Saturday, July 26, 2008

My Political Career

I am an also-ran. On the ballot but not elected. My political career is going nowhere fast.

But what a wonder! I was on the ballot!

For what? you might ask. To be among the approximately 500 lay delegates to the general assembly of the International Church of the Nazarene in June 2009 in Orlando, Florida. It's not a large denomination, only 1.7 million members worldwide. Still, that gives many other choices of people to nominate as delegate other than me. There were 18 names on the ballot for lay delegate from southwest Indiana. My name was among them. Out of 280 ballots cast, 70 people voted for me to be one of three elected. That's one less than did so four years ago. Like I said, my political career isn't exactly rocketing me to prominence.

It's interesting to consider the steps to actual election. First, I need to develop a ministry that gives me name recognition beyond my local church and community. People need to know who I am. Then I need to polish a persona of wisdom and loyalty to the church. A bunch of conservative people with little interest in change have to be convinced that I will represent their interests to the general assembly. Yet, I must not give any hint that I might be campaigning for the position. Undisguised ambition doesn't set well for this sort of thing.

One might think that formal training in doctrine and church polity would be halpful, or maybe familiarity with the history and values of the denomination, but that would be the case only if people actually studied the qualifications of the nominees and valued that sort of thing. Networking is actually a much greater factor. I suspect that my piano skills are a greater asset for this sort of thing than any insights I might have into the direction and future of the Church of the Nazarene. If only I could get some piano gigs around the district, my chances of being elected would go up considerably. Especially if I kept my mouth shut and didn't let it slip that I am perhaps not fully committed to maintaining the status quo.

Still, I was nominated! What a great honor it has been to be chosen twice as a nominee for delegate to the general assembly. I am blessed.

By one measure, I had a better showing this year than four years ago when there were 24 nominees for four positions. Although I received fewer votes, there were also fewer people who received more votes than I did. Who knows what could happen in four years if it weren't that the puddle in which I do my piggy thing is perhaps on the path to expansion, sinking me even further into obscurity.

Even though I'm not a delegate, I am planning to be part of the Orlando event next summer as a "friend" of the assembly. I have missed only two of the last ten assemblies. And without delegate responsibilities, I can focus on the fun and fellowship. Life is good.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Plenty of room in heaven?

This op-ed piece was in our newspaper this week. It alerts readers to the fact that Barack Obama doesn't subscribe to the basic tenets of Christianity. The authors write:

A basic tenet of Christianity is that profession of faith in Jesus Christ is necessary to gain the reward of eternal life in heaven. Christians do not believe the door of heaven is open to every “kind” and “generous person.” Christians do not believe that adherence to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or other religions opens the door to eternal life in heaven with God. That is why Christians send missionaries seeking the conversion of these religions’ practitioners to Christian beliefs.

There's a comment that
Obama has repeatedly said belief in Jesus is only one of many paths to salvation."

One of the underlying proofs of this heresy is that
Obama said that his mother was in heaven despite her atheism and outright rejection of Christ. While speaking at a town hall forum in North Carolina on March 26, 2008 he said his late mother was 'not a believer.' He continued, 'But she was the kindest, most decent, generous person that I have ever known,' Obama said. 'I'm sure she is in heaven, even though she may not have subscribed to everything that I subscribe to.'

From this we know the truth that no one will make it into heaven unless they accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We also know that those who would allow any exceptions to that truth are not real Christians and won't make it into heaven. That leaves the pearly gates open only to those who accept Jesus as Christ and believe that everyone who doesn't do so will burn in hell.

I'm a little distressed by this position. How many Christians have I heard at funeral homes speak the comforting words: "Well, at least you know that your loved one is in a better place" without regard to any Christian witness on the part of the deceased? I presume that all of those people, like Obama, are guilty of heresy and deny the basic tenets of Christianity. I'm thinking that banning all who say such things might substantially thin out the population in that blessed place. How many genuine Christians do I know by those standards?

I hope John McCain's mother was a Christian. Otherwise, he might have to submit to the same test of being required to prove his belief in the "basic tenets of Christianity" by confirming that his mother is now being subjected to the fires of hell. Because that's what true Christians say when their loved ones die without a clear Christian witness.

I'm a little comforted by two verses:

Matthew 21:31 reads: Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." (He was speaking to the Pharisees at the time.) Tax collectors and prostitutes in the kingdom?! Doesn't Jesus know the basic tenets of Christianity? How are people who flaunt the ten commandments entering the kingdom at all, let alone ahead of the religious leaders?

A little later, in Matthew 23:13, Jesus told the Pharisees: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

As one who is fully committed to a local manifestation of Christianity and, thus, in no small danger of slipping into the mindset of the Pharisees, I'm thinking that I probably need to be more intentional about casting my lot in with the "tax collectors and prostitutes" as far as finding the path to heaven and make sure that I'm opening doors for people rather than closing them.

Sometimes I'm more than a little sympathetic when people look at Christians and opine that if that is who will populate heaven, they might not want to go there.