12.28.2006

Library Thing

So i recently found a new on-line social networking toy. It's called Library Thing, and as you can see I have two of their widgets in the right hand column of this blog, "Recent books from my library" and "my tag cloud" which is the various labels I have asighned to my books. Library Thing allows you to tag and manage your books in a similar way that delicious allows you to manage your web bookmarks. You can find other people with similar interests when it comes to books, talk about them, trade them and many other things.

After three or four days I finally finished entering my library into the system. No longer do I have to figure out what section to shelve a particular book under. Now they can be tagged under multiple labels, and then shelved alphabetically by author. (For instance, Blue Like Jazz is tagged under emerging church, culture, ministry, and spirituality.) Do I have a certain book? I don't have to look, I just search my library on-line. What book do I want to read next? What topic do I want to read about next? I just click that tag and see all my books in that section.

How does this matter to you? If you live around here, you can see what's on my shelf and ask to borrow it... if you have three forms of ID, a personal reference, and a $100 deposit. : )

12.24.2006

What Matters (2)

Luke 9:27
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.

So here is the other side of the coin on that last post. Theology, philosophy, biblical studies, they matter… a lot. How much is “a lot” is the question. One of the things I appreciated about the profs at Fuller is that they would take the “out there” the philosophical, and the like, and make it relevant. They would connect the dots between the seemingly irrelevant, and the deeply personal.

For instance, the question “how many angels can dance on the head of a needle?”, is a question that mattered a great deal to theologians of the middle ages, and is a question often held up as the height of inconsequential theological musing. The actual question behind the one just stated is, “are angels physical beings?”, things we could in some way get our hands on, beings that have a place in our scientific world, or are they purely spiritual, very real dreams if you will, things that though significant and real, are not real.

This may seem like an inconsequential question… until you have a dream in which angels speak to you.

The original question about dancing angels also raises question about the entire physical world and it’s relationship to the spiritual world. How do these things interact? What may seem initially irrelevant becomes paramount for the person terribly in need of a miracle.

This is all just one example of making the philosophical, personal. Taking the irrelevant and bringing it home, illustrating its significance to our larger web of beliefs. Concerning the previous post, what I am finding is that this is best done with the help of the Holy Spirit, and with Jesus Christ at the fore.

12.22.2006

What Matters

1 Corinthians 2:1-3
1When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.

One should not take this verse too far, and one should not base much of anything on one passage, but it non-the-less represents very succinctly one of the directions I'm moving in, focusing more and more on Jesus Christ, and not on the minutia of theology, biblical interpretation, and the like. Though these things should not be set against one another, in practice, they often seem to be.

What am I getting at?

What I'm trying to say is that it appears to me, that the things that the Bible says a great deal about and the things Christians disagree about are not similar. We go to great lengths to discern the profound and the deep, while what Christ and the Bible seem to say most, we do rather poorly. I say this without hesitation because It seems most true in my life. I know something of the details of theology and the like, and do too little about what seems to be the more important things.

Everything I've just said has been said before and said better, (and please please don't here some type of fake holiness in this statement or anything earlier) However what might be mildly novel is that I find all of this very disconcerting. I wonder at times if the evangelical church/culture isn't more like the pharisees than we would like to admit. Maybe most of what we do is incredibly irrelevant. Naturally this begs the question, "what is relevant" and by "relevant" I don't mean "hip" or "cool", I mean relevant in a deep way, the things that cut to the core of who we are and what matters. Unfortunately on this matter I don't have an answer either. Some thoughts yes, but unfortunately, no answers.

12.17.2006

Mission Midwest

So as regulars to this site know, one of my primary goals in attending seminary was to learn to live a missional life style in the midst of Western culture. Now I’m residing in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and trying to put some of what I’ve learned into action. I’m not doing to well.


Why? Part of the answer is time, with a new son and long work hours, there isn’t much time left for being involved with the community. Another is a lack of discipline. With all the new stuff in my life, I forgot, or actually I should say chose, (not purposefully) to set aside the more important things, the spiritual disciplines, worship, acts of service, Bible reading, fasting, and the like. That's changing now, but I’m still struggling to get my arms around the “culture” of the Midwest, and specifically La Crosse. I’ve met some interesting people so that’s good. And I’ve gotten my co-workers to start recycling so that’s cool, but on the whole, I’m behind the learning curve.

One of the things that is important to living a missional life style and is important to me, are those in need and the relationship between rich and poor. Part of what I’m trying to understand is the relationship between rich and poor in La Crosse. One thing that is true, is that compared to Los Angles, and large cities in general, the distance between the two is smaller in La Crosse. Generally speaking, the poor around here are not as poor as they are in the city, and the rich are not as rich as they are in Los Angles or other cities. Another angle on this question is: what is the relationship between those in La Crosse and those in the nearby large cities, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago. What I’m getting at is the fact that we are all part of the larger American culture. If the poor aren’t in my neighborhood, as they were for me in Los Angles, or in my county as they are even for the rich in LA, than what is my responsibility to them and they to me? I’m back on track now in terms of the spiritual disciplines, but I’m just beginning to get my arms around the local culture.

So with all of that being said, I'm wondering what you think. Do you have any ideas about missional living in the Midwest and small towns in general? If you do I would love to hear from you.

11.26.2006

Update

The wheels of time keep moving for our family. I don’t think I mentioned it here, I’m now working for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. They have a nice management training program for college grads. So far it’s been going well. I like the people I work with and the business is interesting, so things are good in that department.

Were fairly certain that we’ll settle in at La Crescent Evangelical Free Church. It’s not perfect, but neither are we, so I think we’ll fit right in. Culturally it’s not exactly where I’m at, (more rural and conservative) but we really like the people, so I think that will work out.

My first-born son, Nicholas, is doing well, and bringing a great deal of both love and work to our lives.

I’m still finishing up my last class on leadership at Fuller, speaking of which I better get some more work on that done tonight. So I’ll call this post quits.

11.12.2006

How do we improve on what we already do well?

For my final class at Fuller, I am studying leadership. Naturally, one of the books we are reading is by Peter Drucker, the father of modern management theory. In his book, Managing the Non-Profit Organization, he has this to say about the Japanese perspective on strategies for improvement.

In this county, in particular, we usually underplay the strategy of doing better what we already do well. This hit me the first time I went to Japan, when they were just beginning their meteoritic rise. I looked for innovation strategies and there weren’t any. But every place – whether university, business, or government agency – had a clear strategy for improving. They don’t talk innovation. They ask, How do we do better, what we are already doing? It may be something very mundane, like sweeping the floor. Or it may be a very major change. The focus is always on improving the product, improving the process, improving the way we work, the way we train. And you need a continuing strategy for doing so. (p. 60)

I have heard this kind of thing said about other Southeast Asian countries as well, and I think it is very true. I think it represents a virtue we do not appreciate enough in the West, a mandate to be perpetually improving.

