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Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

No, I have not blogged about anything in a while. No, I’m not a political blogger and have no desire to be one.

Yes, I live in Wisconsin. Yes, the state is making national news for the protests over the new budget repair bill. Yes, those are serious concerns the governor is trying to address.

No, this is not a good way to fix the state’s budget problem. Here’s why.

Buried in the bill is a proposal to do away with legislative oversight of the Medicaid program. The decision making process of how the state’s Medicaid program works would fall to the state Secretary of Health. This post is currently held by Dennis Smith, a fellow at The Heritage Foundation think tank who has advocated for states completely pulling out of the Medicaid program altogether.

This would by-pass the legislative process completely and potentially create major changes in who is eligible to be served by the program. Medicaid isn’t designed for those who can afford their own medical insurance. It’s for those whose incomes and life situations prevent getting medical care. The people served are USUALLY THE POOR AND DISABLED.

Scott Walker isn’t merely trying to bust unions. His budget repair bill is going to create more problems down the road as the lowest rungs of society’s ladder get hit harder, especially the sick and mentally ill who often depend on Medicaid to get the treatment they need to get through each day.

I really thought hard about titling this post: Conservative Governor Favors Death Panels. But no one has died from being poor and not getting treatment. Yet.

Here’s a note from my local representative of the National Alliance on Mental Illness with some links to news stories about how this budget bill hits the neediest people the hardest:

The new Administration is moving at lightning speed to make sweeping changes and significant budget adjustments. Much press and attention has been paid to public employees and unions but another change in the budget bill is far more alarming. The Governor seems to be using Medicaid in his stance against the unions by saying its either dismantle the unions or bulldoze Medicaid. It clouds the issue.

The links below provide background on an item in Governor Walker’s budget repair bill that proposes a shift of power and decision making around the state’s Medicaid program. This action is of tremendous concern to NAMI. This opens the door to drastic cuts to Medicaid services without public input and debate. It is critical that you let your legislators know that you are opposed to unilateral decision making about benefits and services to those most vulnerable Wisconsin residents. It is not an acceptable solution to the budget crisis. Please contact your legislators today to voice your opposition. Attached is an action alert you can send to your membership and contact information for state Legislators. Prompt action is needed as the vote could come as early as this Thursday/Friday. Your legislators work for you and need to hear your concerns.

Capital Times

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Legislative Fiscal Bureau Summary of the Budget Adjustment Legislation

Senate Bill 11

Jennifer Lowenberg

Advocacy and Training Specialist

NAMI Wisconsin, Inc

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The local Christian radio station has decided to withdraw its sponsorship of the local Christian music festival because Jim Wallis has been invited. Their reasons for pulling back have to do with Wallis’ position on various social issues. they disagree with wallis’ ideas on the need to take care of people’s basic life needs first as opposed to sharing the Gospel and introducing them to Jesus.

Their statement is here.

The money quote for me is this:

We recognize that individually and as the Body of Christ we are not doing all we could as Jesus taught us to. But we do not believe the solution is the church partnering with the government in this endeavor. Feeding the poor with no ability to share the gospel message is at best an incomplete solution. And we fear this is what will happen as the government controls the purse strings. Doing so might indeed help them in this life, at least while the food and water lasts, but what about their eternal souls? While we are commanded by Jesus to help the poor, Jesus said our greatest calling is in Matthew 28:19: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Coming under federal control may make this impossible without legal and financial persecution.

A couple of things stick out.  First is the assumption that where government is in charge of re-distributing the wealth through taxation, the gospel will be hindered.

Has anybody asked the church in  China how that’s working out for them?  China controls and redistributes everything.  Yet the church is growing immensely in that country to the point where they are sending missionaries to their neighboring countries.

Of course, if the government decides that the gospel can’t be preached if your church is feeding the poor or using government money to do so, it will be harder to preach the gospel.  So what?  Where were we promised an easy time of spreading the good news of Christ?

Second, the statement that the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) is more important than Jesus’ command to help the poor, begs for some explanation.  It sounds almost Manichean to say that preaching is more important than helping people to eat.  The spiritual life takes over the reality of living in this world.  It is hard to hear the gospel when you don’t know where the next meal is coming from and your stomach is rumbling.

I appreciate their words of concern that we should be caring for the poor, I think they and Jim Wallis would agree on that point.  It is hardly humanism to suggest that the poor are more likely to hear the gospel if their basic life needs are met first.  I’m missing the statement from Jim Wallis that says we don’t need to preach the gospel.

I think this radio station has withdrawn its sponsorship in the attempt to get rid of a strawman.  The line in their statement that says they invited Wallis to a meeting of local Christian pastors, I thinks suggests that the powers that be aren’t quite certain Wallis is committed to the Christian Gospel as they are themselves.

Just my 2 cents.

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My wife receives the print version of the Global Prayer Digest, a daily devotional dedicated to praying for missions that is published by the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, California.

Yesterday morning she was cleaning out old stuff from her Bible and tossed out the February 2007 edition which was dedicated to praying for the people groups in Russia and Eastern Europe.  Being a natural reader and packrat, I picked it out of the trash to give it a quick read.

At the beginning of each edition, the editors put together a summary of regional history or some other background information that creates awareness of current issues affecting both the region and the mission of the Church in that region.  Imagine my surprise when I read these two sentences:

After 1600, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Nikon introduced a new liturgy that angered traditionalists into splitting from the Russian church. In a twisted attempt to restore unity, the reformers persecuted the old believers.

