Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What the US stands for:

First off, i am not a politician at heart, but due to my friend Frank's intrigue and election time, here you go.If you find things in here contradictory or offensive, feel free to correct, but please don't expect deep reasoning or a well supported & analyzed defenses for everything i say. I see this more as giving a good ol' American perspective to a Kiwi friend. These are just my opinions.
I BELIEVE THE US STANDS FOR A LOT:

A Christian Nation:
This is debatable as i hear almost everyone claim the forefathers standing for whatever benefits them: theism, deism, religious freedom of all religions.
but I do believe the US is blessed because it based its roots on the Bible's commandments

I have heard it said that if someone who didn't even believe in Jesus or God attempted to follow the commands and tips of the Bible for his life, that he would come out benefiting with a more healthy life. i believe that.

I am not going to debate the depth of our Christian roots, but i believe the majority of the American people and leader's attempts to include God in our lives and politics have been blessed financially and spiritually because of this.
(this does not excuse the possibility of abusing this power or blessing.)
A Democratic Nation:
America tries to give everyone a voice. This has its problems and benefits as every political system does, but there a desire and belief rooted in most Americans that says everyone should have a voice. Because of this, there is also a desire to see this come to pass around the world.

Conservative Practice:
We have the Amish! I say it jokingly, but the Amish are a good example of the extreme conservatism that American Christianity has produced over the years. I hear from some Americans how deprived we are, but the more i visit the other parts of the world, i realize how much MORE the US still sensors the radios, movies, and things of the sort. From a world standpoint: It may not be this way, but sometimes i feel like the a lot of the world and some of their more liberal standpoints try to peer pressure the US. Almost like a 10 year old boy who is standing for something he believes in, but since the other 9 friends are making fun of him or don't understand him, their is this pressure to cave in on something he stands for, even though he may be the one who is right... (he may just be stubborn).
This raises the question: is the American system or beliefs more "Christian" in practice? i don't know if this is a fair or good question, it just came to mind.

Power:
The US has increasingly become a main World Power. Ever since the two atomic bombings of WWII i feel like the USA made a world stance that we are not a force to be messed with. Someone tonight said that, "i think the US just attacked the middle east for their oil." i am not arguing the legitimacy of that, but if that is all you think it was, then you don't understand Americans. The World Trade Center bombing was a lot of things, but it was definitely an attack on a respect and power that America has gained over the years. I think people are sometimes so blinded by the effects of the war, that they don't see how devastating "inaction" after 911 would have been for the safety, morale, and "power" of the US.
A Jefferson quote on a WWII memorial reads
"DECEMBER 7, 1941, A DATE WHICH WILL LIVE IN INFAMY…NO
MATTER HOW LONG IT MAY TAKE US TO OVERCOME THIS
PREMEDITATED INVASION, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, IN THEIR
RIGHTEOUS MIGHT, WILL WIN THROUGH TO ABSOLUTE VICTORY."

Moving the World Forward:
For a long time and especially since the Industrial Revolution, the competition, money, and US market have become a driving force for the world. The US' demand for "new" has continued to encourage the world to "move forward" in technology. We are not the only country, obviously, but the amount of media, technology, and resources that are produced from the US and used universally are really an indispensable contribution to the progressive history of the world.


THE NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES THAT COME WITH THESE ASPECTS OF THE US:
-The US stick their noses in other people's business too much
Maybe, maybe not.. probably depends on whether your the side that has benefited from the US or not or whether you tend towards pacifism or not.

-The US has too much
(Root for the underdogs instead)
Sometimes people just root against the US like any sport team that they think is too good or too powerful. In the states this would be the Yankees baseball team. Either you love their legacy or you think they have too much power, and money and you just hope they lose just because. I think people around the world sometimes fall into a similar trap in their opinion of the US.

-Cocky

You know what, i probably wouldn't say we are cocky, but probably a little more egocentric. it might be because we are bigger and have so much going on in the states, but it does seem that it is more common in other countries for the average native to know more about what is going on in the world than the average US citizen, but that is merely a subjective speculation on my part.

-Selfish

Much like "having too much" as mentioned before and the classic dilemma and debate of the Responsibility of Power mentioned below, the US can often be seen as doing everything for their own benefit. There is a healthy aspect to this much like a father prioritizing the health of his family before others, but i feel like America's motivation is constantly questioned. Should we be given the benefit of the doubt more often or is their really legit reasons for all the questioning? i don't have the answer for this one. I am just not as quick to take mixed motives as "wrong" motive.

-Stuck up
This is the idea that Americans think they are always right. The culture is all about "Be who you want to be" and "The world is your limit," so there is a sense of empowerment in the US generations. Being the center of a lot of attention by the rest of the world and being a major world power doesn't help to eliminate the temptation to think, "we must be doing something right to be where we are at today."

DEEP ROOTED ISSUES/QUESTIONS THAT ACCOMPANY ANY SCRUTINY:
-Why them and not me?
Being blessed or attributing success to God vs. those who pray and don't see the same results.
Is the US blessed as Christian nation? i say yes, but i am aware that this creates a dilemma. i had a friend whose mom died of cancer. Her pastor's wife recovered from cancer and kept praising God for the answer to prayer from the pulpit. This made my friend struggle with questions like, "Had she not pray enough?" or "Did she miss the magical prayer formula the pastor had?" Was the pastor wrong in praising God for the healing? maybe, not necessarily. Was the girl wrong in her interpretation? maybe, but not necessarily.
-The value of an individuals life vs. war
It seems inevitable that anytime there is a fight, that the pacifists, the fighters, and everyone in between is bound to come out and state their case.
I see a God in the Bible who commanded war at times and a God in the Bible at other times who condemned violence. I don't know where i stand on this one. I just know you are always going to have the people who see war heroes and truth stances as necessary and other people who are going to see soldier's lives that didn't need to be lost.

-Forward progress vs. frugality Hanna Montana concert tickets sell in the US for $1000. that is insane to me. When is too much too much? I like to spend, but live frugally. Spending a million dollars on creating a movie sounds ridiculous when i am thinking of how many people's lives that million dollars could be used to help or change, yet that is how our society works. And that million dollars spent on a movie entertains many, employs many, influences people around the world, and continues to encourage our story telling to reach new heights in the media every time a film is made. I am no expert on economics or spending money, but i see another double edged sword here. People don't like that the US has so much money to spend and they may not agree with how it is spent, but they don't seem to mind accepting the benefits.

