Because life is a series of edits

Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

On Raising Kids Gracefully

In Books, Family, Young Ones on November 30, 2008 at 9:06 am

Though I’m not one for parenting books in general, Tim Kimmel’s Grace Based Parenting is a helpful take on what parenting by principle looks like. I liked his approach, perspective, and evaluation of what’s behind so much bad parenting advice today, namely fear. He writes:

“Parents armed with little more than a vibrant relationship with God consistently served as the ideal springboard for great people. So something changed. We got scared. And I think that fear is what motivates so much of the Christian parenting advice we get.” (12)

In our effort to avoid riskless parenting, I personally swing toward a conservative version of parental recklessness, at least philosophically speaking. Kimmel’s counsel is wise – neither extreme is the right one – but I struggle with landing biblically between the extremes of the riskless, safety-preoccupied church culture and the reckless American culture’s claim (as verbalized by former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) that “there is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

The question for me, then, is how do I train my children to recognize the difference and dangers of these two extremes without giving into either of them myself in doing so? Kimmel would suggest that parents replace their preoccupation with where not to go with more of a focus on where to go (and, as importantly, how). He writes:

“One of the great general purposes you can transfer to your children is the goal of being a wisdom hunter. Wisdom is seldom available to the young, but it’s made available sooner rather than later when we see that part of our role as parents it to teach our children how to turn knowledge into practical truth and insight.” (76-77)

With regard to our parenting, I think I can thankfully recognize Kimmel’s description of grace-based families/homes being where children are given: 1) the freedom to be different; 2) the freedom to be vulnerable; 3) the freedom to be candid; 4) the freedom to make mistakes (134). Though we’ve not always been perfect in reaching them, our goals for raising our kids line up well with Kimmel’s counsel, and have for the most part from the beginning.

The key for us – somewhat in the past, but especially in the days to come – is checking our vision with regard to Whom we’re looking for affirmation regarding our kids. As Kimmel writes, “Where too many parents are concerned with how others view their children, grace-based parents are more excited with how God views their children.” (212) In general, I think we are excited about how God views our kids, but we need to be more conscientious of how closely our view of them – past, present, and future – lines up with His.

Black Friday on the Farm

In Books, Family, Friends, Holidays, Places, TV on November 28, 2008 at 11:04 am

I’m doubtful many folks are checking blogs today, but if you are:

  • We had a great Thanksgiving here on the farm – fun with family, amazing food, some basketball, a star-filled evening hayride, a couple of naps
  • No one has so much as even mentioned doing a little Black Friday shopping
  • Megan and the girls are going to see Bolt with my sisters and their kids today
  • I’m trying to resist the temptation of my parents’ Dish Network and Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch marathon
  • Instead, I’m hoping to write some Old Testament reflections (as they’re to be more devotional, I’m going to pull a Wendell Berry and write them longhand)
  • Speaking of Wendell, I’m also attempting to resist the temptation of finishing his book, The Memory of Old Jack, which I made the mistake of packing
  • We’re heading back to St. Louis early tomorrow morning for what will surely be a very sad memorial service and funeral, but look forward to finishing out the Thanksgiving break at home

Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday, but the break always feels so short. The good news is, because Thanksgiving was so late this year, I only have two weeks of teaching and a week of finals before two weeks of Christmas break.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend, everyone.

Writer’s Life

In Writers on November 25, 2008 at 7:49 pm

I rarely think of or introduce myself as a writer (that is, a Writer), but these are familiar nonetheless (#2 is my favorite, but watch them all to experience the process).

Not Even Jack Bauer Can Get Us Out of This One

In Calling, Humanity, Places, Thought, TV, Westminster on November 24, 2008 at 6:57 am

Powerful episode of 24 Sunday night. “Redemption” caught us up with illegal expatriate Jack Bauer (played by Keifer Sutherland) coming to the aid of African children kidnapped to be made into child soldiers under a would-be dictator.

As always, the show’s story was straight out of news headlines, even including a presidential transfer of power in Washington, with the only major detail missed being the casting of the new President as a woman instead of a black man (apologies to both Senators Clinton and Obama). In a word, the episode was heartbreaking, as the use of thousands of child soldiers is going on in at least 17 different countries today.

For the past two years, Westminster has been involved with an organization called Invisible Children, whose Schools for Schools initiative exists “to creatively raise money for the schools of northern Uganda, improving the quality of education for war-affected students.” So far this fall, the WCA student body has raised over $15,000 (mostly in spare change) to help the same secondary school in Gulu that we helped last year, ranking us first in the country of all participating U.S. schools with less than a month to go of the 100-day window.