Funny how that was going on at the same time as all the religious upheaval, persecutions, civil wars and whatnot in Western Europe, especially England.  The Church of England and the dissenters on either side, Catholic or Puritan were locking horns at the same point in time.

Now what made those two sentences stand out even more were the continued travails of the orthodox within the Episcopal Church today.  They hold to the faith passed down from the apostles and yet find themselves under what increasingly feels like persecution from the revisionist minded leadership of the Episcopal Church.  Just as in those days traditional minded believers were forced out in the Russian Orthodox Church and the Puritans and Roman Catholics were pushed to the edge by the Church of England, so also today we see the same thing happening.

The Episcopal Church seems to bring this on herself from time to time.  Witness the split of the Reformed Episcopal Church in the U.S. 130 years ago over the influence of the Oxford Movement in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America.  Consider the rise of the Continuing Churches in the world of Anglicanism 30 years ago concerning the adoption of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as well as the ordination of women.  Then see today’s new Anglican bodies popping up in the U.S and the ecclesiastical trials and even lawsuits filed against them for daring to leave with or without their property.  All of them twisted attempts to force liturgical, ecclesiastical and theological unity apart from the authority of Christ and Scriptures.

We’ve been down this road before.  It’s not pretty and it certainly will not glorify God or bring honor to the name of Jesus Christ, except to the extent that those who are being persecuted faithfully stand up and proclaim the gospel under fire.

As George Santayana, the philosopher, famously said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  Or even better, King Solomon, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, there is nothing new under the sun.”  (Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV)

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Growing up I always heard that bad news comes in threes.  John Stott’s retirement, Robert Webber’s death were real losses to me.  But picking up the morning news from around the world, I can honestly say that this one hits hard.

Brian was the son of a dear friend of my wife and I.  He was a good, quiet kid with all the usual stuff that comes with young men in small towns pushing the edge of the envelope and discovering the their purpose in life.  He was close to his family and we all know this is hitting them harder than we will ever imagine.  No parent should ever have to bury their child.  It only is harder in a small town where everyone sees the kids grow up and high school graduation is a community celebration.  My prayers are with his mom, Karen, as well as the rest of his family and friends.

91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

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The weekend news brought two pieces of information that were hard to hear.

First, was the announced retirement of John Stott, a great teacher of Scripture, an excellent example in ministry and a humble disciple of Jesus Christ.  I credit Stott’s writings with having some of the greatest effect on my understanding of faith and ministry.  I did not always agree with some of his conclusions on lesser matters, but his book, The Cross of Christ, might be one of the best works on the truth of Christ’s subtitutionary atonement ever.  I have often required his book (now updated), Basic Christianity, as required reading for baptism or church membership.  I think he spoke in chapel at my seminary every year I was there.  It was about the only chapel service where the entire seminary community would attend.  I pray God blesses him greatly in retirment and that he finally finds the time to do the bird-watching he has always loved.

HT: Justin

The second item was significantly harder to hear, though maybe not unexpected, was the news that Robert Webber has gone to be with the Lord after a battle with pancreatic cancer.  I met him while I was planting a small church in a rural area when he offered a Blended Worship seminar to the pastors in the region.  After graduating from seminary in the midst of the worship wars, I thought I knew what comprised blended worship.  Was I off the mark!  Webber re-opened my eyes to the beauty of the Great Tradition in worship as God’s people are led to respond to God’s grace in the liturgy through word and sacrament.  I had seen some of that growing up in the Episcopal Church, but Webber put it all together for me after I had left.  His work on merging the ancient with the future in the church continues to influence my ministry.  I pray that his family will know the strong, everlasting arms of God underneath them and be wrapped in His infinite love during these difficult days.

HT: The Boar’s Head Tavern

An updated announcement on Robert Webber is here.

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Confession time: I’m no fan of Duke. The school wore out its welcome with the breathless hype of its basketball team in the 90s. I respect Coach K for what he has done there, but I’m tired of hearing about it.

Now comes this from the infamous Duke lacrosse team storyline:
Mark at WannabeAnglican posted a letter from the Duke Trustees announcing their admiration for the character of these young men who are now pronounced innocent by the state DA. It concludes as follows:

Throughout the past year President Richard Brodhead consulted regularly with the trustees and has had our continuing support. He made considered and thoughtful decisions in a volatile and uncertain situation. Each step of the way, the board agreed with the principles that he established and the action she took. As we look back and with the benefit of what we now know there is noquestion that there are some things that might have been done differently. However, anyone critical of President Brodhead should be similarly critical ofthe entire board.

In closing, we express our relief for today’s outcome and recognize the character that our three students, their teammates and all of their families have shown over the past year. Furthermore, we hope that the resolution of this unfair, divisive and painful episode can serve to unite us all. There is much to learn from the events that we have lived through, and we intend to put this learning to use. Duke is a great university that steps up to challenges and opportunities, and together we will use this moment to make our community stronger.

But if I’m remembering things correctly there are some other areas that might be addressed by the school:

  • a very successful coach lost his job;
  • some of the team members transferred to other schools to find a safer place for their education;
  • these three lost their reputations, no matter what the DA and MSNBC report;
  • faculty and students were allowed to create an atmosphere of hatred for the lacrosse team on campus;
  • protests were targeted at the team and these young men specifically;
  • relations between town and gown were shredded, not to mention neighboring schools;

I’m certain more could be said.

Now we are supposed to believe Duke leaders that these young men are men of excellent character?

If this were real BS I could power a medium-sized city for at least a year. As it is this is standard Bravo Sierra from people who are hoping the school endowment won’t have to pay out too much cash.

My respect for Duke is even less after this.

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