-Abuse of power vs. Doing their best.
(Responsibility)
One power can't solve the world's problems. One president is supposed to know what to do with multiple countries and their government systems. One president is supposed to make the rest of the world like him. One president is supposed to solve its economic problem, stay popular, and solve every problem that comes his way. Sure the president has a lot of responsibility that he should be kept accountable for by his people, like the US being kept accountable by the rest of the world, but how much of the pressures are unrealistic and unfair expectations put on them simply because of their power and influence. The roles and responsibilities of the US will always differ in opinion depending on who you are talking to, and their may be a lot of controversy and corruption in American politics that i don't understand, but i tend to try and give the government the benefit of the doubt that they do not take their power lightly and that they do consider what is best for me as a citizen as well is what is best in making a difference in the rest of the world.

The end... i think i am done now.

39 comments:

Frank said...

Thanks for taking the time to write that man. I may try and offer some thoughts a bit later.

Allow me to make it clear, I am aware that any thoughts I offer are from the perspective of an "outsider". I don't have an intimate working knowledge of the US psyche and how the average citizen views their nation.

What I can offer thoughts on is how the US affects the rest of the world, and from the perspective of the outside, where some of the hostility comes from... I'll even throw in my thoughts on 9/11 since I think it's a central point to a lot of differing thoughts.

This has the potential to be a good conversation as long as anyone who participates remains respectful - you get to show what it looks like from the inside out, and I can show you what it looks like from the outside in :) ... and we do as friends and equals... coz I love you man ;)

Brent said...

i would love to hear your thoughts on this one... i look forward to it friend!

Rhett said...

Yeah, this is fascinating, thanks for taking the time.

This ideas of power and blessing are interesting to me. I just read the beatitudes, and I dunno, but I just find a pretty heavy dissonance there. What would things look like, if in thier foreign policy, the US government let Jesus' words in the beatitudes be the driving force.

In regards for power/respect following 9/11, well, I am DEFINITELY commenting as an outsider, and maybe I am just dreaming. But what if, instead of being first concerned about respect/fear/power, the US government embraced forgiveness and grace in their response?

I don't mean this to be offensive, but as an outsider looking in, with a lot of American culture and politics, there seems to be this really fuzzy line between "Christian" values, and Capatalist-Superpower values, which seem to bleed into one another in such a way that they get misused and mistaken for one another; almost as if they are the same set of values. Does that make sense?

There are a clump of Christian writers like Shane Claiborne, Rob Bell, Donald Miller, Erwin McManus, Scott McKnight and Dan Kimball who I guess are challenging some of those ideas. It's funny, because I always looked at it from a Kiwi perspective and thought that they were all slightly arrogant, like they were identifying problems which we didn't have in the church!

And I got rebuffed by a couple of different people (probably including Frank!) that I needed to understand that they were speaking into an American context, which was very different from our. I didn't get it until now... shows me how important perspective can be!

Anyway, I could go on forever, which you've probably figured out. Can you see why I stopped doing topical blogging? I'm living vicariously through your blog now. :-)

Frank said...

Alright, allow me to offer some thoughts here. I will reiterate that I do so knowing that I am an outsider and that because of that, there will be large defficiencies in my views of the United States. I also comment with a full respect for those who may disagree.

As someone from outside of the US and living in a country that is somewhat affected by what happens within the US and activities that it chooses to engage in other parts of the world, it is mostly foreign policy and US engagement with the rest of the world that I wish to speak into. 9/11 is part of that.

The US is the world's largest and most influential superpower. Whatever it does, both good and bad, affects the world.

Brent, you have put forward the importance of democracy as a key tenet driving the very makeup of the US. You said this:

but there is a desire and belief rooted in most Americans that says everyone should have a voice. Because of this, there is also a desire to see this come to pass around the world.

This may be true to an extent, but largely has not played out in the way you may be percieving on the world stage. It has been stated time and time again that protecting the US is the most important principle in dealing with the rest of the world. Thus this drive for democracy is only encouraged when it is expedient for the interests of the US.

I think the statistics and history show that since the end of WWII, the US has been involved in trying to topple governments in 50 nations, some of those were democratically elected goverments. In so doing, the US has been guilty of equipping and funding dictators (including Saddam Hussein) who have been guilty of violence against the citizens of their own nations. Why? Because the leaders they have put in place have been sympathetic to US political desires.

A prime example is Hamas, the current democratically elected government of the Palestinians. The US encouraged Israel to allow Hamas to take part in the Palestinian elections – democracy was encouraged. The Palestinians democratically elected Hamas for various reasons and so the US immediately removed aid and various other means of support, as well as encouraging sanctions. Because it did not end up being expedient for US desires, the democracy was not supported.

At the moment the US is funding rebel and militia groups in Iran. These groups are hostile and in opposition to Iran's elected government.

This plays into the view that Iraq was about oil. The US was fully supportive of Saddam Hussein while he was fighting Iran and supplying oil to the US. The US supplied Iraq with plenty of money and loads of weapons (some of which were used against people in the north of Iraq in mass murders that he was essentially hung for and some of his other leaders are still on trial for).

The game changed when he invaded Kuwait, a strong supplier of oil... we could go into some of the dodgy politics in the lead up to that, but there's no need. Following that and the sanctions imposed by the UN (lead by the prompting of the US), Saddam began changing what was to happen with Iraq's oil. Just prior to the second invasion of Iraq, Saddam had signed a deal with Russia so that when the sanctions lifted, Russia would receive most of that oil. He was also making moves to stop trading the oil via the US dollar and to start trading in the EURO. Both of those deals would have had a large impact on the US. The evidence points to large US interests being affected... not a desire for democracy.

Allow me to ask a couple of questions that may give some outside perspective on the Iraq issue – if it was about democracy and disposing of an evil dictator (and yes, he was a man who needed to be removed from power) as opposed to gaining oil, why was it not done sooner when the US was intimately aware of Saddam's activities, but was essentially bank-rolling him? Why was it done just as the supply of oil was about to shift away from the US and why have large US oil companies (like Haliburton) mostly benefited from the larger connection the US now has with Iraq?

For the average US citizen, Iraq may look like trying to do the right thing... and I'm sure that's the case for the person on the street... but from the outside, when connecting it to so many other things done in the world, it doesn't look like that at all.

This also feeds into 9/11. The question that never gets asked is why would people do such a thing. The question that gets asked more often involves what the response should be. Why, at this point in history are so many people around the world engaging in “terrorist” activites? What is fueling the felt need to engage in such violent, abhorrent activities?

Nothing happens in a vaccuum. Some guys didn't wake up one day and simply decide that they would commit one of the most horrible attacks of our time by flying two planes into civilian buildings. Something was feeding that anger. Religious extremism needs a breeding ground in order for it to grow and eventuate into such activities.

Afghanistan is the place to look for some answers to 9/11. Afghanistan became a key battle ground between the US and Russia during the cold war. Russia invaded the area at the end of the 70's. That occupation resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Afghanistan's citizens. The US trained and backed the Mujahideen, a group that fought against the Russians. Osama Bin Laden was one of those fighters trained and supported by the US as he funneled Arabian fighters into the war against Russia in Afghanistan.