While I’m not a big fan of the competitive giving strategy utilized by the organization (and enabled by Westminster), I was glad that one WCA student, as well as my friend and teaching colleague, Ann Heyse, “won” the opportunity to represent our school in Gulu this past summer. Ann spent six weeks with Invisible Children, training teachers and teaching students with her expertise in English, and based on both her personal testimony and her excellently-written blog documenting her experience, it seems the organization does good work in a place that needs much good work done.

Last night, as I watched the two-hour teaser that creatively gets Jack Bauer back to the United States for the show’s seventh full season beginning in January, I found myself overwhelmed by the realism of it all…that is until one particular commercial break when there was a quick screen shot for the Human Rights Watch website, followed immediately by a national Pizza Hut commercial, and then a local ad for St. Louis’ very own Casino Queen (“home of the loosest slots”). Whew. Assuagement by advertising.

What an incredibly confusing postmodern culture we have created, one in which almost every aspect of life is separated from any true and meaningful meta-narrative. How strange to go from African children dying to ordering two-for-one pizzas to having a great time gambling, all in the course of 60 seconds. And yet for those of us who have been breathing this postmodern air our entire lives, the progression doesn’t seem strange at all; it is exactly what we have come to expect (at least, that is, before God’s revelatory red pill of the gospel allows us to see power, gluttony, and greed for what they really are).

We live in a broken world, friends. Whether in Africa or America, ours is both a needy place and time to be alive, and not even Jack Bauer can get us out of this one.

Review: The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

In Books on November 23, 2008 at 2:00 am

A couple weeks ago I read Tim Keller's new book, The Prodigal God, a short – only 140 reduced-size pages – study on Jesus' familiar story in Luke 15. Often called "The Parable of the Prodigal Son," the parable, says Keller, is misnamed, as both sons are "prodigal" (or lost). Keller, however, goes on to argue that "prodigal" is misapplied even as an adjective in this sense, as it more accurately describes the "reckless extravagance-having-spent-everything" love of the father rather than the lostness of the sons.

In typical Keller fashion, he identifies the parable's message and meaning as coming down to a choice among three options: the irreligious way (as seen in the younger son's unmitigated pursuit of self-discovery); the religious way (as seen in the older son's legalistic pursuit of moral conformity); and the gospel way (as seen in the initiating love of the father toward both).

Most helpful for me were Keller's thoughts about the older son's sense of superiority and pride at his younger brother's return from a life of hedonism. He writes:

"At the end of the story, the elder brother has an opportunity to truly delight the father by going into the feast. But his resentful refusal shows that the father's happiness had never been his goal. When the father reinstates the younger son, to the diminishment of the older son's share in the estate, the elder brother's heart is laid bare. He does everything he can to hurt and resist his father. If, like the elder brother, you seek to control God through your obedience, then all your morality is just a way to use God to make him give you the things in life you really want." (39)

"What happens, then, if you are an elder brother and things go wrong in your life? If you feel you have been living up to your moral standards, you will be furious with God. You don't deserve this, you will think, after how hard you've worked to be a decent person! What happens, however, if things have gone wrong in your life when you know that you have been falling short of your standards? Then you will be furious with yourself, filled with self-loathing and inner pain. And if evil circumstances overtake you, and you are not sure whether your life has been good enough or not, you may swing miserably back and forth between the poles of 'I hate Thee!' and 'I hate me.'" (50)

A little slow at the beginning while walking through the text, Keller picks up the pace in his application of the passage, channeling C.S. Lewis in both his thinking and writing as to what the parable means and what we are to do with it. As in The Reason for God, The Prodigal God is another very readable volume for the irreligious, the religious, or those of us who swing between the two – all in need of the gospel.
(Note: If you're not a reader, here's a free mp3 of the sermon the book is based on – definitely worth a listen).

1-800-OPINION

In Politics on November 22, 2008 at 12:07 pm

With the recent slate of Presidential-elect appointees, it appears we’re in for the Clinton Administration III for at least the next four years. I guess “Change” actually translates to “Rewind” in Obama-speak.

Just to keep things balanced, here’s a note to Republicans: Sarah Palin is not your girl to rebuild the GOP. I know she’s much more attractive and photogenic, but would someone please take another look at Ron Paul?

Democrats or Republicans, give me a call (1-800-OPINION) if I can help. Just remember, you get what you pay for, which in terms of taxes, is more than I can say.

