Tag: Politics

An Ambassador of God in a Political Season

Be an ambassador of God during election time

Published Wednesday, August 29, 2012
It seems as though a lot of people are grappling with the faith of the two men who are leading their respective parties in the upcoming presidential election. It seems in America — where every person is free to decide how he or she will worship — that there is still the desire to personally connect with our leaders’ faiths.The extent of President Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s involvement in religious life is very different, but it is clear that faith is part of who they are as people. Many articles have been published lately concerning Mormonism, Mitt Romney’s religion, which he has called a “treasure” to him. And Obama has said before that he considers Christ to be his ally in his faith life. I find this fascinating, even as my own practice of faith is different from that of both these men.

Politics and faith are not often good friends — especially in polite company. It seems that oftentimes we lack a generous or cordial language, especially when convictions are deeply held. I’ve seen red faces and quiet tempers come like waves on the ocean in conversations of this nature. A conversation we had with a philosophy professor in a class I took, The Philosophy of Religion, comes to mind each time I try to engage this odd arena. In this class, we each were to present a topic. One young woman chose to speak on the pluralism of religions, and how all ought to be accepting of all faiths. It was clear that she leaned toward total acceptance, including the suspension of the concept that there is one “Truth” with a capital T. She posited that there are many roads, and we need to respect all roads regardless of the particular path. Our professor asked, “What about those who believe that one’s religion is the only way?” She thought for a minute, but really didn’t think that believing in an exclusive faith was acceptable.

It was then that our professor opened us up a bit. This pluralism and total acceptance includes everyone except those who cannot say, “All paths are right.” So it is not all-inclusive. Then there are those who believe exclusively that what has been revealed to them is the only way, but they may welcome all people universally. So you have an odd construct — people who claim to include all, but who exclude those who are not like them. Then there are those who claim one way and seemingly exclude everyone else, but who are charitable and often extremely loving to those who have not decided to come into unity with them.

When God gave Abraham a special promise that his descendants would be a light in the world, he also said that all people would be blessed “through you.” Much later, when Paul was reflecting on the implications of the work of Christ in the world, he called us to fulfill the law of Moses by living with one debt, “to love one another.”

In this political climate, even as we sit at dinner tables talking about our future leadership, let us remember to bless one another because God has already given each of us so much — especially to those of us who hold to a faith rooted in the depth of several thousand years.

We can be ambassadors of our God, giving light when many expect only darkness.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.
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This Ridiculous Political Cycle – Anonymous Donor and New Hampshire Town Caught in Mire over Obama Campaign

*Preface: This is me sounding off on an issue in a place that is very dear to me, New Hampshire.  I’m not a politician, nor do I pretend to know many of the intricacies of this science. Because my view is not fully rounded, I’ve included some comments after by someone who probably has more knowledge.  Love to hear your thoughts after you read this.

Earlier this political season I read that $2.3 Billion dollars would be spent on political advertising for this year’s Presidential election.  I immediately sent @MittRomney and @BarakObama (twitter accounts for Mitt and Obama) a message stating that no political ad would affect my decision.  I feel that we know enough from traditional media, service records, and the swirl of information from the last six to eight years to make an informed decision.  I told them to give all that money to poverty relief.  That is not likely to even be considered.

On a more ridiculous note, the other day I read an article about the town in New Hampshire, Durham, has decided that they do not think it is right for the taxpayers to pay for the $20,000 in security that the campaign coming to their town would cost.  At first glance this seems somewhat reasonable in argument (though I will argue against it later in this article), but regardless, an anonymous donor from Durham has offered to donate the $20,000 to cover the security costs (reported by Boston Herald).  Also, seems reasonable.  Why wouldn’t a regular person be able to give money to whatever thing that they would like to see happen.  Its their town – they can pitch in beyond their tax burden – right?

Well, it gets crazier.  The Republican Party of New Hampshire (where I originally registered as a Republican around 18 years old about 12 years ago), revealed what was really going on.  Obama’s campaign did refuse to pay for their own security (which again I will argue that security is still the town’s responsibility if they want him to come).  I see this as a ruse to get a story into the national press to bite on a story that shows a town standing against Obama.  In other words – the town was a part of the political game.  I guess everyone is a part of the “game”, though I wish the town could stay above the fray.  The Republican Party went on to say snidely in so many words that the Obama Campaign is so off track that even the donors want to stay off the record.  Well, that’s not necessarily true – some people just don’t like getting their names slathered across the newspapers in town, state or national news.  I would also wish to remain anonymous, especially considering how generous the offer is.

