Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Should We Elect A Politician for President?

   In the first 2016 presidential debate, Donald Trump repeatedly reminded us that Hillary Clinton has been a politician for over 30 years.  He said this with disdain, as if it were something to be ashamed of.  He also regularly boasts that he is "not a politician", and that is one of the main reasons he keeps telling us we should vote for him.  I suppose that means we can trust him, right? 
     A politician, according the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is "a person experienced in the science of government, especially once who is actively engaged in conducting the business of government."  Since she graduated from college, and even before, Hillary Clinton has been actively involved in finding ways to better her community, first as a lawyer, and then as the wife of a very powerful and popular governor who eventually was elected President, and finally as a senator, and secretary of state.  By that definition, Hillary has definitely been involved in politics for a very long time.
    But doesn't it make sense that we should elect someone who is experienced in government to the highest public office in the land?  We want someone who is familiar with how government works, has a working knowledge of world events, and can hit the ground running.   A U.S. President does not have the time for "on the job training."  A crisis could occur on his or her first day in office that he or she must have the expertise to handle.  There is no room for major blunders without affecting the lives and futures of millions of people.
     Of course experience is not the only quality we are looking for in our presidential candidates.  We want someone who is intelligent, compassionate, and can make good judgments.  We want someone who will consider how laws and policies affect all Americans, both rich and poor.  We need someone who will protect our interests both at home and abroad, who has the diplomatic skills and cool headedness to be able work with world leaders in a way that enhances cooperation, minimizes conflict, and protects our interests.  We want someone who is calm in the face of conflict and criticism.
  Yes, Hillary Clinton has made mistakes.  Nobody is perfect. But she admits to those mistakes and states how she should have done things differently.  She does seem to have learned from her mistakes.  Has Donald Trump ever admitted to a mistake without being forced to do so?  Is he cool headed?  Does he have diplomatic skills?  Can he control his tongue? 
   If you were going to have brain surgery, would you want someone who was not a brain surgeon operating on your brain?  If you were building a home, would you ask someone with no building experience at all to build it?  If you were taking a plane trip, would you be comfortable if the pilot had never flown a plane in his life?  Then why should we place someone at the helm of our government who has absolutely no political experience, and none of the aforementioned qualifications. 
     You may be bemoaning the fact that we have to choose between Clinton and Trump.  Would that there were other candidates to choose from.  There were, but we're past that stage and now we have to make the best decision we can, and we have to live with it for the next 4 years.   
     Donald Trump can continue to complain about Hillary Clinton's 30+ years of political experience.  Every time he does so, it just makes the case for electing her President that much stronger.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

In Defense of Stoic Lutherans

     I am a member of a traditional Lutheran church.  We have recently made an attempt at starting a "contemporary" worship service.  We still have retained the 4 required elements of a Lutheran worship service - the gathering, the word, the meal, and the sending - but aside from that it's pretty loosely Lutheran.  We do the confession at the beginning, and the prayers before communion, but the rest of it is mostly music and reading of scripture. 
      Since nobody in our church has ever led a contemporary worship service, we hired a worship leader who is not from the Lutheran tradition, thinking that she would not feel such a need to stick to the more "traditional" forms of Lutheran service from the past and would bring us a more of a natural, contemporary flow to our worship.
   She stayed with us for about 5 months but has resigned.  She gave many reasons for her resignation but the main one is that the Lutheran church is not her type of church.  Her background is charismatic Pentecostalism.  She said she does not find Jesus in our service and it does nothing for her.  She is used to people raising their arms in worship, becoming emotional, and falling on the floor in tears.  None of that happens in our worship. We are a rather controlled, quiet bunch.
    I know that it is a trend in modern churches to lean toward displays of rapturous emotion during worship.  Many modern day Christians have come to expect some kind of emotional high at church, without which they feel they have not really worshipped at all.
   But is that really true?  God looks on the heart, not on outward appearance. He does not compare two congregations in worship and say "Well, I like that one better. They are raising their arms while they sing.  They must love me more."
     God is not that easily fooled.   He knows what is truly in our hearts, regardless of what we look like outwardly.  He does not need us to raise our arms and sway in rapture to the music with our faces bent heavenward to know if we love him or not.  He knows those who do and those who don't. 
     Lutheranism has roots in Germany and Norway, countries whose people are characteristically stoic and not given to open displays of emotion.  Can one not worship God in spirit and in truth and still be quiet about it?
       Equating lack of emotionalism in worship to lack of true faith is like thinking that if you don't swoon every time your spouse of 35 years walks into the room, you no longer love him or her.  Lutheranism is about God's grace for all people, and knowing God loves us, no matter how we feel.  He is with us in the highs of our lives as well as the lows.  His love for us and ours for Him is not dependent upon how we feel at the moment.  Yes, it's great to feel joy and happiness in the presence of the Lord at worship, but we don't have to wave our arms in the air so everyone knows about it.  It is enough that we know and He knows, and believe me He does. 
      We can please God by worshiping Him loudly or quietly, and we can also please Him by loving our neighbor and doing what is right and good in our lives.  We can please Him by quietly following Jesus' example and treating others as we would want to be treated.  We can please Him by teaching our children and grandchildren about how Jesus sacrificed his life for them, and that we should live in service and sacrifice for others. 
      There's nothing wrong with raising your arms in church and swooning if that's what you want to do, but there's nothing wrong with sitting quietly in the presence of the Lord and being content in the knowledge that we are loved, no matter what.  "Be still and know that I am God."