Where in the Bible does it say I have to vote Republican?

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Click here to read the article.

This month, Christianity Today Magazine published an article entitled Evangelical Leaders to Support McCain. I encourage you to go read the article, not because it is at all profound or surprising, but because many of the comments and reviews of the article are.

I will be voting for Barak Obama in November. I do not believe this is a sin. I do not believe God has an opinon. God’s Kingdom is separate from the United States of America. You may passionately believe in conservative politics or liberal politics, but do not confuse your passion with God’s passion. God’s passion is for people. God’s passion is for the saving of souls into a right relationship with Him through His son, Jesus Christ. The person who will be POTUS for the next 4 years has little to no bearing on God’s passion. Here, in the United States, a country founded on “religious liberty”, the church is in decline. In the 2/3 world, where many live under cruel dictators and harsh laws, the church is flourishing. God’s Kingdom is about people. God’s Kingdom is about Love. Love and politics are not even in the same ballpark.


Thoughts?

SDG,
Matty

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Election stuff

1) The next time Hillary Clinton accuses someone of being “mean-spirited” we need to force her to watch her speech from Tuesday night. Usually you have to be a member of a long-suffering minority to achieve that level of bitterness; to see it from an uptight, wealthy, white woman is a little off-putting.

2) I sincerely hope that Barak Obama is the next president of the United States and that Hillary Clinton is NOT the next vice-president.

3) John McCain makes Dick Chaney look like a 15 year-old kid going to the Jr. Prom.

More later……

Sen. Edward Kennedy

Here in the Strange Land, we want to send our hearts, thoughts and prayers to Sen. Kennedy and his friends and family. So many tragedies have hit the Kennedy clan over the years, yet they have stood up for the poor, the oppressed and the down-trodden with courage and honor.

Dear Father in Heaven, be with the Kennedy family as they deal with the illness of their remaining patriarch, Edward. We pray for recovery and complete healing. Amen.

And, if any of you reading this message have thought that, because Ted is a Liberal and a Democrat, he’s getting what he deserves, I would kindly ask that you never set browser to this blog ever again. I don’t want you as a reader. That goes for any who agree with John McCain’s pastor that Katrina was a curse sent by God to destroy New Orleans. God is love. People are spiteful. Don’t get ’em mixed up!

SDG,
Matty

Just a reminder: The 5th anniversary of “Mission Accomplished”

It was 5 years ago today that George W. Bush stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier and proclaimed that major combat operations were done in Iraq. He did this whilst standing in front of a banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished”. Of the 4000+ US service men and women who have died in Iraq, 97% of them have died since May 1, 2003.

Today, the economy is the only issue of greater importance in the minds of most voters. We must stop this war in Iraq. We must withdraw our troops and allow the birth pangs of civil war to run their course in Iraq. This conflict in Iraq is not one where any outcome can be considered a victory. Iraq is Vietnam all over again. WE MUST BRING OUR TROOPS HOME. It is unfortunate that we ever became mired in this conflict. The case cannot be made for continued commitment at current troop levels in Iraq. It is a lost cause that will only result in further deaths.

Please.

Wow! A guest in the “Strange Land”!

Greetings all from Redding, California. What’s new? Well, the (D)democratic process marches on… that’s Democratic (with a big D) referring to Mr. Obama and Mr…um… Ms. Clinton, however it’s also democratic (with a small d) referring to the whole presidential campaign thing… how confusing… we have two parties, Republicans and Democrats… our nation is a republic which is a form of democracy…

This blog, however, is a dictatorship!!! Not really…

Anyway, a few weeks back I posted on the subject of Mrs. Michelle Obama saying she was, for the first time in her adult life, proud of America. This comment, in case you don’t remember, caused all the chins to begin wagging over on the right, from Rush Limbaugh to Rush O’Reilly… sorry… Bill O’Reilly, and all up and down Faux News Channel. Somehow, Mrs. Obama feeling proud of America indicated she had never been proud to be an American. I felt this was unfair. One can love something and not be proud of it… ask any parent. So I posted and there were comments and people said some interesting things and you can read all about it here and here.

