Friday, June 26, 2009



I think it's very clear that you dislike Obama. I also think that Christians oftentimes exercise poor judgment when it comes to core issues. For example, many Christians have utter disdain for Obama because of his stance on abortion. However, these same Christians ignore his anti-death penalty alignment and his compassionate stances towards poverty. Why does abortion trump both the death penalty and poverty. In most churches I've attended, the preacher (directly or not) has said to vote Republican. Why? Republicans are usually pro-death penalty. Republicans tend to have less compassionate stances towards the poor. So why should Christians be judged negatively (which was clearly the case in the article) for supporting democrats? It makes little sense. I do not consider myself a democrat or a republican, but I am confused and offended by the fickle nature of politics in the church.


My last posting on the health care debate prompted two very passionate and somewhat critical comments from a blogger identified as Phillies Fan. (Although I am a longsuffering and dedicated fan of the Detroit Tigers, Phillies fans' are my second favorite baseball fan group--perhaps because they, too, understand what it means to be long-suffering).

The discussion raised a question that many people within the church and out in the larger culture carry around - how involved should pastors be in the political process, particular as spokespersons/advocates for policy positions by political parties and whether their personal political alignment should be apparent or kept private lest the influence church members into supporting one party over against another.

I am interested. What do you think about the role pastors should or should not play. So as not to influence the discussion, I will post my personal position on this issue in a day or so.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


THIS ARTICLE (c) 2009 BY Newsweek was posted on the Churches of God in the Emerging World, an independent blog site compiled by various Churches of God, General Conference. I found Lisa Miller's discussion and her questions quite intriguing. Tell me what you think - STEVE

Let There Be Universal Coverage
Pastors sell health reform to the faithful
by Lisa Miller (
Jun 24, 2009

What, I wondered, is a Christian minister doing on CNN pitching the president's health-care plan? Last week the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, a Christian social-justice outfit, made a seven-minute appearance on Lou Dobbs's show. Facing off against Tony Perkins of the conservative Family Research Council, Wallis made a disclaimer. Health care for everyone is a fundamental moral issue, he said, but "the community of faith should never be involved in the weeds." And then he dove, headlong, into the weeds. If you didn't know Wallis was a cleric, you would have thought two veteran partisans were debating a hotly contested culture-war issue. Perkins accused the Obama administration of presenting a "one-size-fits-all health-care program." Wallis responded on message: "This proposal is about people having choice." Though he sought the moral high ground, Wallis was not able—this time, at least—to claim it.

Since the beginning of the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama has been unusually skilled—for a Democrat—at rallying the faithful to his side. Thirty percent of white evangelicals ages 18 to 29 voted for Obama, compared with 16 percent for John Kerry in the previous election, a testament to the care his religious-outreach team took wooing and winning them and the pastors who preach to them. Less than a month after his inauguration, Obama announced the formation of his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Two dozen prominent (progressive and conservative) clerics and laypeople who are, broadly speaking, engaged in questions of the nation's values—Wallis among them—serve as advisers.

In frequent conference calls, the administration informs faith-based leaders of its policy initiatives; participants make suggestions and offer advice. In separate calls, the religious leaders then convey the administration's priorities to their constituencies—though not always, Wallis reminds me in a phone conversation, their agreement. Wallis has his own regular conference call, which, he says proudly, has the potential to reach a hundred million people. The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a Methodist megapastor in Kansas who is on that call, preached earlier this month on health-care reform. "I think this issue matters to God and to us," he said, "and I don't know what the solution is ... The Scripture keeps telling us to stand up for people who can't stand up for themselves."

There is nothing illegal or unethical in this exchange of ideas. It's smart politics, and in Washington, progressive religious groups are euphoric that after 30 years in the wilderness, sitting mutely as the religious right dominated the faith conversation, they finally have a seat at the table. Clerics have always engaged in politics (think of Martin Luther King Jr.), and politicians have always looked to church communities for support—both in elections and on issues (such as the religious right's historic drum-beating on abortion rhetoric). "Administrations, Democratic and Republican, have tended over the years to say, 'Our policies are good and they're consistent with your religious viewpoint. We hope you'll agree and go do things.' That's part of the interplay of politics and religion that's been with us for a long time," explains Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. All of America's great social movements, from abolition to suffrage to civil rights, have been driven largely by pastors as a matter of conscience.

But as religious leaders increasingly engage in the health-care conversation—and they will—two aspects of this new faith-and-politics marriage are worrisome. The first is that proximity to power can be corrupting. This is the theme of Blinded by Might, the 1999 book Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson wrote about their years with Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. More recently the George W. Bush administration was frequently accused of shrouding political fights in religious rhetoric—and of manipulating its conservative Christian base to further its own political ends. There is no reason why the left should be immune to this same temptation. "The word for that is 'idolatry,' " says former Missouri senator Jack Danforth, whose 2006 book Faith and Politics: How the 'Moral Values' Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together is a polite excoriation of the culture wars. "It's when you make God in your image rather than the other way around. It's the thing we all have to guard against."