Being from New Hampshire (first 19 years of my life), it pains me to see a town much like my own (Derry) brought into the mud.  When a campaign comes into town, the local economy is boosted.  The press moves in, meals are eaten in local restaurants, hotels fill up in the area before and after the event, people from all around stream in, and the town gains notoriety.  Why would Durham decide they didn’t want to pay for the security?  Are they not responsible for public safety?  Whether it is Mitt or Obama, why wouldn’t they have the respect for the Presidential office to pitch in and let the town benefit from the boost?

This isn’t a new phenomena however.  Many non-profit organizations who have traditionally been seen as contributors to the public good have been somewhat harassed by organizations who presume to speak for a town, and seek monetary contributions to the tax burden of places wishing to continue all services without any austerity without raising taxes.  Here, Durham is a pawn, and it seems sneaky and underhanded.  For the sake of public civility, whether a Republican or a Democrat, surely we can see beyond the molehill and find the benefits of the conversation coming to your town.  This is a good thing for the public?  Where are we going if we lose the ability to be good hosts?  Especially when there are clear economic boosts from what is about to happen!

***A Great Response by Nick M. (From Facebook)***

The only thing I take exception to in your article is the concept that the town is required to ensure “public safety”. While this is true, the cost for a single individual to come to town, especially if it is a roll through stop like so many campaign events are now, would tax a small town’s resources without the benefits you mention (room and board costs). New Hampshire does not have sales tax (as you know) and local services are paid for by property owners so the ROI per individual must be significant. Further, a protection detail for a single individual is not “Public Safety” unless that individual is threatening the public. Finally, the Obama campaign has paid millions of dollars in police force overtime for Obama’s “non-campaign” trips to Chicago where he happened to raise millions for his war chest. Why do the citizens of Chicago get a break but the citizens of Durham are caught with the check?

My response: Thanks Nick. And that makes sense. I suppose my real upset is that the town looks like a pawn in the political rug tug of war. I really had no idea how towns sorted this kind of thing out.

Nick: Rug of war may actually be more accurate … lol. Each side has a corner and is trying to pull the rug out from under the honest tax payer.

What do you think? (Comment Below)

Egypt Has Elected a New President – Military Respects

I was looking at this NY Times article, and noticed how passionate the Egyptians are at electing their President.  Whether you’re nervous or not about the Muslim Brotherhood, they certainly are passionate in the pictures.  Middle Eastern pictures always strike me in how much emotion is displayed seemingly regularly.  Definitely not a Western trait.  As I was struck, I decided to put this side by side comparison together.

Of course I know we were excited, but Americans tend to be more moderate in showing emotion…the British background I suppose.  I just thought this was interesting.

One American Does Evil, We All Look Evil: The Goliath and David Effect (Massacre in Afghanistan)

(Image from Business Insider)

As an American, I take pride in the values that our country historically stands for.  We like to see ourselves as defenders of Justice across the globe.  It is a romantic notion that we are Good people, doing Good as often as we can.  I still believe that America as a people, is full of Good people doing their best to make the world a better place.

But then we get the reports from Afghanistan (USA Today), and we look at the current context of the vision of America in the world.  Current Stories: (1) Americans urinate on dead corpses (2) Korans burned by military (3) 16 dead, killed in sleep by American Soldier – he walked from house to house shooting civilians!

I don’t know how this breakdown has occurred.  It is obvious that the military has a mission of building up relations in Afghanistan, and have actually done so much good.  The problem – one evil act by one person, and America is brought back down into the mud.

In communal cultures, with tribes and patriarchs, a group (or nation) is only as good as its representatives and the actions that they do when in contact with the other group.  I call this the “David and Goliath” effect.  Americans like to think of themselves as Individuals to be judged according to their own good deeds.  That’s great, but we all still belong to a larger group with certain values and institutions that glue us and contract us together.

When David steps out for the Israelites, he represents them all.  When Goliath steps out for the Philistines, he is all Philistines and embodies the hope of all the people.  When David won against Goliath, all Israelites took hope and felt the providence of God.  When Goliath, the military giant, fell to the ground, all Philistines experienced defeat. (See the book of 1 Samuel for the whole story of young David during the reign of King Saul over Israel).