Upon returing to Saudi Arabia and being celebrated as a hero who had expelled Russia, Iraq was invading Kuwait. Bin Laden encouraged Saudia Arabia to not use foreign troops and he offered to defend Saudia Arabia himself. With this going on, the US pressured Saudi Arabia to maintain their alliance with the US and expel Bin Laden. Behind this, the US and other western nations had lost interest in Afghanistan since it was no longer a key territory since Russia had pulled out and the country plunged into poverty, wrecked by the war it had been involved in. Many of the people had faught for the US and then had been left by the power that had used them. The extreme poverty and dissilusionment led to animosity and the breeding of religious extremism. That led to the Taliban governing the country and the harbouring and growth of Al-Qaeda in the area.

What became Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan had first been camps formed under Bin Laden that were supported, funded and trained by the US to fight against the Soviets (all this info and history is available on the internet). They were left high and dry once the war was over and animosity grew. Because of this, Bin Laden turned to encouraging the expulsion of US troops from the Arabian Peninsula where we could point to many grievances. Essentially the war being faught by Islamic militants, where Russia was once the nation they were hostile to, with the support of the US, has now shifted to the target now being the US.

The war in Afghanistan was essentially about the US trying to root out an enemy that was once a friend. That friend had been left cold when it no longer served US interests and anger had grown. 9/11 is not excusable, but in the light of history it is understandable. It is here that we can examine the reaction.

Hopefully that sheds light on why I would entirely disagree with this comment:
The World Trade Center bombing was a lot of things, but it was definitely an attack on a respect and power that America has gained over the years. I think people are sometimes so blinded by the effects of the war, that they don't see how devastating "inaction" after 911 would have been for the safety, morale, and "power" of the US.

It was an attack on power (where power is not a positive thing), but it was not an attack on any form of positive respect. Respect had been lost, that's why it happened. US safety had been compromised many times prior to 9/11 by its fermenting of animosity every time it engaged in activities overseas that left people dissillusioned and in less than healthy life circumstances. Other nations and people groups then connect this to Christianity because America is identified as a Christian nation.

Inaction would have been devastating, but from the outside, there is a much better action that could have taken place. How different would it have been if the US had been able to publicly recognise its political wrongs, apologise for historical injustices and express a willingness to hear the grievances of its political enemies? Every single US administration has the opportunity to repair damage done by administrations of the past.

The US is an empire that has every right to protect itself, but what we are seeing now is a culmination of a means of achieving that end that has involved using and abusing many people groups, usually through the use of military means that have left vast numbers of people feeling angry and disillusioned. You reap what you sow. The US is at a crossroads where it can achieve a lot. Looking from the outside, I see two options for the US to properly protect itself and its standing in the world and to uphold the moral responsibility it has to the rest of the world simply because it has placed itself in such a position of influence. That chosen influence carries a high level of responsibility.There are two options on the table for the US in the years to come – 1) continue down the same track exerting military might, influence and power, protecting US interests at any cost. 2) The US can completely change course, apologise for historical grievances and extend a hand of friendship to the world, with a willingness to sit down and hear those it disagrees with... its perceived enemies. If it isn't willing to listen to its enemies, how can it expect them to listen to it?

To conclude this essay, allow me to draw on Jeff Fussners sermon at our Wesleyan Methodist National Conference during the weekend, where I leaned over to you and made a cheeky comment. What Jeff was pointing out was the principle of loving our enemies. He noted the story of the Aramean invaders in 2 Kings 6, where ultimately the problem of Aramean invaders was solved by providing a feast for them rather than trying to exert military power against them.

Proverbs 25:21-22 – If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.

The argument against governments extending GENUINE friendship to their enemies when presented with the Christian principle of loving our enemies is that it really only applies at an individual level, but with the example of the Arameans we see Israel working it out at a state level.

If the US really is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles then it really should examine the principles of turning the other cheek and loving our enemies rather than the exertion of military might... a principle of human empire, not Christianity. The best form of defence is friendship, not military retaliation. One nation cannot solve the world's problems but it can stop feeding those problems.

Those are my thoughts... it's practically an essay with so much more that could be said – feel free to push back against any of it. It's just a perspective of someone on the outside, looking in :)

Rhett, that was a point I've been pushing in relation to the Christian leaders you mentioned :)

Rhett said...

I thought MY comment was long!

Rhett said...

...and now that I've read it, let me say I completely agree Frank. Beautifully written and well articulated.

Rachel said...

I am questioning your belief that the US is blessed (esp. financially). Nup, not just questioning - completely disagreeing. It sounds a bit prosperity gospel-esque to me.

Rhett said...

Obama wins it. No matter which way you swing you just can't be cynical about this. It's a beautiful moment in history.

I've always like Americans. It's so great to be able to say I like America again.

Brent said...

I don't have time to go into full detail about everything that is mentioned, but it seems that you have an issue with a nation being blessed. Why is that? Also, you seem to have an issue with power. Why is that? I know that both of these issues can be abused, but i need some biblical reasoning as to how you believe both of these (which seem to be advocated at different times in the old testament) now differ or have been completely changed since the Israelites.

Brent said...

Generational blessing. I am not saying that God blesses a system or government, but i do believe God blesses people and families:

a few verses for thought:
“…For I The Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep my commandments”. Exodus 20:5-6 kjv

“…visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and fourth generation”. Exodus 34:7 kjv (Also see Numbers 14:18 & Deut 5:9)

You put enough of these together and God overall can be blessing a large number of people in one nation, henced a blessed nation although it is not saying, "God fights for the American team."

Yes the prosperity gospel is an extreme mistake, but to think God's blessing does not at times include long life, physical riches, and peace is also to ignore A LOT of Scripture. Of course this is not the goal which is where are lot of people go wrong and get corrupted because spiritual and a God centered life is to be the goal much like Job who was righteous and rich. I just don't want to see people go to the other extreme and become blind to God's blessing and scripture.

Concerning power:
There are two streams of approaches through history and especially the church in Europe: People either focus on the power of God or the glory of the cross. One marched into different parts and built huge cathedrals and converted many... others focused on the sacrificial lamb and converted many. Both have their strengths and weaknesses and both have been used for the positive advancement of the kingdom, i do not believe one is right and one is wrong. Jesus and God encourage the power and extravagant of him at times. You have cathedrals... a lot are empty.. but there is still something special and majestic about the lavish sacrifice and stake for God made. You can say constantine was all wrong, but he wasn't. God instrumentally converted and used him timingly in all his power. I believe the sacrifice is just as effective, but i am focusing on the one that is not the easy sell because you seem to tend towards the other. God's commandments of the temple in its glory and Jesus' command for the perfume to be poured on his feet speak the story of a God who likes people to go above and beyond for him as well at times.

