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Watching Fox News…. Fr. Michael Pfleger, pastor at St. Sabina Catholic Church on Chicago’s south side was just asked to “step away” for a couple of weeks by Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago after his controversial sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ (Obama’s, now former, church).

A statement from the Archdiocese’s website:

To put recent events in some perspective, I have asked Father Michael Pfleger, Pastor of St. Sabina’s Parish, to step back from his obligations there and take leave for a couple of weeks from his pastoral duties, effective today. Fr. Pfleger does not believe this to be the right step at this time. While respecting his disagreement, I have nevertheless asked him to use this opportunity to reflect on his recent statements and actions in the light of the Church’s regulations for all Catholic priests. I hope that this period will also be a time away from the public spotlight and for rest and attention to family concerns.

I hope also that the life of St. Sabina’s parish may continue in uninterrupted fashion. Fr. William Vanecko, Pastor of St. Kilian’s parish, will be temporary administrator of St. Sabina’s and will assure the full complement of ministerial services during this period. I ask the members of St. Sabina’s parish to cooperate with him and to keep him and Fr. Pfleger in their prayers. They are in mine.

From my experience… you don’t appoint an interim pastor unless he is going to be gone longer than two weeks.  Another thought is, how arrogant he is to say to the Archbishop (his boss), “I don’t think this is the right step.”  That will likely be what eventually will get this guy removed permanently.

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Some may not be aware, but Iowa has a Republican Senate Primary tomorrow.  The three contenders are Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Rathje, Marion businessman and Navy vet Christopher Reed, and Strattford attorney and former Iowa Representative George Eichhorn.

Any of the three would be better than incumbent U.S. Senator Tom Harkin who has not represented Iowa well.  His liberal positions are not in touch with mainstream Iowa (which I noticed his most liberal positions are conveniently left off his issues page on his website).

Another reason why I feel that Tom Harkin is bad for Iowa is that he no longer lives here.  Unlike the senior senator for Iowa, Chuck Grassley, who lives here when the Senate is out of session and visits every county in Iowa every year; Harkin resides near Washington, D.C., just maintains a P.O. Box in Iowa and is only out here when he is fundraising or campaigning.

I have decided that I am going to cast my ballot tomorrow for George Eichhorn, and I would like to encourage my fellow Republicans who live in Iowa to do the same tomorrow.  I think that George Eichhorn has excellent experience having served in the Iowa Legislature for three terms.  While I am not against seeing non-legislators run against Harkin I feel that both Rathje and Reed are the the strongest candidates.

Regarding policies they are all pretty similar.  I feel George Eichhorn articulates his the best and knows how to campaign.  Steve Rathje has been running for two years, but as a recent Des Moines Register article points out as of 5/14/08, only had $7,700 in the bank.  Eichhorn only has $4,100, but he just declared his candidacy.  Eichhorn also seems to have the backing of some key party leadership.  I also watched a recent debate between Eichhorn and Reed (could somebody explain to me why Rathje wasn’t there?), and I feel that Eichhorn best explained his positions.  Reed came across as inexperienced, and Rathje communicated a lack of desire to win since he couldn’t even bother showing up.

So George, you have my vote tomorrow.  I hope to see you on the ballot in November against Tom Harkin.

Cross-posted at From Their Own Mouths

Update (6/4/08): Congratulations to Christopher Reed who yesterday’s primary.  Very close race.  Mr. Reed was my second choice.

1,873 of 1,873 precincts – 100 percent

  • Christopher Reed 25,150 – 35 percent
  • George Eichhorn 24,735 – 35 percent
  • Steve Rathje 21,326 – 30 percent

Source: KCCI TV

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By Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Todd Purdum who covered Bill Clinton for sixteen years wrote a troubling piece in Vanity Fair (I don’t normally read Vanity Fair, but there has been enough brouhaha over it I wanted to read it.).

Is Bill Clinton a asset or liability for Senator Hillary Clinton in her bid for the White House (now doomed I’m sure), and the likely bid they’ll make to get her on the ticket with Barack Obama?

He’s evidently an angry man.

“There’s an anger in him that I find surprising,” one senior aide, who has known and served both Clintons for years, told me this spring. “There seems to be an abiding anger in him, and not just the summer thunderstorms of old. He has been called into question repeatedly by top staff. The fact is, you can only weigh in so often on this stuff. It’s just a huge force of nature.”