One of the regular readers of this blog is my friend, Jennifer. Jennifer is a teacher of English Literature in China and has been for the last 10 years. Her “tour of duty” is up this summer and she will be moving back to the US. (No chance of her being “stop-lossed” back to China, I’m guessing…) She receives blog posts via email and has no opportunity to comment because, the sovereign government of China censors her internet access… not just hers, you understand, everyone’s… it’s still a Communist country… that’s another topic for another time… Jennifer has a unique perspective on the issue of pride in America/being an American and she wanted to share it. So, after much but without further ado, here is “Am I proud to be an American?” by Jennifer Shelton:

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Am I Proud to Be an American?

One of the advantages of living abroad is that one’s American-ness good or bad sticks out like a sore thumb. Living in America, one’s American-ness blends in with the environment almost to the point that it can sometimes only exist on the subconscious level. I used to think it was more difficult for an American to have American-ness because the people of our country are so diverse. What is an American anyway? When I first prepared to live in China, I naively thought that the percentage of “me” in my identity was very high, and the percentage of what was American in my identity was very low. I thought that it was me who was thinking my thoughts for the most part. Not true. I thought the thoughts I had been educated and influenced to think – many of which were American.

In terms of diversity, America is an extremely diverse place, but American public and social life has a commonness in the way it expresses its diversity. Americans have a commonness in their expectations of relating to their world. There are shared American values or at least there tend to be some shared assumptions and rules of how Americans might share their differing values. Americans have a range of communication styles that they tend to work within. Americans have an underlying commonness in their lifestyle even if just from the restaurants, companies and products, movies and media that tend to surround most Americans as they live their lives. What happens to America politically happens to Americans. Attacks on America are attacks on Americans. We, as Americans, are not to that level of individualism yet where the average American clearly separates him or herself from being a part of the group called Americans and belonging to the country of The United States of America. To expand on and define specifically what Americans have in common and what defines their culture is a vast subject and not the main point of this response, so I will stop there on that subject.

I have to say after living abroad for ten years in a place very different from America (and yet decreasingly so) I am hesitant to express pride in being an American, but I can say without hesitation that I feel blessed to be an American. Perhaps I can begin my explanation with defining my idea of pride a bit. If pride means a feeling of superiority, I know right away that superiority is not something I would want to or should feel in relation to my fellow man. Since when is a feeling of superiority biblical? If pride means a feeling of satisfaction with who America is and who I am as an American, I can tell you that not only I, but our forefathers were very skeptical of the idea of getting comfortable or feeling secure. Besides, it is not only individual people but also countries that are on a journey. None of us have arrived. Definitely not a country that is as young as we are. I also believe that nations rise by both His will and our choices. I believe that our choice plays into the plan enough that we have a responsibility for what we have done, but I believe that His will is to the point that He gets the credit. If we have accomplished anything good it is by His mercy and our duty – it is not a bragging point. If pride is attached very closely to the idea of loyalty, then I believe loyalty can be good only up to the point that loyalty to my country does not interfere with my conscience and my loyalties as a Kingdom citizen, most of which demand me to step down and sacrifice and die to self rather than to proclaim my nationalism. We have all been born into a place in this world. We must be true to that place under God and within the circles of influence that He has put us in. But, loyalty to my country cannot override loyalty to God and loyalty to the peoples He has created. Personal or national interests are subtle, sneaky realities that can creep up and control the most well-intended. And they are stark realities of the less well-intended. We must be on our guard against them. If pride is closely attached to being thankful, than that is what I would focus on in communicating pride in being an American. Michelle Malkin was right to list just a few of many things to be thankful for as an American, and she is right that it is spoiled and thoughtless not to be thankful, to lose perspective, and not to recognize what one has as an American. If pride is closely connected to celebration, I also join Malkin in celebrating every truly good thing in America. I cannot say, though, along with what I felt was perhaps suggested in Malkin’s article, that we can never be disappointed in America. People disappoint us all the time. Parents, friends, churches. I get disappointed in myself. Why is it not then natural to be disappointed with one’s country – decisions being made, lifestyle trends, perception abroad, failures that are bound to happen? Why not even seasons of disappointment? I think what matters most, though, is what we do with that disappointment. Part of my place as a citizen of a country under God and towards my fellow man is working towards redemption, not condemnation. My participation in contributing to solutions is of the utmost importance. I had better make sure that I am not part of the problem. My leaders are due my support and my allegiance as long as that does not conflict with my allegiance to God and His laws, and no matter what, the people above and around me are due respect, more than that – love. The kind of love that treats someone the way one would want to be treated. The kind of love where the person removes the plank from his own eye before he points out the speck of sawdust in someone else’s.