Additionally I think it coincides well with a Christian perspective on work and vocation. If we are/should be, doing all we do to the glory of God, we would never want to short change our Creator. If we could possibly do it better, we should want to, not that I do, but we should.

And if worshiping our Creator wasn’t enough of a reason, the quality of Japanese cars for instance, should be a motivating factor. Perpetual improvement is a winning business and non-profit strategy. We can be fairly certain that when a Japanese vehicle assembly line worker sees something wrong, even if it isn’t in his area of responsibility, he sees to it that it is fixed, more often than his American counter part. And now that many Japanese firms are building their cars over here, it appears they are successfully transferring those ethos to the new factories state side.

11.10.2006

(RED)EMPTION

Mike, blogging over at Waiving or Drowning has a bit to say about the (Product) Red campaign, which encourages consumers to by products that are supporting AIDS reserch with part of their profit. Mike critiques the fact that the only way some will give to great causes, is if it is part of their consumeristic habits. As a result he set up an alternative campaign, (RED)EMPTION, which is designed for those who aren't inclined to spend $100 or more, to make a $10 donation. They think we should simply donate $10 or more directly to the cause. I think you should really check out both campaigns.

My take, we got to give generously. Then, if you were going to buy something anyway, you might as well by a product that gives back to the common good. Having said that, do we really need half the junk we buy? Rather than buy a t-shirt for $20 from the GAP, which will donate 50% of the profits to AIDS research, don't buy the shirt and donate $10 or $20 directly to the cause.

11.04.2006

Benifits of Low Rent Living

Here is a great post about the benefits of low rent living. The article expands on the list below.

1: Freedom to leave a bad job

2: Freedom to take a chance

3: Freedom to do what I enjoy

4: Freedom to do what’s right

5: Freedom to work less hours

6: Freedom to say no to some customers

7: Peace of mind

8: Focus on what really matters

9: Simple living

10: More money for fun stuff

11.02.2006

On The Elections

So we have these little elections coming up. And I guess I’ll add my two cents to the fray. However, others have said more and better what I’m about to point out, so I’m not going to say much.

First off we need to be values/ethical voters. Vote for the common good, not your personal interests.

For those of you who are somewhat evangelical like me; (I use that term very loosely) we need to expand our reading of the scriptures. Abortion and homosexuality are not the only issues, and the candidate with the better rhetoric on these topics may not necessarily be the best candidate to change things. What I mean is, what have republicans actually done to change abortion.

The other thing is that some traditionally “liberal” ideas are technically very “evangelical”. Taking care of the poor and the environment are two things that the Scriptures/God implore us to do.

You can make the argument that conservative/republican/libertarian ideals do more for the poor, but I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with that. The causes and solutions for poverty are complicated.

Wisconsin, like many states, has a constitutional gay marriage amendment. On that topic, (I know this will bother some of you who know me), I’ll just sum it up this way: a secular government has nothing to say on this topic. Evangelicals generally support the marriage amendment because of what the Bible has to say about homosexuality. So here are some questions from an evangelical perspective. I’m not in favor of executing disrespectful children or adulators, which particular passages in the Bible tell the ancient Israelites to do. In the contemporary situation, I’m not in favor of revoking the current privileges of marriage from the two previous categories of people. Consequently, I’m not in favor of this secular state revoking the privileges of marriage from the homosexual either. If you are, answer this question, should we next aim to have a have a constitutional amendment removing the privileges of marriage from those who have been divorced? After all, the Bible describes this as often constituting adultery, and adultery was punishable by death.

Now that you are all thoroughly convinced I’m a flaming liberal, here are some anti-liberal questions on the topic of homosexuality. If we change things around, and allow homosexuals to marry, how do we define marriage? What is logically to prevent three loving adults from entering into marriage? And it is not secret that the National Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) works closely with the homosexual movement. If a fourteen year-old and his/her parents agree that the love between the minor and an adult is best expressed in a sexual/marriage relationship, why should they not be allowed to marry? These questions illustrate part of the reason I believe in traditional marriage.

Here is a solution. For better of worse, this is a secular state, so I have a secular amoral solution, no more state sponsored marriage. Civil unions for any two consenting adults that want to get married is the solution at the state level. Marriage is a religious/personal issue; leave it up to the individual, and religious institutions. However, this view expresses my view on the role of government, not on holy matrimony.

If I have any homosexual friends out there, I know this whole conversation is generally offensive to you. I’ve barely given you a backhanded compliment. I’m sorry I’ve offended you. If you want, e-mail me or leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to explain my in-flux, complicated position on the subject.

How do I square all of these with being a quasi-evangelical Christian? It’s simple, Jesus usually didn’t force people to do things his way, and I don’t think the state should either.

The other area of interest is the war in Iraq. Jesus wasn't too big a fan of violence, so neither am I. Does that mean I'm not in favor of the war in Iraq? Not necessarely. But I do think the thing was a giant mistake. Right now were looking at options bad and worse.

So what does any of this have to do with the elections? It explains why I have no idea who to vote for.

I suppose I’ll vote for candidates other than republicans or democrats, but not because I agree with the non-traditional candidates or even know who they are. I won’t vote democratic or republican to send a message to the traditional powers that be. Because you don't represent me, I won't vote for you.

10.25.2006

Going Crazy

Life's been a bit crazy lately. New job, new apartment, new child... no new posts here. Thanks for understanding. I'll get back to this when my internet conection is up and running at my home.

10.11.2006

Church & State Excerpt Two

If we agree that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that he reigns over the powers of this world, we can agree that it is the Church’s responsibility to bear witness to this fact. One of the primary ways we bear witness is by living according to norms and standards set forth by Jesus Christ. Immediately we recognize that we do not consistently do this, which begs the question, do we have anything to say at all? I believe that we do, so long as we honestly recognize our mistakes, both our sins of omission and commission, and seek to make them right. We cannot hold the State to a higher standard than we are willing to be held to ourselves. Therefore, it is important to be clear about the standard we wish ourselves to be held to, and that which we wish for the State. Given the fact that our standard, the example of Jesus Christ, is in some sense very high, it is understandable if others and we fall short, so long as we do not use this as an excuse to not even try. Let me be clear, failure to exemplify the life of Christ is not acceptable, but it is inevitable. Therefore, we do well to witness to the State with the grace and mercy of Christ, as people who have been forgiven much.

