Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm sorry

I had this nightmare last night...



I am truly sorry and swear I will not allow this to come true.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New York Statewide Voter Roll and HAVA

Cross posted from The Albany Project

Following the debacle of the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida, Congress in its infinite wisdom created and passed the Help America Vote Act or HAVA.

This considerably less than wonderful piece of legislation is best known for its requirements for modernization of voting technology. Many of us have spent the last several years fighting or the best possible voting technology here in New York as well as across the country.

Another equally important feature of this typically crappy legislation which perhaps ought to be more properly known as the Hinder Americans Rights and Ability to Vote Act, is the requirement for the establishment of a statewide voter database within each state.

As with the idea of modernized voting systems, the idea of a statewide voter roll with uniform controls is not a bad one. The problem with HAVA is the loose language in the legislation that makes it quite possible for each state to screw up the process more completely then it already was.

Today we receive news that New York State has purged 1.6 million voters from the rolls. At first gasp this sounds horrible. What right does the state have to purge voters from the rolls?

Well, reality is that voter rolls are very hard to maintain and always contain obsolete voter registration entries. If you have canvassed a town or district based on your localities voter roll you know how true this is. People move. People die. People get married or remarried and end up on the rolls under multiple names. 911 address changes result in all sorts of confusion and obsolete registrations. For example, the couple I bought my house from back in 1998 remained on the voter roll under the pre-911 street address after having moved out of state for several years after my wife and I moved in to the same home at the post-911 street address number.

So odds are that the vast majority of the 1.6 million voters purged from the rolls are valid clean-up of obsolete entries. Key words here are "odds" and "majority."

As with the actual voting systems the keys to whether any of this works reliably or not are the processes and procedures built around the system. A voter database is a simple thing. Nothing fancy or new fangled in the technology involved. Adding new voter registrations is also a very simple, straightforward process. Cleaning up old and or invalid entries is another story altogether.

The good news for us here in New York is that Bo Lipari of New Yorkers for Verified Voting is, as usual, on the job. His BoBlog discusses the situation:


"But a question has remained, how many voter records have been purged from New York State's voter rolls? Now we have an answer. I submitted a Freedom of Information Law request for all records in New York's NYSVOTER voter registration database. Early in October, I received a copy of NYSVOTER records from September 23, 2008. I wrote a program to analyze the 12,010,045 voter records and can now report the number of voters who have had their status set to "Purged" or "Inactive" in the Empire state, and the reasons given for the change.

The data reveals that New York State has moved 1,661,244, or almost 14% of the voter records, from "Active" status to "Purged" or "Inactive", meaning they will not be in the poll books on Election Day..."

Read the Full Story:
http://www.nyvv.org/boblog/

Permanent Link:
http://www.nyvv.org/boblog/2008/10/21/over-1500000-nys-voters-purged/


As Bo goes on to say, and is quoted in the TU article as saying, though the vast majority of the purges are undoubtedly legitimate, there are equally as undoubtedly valid voters that have been purged mistakenly and will be in for a rude surprise when they go to the polls on election day.

Thankfully, the New York State Board of Elections website now has a feature where you can check the status of your own registration.

I strongly encourage everyone to make use of this feature prior to election day in order to verify their own regstration has not been affected.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Governments are instituted... for what purpose?

You might be somewhat familiar with the following words...


IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men


Why do we have a government? What is it's job? According to the Declaration of Independence the primary purpose is to secure certain "unalienable Rights" amongst which the authors appear to have felt were prominent... "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

They go on to say...

... deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.


There are several good ideas here. First and foremost of course is...

"Governments are instituted among Men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"

... the idea that government derives its power from the consent of the governed. All power belongs with the people in other words.

Naturally following from this primary idea is...

"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government"


... that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish the government and institute a new Government as need be.

And reiterating the reason for and purpose of government...


"... laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."


They then state that such processes are not to be taken lightly or for just any old reason. In a previous statement they talk of government "destructive" of the ends for which it was created and here they talk about government in terms of "evils" before lauching into a laundry list of the problems they were suffering at the hands of the English King in their times.


"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."


Prudence indeed. The Founders were dealing with a particular kind of trouble and making the hard decision of a complete break with their old government and creation of a new. Not something to be lightly entered into. But they also of situations less severe then their own. When government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was formed it is the right of the people to alter said government.


"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government"


At the conclusion upon declaring their independence from Great Britain they list another set of things that individual states (through their governments presumably) do:


"and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do."


Thereby giving us a secondary level of what they believed governments are for. I say secondary because these particular items amongst others, I believe, follow from the primary ideas announced at the beginning as a matter of course in a society where government is instituted to represent the will of the people united to form a state and invest a government.