So now Americans are in a bad situation because individuals are making bad decisions. To be honest, they are evil decisions, which maim the people of Afghanistan, destroy relations and hopes for peace, and give our Military’s mission of Peace fatal blows each time.  All of America are tainted because the evil acts of one person.  How many decades will the stories go out in the oral culture of the Afghanistan tribes, telling of American atrocities?  How will Justice be served and peace be restored when the perception is that our Nation cannot control the impulses of our individuals.

The fact is – when evil happens by a member of your society, it becomes your problem.  For years I’ve heard people telling me that morally, we all can choose how we want to act. I’ll do good according to my own principles and you do yours.  In the meantime, we have lost any notion of a national pride in a common set of values all people are held to.  In this morally ambiguous climate, in a secularizing society, in a world where politic is being set apart from the religious foundation that once glued our people together – how do we judge what happened and agree how to move forward?

We can all agree that what was done was evil, but can we agree that the balance of Justice has been skewed.  Blood has been spilled innocently on the ground because of a member of our own society – how do we own this evil and how do we as a people make it right to the “other” who has been harmed?

I am in awe at how horrible this act, done by one person, has destroyed the moral imperative of America in a foreign land.  I hope that our leaders will respond with repentance, though I doubt it will help the Afghanis mourn their dead.  I hope that the “doer of violence” will be brought to justice, because it is obvious that this was not done as part of a mission or for any rational reason.  It was an evil act.  I hope that each of us search our own hearts and find ways to purge the evil from our own hearts.  And for myself, I will be asking God for a path to Justice that will bring peace rather than more war.

Quick Thought: Why I Am Against Gambling

(Please read this whole article and interact with my whole argument)

I recently heard that a casino has been proposed for a community that is literally down the street from where I live.  There are pictures, proposals, and a bit of media blitz revving up.  I immediately tweeted @NikkiHaley and asked her not to promote the new casino.  Today, I am happy to have read, that Haley has state on Facebook that she will not support the casino or approve expanded gambling in South Carolina, and she continued to emphasize that her administration will promote manufacturing and industry jobs to the state.  I clicked “like” immediately.

The comments section immediately lit up, and the most common arguments for gambling in South Carolina are, “Its more jobs,” “It will bring more money into the tourist economy,” and “You can do it online and in Vegas, why not here? North Carolina will get all the money,” etc, etc.  The same arguments are made in New Hampshire and Massachusetts about the Connecticut casinos that draw people in so I’m familiar with them, but I am still anti-casino, but also anti-gambling.


I don’t believe that gambling, in the big picture, benefits anyone.

It is a form of entertainment based on the adrenaline rush of possibly losing your money.  In fact most people do lose money, and that is what goes to pay profit to those who run the operations, as well as pay out the rewards to a select “few” who beat the odds.  Very rarely do the numbers work out that people gain more than is taken.  I’m not a math man, but I assume that these places wouldn’t exist if the odds weren’t heavily in their favor.  So basically, more people lose than win.  Applying basic Pavlovian psychology to this situation, and you have an atmosphere for highly addictive behavior.  In studies, when a reward is applied sometimes, but not always, it is more addictive than if the reward is always applied.  At the slot machines, you win some and you lose some, so people widdle away the hours thinking “one more, and I’m done…one more and I’m done.”  Its a system designed to draw you and and get more and more serious until you lose big.  While addictions are a part of life (caffeine being one), this one is literally giving away money.  The impracticality of it, in my opinion, makes it wrong for the individual.  To go in knowing that you will likely lose, allotting a certain amount to give away, but hoping that you will win big.

My thoughts:

(1) Our hope should not be placed in money.  Gambling places the dollar on too high a pedestal.  Getting more dollars won’t solve your problems, it won’t solve societies problems.  “More money, more problems” in other words.

(2) Our entertainment should not have the possibility of loss of income that could be used for better use.  We should be wise with our money.  Giving it away to the glowing lights is not wise and by the odds is not going to produce good fruit.

(3) Some entertainments grow us as people and make us more capable as human beings.  Gambling does not improve you physically, spiritually or mentally.  It is a behavioral adrenaline rush in which you play with risk and hope not to be wiped out.  It is a waste of our potential, our talents, and what we could be giving to our world.

(4) These buildings close people off from society and many leave thinking of only of their next return – where they will only lose more time and more potentially more money.

