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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Does Thanksgiving's First Mother Want Us to Know?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and Americans of all faiths or no faith will come together to feast and perhaps reflect on their thankfulness for the blessings this nation provides. As I've said before, the very concept of being thankful requires someone to thank. Someone who had a keen understanding of this is also the one who more than any other is responsible for our annual celebration of Thanksgiving, though it's someone you have probably never heard of. The Mother of Thanksgiving is Sarah Josepha Hale.

Sarah Josepha Hale was a poet, an editor, and a writer. Every school child has heard her nursery rhyme "Mary had a Little Lamb", but few know that it was this author who was determined to see Thanksgiving reach beyond its traditional New England roots and become an official holiday for all of the United States. She campaigned tirelessly and her efforts proved successful when her editorials and letters reached President Lincoln. On October 3, 1863 Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens…  offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience." 1
Hale was pleased with the recognition of an annual day of thanks. She also had a true understanding of the danger that such a holiday could become focused on the trivial.  In her book Traits of American Life, published in 1835, she paints a thoroughly modern picture:
It takes but little to make one happy when the heart is right: but a repining disposition never yet enjoyed a Thanksgiving. There is always some accident or occurrence that mars the festival. The turkey is over-roasted, or the sermon has been too long; or, perchance, the ball-dress of a young lady has not been sent home; or the hair-dresser has failed in finishing the beau; — many are made wretched by trifles light as these. But the heart is not in such troubles. It is sheer selfishness that makes the grief and vexations of which two-thirds of the world complain. It is chagrin, not sorrow, people feel; and they endure it, because they will not cultivate the disposition to be happy.2
In either 1835 or 2012, Americans worry about the food presentation rather than God's deliverances and blessings. They concern themselves with the latest fashion rather than humble penitence. And they seek personal happiness rather than obedience. Of course Hales prescience is underscored when she writes "There is small danger of being starved in our land of plenty; but the danger of being stuffed is imminent… You may indulge any childish propensity with less injury to the intellect than gluttony."
May we humbly remember our God in Thanksgiving and reflect on the true meaning of why this holiday is set aside. God bless you and your family this Thanksgiving.
"Many are the sayings of the wise,
In ancient and in modern books enroll'd,
Extolling patience as the truest fortitude.
But with the afflicted, in his pangs, their sound
Little prevails, or rather seems a tone,
Harsh and of dissonant mood from his complaint;
Unless he feels within
Some source of consolation from above.
Secret refreshings that repair his strength.
And fainting spirits uphold." 3
-Sarah Josepha Hale.
If you would like to know more about the life of Sarah Josepha Hale, page through this article from The Pilgrim Hall Museum.

References

1. "President Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of October 3, 1863 (Presidential Proclamation 106)., 10/03/1863 - 10/03/1863", National Archives. http://research.archives.gov/description/299960. Accessed Nov. 21, 2012.
2. Hale, Sarah Josepha. Traits of American Life. 
Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & A. Hart, 1835. 210. Available online at https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=hjrY9eWC4lIC&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&authuser=0&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA210
3. Ibid. Page 226-227.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Should a Christian Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?

I've been hearing from a lot of Christians that they will either choose to sit out this election or not vote for president because neither choice is a candidate they consider appropriate for the position. They believe that their consciences would be violated by voting for "the lesser of two evils." Some hold that because neither are conservative Christians they therefore shouldn't be considered. Some wish to vote for the Libertarian candidate because they believe in Libertarian ideals. Some people are promoting the idea that Christians write in "Jesus" as their choice for president! (I would hope that any Christian with half a mind would never choose that last option, as it is infantile and foolish.  God is not pleased with such actions.)

On the other points, I can understand some people's misgivings. But I think we need to better understand just what is happening during a presidential election and why voting is crucially important and possibly even commanded by God for all faithful Christians.

First, I think that the idea of the "lesser of two evils" has no merit. I actually think it doesn't apply in the U.S. political process.  Our entire political system is not structured to find a single position on all issues.  It by nature takes into account those who differ, as they are represented and their disagreements should be included and weighed in the discussion.

The point of American politics is much like football; it is a game of inches.  One strives towards his goal line, but understands that forward progress is better than backward progress.  That's why I currently oppose promoting legislation that bans all abortions.  I am personally against elective abortion in any form except when the life of the mother is in jeopardy.  However, to seek to advance legislation at this point would actually set the pro-life movement back and more babies would be lost as a result. The goal isn't the laws; it’s the lives of the children at stake.  This is why compromise is a key part of congress passing laws, something I think both sides of the aisle have forgotten.  Ideology is great; it gives you a goal to focus on. But any team that is only throwing to the end zone will soon have their game figured out and be quickly defeated.

