October 2008


Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.  In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.  (Titus 2:6-8, NIV)

Self-control gets a lot of press time in the first six verses of the second chapter of Titus.  On a theological level, I believe that self-control would most appropriately be labeled a response to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ rather than something that needs to be done in order to earn salvation.  Thus encouraging young men to be self-controlled is simply a reminder of their sanctification in Christ.

On a practical note, self-control yields earthly as well as spiritual benefits.  As noted in an earlier post, it has been my experience that young students fall into basically two categories.  Those that exhibit some degree of self-control and those that don’t.  Obviously, a youngster is still learning about what it means to be self-controlled, but it is clear that there are those who are learning and practicing the concept of self-control and then there are those that are not.

A child who is being taught, and is expected to learn, self-controlled behavior has a distinct advantage over the child who has no similar expectations in place.  For all of those in our culture who tout education as a means of escaping a life of drudgery and poverty (read: salvation), where are they when it comes to educating a child in the ways of a self-controlled life?

A boy who is learning self-control is able to sit still, focus, and learn.  A boy is not learning self-control can’t get past sitting still.  If he isn’t able to sit still, how can he focus?  If he can’t focus, how can he learn?  This may be oversimplifying the process of learning, but I’ve seen enough of both types of boys to draw my own conclusions without the benefit of extensive, costly, and typically pointless scientific studies.  The child that enters the classroom with less, or no, self-control than his peers will suffer at the hands of the very same system that claims to offer him a way of hope.

I digress…back to Titus…

Older men (in this case Titus) are to set an example of what is good.  How many men set examples of what is good in our culture?  Turn on the TV and you’ll think that there are no men left who know how to set a good example.  Sports heroes and movie superstars are the most prevalent examples of those who set examples and typically the news is focused on their behavior when it is bad, not good.  To be certain, there must be a least a few men (and women) who exhibit good behavior in both of those industries, but we don’t hear much about them unless you do a little research.

Unfortunately, our culture is obsessed with the idea of the hypocrite.  Men who speak out against immoral behavior are carefully observed to see if they are walking the walk, or just talking the talk.  And when one man is captured by the temptations he faces, the world is quick to pounce and shout, “Hypocrite!”  Sadly, this shouting beats back any serious discussion of the behavior and whether or not it is actually immoral.  Instead, we are lead to assume that the behavior that was considered to be immoral by this man was really, in fact, just a lifestyle “choice” and it isn’t necessary to decry it as immoral because there is no such thing as an absolute standard by which to measure morality.

Then again, Paul warns us of the importance of setting an example that is good.  At the conclusion of the seventh verse, Paul instructs us to “show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned.”  So, the poor bloke who spoke up about immoral behavior and then succumbs to it in the end, learns Paul’s lesson the hard way.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18b, NIV) is the only way to live a life that comes as close to pure as we can while living in the sinful, earthly vessels we call our bodies.

It is a goal of the Christian to be above reproach and to live a life of speaking and doing all good things in advance of the message of the good news of Jesus Christ.  The goal is notable because by living the way God intended through faith in Christ, we might silence the critics of the faith for they will not have anything bad to say about the faith because of what we do.  Hence, self-control is paramount to the lives we lead as believers.

The good news is that our behavior does not change who God is and what He plans to do for us.  I can strive to live as Paul has instructed me in his letter to Titus, but it is still God who will complete the work.  Self-control is not just a response to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, but the act of yielding to the presence of the Spirit who will then direct my life on the path of God’s perfect will.

MW

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Just wondering if any of my readers can:

 

MW

When the liberal establishment circles the wagons to defend one of its own it hurts everyone.

Clearly there is crime in politics.  We’ve seen it time and time again.  It happens on both sides of the political spectrum and everywhere in between (or maybe especially in between).  Typically, it is the Republican, or conservative politician, who gets the most air time for crimes committed.  When a Democrat commits a crime, it may get reported, but it certainly doesn’t attract too much attention on the national stage.  Additionally, it doesn’t matter what the crime may be, the Republicans are always vilified and run out of office if at all possible.  Conversely, whatever the crime a Democrat commits is easily brushed aside and typically has no bearing on whether or not they should stay in office.

No big deal, right?  Well, from the perspective of a sin-sick human nature, this is all par for the course.  From the perspective of keeping our country great and on solid and stable ground it raises some concern. 

A quick aside.  If you believe that the human race is infected with an incurable illness called sin, then you have to recognize that crime will happen and criminals will do their best to get away with it.  Defeating crime is a matter of much debate, but the best you’ll ever be able to do is diminish its pervasiveness here on earth through various measures of deterrence.  If you believe that human nature is basically good, then you think that crime in the political arena is related to the political ideas held by a politician and the nurturing that a particular politician received along their path to office.  I don’t intend to argue about Original Sin, but it is important to note that those two different lines of thinking are going to be at odds when it comes to solving the problem of crime in politics.

