Tag Archives: progressive

A More Excellent Way: Restoring Civility in the USA

There is “a more excellent way” through our hatred, polarization and violence. Please ponder the following:

Being conservative is not fascist, racist, sexist or xenophobic. It means limited government, free markets and certain traditional values. Being liberal does not make you an atheist, communist or hater. You are more sanguine about the role of government and long for international agencies to improve human life.

Violent and vocal opponents of liberty are stifling free expression, threatening the lives of any who will not tow a narrow ideological line.

There is a more excellent way – the way of agape love that is passionate and principled about human flourishing.

Love means wanting the best for all and thinking deeply and acting decisively for that goal.
Love means risking debate because freedom of conscience/religion is the first freedom and more precious than hurt feelings.
Love means listening to the stories of real people next door, not just passing on media memes.
Love means looking for the best in others while recognizing the worst in ourselves.
Love means self-discipline, especially of emotions and words and that can wound deeply.
Love engages in peacemaking, from college classrooms to war zones, from family disputes to economic and environmental issues.

Whether “alt-right” or “progressive”, Republican, Democrat, Green or Independent, let’s foster civility and honest debate and refuse to give in to intolerance. Let’s end the tired nostalgia of the Right – that somehow life was better in the 1950s or 1960s – before millions could vote. Let’s end the tired revisionism and fantasies of the left – that America is fundamentally evil and any traditions are suspect.

Let’s create a fresh history, humbly learning from the heroic deeds of our mothers and fathers and repenting of the injustices of others. Time for creativity, not collectivism, fresh thinking, not slogans, ethical service, not agitation.

A more excellent way is possible.

Immigration. Ellis Island 2017: 11 Principles for Shaping Compassionate and Principled Policy

  1.  Compassion and hospitality are compatible with the rule of law and national sovereignty.
  2.  Citizenship matters and voting is for citizens.
  3.  Violent felons should be deported and known gang and terrorist affiliations are reason to reject applications.
  4.  For all desiring legal status – from student visas to work permits to citizenship: the process can be streamlined and improved, with reasonable vetting and follow-through.
  5.  For the current undocumented residents: if you desire long-term residency, come out of the shadows and begin the normalization process, without fear of deportation (if you are free from criminal activity). Businesses will be penalized for failure to comply with the law. There must be a statute of limitations for welfare benefits and students must maintain visas. American citizens and legal residents will receive priority for scholarships and registrations in classes at colleges, universities and trade schools.
  6.  Enforce the Mexican border well and demand reciprocal cooperation against the drug cartels and governmental corruption. Reject all racism and revisionism from radical groups like La Raza that aim to subvert American values.
  7.  Anyone of any faith or none that calls for the subversion of the American government and human liberty is not welcome. Background checks and careful questions can help keep terrorism at bay.
  8.  Islamic leaders must reject violent jihad and the imposition of Sharia Law as a parallel system for their communities in all but the narrowest religious matters. Religious liberty is the first freedom…and it creates the ability for all people to commit to any faith or none without fear. There must never be “no go” zones for civilians or law enforcement and no suppression of non-violent free speech. A Christian evangelist or a Jewish Rabbi should feel safe in any neighborhood of Dearborn, MI.
  9.  Both political parties and business leaders must come clean and stop the dishonesty. Democrats are happy with more voters and swelling welfare rolls, increasing governmental reach. Republicans and some libertarians love the cheaper labor, from service to technology, thus un- or under employing millions of qualified citizens. E-verify and priority for American citizens as workers must be part of our policy.
  10.  No more sanctuary cities or campuses…there is no need if the system is reformed and people are welcome.
  11.  Finally, create Hospitality Centers along all borders and other points of entry and foster a welcoming and safe environment. Work with local and state governments, business and non-profit and religious groups to transition refugees to sustainable work so the welfare and medical systems are not overwhelmed.

We can create a new history of compassion and safety for both citizens and immigrants, residents and refugees. Let’s stop the shouting and get to work.

Unsanctified Mercy: Integrating Compassion and Conviction for Human Flourishing

Compassion is a marvelous virtue. Feeling concern for others and acting sacrificially – especially on behalf of those that cannot return the favor – reveals mature character and contributes to human flourishing. Compassion moves missionaries and monks to great efforts as they plant churches, pioneer institutions and work for justice across cultures and geographies. Paul’s words are the motivation for his apostolic proclamation that, “…the love of Christ compels us…” and, “one died for all, therefore all died. And those who live should not live for themselves but for him who died and rose again.” (2 Cor. 5) This agape love includes moral conviction and missional wisdom.

“Unsanctified mercy” (thank you, Jill Miller, for this term) arises when compassion becomes compromise and our fear of offending subverts biblical truth. The American Church is increasingly guilty of doctrinal, moral and spiritual compromise under the guise of compassion and misplaced historical guilt.

At the risk of offending tender sensibilities, it is time to confront our own hearts and our public ministries with gospel truth. Progressive Christians have served the kingdom well as they expose the excesses of consumerism, capitalism and colonialism that often mark American and Western ecclesial efforts. Conservative Christians serve God’s reign as they remind the church that there are timeless beliefs and values not subject to one’s “evolution.” The sanctity of life, the definition and marriage and the historical foundations of the gospel and Scripture are among these convictions. There is much room for civil family debate on a variety of issues and strategies.

