Good vote on a bad war

On July 12, 2007, Rep. Jeb Hensarling joined other Republicans in voting against a bill that would have set a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. I support the congressman’s vote on this.

Here’s how the Washington Post describes the bill:

“Vote 624: H R 2956: This bill would require the president to begin reducing the number of U.S. troops serving in Iraq 120 days after its enactment and would require most troops to be withdrawn by April 1, 2008. The bill also states that the 2002 congressional authorization for the Iraq war only authorized the president use force to confront an Iraqi government that threatened the United States. The measure says that the new Iraqi government is not a threat and that it “now be responsible for Iraq’s future course.” Language in the bill requires the president to submit a “comprehensive strategy” for Iraq to certain congressional committees by January 1, 2008 and requires him to update that strategy again in July, 2008 and every 90 days thereafter. The bill passed the House on July 12 by a vote of 223 to 201. President Bush has promised to veto any bill that sets a deadline for troop withdrawal.”

While timetables for withdrawal should not be set at this point, this is an issue that may need to be revisited. The mistake we made was in invading Iraq in the first play, and President Bush will be held responsible by history for this terrible foreign policy decision. It was terrible primarily because it was based on a lie, a lie promoted by the Bush Administration. In short, they found the “evidence” they wanted to support the move they wanted to make. A disgrace! And I voted for President Bush.

Despite that mistake, we need to be careful how we disengage. We now have a responsibility to the people of Iraq. Of course, they also share the responsibility for their future. If the Shiite and Sunni factions cannot share power, then one of two things will happen — the most powerful faction will dominate the weaker or the nation will have to be partitioned.

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Earmarks need to go

I received an e-mail newsletter from Rep. Hensarling the other day in which he bemoans “earmarks” — read as pork for a particular constituency back home. Kudos to our congressman.

“In 2006, Congress spent $29 billion on earmarks, individual spending requests inserted into spending bills by individual lawmakers that benefit a very specific, limited number of people. $29 billion is more than the Department of Veterans Affairs spent on both medical research and services in 2006. That is also enough money to fund the monthly Social Security benefits of over 34.5 million Texas seniors. It is obvious that Congress’ priorities are out of line,” Rep. Hensarling writes.
“What makes the situation even worse is that Washington has a budget deficit. That means that all of the money we waste on earmarks is coming out of the Social Security Trust Fund. This is money that millions of Americans are counting on for their retirement, and Congress is using it to fund “Bridges to Nowhere” in Alaska and other equally ridiculous pork barrel spending projects.”

My question is this: Americans have been complaining about pork barrel spending for as long as I can remember, but why does nothing ever get done about this in Congress? Answers: First, we voters have not exerted enough pressure in regard to this issue. Second, too many well-connected citizens keep pushing for their personal earmark favorites.

I don’t give our congressmen and senators a free pass on this, but generally they do what they think we want, which is not always the same as what we say we want. I praise Rep. Hensarling for this position. Of course I do have a question for the congressman: Have you been putting forth any earmarks yourself?

The congressman sets forth his support of a line-item veto in order to help combat earmarks. I support that, as well; but I do have a concern that a president will use that power to reward his friends (by not using a line-item veto on their projects) and punish his enemies (by slashing their projects).

Sustaining the RNC

I received my annual blue and gold “Sustaining Member” card from the Republican National Committee today. If I’m sustaining the RNC, then it is in trouble.

The RNC hasn’t gotten any money out of me in a couple of years, but it sends me a new card each year that says I’m a member since 2002. I stopped giving as my doubts about the party began to rise. And when I did give, it was only at about $25 or $50 a year. So that made me a Sustaining Member. I wonder what the good givers get called.

I receive mailings all the time from the committee. A few months ago, I returned it and said I will not start giving until the GOP gets serious about campaign finance reform — no money included. I’m sure that hand-written message from a Sustaining Member went straight to the RNC chairman.

But it’s not just campaign finance report, other issues that are important to me include the following:
— Environment (save it now)
— Iraq (bad war, bad decisions)
— American jobs (they’re just as important as corporate profits)

You get it. I’m sounding more and more like a Democrat every day. But I have my complaints with them, as well.

As for right now, I’m sustaining no one, at least not a political party.

Overwhelming importance

Some things to think about from Alfred North Whitehead, writing in 1925 in the preface to Science and the Modern World:

“This study has been guided by the conviction that the mentality of an epoch springs from the view of the world which is, in fact, dominant in the educated sections of the communities in question.” (p. viii)

Philosophy “builds cathedrals before the workmen have moved a stone, and it destroys them before the elements have worn down their arches. It is the architect of the buildings of the spirit, and it is also their solvent: –and the spiritual precedes the material.” (pp. viii-ix)

“The key to the book is the sense of the overwhelming importance of a prevalent philosophy.” (p. x)

I have at times feared philosophy, but I love it — what little I have dabbled in it. It is about knowing, and knowing can be scary, but it is also rewarding.

I love Whitehead’s line: “the spiritual precedes the material.” I fear we do to little spiritual or philosophical thinking.

Learning to be on God’s team

I work with some great people, the Communications Team of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. We’re having a retreat this week, a time for us to get connected and become a true team providing service to the BGCT and its churches. Even though I’m the director of this team, I’ve stayed in the background this week and have let the others lead. They said some things about being a team that I really like. Here’s some of their paraphrased comments so far:

Looie Biffar: The best way to say “thank you” to God is to use your gifts.

Shirley Smith: One would think that Jesus, of all people, would need a team. … But He did — His disciples.

Glenn Majors: In relationship building we are constructing an uncommon unity.

Glenn: Harvest the boldness that is within you.

Glenn: Make what is inside come out.

Rand Jenkins: We do this because we love God.

Jason Hilliard: I felt the heat of the candle (referring to a candle that represented the presence of God in a spiritual labyrinth). … The more I thought about that verse, the less I wanted to leave that spot (which represented the presence of God).

I’m a fortunate man to work with such people.

Endless conversion

“Remember that you are weak, that you, too, need endless conversion. You are able to strengthen others only insofar as you are aware of your own weakness.”

Those are the words of the late Pope John Paul II. I picked them up from Richard John Neuhaus writing in the January 1995 issue of First Things. The Pope said it was as if Jesus wanted to give that message to the Peter. Those of us who would be modern-day Peters — read Christian leaders — would do well to heed such advice.

Salvation is divine

More from Iain H. Murray: “… the salvation of souls … is not finally determined by our efforts.” (Pentecost – Today? p. 11)

Yes, Murray is a Calvinist, but he’s not a hyper one. He recognizes that Scripture clearly says followers of Christ have a responsibility to share the good news. But while hyper-Calvinists make one mistake, others, let’s call them hyper-evangelists, make another. They basically reduce the salvation of souls to a rote process of cause and effect — if believers do this and that, then revival will invariably come. It doesn’t. Murray deals with this well, citing both Scripture and general experience.

Murray quotes Theodore L. Cuyler: “God always means to be God. He bestows spiritual blessings when he pleases, how he pleases, and where he pleases. We may labour, we may pray, we may ‘plant’, but we must not dictate.” (p. 12)

I’m not a Calvinist, but I sure love the importance they place on the sovereignty of God.

We should work, pray and plant; but we should always remember that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to save. There is no magic formula that we can concoct to produce one salvation, much less a revival.

In short, salvation is divine, in more ways than one.