Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Changes from Blogging Friends

Rev. Bob Cornwall, a Disciples of Christ pastor trained as a church historian, has moved from California to a new church in Michigan, but is still blogging his Pondering on a Faith Journey.

Australian Anglican Byron Smith, of the great blog, Nothing New Under the Sun, (worth reading for his posts on the theological and ethical implications of Peak Oil alone!) is leaving country for Scotland. Byron’s wife, Jessica, will be working as an operations manager for a Scottish Episcopal (Anglican) parish while Byron pursues doctoral work at the University of Edinburgh! (OW. Bruised my tongue trying to roll the r for “Edin-burr!”)

The quirky Chris Tilling, of the New Testament blog, Chrisendom, has been living just outside Tübingen, Germany for 6 years pursuing a New Testament Ph.D. in Pauline studies. Now, he’s returning to his native England  to be a Tutor in NT at St. Mellitus College and St. Paul’s Theological Centre, London. This is great news, but how will Anja, his beautiful German wife (the kindness of women is evidence of grace) adjust to the UK?

Thom Stark, a fellow pacifist (so I don’t even mind that he’s in the Restoration movement–what we Baptists usually call a “Campbellite” in less than wonderful tones of voice!), has finished his undergraduate work and is beginning seminary at Emmanuel School of Religion, Johnson City, TN. However, Thom, has given up his wonderful blog, Semper Reformanda, to be part of the group blog, Jesus Politics.  Good luck with both moves.

D. W. Horstkoetter, of the blog, Flying Farther, is an evangelical who has been on quite the journey. First from Multnomah Bible College to Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he has just finished his M.A. with a thesis on theological responses to torture (nicely done). He is now traveling to do Ph.D. work at the Jesuit-run Marquette University.  All the best, D. W.–and I hope the Midwest is exciting enough after The City!

Welsh Methodist minister, Richard Hall, who runs the blog with the appropriately Methodist sounding name of Connexions, (note to U.S. readers–that’s not a spelling mistake, but the British rendering of “Connections”) has been moved by the Methodist itinerant system. (Richard, feel lucky. I don’t know of any American Methodist minister, certainly not one with the United Methodist Church, who would get to stay 10 years in 1 post!) He has left his parish in Swansea and moved to Caergwlre, which I am informed is pronounced Kye-goor-leh. Despite Irish ancestry, I have never understood the logic behind the spelling of ANY Celtic language. Honestly, how does one get Kye-goor-leh from Caegwlre? But I wish Richard and family all the best. They have arrived safe and sound.

Chris Tidings, a priest in the Independent Catholic movement, has given up his blog, “Even the Devils Believe.” But, fear not, he has simply changed it to The Gifts of God.

Changes, changes, changes.  Any more that I should know about? God’s grace to all of you in these new ventures.

August 9, 2008 Posted by | blogs, theology | 2 Comments

Why McCain Would Be a Mediocre President

I have been infuriated at the free ride the media has given Sen. John McCain.  They have parsed everything about Sen. Obama, but they have refused to cover McCain’s errors, flip-flops, lobbying ties and other conflicts of interest, possible campaign law violations, ties to governments that are on terrorist watch lists, and much else.  So, when someone in the media–and on the economic site MarketWatch, at that!–actually examines McCain and gives an excellent editorial for why he would be a mediocre president, I feel obliged to run it here to help in more exposure. 

 I agree with almost everything said below by Rex Nutting, but he misses another major reason why McCain would be a mediocre president: How well the Democrats are expected to do in Congressional elections.  Democrats are widely expected (even by Republicans) to expand their majority in the House of Representatives by 15 to 30 seats and in the Senate by 5-8 seats with a 10 seat pick-up not impossible. (The Republicans only have 1 real chance for picking up a Democratic-held Senate seat, that of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in Louisiana, but she is leading in high single digits and looking safer all the time.  With an 8 seat net pick-up, the Democrats would have a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. With a 9 seat pickup, they can have such a filibuster proof majority even if former Democrat Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who is campaigning for McCain and plans to speak at the Republican National Convention, decides to stop caucusing with the Democrats and switch to the GOP. ) The Republican brand name is so bad right now that most of the GOP Senators in close races are planning to SKIP the Republican National Convention!  So, if McCain squeaks out a win, he will face a Democratically controlled Congress that won’t be in the mood to give him anything. His domestic agenda (including privatizing Social Security, making the Bush tax cuts for the rich permanent, de-regulating anything still regulated, give aways to Big Oil, etc.) is dead on arrival. Congress may even pass progressive legislation over his veto, though they won’t win a veto-proof majority in the Senate.  Presidents traditionally have more leeway in foreign policy, but with the Democratic base clamoring (rightly) for an end to the Iraq war, do you think McCain’s plan to invade IRAN has any chance? McCain may be a lame-duck president the day he is sworn in.  Do we really want 4 years of accomplishing nothing? (Not that I am willing to take the chance that he won’t do real harm with bad appointments, etc.) At any rate, here’s Nutting’s editorial, which I think is spot on.

