Observing an Election

Do you feel like this girl:

If not, read on! I am deliberately posting this just after the polls close here in Virginia (although they are still open further west) as I don’t want to seen as trying to influence the result. But I don’t yet know any results, or even any reliable predictions.

It is an interesting experience to observe an election here in the USA, and in one of the key swing states. Actually this is not for the first time – I was in North Carolina for my Bible translation work during the 2000 election. I don’t have a vote, as I am not a US citizen. But I do have an interest in the result, as a taxpayer and husband of a business owner in the USA.

If I had had a vote and had decided on the basis of self-interest, that might not have been what some would expect, as for better or for worse the economy of this region is highly dependent on federal government money. In fact I would have decided more on principle, but I don’t want to turn this post into a partisan one by explaining that further.

In this area the streets and country roads are, or until very recently were, lined with election posters. Not surprisingly, as this is a relatively conservative rural area, the majority  of the signs have been for Romney. But there are also a good number of Obama supporters in this small city.

Meanwhile our home telephone, which we hardly use (but have to have to get home internet), has been ringing regularly with election calls. Most seem to have been from the Republicans. Indeed yesterday I put the phone down on Mitt Romney. This was partly because he called me “Jennifer”. Well, I guess it wasn’t really him, but a recording. I would have done the same if Barack Obama had called, but perhaps not quite so quickly!

I haven’t watched much TV, but the little I have seen has been punctuated with very regular political commercials. Also the TV channels are said to be highly politically polarized.

Today, election day, I have been shocked by the allegations of fraud and attempted manipulation of the polls. I suspect that these allegations, on both sides, have been exaggerated. I am also shocked by the threats of some that there will be violence if their favored candidate loses, but I would think these are also exaggerated – but we may see quite soon.

So all in all watching this election has been an interesting experience, but not really very different from a British one. I guess the real difference has been the sheer amount of money spent, largely on TV ads. I’m glad political ads are not allowed in the UK, and that the broadcast news media at least try to be politically neutral.

Finally, I would like to quote something I wrote in a comment here on the day President Obama was elected:

I consider an issue to be a real issue in an election when one or other of the candidates has made it a real issue and proposed specific action on it. As far as I can tell neither Obama nor McCain proposed any action which would have any definite effect on the number or wrongness of abortions in the USA. This was only an issue for those who chose to make it an issue, and were perhaps dreaming that VP Palin or supreme court judges whom McCain might have appointed might do something about abortion, which is in practice highly unlikely to have happened. Perhaps slightly more likely is that Obama’s social policies will have a side effect of reducing abortion, but for that we can only hope and pray. But I do consider it irresponsible that many Christians were deciding their vote largely on the abortion issue when in fact there was so little to distinguish the candidates on this issue.

It seems to me that exactly the same is true of this election, if you replace “McCain” with “Romney” and “Palin” with “Ryan”. So, I repeat, I consider it irresponsible that many Christians are deciding their vote largely on the abortion issue when in fact there is so little to distinguish the main candidates on this issue. Well, it is too late now – but a recent tweet suggesting that evangelicals in Virginia are staying at home may suggest that this factor is less important than it might have been.

“no question … Barack Obama is a born again man”

Official portrait of Barack ObamaStephen Mansfield in the Huffington Post quotes Joel Hunter:

There is simply no question about it: Barack Obama is a born again man who has trusted in Jesus Christ with his whole heart.

Hunter, a pastor from Florida, is apparently one of President Obama’s current team of four spiritual advisers. He reports a significant change in Obama’s life since he arrived at the White House:

Obama is having a new encounter with truth.

This means that, according to Hunter, the President would no longer suggest that all religions are essentially the same. I trust that this also means that he would now stop carrying in his pocket “a tiny monkey god”, which made me suggest in 2008 that he might in fact be a Hindu.

Meanwhile there seems to be no question that Obama’s apparently most likely opponent in this year’s elections, Mitt Romney, is not a born again Christian, at least as evangelicals would understand the term.

So who should American Christians vote for? If they choose to vote for Romney, they should at least admit to themselves and to others that they are voting for the policies they prefer, not because they want to see a Christian in the White House.

Cameron and Obama on the Resurrection

Barack Obama and David CameronPrime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama, who met recently in Washington, have both taken the opportunity of the run-up to Easter to talk about their Christian faith, including their position on the Resurrection.

Gillan Scott gives the text of David Cameron’s Easter message at a reception for Christian leaders. Gillan highlights some positive points in this message. Like Phil Groom in a comment, I am far from convinced that Cameron is really signalling a change of policy on gay marriage; rather, I would suggest, by insisting that the government proposals are only about civil marriage, he is asking Christians to choose different battles to fight.