10.03.2006

Church & State Excerpt One

“The first level of the Church’s faithfulness and in a sense, a test of the validity of everything else she will say later, will be her own obedience to the standards of discipleship.” (Yoder, The Christian Witness to the State, 16)

This first principle supersedes everything else. Though no person lives a perfect life, the ethics of the Church must be consistent with those things that she witnesses to and about. This overarching principle serves to ground the next three principles offered by Yoder.

1. The witness to the State must be representative of the Church’s clear conviction.

2. The witness of the Church must be consistent with her own behavior.

3. The Church should speak only when she has something to say. (Yoder, 21)

These three principles work hand in hand. On any given topic, unless a Church is exhibiting a certain type of behavior, it has no true conviction, and if it has neither behavior nor conviction, it has nothing to say.

10.01.2006

Church & State Intro

I mentioned my Church and State paper the other day. The outline is a couple posts down. Here is the introduction. I’ll post some excerpts in the coming days.

Intro
The Church’s relationship to the State has been, and currently is, a matter of deep contention. Standing apart from, being one with, and living in co-existence with, (to greater and lesser degrees) are three of the major ways Christians have chosen to interact with the State. In contrast, I will offer three ways in which the Church can witness to the State: Directly, Indirectly, and as a separatist alternative. In this paper, we will examine both contemporary and historical ways the Church has chosen to relate to the State. I would like to give us a path to follow, as we consider how we in this country might properly exercise our citizenship in this nation and the Kingdom to come.

The Church is at its best when it serves as a witness to the State, living and being a missional community that reflects the Kingdom of God. An integral part of this mandate is helping our neighbors, our community, and our culture, to reflect the Kingdom of God. Doing this requires both a personal commitment to moral excellence, and a commitment to systemic justice. The latter part in particular requires special attention from Evangelicals, as it has historically been the part of our call most likely to be neglected.

In the contemporary setting, we error when we go too far in one of two directions, relating too closely to the state, baptizing most or all that it does, or standing too far from it, in no way influencing it for the better.

9.29.2006

A Fine Line

Rodion, had the time to respond to the Muslim’s response to the Pope’s comments. I ditto what he said. But I also think he and I (and maybe a few others) are missing something. From a radical Muslim perspective, Christians are responsible for the death of between 60,000 and 160,000 Iraqis and Afghan’s in the past five years. Which would put their terror killings in perspective, but then I disagree with their perspective. I suspect you do as well, but why?

Here is part of what Rodion said:

If you have watched the news recently then you probably know that some Muslims have decided to prove the Pope wrong by killing Christians in the Middle East.

This is completely ridiculous. Several months back when Danish papers published cartoons of Mohammad being portrayed as a terrorist many Muslims did the same thing. "We're not terrorists and to prove it we are going to blow up churches."

The fine line I walk is that of the position somewhere left of a blanket "War on Terror" and somewhere right of "Islam is a peaceful religion." Islam is not a peaceful religion in any history we know.

The other thing I love is that the news always finds that Imam from Orange County who says that "true Islam" preaches peace and love. Really? That is true Islam? So you are telling me that those living where Islam originated and has thrived for the past 1400 years have it wrong and this white skinned Californian guy has it right? Maybe so but it is hardly convincing.

The fine line I walk as a Christian must love our enemy as ourselves but still have the capacity to label the enemy as an enemy. I don't want to go on a rampage against Muslims or support military action against Muslim countries. Neither am I going to pretend that the message of Isalm is not dangerous. I am not going to pretend that they have the same truth and worship the same God has I do, because they don't. Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is God, and the Father is God and together they are one God. Any understanding of God that falls short of this triune representation is inherently lacking a full picture of God.

We must develop a sense of unity with our Christian brothers and sisters in those regions where they are persecuted by Islam. Three Christians were killed today that were reported by the news. These are martyrs. Martyrs have always been venerated by the church sense the earliest times and yet we care more about our jobs, our houses, our cars, and our "way of life" than we do about them.

Read the rest here.

9.24.2006

Anyone Want a Cigar

So I’m now a Father. On Wednesday September 20th, (the same day my father was born) my amazing wife gave birth to an eight pound two ounce little boy at 6:44 pm cst. His name is Nicholas David Napoli Best. He’ll be a “Nick”, and Napoli is Joey’s maiden name. Both Joey and Nick are healthy, so naturally that’s a huge answer to prayer.


Nicholas David Napoli Best


Nick and Me

9.16.2006

Church & State Paper

I just sent off my 30 page Church and State paper. I enjoyed doing it. It served to help me ground my own understanding how many feel the Church should relate to the State. Below is an out line. In the next few day's I'll put up some excerpts.

An Introduction

  • A Short History
  • The Basis
  • Principles

The Form of the Christian Witness to the State

  • A Separate Witness
  • An Indirect Witness
  • A Direct Witness
  • Which Method: Separate, Indirect, or Direct?

Objections

  • Faith is Private
  • The State is already Christian
  • The State is beyond being rescued

Conclusion

  • On Paradox



9.11.2006

Lectio Divina for September 11th

Matthew 5

38
"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

9.02.2006

Joshua's Prayer

Rodion, has a nice post here, on the topic of Israel typology, violence, national identities, and the Christians identity in Christ. I don’t agree with all of it, (I’m not completely a pacifist, though I wish I could be) but I think it’s worth your time. Here is an excerpt of Rodion's post, followed by the comment I left, Joshua's Prayer.

Rodion:
Most Christians in the U.S. revel in the fact that God has blessed them with this wonderful and righteous country. Most are basically convinced that God has blessed us with the promised land and delivered us from our enemies (the Native Americanites, the Spanishites, the Frenchites, the Britishites, and the Mexicanites) in order to fulfill his promise to us of possessing a land filled with milk and honey.

Second, one thing that is usually bypassed in our parallel of modern America and OT Israel is that before Israel headed into the Promised Land, after forty years in the wilderness for their disobedience, God specifically told them that they were not getting the land because they were a righteous people. No, they were sinful and unfaithful but God was faithful and God had made a promise to Abraham and to Moses and God was going to make good on it. In our country we often assume that God has chosen us and given us this land because we deserve it ("God helps those who help themselves").

So how does this apply to our topic of Israel Typology? I claim that if we appeal to creation as the norm by which to understand Jesus' purpose (after all John claims that it was Christ who created in the first place and, thus, it should be him who creates everything new), then we can understand why we should not use books like Joshua to justify our Christian violence. God's promise to Abraham was esentially this: After the first eleven chapters of Genesis humanity had gone from good, to bad, to worse. The unity of man and woman had been destroyed, families (tribes) began to fight with one another, as the tribes grew bigger nations began to war with each other (Noah's curse of Ham ensured that this would be the way of nations in the future), and finally at Babel the tongues were divided. Therefore, the unity that God had created had been increasingly more and more hidden under the sin of humanity. God essentially promises Abraham that God will put things back the way they were before all of this happened by blessing every tribe, tongue and nation all of which were removed from their original created purpose.

