Thursday, December 25, 2008

President-Elect Obama

Welcome aboard. We have been preparing ourselves over the last month and a half for the fact that our new president is going to be Barack Obama. Now that we have him, what have we got?

Mr. Obama is now enjoying the euphoria and optimistic anticipation which normally ensues after the election of a new president. The small Democratic majority in the Senate and House gives him room to work. I remind you, however, the President Carter had a substantial majority in the Senate and Congress, and the Democrats proved that they could squabble among themselves as effectively as with the Republicans. There are differences, however. The Republican party has successfully taken over seats in Congress and the Senate that had previously been held by conservative Democrats. The Democrats may not be as fractured as before when conservative Democrats were a larger part of their caucus.

The question I want to pose, is what should we expect of our new President? Here are some thoughts:

- The experience issue is vastly overrated. In 1860 the country elected a president who had been a one term congressman and a member of the Illinois legislature. He turned out all right. The fact is that there is very little a person can do to be "qualified" for the presidency other than actually do the job. There is none other like it. Obama is extremely bright. Do you understand how capable and brilliant a person must be to be elected Editor in Chief of the Harvard Law Review? His language is measured and reflective. I believe he has the raw material to be a good president.

- Do not be overly concerned about campaign rhetoric. My father used the say that when a politician gets on the train, he gets off the platform. Most presidencies are marked by issues and events that have little to do with the issues that dominate the campaign. Obama himself has been quoted as saying that presidencies are controlled by ninety per cent circumstances and ten per cent agenda. The job takes the man to strange places. Examples: Who would have expected that a China baiting, Communist hating senator from California would ultimately open the door for stronger economic and political relations between the United States and China (and we are still feeling many positive effects of that dramatic move). Who would expect that a Texas senator who filibustered against Civil Rights legislation on several occasions would bring about a sea change in racial relations when he became president our country? And then what about 9/11? Nobody contemplated the event or the way its has changed our country or the presidency of W. Obama has already been confronted with an economic crisis of epic proportions. We do not know what Mr. Obama will be called upon to do. We must hope that Obama he has the character, wisdom and ability to do the job.
- I hope that he will not succumb to the tendency of the Democrats towards protectionism. We are living in a world economy. Tom Friedman eloquently made the point when he coined the phrase that the world is flat. Our borders are becoming less and less important. We cannot afford to back off from our position as the world leader in that flat economy.
If you have a wish list for our new President Elect, let me hear from you. Have a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A New Testment Psalm (Mumbai)

Our minister recently challenged each member of a small study group to write our own Psalm. I was consumed with the Mumbai tragedy at the time, as revealed in the previous posting. Here is my Psalm:

Blessed are those who delight in the Lord; for they shall find the Kingdom of God.

The Lord loves all his creatures and not just the righteous, not just the faithful.

The Lord loves the forlorn, the forgotten, as well as those who do not know the Lord.

The Lord loves those who see through a broken glass or who profess to know the Lord when they see nothing.

The Lord weeps when we fight and kill each other in the name of the Lord.

The righteous love the Lord, and know that the Lord asks them, even commands them, to love one another, that is, to love the good and the bad people, to love the people who know God and those who do not.

Then where are the righteous? Why do the Lord’s children kill and terrorize their brothers and sisters, all in the name of the Lord, in Mumbai, in Zimbabwe, in the Middle East?

Why do the people of Gaza pray to Allah with a bomb in their hand?

Who mourns over the Mother’s loss of her baby in the West Bank, when the fatal bullet was shot in the name of Yahweh?

We who are blessed, the Lord will teach us to be righteous?

We who are righteous, the Lord will teach us to be loving?

We who are loving, the Lord will teach us to know how to love.

Blessed are those who delight in the Lord, for they shall learn how to love.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mumbai Tragedy

Several years ago, my wife and I traveled to India. While there, we visited Mumbai and stayed at the Taj Mahal Hotel, which is probably the best known hotel in the city. One day we hired a guide to show us around the city. To my surprise, I learned that she and her husband were Jewish.

There are several small Jewish communities in India dating back to Old Testament times. About twenty five per cent of the Indians of the Jewish faith live in Mumbai. The Apostle Thomas is believed to have traveled to India and died there. Inasmuch as the early Christians tended to gather in communities where Jews of the dispersion lived, perhaps Thomas came to Mumbai.

The terrorist attacks on the hotel where we stayed and on the Jewish Center, which could well have been a gathering place for our guide, has touched us in a personal way. Religious violence has cursed India for many years, although the country strives to achieve a culture of religious tolerance. In 1975 vast numbers of Sikhs were murdered and expelled from Delhi. In and around 1990 Kashmir went through a period of ethnic cleansing of Hindus in which at least three hundred persons were killed. In 1993 Mumbai endured 13 bombings as a result of Muslim-Hindu violence. In 2000 the Godra train was attacked and a car containing 58 men, women, and children, all Hindus, were burned alive. This was followed in 2002 by the infamous riots in the state of Gujurat in which over a thousand persons, Hindu and Muslim, were killed and several thousand were injured, missing or orphaned by the conflict. Other religious violence has included anti-Christian riots and recurring border wars along the Pakistani- Indian border.

The common theme of these incidents has been that the people on both sides were killing each other in the name of God. Surely God weeps over these tragedies.

As our world flattens out, all religions, including the Judeo-Christian religions-must grapple with how we live with each other even though we hold strikingly different views on the nature of the Almighty. We in this country are not immune to religious warfare. As the terrorist shouts the name of Allah while causing destruction, we naturally begin to extrapolate the terrorist personality to all of Islam. More and more the "war on terror" begins to take on the characteristics of a religious war.

Are we in danger of becoming even more embroiled in religious war? What should and could be done to prevent that from happening?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Who is a Mainliner?

Welcome to the Mainline Express. Who is a Mainliner? The Mainliner lives in the fat part of the curve. As the saying goes, stand in the middle and you will get run over.

The Mainliner does not blindly follow any group on the edges. The Mainliner is less likely to say "I am a Republican.", but might well say, "I agree with the Republicans this time." The Mainliner is not a feminist, environmentalist, libertarian, etc. but may agree ad hoc with any of them on the merits.

In short, the Mainliner is independent minded and does not make decisions simply because of the identity of the proponents or opponents.

I do not mean to suggest that Mainliners are necessarily stubborn folk. Not at all. In fact, the Mainliner has a capacity for tolerance of other views, because the Mainliner strives to see all sides.
Mainline also has a context in religion. Indeed, the main line protestant denominations contain many of the characteristics of the Mainliner. They are the middle of the road compared to the Evangelicals on the right and the Unitarians on the left. Mainline religion is fair game on this site.

Are you a Mainliner? Here is a test worthy of the Parade Magazine designed to identify your Mainline tendencies:

1. When you vote, do you split your ticket rather than pull the party lever?
2. Have you voted for at least one candidate from each major party in previous presidential elections?
3. Are you willing to read articles or listen to speeches by persons who take positions that you disagree with?
4. Do you attend a movie even though you disagree with the politics of the star (e.g. Jane Fonda or Mel Gibson)?
5. Are you willing to change your mind on an issue because time has proved your initial judgment was incorrect?

Mainliners answer "yes" to the above questions. This site will discuss a variety of subjects for your consideration. If you want to bring up new and different subjects for Mainline consideration, please do so.

Welcome aboard!