His painful departure and transition from the White House.

By most accounts, including his own, Clinton struggled to find his footing in the early days of his post-presidency. “I was lost for three weeks after I left the White House,” he said on the campaign trail this winter. “Nobody ever played a song anymore. I had no idea where I was.” He had ended his administration in a firestorm of criticism over his eleventh-hour pardon of a raft of assorted miscreants, including the fugitive financier Marc Rich, whose ex-wife, Denise, contributed $450,000 to Clinton’s presidential-library fund, approximately $1 million to Democratic causes, including $70,000 to a fund supporting Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, and $7,000 worth of furniture for the Clintons’ new home in Chappaqua, in suburban Westchester County.

Apparently President Clinton is lacking the appropriate staff to “save him from himself.”

The most pointed criticism of Band (President Clinton’s current personal counselor who is involved in his daily schedule) is precisely this: that he does not possess what Clinton has always needed in a string of strong-willed aides, such as his gubernatorial chief of staff Betsey Wright, or his director of Oval Office operations, Nancy Hernreich—the judgment to save him from himself. The origins of such criticism may lie in the fact that one of his predecessors as personal aide, Stephen Goodin, was cited, together with Hernreich, in the Starr Report as having tried to keep Monica Lewinsky away from the president, while Band, then only an intern, escorted her to a White House party, at her request.

It is sad to think that we have a former president who needs a babysitter to help save him from himself.  But based on his behavior in the White House, this shouldn’t be very surprising.

His commitment to his wedding vows must not have changed much since being out of the Oval Office.

None of these wisps of smoke have produced a public fire. But four former Clinton aides told me that, about 18 months ago, one of the president’s former assistants, who still advises him on political matters, had heard so many complaints about such reports from Clinton supporters around the country that he felt compelled to try to conduct what one of these aides called an “intervention,” because, the aide believed, “Clinton was apparently seeing a lot of women on the road.” The would-be intercessor was rebuffed by people around Clinton before ever getting an audience with the former president, and another aide told me that the effort was not well received by either Bill or Hillary Clinton and that some Hillarylanders, in particular, were in denial about the continuing political risks that Bill’s behavior might pose.

So is Vanity Fair being fair toward President Clinton?  What if the items in this story is true, how do you think that affects Senator Clinton’s political future?

Cross-posted at Red Blue Christians and From Their Own Mouths

Update – 6/4/08: Allan Bevere makes some great points about the Vanity Fair article, and how Purdum mostly relied upon anonymous sources.

Unless you have just arrived from another planet, you and everyone know about Bill Clinton and his constant zipper problems throughout the years. If indeed, the former president has been discretely sexually indiscreet as he has campaigned for his wife, no one would be surprised.

But here is the problem– the article relies completely on anonymous sources. One of the increasingly disturbing trends in current journalistic practice is the reliance on unnamed or anonymous sources in order to trash someone’s name and reputation. All that is needed, supposedly, is that the journalist researching and writing the story, consider the anonymous source to be reliable. Thus we are supposed to accept the “newsworthy” claim (accusation) as accurate because a journalist trusts the person who is providing the information while hiding in the shadows. (Journalists and anonymous sources– now there’s a time-honored recipe for truth and integrity!)

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Though more along the lines of what not to do… Thabiti Anyabwile looks at Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s latest controversial comments and shared some very important lessons for pastors to learn from Rev. Wright’s shameful conduct on the public stage.

It’s a cautionary tale for us younger pastors. Here’s a man that’s served the same congregation over thirty years, who has no doubt learned many things in that time. He’s perhaps forgotten more than I know. And yet, when he is supposed to be retired and out of the public light, seems so taken with himself and his view of the world that he’d beat the sheep rather than feed them and risk overturning perhaps the most significant bid for the presidency in American history.

The lessons are legion. Here are five from my perspective:

1. Feed the sheep, feed the sheep, feed the sheep. For the sake of argument, even if Obama was wrong in his Philadelphia comments where Wright was concerned, the appropriate response from the pastor isn’t a series of interviews but Galatians 6:1-2, gently pulling the erring brother aside. Insofar as Wright still regarded himself as the stronger brother and Obama’s pastor, he was obligated to bear with the weak (Rom. 14:1; 15:1-3) and to teach with all patience (2 Tim. 4:2). This, no doubt, is easier said than done when we’re feeling personally attacked. But our call to heal and lead the sheep trumps our “right” to self-defense.