I said:
Rumsfield is a prophet in the order of St. Joshua, and to him we pray:
"St. Joshua in the promised land, holy is your name, your kingdom come and bloodshed be done, today, as it was in your day. Give us this day our daily orders, and punish our timidity as we punish those who act timid with us. And lead us not into the temptations of the Left, but deliver us the victory. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever and ever, Amen.

8.20.2006

Update

We have arrived safe and sound here in the La Crosse Wisconsin area. That is a blessing, given the fact that we didn’t have the best truck from U-Haul. The mirror kept bending in, making it impossible to see, the blinker went out, and it got all of 6 miles to the gallon. When we moved out to California, we used a company called U-Pack, they haul your stuff for you in a small semi trailer, and the best part is that you don’t have to pay for gasoline. Don’t use U-haul, (use Budget, Rider or Penski if you want to drive yourself) And if you have the time to set up the reservation in advance, (which we didn't) use U-Pack.

My sister got married yesterday to her high school sweet heart of 6 or is it 8 or is it 10 years, (the definition of their relationship was up in the air to begin with) It was a great wedding and I have no doubt it will be a great marriage.

I start work on Monday, in the mean time I have to finish up a 30 page paper for Fuller.

As for spirituality, we are looking for a church. Being from the area, we have a lot of relationships already, though in terms of where to go to church, we aren’t sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. If anyone is being the church, in their home, in or around La Crosse, let us know as we are rather partial to that.

8.11.2006

Arab Baptist Theological Seminary

ABTS is located in Beruit Lebanon. Check out what there doing here, and here, and please keep them in your prayers.

Red Team Musings

Scientist and security experts have always known that liquid chemicals are very dangerous and very hard to detect. (And the media could have known if it had wanted to) Only now that the horses are out, (fortunately we caught them before they went too far) are we going to lock this particular barn door.

So what else is easily doable that we aren’t planning for?

Here are some ideas it took me two seconds to think of. And before you lambaste me for being way too sick. The Government pays people to do this. Thinking like the enemy is the only way your going to defeat him. That said, the real purpose of this post is to illustrate that these new security precautions are as much about appearances and you feeling safe as they are about anything else.

Some Red Team Ideas

Liquids are not allowed if your are departing from the UK or the US, but no other place. Do the same thing that was exposed yesterday, on a US airline leaving from another common US destination; say a plane leaving from Amsterdam, or Tokyo.

If you want to truly strike terror into Americans, hit the heartland, not New York or LA. Since we terrorist love this airplane idea so much, use private airplanes, lots of them, loaded with explosives, and stick them into malls and buildings in places like, Omaha Nebraska, Madison Wisconsin, or Topeka Kansas.

As we have seen the good old fashioned single suicide bomber seems to work pretty well. And the subways, they were on heightened security for what, a month at the most. I know for a fact, that you could do the London bombing all over again here in LA.

And if the FBI and the like are too good at keeping track of bomb making material, try this. Department stores at malls are notorious for being difficult to get out of. (they like to keep you shopping) So lets just position terrorists at each door, and then systematically kill everyone in the building. That would strike a hell of a lot more terror than an exploding airline coming from Europe. Why, because I have never traveled to Europe, and if I did it would be a rare thing, so I’m not too worried about actually being killed by a terrorist. But everyone in a store being executed, while doing the same thing we all do from time to time, shopping…

8.09.2006

Why Walmart Wants to Sell Ethanol

This article on CNN is pretty exciting from several different angles.

If we can make E-85 the fuel of choice in this country, there are no shortage of obvious benifits. The irony of Walmart possibly being a major catalyst for making it happen is just stinking hilarious.

8.08.2006

A Theology of Insurance

So I now have a job in the insurance industry, and thanks to being a geeky Fuller grad, I am inclined to try and think theologically about the insurance industry.

Just a few thoughts:

If we want to try and help the world better reflect Christ, then in some respects, pooling our money via insurance premiums, and through them, taking care of those in need, seems to be pretty Christ-like. Now that's nice, but the problem is that all of this is definitely not done for simple altruistic reasons. (Is anything?) There is definitely a profit involved, (which is not by definition bad) but often that profit is created at the expense of those most in need of insurance, by not insuring people with certain limiting factors. Additionally, insurance sales (which I'll be responsible for) play on our fears. On the other hand, being wise and prepared is a good thing. One could argue that by not buying insurance, you're not contributing to the common good, and those in need. (If we all agreed to pool our money and you don't, don't feel bad when you're in need and you don't get anything) On the other hand, there a no shortage of better ways to contribute to the common good.

So in the end, yeah, it's definitely a mixed bag.

What do you think? What are some of your experiences with the insurance industry? In what respects has the industry, or a particular company, reflected the norms of Christ, and in what ways have we dropped the ball? What am I missing here?

7.28.2006

Out of the Office

Obviously the posting has been light. Unfortunately it will continue to be light as I am in the process of getting a job (se previous post) and moving to Wisconsin.

7.16.2006

Got a Job!

I’ll be working for Combined Insurance of America, a subsidiary of the Aon Corporation, a Fortune 500 company. It’s mostly business to business sales and account maintenance, with some cold calling and door to door stuff thrown in. The truly exciting thing is that we’ll be moving back to La Crosse Wisconsin, where Joey and I grew up, and where our families still live.
And if your wondering, yes I did go to seminary to become an insurance salesman, that is what I’ve always dreamed of. : ) No, seriously, I have no problem with this position. I have a pretty imaginative idea of what pastoring and church should look like. (at least for me) and taking a “secular” job is just part of that. In the future I may or may not take an official pastoral position, but fortunately that is a ways down the road.

For those that know me, I’ll be leaving Pasadena on or about Aug 12th, and arriving in La Crosse 3 or 4 days latter.

7.11.2006

Acting Our Age

JR has some good things to say in his post Acting Our Age. He talks about the need for Fuller students to be pastored and mentored as they learn how to do so themseleves. I for one am very blest to have one Ben Donley, and in the past, Drew Severson, and Dan Cravillion in my life.

7.09.2006

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

This morning I was spending a little time worshipping and reflecting on Christ before I went to church. I was listening to U2’s “I Still Hhaven’t Found, What I’m Looking For”, and I thought to myself, why does this song resonate with me so much? (cause I’m not a Christian, or Christianity isn’t the answer?) (no, just kidding)

The technical answer sprung to my mind, and it was comforting, sort of…

The technical answer is that we live in both the “now” and “not yet” of the Kingdom of God. Not surprisingly, this side of heaven, not even the best of church services, or pleasure of any kind can compete with what we will have on the other side of this life. Even on our best days, when we are closest to the Father, (as close as we can be that is) we are still so far away, because nothing on this side can compare with the union we will experience on the other side of heaven. Consequently the phrase “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” resonates with us.