Now, why is the covering up, whitewashing, or ingnoring of crimes committed by Democrats and other liberal politicians bad for our country?  It stifles constructive debate on the ideas and ideals that direct the course of our nation.  Making it hard for criminals to continuing in public office is great as long as it is applied to everyone without prejudice.  When it tends to tilt toward one end of the ideological spectrum it cheats a whole set of ideals and their proponents from their ability to engage in political contests.  The guilt of association becomes a large stick with which to suppress serious discussion.  The smearing of character of an entire party, or ideological position, is a quick way to close the mouths of would be dissenters in a public forum.  By keeping the pressure on Republican crimes while largely ignoring Democrat crimes, it erodes the balance of political thought found in the marketplace of ideas.

Politics is often referred to as a game.  Fine.  It’s a game that most citizens find despicable, both in their own work place scenarios or the world of public office.  But with every game there are rules to be followed.  Rules that should be sacrosanct and difficult to change have become very malleable and the real contest of modern politics seems to be who can change the rules of the game in order to outmaneuver their opponent.  The shifting nature of the rules of politics has undermined the integrity of our country and even though it is still the greatest country in the world it faces a serious challenge from those whose only passion is power.

The lack of an absolute set of rules by which we monitor our public officials, we practically invite people with sub-standard scruples who are only interested in becoming more powerful to participate in the political arena while making it nearly impossible for anyone with a genuine interest in public welfare to get their foot in the door.

The behavior of the Left is this regard is not only unfortunate, it is often willfully destructive to the ideas set forth at the founding of this country.

MW

I just viewed this hit piece on the Republican party (more accurately, a hit piece on Republican values):

After enduring a few minutes of shameless pandering to gullible liberals I perused other areas of the website and found this little snippet jumping out at me:

Most political news in America is influenced or controlled by the Republican right, who want you to falsely believe that the media has a liberal bias.

So tell me…who really controls the media?  Is it the liberals that right-wing radio talk show hosts tell me?  Or is it the conservatives of the Republican right?

I make no qualms about being partisan here, but I honestly don’t understand how you can actually believe that the major media outlets are controlled by the “Republican Right”, or right-wingers in general.  I am not a student of the news and this is one of the things that I find infuriating about the public discourse on the matter of media.  I’ve read (and heard) thoughtful commentary on how the media is largely biased toward the liberal side of the political spectrum.  When I read (or hear) comments about how the media is conservatively biased, the arguments seem shallow and reactionary (I hear choruses from the left shouting, “I’m not biased, you are!” or “I know you are, but what am I?”).

As far as I’ve noticed, the only major TV news outlet that has an even remotely conservative tilt is Fox.  The others just don’t come close to being balanced.  Their anchors and commentators come across sounding reasonable and balanced, because they are bland and non-judgmental in their presentation.  Unfortunately, the research that is done prior to appearing on screen is where all of the bias occurs.

Take for example the Joe the Plumber story compared to the Bill Ayers story.  We know a lot about both individuals.  The former because he had the audacity to have a conservative/libertarian type of question for Barack Obama that didn’t come in the normal bad-guy clothing of a scary Republican or talk show host.  The latter because he has a well documented criminal past.  To my knowledge there is no relationship between Joe the Plumber and John McCain so Joe’s influence on McCain’s presidential policies is probably limited at best to the sound bite “Spread the Wealth”.  However, we know that there is a close relationship with Obama and Ayers and that some of the influence of that relationship may even reveal to us some of what Obama’s policies might look like as president.  The first relationship dominates the major news outlets for days (even a week) ostensibly to get all the facts about who Joe the Plumber is and how his views impact the country.  The second relationship is largely ignored by the major news outlets and is only reported because the McCain campaign has actually mentioned the connections on the campaign trail (which is being over-reported, perhaps).

How does that figure into the claims of bias on both sides?  Like I said, I honestly can’t seem how people really believe that there is a generally conservative bias of the news media.  Interestingly, the aforementioned web site encourages readers to check out their news sources in more than one place (especially not TV).  When they list sources to investigate it’s one newspaper (the New York Times, of course), one radio program (NPR, of course), and two Internet sites (the BBC and the barely disguised leftist group, PIRG – Public Interest Research Group).  In other words, check out all the facts, but here is a select list of (left-leaning) places to get your facts.

How can the news be both conservatively and liberally biased?  Only in the minds of liberals who have given up thinking for themselves (probably during a mandatory diversity/sensitivity training course at college – in fairness to colleges, many high schools are helping to train liberals at a much younger age).