Moving to the Constitution of the United States we get a few more ideas of what government is for at the high level before getting into specifics and details of how this particular government is to be formed and operate.

The Preamble:


"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."


"We the People" reiterates the idea of government instituted by the consent of the people and by no other force.

"... in Order to form a more perfect Union..." is a very interesting idea that is hinted at in the Declaration where it talks about the people altering or abolishing governments in order to institute one more conducive to securing our unalienable rights. The wording is such however that it deserves a fleshing out and discussion of its implications all by itself. "A more perfect Union..." implies understood imperfection and the need for an on-going process of perfecting more. We'll touch on this again and again as we move forward as this is what our politics and history, both past and future, is all about.

We then get into more specific purposes of what our vision of government is all about before getting into the details:


"... establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty..."


Note that these are part and parcel of forming "a more perfect Union," comma. So here we have the idea that government is to:

1. establish Justice
2. insure domestic Tranquility
3. provide for the common defence
4. promote the general Welfare
5. secure the Blessings of Liberty

For who?


"... ourselves and our Posterity..."


So... what do we have?

Government is formed from the power and consent of the People in order to secure the unalienable Rights of the People.

What are these rights that government is to secure?

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness... among others.

What else?

Safety and Happiness

Anything else? Let's get a bit more specific...


1. establish Justice
2. insure domestic Tranquility
3. provide for the common defence
4. promote the general Welfare
5. secure the Blessings of Liberty

6. Power to levy War
7. conclude Peace
8. contract Alliances
9. establish Commerce
10. and all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do


Ok... all that makes a great deal of sense. I've a few other thoughts about the form of governments and the reasons why people come together to form governments that are left assumed but unspoken in these two main documents but that will make for another post.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

To whom much is given much is expected

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian’s is a bit of a mish-mash. Some scholars believe it is not one letter but a composite of fragments of several letters. I can believe this is true. One of the main subjects addressed throughout the letter is the collection of funds to be sent to the Church at Jerusalem.

The city of Corinth was quite wealthy, one of the richest cities of that time, and it is understood that the Church at Corinth was likewise. Macedonia to the north was considerably less wealthy but both were rich and living in abundance by comparison to the poor and impoverished of Palestine. One of Paul’s missions was to take up a collection of money from outlying churches and bring it back to Jerusalem which was the center of the faith at that time.

In 2nd Corinthians 8:1-4


We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints


Paul tells of the good example of Macedonia which not only gives according to their means but begged for the privilege of giving beyond their means in order to share in the joy and ministry of giving to those in greater need.

I gather from my reading that the Corinthians, as is often the case with those of great wealth, required a great deal of convincing and even conniving… I read heavy attempts at guilt trips in Paul’s writing to them… to likewise participate in the great ministry of sharing with those in need.

2nd Corinthians 8:5-7


and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.


Paul states how one overcomes self-centered reservations… “They gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God to us….” And thenm goes on to use flattery (that other parts of the letter show are perhaps not deserved)… “Now as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you – so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.”

Paul continues in a more serious and straightforward manner to discuss exactly what it is he is asking and expecting as the right thing for a righteous people to do:

2nd Corinthians 8:8-15

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,

‘The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.’


The opening line in this passage is a very honest one. I am not your boss giving you a command. The choice is yours but I am testing you. Are you as good and sincere as your poorer brethren to the north? He then ups the ante. Jesus is the example. As he gave himself for your sake are you willing to do likewise for the sake others less fortunate then you? It is appropriate for you to follow your words with the actual deed. He then sets the standard well known from Luke 12:48:

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.


But note that Paul does not demand. Very specifically does not demand. He said that at the start, “I do not say this as a command,” and the example of the Macedonians shows their extreme eagerness to be able to partake in the gift of giving. Paul says, “so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has….”

Paul makes a very explicit linkage here. It is not enough to give. You have to want to give. Your eagerness to give of yourself even to an extreme, the Macedonians gave beyond their means, Jesus Christ gave his life, is the important part. Giving begrudgingly is of little to no value. “The gift is acceptable….” This gift is the two-way gift of giving from which all benefit beyond the face value or measure of what is given. Likewise, the gift given begrudgingly is rendered of considerably less value to both the giver and receiver as a result of the lack of eager spirit.

Paul then tempers his words in a very realistic and honest fashion once again:

For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,

‘The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.’