But the main point I want to make here is not about gay marriage at all, but about Cameron’s Christian faith, or lack of it. Last year I wrote about how seriously he misunderstands the Bible, as centrally “about leading good lives and helping each other as best we can”. This week’s message shows all the more clearly how little true faith he has:

… actually, really, Easter in many ways is the one that counts. Even those of us who sometimes struggle with some parts of the message – the idea of resurrection, of a living God, of someone who’s still with us – is fantastically important even if you sometimes, as I do, struggle over some of the details.

So what Cameron seems to be saying, in somewhat confused words that are surely his own and not a speech writer’s, is that he doesn’t really believe in the Resurrection or in a living God who is still with us. For him, it seems, Christianity is merely “about leading good lives and helping each other as best we can”. But that is not Christian faith at all; it is no more than what the best of atheistic and deistic philosophers thought. Indeed, if Cameron doesn’t even believe in a living God, he really should call himself a deist or an agnostic, and make no claim to be a Christian.

So it came as a pleasant contrast to read these words spoken today by Barack Obama, quoted by Joel Watts from a speech at the White House Easter Prayer Service:

It is only because Jesus conquered His own anguish, conquered His fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection. It’s only because He endured unimaginable pain that wracked His body and bore the sins of the world that burdened His soul that we are able to proclaim, ‘He is Risen!’

These are the words of a true Christian. Mr Cameron, will you be able to join Mr Obama this Sunday in proclaiming, with genuine faith, “He is risen!”?

American Baptism, Democratic and Republican

Archdruid Eileen as drawn by Dave WalkerArchdruid Eileen offers a perceptive comment:

In America, it seems to me, you can tell politicians apart by the age at which baptism takes place. Broadly, I reckon, Democrats baptise children and Republicans baptise adults.

This is really an aside in her post A Guide to English Christianity, which led her creator to tweet “*leaves country*”. But America will be no safe haven for the writer after that comment.

But is this correlation true? It certainly seems to tie in with my experience. Among my limited number of American friends, those from mainstream denominations, who generally baptise children, tend to be on the political left, whereas the Baptists and Pentecostals who only baptise adults tend to be on the right. I would suppose that the latter tend to be more individualistic, in both politics and religion, and to be Republican, whereas a stronger sense of society and corporate identity could be linked to both baptism of children and Democratic politics.

However, the rule doesn’t seem to work for recent Presidents and presidential candidates. Bill Clinton is a Democrat and a Baptist; George W. Bush is a Republican and a Methodist (former Episcopalian). Barack Obama fits the bill as a Democrat from the paedo-baptist United Church of Christ, but he was personally baptised as an adult in that denomination (which incidentally implies that he is not a Muslim). Of Obama’s four current Republican challengers, two are paedo-baptist Roman Catholics, although Newt Gingrich has been baptised as an adult, not once but twice; one, Ron Paul, is a Baptist who baptises children – at least his own five; and one, Mitt Romney, accepts only adult baptism, in its distorted Mormon form. So, it seems, Eileen’s rule is followed better by the ordinary people than by their leaders.

Murdoch company accused of killing old woman

Rupert Murdoch is in enough trouble here in the UK, mainly with the phone hacking scandals involving his newspapers. But I don’t think any of his UK companies have been accused of causing anyone’s death.

Hallie Jean Mayes Knauss CulpepperBut that cannot be said about his American companies. The US news channel Fox News, which he owns, has now been directly implicated in the death of an old woman, by inciting her to reject the medical treatment which she needed – as reported by Karoli at Crooks and Liars and by Fred Clark at Slacktivist (thanks to James McGrath for the latter link). The old lady’s daughter wrote:

FOX News killed my precious mother, Hallie. She watched FOX religiously. And when she fell ten days before she died, she refused to go to the doctor because, “I don’t want Obamacare to get all of my information! she declared …

It seems that this old lady believed many of the deliberate lies which were being put forward by the Fox News anchor, lies directed at President Obama and at his health care policy. She appears to have thought that if she had accepted medical care, following her fall, her medical information and her money would have been sent to Islamic extremists. This is of course completely false, but a reasonable deduction from the lies told by Fox News.

Like Fred Clark, “I wouldn’t say Fox News is directly responsible for this woman’s death”. But, assuming that the facts as reported are accurate, I would suggest that the Fox campaign of disinformation about Obama and his policies gives them a measure of responsibility, in this case and in any other similar ones.

And, just as Rupert Murdoch should accept personal responsibility for the phone hacking at the News of the World, and probably at other newspapers he owns, he should also accept personal responsibility for all of the consequences of the lies told by Fox News.