MW

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.  (Titus 2:3-5, NIV)

So, men are supposed to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, sound in faith, sound in love, and sound in endurance.  As for women, Paul instructs them to be reverant and to teach what is good.  He also warns them to stay away from slandering (probably implying gossiping) and drinking too much.  It seems to me that Paul expects older women to be first-rate teachers and that the path to becoming a first-rate teacher is to love, be pure, be busy, be kind, and be subject to their husbands.  So, what does all that mean?  I’m not a woman, but I don’t think that necessarily precludes me from weighing in on the matter.  After all, God designated Eve to be Adam’s helper.  It seems only fair that because we (men) need help that we should be able to comment on the helper and her role.

Love their husbands and children

This is easier said than done.  I realize that most men, even if they are mostly lovable, are at times downright impossible to love.  I wish that I could say I’ve broken the mold, but I’m afraid I haven’t and I know I have my share of moments that might classify my lovability around a 1.2 on a scale of 10.  Seriously, it isn’t always easy to love your mate and your children.  Is the list that follows “love their husbands and children” a how-to of loving?

Be Self-Controlled and Pure

As a teacher I’ve noticed that the behavior that has the greatest impact on a child’s ability to learn is the ability to be self-controlled.  With it, any child, no matter what the talent for learning, has the ability to be successful.  Without it, no child is capable of successful learning.  In the general sense, self-control implies doing things that are right at a time when you’re inclined to do things that are wrong (or at least not right).  How it applies more specifically to women, I haven’t really thought through.  Certainly, it would mean refraining from sexual activity prior to marriage (or outside of marriage once there).  This fits with the additional exhortation to be pure.  I imagine that it would apply to gossiping, as well.  I’m sure that exercising self-control may take a different shape for different people.  For those of us prone to being angry, one special area of focus for being self-controlled would be during our moments of anger.

Be Busy

One of the characteristics of my wife that I have valued more than anything is her busyness.  She isn’t a workaholic, but neither is she a sloth (which I am prone to be if not on guard).  It seems right for a woman to keep herself busy.  I say, “it seems” because I am not going to pretend to be an expert in psychology.  In my casual observation of women in their marriages and families is that those that keep busy tend to provide a stable environment for raising a family.  Things are in order, relationships both near and far are taken care of, and children learn from watching her work.

Be Kind

It’s easy to be bitter.  Bitterness can creep in with just about anything.  I clean and no one appreciates it.  I cook and no one says thank you.  I wrote her a note and she hasn’t written back.  I’m not sure that we’re inclined to be kind as humans.  In fact, I think that no matter how well we learned as children to be kind, I think it’s something that we need to constantly work on.  Is more unique to women than men?  I don’t know, but I think that our culture massively underestimates the influence that women play in their families.  If a mother allows herself to be bitter, or hold a grudge, it begins to affect everyone and everything in the home.  The same is true for men, but men seem to have an easier time compartmentalizing their lives so as not to have an immediate impact on the family (this could be why men are prone to starting affairs because they are able to “shut off” the relationships that they have and focus on who they are with at that moment).  When mom has something bothering her, it almost immediately plays itself out in the family dynamics. 

Be subject to one’s husband

Ahhh…here’s the hard one.  What do I say that won’t come back to bite me?  I don’t know, but I know that this is an important truth and it ought to be discussed.  But in today’s culture it tends to be a very flammable topic.  We all have to be subject to some one.  Ultimately, that some one is God.  The family unit is God’s design for a microcosm of His kingdom.  The family is run by one person, the husband.  The family is subject to one person, the husband.  The husband, in turn, must answer directly to God.  A responsibility that I’m sure many men have tried to shirk.  I know that I am intimidated by that responsibility.  I also know that when my wife “subjects” herself to me (usually in the form of encouragement) it make a huge difference in my attitude about my role and I am able to fulfill my responsibilites and I feel confident at the same time.

…so that no one will malign the word of God.

It all comes back to God.  If men and women function properly in the behavior and their relationships with one another, God will be glorified.  I imagine that God will also bless the relationships of men and women who seek to do His will by obeying Paul’s commands in addition to God’s commands throughout the Bible (should Bible be capitalized?).  Maligning God’s word is a passtime of many in our culture and believers could be perfect in their behavior and still not change that attitude.  But as much as we are able, it is fitting and right to obey God through His word that we might live a life that is pleasing to Him and glorifies His holy name.

Who ever yells the loudest or has the best sound bite smear wins in the politics of personality.

I will try and make this my last post about personality in politics.