“… according to what one has – not according to what one does not have.” He states that “it is a question of a fair balance” between ones abundance and another’s need. Again and again, from old testament through new, the bible talks about taking care of the poor, the widow, the orphan. The responsibility the individual and the community has to take care of the needy. How many of the stories highlight this? And go beyond by discussing the tension of giving beyond ones own tribe or people? Here the example is clear. The Macedonians and Corinthians are giving to the poor of another people and another land altogether. This tension is nowhere greater then in the stories of Christ himself who is constantly shocking everyone by reaching out to the Samaritan, the sinner, the leper, the Roman, the outcast of any and all stripes. His work is with those in need not with those of plenty. They have received their reward he says(He also says they have as much a chance at heaven as a camel has of getting through the eye of a needle but that is another story).

The concluding verse is an interesting one. It is taken from Exodus 16:18. Which is the story of manna from heaven.

Exodus 16:13-21


In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: “Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.” ’ The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. And Moses said to them, ‘Let no one leave any of it over until morning.’ But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.


It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. Take as much as you need for your household and no more. And Moses warns them, leave none until tomorrow. Why? What would that mean? If each takes according to their need, no more, no less, then there will be none saved over to the morning. If there is some saved over to the morning then it means more was taken then was needed. And what happens then?

“It bred worms and became foul.”

And further, day after day as each received what they needed what happened to the over abundance?

“It melted.”

And such is the fate of the riches of this world. It is so much dross that melts away at the end of the day. Each according to their need. No more, no less. The self-centered greed that causes us to gather more than we need breeds worms and fouls us. And that which we gather in our greed melts away as the morning dew in the sunlight anyway so what has been gained? And how very much has been lost?

It is an interesting counterpoint to from Luke 12:48:


From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.


I think Paul finds the balance point between these two ideas and brings it all together in:

2nd Corinthians 9:6-15


The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written,

‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures for ever.’

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!


God provides. If God provides abundantly it is only for the purpose of you in turn giving to those in need. This is the ministry of each according to their need. No more, no less. And it is not a restricted giving… “sharing with them and with all others….” And with all others.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Capitalism - American style - has failed

It is mind-boggling to see a headline under a picture of John McCain’s smiling face stating that he is accusing Barack Obama of “socialism.”

The (conservative republican) Bush administration is actively engaging in nationalizing (socialism) the investment banking industry as McCain speaks. The banking system is failing and the government is bailing them out. The government subsidizes industry of all sorts… farming (large industrial farming not small family farming mind you), all sorts of heavy industry through the defense department, high tech industries through NASA and defense, pharmaceutical companies, and the list goes on and on. Conservatives like McCain and Bush like to talk about “free” markets, deregulation, and letting the market decide but it is all bull. The government is bailing out their favorites instead of letting them fail as the market has decided. The government has long rigged the international market game in favor of favored market segments, the government has taken us to war and under-mined other governments in favor of particular companies and market segments. How is any of that capitalism?

How is any of that Laissez-faire?

There are plenty of folks that will scream that any attack on capitalism is an attack on “The American Way!” But capitalism and democracy are two different things. A federal republic does not require capitalism as its economic system. Our Constitution does not say anything about the sanctity of capitalism. Though it must be pointed out that our founding fathers were very concerned with property rights. Theirs in particular. The phrase “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” was originally written “Life, Liberty, and Property.”

But they weren’t really capitalists. Many of their early political fights were divided between the agricultural, slave owning aristocrats of the south and the capitalist commercial interests of the north. They had very differing views of economic interests. Capitalism was a very new thing at that time. I don’t know if the name “capitalism” had even been given yet.

Capitalism is a market system that has been around a few hundred years only. It has its strong points. It has its weaknesses. The government is engaging in socialist action in order to try and clean up the mess they’ve made of things in the “capitalist” market place. Policy all along has not been all that much different than the mercantilism of feudal and post-feudal times. The study of economics really began in 1776 with Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations.” Who is to say capitalism is the best economic system? It sure doesn’t look like it right now. Two massive failures within less than one hundred years to go along with massive inequalities is not a particularly good recommendation. We haven’t been at the business of economics as a scientific endeavor for very long. Perhaps some more study and rigorous experimentation is necessary.

Let’s get real for a minute. Let’s take an honest look at our economic system and fix the problems. McCain is simply being dishonest in the heat of an electoral battle that he is obviously losing. The Bush administration is, amazingly, actually doing something right by buying a stake in the companies they are bailing out with our money. This is a form of partial socialism. I don’t know if the long term answer is a nationalized investment bank as some are calling for, and as the administration is moving us towards, but I do know that it is simple common sense that We the People should get some sort of equity (partial ownership at least) for the massive amount of money we are forking over to save the asses of a bunch of folks that ran their companies (and our economy) into the ground through overly risky, overly greedy and completely uncontrolled, unregulated practices. I know chronic horse track gamblers that manage their risks better then these guys!

