Monday, August 16, 2010

The Christian Technique

My most recent freelance project was for a ministry that organizes lay-led Bible studies in high schools across the country for coaches, called, appropriately Coaches Outreach. For the coming school year, I wrote a study guide entitled "The Christian Technique: How God Prepares his Players" which draws upon the letters of James, 1-2-3 John, and Jude.

This Washington Post op-ed written by Mark Driscoll up in Seattle is a perfect example of what "The Christian Technique" is all about. Like many other thirtysomething evangelicals, my faith began with an altar-call-style profession back in 1980, led by a boisterous but devoted Irishman. Almost immediately, the "discipleship" I was led to pursue by my parents and the Chrsitian School I attended from K-12 was one of information Christianity, and I became Encycolpedia Bahm, or God's nerd. I was reading Swindoll at age 11, Lewis' big-kid books at 13, MacArthur at 15, and Charnock at 18. And since it was the Eighties, the wild, heart-pounding hypotheses of the End Times became the dessert during this time of fact-feasting.

Through college at Wheaton I became dissastified with this "thread" of Christianity. Through some concurrent personal experiences I became downright resentful. I didn't quite rebel, however; instead I became bored. Soviet Russia collapsed - before I could get over there and convert them! In the wilderness, I traversed the entire evangelical landscape, through both churches, groups and books: the ritual-Charisma combo of resurgent Episcopalians, the faith-healing teachings of LeAnne Payne, the Megachurch prototype of Bill Hybells, a quick re-sojurn with the younger Reformed movement (in which Driscoll has his roots), finally laying hold of the communitarian, Amish-like approaches of Wendell Berry and Douglas Frank.

Today, after yet more information, experiences (I am still a faithful, if jaded, GOPer) and even greater personal trials, I see how this model of knowing God is essentially unchanged. I find myself reading books from the watery, troubled Word of Faith movement - ideas and testimonies that are compelling yet no less rooted in a more or less selfish, personal desire to know God.

By God's grace, and praise him for it, I am learning the hard way what Anne Rice seems to be in too much pain to learn - something I sympathize with, believe me - that I don't really know or experience God unless I am loving fellow Christians - to my hurt. This is part of what the "The Christian Technique" of the New Testament letters means. The good news is that God effects the technique himself, through his own power.

Going to take a break from writing for a while - probably. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Christian Conservatives and American Politics: The Next Twenty Years


My mentor’s mentor in politics was a man named Ken Towery. Before he won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing corruption in the General Land Office during the Fifties, and before he became Senator Tower’s closest confidant, Mr. Towery was a survivor of rural Texas poverty during the Depression. He joined the army only to nearly starve to death and get captured on Corregidor while his commander escaped. He faced and survived unbelievable horrors in Japanese prison camps all over Asia. He used to tell us that in politics people are motivated by two things: hope and fear.

After Mr. Towery told us that during a staff retreat, I kept wondering what he meant by hope, given the horrible things he had experienced. I figured he would have a unique understanding of hope based on his experiences. So, I read his memoir. In it, Mr. Towery talks about a running battle he and his campmates had with lice. There were other incredible stories of how the prisoners survived - and how many died, too - but this story seemed to capture his understanding of hope - and it was a very, very simple one.

He said the lice bit and tormented the soldiers constantly. He said if the guy in the bunk next to you died, the lice immediately swarmed out from under his cooling body toward you! He said they were constantly confined to their bunks because they were so sick and malnourished. The Japanese issued everyone wool-type prison clothing, which only served as lice apartments.

He said that hope came one day when a new commandant arrived at their prison in Manchuria. For some reason, this commandant was amenable to the soldiers’ requests, and Mr. Towery asked him if they could have some extra fire fuel so that the Americans could boil their clothes. The commandant did so, and after a few weeks of strict laundry duty led by Mr. Towery, the lice situation began to “look up” for the soldiers, ultimately getting eradicated.

“Look up.” I’ve never forgotten those simple words of Mr. Towery. Its this simple hope that I try to keep in mind when I get discouraged about my circumstances or our country. The Japanese commandant’s arrival was completely beyond Mr. Towery’s control - and it was awful until he got there - yet Mr. Towery was ready when the right opportunity presented itself.

This is the kind of hope that bolsters my faith and gives me courage to stay in the public squre, because the longer I try to follow God the harder it is for me to allow fear even an inch. Not because I’m super-Christian, but because the fear blocks me off from God’s Spirit, and it’s that much harder for me to make it through the day.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Christian Conservatives and American Politics: The Next Twenty Years

CHARACTER POSITION NUMBER FOUR: Don't be afraid to speak out when sin is evident on another issue

The toughest arrow that Republicans have had the hardest time deflecting in all of American history is that we’re the party of big business, of bankers and greed. But we blew it two years ago during bailout mania.

Conservative Christians don’t need to be afraid to defend policies which support family wealth and financial independence; but we must apply even more zeal in speaking out against things like greed. By doing so, we have opportunities to explain what greed really is, as opposed to letting Marxists define it and whip up the populace.