This technical answer is only partially comforting because it means that most likely, this side of heaven, we will never completely experience what we were created for, and if I have my druthers, it will be quite some time before I do.

Now all of this may make me sound a bit holy, but that previous sentence is key, my actions show that obviously, finding “what I’m looking for” isn’t really that important. Though we can’t experience God the way we will in heaven, we can experience him on this earth more fully, though how, if, and why, is a complex amalgamation. Part of the how, if, and why, has to do with obedience, and that is an area I often fail in.

7.05.2006

For What? By What?

Here is an excerpt from one of the books I’m reading right now. Toward an Evangelical Public Policy edited by Sider and Kippers.

Christian conservatives sometimes act in ways that betray their historic commitment to religious liberty, and misplace the strength of religious belief. Why for example are some so intent on hanging the Ten Commandments in government buildings, reintroducing formal prayers into public schools, or slipping nativity scenes onto public property? These are the trappings of faith, not the substance of it. They serve as fiery political symbols, but they fail to challenge conscience, forge character, or reclaim broken lives. As Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson have pointed out, “It’s time to admit that because we are using the wrong weapons we are losing the battle. We have confused political power for God’s power.”

7.04.2006

Next Blog?

Where should I go from here? As in how, when, or if, should I blog, seeing as how this one is wholly centered on Fuller and being a theology graduate student, and now I'm about to graduate. I think a new blog would probably just have to be a "moment's in David's life" blog, or something like that.

The three of you who read this on a regular basis, what do you think? Should I try and continue the pop-theology, here's what I'm thinking today, thing, or should I just start something completely new?

Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

6.27.2006

Church & State

I'm looking for a job and taking some summer classes. One is on the intersection of Church and State, the history of democracy, and the like. It's a directed study so there are only a few of us doing it. You can see our class page, and read what were thinking about here. Below are some excerpts of what is being said.

I said:
My main problem with Hastings is that he assumes that democracy is a good thing, maybe it is, but he doesn't seem to address this.

I would also like to get everyone's take on the degree of truth to the idea that the Reformation, and specifically Reformed theology gave rise to democracy. Obviously that's not the narrative of the secular majority, but among Christians?

What do you guys think?

Greg Replied:
I need to do some more reading, but it seems that the free church tradition especially believes that democracy is the direct result not only of the Reformation but the correct reading of the NT after the Reformation set it free from the chains of the Roman Catholic Imperialist Church. However, a casual conversation with a political theorist that studies Western political thought will reveal that they care very little about the role of the Reformation or the churches involved in the democracizing of America.

That said, it is true that the Reformation "liberalized" Europe and
allowed people the opportunity to not have to deal with the Roman Church and, thus, they were able to do anthropology separated from theology and thus produce theories regarding the capabilities of humans that would not have been possible under the Catholic Church. However, Protestantism did not always suppor these benevolent views of human nature either. There is just something about the doctrine of total depravity that is hard to reconcile with the enlightenment view that human reason can solve all problems from government to science.

6.14.2006

Does Diversity Include the Mainstream?

A while back I posted an article entitled The Narrow Middle Ground of Fuller Seminary, which was also published in Fuller's student newspaper. I then e-mailed some of my favorite proffs to get their reaction.

Dr. Ryan Bolger and I have subsequently carried on an e-mail conversation which he gave me permission to post, and which he posted to his blog as well. (i suspect there will be more comments on his site, click here to read them.)

Ryan's point was this: I don't need to talk about the main stream, I need to bring light to other voices.


Dear Professors,

I’ve taken classes with each of you, and really respect you. Just wanted to give you the opportunity to respond (or not) to a blog post of mine which I submitted to the Semi for publication. (no word yet on whether it will be or not) It’s titled The Narrow Middle Ground of Fuller Seminary. Below are a few excerpts and the link.

There truly is a lot of intellectual diversity at Fuller, maybe more than any other seminary, but none-the-less not as much as I thought, and think would be appropriate for the type of place Fuller is striving to be…

I want to hear about Catholic views, feminist perspectives and the like, but I also want conservative views given their day. Usually they aren't, and that's unfortunate. Where is the intellectual diversity, and exercise of robust thinking that grapples with all relevant views? Are we really getting a good education if what so many evangelicals believe is given the brush off? How many times have the words Rick Warren, or Left Behind brought snickers or outright laughter? I happen to appreciate most of the critiques of those positions, but what I don’t appreciate is the outright dismissal of positions that are embraced by so many evangelicals. Think about it. In a place where many are preparing for pastoral ministry which will place us in contact with all manner of views, both liberal and conservative, why are we short changing conservatives? Even if one thinks that a given position is the downfall of Western civilization, one must understand one’s opponents. Presently I would argue we do not, nor do we have the opportunity to.

What is further ironic, is that many professors here are educated in secular institutions where anything remotely evangelical is brushed off as being thoroughly unintellectual, but now they do the same thing to conservative evangelicals, fundamentalists, some postmoderns and positions historically unorthodox.

Here's a solution. Bring in outsiders, guest adjunct professors to teach classes from positions that are not evangelical, someone from Notre Dame to teach Roman Catholic theology, or someone from Dallas to teach Dispensational theology, even someone from Claremont to teach early church history from that perspective.

This would give us the opportunity to truly dialog with other positions on both the left and the right, without having to rely on the second hand generosity of the faculty who though they often mean well, can not do justice to an issue or perspective the way a true believe would.

David Best


From: Ryan Bolger
To: David Best
Subject: Re: The Narrow Middle Ground of Fuller Seminary

David, thanks for your comments. I don’t ever recall snickering, but if I did, I regret it...
Keep in mind diversity is about hearing the voices that are usually unheard or silent. Purpose-driven and Willow Creek are omni-present; I don’t need to teach these ‘principles’ because they are the primary discourse. I believe I serve my students best by questioning the status quo, unveiling the unquestioned assumptions in our churches and culture, deconstructing with an eye to liberation. But I always seek to do this respectfully, and if that is what your plea is about, to that extent I agree with you...
Peace, and congrats on graduating...
Ryan


From: David Best
To: Ryan Bolger
Subject: RE: The Narrow Middle Ground of Fuller Seminary

Ryan,

You have never disappointed or offended me, and I have learned a great deal from you. I wouldn’t necessarily want you in particular, or any one person to change. I probably did a poor job of communicating my critique in that article.