This bail-out does not address the real problems in our economy. We are massively in debt. We have growing numbers of people falling below the poverty level. Growing numbers of people with no health insurance. Growing numbers of people with borderline incomes and a lowering standard of living. And a growing gap between the filthy rich few and the rest of us. Our economy is based on a shrinking commodity… oil. I’ve yet to hear anyone in power talk about a real solution to the problem. Until they do we won’t even come close to talking about or developing an economic system that truly works for everyone.

And all that is without even talking about the effects of American controlled capitalism on the rest of the world, particularly the third world that the “masters of finance” have for far too long seen as their personal resource pool… since at least the end of the Second World War and in many cases going back into the 19th century and the Monroe Doctrine. A system that abuses the rest of the world for the benefit of a few in our own is not healthy for them… or us. It leads to the desperation and violence we see in the third world (and in our own).

In addition, our government has far too often supported abusive governments in other countries in order to provide “stability” for American companies exploiting the resources of those countries. But as recent events have painfully shown the price has started to come back to us and it is far greater then allowing those countries healthy control of their own resources and economies with us having to buy those resources at a proper “free (and fair) market” price.

The American dominated and controlled economy has failed. Current actions are band-aids. It is time to face the facts and develop real solutions. The band-aids might get us through for awhile longer but it is clear that the current system is unstable, doesn’t work, and cannot be made stable without serious, fundamental revision.

It’s time. Snidely accusing your opponent of socialism while your government engages in it doesn’t help.

Why do conservatives hate Americans?

Why do conservatives hate Americans?

This is becoming a clear trend. The leaders of the McCain/Palin party and the remnants of the conservative movement are regularly proclaiming their hatred for over half of America. Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin believes only part of America is American. McCain advisor Nancy Pfotenhauer only likes her part of Virginia and doesn’t consider the rest worthy of respect. McCain’s campaign regularly questions the patriotism and allegiance of the standard bearer of the Democratic Party and therefore the entire Democratic Party and all the Democratic voters in America. Minnesota Republican Rep. Michelle Bachman even goes so far as to question the patriotism and allegiance of the Congress of the United States of America.

What drives the hatred of these people? What sickens their world view that they believe over half of America hates America? What twisted ideology causes them to disrespect American citizens and leaders to such a degree? What sick internal justifications does it take for this hatred to cause them to attempt to deny the rights of American citizens to vote(pdf)?

And why in the world should real Americans, regardless of the wonderful diversity of our views elect or re-elect people with such twisted and unhealthy views to any governmental office in this country?

Update:

This is what America looks like. All of America.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"what America needs in this hour is a fighter."

Really?


(CNN) -- Sen. John McCain on Monday told voters that they should elect him because "what America needs in this hour is a fighter."

"I will fight to take America in a new direction from my first day in office until my last. I'm not afraid of the fight, I'm ready for it," McCain said at a rally in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

A senior McCain aide said earlier Monday that he thought McCain's speech would "begin a turnaround for the campaign."

On the new tone, the aide said the campaign decided to go "back to basics" with McCain on what he can offer.


Do we really need a fighter? I mean, it sounds good. Tough guy image and all that macho rot. But, do we really need more violence? In rhetoric or actual action?

What America needs is a problem solver. What America needs is a team of people that can come in and undo all the damage the Conservatve Agenda has done to America the last 8-14 years.

We need an intelligent and experienced economic team to come in, analyze the situation, and begin corrective action to the markets, regulations, trade policies, and tax policies that the failed conservative agenda has foisted on us.

We need intelligent and wide-minded people to come in and fix the foreign policy blunders of the neo-conservatives. A team that understands a broader world view. One that goes beyond a shallow good-guy, bad-guy approach and actually bases policy on an honest and adult view of the world and its problems.

We need a team of people that bases energy policy on the obvious long-term goal of eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels, in particular foreign-based fossil fuels. The energy, economic, environmental, and foreign policy problems we face as a nation today will not go away until the problem of future, sustainable, renewable energy sources for America is solved. It's just a fact. It is the central feature of our world today and frankly, has been since the oil embargo of the 1970's. There is only one higher priority in America today and that is...

We need a Legislative/Executive cooperative team that will take a hard look at how to solve the intelligence, security, criminal issues we face in the modern age of non-state based terrorist activities within the context of the Founders views on Constitutional checks and balances.

In this case, primarily the balance between citizens guarenteed rights under the first ten amendments and the executive branches obligations to defend the nation.

It is an undeniable truth that the United States of America faces very real threats.

It is an undeniable truth that the government of the US has a primary duty to defend the citizens of this nation.