Why McCain Would Be a Mediocre President

By Rex Nutting, Washington bureau chief of MarketWatch.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — In his frivolous Paris and Britney ad, Sen.
John McCain has asked the right question: Is Barack Obama ready to lead
this country?

Since last January, Sen. Obama’s fitness for the presidency has been the
only question that matters in American politics. The pollsters and pundits
agree that if Obama can show the voters that he’s up to the job, he’ll
win. If not, he won’t.

But that begs another question: Is McCain fit to lead America?

That question hasn’t been asked, nor has it been answered.

The assumption seems to be that McCain’s years of experience in the
military and in Congress of course give him the background and tools he’d
need in the White House. As Britney might say, “Duh! For sure he’s
qualified!!! He’s Mac!!!”

But is that true? Does McCain have the right stuff?

A careful look at McCain’s biography shows that he isn’t prepared for the
job. His resume is much thinner than most people think.

Here are some reasons why McCain would be a mediocre president.

Lack of accomplishments

Like the current occupant of the White House, McCain got his first career
breaks from the connections and money of his family, not from hard work.

The son and grandson of Navy admirals, he attended Annapolis where he did
poorly. Nevertheless, he was commissioned as a pilot, where he performed
poorly, crashing three planes before he failed to evade a North Vietnamese
missile that destroyed his plane. McCain spent more than five years in a
prison camp. [N.B.: Like Obama, I agree that McCain’s behavior as a P.O.W. was extraordinarily brave and should be honored.  I just don’t think it is a qualification for president. MLW-W]

After his release, McCain knew his weak military record meant he’d never
make admiral, so he turned his sights to a career in politics. With the
help of his new wife’s wealth, his new father-in-law’s business
connections and some powerful friends he had made as a lobbyist for the Navy,
he was elected in 1982 to Congress in a district that he didn’t reside
in until the day the seat opened up. A few years later, he succeeded Barry
Goldwater as a senator. [N.B.: A question of character: McCain’s first wife waited loyally for him while he was a P.O.W.  She was injured in an auto accident so, when he returned, she didn’t look quite as lovely as when he left. He cheated on her with new wife, Cindy, then divorced her and married Cindy who could help his political career.  I don’t think these character questions only ought to be raised for Democrats. If they are germane, they are germane for Republicans, too. MLW-W]

McCain hasn’t accomplished much in the Senate. Even his own campaign
doesn’t trumpet his successes, probably because the few victories he’s had
still rankle Republicans.

His campaign finance law failed to significantly reduce the role of money
in politics. He failed to get a big tobacco bill through the Senate. He’s
failed to change the way Congress spends money; his bill to give the
president a line-item veto was declared unconstitutional, and the system
of pork and earmarks continues unabated. He failed to reform the
immigration system.

Every senator who runs for president misses votes back in Washington, so
it’s no surprise that McCain and all the others who ran in the primaries
have missed a lot of votes in the past year. But between the beginning of
2005 and mid-2007, no senator missed more roll-call votes than McCain did,
except Tim Johnson, who was recovering from a near-fatal brain aneurysm.


McCain says he doesn’t understand the economy. He’s demonstrated that he
doesn’t understand the workings of Social Security, or the political
history of the Middle East. He doesn’t know who our enemies are. He says
he wants to reduce global warming, but then proposes ideas that would
stimulate — not reduce — demand for fossil fuels.

McCain has done one thing well — self promotion. Instead of working on
legislation or boning up on the issues, he’s been on “The Daily Show with
Jon Stewart” more than any other guest. He’s been on the Sunday talk shows
more than any other guest in the past 10 years. He’s hosted “Saturday
Night Live” and even announced his candidacy in 2007 on “The Late Show
with David Letterman.”

McCain has not articulated any lofty goals. So far, his campaign theme has
mostly been “McCain: He’s None of the Above.”

In the primaries, he campaigned on “I’m not that robotic businessman, I’m
not that sanctimonious hick, I’m not that crazy libertarian, I’m not that
washed-up actor, I’m not that delusional 9/11 guy.” In the general
election, he’s emphasized that he’s not that treasonous dreamer.