2. Be willing to suffer reproach for doing good. Wright sees himself as a servant of the marginalized and oppressed, a role he asserts Jesus assumed. If he really believed that, he should willingly and joyfully suffer for doing good (1 Pet. 2:20-24; 3:13-17). To this we are called. While I think Wright’s theological and political commitments are wrong-headed, his life illustrates for me the importance of my being willing to suffer for what I think is right–the Lord, the gospel and the sheep.

3. Think carefully about a separation of church and state principle in my own ministry and public comments on public issues. This, I think, is a serious weakness in some quarters of American Christianity, with social gospels on the left and the right. Wright interprets the critical comments in response to his sermons as an attack on the black church. The comments fueling all of this were pretty clearly political comments, not gospel, Christian, or church-related comments. That he doesn’t see the distinction is quite alarming. Now he is in the public square assuming that his detractors at the least don’t understand the entire black church and at worst are anti-black church. Whenever or if ever I am called to speak on some public issue, I need to do the hard work of knowing where the Bible stops speaking, where my opinion begins, and where either state concerns are over-running more fundamental biblical concerns or vice-versa.

4. Seek counsel before speaking. That hardly needs any elaboration, except to say that on stages as large as this, and on a thousand smaller ones, we either help the cause of Christ by speaking well or hinder it by speaking poorly. “No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Surely we should count the costs before waging war, seek counsel before advancing plans. And beyond seeking counsel, heeding it. I can’t imagine that any godly persons advised Wright to make these appearances, or they did that Wright kept their counsel. A good rule of thumb I learned in a different context: if you seek someone’s counsel and you decide to do something other than what they counsel, at least make yourself accountable to the counselor and the counsel by advising the counselor that (a) you’re going to do something different than what was counseled, (b) the reasons why, and (b) before you act.

5. Pray and war against pride. I don’t want to judge Wright. I don’t know the man’s heart or motives in all of this. But it looks like the same kind of pride that lurks in my heart, seeking to control the assessments I make of myself, my own importance and influence, and my reaction to situations and people who don’t think more highly of me than they do themselves. It’s been said a lot. And most of us have read or heard C.J. and others on the dangers of pride. But is it not ever with us? Does it not always threaten us, our relationships, and even our ministries? Had Wright never said a word in his own defense, many people would have judged his life of ministry on a wider set of factors, some favorable and some not. But now, it seems pride may have ruined a reputation after the public ministry was completed. It can do as much and more damage in all of our lives.

Be sure to read the whole post.  I appreciate the wisdom and humility shared in his post.

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I’m looking forward to watching this movie this weekend.  Below is a preview.

Here is an interview that Ben Stein did on the O’Reilly Factor:

This is interesting because not only is this a Darwinism vs. Intelligent Design issue, but really a free speech issue at play as well.  It should be good.  Go see it if you have a chance, especially opening weekend.  If it does well it will open in even more theaters.

Time to stop giving Darwinism a free pass.

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It’s Friday, and I thought I’d share some not-so-serious items from the campaign trail that has been making the rounds this week.

Hillary Clinton was seen in a local bar in Crown Point, IN (not far from where I used to live in Valparaiso) slamming a whiskey shot and doing beer chasers.

I didn’t think she’s been in Congress long enough to be drinking like that.  I guess she does this pretty frequently.  I personally don’t think this is the best attribute for a President to have.  I know many of our Presidents have been know to drink (our current President excluded), but there is just something about this video that is disturbing to me.  What do you think?

A student, Peter Doocy, a junior political science major at Villanova University, had the opportunity to bounce a theory off of Senator John McCain as to why Hillary is frequenting bars. (Warning: Chris Matthews uses some colorful language at the end.)

I don’t think I’ve seen Senator McCain tripped up like that before on a question.

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Over the weekend there was a “Compassion Forum” held at Messiah College in Grantham, PA.  Both Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were there to address people of faith in Pennsylvania before the upcoming April 22 primary in that state.

The forum covered several topics including abortion.

Clinton was asked whether life begins at conception — which opponents of abortion contend is a reality that makes any termination of a pregnancy the ending of a life.