Choosing a president, a senator, or any elected official plays out the same way.  The office of president is especially powerful in this aspect.  Either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will lead our nation for the next four years, there's no escaping that.  Gary Johnson and other candidates may have been seen as more palatable, but they simply won't win. So, I would urge you to vote for the candidate that you deem more closely aligned to your goals and beliefs as a Christian. We choose presidents, not kings, and we are able to re-choose every four years for the express purpose that no one man will ever be the candidate that is perfect.

Lastly, I would note that in Romans 13 God tells us that the governing authorities are provided the sword by God to do good. We tend to read that verse and think of the president or the government writ large as that governing authority.  However, in our nation it is we the people that are the ultimate seat of authority.  We decide who is president and who sits in congress.  That means that God has given us the sword—the sword of the vote—to wield for the good. As a believer I think we would be remiss in our duties if we were to keep it in its sheath because we disliked both candidates.  On some issues Romney and Obama are close.  On other issues, they are not.  There are more issues where both have sought to reflect the views of their constituency when in the past they have held a different view.  (That last item is not a "flip-flop" or pandering as is often portrayed in the press.  I think it is appropriate as long as the candidate keeps his word and actually does what he promised after the election.) But there are enough clear differences between the two to know what they are and to be able to make a choice.

I urge you to exercise your sword, for God does not give it in vain.

Friday, November 02, 2012

In Online Dialogues, Asking Questions Is Crucial!

Yesterday, I tweeted a link to a story about two British banks pulling their support from the pro-homosexual group Stonewall's annual awards dinner because one of the "awards" they are presenting is the bigot award, in which they deride people that oppose the homosexual political agenda. My original tweet was:

Asking questions as an effective apologetics tool

British pro-homosexual group creates "bigot" award, despite objections from sponsors. So who's being bigoted now? http://bit.ly/ScyR6Y

One response I received was from Adam Preston, who on his Twitter page describes himself as "atheist. bibliophile. interested in military history, secularism, evolutionary psychology, LGBT rights. member of Labour Party & National Secular Society."  Below is our entire exchange.  I think this is helpful in showing why asking questions can play a key role in discussions with others.

@adam_preston: Calling a bigot a bigot is not bigoted.

@comereason: What're the essential attributes of a bigot? People throw these terms around too much without clearly knowing what they mean.

@adam_preston: I'd say wanting to deny equal rights to LGBT people because of your religion constitutes bigotry

@comereason: That's not what I asked. What are the necessary conditions to be labeled a bigot in any sense? Don't deflect the issue.

@adam_preston: Inflexibile intolerance and prejudice towards a group of people. I think that applies to most vocal anti-equalmarriage people

@comereason: By using prejudice you beg the question. Regardless, I am intolerant of serial killers. Is that bigotry?

@adam_preston: Was expecting that response. Although usually it's paedophiles, not serial killers. Intolerance of serial killers is RATIONAL

@comereason: So if the intolerance against a person is rational, it is not bigotry. Is that your view?

@adam_preston: In the sense that intolerance of child abusers & serial killers is not bigotry, while racism and sexism are, yes.

@comereason: Can you tell me why racism or sexism is irrational while the others aren't? What makes one belief rational and another isn't?

@adam_preston: Child abuse and murder are clearly harmful to individuals and society. How is equality harmful and how are gays dangerous?

@comereason: Is physical harm the only basis for rational intolerance? Can I be intolerant of cheaters or drunks if they harm no one else?

@adam_preston: Intolerance of them would be wrong, yes. Believing it's wrong to CHEAT is one thing. Intolerance of all who have is different

@comereason: I completely agree!! Being intolerant of the actions of cheating is different than being bigoted against the cheaters.

After my last statement Adam didn't respond again.  I think he could see the implication of his position that one can be against a behavior and not be considered a bigot, even if that behavior doesn't cause direct harm to another. This is exactly the position that Christians have taken for a while now.
Do I think the above exchange has changed Adam's mind and he will stop labeling those who are for traditional marriage bigots?  No, I don't.  But it may help clarify the issue in the minds of others reading the exchange and it does allow me to hold Adam to his own standard if he confronts me again.
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