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THE POLITICAL SCENE

BY STEVE DUNN
Tomorrow is the 4th of July -Independence Day for America.  A secular holiday observed in this nation but one with important religious implications.  We but need to turn to the Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776.
In pursuit of their freedom from the rule of England and the tyranny of King George III, our Founding Fathers staked their right to that freedom on the gift of a sovereign God.  The secularization of America has attempted to push such a belief from the public square.  In so doing we forget the admonishment of our first President, George Washington in his Farewell Address.
Very little time will be spent on any kind of serious reflection on the Fourth.  In some concert somewhere they will sing “God bless America,” but sadly more out of sentimental tradition than earnest prayer.  Baseball, picnics and barbecues,, trips to the beach and the pool, fireworks and NASCAR, ice cream and other sweets, and no small amount of drunkenness will take precedence over prayer and any acknowledgement of the deeper spiritual truth that national and political freedom will always will always be dependent on guns and vigilance, human sacrifice and resolve.  But like all other realities of humanity–these can pass away all too quickly by regime change, political greed, or terrorist onslaught.
There is only one freedom which can endure and it is not dependent upon a human liberator, but a divine one.  The apostle Paul tells us of it:
 This Fourth we should indeed give thanks for the men and women whose sacrifice has helped us be free as a nation and whose vigilance protects that freedom.  But ultimately, the only freedom that can endure is that which is grounded in the Spirit of the Lord and obedience to His leadership and dependent upon His power.
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By Steve Dunn

Watching the news lately, I have grown tired, very tired. I am tired of ….

Politicians who demonize people and political positions with which they disagree.

Politicians who spin or even ignore the truth that is inconvenient to them but who insist on

accountability and even punishment for others who do the same.

Politicians who believe that they are above the need for civility and respect towards others.

Politicians who demand absolute conformity and support from people who work for them even

when they are wrong.

Politicians who put their mouth in motion before their mind is in gear.

Politicians who don’t know when to simply keep their thoughts to themselves

Politicians who worship political correctness but who believe people who do not agree with

their definition should ostracized.

Politicians who believe that character is a private matter.

Politicians who do not know how to choose their battles.

Politicians who believe people should never question their motives or integrity.

Politicians who believe they are always right.

Political supporters who support these “leaders” unquestioningly and pounce on those who dare to question their pet politician.

Political supporters who always assume the other side is lying.

Political supporters who justify these actions by saying the other side does it, too.

Neither these political leaders nor their uncritical supporters do our nation a service.

BY STEVE DUNN

The news was ugly today.  A little three year old boy shot in a road rage incident.  He died.  In what is suspected to be an Isis terrorist attack, a large truck plows into an open air Christmas market in Berlin killing nine and injuring many others.  The Russian ambassador to Turkey gunned down as he gave a speech by a militant proclaiming retaliation for his country’s participation in Syria’s crushing of rebels in Aleppo, and the utter destruction city at the same time.  Putin’s dark response about retaliation of its own as the Middle East increasingly is feeling the presence of Russia siding with a decidedly antidemocratic Syrian regime.  Double-digit deaths on American highways as a winter storm slams our nation.  Bitter and angry protests as the Electoral College confirms the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  Parents going into school to stop their son from launching an atack on his fellow students.

The list goes on and I haven’t even gotten to the local scene of poverty, violence, abuse, financial scams targeting the aged and unsuspecting, racism and more.

On this Monday before Christmas our world desperately needs peace.

But not the peace that comes from Christmas truces, or politics and diplomacy; but a peace which will last.  A peace only God can give.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14.27

A peace that comes when people finally acknowledge the One who is the only true Prince Peace- Jesus Christ.  And we need Him now.

Even so Lord Jesus, come quickly.

 

STATUE OF LIBERTY

In this June 2, 2009 photo, the Statue of Liberty is seen in New York harbor. The crown is set to open July 4 after being closed since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

BY STEVE DUNN

In New York harbor sits one of the most famous landmarks in the world–the Statue of Liberty.  Engraved on “Miss LIberty” are these words–a poem called “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

When I was but a schoolboy in western Ohio, I was taught these words, then marked as a symbol of the incredible core values that drove my nation’s actions.