“I believe the potential for life begins at conception,” Clinton said. “For me, it is also not only about a potential life. It is about the other lives involved. … I have concluded, after great, you know, concern and searching my own mind and heart over many years, … that individuals must be entrusted to make this profound decision, because the alternative would be such an intrusion of government authority that it would be very difficult to sustain in our kind of open society.”

The New York senator added that abortion should remain legal, safe and rare.

The two candidates appeared separately at Messiah College near Harrisburg, Pa., and briefly met as Clinton left the stage and Obama took her place. The moment of pleasantries and handshakes belied days of angry accusations between the two over Obama’s comments about bitter voters in small towns.

Asked whether life begins at conception, Obama said he didn’t know the answer.

“This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? … What I know, as I’ve said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates.”

Clinton is a Methodist. Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ.

Source: Fox News

Senator Clinton when come to her position on the issue of when life begins “after great, you know, concern and searching my own mind and heart over many years.”  Senator Obama still hasn’t come to a resolution.

The problem with Senator Clinton position lies in where she is going, as a “person of faith”, for answers to her questions.  You won’t find the answer in your own heart and mind. 

For both of the candidates the Bible is pretty clear regarding our personhood and provides a direct answer as to when life begins.  There shouldn’t be mass confusion over this for people who claim to follow Jesus Christ.  Life begins at conception, and our personhood is a reality before conception when one reads Psalm 139.

Plainly put, a position that holds that life does not begin at conception quite frankly is not scriptural and is an inconsistent view for a follower of Christ.

A question that I would have for Senator Obama, if he is unclear as to when life begins would he have a policy that is so anti-life when it comes to preborn children; even so far as voting against Illinois’ Born Alive Infant Protection Act that would protect children who survived an abortion?  That seems inconsistent with the answer he gives us during this forum.  His votes seem to say his mind is made up regarding this matter.

Another thing that Senator Clinton said that I feel needs to be addressed.

“For me, it is also not only about a potential life. It is about the other lives involved.”

The compassion argument, after all this is the “Compassion Forum”.  Often times those on the left when appealing to Christian voters will point out Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  For instance:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy,” (Matthew 5:7, ESV).

The noun, mercy, in the Greek is eleos, this word when used in the Bible always deals with what we see of pain, misery, and distress.  The results of sin.  It doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to sin, but does mean extending relief, healing and help to those broken by sin.  Why?  Because we are broken by sin, as the very first beatitude states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall receive the Kingdom of God,” (Matthew 5:4, ESV).  (To hear recent sermons I’ve preached on the Beatitudes you can go here for part one and here for part two).

Jesus showed great mercy and compassion for the woman caught in adultery, but even told her to “sin no more,” (John 8:11).  When looked upon the crowds and had compassion on them because they were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” (Matthew 9:36).

I guess the question to ask is are we really being compassionate to those who are facing an unexpected pregnancy by allowing abortion?  I don’t think so, mercy doesn’t mean allowance for sin and compassion shouldn’t create victims which abortion does.

If mercy is relieving pain, misery and distress how is it merciful to add to that pain, misery and distress?  Which is exactly what abortion does when you look at the potential complications and risks involved in an abortion, when you look at what it could possibly do to the mother’s chances to become pregnant again after having an abortion, and looking at the mental health of those who have abortions.

No it seems to be that if Senator Clinton is looking at the other lives involved she would advocate: less red tape involving adoption and federal aid to help those wanting to adopt, less money to abortion providers and more to crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes, and abstinence-based sex education to help prevent unexpected pregnancies (which actually works unlike “comprehensive” sex education).

Also Senator Clinton uses the phrase tossed around during her husband’s administration that abortion should be safe, legal and rare.  I think a good case has been made that abortion is not safe for mothers (and definitely not safe for the pre-born children).  It is legal, but the the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion is bad constitutional law and should be overturned.  Regarding rare… 50 million since 1973 would hardly count as being rare.

I guess people of faith in Pennsylvania need to ask themselves if Clinton and Obama’s position on abortion matches up with their values.  I would say not.

(If you want to read more on a Biblical framework for the pro-life position, check out my Against Abortion series of posts.)

Cross-posted at Red Blue Christian and From Their Own Mouths.

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