Abroad, if we as Americans point our fingers at other nations’ peoples, you better believe that they have plenty to point back at us for. Not all of it is true, and not all of it is not true; but, if we meet their accusations with our American pride, where does that leave us? — in the same place it leaves all people who take that way, a place well-defined by the saddest parts of human history. If America was truly meant to be like a city on a hill, then it was not going to be our superiority, our pride, our nationalism, nor our technology, our military, nor our wealth that was going to put us there, but in how we dealt with life differently, how we are different from the world. Might I be so bold as to say that we are not so different, or at least not as different as we were called to be. Fear, the opposite of faith, has sucked us citizen by citizen into playing the world’s game on the personal level, the family level, the community level and on the national level.

Since when is it un-American to speak out against America – to express disappointment and even disillusionment? We have had American writers who have won the Nobel Prize for doing so. It’s one of the most American things we do if in this aspect of being American we are following biblical standards of self-examination and putting human nature in check.

People want change. They want change in their personal lives and they want it in the public institutions that surround their lives. They want to see it in their society. But, criticizing people for their low morale or their sagging national pride is like a teacher berating their class of students for being lackluster students who won’t live up to the teacher’s ideals. (Been there. Done that.) Change comes when someone starts acting differently, and they inspire and set others free to do the same. I only know one Person through which that can be done.

Am I proud to be an American? To the extent that America has reflected the One who sets people free and in being thankful for the many kinds of abundance that He has poured out? Yes. Proud of America for America’s sake? Maybe. I am still thinking how to define that call upon my life. Is that like loving for love’s sake? Proud of America with a nationalistic pride that is full of self-interest or reflects self-satisfaction or, God forbid, a sense of superiority? I hope not.

A later addition:

I asked my boyfriend for feedback on what I wrote. He had the following interesting ideas:

Blessing is not attached to being an American. Many Americans feel like or seem to express that they could not be as blessed if they were not American. That is not necessarily true. If there was one thing that was clear in the Sermon on the Mount, it is the idea that those who are most thought to have the least opportunity to be blessed can be richly blessed. He wondered if he could change his citizenship and still have the same level of contentment and blessing. He hoped he would.

He has heard many Americans claim that they can only do what they are doing because they are American – as if God’s plan for them is only possible for them because they are American. But, we know that God makes all things possible no matter where you are from, no matter what one’s situation is.

He thought I didn’t go far enough. He lives among a bunch of illegal immigrants from Mexico. He believes that the kingdom as it was meant to be in the beginning and the future kingdom that is coming is nationality-less in the sense of identity.

He believes that we happen to be Americans in the grand scheme of things.

Blogswarm – March 19th – Five Years of War

ed note: i originally wrote this blog on 2/25/2008 and then updated it on 2/26/08 at 9:30am PST. Scroll down and look for the paragraph marked UPDATE ~MM

I committed to writing a blog post for the March 19th Blogswarm marking the five-year anniversary of the beginning of the “war” in Iraq (see right-hand sidebar, about 1/3 of the way down). As it turns out, I will be freshly moved to Redding, CA on March 19th and am not sure if I will be able to post that day. To that end, I am writing today and will probably change the post timestamp later and make this my March 19th post.

I was/am conflicted about what to write. The folks over at http://march19-blogswarm.blogspot.com/ offer some suggestions on their site:

You are encouraged to write against the war from a variety of perspectives. The war is a huge problem, and that makes it an enormous subject for blogging. Here are some things you might want to consider if you are having difficulty making up your mind:

* Attend an anti-war event and report on it.

* Interview military families and veterans.

* Examine current plans and the rather shadowy oil laws as well as long term military bases.

* Compare and contrast candidates stated intentions on what they claim they will do with their records.

* Publicize online action alerts by pro-peace organizations.

* Discuss the economic impacts of the war on people in Iraq and/or western countries.

* Discuss the casualties on both sides.

* Explore issues and impacts often ignored by most media outlets.

* Analyze war propaganda.