That should give enough to continue the discussion.

Frank i did not question a lot of your points and the political happenings mentioned, simply because have not followed or studied current events enough to realistically analyze such points.

Rhett said...

I'd also take issue with that "formula" of God blessing America financially etc because they are a "Christian" nation.

I think the idea of blessing issn't that simple, and yes in the New Testament I think it is inverted in some ways (I'm thinking of the Beatitudes).

I also struggle with it because there are plenty of very Christian nations (many South American nations are predominantly Christian, as are many Pacific Island nations) that struggle in extreme poverty.

Now I am bound to offend some people, so let me apologise in advance. But when I look at a lot of American Christianity expressed in relation to politics or patriotism, it seems to embody a lot of syncretism. Now, this is something many in the Western Church are guilty of. But it seems aplified in the States, as I've seen it.

That's what I mentioned about capitalist and Christian values becoming muddled. Many of the "values" you expressed in your post as distinctly American seem to me to be distinctly consumerist, capitalist, and reflective of a man-made Empire. They are not distinctly Christian.

While Christian culture pervades America, (and I'm not passing comment on idnividuals, rather in a general sense, because all the Americans I know are good people) it seems to be a very Hallmark variety of Christianity.

I think the idea that America is somehow more "Christian" can come off as very arrogant to outsiders. I understand the sentiment, but I also have to voice frusration. The foreign policy actions of George Bush, as well as America over the last 60 years (as Frank pointed out) are distinctly anti-life, not valueing people as made in the image of God.

It might be arrogant of ME to say, but if America truly followed the way of Jesus on a national scale, not just in a slogon, card carrying way, I think the world would be different. I do not see the self-sacrifice of JEsus played out in the poltics of the States. I do not see the sharing and sacrifice of the beatitudes. I do see hyper-consumerism played out as some kind of sacred right (just think of how antsy the American public became at the very idea of "sharing the wealth").

Ok, so that all might seem a bit intense. But those are my thoughts on that at this time! :-)

Rhett said...

Let me just clarify that I think many of the problems I mentioned are present in NZ too.

Rhett said...

One last point: I think the blessings you refer to are specific to God working through one nation in the Old Testament period.

I believe that "mantle" if you will, passed to the church after Jesus ressurection.

I don't think God looks down at us these days and sees borders and nations. I just don't think that is plausible.

Rachel said...

hmmmm - is there a possibility you're taking scriptures out of context here?

BJ said...

I love Americans long time.

Brent said...

Thanks for the thoughts guys, this is a fun discussion.

A few main issues are being discussed here:

1. Everyone thinks they have the best model for living out Christian morals.
“The uptights” think the rest of the world is too relaxed and falling down the slippery slope. The “too relaxed” think the rest of the world is too uptight, borderline hypocritical and Pharisaical. I have people back home that believ I am going to become too loose and affected negatively by your more freethinking Kiwi ways. My Kiwi friends are fearing that Americans are way too stuck in their corrupted ways and are blinded to the inconsistencies.

I see a stand still here and I am stuck between morals engrained into my whole life, versus friends who think they are in the right here. There is a lot more to discuss with this, but I feel it is opening up a big can of warms and just asking for someone to get hurt or be offended, so I am done on this point for the time being.

2. Revisiting my Point about “Why them and not me” and defining blessing.
(I feel like we need to come to more of an agreement on this one)

Defining Blessing- God rewarding you for your obedience and faith in someway. This can be physical riches, spiritual rewards, fruit, etc.

The US is being blessed financially somewhat under the principle of reaping what you sow.

First, Saying God has blessed the believers in the US is NOT saying they are more spiritual people, it is simply acknowledging God for what he has done and given (God gave the people the money). The Christians, although sinners, did attempt to OBEY God and therefore are reaping the benefits. I am NOT saying that riches are the goal either. (Solomon’s riches which were a blessing from God, which later became a curse and an empty pursuit for him)

Second, Saying God has blessed the US does NOT directly infer that he is not blessing impoverished nations. It simply means he is probably blessing the believers there in a different way. In some ways they may be more blessed in not having to deal with the struggle of money and reap more spiritual benefits due to the lack of distraction. In James 1:9-10 we read, “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.” Riches is a low position, but it is still one to take “pride” in nonetheless and it is given by the Lord(John 3:27, James 1:17).

The point is this: I am not saying America is better or more spiritual. I am saying it has been blessed/given with an amazing amount of money & influence by the Lord. And I do believe this is because of the American people’s obedience. (Read John 20 if you still disagree. I believe God’s use of his money is an issue that is more between you and God, but somewhat indisputable since its God's moeny and something you would have to take up with Him)
(We are responsible for how we use what he is given, but he gives.)

You can’t deny God promises to bless:
Ways he promises to bless are:
• Blessing of Long life:—1 Kings 3:14 Psalm 91:14-16; Proverbs 10:27; Ephesians 6:2-3
• Riches- Solomon, Job, The parable of the talents, etc.
• The idea of you reap what you sow is found in the New & OT (2 Cor. 9:6-11). Both common sense and these passages imply that the type of seed you sow determines the kind of crop you will receive.
o If you sow corn, you will reap corn (Genesis 8:22).
o If you sow moral actions in your daily behavior, you will reap a moral life (Galatians 6:7).
o If you sow faith, you will reap faith (Matthew 17:20).
o If you sow financially, you will reap financially (2 Corinthians 9:6).
o God says he is the Owner of all that we have (Ps. 24:1). We are his stewards, entrusted with the privilege and responsibility to manage his resources to advance his purposes (1 Cor. 6:19b,20). And we will one day give an account to him for how we did in this (Matt. 25)

God promises his children many rewards when we give. Here are three specific rewards:
• Reward 1—You will be made rich in every way.
• Reward 2—You will receive more than you give.Luke 6:38? "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
• Reward 3—You will receive a greater blessing. 
Acts 20:35 "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
http://www.heartlight.org/feature/feature_971105_takegod.html

Be careful that you are not attacking a government structure, but that you are attacking Christians and their motives.
I believe God blesses
I believe God has blessed a good number or American Christians for their obedience
For better of for worse it has ended in the US being rich.
How that money is used whether it is hoarded, abused, given, etc. is the human's responsibility, but unless you are attacking the average American Christian's motive, i don't believe questioning the blessing of the US is disputable.

I will have to give more thought on God's vision: whether he sees borders and nations or what he sees. I guess i had assumed that since these distinctions are obviously a part of our world, manmade or not, that he also would see those things although they may be of no importance to him and not even be in his radar, much like our sin exists, but it says he somehow can't see it as he "removes it from the east to the west."

Brent said...

as to "out of context," i do not know to what you are exactly referring to.