The second is whether health-care reform is the really the perfect vehicle for a full-scale social-justice campaign—since "right" answers are so obscure. "Particularly on the issue of health care, and legislation of health care, and how it's paid for, and what the consequences are, and future generations—it's just so complex," says Danforth. "Some issues are clearer than others. If you're speaking out against genocide, that's a much clearer case. As I see it, there's only one possible position for people of faith to take. When it comes to economic policy and health-care policy, where there are numerous people with numerous ideas, it's very hard to say, 'This is the religious position.' " In light of these complexities, Danforth urges clerics to speak out for what they believe in but to do so with an appropriate measure of humility and not to claim to be speaking for God.

Wallis would agree with this. He believes that health care for all is "a fundamental moral issue," and he is committed to doing whatever he can to see that the nearly 50 million uninsured Americans receive coverage. Christians, he reminds me, have been concerned about the health of the poor and the sick since the time of Jesus. And while he understands that his warm relations with the White House give him a certain influence, he also demonstrates the requisite humility. "I have said very directly to members of the Obama team, all of this will be tested not by access but by results. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter who has the ear of the president or gets their calls returned. If 30,000 kids are still dying of preventable disease and stupid poverty in four years, our having a close relationship with this administration won't matter much." Fighting for justice as an insider, he says, is different than fighting as an outsider; but he's still determined to fight.

Look for more visible efforts by progressive religious groups on behalf of health-care reform in the coming weeks. Over the Memorial Day recess, a coalition of faith-based groups—including Wallis's Sojourners, the Washington-based Faith in Public Life, and others—ran radio ads in six states where "we feel there are members of Congress and senators that will be moved by a faith message," explains Katie Paris, spokeswoman for Faith in Public Life. "Or states that have a highly religious population. These are going to make the difference on health care reform." In each spot, a local pastor proclaims that "God desires abundant life for all people" and then pleads, "Please contact your members of Congress." New ads have been written to run over the Fourth of July recess, pending funding. This same coalition is also sponsoring forums at churches to talk about health care. Wallis and other prominent clergy are meeting in Washington after the Fourth to strategize about health-care reform. In those conversations, I'd guess agreement on the need to care for the sick and marginalized will be universal. More difficult is how to raise questions having to do with income taxes, insurance companies, and doctors' compensation to the high ground, where the moral perspective is perfectly clear.

© 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009


I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me.
- St Patrick of Ireland, 5th century

Friday, June 12, 2009


Summer doesn't arrive officially for a little over a week. Temperatures today, however, are more summer-like. The last day of school for most kids was Tuesday or Wednesday, so summer has certainly begun for them. The golf course I visited today sure seemed like summer, even with the threat of afternoon thundershowers. My associate pastor left yesterday for his vacation-a fishing trip to Canada. The lake and family picnics are already being conjured up as excuses for skipping church. Tomorrow night I leave to work in our church camp. Yes, it's summertime.

So what are your summer plans?

For some of the people from my church, it will be a summer of service as they conduct a Vacation Bible School for our sister church on the Navajo Reservation at Tsaile AZ. Watch this blog spot for some of the details.

Friday, June 5, 2009


I confess to mixed feelings about Mr. Obama's remarks in the Middle East yesterday. Sounded more like an apology for America's mistakes than a reinforcement of our core values as a democracy. The calculated refusal to use the word "terrorist" when speaking Al Quaida, and the apparent legitimizing of Hamas seemed more an attempt to soften an American hardline than to achieve true understanding of what is needed to finally bring peace to the Middle East. I'm still studying his words, but what I am reading says his position has not changed Middle Eastern opinions that we are still the infidel to be resisted at any cost. Even the often liberal guys on The Comedy Channel seem unimpressed. What do you think? Talk to me.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


One of my prayer partners read yesterday's post on my devotional blog and sent me this response. I have his permission to pass it on.

Your devotional story is familiar to many. I have often thought of ‘why doesn’t that person get a job?’ Maybe they are in desperate circumstances or lazy, or whatever. I, like you, have come to realize that it is not our job to judge, but we must be vigilant and not suckered.

A quick story: One night I pulled into the gas station across from McD’s on Centerville Road @ Rt 30. I noticed a fairly old, dilapidated (that is a kinder word) auto sitting at the pumps. There were some kids in the back seat, maybe three or four. There was a lady in the front. When I was pumping gas the man of the group came over to me and asked if I could ‘loan’ him $5 so that they could get fuel to make their way back to home in New Jersey. Well, as I often am, very reluctant and then I thought that $5.00 of gas would not get him but about 100 miles or so, at best! I ended up giving him $10 which he promptly put to use on purchasing fuel. He came over to me and asked for my mailing address. I really became suspicious at that time about giving my address to a stranger, but I did. I left and completely forgot about the incident. One day a crumpled envelope appeared in our mail box. Lo and behold when I opened it there was a $10 folded up in a rather tattered piece of paper which had a genuine ‘thank you’ note attached.

