Sasse Speaks to The Gospel Coalition

Senator Ben Sasse (R – Nebraska) addresses The Gospel Coalition 2017 Conference, with an address titled: What Has Washington to Do With Jerusalem?.

Sasse, a vocal opponent of Donald Trump as his party’s presidential nominee during the 2016 election, speaks refreshingly and intentionally non-partisan about the distorted role politics plays in the American psyche.  Sasse’s thoughts are well worth the 36 minutes this video runs.

The Benedict Option is Not Really an Option

Benedict Option collage

Since I already have some pretty definite opinions about the book, I thought maybe I ought to read it.  My preliminary thoughts about Rod Dreher‘s The Benedict Option is that it offers a good analysis of the present states of both culture and Church, but Dreher’s solution seems more imposed than necessary or biblical. In other words, Dreher seems to have a fascination with the Rule of Benedict, and uses the current social climate as an excuse to encourage others to embrace it.

It’s not that I think there is no benefit from Benedictine practices. On the contrary, I was intrigued a few years ago when reading Dennis Okholm’s Monk Habits for Everyday People with a group of pastors with whom I would meet monthly or so.  What I appreciated from Okholm’s work, and expect to appreciate from Dreher, are the categories of thought the Benedictine’s have developed.  I appreciate many of their disciplines, and I can see that many of their practices could help cultivate a disciplined and rich spiritual vitality.  However, the notion of withdrawal from the world at the root of Benedictine discipline, is not only an impractical option for most people, I am convinced that it violates Jesus’ command to his disciples found in John 20.21:

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

And it is out of line with God’s expressed instruction to his people who were living in Babylonian exile, as recorded in Jeremiah 29.7:

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

In other words, despite some – even many – ideas worthy of serious consideration, and that might be appropriate to be adopted with some adjustments, it seems to me that The Benedict Option is not really an option for those who want to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.  And Dreher himself seems to understand this since, despite the provocative title, he spends much energy explaining that what he is encouraging is the employment of some of Benedict’s principles without necessarily actually withdrawing into monastic communities.

See also:

Race & the Church RVA: Walking the Path of Love

The sixth and final gathering of Race and the Church took place in Richmond, Virginia on Saturday November 19. The first of two sessions that morning featured Dr. George Robertson, Senior Pastor of the historic First Presbyterian Church of August, Georgia, and Moderator for the 44th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.  Dr. Robertson’s message was Walking the Path of Love.

Buyers Remorse: Election Edition

vote-by-post

I have never been a fan of early voting, especially not in something as significant as a presidential election.  I am of the opinion that there are some things important enough that people ought to order their lives around them in order to participate.

As a Christian, and a pastor, I would consider the Lord’s Day to be the ultimate example of such a thing.  God created the world in a span of six day then, essentially and metaphorically, “rested” the 7th Day.  God then decreed that people – especially those who claim to be devoted to God – should follow the same pattern; that we ought to set one-day-in-seven as a Sabbath, where we rest from our labors, and commit the day to God in a way unique from the others (which also actually belong to God).  The Sabbath is a gift, if we understand it correctly. The 4th Commandment, that requires humanity to observe this day in no way mitigates the gift God has given us in the form of a day of rest. My point in this post is not to make a case for a specific day of Sabbath, nor to consider appropriate vs. inappropriate activities for this day, but only to offer it as an example. A Sabbath day, commanded by God, as a gift of God, is intended to be, and is important enough to be, a day set aside, around which we build our weekly schedules.

While less important cosmically than a Sabbath, in the civil sense Election Day is monumental enough that people ought to set the day aside, and vote on the appointed day, whenever possible. In other words, Election Day is too important to subordinate it to the idol of convenience.

Granted, some exceptions can, and should, be made.  For instance, the case for our daughter who, as a student at a college in another part of the state, would find it quite difficult to appear at our home precinct. She needs some accommodations.  I am not sure that an absentee ballot would not be a sufficient accommodation, but in Virginia an early voting option is offered. And students are not alone in their need for some accommodation.  Some whose business travel requires them to be out of town, others who may be in the midst of various types of long-term infirmities, are examples of those I believe should also be afforded some sort of accommodation.  But the thing is, in Virginia early voting requires a good reason. Simply avoiding lines, or whatever motive for convenience, is not sufficient reason.  But not all states are as much sticklers as Virginia is.  in Tennessee, for example, which I consider to be my adopted home state, early voting is just one option among many, offered for convenience.  As I understand, far more states are akin to Tennessee than to Virginia in this respect.

I appreciate those who are concerned about restriction that make voting prohibitive for some segments of our society. In no way would I want to endorse practices and policies that would suppress legitimate opportunities for any citizen to vote.  But I fear that by making convenience a chief factor in our national elections, we have devalued the importance and downplayed the privilege extended to every citizen of the United States.  I can’t help wondering if this – along with an unappetizing roster of candidates – has not played some part in declines in voter turnout.

Having expressed some of my philosophical aversion to allowing early voting as a common option, I want to turn my attention to the more pragmatic reasons for my oppostion.

About a month ago – 6 weeks before Election Day 2016 – some political analysts expressed their concerns about early voting.  Their concern: simple regret.

“Some people have estimated, and this may be way too large, that one third of the electorate will already have a voted early by November 8 of this year. One-third!”

