome to America. This country was founded precisely so that we could do business this way.
When people speak as though American conservatives are hateful and hating, racist, war-hungry, and the enemy of all that is good, I take umbrage. I am one of them, and by the grace of God, I hope I am none of those things. I will try my best to think of your political convictions and personal intentions with charity and respect. I would appreciate the same.

On mercy and wrath

I recently wrote a post entitled "What Does God Do When We Fail," pointing to God's ability to carry through with his plans regardless of our sins and failures. I didn't intend to downplay the seriousness of sin -- my premise is that those who are hid with Christ in God obey him in regular repentance and commitment to obey him -- but instead to remind us that without God we can do nothing, including derailing the sovereign purposes of God Almighty.

The thrust of that essay was the effect of our sin on the overarching purposes of God. But what about us as individuals?

A reflective friend says:
I would also add a word about His wrath and discipline. I recall the many that were slain on the day of the Golden Calf. And David and Bathsheba's first child was taken from them and the sword did not depart from David's house during his lifetime. The consequences of sin can be overwhelmingly crushing for our God is a consuming fire to be sure. But for those who are His children, His wrath has been diverted onto Christ - for us there is no longer any judgment but only the fatherly discipline of His love. And God's discipline, though dreadful to go through, is such a humbling, cleansing, healing and transforming work of His love and mercy to those who bow before Him. I give Him praise for this too!

My friend raises an interesting point about discipline. Forgiveness does not erase the temporal effects of sin and so does not rescue us from experiencing suffering resulting from our sinful acts. But the game has changed between the Old Testament and the New. The death of Jesus turned a corner, not in God's love for us or hatred for sin, but in the new availability of genuine reconciliation between the sinner and God.

I, frankly, am grateful for God's wrath. I look around at the awful realities of our world -- innocent people raped, slain and starved; hopelessness; lies and deception; verbal and physical cruelty; -- and I am glad that the Fountain of Mercy himself looks at such things with anger and hatred. But I would not be grateful for it if I were stuck with the unscrubbable stain of my sin marking me out as a worthy object for that anger. But for the gift of Jesus, that would be true. But the death of the Son of God has changed the game, and I will never stop thanking him.

God's mercy toward us extends to doing whatever it takes to free us from the things that block his outpouring of grace and our growing love relationship with Him. If my habitual sin is blocking the freedom of the Holy Spirit in my life, then I want him to bring it to my attention so I can hand it over to him to squash. Knowing, however, my own disinclination to launch uncomfortable change until it gets too painful not to do so, I shouldn't be surprised that the process of God getting my attention can be an arduous one.

God himself says in Ezekiel, "As I live, says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live."(13:11) We needed a way out. The Good News is that Jesus took care of it. The better news is that God didn't stop there. Not satisfied with getting us out of the criminal dock, he wants to anoint us with fragrant oils, give us beautiful clothes and take us to the altar and marry us. The process of being a Christian isn't the process of becoming acceptable. It's the process of becoming more and more who we were made to be -- God's Delight.

You can be anything your mama wants you to be

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What does God do when we fail?

A conversation with a friend led me to think about God's response to our failures. I'm talking about serious failures here, not the "I try so hard to be loving, but I get sarcastic all the time" genre. I'm talking hard-bitten, ashamed-of-myself, How-Could-I-Have-Done-Such-A-Thing failures.

One fact I cling to is this: the only person surprised when I fall into sin is me. God knows me far too well to be startled when I do, yet again, what I have practiced for years. In fact, I am often greatly consoled by the thought that he has factored my weaknesses into his game plan ahead of time.

But what, in fact, does God do when we fail spectacularly? Let's look at Scripture.

The pattern is set early in the very first "daytime drama" ever written: the story of Adam and Eve. They are created for blissful and eternal union with God. There are hundreds of thousands of things they can spend their days doing that will bring joy to themselves and pleasure to their heavenly Father. But like bees to the flower, they zero in on the one thing that will make the whole arrangement nosedive into misery.

There are many ways the story could have proceeded afterwards. If God hadn't revealed the determined mercy of his nature, all of Scripture would have been very short and read only by the angels: "God created the whole world. He made Adam and then a suitable helpmeet for him for their mutual benefit and delight. They screwed it up. God withdrew his hand and they died instantly. The End." But, in fact, the serpent failed to keep God from pursuing his plan -- creating for himself a people who would love him in return and live with him in wonderful joy forever. It just took longer.