The Kids Are Growing Up

In Internet, Movies, Musicians, Thought, TV, Westminster on November 20, 2008 at 7:28 am

A thought crossed my mind this week that I’ll throw out to see if it sticks. For many of you, this may fall in the “I could care less” category, but since I spend a majority of my time with teenagers, I’m interested.

It seems to me there’s a major generational shift going on in the teen entertainment business. For instance, earlier this week, the MTV show TRL (Total Request Live) took a final bow after ten years of attracting the “biggest and hottest recording artists, actors and celebrities on most weekday afternoons,” all while playing “the most iconic videos of the day.” For better or for worse, a majority of the boy bands, pop tarts, and rappers of the past ten years got a whole lot of promotion via TRL, a fact wonderfully and cynically documented in the 2001 movie (not the 70s TV show) Josie and the Pussycats, one of my favorite commentaries on the youth culture of the time.

But that’s not all that makes me think about a shift occurring. This weekend, the movie Twilight – teen romance with unfortunate vampire issues – comes out, and the teen world all over will be filling theaters for weeks on end tomorrow to see it. I was intrigued by a comment one of the girls in my class made when, commenting on the “hot or not” looks of the movie’s Edward character (Jane Austen fans, imagine a teenage Mr. Darcy with fangs), she said, “He’s not even really that cute. All the cute guys – with the exception of Zac Ephron – are older.”

Hmmm.

Finally, I don’t know if anyone’s seen the trailer for J.J. Abrams‘ new Star Trek movie, but there’s nary a recognizable face among the actors playing the new (and young – very young) versions of Kirk, Spock, Scotty, et. al. Granted, Abrams’ name is the draw (he of Alias and Lost fame), but with him at the helm, it’s interesting there isn’t more familiar young “star power” (notice I didn’t say “talent”) attached.

Is something going on here? Anyone have any thoughts, or am I just spending too much time with high schoolers? My interest is not in the fact that I’m getting older (I know that already), but in the fact that the youth culture of recent years seems to be.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Rock, Rock Again!

In Pop Culture on November 17, 2008 at 2:00 am

Got to get this (or its non-expletive version) into the epilogue of ThirtySomewhere. Consider these gems:

"Once I hit 40, man, there's going to be no stopping me. Soon as the big birthday rolls around, I'm planning on starting that novel, opening my long-dreamed-of record store, and finally breaking into the experimental underground film scene. By the time I'm 43, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm the hippest person I know."

"As long as I stay focused on my original goal, established at age 12, of having a rocking life, the sky's the limit. Sure, I haven't managed to achieve anything so far. Fair enough. But the way I figure it, I can either let myself get depressed about that fact like I did when I turned 18, 21, 25, 30, 35, and 39, or I can choose to look at this as an opportunity. An opportunity to rock!"

"Facing a birthday like this one (fortieth) puts things in perspective. You reassess what's truly important and you start to ask yourself the big questions: Like, will I ever really be able to pull off the leather pants look? What's it going to be like once I'm finally one of the 'cool kids'? Do I really have it in me to someday achieve the confidence, self-esteem, and sex appeal necessary to be the wicked party monster I've always known, deep down, I could be?"

If it all just weren't so true…

Faith’s Geography

In Poetry, Seminary on November 17, 2008 at 2:00 am

Trying to finish up a reflection paper tonight. Here's my intro:

Faith's Geography
“Yahweh’s intention for his people (Israel) is that they enjoy the good life…the land comes to symbolize the life with Yahweh in ideal conditions, a quality of life which might be characterized as the abundant life.”
Dr. Elmer A. MartensGod’s Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology

“Geography – it’s everywhere.”
Dr. Kit SalterUniversity of Missouri School of Geography

I was a geography major in my undergrad days at the University of Missouri. I like to boast that this fact uniquely qualifies me to read roadmaps, but that’s about the extent of my abilities. Instead of map-making or map-reading, I was more interested in cultural geography’s preoccupation with the question, “Did people shape the land or did the land shape people?” The answer was always “yes;” the work was determining the degrees of each.

My study of the Old Testament this fall reacquainted me with my cultural geography roots. In following the nation of Israel from its beginning with Abram in Ur, through its migration to Egypt by Jacob and Joseph, to its Exodus into the wilderness led by Moses, to its conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua, through its struggles of settlement under the Judges, to its glories of the Davidic monarchy in Jerusalem, to its exile to the lands of Assyria and Babylon, and finally to its Palestinian return under Persia, there is (pardon the pun) much ground to cover as to the impact of the land on Israel and Israel's influence on it. For as Elmer Martens observes, “Statistically, land is a more dominant theme (in the Bible) than covenant."

