Independent Christian Voice

Saturday

It's my birthday and I'll cry if I want to

Today's my birthday. I turned 36, although I feel about 10 years older (but that story's for a later discussion). I don't much enjoy celebrating birthdays, except I do enjoy watching my wife and daughters have fun with celebrating my birthday — which makes it all tolerable. It's not that I hate getting older; I just don't like the fuss that surrounds each birthday because I really don't like the attention. If someone were to grant me three birthday wishes today, here's what they would be:
  1. I wish that the "us-vs-them," two-party political system we currently have would go away. Either eliminate political parties altogether or have a multi-party system with at least three political parties. The two-party system has created a polarized, extremely partisan political process that encourages pig-headed, non-compromising politics. The electoral process (specifically the electoral primaries) encourages candidates to move more to the extreme of their respective party to attract the necessary support of the base to secure the nomination. Both sides are polarized to the their respective extremes. The center is completely left out and ignored. I want an open election process that allows voters to vote for any candidate, regardless of political affiliation; if no one candidate secured at least 50% of the vote, then the top two vote-getters would have a run-off in the general election. I believe this would more likely result in an office-holder who more accurately reflects the consensus will of the people. The two-party system consolidates power in the hands of a very few. A multi-party system (like those found any other democracies, like Canada, the U.K., France and others) or a no-party system would require more compromise and consensus among a broader spectrum of representatives. In any case, my first wish is for an overhaul of our current corrupt political structure.
  2. I wish that honesty would return as a guiding principle in our politics, our government, Corporate America and our society as a whole. Dishonesty breeds distrust. Distrust breeds disillusionment. Disillusionment breeds disenfranchisement in the democratic process, and that ultimately leads to the collapse of this great country. We can't trust our leaders because they will be dishonest to push an agenda (because the end justifies the means). We can't trust Corporate America to do the right thing because they are motivated by the almighty dollar, even if it's detrimental to its employees, its customers and society. We can't trust politicians because they will say or do anything to get elected, including lying about their opponent, about their own record and about the special interests who buy their votes. We can't trust the media because the ideals of journalism long ago gave way to whoring for ratings; muckraking (searching and reporting on injustices in our society) has been replaced by the search for the latest titillating scandal (sex sells and if it bleeds it leads). We can't even trust our spiritual leaders to keep political agendas from corrupting the true message of our faith. I wish honesty and integrity would return to our public discourse and way of life.
  3. I wish the American Christian church would start acting more like the Savior it claims to follow. It must remember that its first allegiance is to Christ and His teachings, not a denomination, not a political agenda, not a political party and not a country. Christ's love, grace, mercy and blessings are not confined to a single nation (as in "God bless all the peoples of the world," not just "God bless America"). American Christians' care and concern should not stop at our country's borders. We are to love our neighbors (and our enemies) as we love ourselves. "Bomb them in the name of the Lord" and calling for the assassination of foreign leaders defies this fundamental Christian tenet. With more than 3000 verses in the Bible about the poor, the oppressed and the downtrodden and only a minute fraction about homosexuality (and only indirect references to abortion), our political agenda and energy should be directed at addressing social justice issues in our own backyard and around the world; we should spend less time worrying about passing gay marriage amendments and more time desperately fighting to stop 30,000 children dying every day around the world from hunger. And, American Christians needs to remember the greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-39) as well as the definition of Love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) and the Beatitudes — like "Blessed are the peacemakers..." (Matthew 5:1-12). And finally, American Christians should remember that God set up a system of "free will" and voluntary surrender to His Lordship and His Will; a system of laws gave way to relationship. Legislating morality does not make one more moral, nor will it save souls. Expending so many resources and "political capital" fighting to pass morality legislation — like the gay marriage amendment — only serves to alienate the very souls we are trying to reach and help; "we" may win the battle in passing these laws, but we will lose the ultimate war over the souls of this nation and this world.
I know these three wishes aren't asking much. If they were easy, they wouldn't be wishes, now would they? Personally, the last year has been a good year for me and my family. We've been very blessed, not necessarily in financial gains, but more with our growth as a family. In contrast, for our country and our world, this last year has been disastrous on many levels. Last December's tsunami was beyond belief in its unexpectedness, its magnitude of destruction and its horrific human toll. In the U.S., we saw an unbelievably destructive hurrican season, which saw the devastation of New Orleans and the revelation of America's dirty hidden problems with poverty and our unresolved racial divide. We also saw the devastating earthquake in Pakistan, which has received surprisingly little attention (due in part, according to the "experts," to "compassion fatigue"). And, we've seen a corrupt, failing administration exposed, a presidency in free fall and a debasing of national politics like never before. I am profoundly distressed for where our nation is, for the tragedy of the Iraq conflict and for the disenfranchisement of the majority of Americans from the democratic process. It's the main reason that I have the upside-down flag icon next to my URL, the symbol of distress. We are a nation in distress and there's precious little we can do but try to spread the word and encourage a grassroots clarion call for dramatic change. I can only hope that my 37th birthday will find us in a much better place; however, I don't have high hopes of that. It's all enough to make a grown man cry; and it's my birthday and I can cry if I want to.

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