Tea Party fulfils Wilkerson economic meltdown prophecy

David WilkersonIn March I wrote here about some of David Wilkerson’s prophecies, including this one from 2009:

AN EARTH-SHATTERING CALAMITY IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. IT IS GOING TO BE SO FRIGHTENING, WE ARE ALL GOING TO TREMBLE – EVEN THE GODLIEST AMONG US. …

There will be riots and fires in cities worldwide. There will be looting—including Times Square, New York City. What we are experiencing now is not a recession, not even a depression. We are under God’s wrath. …

In comments on that post I was pointed to another prophetic message by Wilkerson, for which I do not have a date but it seems to be quite recent (but before Wilkerson’s death in April): Here is part of that message:

It’s about to happen—very soon, one nation, and I’m speaking prophetically–if I’ve ever heard anything from God in my life, I heard it … Very soon a European or North African or Eastern nation is going to default on its international loan and when that happens, within two weeks, Mexico is going to default. …

And when the banks open the next day at 9 in the morning, $15 billion an hour is going to be withdrawn from our American banks -they’re going to be running our banks—the Arabs—all the Latin American countries, they’re going to be running our banks–and before the day is over, the USA is going to have to declare a “bank holiday.”

SIX MONTHS OF HORROR:

And we’re going into six months of the worst hell America has ever seen—there’s going to be chaos—not even the National Guard’s going to be able to quiet it down—we’re going to have to call out the whole U.S. Army. …

There’s going to be fear like we’ve never known—judgment at the door. When I was at Macy’s Dept. store in a vision and I watched people walking around stunned, they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t know what was happening; then a bunch of people walked into Macy’s and suddenly went wild and began to steal and within an hour everybody—I saw the spirit of everybody in the store—they were robbing and stealing—they raped Macy’s and destroyed five floors—Macy’s was raped and ruined in a period of an hour or two.

That’s just the beginning. Folks it’s all in this book (the bible) —we’ve been warned and warned and warned—you can’t tell me God hasn’t warned us. …

As I wrote in a comment about this message, much of this looks like an economic prediction rather than a prophecy. Indeed it looks remarkably like the completely non-prophetic message from Will Hutton in today’s issue of UK newspaper The Observer, also published on The Guardian’s website (The Observer is in effect the Sunday edition of The Guardian). Hutton even puts a specific date on his prediction: this Friday, 22nd July:

For months, Republicans have used their new majority in the House of Representatives to block any move to lift the artificial cap on the amount the US government can borrow. If by this Friday they still refuse – insisting on up to $4trillion of spending cuts, excluding defence, and no tax increases as the price of their support – then the US will be unable to service its public debts. The biggest economy on Earth will default.

The results will be catastrophic, argues JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon – a warning repeated by Obama. The US government will have to start to wind down: soldiers’ wages and public pensions alike will be suspended. But in the financial markets there will be mayhem. Interest rates will shoot up and there will be a flight from the dollar. Banks, uncertain about their expected income from their holdings of US Treasury bonds and bills, will call in their loans, creating a second credit crunch. Some may collapse. …

The main difference here is that Hutton names the USA as the first nation to default on its debts. His language is not quite as apocalyptic as Wilkerson’s, but this kind of economic meltdown will surely lead to widespread looting.

Hutton puts the blame for this partly on Rupert Murdoch, currently a convenient whipping boy for rival newspapers, and partly on the intransigence of the right-wing Republicans of the Tea Party, who he describes as follows:

These are politicians who in some respects have more in common with Islamic religious fundamentalists than the Enlightenment tradition which gave birth to western democracy. The Tea Party sees neither virtue nor integrity in any position but their own. … They have been sent by God and their electors to bring down Washington.

Yes, Scott, even in the USA there are people, elected politicians, who reject the Enlightenment tradition. But I wouldn’t disagree if you called this lot “delusional”.

Do some of these Tea Party fundamentalists actually want to provoke the kind of economic meltdown which Wilkerson prophesied and Hutton predicts? Do they think that by doing so they can provoke Jesus into coming again? But if so, have they considered the human cost of this? Have they even realised the effect it would have on their own prized prosperity? Whatever their rhetoric might be, few of them are really ready to live off the land.

Politicians of the USA, if you know what love is, back down from your threats and agree a reasonable budget. And if you don’t know what love is, whichever side of this dispute you may be on, you should drop the claims so many of you make to be Christians.

Thanks to Shoq as retweeted by Joel Watts for the link to Hutton’s article.

