ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:
Recently a pastor kicked out all members who voted for Kerry and did not repent. Should politics and religion ever meet like this?
Neither Left Nor Right
Your question can be broken out in two ways. "Should politics and religion ever meet like this?" No. "Should politics and religion ever meet?" Absolutely.
I read this news story from two sources: the e-mail service of a nationally syndicated secular newspaper, and a Baptist newswire. Whatever we want to say about the liberal bias in the press is a separate issue from this particular story. The Baptists telling on themselves have divulged a complete story that, from what I could tell, could hardly be spun any other way than what the secular press ran.
In other words, this power-tripping preacher is his own worst enemy—and the worst enemy to the witness of the Christian gospel. That secular newswires are reporting it is not blameworthy of them because this is a real news story about the state of the political conversation in the United States, and what they are reporting, from what I could tell, are the facts.
Now for my spin. If there is one place left in the United States where persons of divergent political opinion should be able to safely congregate in mutual respect, it is the sanctuaries of the evangelical movement. Many mainline congregations have intentionally cultivated atmospheres to alienate anyone of a moderately conservative persuasion, while the Catholic Church has its own issues.
(Hint to American Catholics: If you "protest" the authority of the Pope to continue issuing rulings you don't like pertaining to divorce and contraception and women priests, rulings on which you, rather than the Pope, represent innovation and a break with the established teaching and dogmas of the Church, that makes you a "Protestant" in spirit. At the risk of sounding sarcastic to 60 million Americans, the 2/3 of American Catholics who don't think the Pope should have the power he does, this fellow Protestant would like to welcome you all into the fold of the Reformation.)
The evangelical movement, on the other hand, adhering to the Bible as the standard for faith and practice in its churches, has the opportunity to testify to a more profound hope than that on which the debate between Democrats and Republicans is centered.
The state of the debate in international affairs, is that Democrats support multi-lateral imperialism by maintaining alliances with the traditional European colonial powers and their primary front organization, the United Nations; Republicans support building new coalitions of third-rate powers which will acquiesce to America's unilateral aggression. At home, tax, entitlement, criminal enforcement and immigration policies are so complex the parties really do not divide along lines: Pretty much everyone wants to keep the gravy train going, and believe they can do that by making scape-goats out of drug addicts and fruit-pickers. If anything divides the parties domestically, it boils down to this: The tree-hugging wing of the Democrats have hijacked the party to thwart progress and to bring stagnation and job loss for the sake of preserving some bird's nests. Whereas, the Armageddon Wing of the Republicans have hijacked their party into promising open season on forests and rivers, and would strip-mine the Grand Canyon if they thought the copper was worth it.
And then you have the sex issues. Gays should be recruiting third-graders with lifestyle instruction videos, versus, Gays should be executed.
As you can see, the current state of the political discourse leaves many evangelical believers torn concerning how their faith should inform their political convictions. "Gosh," thinks the typical "born again" follower of Jesus: "On the one hand I really don't think Jesus would want my third-grader exposed to enticements in the public school classroom by gay lifestyle advocates, but on the other hand, I don't think Jesus would want homosexuals lined up and shot either. What would Jesus do?" These questions are nuanced and agonizing for evangelicals.
It is the ones for whom all of these issues are cut-and-dried, who end up reported in the press and viewed as representative of the movement. For a Baptist Preacher to sell his membership out to the neo-conservatives in a McCarthy-ist power trip is short-sighted, and tantamount to a betrayal of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It sickens me.
Millions of Bible-believing Christians have with conscience and conviction rejected the neo-conservative vision of the 43rd Presidential administration. There is a place for them; if it isn't your current church because of this kind of ego-play by its pastor, then try the church down the street. You will find one eventually.
ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:
How can I make my kids' visit to their grandparents (my parents) more enjoyable? I know part of that lies within my parents, but they live in a retirement community where kid-oriented fun is on short demand.
That depends on the age of the children and the age and energy of their grandparents. The main thing is to surround the visit to grandparents with the aura of fun and special privilege, where the children can know that some rules which center the routine at home, do not apply during a special fun time with Grandpa and Grandma. That might mean an extra cookie during snack, or a whole extra snack time, or getting to drink some real pop (even if it's just a little bit).
Also, provide three kinds of activities: One kind keeps the kids entertaining themselves, the second time has everyone involved together, and the third kind has the grandparents having special time with the kids. For the first, have a toy bag ready with some fun toys, but not the absolute favorite toys. Perhaps these are even toys that are kept with Grandpa and Grandma so that the kids can look forward to playing with them. Videos of something new and something favorite should be included as well.
For the second, a tradition of doing a big jigsaw puzzle has helped many family reunions go along swimmingly. There are also many board-games and parlor games. Kids should always be free to excuse themselves if they run out of steam on the family activity and want to play with a toy or watch t.v.
For the third, have grandparents take the kids to a park or a museum, or even to the store where the kids can choose candy bars. For overnighters, let the grandparents read to the children before bed-time.
Aside from making certain your children are exercising their manners, do not be rigid. If you are uptight, your parents will tell you to relax, and then you will resent your parents for undermining your authority and spoiling your kids and blah blah blah. Get over it. Kids and their grandparents want to have fun with each other, so let the visits be special and come prepared.