My critique was of our shared Fuller sub-culture as a whole. Who or what you or any particular proff believes or critiques does not bother me at all. I can’t emphasis this enough. Rather it is what I perceive as group think, and yes, a bit of disrespect, or more often, character creation that concerns me.

Concerning giving voice to the margins, it is our shared value for diversity and giving voice to the margins that prompted that article.

“Purpose-driven and Willow Creek are omni-present; I don’t need to teach these ‘principles’ because they are the primary discourse.” The primary discourse where? Not at Fuller. I’m too busy with my studies here to know what is primary else ware. What I’m hearing here at Fuller is a lot of sameness. I generally like what I hear; it’s what I’m not hearing that give me pause.

At Fuller, the mainstream has become the margin. Bottom line, there is not enough diversity at Fuller, because seemingly everyone is singing the same tune. Like when goth kids wanting to be different all dress differently, the same.

Tell me I’m all wrong, maybe it’s just the classes and proffs I’ve taken, and not Fuller as a whole.

Question for you. Can I publish these and any subsequent e-mails in this thread to my blog with a link to the original article? If not that’s ok.

Thanks for your time.

David Best


From: Ryan Bolger
To: David Best
Subject: Re: The Narrow Middle Ground of Fuller Seminary

David, it is fine if you post these...

Just to continue, I don’t think our role at Fuller is to reinforce mainstream discourse, but to prod, poke holes, agitate, shine a light...Purpose Driven has sold, what, 19 million copies — do we really need to teach more of that? Or do we need to champion the voices typically not heard? So, for me, diversity is not giving mainstream thought a central place — it belongs at the margins at a seminary. If all we did was reinforce previous understandings of church and culture, I think we would be failing in our role as a seminary and our prophetic voice would cease...
Anyway, my two cents!!

David, your forthrightness always impresses me — thanks for speaking up when you see contradictions...
Peace, my friend, and congrats again on graduating...

Ryan

6.13.2006

Calvin on Prayer

Following are excerpts from my spirituality paper, the beginning and end specifically.

In the contemporary spirituality setting, largely we have two things, books written by contemporary authors, and re-workings of ancient texts that seem to meet our present needs. What I will examine in this paper, the spiritual teachings of Calvin on prayer, do not seem to meet our present need. For some, myself included, the spirituality of John Calvin represents a hard word from a man known not for his soft ways but for his controversies and his scathing critiques. This seems especially true when one turns to his theologically robust, Institutes of the Christian Religion. It is not a work written for our own time. But then, maybe our own time needs the voice of the other, to remind us of where we have been.

By accessing Calvin in his own words we gain nuance. Interestingly enough, the longest chapter in his Institutes is on prayer. In it, he details in earnest the many things necessary for rightful praying, answering many questions along the way. I do not believe that one can lay the type of foundations for the church that Calvin has laid, without a robust spirituality. The judge of time, renders many works smaller than they first appeared. This is not the case with Calvin’s Institutes.

In summation, Calvin’s rules are these: 1. Pray in a proper frame of mind, divested of all earthly, distracting thoughts. 2. Pray with a sense of urgency, recognizing that all we need comes from God. 3. Pray with humility, acknowledging one’s proper place under God. 4. Having done these three things, pray expectantly; with an appreciation for the holiness of God that strikes terror, and the goodness of God that gives hope, these two being intimately bound up together.

A healthy spirituality is theologically informed. On the one hand we cannot let the musings of humans rule over our real experiences. But on the other hand, our real experiences should largely conform to the orthodox teachings of the church. If they do not, it may be acceptable, but probably is not. Regardless, it is not lightly that we stray from what the community has decided is normative. A figure such as Calvin is helpful in this respect. By returning to him in his own words, we gain access to a tradition that though sometimes hard, is enlightening to what may be some of the defiance’s of our own contemporary tradition. We have to ask ourselves, do we pray with a proper frame of mind? Do we pray with urgency, recognizing our desperate need for the life giver, and what is more, the life sustainer? Do we pray humbly, recognizing that though we in the West “have it all” we often lack what is most important. And finally, do we pray with fear, yet grateful expectation? Often we do not. If we are to mature in our spirituality, we need more than the latest best seller on the topic. We need a hard voice to call us to repentance, fear and awe, a place where our spiritual life can flourish.

6.11.2006

Update

So a lot has been happening since I last posted. Finals, job interviews, and alas the highlight of it all, graduation.

I’m still looking for a job, so if you know of something you think I would be a good fit for, let me know. (you can see my resume here)

Graduation was pretty cool. Dr. Mouw, the president of Fuller, did a great job orienting our praise toward Jesus Christ. Obviously, God deserves the praise for all his many blessings, graduation was a good time to do that.

Then today, I had the opportunity to preach for the first time in quite a while. It went really well, but in hindsight, as always, there is a lot I would do differently. That said, it went fine. The topic was lament.

In the next few days I’ll post a few of the things I was working on at the end of the quarter, including some of the points from that sermon.

5.30.2006

On Abortion

Enabling Conversation
A frame of Reference for Christians Who Disagree


Following are excerpts from my 10 page ethics paper.

Introduction
Presently, the topic of abortion and embryonic research are highly divisive. In the broader discussion, issues in world view hamper our ability to communicate. Often decisions about women’s rights or politics cloud our ability to think clearly about the beginning of life. Among Christians, assumptions about theological perspectives and biblical exegesis make their way into our judgment haphazardly and with little reflection, but once adopted are nearly impossible to dislodge. What I would like to do is offer a way forward for those who may disagree about the legality of abortion, the ethics of it, and the ways the discussion should be framed, but who agree on some broad principles. Those who can in any small way agree with my apriori assumptions, I hope will find the following template useful.