Yeah, so it's a stretch, but I'm running with it (gotta make that undergrad degree seem worth something somehow). In the meantime, here's something actually worth reading – a poem by Sean Kinsella I came across in the journal First Things. I liked it.

the geography of my faith

this is
the tent of my anticipation

at the entrance of which
Sarah laughing stands

this is
the hilltop of my affliction

upon which
Isaac lies bewildered bound 

this is
the spring of my abandonment

to which
Hagar has weeping fled 

this is
the mill of my aspirations

at which
Samson blinded labors 

this is
the geography of my faith

in which
in me my Saviour lives

Cheap(er)

In Pop Culture on November 14, 2008 at 8:20 am

This morning on my way to school, I filled up our Oldmobile Delta ’88 land yacht with 15 gallons of unleaded gas. The total price? $27, which works out to about $1.75 a gallon – the lowest I’ve seen in St. Louis all fall.

Let me use my “I remember when voice” for just a second: I remember when gas was consistently $1.19 in Colorado for most of the 90’s; in the 80’s (even with Illinois’ high gas tax), I remember filling up with gas that was $.89 a gallon. Glory days.

By those standards, $1.75 is high, but it’s amazing how a summer of $3-almost $4 gasoline makes it seem low. Yes, I know that even at the latter price our gasoline is less expensive than gas in most of Europe, but the downward trend of of late is welcome news to my ears (not to mention to our gas budget).

Anybody else rejoicing? What’s the lowest you’ve seen gas going for these days (and what was the highest you paid for it last summer)?

Conflict Resolution from the Six-and-Under Crowd

In Family, Young Ones on November 12, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Overheard this afternoon from the bathroom (I have no idea what the issue was):

6-year-old: I’m telling.

5-year-old: I’m telling Mom.

6-year-old: I’m telling Mom AND Dad.

5-year-old: I’m telling the whole world.

Silence.

I doubt the issue was properly resolved, but they’re not arguing about it anymore. It’s amazing what the threat of public accountability does for the six-and-under crowd (and too bad it doesn’t work better with adults).

Veterans Day

In Holidays, Writing on November 11, 2008 at 4:48 pm

In honor of Veterans Day, here’s a link to a World War I blog I heard about on Public Radio International. Basically, a grandson has taken the time to type in his grandfather’s letters on the dates they were actually written during his service, documenting the latter’s experience throughout the so-called “war to end all wars.”

For all you veterans out there, thanks. And forgive us when we take you for granted.

Putting the “Part-Time” in “Part-Time Student”

In Seminary on November 7, 2008 at 10:02 pm

My seminary education has perhaps reached the tipping point where the cost required in terms of money, time, and energy is beginning to outweigh the degree’s value theologically, professionally, and personally. God willing, I’m due to finish in May (at least with one degree), but I’m afraid I’m going to be disappointed by what I finish with when it’s all said and done.

The problem is this: after four years of study (two full-time, two part-time), all I’m going to end up with is an MA in Theological Studies, which is normally only a two-year program. Most of the classes I took at the MDiv level covered the requirements for the MATS, but the degree is not going to reflect all that work. Several MDiv courses are MDiv only (preaching classes, for instance), so I’ve paid for hours that don’t count for MATS requirements (though I’m sure they’ve been of benefit, cost not withstanding). 

I recognize that I did this to myself by first switching to part-time last year in order to teach full-time, then making the switch from the MDiv program to the MATS earlier this year because of schedule complications and language struggles. At the time (and even still), my choices seemed limited because of circumstances (children needing to eat, failing Hebrew twice, etc.), so I went in a different direction from my initial one, letting go of the MDiv in the process and assuming the MATS would still stimulate.

Unfortunately, the MATS courses I’m taking now are much less challenging than their MDiv counterparts; though the workloads are similar in terms of amount of reading and papers, the content is much less technical and engaging (barely a step above a decent Sunday School class) and I’m bored. Weekend classes (like the one I’m taking this weekend on the Ancient Near East) tend to be too big and designed for folks interested in general explanations I’ve already studied rather than the more esoteric aspects of the Scripture that I haven’t. All this too quickly enables my preference to blend into the crowd and multi-task on something else (this post, for example), and I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.