We have to be more articulate on our defense policies, too. The whole reason David Petraeus is where he is is because he is a leader in military-based nation building. The nation and we as Christians got all confused on this after the messy experience in Somalia. We have struggled to better understand what our perspective on foreign policy should be since the athiestic Soviets were defeated, Muslim extremism notwithstanding. I love our troops, but I like clear, winnable military objectives that keep our country safe even better.

Christians have got to expand their repertoire on the issues - we have all the answers to anything life can throw at us in God’s word. It is unwise to rely on others in the party to think and lead in this area, to acquiesce to someone else’s perspective which may lack similar faith values.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Christian Conservatives and American Politics: The Next Twenty Years

Here is CHARACTER POSITION NUMBER THREE: Abandon the idea that holding a position is most important.

One of my favorite old pastors once said, “If you have been called to be a missionary, do not stoop to be a king.” Now of course, serving a community or in government is a job unto itself, but I think if you’re a conservative Christian, we are obligated to have the same attitude. We have to ask ourselves, which comes first: our citizenship in heaven or our citizenship on earth?

This position dovetails with a policy area that has long been abandoned, that of term limits. We have to let go of what it is we think we need to be effective, instead of simply deciding to be involved in the public square. This includes holding the office, whether it be precinct chair or President.

There was a movie several years back called Presumed Innocent. In it, the corrupt and disheveled big city DA, late for a campaign event, wearily remarks, “When you first run, you’re trying to save the world; when you run again, you’re just trying to save the job.” I am afraid that a lot of Christians in various Party positions have this same mentality.

What makes the American system great is that by simply showing up to help, any citizen can have influence. I think everyone in this room knows what I mean. In many ways, that volunteer has more sway than the egotistical soul who can’t yield his position.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Christian Conservatives and American Politics: The Next Twenty Years

Here is Character Position Number Two: Rid ourselves of the "oppo" mentality.

“Oppo” is shorthand for opposition research. It’s what consultants do in preparation for a campaign. It used to mean honest, basic information about a candidate’s record, like their voting history. But over time, it included every sordid detail about their lives. For some, it includes coming up with ways to spread innuendo and exaggerations about a person’s life.

When I was on the Hill, I witnessed how some of the RNC’s toughest operatives did this against a private citizen, Michael Schiavo, the estranged husband in the sad case of Terri Schiavo. Since there was no Democrat on the other side of that issue, my fellow Republicans went after him! To do this was second nature to them.

I have been troubled by a little too much eagerness on behalf of my fellow Christians, from Dallas to Washington, to launch into smear-type tactics on fellow Republicans. Of course, this has always been a part of politics, but why are so many of us who are motivated by faith participating in it?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Christian Conservatives and American Politics: The Next Twenty Years

Last night, I spoke at the Hunt GOP Club...and everyone actually stayed in their seats!

I spoke about how Christian conservatives can influence the next twenty years. I tried to describe what I thought it was a Christian conservative like me has to offer my party, the Republican Party. I laid out five points, what I called character positions. Here is an excerpt (I post more over the next few days):

CHARACTER POSITION NUMBER ONE: Quit trying to split our leadership into born again and “moderate.”

This is a strange attitude I’ve encountered here in the state party ever since I moved back to Texas. For reasons I don’t understand, many of us who are motivated by faith have decided that not only must who we support for office and party leadership be born again, if they’re not born again, they are “moderate.” I know I’m guilty of this. Friends, this has got to stop. We all should have confidence in our leaders’ principles based on their commitment to our party platform, not our faith tradition.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What they're saying about "The Princess"

"I read it cover to cover Sunday morning. I was caught off guard a few times which I liked."
-Gary Freedman

"I love your book! Bravo! Thanks for bringing a copy for me to the convention."
- Marty Forte'

"Great book. Brenda reminded me so much of someone I knew!"
- Lisa White

"Thank you for the great read."
- Tony Hayes

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Witness Along the Trinity

I am still pondering the events I witnessed/experienced last month at the RPT Convention.

The older part of downtown Dallas, site of the convention, sits along the unpredictable Trinity River. The wide, muddy creek known as the Trinity was a flood hazard to old Dallas up until levees were built and the city fathers wised up. Others, like an early 19th Century French socialist compound known as "La Reunion," managed to stay dry along the river, only to starve to death.

The specific event that I continue to reflect on was not the unequivocal change in leadership from hand-picked Cathie Adams (who I voted for on the floor) to decided-to-do-it Steve Munisteri, but the odd yet cohesive isolation my SD seemed to have when it came to supporting Adams. Our lopsided delegation vote in favor of Adams was in sharp contrast to the tallies of the other SDs. It was unique in its near-unanimous support of her. Why was this? Cathie has as many, if fewer, friends in SD2 as she does anywhere else, and she doesn't live anywhere near it.

Still thinking...