Some of the quotes I made use of:

Stevens, Supreme Court Justice
The State’s interests in the protection of an embryo – even if that interest is defined as “protecting those who will be citizens” – increases progressively and dramatically as the organisms capacity to feel pain, to experience pleasure, to survive and to react to its surroundings increases day by day. The development of a fetus -- and pregnancy itself -- are not static conditions, and the assertion that the government's interest is static simply ignores this reality.1

Beckwith
It is apparent then that the main dispute in the abortion debate does not involve different values, but disagreement about both the application of these values and the truth of certain facts. The abortion rights advocate does not deny that human beings have a fundamental right to life. He just believes that this right to life does not extend to the unborn...and their existence demands that another is asked to make significant non-obligatory sacrifices. The pro-life advocate does not deny that human persons have the liberty to make choices… He believes this liberty does not entail the right to choose abortion since such a choice conflicts with the life, liberty and interests of another.2

Gushee
Both full-personhood and potential-personhood views---and a variety of options that exist along a spectrum between them---demand that Christian disciples practice the welcoming and nurturing of human life. Likewise, a just society extends its respect and protection to the un-born, developing in complete vulnerability in their mothers’ womb. The fetus is certainly a form of life; it is a form of human life; it is (at least) developing into a human person. The burden of proof is certainly on anyone who would intervene it its life in order to destroy it. (italics mine)3

Conclusion
In our present state, the guardian has all the power. It is ultimately him or her that will make the decision regardless of what we say here. By putting the burden of proof on the guardian, I think I have better balanced the equation. It is not up to the being that has no voice, to prove their value or their worth. These things are inherent in their being. Having balanced the equation by putting the burden of proof for the destruction of fetal life on the guardian, I think we must be careful not to overbalance the equation, putting men and women in a place where they feel as if they can not make any decisions for fear of committing a grave and horrendous sin that no one would understand. We live in a sinful world. One in which we cannot depend too heavily on textbook ethics or theology to make our decisions for us in advance, nor on how we ‘feel’ at the moment, as if we lived in a vacuum. We must make our decisions prayerfully before an awesome God, weighing all factors.

I believe I have out lined a way for us to discuss our differences. I also hope that I have given us a template to lay over our real world decision making. By keeping this template in mind, we will all be able to make wiser, more ethical decisions, and we will be able to discuss our differences from a mutual frame of reference.

Though we do not agree on how one is to weigh the various competing rights, by keeping the interest’s of all relevant parties in mind, not just one side or another, we will live more graceful and peaceful lives.

Notes
1. Thornburgh, p. 778
2. Beckwith, p. 27
3. Stassen, p. 224

Bibliography
Baird, Robert M., and Stuart E. Rosenbaum, Ed. The Ethics of Abortion. Rev.. Buffalo NY: Prometheus Books,
1993.

Beckwith, Francis J. Politically Correct Death: Answering Arguments For Abortion Rights. Grand Rapids MI:
Baker Books, 1993.

O'Rourke, Kevin D., and Philip Boyle. Medical Ethics: Sources of Catholic Teaching. 3rd ed. Washington D.C.:
Georgetown University Press, 1999.

Stassen, Glen H., and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers
Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747 (1986)

Somewhat Naughty or Lousy Sense of Humor?

So that post two spots down, What I Learned in Ethics Class, my wife tells me it is officially not funny. I thought it was stinking hilarious (and kind of makes a point) but she says no. She is probably right, but before I admit defeet to the great one, lets put this to a vote.

Do I have:

A) A sophisticated sense of humor that is somewhat naughty.

B) A lousy sense of humor made worse by too much time in Fuller’s library.

Realise that this is a him vs. her battle, so guys, I need you on this one.

; )

5.28.2006

Happy Memorial Day

Another thing I’ll miss about Cali; on the spur of the moment we have decided to head up the coast for the night. I don’t know what your doing tomorrow, but I’ll be studying on the beach.

Happy Memorial Day

...and O' yah, if you get a chance, between your beer and your BBQ, don't forget why were taking the day off.

5.25.2006

What I learned in ethics class.

So that previous post mentioned double effect and unintended consequences. Let me illustrate what that means.

If you ever want to kill someone, first off, don't. Rather, kill the fly on their forehead with a bullet from your gun. (you may have to put a dead fly up there, but don't tell anyone.) I'm not sure precisely what would happen if you did kill a fly on a forehead with a bullet from a gun, but if anything negative happens, that's just unintended consequences, And one other thing, when the police come knocking, make sure you stick with your story about your intention of saving them from the deadily viruses deposited by that fly.

(this is just a joke people, don't have a cow... or call the ATF, although if you don't and something happens, and the police want to blame you... that's right, unintended concequenses... see your catching on.)

A little rant, and a good laugh

A couple things here. One, I really don’t like “feel-good” fwd’s, or most of the political one’s that are usually just half truths. I never trust them and I don’t have time to vet them.

But here is what I really don’t like: “Funny how we forward jokes to our whole address list, but are very careful who we pass e-mails that mention Jesus on to” or “pass this on to ten people you love, including the person who forwarded this to you to let them know how much you love them” How bout not. If you don’t know I love you already, I probably don’t. And the Jesus one’s, believe me, when ever I see that, I delete it, especially if it has that verse about if your ashamed of Jesus he will be ashamed of you. I will not have my arm twisted by a forward. Besides, if I think they are thoroughly annoying, how is someone who doesn’t care about our stupid evangelical sub-culture going to feel? I can count on one hand the number of fwd’s I’ve passed on.

Now that I've had my little tizzy, here is what I don’t mind getting forwarded, jokes.
And speaking of which, here is a good one.


THE GUYS' RULES

AT LAST A GUY HAS TAKEN THE TIME TO WRITE THIS ALL DOWN FINALLY , THE GUYS' SIDE OF THE STORY.

WE ALWAYS HEAR "THE RULES " FROM THE FEMALE SIDE. NOW HERE ARE THE RULES FROM THE MALE SIDE. THESE ARE OUR RULES!
PLEASE NOTE.. THESE ARE ALL NUMBERED "1" ON PURPOSE!

1. MEN ARE NOT MIND READERS.

1. LEARN TO WORK THE TOILET SEAT.
YOU'RE A BIG GIRL. IF IT'S UP, PUT IT DOWN.
WE NEED IT UP, YOU NEED IT DOWN.
YOU DON'T HEAR US COMPLAINING ABOUT YOU LEAVING IT DOWN.

1. SUNDAY SPORTS. IT'S LIKE THE FULL MOON
OR THE CHANGING OF THE TIDES.
LET IT BE.

1. SHOPPING IS NOT A SPORT.
AND NO, WE ARE NEVER GOING TO THINK OF IT THAT WAY.

1. CRYING IS BLACKMAIL.

1. ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT.
LET US BE CLEAR ON THIS ONE:
SUBTLE HINTS DO NOT WORK!
STRONG HINTS DO NOT WORK!
OBVIOUS HINTS DO NOT WORK!
JUST SAY IT!

1. YES AND NO ARE perfectly ACCEPTABLE ANSWERS TO ALMOST EVERY QUESTION.

1. COME TO US WITH A PROBLEM ONLY IF YOU WANT HELP SOLVING IT. THAT'S WHAT WE DO. SYMPATHY IS WHAT YOUR GIRLFRIENDS ARE FOR.

1. A HEADACHE THAT LASTS FOR 17 MONTHS IS A problem . SEE A DOCTOR

1. ANYTHING WE SAID 6 MONTHS AGO IS INADMISSIBLE IN AN ARGUMENT. IN FACT, ALL COMMENTS BECOME NULL AND VOID AFTER 7 DAYS.