It is an undeniable truth that the government has a duty to do so within the strictures of the Constitution.

Democracy is an adult proposition. Citizenship in a free and open society such as ours is not a risk free proposition. Nothing worthwhile in life is. Our freedoms are most dear. Our citizenship and lives are of considerably less value without the freedoms guarenteed us in our Constitution. These things are well worth the risk.

Live free or die.

Don't tread on me.

These were sentiments of our forefathers in response to the abuses of the government they had then. Not a foreign invader. Not a criminal threat. Not against terrorists. They fought against their then legitimate government to stop it from treading on their rights. In order to live free.

Our government is required FIRST to respect and defend our rights and freedom. SECOND to defend our bodies and property.

America needs problem solvers. People that are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of governing this country within the law. We need smart and capable people able and willing to think outside the narrow box of school yard violence to craft actual, long term, adult solutions.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life"

2 Corinthians 3

"A New Covenant, not of letter but of spirit"


"Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses' face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory!"


Paul uses strong language here to speak of the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses. "The Ministry of Death." Moments later however, he softens his tone a little and says, "ministry of condemnation." Still strong language.

What is he saying?

"What once had glory"


"Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!


Ah, softer still. What once had glory has been surpassed by a greater glory.

"A veil over their minds"


"Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed."


I haven't familiarized myself with the material that people have used through the ages to claim anti-semitism by Paul or base their own anti-semitism on Paul but a quick read of this chapter makes it fairly easy to see how it might be used for that purpose.

But... what is he really saying?

I have always been amazed by the obvious contradiction in fundamentalist Christians heavy reliance on Old Testament teachings over the New Testament teachings of Jesus Christ.

Similarly, their insistence on the bible as the literal, inerrant word of God despite the fact that so much of it is quite obviously written as mythical allegory; that Christ taught in interpretive parables more often then not; and that portions are clearly stated to be revelatory dreamwork.

In other words, a book full of things intended to be personally interpreted and not taken as literal face value and yet they claim it is to be taken literally.

Putting aside these obvious inconsistencies and conflicts lets take a look at just what Paul has to say here in this short chapter.

”Written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God”

"You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."


The Old Covenant was a glorious thing. Moses had to veil himself after he received the commandments from God because the Glory of God shone so brightly on his face that the people could not safely gaze upon that Glory's reflection on his face.

However... that Glory lost its power upon the realization of a Greater Glory. "Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!"

The New Covenant in Jesus Christ is the "greater glory." The Old Covenant was that of the law of Moses. It said what thou shalt not. It was the "ministry of condemnation." It was the letter of God's law. The Spirit of God's law exists in creation. It can be seen everywhere in everything. It is a living, breathing thing. Human language is a limited vehicle that cannot encompass God's law.

God's law, the living law of the living God, is not written in ink, it is not chiseled in stone, but rather written in Spirit on human hearts. Even more, it is written in the heart of all creation.

Humankind is of limited capacity. Our language reflects that. Our languages are even more limited then we are. They are our best attempt to understand and express, to define (and thereby limit), what has been written in our hearts by the living Spirit.

At one time, in one place, it was necessary for God's law to be written in concrete, definite terms of what thou shalt not and what thou shalt. At another time and place, Jesus Christ came along and expressed God's Law in parable and further in a description of the conditions that create and are the blessings of the Spirit.

Language was still limited but a manner of conveying the message beyond the direct capacity of language was found. It requires thought, prayer, contemplation, discussion, interpretation, meditation, and observation of God's law at work in natural creation. This is how the letter written on our hearts is prepared and made available to be read by all when they read the part of God's law at work in the small portion of natural creation that we are.

"A new covenant, not of the letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

We see this today in the culture of hate, fear, violence, and death that is the fundamentalist movement.

Strong words? Yes. But sadly, true.

The insistence on a literal interpretation of the limited human words with which the bible has been written kills the message. It crucifies the Lord all over again. It kills the Spirit and condemns the Living God to a death about 2500 years ago.

A demand for a literal interpretation of the bible cuts off the living human spirit today from searching for personal understanding of the life giving word, “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

Throughout the centuries humans have called for their fellows to be still, to quiet themselves, and listen to the small voice of God within their hearts. To look for the light that shines from within. The Word is to be found there. The digital words I have linked to here, the ink words I read in my bible this morning that lead me to write this are a ministry of death without coming into intimate embrace with the Word written in our hearts. A literal bible is a dead bible full of dead words that become a ministry of death without the influence of the Spirit of the living God that can only be found deep within our hearts.

”Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”

"Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit."


The Peace of the Lord be always with you,

Andrew