None of these really rang true with me. I am not your typical “anti-war” blogger. I don’t “hate” the war. I don’t “hate” George W. Bush. What I hate is people dying… any people, all people. Death is the enemy. 2 Peter 3:9 says the Lord does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”(NIV). War is Death so War is the enemy. This becomes a frustrating concept as you look at the history of war. Can a war be called just that accomplishes good ends? I don’t believe so. I don’t believe, for example, the American Civil War was justified because it freed the black slaves in the southern states. I don’t believe, as another example, the Second World War was justified because it stopped Hitler and the spread of the Third Reich. These things would have been accomplished if men and women of God had prayed without ceasing, as we are commanded to do. Either God is in control or God isn’t. I have heard people argue one minute that we, as Christians and as Americans need to fight back against the terrorists who hate our God and our Country, indicating that God needs our help, that He is not in control. These same people will then say, “God caused the tornadoes to rip through Union College because God’s glory will be made known.” OK, so God needs help fighting terrorists, but He’s in perfect control of tornadoes? This doesn’t make sense. Christ taught us if a man strikes us on one cheek, we are to turn the other to him as well. “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”(Rom 12:19) says the Lord. Instead of fighting, we Christian men and women AROUND THE WORLD should be praying. Praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters who are being slaughtered by our armies. Praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters who believe that Allah is commanding them to strap bombs to themselves and blow themselves up. Praying for the governmental and religious leaders who are ordering this bloodshed on both sides. Praying for Osama bin Laden, that he will come to a personal relationship with the One True God through the saving blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. My Calvinist brothers will say, “bin Laden isn’t elect, we don’t need to worry about him”. We have ALL sinned and fallen short of God’s perfection (Rom 3:23). We need to pray. Pray constantly. Pray together. Pray alone. We need to pray the prayer Jesus Himself taught us and consider it, don’t just recite it.

Our Father in Heaven, holy and blessed is your Name,
Your Kingdom come to us, Your will be done,
Here on earth just as it is in Heaven.
Provide for our physical needs.
Forgive our sins. Help us to forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from temptation and from the Evil One.
Because yours is all the power and all the glory, for ever and ever,
Amen. ~ Matthew McGraw Paraphrase Version of Luke 11:2-4 aka “The Lord’s Prayer”

As March 19th approaches, spend time in prayer, my brothers and sisters in Christ. If you do not have a personal relationship with God through Christ Jesus, ask questions. Write me. I will be honored to talk with you about my God.

March 19th, in addition to being this horrific anniversary of death, is also my Bug’s birthday. He was born in 2002; one year to the day before this war was “born”. It is because of my Bug that I know there is hope for this world. He is a lover. He cares about people. He is tender. He will be an amazing man. God is so good. God will be faithful in all things.

***UPDATE 2/26/08 @9:30am PST***
Below in the comments, my dear friend Andi expressed some frustration. She wrote:

But the impression I’m getting is that we shouldn’t defend ourselves – we should just lay down and pray. Is that the advice you’d give to a woman who is being abused by a man? You didn’t pray hard enough for it to stop? The Bible says to turn the other cheek….

I want to respond to both of these comments.

Firstly, I want to say that I would never say to any one who was being abused, “well, you just need to pray harder.” Absolutely not! My advice to someone in an abusive situation is this: run, flee, go, get out, leave, remove yourself from the situation. However, my advice would NEVER be to go get a gun or a baseball bat and attack your abuser.

Secondly, I want to say, what we should do as Christians and what we should do as Americans is not the same thing. As a Nation, the United States has the right, duty and privilege to defend itself against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But a Nation is not a Christian. As a Christian, I believe that taking life is wrong; all life, any life. I would never be a part of any armed service because I would be expected to take life. God said, very plainly, “Thou shall not kill”. Period. He didn’t say, “Thou shall not kill unless someone else killed first.” To this end, then, the “war” in Iraq has been deemed vital to the National Interests of the United States of America, but we should never, ever confuse this with it being blessed by God. God is horrified by this war. God is horrified by all war.

This is a difficult issue that we face as American Christians. So many of us were raised to believe that America’s interests are God’s interests and this is blatantly false. How do we reconcile Jesus’ call to be compassionate and to love our enemies with America’s need to protect it’s borders and interests. The answer is… I don’t have the answer. I only echo my above sentiment that we need to P R A Y.
***End of Update***

Grace and Peace to you all today and everyday.

SDG,
Matty

so… here’s my answer

Ok… after much thought… here goes:

Yes, I am proud to be an American. I am not always proud of America.

Thoughts?

SDG,
Matty