Here’s an illustration of what I’m talking about: I have 40 papers (I’m not kidding – a two-page reflection for each of the 39 Old Testament books of the Bible, as well as one five-page paper) due between now and the end of November. I haven’t started on any of them, mostly because I’m not too motivated to write reflections I know no one is really going to read with any kind of technical eye (not to mention the fact that I often write blog posts longer than these assignments and they’re not going to take me all that long to do).

Granted, the purpose of the assignment may be to get students to interact with the Scripture at a personal level, but knowing the evaluation of said assignment will be little more than a completion grade given by some T.A. who has to read a hundred other sets of reflections is not really motivating to me. It’s what I call a “plop value” assignment; if it’s got good “plop” when you drop it on a desk, you get an A.

So much of what I studied the first two years was at a much deeper level than I am studying now, and the let-down of needing to study with little more effort than I put in at college (which was minimal) is palpable. I miss my full-time days of seminary and the single-focus of that time; in some ways it was harder because of all the extenuating circumstances (tiny apartment on campus, tons of technical reading, Greek and Hebrew out the wazoo), but it was easier, too, as the phrase “I’m in seminary” meant I was solely working full-time on Covenant’s most comprehensive degree.

I suppose one could argue for the blessing of a lighter load in the midst of everything else (full-time job, wife, four children, etc.), but it doesn’t work that way for me. Instead, I find myself sympathizing with the semi-sad narrative of the baseball player who couldn’t make it in the major leagues and is now playing AA ball somewhere. The good news is he’s still playing baseball; the bad news is he’s not playing it in the bigs. In case you’ve never been to a major or minor league baseball game, the difference is vast: sure, the fields are similar and the rules are the same, but the way things are played on the field is, as the saying goes, a whole different ballgame.

The People Have Spoken

In Politics on November 5, 2008 at 8:43 am

obama3

Apart from the mainstream media practically falling over themselves in giddy delight to declare victory for Barack Obama, I enjoyed watching the returns last night. Thankfully, Obama was gracious in victory, John McCain was classy in defeat, and the sight of American flags (as opposed to partisan placards) in Chicago was a nice reminder that we’re all in this together, at least democratically speaking.

In an effort to make the night as educational as possible for our girls, Megan printed out electoral maps of the country and I helped the ladies color them in red or blue. As we had dragged them to the polls twice yesterday, they were pretty into what was going on (even our five-year-old). I’m glad this election will be the first one they really remember as it’s so historic (my first was Reagan/Carter in 1980, though I vaguely remember my parents taking me to see Gerald Ford on a campaign stop in Pittsfield, IL, in 1976).

Come January, Barack Obama will be my President. The people have certainly spoken, Obama won big, and even though I didn’t vote for him, I was moved by his acceptance speech and the historical significance of the moment. Sure, I still have questions (here are seven big ones), but I can see positives, too (these would be a few). Regardless, my role as a Christian does not change, which keep things fairly simple and sane.

Election Day 2008

In Politics on November 4, 2008 at 6:52 am

Feel free to share any good election day stories in the comments as well.

A Prayer for Our Next President

In Politics on November 3, 2008 at 2:00 am

Reading some on the monarchy of Israel this weekend, I came across Psalm 72, a coronation prayer for the heirs of King David's line (beginning with Solomon). Do yourself a favor and read the passage through in its entirety – it's both beautiful and bold in its request for success in the task of ruling God's people well.

Yes, I know we here in America are not a theocracy as Israel was then, but the humility and hope of this passage needs to apply to any leader, especially the one our democracy will elect President later this week. Regardless who wins, pray that God would bend his heart even now in the direction of Psalm 72, for as the first verse reminds us, justice and righteousness in our leaders can only come from God.

 1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
 2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
 3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
 4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!

 5 May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
 6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
 7 In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!

 8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
 9 May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
bring gifts!
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!

12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live;
may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field!
17 May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!

18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!

20 The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.

The What and Why of How I’m Voting on Tuesday

In Politics on November 1, 2008 at 7:29 am

In response to my previous post about bonding with Barry, a friend emailed to ask how I see things differently from Obama. Here’s his question:

“What do you disagree strongly about? I’m genuinely curious, meaning, your answers could shape my opinion because I value your insight. I’m probably going to vote for him, mostly because of how much I feel/think about McCain and I do not believe Palin would be qualified to take over the Presidency if need be. I’m still open to voting for a third option candidate though.”