So that's one example. What else do we find?
  • At one of the most important and solemn moments in God's formation of a people for his own, after the clearest and most powerful exhortations to faithfulness and purity by the living God, the very people he has delivered from bondage get a bit impatient that he is taking so long to give his law to Moses. They grumble to Aaron who gets the bright idea to melt down all the gold into a pretty idol so they won't feel so lonely. To add to the disaster, Moses is so angered by this travesty that he smashes the tablets to smithereens on which the finger of God himself has written the law of the ages.

    And God? Does God blast them all with lightning and rain meteors upon their heads? Why, no. God calmly asks for a fresh set of stone tablets and takes it upon himself to inscribe the law again. Angered but not dismayed, the sovereign Master of the Universe continues faithfully and steadily honing, hammering and purifying this crew into a fit people to receive the Messiah and be the means of God's redemption of the world.

  • God singles out David as one "after his own heart", to belong to Him in a special way and play an important role in salvation history. Sometime later, though, David's eyes light on a babe (inconveniently married) with whom he becomes obsessed. Unused to frustration, he exploits the faithfulness and loyalty of her soldier husband by arranging to have him killed on the field of battle, and proceeds to take possession of the object of his desire.

    What does God do in the face of this baseness? He perseveres in his purposes, calling David to deep repentance (the record of which continues to inspire and bless the people of God), fulfilling his covenant, and arranging for David to be an ancestor of the Redeemer through the child eventually born to him (wait for it) by the woman who he so venally seduced. (Matt 1:6) Not does God forgive the sin, he glorifies himself even in those circumstances.

  • There was always something a little special about Simon Peter. The minute Jesus meets him and issues a call to be a disciple, he gives him the name Cephas ("the rock") [Jn 1:42]. Clearly not an accident, the deeper meaning becomes clear later: "You are Peter [rock] and upon this Rock I shall build my church." (Matt 16:15-19) Who was it whose grandiose "I will never deny you!" made him look like a knave and a fool when he turned tail as the going got rough? Yes, indeed, that was Peter. And who, after his betrayal, preached the first sermon after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, going on to lead the churches of Jerusalem and Rome? Right again.

So what does this teach us about God's response to our failures? Yes, we can defy God's plans with a "no" and cause much misery and pain for ourselves, others and the entire People of God. But can we stop God? No. Does he cut us off and take back his promises? No. Does he alter his calling on our lives? Apparently not.

How good God is. How much love he pours out on us at every moment. How paltry is our response, but how much he deserves it.

Monday, January 05, 2009

And now a word from our Anglican brethren

While web cruising (an unfortunately rationalizable exercise in time-wasting), I came upon some lively thought and writing on a blog dedicated to the discussion of "Continuing Anglicanism" (aka churches that have withdrawn from the Episcopal Church in the USA in response to the unorthodox beliefs and actions of recent years). Although leaving me with the unfortunately (though perhaps undeserved) impression that good and faithful Anglicans are trapped, for now, in defining themselves by what they are not (e.g. Not Protestant, Not Papist, Not Heretical), the vigor and dedication of the writers' commitments to following Jesus faithfully is apparent and inspiring. I am honored to consider them brothers and hope they would reciprocate.

A post that particularly impressed me is a discussion by one of the contributors (nom de plume "Poetreader") on Pope Benedict's recent remarks on gender identity. Poetreader's essay, Benedict on Gender, is one of the most well-articulated discussion of the issue of homosexuality and the Church that I have ever come across. What makes it more striking is that it is written by a man who himself experiences same-sex attraction.
There are those of us who, for whatever reason, genetic, biological, psychological, or social (where it comes from doesn't really matter all that much), find ourselves attracted to members of our own sex. That is a present reality. It is, so to speak, the hand we've been dealt, and we need to be able to play that hand according to the rules. There's a difficulty, a struggle, involved in that. I am male, and that does make me different in a surprising number of ways from females. That is biological fact and any attempt to ignore that or to minimize it is an attempt to make me less than God intends, and this is so for the female as well. True freedom does not arise from denial of biological reality but from embracing it, and it is not freedom to be imprisoned by one's desires, but in knowing how to rise above them and, when they are not acceptable, to deny them.

The author has gone into greater depth about his personal journey here.


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"There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Pres. Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2009