1. IF SOMETHING WE SAID CAN BE INTERPRETED TWO WAYS AND ONE OF THE WAYS MAKES YOU SAD OR ANGRY, WE MEANT THE OTHER ONE .

1. YOU CAN EITHER ASK US TO DO SOMETHING
OR TELL US HOW YOU WANT IT DONE.
NOT BOTH.
IF YOU ALREADY KNOW BEST HOW TO DO IT, JUST DO IT YOURSELF.

1. CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS DID NOT NEED DIRECTIONS AND NEITHER DO WE.

1. ALL MEN SEE IN ONLY 16 COLORS, LIKE WINDOWS DEFAULT SETTINGS.
PEACH, FOR EXAMPLE, IS A FRUIT, NOT! A COLOR. PUMPKIN IS ALSO A FRUIT. WE HAVE no IDEA WHAT MAUVE IS.

1. IF IT ITCHES, IT WILL BE SCRATCHED.
WE DO THAT.

1. IF WE ASK WHAT IS WRONG AND YOU SAY "NOTHING," WE WILL ACT LIKE NOTHING'S WRONG.
WE KNOW YOU ARE LYING, BUT IT IS JUST NOT WORTH THE HASSLE.

1. IF YOU ASK A QUESTION YOU DON'T WANT AN ANSWER TO, EXPECT AN ANSWER YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR.

1. DON'T ASK US WHAT WE'RE THINKING AOBUT UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED TO DISCUSS SUCH TOPICS AS BASEBALL, THE SHOTGUN FORMATION OR GOLF.

1. YOU HAVE ENOUGH CLOTHES.

1. YOU HAVE TOO MANY SHOES.

1. I AM IN SHAPE. Round IS A SHAPE!

1. THANK YOU FOR READING THIS.
YES, I KNOW, I HAVE TO SLEEP ON THE COUCH TONIGHT;
BUT DID YOU KNOW MEN REALLY DON'T MIND THAT? IT'S LIKE CAMPING.

5.24.2006

How Do You Want to Die?

How do you want to die? That was the question in a film we watched in my Ethics of Death and Dying class.

Did you know that for many that are dying, the use of ever larger doses of morphine to control pain, expedites their death.

A basic principle of ethical reasoning is that like situations should be considered alike.

So consider two similar situations in which a drug is administered to alleviate suffering that eventually causes death. One is called morphine, the other is called physician assisted suicide.

Now yes I know about "double effect" and "unintended consequenses" and other viable arguments, but that's beside the point. The question is "how do you want to die?"

5.22.2006

On Illegal Immigration and World Economics

So my mother sent me a story about the children of illegal immigrants being ungrateful for the free breakfasts they get and things like that, which spured me on to write what follows. At first it was an e-mail addressed to her, but then I figured I would just post it, seeing as how I haven’t written anything about immigration on this blog. (If this is too long for you, go to the bottom to get my final take, though it won't make sense without everything in between)

Mother, the story is standard propaganda. Just as stories about immigrants dying of thirst in the desert is propaganda from the other side. They are probably true, but also probably inflated. More importantly, consider the source and the reason for writing. There are so many competing interests on the issue of immigration, I don’t know where to start.

First off this is about illegal immigration, not racist anti-immigration in general… and it’s also not. It’s also about the deficiencies of capitalism and our global economy. (Which doesn’t automatically mean I’m a communist, much as I might like to be.)

Just a few things. (Ok, so having finished this, I guess it’s not a few things.)

You can’t read the stories of Jesus and not care about the poor.

Christians need to have the primary identity in Christ, not in America, or Republicans, or Democrats or Kennedy, or Bush, or whatever.

As Christians we believe in both justice and mercy. Can anyone say “woman at the well”?

It is not about security. 9.11, Spain, London, these were all carried out by legal immigrants. So what if we have a terrorist watch list? The bosses just send a bomber over here that’s not on the list, and there is no shortage of those. They’ll fly over here on an American Airlines flight with all their paper work in order, walking right past the INS. Six months or six years later, they will carry out a terrorist attack. And if it is about security, I’ll grant you that we would be marginally safer with 10,000 more border guards and a fence. But at what price, and would it really work?

At the end of the day the border and illegal immigration is about money, more than anything else.

No matter how this goes, someone it going to benefit financially. The question is who. Arguably, more people benefit from the status quo than in any other arrangement. (Which in no way means that’s what I’m in favor of.) The illegal immigrants have moved up a few rungs so they are happy (not really, but…), even though their working conditions are terrible. Corporations make bigger profits, which translate into higher stock prices so the upper middle class and rich get richer, and some of those savings are passed on to everyone at the grocery store, so we all benefit.

Who isn’t happy? Poor Americans, who’s wages are driven lower. And the illegal immigrants, who though better off, are routinely taken advantage of.

That whole, “Americans don’t want to do these jobs” thing. They probably would if the price was right, but then you would be paying twice as much for your produce, and that is something we just can’t tolerate! Better that a few million families be split up, dad in the fields of the US, mom and kids back home than I pay even a nickel more for my oranges.

If you are barely making it here in the States as an illegal, and you can’t go to the authorities if you are abused, and your boss realizes this… think about it. How many illegal immigrant women have been raped, or men for that matter? Now you can say, “go home, and it won’t happen” but if we stop and think about it, we know this isn’t true. Many of these people would be in similar circumstances back home, different dynamics, but still poor and living hand to mouth.

(Jesus still cares about the poor, that hasn’t changed in the time it’s taken to read this far)

On this rule of law thing. Would those that advocate for “rule of law” do so if the law were open borders? Somehow, I don’t think so. Any anti-abortion advocate realizes that laws don’t necessarily represent morality or wisdom. That said, I’m not in favor of breaking them to do what is right. At least, that is my stance as an American. But if I was born a poor Guatemalan, you bet I would be headed to the US, consequences and “morality” be damned.

What this issue really highlights is our broken international finance and labor market/economy. This is about more than just the border between Mexico and the U.S. Of course its not broken by Wall Street’s standards, things are humming along just fine there. A few million, getting rich on the backs of the billions working our mines, fields, brothels (usually not by choice), and hotels; here and around the world. Again this is not just about illegal immigration between the US and Mexico, it’s about the haves and the have nots the world over.

The question for Christians is so what? There is a lot more I could say, but I’ll just leave it at this, focusing on the illegal immigration thing.

At the end of the day I’m in favor of helping the poor, no matter where they come from or what they have done. And I’m in favor of tougher illegal immigration standards, and I’m in favor of more legal immigrants, and I’m in favor of raising the standard of living for all of America’s poor. Full Stop. (as the British would say.)