The events of the past half-century and the last few months are cause for grave concern and I am unashamedly speaking truth to power as unsanctified mercy leads the church down pathways of compromise, irrelevance and ineffective witness. Here are some of the ways compassion is fogging the vision of well-meaning believers:

  • Sexual ethics and identity: A miniscule percentage of the population has engaged in a subversive, well–funded attack on the biblical family and sexual conduct and identity. Yes, the church has often marginalized outsiders; however, hospitality and humility need not lead to compromise. Campolo is wrong. Gushee is wrong. There is no way a careful reading of the Bible yields approval of same sex unions. This does not mean hatred or persecution. It means that we must promote celibacy for singles and fidelity for heterosexual, monogamous marriage, even when it is hard and unpopular. Gender confusion is growing rampantly as young people are exposed to relentless media pressure to question biology and conscience. It is time for holy love with humility. The reasons people feel the ways they do are complex; biblical ethics are not.
  • Economic justice: So many well-meaning believers fall into soft socialist and redistributionist ideologies in the name of fairness, ignoring the factors that lead to human flourishing. Trillions in aid has left many parts of Africa behind the improvements in the global economy. (See the new award-winning Acton Institute feature presentation, “Poverty Inc.” as well as the video series, “Poverty Cure” for real solutions at acton.org) Personal virtue and private property, the rule of law and access to markets are the structural changes that will liberate the creativity and prosperity God’s intends for his creation. Crony capitalism is the great weakness of both conservative and progressive political powers, with local business owners and workers left in the dust. Reparations are just a slogan without accountability and stewardship. Welfare without work dehumanizes recipients. Chris Brooks from Detroit is right when he opines, “We must confront both individual iniquity and institutional injustice.” Accountability for choices must be joined with denunciation of redlining. I recommend thoughtful believers consider the Economic Wisdom Principles found at www.oikonominetwork.org.
  • Climate change and ecological policies: The science is not settled and thoughtful believers should “follow the money and power” as globalists attempt to extract more wealth from the West for the rest with no participation from the Chinese, Indian and Russian empires. Why is Al Gore over $150 million richer since peddling his unscientific fear? Why are the leaders of carbon trading conglomerates also producing polluting small cars? A.J. Swoboda has done believers a great service with his groundbreaking work, Tongues and Trees: Toward a Pentecostal Ecological Theology. Worshipful stewardship of creation and Spirit-inspired redemptive action must include care for all living creatures. Pope Francis’ recent ecological encyclical spends more time on the dehumanizing effects of sin than specific legislation. While I disagree with some of the science in both works, the clarion call for theological and moral reflection and thoughtful action is welcome. Somewhere between unbridled exploitation and elitist global governance is true stewardship. The Body of Christ must point the way.
  • Racial Reconciliation: As a white male from the middle class, my voice on race must be carefully weighed and I offer the following thoughts for consideration and critique by sisters and brothers of all backgrounds. There is no place for racism in the Christian vision. Through Christ, distinctives remain while divisions and hierarchies are destroyed (Gal. 3; Eph. 2-3; Col. 3). It is only in my lifetime that millions of African Americans have been able to vote and have access to education and economic hope. We have a long way to go. My plea is this category is for peacemaking and renunciation of violence. We must exchange suspicion for openness and anger for humility. When someone speaks about morality, work ethics and personal responsibility, it is not always “code” for racism. Conversely, those in power must understand the institutional injustices and social barriers keeping many from flourishing. I commend the irenic works of Anthony Bradley and Chris Brooks for ways forward that get past the polemics.

This list can – and will continue, but space compels a conclusion to this moment of vulnerability. There is, however, one more “hot button” issue the Body of Christ must confront for the future of her mission in North America and beyond. It is the foundational principle embedded in the couplet found in Heb. 6:2 and reiterated in Heb. 9:27: Resurrection and eternal judgment. The Missio Alliance is thoroughly biblical as we call for God’s people to live a resurrectional life in the power of the Spirit, celebrating Christ’s atoning death AND the liberating power of his resurrection. In the midst of this joyful message we must include the reality that there is eternal judgment awaiting all. Those who refuse the truth and fail to listen to both general and special revelation face a dark eternity. Christians must debate the nature the heaven and hell, but not the existence of both.

Unsanctified mercy is often unconsciously rooted in denial or avoidance of eternal judgment. We are so busy confronting hypocrisy in the church that we forget to behold, “the goodness and severity of God.” Why should I share the gospel with my neighbor? Jesus is more than a self-improvement guru and Christianity is richer that principles for better living. Eternity and the Truth are at stake. Good news: we are not the judges of anyone’s eternal destiny. Only God knows the elect. We can and must, however, share the good news of assurance in Christ – the true audacity of Christian hope. When a friend hears the gospel, and places her or his unreserved trust in Christ, we are authorized to declare the forgiveness of sins and an eternal hope that will not fade away.

Let’s unite compassion with conviction, humility and holiness; truth and unconditional love as we live and share the good news of Christ and watch faithful churches create flourishing communities.