But please understand that i see the Bible as whole. i see verses that revise, affirm, and help to define each other. Sometimes i see context as important sometimes i don't. hear me out on this one.

The context is important if you are using the moral or purpose of that passage as your point. Context is not necessarily an issue if you are simply using another Biblical passage as an illustration.
ie.
If i was saying the point of Solomon's life was blessing... context matters.
If i am simply saying, Solomon was blessed with riches is a good example, context doesn't really matter. it could add to the illustration, but the moral of that story is not the question, it is just an example.

Anonymous said...

I totaly agree with you Brent.
while I was reading this and thinking about my own responces I realized just ho gray everything is. nothing seems to be Black and white anymore, there is always another side to consider.
a few comments:
when you talk about the rest of the world seeing the US as "uppity" can also be understood simply by the fact of how we act in other countries. even if we go to european country where we all look the same, you can always tell you the Americans are because of how loud we are.
we are the country we are because of our christian history and maybe God keeps blessing us because of that, but are we loosing that blessing as we loose christianity? we are def. not the country we used to be.
I had other thoughts but I can't remember them all. maybe all finish this latter:)
I agree with you my friend:)

Jared said...

I have a few thoughts.
ONE. There will never be a savior in the white house.
TWO. War is never the right decision but sometimes it might be the best decision. That's the best I can come up with...please enlighten me if you wish.
THREE. I don't believe we are or have ever been a CHRISTIAN NATION. We are a demo-cracy not a theo-cracy. Unless we go back to the OT prophet format where God speaks to the prophets and then the people follow...we are not a christian nation.

oh well. I don't get on this blog thing enough to dialogue. you guys have a great discussion going on though.

dan eggenschwiler said...

As another American, living completely immersed in all of our culture but having been outside of it multiple times and lived in NZ, maybe my opinion (and it is simply my opinion) will be of assistance. Allow me to first say that I agree with much of what Rhett and Frank have said.

I believe that living in America can be very, very blinding. You grow up with this sense of pride in your nation, an ethnocentrism that invades all areas of your life. We pledge "allegiance" to a flag and are taught that our nation is the best and greatest nation on earth. What we do is simply to be viewed as correct. It's hard to break this mantra and viewpoint unless you have spent some time elsewhere, which most Americans have not. (As a side note, I have stopped pledging allegiance to the flag, viewing it as something near idolatry. Most people, however, continue to do so without second thought.)

When it comes to wars, we are told more of the story of the US upholding or advocating democracy in other nations and less of the self-serving motives that are at the heart of the issues. It is this propaganda-like media that we are fed combined with our own arrogance and ignorance (not only do we think that we are better than everyone else, but we couldn't point to someone else's country on a map if asked to) that leads us to where we are.

I find myself in an interesting position politically these days. I just cast a vote for Barack Obama... I voted on every issue specifically and would normally find my views more in line with the conservatives, but I simply couldn't find a peace to do that this time. As a result, I find my own views sliding further away from those I know on the "right." I think that what is really happening for me is that those who claim faith or Christian affiliation cling to a couple principles that are drilled into their heads over and over rather than stepping back and trying to view the issues as Christ would.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't like either candidate very much and certainly am not in favor of everything Obama says and does. Even though I voted for him, I did so hesitantly and with somewhat of a fear of what may come. Most Christians I have talked to, however, are far more concerned with abortion and smearing Obama than anything else. I am completely against abortion and think that Obama does not value human life in relation to that issue, but how is that so much worse than continuing to kill thousands of people in other countries to try and protect our interests and maintain our pride? Murder is murder, correct? I, personally, cannot see how wars are any more ethical than abortion, yet war doesn't seem to have that heart-wrenching effect on people here.

The "Biblical" basis in American politics, in my mind, simply doesn't exist. I don't see a Christian nation when I look at this country, I see a nation of people who claim a Christian faith do not put it into practice. I see a nation where some people's freedoms are revoked because a small group of people with an agenda complained, lobbied, and put forth enough money. I see a country that is really out for its own best interests and cannot admit when it is wrong. I see a nation that has the highest standard of living, yet based on percentages gives the least money in aid and support of others. I cannot see these are Christian practices. The church in America is very skewed. I have been convinced of this for a number of years, but I am slowly starting to see hope. This change will certainly not occur over night, but I am beginning to see churches and pastors who are willing to stand for what is right; who are willing to challenge the American Dream and its morality.

I don't know that Obama will bring this change, but my main hope is that the trillions of dollars spent on wars can be brought back, that we can focus more on education, healthcare, foreign aid, and simply saving lives rather than taking them. I am also a firm believer that we brought 9/11 upon ourselves - as terrible of an act as it was. We cannot continue to keep our hands and troops in other countries, looking out for our own interests, and expect to be popular with the rest of the world. At some point, we will have to shift our perspective from a national view to a global view, and that will be the biggest change. Until that happens, I would expect anti-American sentiment to continue.

As for the blessing of Americans, I cannot deny that this happens. Obviously we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world. There is some sort of blessing happening. However, this is another area where I think that Christians in this country, giving in to consumerism, fall desperately short. We are blessed in order that we might bless others, but this principle is rarely carried out.

And as far as all of these opinions are concerned, they are simply what I see happening in this country. Feel free to agree or disagree, I am just trying to lend some light on why things are the way they are.

Frank said...

Wow Dan.... wow :) Thanks for taking the time to write that.

Allow me to say, I don't see most American's as "uppity"... I've got a listener who is very anti American and whenever she emails to engage in verbal vomit to express her anger against Americans, she generally gets a short sharp rebuff from me.

I'm not clued up enough to make massive generalizations about Americans and how you see the world etc... and to coin a tired, try-hard phrase - some of my best friends are American ;... including you, Brent. I'll let Dan give the insiders perspective at an individual level. My interest is at a national level and how the US interacts with the world... it's that interaction that forms the perception of the US outside of it.

I want to address the idea of blessing. Because a nation/empire is wealthy, does that mean that God has blessed it? There seems to be a prevailent idea that when the talk of a nation being largely Christian is coupled with wealth, it must equate to blessing by God. I think that needs to be challenged.

If wealth equals blessing then we must assume that every empire that has been wealthy has been blessed - Assyria, Rome etc etc I can't agree with that. Rather I think we can look at any empire and see some things in play that have contributed to its wealth, those things play out when we look at the growth and expansion of the US to become one of the wealthiest nations on earth.

1) Military might. No empire has been able to increase its wealth without a strong military force and the ability to flex its military muscle where needed and desired in order to protect itself, gain more resources, or increase its influence and control. The US is no different. Military culture is ingrained in US culture and its military might is flexed around the world often.