Over the 65 years of my life I have met countless people drawn to this nation because of the twin promises of liberty and opportunity–people enriched by their coming and often enriching our nation because they came.

Post 9-11 America finds itself hard-pressed to live out these values.  Under the threat of Isis and other terrorists movements, we seem intent on closing that ‘golden door.”  Not completely.  People like us politically, whose religion does not threaten ours, whose economic goals do not undermine us, who will not compete for our resources, and who will embrace the prevailing secular individualism of the age–these people are still welcome.

I share our concerns about national security and obedience to the laws of the land; but sometimes I fear that the grace and compassion, the commitment to liberty for all peoples is being eroded or being replaced with a selfish inwardness that violates one of the most fundamental laws of the God I honor’ “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Is it possible to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in this nation without quenching that lamp beside the Golden Door?

© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 

 

Dr. Michael Cheatham, chief surgeon of the Orlando Health Regional Medical Center hospital, addresses reporters during a news conference after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. Watching are Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, second from right, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.                           (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
 by Steve Dunn

A horrible tragedy occurred this past weekend in Orlando.  At a night club popular with gays and lesbians,an attack was unleashed by a man with suspected ties of Islamic terrorism.  At least 50 people were killed and 53 more injured in what is the worst mass shooting in US history.

A year ago another group of people were shocked and saddened as a young man murdered people in a Bible study in Charleston SC. 9 people including the senior pastor and the gunman died when the young man opened fire in a Bible study at the Emmanuel AME  Church.

In between those two of high profile events there have been hundreds of such incidents–often unexpected, mostly inexplicable, filled with fatality and tragedy.  Sadly, such events are almost daily in this country.

I could launch here into an emotional plea for gun control (which I do support) or some theologically judgemental pronouncement about the lifestyle of the victims in Orlando. I could rail against terrorists-Islamic and otherwise.  There are a wealth of responses and comments that can be made and will be made.

But my immediate and daily response was articulated quite well by Southern Baptist ethicist Russell who following the Orlando incident,  tweeted “Christian, your gay or lesbian neighbor is probably really scared right now. Whatever our genuine disagreements, let’s love and pray.”

Why do I say this?  Because this is what the Bible tells me is the appropriate fist response:

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” – Psalm 34:18
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” – Romans 12.15
He heals (God) the broken-hearted and binds up their wound”- Psalm 147.3
Would you join me in this prayer not only for this incident but for our American culture and its people?

by Steve Dunn

I posted this on another blog last week before the Iowa caucuses.  It still is meaningful from my perspective. – STEVE

Just a day until the Iowa caucases.  The rhetoric is ratcheting up as two close races see the front-runners either feeling the heat and/or sensing blood in the water. The lies, innuendos, half truths, etc. crowd even sensible debate to the back pages.  My heart is heavy lately as I watch the nominating process unfold here in my country.  Even more than in previous years there is a de-volution in the quality and character of the candidates that Americans seem drawn to.

Donald Trump has once again made shocking comments on his campaign trail, this time alleging that his supporters are so devoted to him that they would still vote for him even if he were to shoot someone.

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Sioux Center, Iowa. “It’s, like, incredible.”

“My people are so smart,” he says in the clip. “They say I have the most loyal people.”

Trump’s comment is being labeled highly insensitive in light of the heated nationwide arguments over gun control. He also referred to fellow Republican candidates as “soft,” criticizing their small numbers of supporters.

He has ridiculed Muslims, women, even the fact that President Obama was watching Star Wars. {By the way, I went to see the latest movie and it was simply Space Cowboy fun.)

So often he campaigns by insult, dismissive opinions, and outrageous remarks that make normal insensitivity appear tame.