Obama dead, reports Fox News

President ObamaFox News announced this morning that President Obama had been assassinated. At least that is what appeared on the Fox News political Twitter feed, @Foxnewspolitics.

These particular tweets, reported by the BBC, are of course hoaxes perpetrated by hackers. But it took eight hours for Fox News to remove the tweets and issue an explanation.

As I wrote yesterday in a comment on a different topic, “I don’t trust Fox News”. In fact I don’t trust any news outlet, although the BBC is generally better than most. But one reason why I am especially wary of Fox News is that, as confirmed by Wikipedia, it is owned by News Corporation.

It is not just that News Corporation is pushing a particular conservative agenda worldwide – indeed they would probably be pleased to have Obama if not dead at least out of the way. But this corporation, or at least its subsidiaries, seem to have scant regard for ordinary morality or decency, or for the law, in the way that it pursues its goals.

This has been seen most clearly in the News of the World telephone tapping scandal here in the UK. Journalists at this News Corporation newspaper have been found guilty of illegal tapping, and investigations into wider scandals are continuing.

In the latest development reported today by the BBC (but not linked by them to the Obama tweet hacking), it has been alleged that the News of the World hacked into the mobile phone of a missing 13-year-old girl, who was later found murdered. They even deleted some voicemail messages, it is said, giving her family false hope that she was alive. Not only would this be a gross intrusion into a family’s grief, it would also seem to have interfered with the police investigation.

The editor of the News of the World at the time, Rebekah Brooks, is now chief executive of News International, “the main UK subsidiary of News Corporation” which owns the News of the World and three other newspapers, and is bidding for full control of the TV news channel Sky News.

The corporation which hacks other people’s telephone records can hardly complain when it falls victim to hackers itself.

Barack’s Beast: will Obama pay London charge?

Mr Obama's limousine, dubbed The Beast, was asked to pay the £10-a-day congestion chargeThe BBC reports that

The US government has been sent a London congestion charge bill for Barack Obama’s convoy, including his limousine, nicknamed The Beast. …

Transport for London has confirmed that the Presidential convoy was charged but the bill has not been paid.

In fact there is an ongoing dispute here:

Several embassies refuse to pay the £10-a-day charge for driving in central London, claiming they are exempted from local taxes.

The total bill stands at £51m and the US, Russia and Japan are the top three in the list of non-payers.

The US embassy owes more than £5m (probably about $8m), an amount which must be rising quickly as each vehicle in Obama’s motorcade racks up the charge. As the Mayor of London has argued, this is

not a tax but a charge for services.

It is mean and wrong for foreign embassies not to pay what the rest of us have to pay for use of the capital’s roads. And I can’t help wondering, are British and other foreign diplomats in the USA exempted from the tolls on US freeways and bridges? If not, they are not only mean but hypocritical.

The Last Trump

No, I’m not predicting that the one announcing the end of the world will sound this Saturday:

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (KJV)

Donald TrumpDonald Trump is not running for President. So we may have heard the last of Trump here in the UK, even if he continues as a US TV celebrity. As Mark Mardell of the BBC writes:

President Trump had such a ring to it, conjuring images of a blunt, irascible leader. A joy to headline writers: The Last Trump. Diamonds are Trump’s.

But we can no longer even fantasise about Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

The lunatic fringe will not be represented in the Republican race. I am, of course, talking about his hair, not his politics.

In the words of the BBC news front page, this is indeed a “disappointing blow to the world’s headline writers”. I can’t help thinking it is also a blow to President Obama: if the Republicans had selected such an opponent, he could hardly have avoid winning again next year. Even if enough diamonds had been Trump’s, not enough hearts would ever be Trump’s.

Congratulations, USA, on healthcare reform

I would like to congratulate the people of the USA on the passing of the healthcare reform bill, as reported by the BBC. At last that great country is proving its greatness by ensuring that a small portion of its riches are spent on providing proper access to health services to even its poorest citizens. No longer will we see the scandal of the poor dying uncared for at the rich man’s gate, like Lazarus in Jesus’ parable (Luke 16:19-22).

I am glad also to see that President Obama will continue to ensure that federal money is not used to fund abortion, so removing a weakness in the bill which Michael Barber was right to object to.

But I was sad to see the following in the BBC report:

The Republicans say they will seek to repeal the measure, challenge its constitutionality and co-ordinate efforts in state legislatures to block its implementation.

Do they call this democracy? The elected legislature has made its decision, and do they want to block it? I trust no one who calls themselves Christian will have any part in these continuing efforts to deny to the poor and to sick children (who couldn’t get insurance because of pre-existing conditions) the very most basic of Christian compassion, proper health care.