2) The centralization of resources from other nations/people groups. Every empire has taken control of other nations - whether that be taking over completely or simply making sure the ruled nation was sympathetic to the desires of the ruling empire. In so doing they have been able to redirect the resources of said nations to serve their own ends and use said nations as places to send its own resources in terms of sale.

This is where I get on my high horse about Fair Trade. It's easy to feel wealthy and accumulate stuff when it's provided cheaply on the back of the producer. Most western nations have experienced a blow-out in the size of their middle class because of the cheap access to resources. A prime example of wealth building in this area is Nike - it's easy to generate profit when your shoes are made for a few cents in extremely poor conditions and then you sell them for more than $100... it's certainly not blessing - it's age old empire building principles in play. Empires are generally built on the backs of slaves... except once upon a time you could see the slaves whereas now they're overseas, so we've lost the understanding of who actually does the work.

The current financial crisis also gives a window into the nature of that which is being called "blessing". Much of the wealth of the west is built on debt. You may not be aware of it, but the US owes countless trillions of dollars of debt and it may surprise you who has purchased much of that debt to keep the US afloat - China. If China decided it no longer wished to carry the US's debt, the US would go belly up much quicker than we're seeing at the moment because it would happen not just at a market level, but a government level. Is it really a blessing to be carried by China? The illusion of prosperity exists because people have been spending well above their means and the system has needed them to do so... it's all built on debt and at the moment it's all coming crashing down. That's not blessing in my eyes... it's the reaping of what has been sown.

Hear me though, the problems I see in America are many of the same problems I see throughout the West - we have some systemic problems because we're essentially an empire that has been built the same way every other empire has been built in the past and just with every human empire, it will come crashing down - because it is a human empire built via human principles - militarism, co-opting of resources and the enslavement of others for the good of those within the empire.

Rhett said...

This is a brilliant discussion! Dan, thanks, that was an amazing comment.

I also really feel like I need to clarify that every American I've met has been a stunning individual. I know American's often get a bit of stick for being too loud and energetic when overseas, but I really like it! They are fun people to be around. I've learnt some great things about faith from many of them too. My mentor is an American.

Brent, this is great stuff. I mean, isn't learning about our difference and commonalities what this is all about? For all of us! I don't think any of us are expecting you to change your political position. I think what has disturbed me in the campaign in the states is the divisive nature of it. Sarah Palin's comments about "Real Americans" come to mind. I think when you talked about voting for the person who represents most what "America stands for" rung similar bells for me, so I wanted to challenge that.

Maybe I'm missinterpreting you on that, bro. Of course, everyone has a right to vote for who they believe is the best choice for the country. But what I'd love to see, in regards to the States, is an acceptance of other views as legitimate. That believing in something different does not make someone less patriotic. Because I think that's a dangerous road.

I had a conversation yesterday about New Zealand politics. Now, I am no fan of Prime Minister Helen Clark's Labour government, but respect her. In our own staff team, and in our servant leaders, you will find people who vote all kinds of different ways, which I think is brilliant! Anyway, I was trying to say that while I dissagreed with Clark, you had to admit she was a strong leader and a formidiable politician; she has a strong grasp on policy. But the person I was talking to wouldn't hear it! They kept suggesting she was "bitter" and all kinds of other nasty things. And it made me think of the US Elections. Wouldn't it be great if people could show respect to other's opinions? The ammount McCain tried to smear Obama (socialism, terrorism, Islam) was disgusting. Sure, Obama wasn't innocent either.

I was going to talk about financial blessing. But Frank stole my thunder. I think he's absolutely right... empire's like the Roman Empire, the Aztecs, the Mongols... there have been empires throughout history who have been rich, but also pagan. Frank makes some great points about modern corporations, and the debt that funds the wealth. What is the US's debt right now? Something like $700 trillion? It makes the "wealth" concept interesting.

But I also think what Dan said is brilliant "we are blessed to be a blessing". That is a great idea to hold in tension, because I do believe God blesses in whatever way he chooses to. That's a great question to ask. Is the USA blessed to be a blessing? Their contribution to overseas aid is appalling (so is NZ's). You site the advance of technology. On one side that is good, on another side it has help fuel hyper-consumerism.

Let me just say, as far as all these things I and others have talked about... I see syncretistic faith in my own life too. I see it in Christianity all over the world. I see it in the fact that there is a laptop, an iPod, HiFi, a TV, a Playstation and many more luxries in the room I am typing from. I think it's something as the church we need to take a look at not at an international level, but at a personal level.

Dan's comment on the "idolatry" of flag-worship in the States was spot on. Even in Obama's (who I support) speech last night there were a few moments I thought, "this guy is awfully close to worshiping his country".

Finally, I think Obama getting in will change a lot of world perception. Already you can feel the euphoria. I do not expect Obama to instantly change the world. I am very realistic about the challenges he will face. But as Jon Stewart said last night, it's so good to see a country living up to it's creed. Yesterday America went from being a "show" county to a "tell" country. I was walking on air all day.

Stephanie said...

Hey Brent hope you're doing well. I asked my friend the other day to describe how she would describe an American. Now she's Canadian, which is one reason I asked her and one of the things she said was that Americans are Patriotic and they show it. We do it in different ways by supporting our troops, recognizing them, and recognizing the history of our country. One year on the 4th of July they broadcast a special that was a reading of the Declaration of Independence. My granddad, who is a WWII veteran from Canada, would comment on how patriotic Americans are and wished that Canadians had the same sense of patriotism that we had.

Frank said...

Stephanie, I'm interested to know if you think that such patriotism could possibly make many Americans blind to the rest of the world and how America might be affecting it in the sense that there is a desire to further the well-being of the US to the point where it actually hurts other nations considerably, but this goes unseen because of the large sense of patriotism?

I also wonder if full-on patriotism is actually a healthy thing in a Christian life or if we're called to be "borderless" in our view of humanity and the world? That really is just a wondering.

Rhett said...

Paul Windsor, the pricipal of the bible college I go to says a similar thing. He was born in India to American missionary parents but (I think) has spent most of his adult life in NZ.

I was trying to track down the comment on his blog (but couldn't) where he said he didn't "get" pariotism as a Christian.

When does patriotism become idolatry?

It's a good question for Kiwis and Americans.

Rachel said...

Great conversation guys.
My two cents on blessing (on a personal, slightly less global level).
As a church-depising non-Christian I had a huge social circle, fiance, mortgage free home, cars, $20,000 diamond ring from Tiffany's and was jetsetting around the world as and when I wanted. It was nothing to drop several hundred dollars a night on dinner.
Now, as a Christian, I have... um... um.... the Cession|Community.
Which was one the blessed situation? Evidence of 'blessing' does not equal blessing. (oooh, getting flashbacks to first year stats 'correlation does not imply causation' lectures...)

dan eggenschwiler said...