Two weeks ago, a young pastor friend of mine whose church is making a significant difference in a community that has been buffeted by the waves of crime, economic distress, and racial biases, posted this on Facebook.  Andrew Thomas Draper wrote:

“Over the past few months, I have watched Donald Trump publicly mock a person with disabilities, call Mexican immigrants “rapists,” propose that an entire religion of 1.6 billion people be kept out of this country, have a campaign opener of young girls in skimpy USA dresses singing about destroying people with our military, say that two non-white politicians aren’t natural born citizens, call black people in Baltimore “thugs,” and refer to women by their body parts.

I haven’t made public comments about this because I thought this was all a joke and that it would blow over soon. I thought that certainly no reasonable person would ever take this man seriously. Now he is up 13 points in the polls with 3 weeks until the primaries.

Let me make this clear: I honestly believe that most of Trump’s appeal is that many who have been holding their racist thoughts inside now think it’s OK to let it all out. I do not think that everyone who supports Trump is motivated by racist ideology. I think there can be good reasons to be conservative. However, I have read countless accounts of racist rhetoric down through the years (my PhD dissertation was a historical theological study of race issues) and what Trump and his supporters are saying is mean and hurtful. Trump is not a hero standing up to political correctness; he is fanning the flames of hatred for his own political gain.

I am deeply saddened tonight. I thought we as a nation had healed from a lot of these wounds. Please, this is not a joke anymore.

A friend of mine, Don Dennison, posted this observation of the popularity of men like Donald Trump.

“People want good leadership–an ability to work with others and get things done in the most efficient and effective manner. It is interesting during this current presidential campaign cycle that the leading voices have been “outsiders.” Neither Trump, Cruz, nor Sanders are the darlings of their party leadership. So why have these outspoken outsiders gained so much traction? It appears that FRUSTRATION and FEAR have pushed the electorate to give up on the established politician who has demonstrated either an unwillingness or inability to get things done.

People are frustrated…that problems are not getting fixed. Out-of-control spending continues and escalates the national debt despite which party is in charge. Current laws are not being enforced. Campaign promises are soon forgotten once past the election. People are tired of trusting only to be betrayed again.

People are fearful…that their government is not adequately protecting their rights or their borders. Violent crime is growing unabated, and terrorism is an existential threat to our survival. The economic outlook is bleak–unless you’re a politician or lobbyist.

It’s no wonder that “outsiders” have appeared more attractive to potential voters this season. If the rationale is: “what have we got to lose?”, the possible answer is “plenty!”

For me, most Presidential election choices comes down to “the lesser of two evils.” That option has become even more apparent this year. But I do not want to make my selection on the basis of such negatives as “frustration” and “fear.” We deserve better!”

I do not consider Hilary Clinton a good choice for America.

With the Iowa caucuses now just a few days away, I have this reflection—coming from one who has been a registered Republican for 43 years.  The Republicans can surely do better.

BY STEVE DUNN

 
BY STEVE DUNN

I have a confession to make. I don’t remember if I registered to vote. I moved to a new community early last year and was out of town on election day. Because I work as an Intentional Interim Pastor, I anticipated being in a new community at this time. My job, however, depends on someone dying, being fired, unexpectedly quitting, or retiring. I would not wish the first three on anyone. There have been no such changes since I completed my last assignment, so I am still living in this community.

Tomorrow is election day and I need to call the election board and see if I am registered. If I didn’t or if I did and don’t go the polls, I will be part of what is wrong with our nation. People don’t vote. They do not participate in the process. A healthy body politic requires an informed and responsible citizenry who actively participates in the political process and then holds those they elect accountable to do what is in the best interests of the nation.

But a healthy body politic, especially in a democracy requires more. It requires a civil citizenry that is concerned with what is best for all its citizenry–not just its party or special interest group. We are often so divided and hostile before we go to the polls that we elect leaders who reflect this and the nation suffers accordingly.

On Facebook this week I came across a post that reflects an attitude I believe we need to embrace if ours is to be a nation that works for the good of all of its people–and makes us a stronger and more unified nation as a result.
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I know that many young people have opted out of the political process because they no longer have confidence in their politicians and are fed up with our political parties.Maybe we would restore their confidence if as Americans–voters, citizens, leaders – we heeded this simple counsel.