It has been my experience that when talking about politics, people tend to raise their voices.  Why?  Here are some of my thoughts on why this happens:

  • It makes you sound more confident about your position.
  • It makes you sound like you are more of an authority on the matter.
  • It makes you sound passionate.
  • It’s a relatively polite way of saying (without really saying) your debating opponent is wrong and that you are right.
  • It is an effort to intimidate your debating opponent.

Well, take your pick.  Either way, it is more about style than substance.  Living in a predominantly liberal state I have the distinct pleasure of seeing Obama signs and bumper stickers everywhere.  When I happen to bring up anything remotely political, I get one of two responses.  The first is a sheepish answer that indicates I don’t really want to talk about it.  The second is generally a very self-assured liberal answer that seems to indicate, I’m voting for Obama, aren’t you?

I don’t mind disagreeing with people (although it has taken me a long time to get to that point), but I do mind not being able to disagree in a manner that allows a reasonable conversation.  Because I am what I consider to be a conservative Republican, I can only write about this from my perspective, but I am sure that much of what I have to say is observed from the liberal Democrats point of view as well.

I have found that whenever I enter a discussion about politics with an Obama supporter (who is likely a left-leaning individual), it invariably starts and ends with discussing the personalities of the two candidates.  I find myself trying to acknowledge what they are saying in order to prove that I am listening to what they are saying while I try to steer the discussion to something of more substance.  Unfortunately, that is not where we spend most time in discussion.  A typical conversation might go like this:

MW: What do you think about Obama’s foreign policy positions?

Conversational Partner: I think he wants to improve America’s standing in the world.

MW: Ok. What about the possibility of him meeting with the president of Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela without precondition?

CP: He didn’t really mean it.  And besides, if we talk to them, then we can reach agreements on how to get along better.

MW: But he said it, and hasn’t really changed his official position.  Won’t that validate the types of regimes that are dangerous to our national security?

CP: John McCain is too old to be president, we’ll end up having Sarah Palin as president and she doesn’t have any experience.

MW: (Quizzical look on my face as I try to understand where the conversation went and how to pick it up again.)  Huh?

Some of the problem is that conversations don’t seem to have the luxury of time.  Time to flesh out the details of positions and ideas.  Instead, we try to communicate in sound bites regurgitating the latest from our favorite news provider or commentator.  That’s too bad because people are worth talking to, not shouting at.  It’s one of the features of our country that make us a great nation that hasn’t devolved into bloody confrontations every time there is a national election.

Well, enough of my time and thoughts have been printed here.

MW

Okay, so I didn’t watch the whole debate again (family always seems to interfere with national politics, for shame), but I still want to throw out my two cents about what I did see.

I came in at the end of the “attacking” that was being done.  It’s unfortunate that McCain seemed uncomfortable with his attacks because what he had to say has substance and I think a significant bearing on what kind of policies Obama would attempt if elected president.  I hope that his discomfort didn’t detract too much from what he was highlighting about Obama’s political “training”.  If nothing else, however, it may have brought some things to the national stage that may never have made the light of day because of a media blackout on all things detrimental to the Obama campaign.  (An anecodotal example: when talking with people about the election and listening to various details about Todd Palin and abuse of his wife’s office, I asked if they had heard about ACORN’s woes with the feds.  Surprisingly, they had not heard of their problems, nor had they even heard of ACORN.  I know my conversational partner watches CNN and CBS for informational updates, and this is a good example of the aforementioned media blackout.)

I haven’t declared “winners” from these debates in the past because they aren’t really debates and it has been my perception that neither candidate is really saying much of anything.  However, based on what I saw of the debate last night, I will try and make a case for McCain being the winner.  At the very least, I think McCain may have done more for himself last night than Obama did for his campaign.

Beside from looking (and sounding) a little awkward next to the silver-tongued Senator from Illinois, McCain was clearly pointing to most of the problems that we face as being a result of Democratic-type initiatives (i.e. big government).  If nothing else, his answers to some of the questions, especially the Roe v. Wade quetion, were more genuine than Sen. Obama’s.  McCain tried, only partly successfully, to point out Obama’s double speak and expose Sen. Obama’s most left-leaning positions.  I say partially successful, because again, McCain just seemed uncomfortable being aggressive with his opponent and that may have played poorly with undecided voters.

I don’t have time now to delve into the specifics of the portion of the debate that I saw last night, but I will finish with this…what happened to the oratorical skills of Obama during is closing remarks?  He seemed completely flustered.  Did anyone else notice that, or am I just projecting something on to what actually happened?  McCain stumbled a bit in his closing remarks, but no one (or almost no one) expects him to be a grand orator.  Obama, on the other hand, seemed ill-prepared to make his closing remarks.

Well, it should be an interesting three weeks.

MW

PS And now, I want to try out the new polling feature!

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