“And somebody could say, ‘Well I wouldn’t have voted for that person if I would’ve known that that happened 24 hours ago’,”

I am not a fan of October Surprise as a political strategy. It seems to me, if a candidate is worthy of my vote he or she ought to show me why they deserve it; not keep pointing out to me why the other candidate does not deserve it.  Someone else’s disqualifying characteristics do not necessarily qualify me.  But sometimes, like this year, what comes to light in the final days of the election season are not mere sleazy revelations from the opposition camp, but legitimate news of criminal or disqualifying facts from legitimate sources.  And as some political analysts predicted a month ago – weeks before revelation that the FBI was re-opening its investigation of Hillary Clinton – once certain facts come to light, conscientious people are likely to have regret.  But their vote has already been irreversibly cast.

In our present election cycle, it is difficult for me to believe that if the one about whom these potentially criminal revelations have surfaced is elected, that the citizens of the USA will have any reason to believe real justice will ever be carried out.  Whether the possible allegations are legitimately criminal or not, I do not know.  But if a candidate with a reputation for and  history of cover up is elected, unless impeached, can we ever know if justice is done?

If early vote were not such an easy option, those who are already experiencing buyers remorse would not be able to send the nation in such a regrettable direction.

Crumbling Orange Brick by Brick

pile-of-bricks

Like watching a group of children playing Ring Around the Roses, fans of the Tennessee Volunteers are observing a team that seems to be singing “We All Fall Down”.  I am not an alarmist by nature, and this pales in comparison to other things in the news, but a series of incidental reports out of Knoxville lead to a reasonable wondering if Coach Butch Jones’ program might be crumbling around him, brick-by-brick.  As the Washington Post reported this morning: Tennessee Players Seem to be Revolting.

This morning, Jones confirmed rumors that star Running Back, Jalen Hurd – certain to be a high round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, should he choose to make himself available – has announced his plans to transfer immediately from the University of Tennessee.  This coincides with a somewhat cryptic Tweet by highly touted, though under-performing, Defensive Lineman Jonathan Kongbo, that suggests he may be thinking of hanging up his cleats, barely a half-season with the Volunteers.  On top of that, another highly touted but under-performing  underclassman,  Receiver Preston Williams, had left the team a month ago, announcing plans to transfer; though he is reportedly still enrolled and taking classes at UT.

Defections happen from every school. A single defection like one these would be disappointing to any team, and to any fan base.  But these coming together – at mid season – they are startling.

Even focusing just on Hurd, things don’t add up. And Jones’ response sounds only like spin, from a coach who already far too often, and for far too long, has sounded like a used car salesman.   While I do not know the man, and therefore my opinion may be somewhat unfair, I don’t expect to hear the truth out of Butch Jones any more than I expect to hear it from Hillary Clinton.

Hurd is transferring, though a Junior, to play one season at some other school.  Again, he is a freakishly gifted athlete, one any NFL scout would drool over adding to a roster.  So why not just finish out the season, and go to the NFL – just as everyone expected he would do after this season anyway?  Now perhaps Hurd wants to graduate from college before beginning his NFL career.  If so, he ought to be applauded for such an exemplary illustration of priorities as a student-athlete – student first.  The problem  with such a scenario is that Hurd will be ineligible to play for another school next season, unless he transfers to a school in a lower NCAA classification.  It’s possible, but unlikely.  Of course, if Hurd has already graduated, or if he will graduate this Winter or Spring, then he would be eligible to play at another school. But if he has already graduated, and now wants to leave the school where he grew up dreaming of playing, why would he want to play at some other school rather than taking the next step into the NFL?

Hurd is reported to have said he wants to play a different position – Receiver, or Tight End, or H-Back; one where his body would not take the same kind of pounding it does as a Running Back.  While he is an All America talent as a Running Back, he would be an awe striking Tight End or Receiver.  So again, why not just make the transition in the NFL? Plenty of guys change positions when they get to the next level.  Someone with Hurd’s natural gifts would make such a transition more easily than most. Further, he is not likely to make himself more money by playing receiver at Chattanooga or Tennessee State for a single season.  NFL Teams will take him for his natural abilities, with or without the year of seasoning at the FCS level.

While players leave programs everywhere, for a variety of reasons, Hurd’s situation seems suspicious.  Like many of his teammates this season at Tennessee, Hurd has been hurt. However, unlike his teammates Hurd’s injuries have remained undisclosed, while those of all the others are chronicled.  Further, other injured players have traveled with the team for games on the road. Hurd, however, stayed home when the Volunteers played at Texas A&M a few weeks ago.  No reasons for the differences in treatment were offered.  This itself is not wrong, as we have no right to personal information about private individuals, but it is suspicious.  Yet, in that instance, not only was Butch Jones tight-lipped, he offered contradictory reports about Hurd’s injuries.  Again, suspicious. So when coupling the loss of Preston Williams and the potential loss of Jonathan Kongbo with the odd developments of Jalen Hurd’s departure, it causes many to wonder – and some to fear – that the house Butch Jones has been building may be showing serious signs of crumbling.

I will finish with this: I am not against Butch Jones; nor would I suggest that at this point his job ought to be in jeopardy.  But there is enough suspicious activity, combined with a coach who to date has mostly shown himself to be a salesman, to wonder if there is something going on behind the curtain that will eventually show these recent events to be just the tip of a devastatingly large Orange iceberg destined to sink the hopes and hearts of Tennessee alumni and fans – not to mention the Volunteer Navy.