Rachel, your comment made me recall one other aspect of blessing that I was hoping to touch on in my first comment, but simply forgot because it was too long. In my travels to marginalized countries, I noticed a difference in blessings. They were not blessed with money and had to struggle to make ends meet. They lived in conditions far below anything that we would consider poverty, and yet they were, for the most part, far more happy and joyful than almost any American I've met. The lack of material possessions, all of the things we strive after and think we need, has left them to rely on the people around them and to be truly thankful for what they have. There was a depth to their relationships that I long for. Only five minutes after meeting someone, I was talking to them at a level that would take months or years back in the States. So who is really blessed? Those of us who have lots of "stuff" but lack joy and real relationships? Or those who have learned what really matters in this life?

Brent said...

Wow, so much on the table!

After just spending some time with a wise friend, I do have to concede my ignorance and naivety on some of these issues. Yes, this is my disclaimer. I am working through my beliefs with you, but my main intent all along was to help each other gain a better perspective of where the American’s may be coming from and getting a Kiwi’s take. I think this has been a success in that. I realize that I have been showing some of my bias and naivety on these issues, but I will continue to dialogue.

I wouldn’t say that having pride in one’s nation is necessarily idolatry. I know Dan and Rhett are making a good point and legitimate concern, but I don’t think national pride is a bad thing. It can be, but I think it is natural for people to assume ownership of a group. It is unrealistic for a family to not take ownership and responsibility for itself, just as it is natural for one team to care more for its own players than the other team, and in the same manner, for a nation and people of the same descent to take ownership of its need compared to the rest of the world. Sure there needs to be a balance in keeping a larger view, but I believe God has created boundaries, responsibility, and ownership as a method of maturity. To try and think there should be no ownership or responsibility taken for a group of people you specifically participate in or belong to by blood or geographics seems too idealistic to me. It doesn’t mean you don’t care for those outside, it simply means that a father is going to care more for his son than another father’s son and God has given this as a worldly model to learn from… not to simply do away with. Donald Miller talks about doing away with manmade competition and I know Jesus considers everyone his brother and sister, and although God creates everyone as equal, his have given us talents, gifts, and people to take care of as a part of life. The internet and media is making this more of a worldwide accountability and discussion and although I do not think a closed circle of close ones is the secret, I also do not see a world effort of equal concern and time given for every country as much as your own. It is much like Shaine Claiborne’s book Irresistable Revolution. I found a lot of great insights in that book and although I admire his life, I do not belief it is a realistic way for a government or all of mankind to live by.

As to Frank’s question to Stephanie. Yes, I would have to say that our American patriotism probably has blinded us as a people at times. Our worldview on international relations is probably limited unless a firm effort has been made to assure otherwise. Man at the same time though, man, it sure teaches people how to celebrate. Much like the way the people rally around the All Blacks during the “haka”, there is a sense of healthy pride and respect that comes from the achievements and celebrating that. That is why I love the Olympics. It is people coming together for a greater cause.
So yes, America probably consider its patriotism and the possible blindspots that can occur.

I have to go but I wanted to keep being in the discussion for the moment

Brent said...

what has been gained from this post:

The US definitely has some discrepancies in its actions compared to its professed intent at different times. The government probably is overdue a few apologies to other nations, although i don't believe the US is only as self-serving as the rest of the world may think.

The idea of the US being a blessed nation is still up for grabs. Although i can see the uneasiness of abused power and money, my belief system still finds it almost impossible to believe the US isn't where it is because of God. I believe a good amount of time must be spent in recognizing this and giving it back to God and the world accordingly. I do also see Frank's point about debt and illegitimate means of gaining money, but still see this as abuse of a gift/blessing that the Lord allotted and allowed to certain people.

As to national pride,
blind following is definitely not encouraged and is setting "the mob" up to fail. But lack of pride can also possibly lead to apathy and a lack of unity to actually produce necessary action at times.

One other major fear alluded to, but not addressed officially: there is this idea that America is swiftly heading downhill morally...
The idea being that the US might lose its morals. What has been seen in this discussion so far is that some would say it already has.

Anyway, there is this idea that one of the most censored careful countries in the world could slowly lose its values and jump full on into worldly pleasures and extreme tolerance.

I think this is a legitimate fear. I don't know where the line needs to be drawn, but i feel that an issue that our postmodern world currently faces is the problem of extreme realism.

Things that would never be discussed or showed 50 years ago are now thrown disgustingly and disrespectfully straight into the public eye because it "actually happens." Just because things are real or happen, it does not mean they are true and that they should be advocated with the same importance as what God intends. For adam and eve, knowing good & "evil," was a real option, but knowing the evil didn't please God. Where is the line of accepting the fact that we live in a depraved world, while holding to the pursuit that we want to bring a world of truth(the kingdom of God) to this physical world.

In California they are trying to pass a law to legalize prostitution which will scare a lot of people.
A question i have knowing that kiwis have already gone through this practice is: I can understand recognizing that prostitution exists, but doesn't legalizing the professional practice of prostitution seem to declare an acceptance to issues contrary to God's truth, desires, and value for all mankind? Can the sheer argument for freedom of choice really justify these actions?

This is an honest question, Are we slowly losing our world of moral and absolute truths?

On a lighter note:
I need Frank to give me a lesson on the foreign policies of my own US nation.

I need Rhett to share some of his Obama paraphernalia considering that Obama is officially my new president.

I need Rachel to give me a lesson on humility and living with less.

I need Dan to get over to NZ to balance out my apparently ultra conservative and naive side.

I need Brett to keep things absurd.

and i need my other friends like Jared, Stephanie, and anonymous to make me feel like i am not alone in this world of conservative evangelical American Christianity!

Rhett said...

Awesome stuff.

Just quickly, re: legalised prostitution. I agree with you on this one. I was not happy when it was legalised here. In fact, on many "conservative" issues I agree with you. I guess my main point was just about seeing and appreciating the other point of view.

I was speaking to an ultra conservative American today on Facebook and I said "Tough luck, I thought McCain was very gracious in defeat and a good candidate."

His response was to say, "Oh, luck? We'll need it. Apparently you are a "Christian" who supports gay mariage and abortion."

It's that kind of close-mindedness (which I am by no means saying you are guilty of... this guy was a bit extreme) which I was trying to confront.

My point in one sentence: patriotic and real Americans can vote for Obama too!

dan eggenschwiler said...

Brent, I think you are definitely right about our morals going in a downward spiral. I think I have often hated what I have seen in movies or on tv at times but reluctantly said, "well, this stuff really happens..." Your point about God's intention for the knowledge of good and evil certainly causes me to rethink that stance. I suppose my only question then is, how, in a world where we DO know good and evil, are we supposed to behave? Where is the balance between pretending something doesn't exist and acknowledging it to the point of advocacy?