No Leadership

McCain has frequently taken on near-impossible missions that go against
the grain of his party. It’s the basis of his reputation as a maverick.
But McCain has never been able to bring more than a handful of Republicans
along with him on issues such as campaign finance reform or immigration.
Democrats on the Hill have accepted McCain’s help on some issues, but
except for a few exceptions (John Kerry and Joe Lieberman), they’ve never
warmed to him.

To achieve anything as president, McCain would have to win over two
hostile parties: The Democrats and the Republicans.

Living in the Sixties

McCain is still fighting the Vietnam War. But he’s not fighting the real
historic war, which taught us the folly of injecting ourselves into a
civil war that was none of our business. We learned that, in a world where
even peasants have guns, explosives and radios, a determined and popular
guerrilla force can defeat a modern army equipped with the mightiest
technology if that army has no vital national interest to protect.

Instead, McCain is fighting an imaginary Vietnam War, where a sure victory
could have been achieved with just a little more bombing, just a little
more “pacification,” just a little more will to win at home. This fantasy
clouds McCain’s judgment on foreign policy.

Most of the other high-profile politicians who fought in Vietnam — Colin
Powell(R), Chuck Hagel(R-NE), John Kerry(D-MA), and Jim Webb(D-VA) — aren’t stuck in the past,
and they don’t view the Iraq War as a chance to get Vietnam right.

No Principles

After years of honing a reputation as a guy who’ll say the truth
regardless of the political consequences, McCain has crashed the Straight
Talk Express. On almost every issue where he took a principled stand
against the Republican line — taxes, immigration, oil drilling, the
Religious Right — he’s changed his views.

We ought to like politicians who change their mind when the facts change;
it shows maturity, judgment and flexibility. But politicians who change
their mind to suit the prevailing winds show the opposite.

The Bottom Line

Successful presidents come from two molds: visionaries, or mechanics. The
visionaries — think Reagan or FDR — see what others can’t and say ‘Why
not?” to inspire the country. The mechanics — think LBJ or Eisenhower —
know the ins and outs of government and are able to harness the power of
millions of humans to accomplish great things, or at least keep the wheels
from coming off.

McCain fits neither style. He’s neither a dreamer, nor a detail guy. His
major accomplishment, in Vietnam and in the Senate, has been merely to

Just surviving doesn’t make you’re a hero, or a decent president. America
needs to do more than survive the next four years.

August 9, 2008 Posted by | U.S. politics | 1 Comment

Protest Russian Bombing of Republic of Georgia!

Well, I DO hope Fearless Leader (a.k.a., G.W. Bush) used his close location to Russian Pres. Putin at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games to say something about the illegal, unwarranted Russian bombing of the Republic of Georgia! After all, Shrub has looked into Putin’s eyes and seen that he’s a man of peace, remember?

I received this email from American Baptist minister (and global peacemaker) Dan Buttry:

With the fighting going on in the Republic of Georgia we’ve been asked by our Georgian friends to pray for them.
 One Georgian friend said, “It seems there is no bravery left in the West to confront Russia which is punishing Georgia for her attempts to develope a democratic valiues in the former soviet countruy of Georgia.”
 The city of Gori was bombed.  BBC had coverage about the civilian apartment complexes that were hit with perhaps as many as 60 people killed.  The members of the Baptist church in Gori have fled to the countryside.  I’ve been in Gori a number of times, and the bombing of this city is a dramatic expansion of the conflict.
 Baptists played leading roles in the Rose Revolution as well as encouraging the nonviolent revolutions and struggles for democracy in other former Soviet republics.  Baptist Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili is on the planning team for the Global Baptist Peace Conference to be held in Rome in February.

So remember our Georgian friends in your prayers, and lift some voices in protest!
Write letters to your local papers, contact your members of Congress (or, for those outside the U.S., members of your respective parliaments, etc.), organize protests outside the Russian embassies! We need to boycott Russian products and find other ways to pressure Russia to stop the bombing of Georgia.  Russia continues to act as if the former Soviet Republics (especially Georgia and the Ukraine) are their property! When the nonviolent revolutions in these republics brought democratic governments to power that resisted Russian influence, they have sought to cut off gas and oil to them and now they are bombing them! This CANNOT pass!

UPDATE: In the comments, Marvin links to a New York Times article that seems balanced on the background to this conflict. My sympathies with the Rose Revolution and other nonviolent movements for democracy, and my dislike of Putin’s autocratism, predispose me to Georgian sympathies. But we should not be blinded to some Georgian blindspots, either.  Georgia’s claim on breakaway border-republics is no more legitimate than Russia’s similar moves.  What is clear is the need for peaceful intervention before this spirals out of control.

August 9, 2008 Posted by | human rights., peacemaking | 6 Comments