(5) Lastly, to address the biggest justification for a casino, to give money to something good.  This is to create a money tube.  People bring money, they game, they lose money willingly, that money is given to a cause (ex. education).   This looks great at first.  People don’t like taxes, but they’ll “game” in a casino.  Need money for education, get a casino, cash flows to state who pays for education – problem solved.  Not so!  A good society needs to value education.  Indirect funding of education through gaming brings people to value the gaming rather than the end result – a well rounded educated society.  You fund something good (educated young people for a brighter tomorrow) with something that teaches unwise investment of resources (gambling), the opposite of what you would teach in a classroom.  Unless you want to teach that Gambling is good because it funds education – which is false.  Education is good because it gives people the tools they need to be productive members of society.  Gambling can only be argued as being good on its own two feet.  What good, on its own, does gambling provide?  Adrenaline? Risk? Fun? But weigh that against its own down sides.  Loss.  Addiction.  Broken Relationships.  Distraction.  How does it stand on that alone?  My argument is this: Education should be funded.  Gambling is one way to do it, but it is not the best way.  If we really value Education, we would make a good case to the public of what we need to educate the next generation on Education’s merits alone.  Not, in what the individual can get out of it.  This thinking makes our society more selfish than it needs to be, and it is distasteful to me.

Some people say that it is your own money, and another person has no right to say what the other will do with it.  That would be a good argument if we all didn’t live together in communities where we all interact and we rise and fall on the strength of the whole.   As a person who lives in a community with many others, I do expect that everyone is being wise with their time, their money, and their talents. I expect that they use their money to produce actual products, ideas, and dreams.  I would hope that their entertainments would make them better people (by interacting and growing through reading books, informing television, physical competition and world growth challenges, expanding the mind and doing service that helps others and that grows the heart and mind).

I don’t know the statistics about how much of an economic impact this would have, nor do I know how much of it would go to education, or other tacked on provisions to make it “worthwhile”.  I do know that there are better ways for all of us to use our money.  I do know that people should be giving to education anyway – and we should be ashamed to say we would only give that money if we are “entertained” for it.  I know that the world sometimes works in the wrong ways to try and achieve the right outcomes, but I prefer to try to attain both.  The right means to the right goals.

So I’m thankful that a casino is not supported, and I hope that it will be seen as a positive safe guard of our treasure, our time, and our good work.  Let’s focus on better things.

Pass It On: Nasty Presidential Campaign of the Past – Adams vs Jefferson

A lot of people have been noting how “Nasty” the attack ads between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney became in the Florida primary, and discuss how crass our modern politics have become.  The “Golden Age” fallacy is alive and well – and the political campaigns of the past (written and printed in paper and ink and given in speeches) were much MUCH much worse.  Take this video on the campaigns between Adams and Jefferson taking the accusations and editing them into a modern television ad:

*Note: Some Intense and Harsh Words, and Political Characterizations in the following Video:

While the campaigns today still play on the fears of the people, I’m glad that they don’t get this intense!

(Thanks Todd Rhoades for finding and blogging this video: http://www.toddrhoades.com/nastiest-campaign-ever/)

Being Awesome: Warren Buffett Slaps Republicans…I Like It

Apparently Warren Buffett, the billionaire business bronco, is sick of the Push Back from Republicans on the issue of wealthy people helping with the National Debt by paying higher taxes than they do now.

Certain politicians have retorted to WB that perhaps if he’s feeling “guilty” he can send a check to the Treasury.  According to this article, Warren has upped the anty on the Reps by stating that for every dollar they send to the treasury, he will match it.  I like that kind of cavalier attitude (though I wouldn’t mind if he actually just showed them up and sent a check daring them to match it).

I have to say that Buffett has a good thing going on here.  The National Debt is a huge problem.  Though I don’t know what it takes to be and remain wealthy, and I know that there is great responsibility in that, in times of trouble for a nation, if there are some people who can hold the whole system to account and then ask them to solve it (politically and with their own purses), I like it.

Politics seem to be more about the all or nothing these days, and that has its place sometimes (ex. fighting evil like slavery).  But on the National Debt, signing pieces of paper stating I’ll never do this or that (even if it is for the common good or for any reason) is foolish.  I’m not a fan of taxes, not at all.  In fact I want smaller government.  But I also realize we have to pay for what we’ve already done – lets get that done too!