God is good all the time despite my feeble attempts at playing Christian.

Tom Shea

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Note: This blog entry appeared yesterday on my devotional blog THRIVING IN CHRIST. Since a lot more of you read LIFE MATTERS, I thought I'd double post it.

Dianne and I took a three day vacation last week to Baltimore and the Inner Harbor. We got a great hotel deal, so we stayed down town--handy to Camden Yards, where the Tigers were playing the Orioles and handy to Inner Harbor, a great gathering of shops, museums and other interesting sights. We parked our car and walked everywhere.

Typically Dianne and I are on two different sleep schedules. I am generally asleep by 10 and up around four. She is asleep by midnight or later and up 4-5 hours after I have risen. I try to stay in hotels that have complimentary breakfasts so I can eat around 5.30 or 6.00 and then have a "second" breakfast around 9.00 or 9.30 when she is ready.

This hotel did not accomodate me. And on Saturday, the restaurant didn't even open until seven. Fortunately, McDonalds is open at 6.00. But as in many major American cities, a tourist will share the streets with the homeless and other street people. When I arrived at McDonalds, a beggar persistently got my attention (I couldn't get in the door without talking to him.) "Sir, can get a hot meal?" I really didn't want to argue, so I said, "I'll bring something out."

Inside, one of the men in line said to me, "He does this every morning. He really can go to work but he prefers to beg for a meal. I have enough savvy to know that's always a possibility, but since I had given my word, took him breakfast as I left to return to the hotel.

Was he taking advantage of me? Maybe. But I really have no way of knowing what his day was going to be like. A friend once said that the only way not to be taken advantage of is to never help. As I gave him the meal, he said, "Sir you have done a good deed for the day." I didn't respond--didn't feel the need to.

Jesus says a good deed, a cup of cold water in his name is always a good thing. We are doing it to Jesus. So even if the street guy was taking advantage of me, Jesus was pleased I am sure because I had simply followed his command and values.


It is now week nine and my fantasy baseball team, the Landisville Sluggers, sport a 6-2 record and sole possession of first place in the Eastern Division. I have been fairly successful at slotting the right players into my weekly lineup, watching those trends in hitting and developments in injuries. I even benched a star player, Erin Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers three weeks ago whose head didn't seem in the game. Because he's been so "iffy" and I have plethora of good outfielders, I finally released him and replaced him with a new player who has been a late bloomer, Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies, who seems to be reaching his stride. Every once in a while my picks have proven ill-advised because like Nick Johnson of the Washington Nationals, they have started going cold right after I gave them a starting slot or Michael Cuddyer of the Twins, who was injured his first week with me and is "day to day."

There are no perfect systems - Evan Longoria, the number 2 player in the league seems to have grown strike out happy lately. Casey Blake of the Dodgers and Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins have developed injuries that won't end their season but make their play more sporadic. Instead of playing 6-7 days per week, they play 4-5 (and when they don't play I get no points) but I leave them in the lineup because on their really good days they get me a whole lot of points.

There are no perfect systems. You cannot put life on auto pilot. You cannot remove all the risk and/or stress from living. Even the best plans need a PLAN B and when no plan works, you need to deal with the consequences, learn and regroup - and move forward.

By the way, my team is still doing fairly well this week even though I am playing the highest scoring team in the league. Their bats have grown even more cold than mine and only their pitching staff - the Yankees - have kept me from leaving them in the dust after the first two days.

Monday, June 1, 2009


The political drama has begun as a candidate has been nominated to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. That nominee is Judge Sonya Sotomayor, a Hispanic women, who will indeed make history if confirmed--even before she rules on her first case as a Justice. Few institutions have affected the direction of America as the United States Supreme Court. We would have not begun the true integration of our schools and cultural life if the Court had not ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education, striking down an earlier court's unusual reading of the Constitution that "separate but equal" was an acceptable measure for justice in the United States. Roe v Wade created an abortion right in our body politic, a right that is still hotly contested by those who believe life begins at conception and life is sacred. Her previous rulings, legal and political statements; just about anything she has ever said, will now be scrutinized to see if people can figure out how she might rule on future cases. People will want to know if this Justice can be counted on to rule justly according to the Constitution of the United States.

In Christianity, justice is clearly connected to the person and character of God. Justice is tied intimately into His love for humankind. "Shall not the God of all the universe do right?" Justice is also tied to the character of the persons created in God's image. For particularly in a democracy, men and women are called upon to "love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly with our God."

In the book of Acts we read of Peter and John being brought before the Council. One of the teachers, Rabbi Gamaliel, insisted that this sometimes rubber-stamp court not act unjustly towards the apostles. Gamaliel was noted as a force for godly justice in his time. In fact, his death later was greatly lamented as people commented, "There is no justice in the land since Rabbi Gamaliel died."

As the Senate now goes through its confirmation hearings, we will pray that ultimately who is chosen will be a person whose character is not defined by politics, but by godly justice.