As I had planned to write an endorsement post anyway, here it is. Please understand: my attempt here is not to try to aggressively convince anybody one way or the other; I’m just responding honestly to the question. I’m honored some might actually care what I think, so for what it’s worth, here’s where I stand (note: if you’re interested, here’s where Megan stands).

Full disclosure: I consider myself a “little c” fiscal/social conservative with libertarian leanings. I’m registered as a Republican and I voted for Ron Paul in the primary. Reluctantly, I’m planning to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket on Tuesday, though if Ron Paul were running as a third-party candidate, I would vote for him again for the same reasons as before.

As mentioned in my previous post, I very much appreciate Obama’s intellect and inspiration, not to mention his youth and energy. For me, the experience (or lack thereof) of either Obama as President or Sarah Palin as Vice- is a moot point; no candidate is ever ready to be President. Even for John McCain or Joe Biden, executive office will be very different from their legislative roles in the Senate, so we’re going to get a novice regardless of who wins.

Having said that, my biggest concerns in this election have less to do with the candidates’ experience and more to do with their ideology on the following:

  1. the size, function, and presence of government in our lives
  2. the balance of power divided among the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives
  3. the interpretive bias and make-up of the Supreme Court

Obama’s governmental approach borders on (if not crosses over into) pure socialism, with the government playing an even larger, more active, and omnipresent role than even it is right now. Unfortunately, government grew enormously under George Bush in the past eight years, but not all growth was intentional; I think of 9/11, two wars (one of which we should never have entered), and huge natural disasters as surprises rather than strategies to grow government. Obama’s policies, however, call for calculated government expansion, which doesn’t line up with my libertarian leanings.

Would McCain do any better on the government question? I don’t know, especially when I have rarely heard him talk much about cutting spending, which is a major key to keeping government small. I do believe, though, that McCain’s default ideology as to the purpose of government lends itself to less government more than Obama’s does, so on that basis, I have to vote for McCain.

With regard to the balance of power, the fact that an Obama win would most likely lead to a Democrat-led White House, Senate, and House of Representatives runs against what I understand the desires of the Founding Fathers to be when they framed the Constitution. Obama might be capable enough in the Oval Office, but the current leadership of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in the Senate and House respectively has been atrocious in terms of partisanship played, meaningful legislation passed, and record-low ratings of Congress in general.

Would all this improve if all three leaders were of the same political party? One could argue it might by streamlining Congressional votes with no fear of Presidential vetoes, but again the ideology driving their thinking on moral issues like stem cell research, gay marriage, and continued protection of the unmitigated right to abortion (to name a few) becomes the bigger issue for me. Just because legislation might speed through the House, Senate, and White House does not make it good legislation. I can’t do much to affect the House and Senate at this point, but I can cast a vote that might affect the White House; thus, I will be voting for McCain.

Legislation is one thing; legislation’s interpretation in our highest courts is another. If you were to ask me who the ten most powerful people in our United States government were, my answer would be the President and our nine Supreme Court justices. Of these ten, the President (who serves a maximum of eight years) appoints members of the Court (who may serve as many as 30-40 years). At this point in history, the next President may have the opportunity to appoint as many as three justices to life terms in the Supreme Court, which could significantly shift the ideological make-up of the court in an enormous way.

The difference between justices who would interpret the law independent of their own views and those who would impose their own philosophies upon the document they are sworn to uphold is vitally important to the rule of law. Why? Because the next decade is going to play host to an onslaught of judicial decisions on a myriad of ethical questions pertaining to definitions of life, death, marriage, human rights, and religious freedoms. I do not want judges jettisoning the concept of original authorial intent when interpreting the law; I want judges sensing their responsibility to it. Conservative Presidents tend to appoint candidates more constructionist than activist in their understanding of their Supreme Court role, so I will be voting for McCain.

In reading through this, some could argue I am voting against Obama rather than for McCain. The critique is valid, but not invalidating. We vote for and against all kinds of things in our daily lives – what authors to read (or not read), what talking heads to listen to (or not listen to), what principles to live by (or not live by) – and this Presidential vote is no different. We all must make decisions, and rare is the one that isn’t comprised of a hybrid of reasons for and against.

Thus, for the ideological reasons listed above, I will be voting against Barack Obama and for John McCain for President of the United States of America on Tuesday. If you’ve yet to decide and are asking for my counsel, I would urge you to do the same.

(Note: It’s been almost a year since I wrote Poli-Sigh: Political Views of the Younger Generation for byFaith magazine. It’s interesting to read the piece a year later, days away from the election. If you didn’t get a chance to read it the first time, take a look.)