It's difficult to figure out what the role of our country should be and what the role of Christians should be as well. As a country, I can't expect the US to completely uphold Christian morals, but it still saddens me to see them overturned in favor of more worldly ways. Maybe the responsibility should be more on our shoulders (Christians) than the governments, and we simply are hoping they'll bear the weight so we can do less. I suppose we could all use a bit of a call to action on this.

Rhett, your comment about the ultra conservative is exactly what I was talking about in my first comment. There are so many who cling to issues of gay marriage or abortion and vote only in regard to these issues. Should those concern us more than getting good education for our children, getting everyone affordable healthcare, killings thousands of innocent people overseas, or letting millions die in other countries for lack of clean water or medical supplies? I certainly would like to uphold the sanctity of marriage, and from what I understand Obama is for gay rights, but not gay marriage, and would love to overturn abortion, but I can't overlook all of these other issues that could immediately be affected just for a couple principles. Christians here can have a hard time seeing the big picture.

Anyway, it's been a pleasure to read all of your thoughts. I join Brent when I say that I could use an education from Frank (and many others around the world) on the practices of my own country. Thanks so much for offering your opinions and knowledge!

Rachel said...

I don't think you want to be taking any lessons in humility from me!! Haven't quite learned that one yet ;)
- and just because I like to be controversial, I think de-criminalising prostitution was a good move (note that we didn't legalise it, we decriminalized it). However, I think the church as a whole has a responsibility to continue this work - these girls / women need to be free from the fear of criminal charges, but they also need us to help them out from under this. We've made the first step which will bring the issue out in the open & allow us to see just how bad it really is, but now we need to back this up with proper support for girls who don't do this cause they want to, they just haven't been given a better option yet.

Brent said...

can someone explain the difference between legalizing prostitution & de-criminalising prostitution? In the most respectful manner possible say this, but without knowing the difference, it sounds like people talking symantics to make something sound better than what it actually is. What is the difference?

Brent said...

thanks for helping me come to a more balanced and enlightened perspective on politics. I definitely am more aware of the possible extreme tendency to abuse patriotism. I still feel like there is a major discussion and study to be engaged concerning blessing in the Bible and what that looks like for us today, but that will be another post, another time.

Frank said...

We've made the first step which will bring the issue out in the open & allow us to see just how bad it really is

I would say most Kiwis are just as ignorant of it now as they were before the law change.

Frank said...

Brent,a quick note, I do not agree with the law change regarding prostitution... I think something needed to be done, but I think it was the wrong answer... but decriminalizing something good nor does it amount to the authorities saying it is good. The intent of the law was to provide better conditions for those who were engaging the profession - better health and safety - not to rubber stamp it as a lifestyle.

This is where many social conservatives trip up in discussions, they often miss some intent and simply see a "moral decline."

For instance, I support Civil Unions - such support is not necessarily a sanctioning of homosexual unions, it is a recognition of needed legal protections when people determine to enter long term relationships that involve emotional and economic unity. Whether that argument is agreed with or not, it doesn't equate necessarily to a "moral" decline.

On the issue of moral decline - this is far too often measured in very narrow terms. Ecological overuse is a moral issue, mistreatment of workers is a moral issue, shipping garbage to developing countries is a moral issue, the use of products produced under slave conditions is a moral issue, Las Vegas is a moral issue ;) When we examine morality as broader than a set of sexuality issues (abortion being connected to sexuality) then we can argue that there never has been a "decline", but that "morality" has been a messy issue since the dawn of man.

What really is the issue for people now is not a decline in morality, but a change in our understanding of sexual issues.

Man I love this conversation!! :)

Frank said...

Whoops, a bit in the first paragraph of my last comment was meant to say:

but decriminalizing something doesn't make it good nor does it amount to the authorities saying it is good

Brent said...

you brought out sexuality as one issue of the moral decline and i would say that is exactly right.

I do see where you are coming from and agree with a lot of what you said, but sexuality is just out there now... This same dilemma was discussed before. Yes it is good to not be ignorant about sin, but expressing sexuality has become acceptable (no matter how in line it is with God's view) and i am not okay with that. I will acknowledge people and have friends even if i do believe they are living in sexual sin without judging,

but we watch a media that says, a girl kissing a girl is funny, kinky, and not necessarily wrong, just curious. We live in a world where we try to censor what is for the mature and not younger kids, but adult content is not hard to find for a curious kid of any age. What was once the sanctity of a husband and wife that was a special private moment for just the two has now become something that is okay for everyone to see at the movies. The movie screens scream, "it is just acting" but really they are saying, it is alright to watch or even picture two others having sex, it's real, it happens, enjoy the show and defiling a sacred thing. I understand tolerance, but has it become acceptance and embrace your sexuality no matter how skewed or who your source is rather than question your source and what sexuality really means and what should be kept for a bedroom and what is for all to partake in.

So i really have two points here:
1. Money and Sexuality seem to be two HUGE problems in the bible and we have already been talking about the money/power problem, but i am scared for the bold upright realism that has embraced a world that is sexually confused and has no boundaries.

2. Secondly i think all moral issues are important and should be a concern, but i don't think all moral issues should be on an even playing field. For instance, there is a difference if another human life is involved. the Bible says sexual sin is the only sin committed against one's own body. The bible made this distinction for a reason. Also, it would be wrong for a person to kill a person or a cat just for the fun of it, but i would be more concerned with the person killing a person than a cat.

So yes i get your point that they are all moral issues, but sexuality which is against your body and others and degrades people to an object rather than a person and degrading one of God's greatest gifts and symbols of two becoming one much like our relationship with God, down to a confused act of pleasure and expression just sits wrong with me.

Frank said...

You need to do that post on blessing.

My point wasn't that the current approach to sexuality is ok, it's that it does not signify a moral decline. In order to have a moral decline, you had to have a high moral ground to start with in order to have something to decline from... I would argue that such a thing has never been in place.

Mass slaughtering of native American Indians and the subsequent subjugation of such people, importing slaves from Africa and treating them as less than human, eco irresponsibility, the destruction of economies overseas... these are moral issues that have been in place since the founding of America. As with many nations who see themselves through rose tinted glasses, a moral high ground cannot be claimed at any point in your history.

I would also agree that all moral issues are not on an even playing field and I would argue that what someone decides to do in the bedroom and the treatment of African slaves (a whole people group) are not a par... one is definitely worse than the other. I would argue that the latter is worse and has lead to a stack of problems that are still playing out.

In terms of blessing, where I see the issue is in the argument that pretty much says that America was being blessed while it treated African slaves as less than dogs, but now that there could be legal recognition of same sex relationships, God could be removing his blessing... the way I see it, that view is a little blind to the harsh reality of how the empire was built... the same way every empire is built.

It was great having you round last night bro!!!! Hopefully it wasn't too boring. :)