Difficult Questions About One of My Heroes

I do my best to stay out of politics, but in my journey to be an “astute” observer of life and religion, politics often whack me “up-side-the-head.”  Such was the case when I saw a full-page ad in the Sunday newspaper from one of my heroes, Billy Graham.  Then I read an article by Adelle Banks, an award-winning writer for the Religion News Service.  Her article raises some questions I want you to think and pray about as you try, like me, to vote with my head, my heart and my values.

Her article is entitled “Why Is Billy Graham So Involved In the 2012 Election?”  She identifies a recent meeting with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney followed by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association scrubbing language from their website describing Mormonism as a “cult.”  Two days later, the ministry announced a “vote biblical values” campaign, with Graham’s photo and signature accompanying a statement opposing abortion and supporting traditional marriage. 

Her question is a valid one:  why is the famed evangelist, who has said he learned hard lessons about being too political, getting involved in 2012 elections?  Some suspect it is due to Franklin Graham, his son and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  “If not a new turn, he’s further down the road, with expressing a preference for a candidate,” said William Martin, author of A Prophet With Honor, a 1992 biography of Billy Graham.  “I’m reasonably certain that he’s not done this before.”

Martin goes on to say that while Graham has met with every president since Harry Truman, he is coy about those relationships.  Graham’s grandson, Reverend Tullian Tchividjian, remembers his grandfather feeling the fallout of his close friendship and support for President Richard Nixon, which led to a divine warning that he was primarily a preacher and not a politician.

So, my questions are as follows:

How do you feel about religious icon, Billy Graham, weighing in on the election?  Before you answer that, recognize that law mandate “preachers” NOT to endorse political candidates or our churches/organizations could lose their tax-exempt status.  Also, is your answer to this question based less on your agreement with Billy Graham than your agreement with your particular political candidate, in other words, since his statements favor your political candidate, you will agree with him or since his statements don’t favor your political candidate will you disagree with him?

Is it more important to vote for someone who is not a “Christian” (by definition, Mormonism is a cult) but supports your view about marriage or abortion or is it more important to vote for someone who is a “Christian” (our president says he is a Christian) but does not support your view of marriage or abortion, however, they do support Christ’s mandate to feed the poor?

Is your head exploding yet?  Mine often is when I try to process my head, my heart and my values.  Please think and pray about these and all of the other issues facing our nation at this time of the year and speak kindly and honestly to all those who disagree with you.

Something the Candidates Can Finally Agree On?

What do the two candidates running for president have in common?  Really.  If you watch the candidates from a “fair, non-snarky” point of view they are both a bit “aloof” and from someone who has been accused of the same, I do not necessarily think that is a bad thing.  Add to that, I found someone who agrees with me.  Evan Thomas, in an article from Time magazine, “The Upside of Mystery” makes an excellent observation.

Having written a book on former President Eisenhower, he concludes that Ike would have disliked just about every aspect of the 2012 presidential election:  “He would not have understood why candidates’ wives should give speeches to humanize their husbands or why presidential aspirants should disclose much of anything about their faith or private lives.” 

Yet, the more he analyzes the two candidates, the conclusion is clear:  “Romney can come off as plastic, Obama as aloof; they are both deeply private men who would have been more comfortable as politicians in an earlier, more buttoned-up time.” 

Fact is, both men are more naturally inward and it is worth noting that the most important decisions a President makes are lonely ones.  

Honestly, isn’t that the case for all of us who believe deeply in spiritual relationships?  Isn’t that the case for those of us who recognize life is lived from the inside out?  Isn’t that the case for those of us who think and listen and pray before we speak? 

Wherever you are today, I hope you will be reminded, as I was this week, faith in God is about listening.  Worship is about being present to your surroundings so you can create the space necessary to ease the world out and soak the Lord in. 

James 1:19 says it best:  “Let every person be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”  No, inward isn’t all bad, especially when you are listening to God!

A Tale of Lost Limbs and Found Lives

This is a tale of a marine and an orphan, born over 5000 miles from each other, who find each other because of what they have lost. 

Oksana Alexandrovna Boudarchuk is born in Khmelnitsky, Ukraine on June 19, 1989 with 6 toes, 5 webbed fingers on each hand, and no thumbs, a condition called tibial hemimelia.”  Her leftleg is 6 inches shorter than the other and both legs are missing weight-bearing bones.  Her parents go “missing in action” and she begins a lonely and catastrophic journey through revolving orphanages where she is beaten and raped with regularity.

Rob Jones grows up on a 200-acre farm in Lovettsville, Virginia where his small stature brings alarm to his parents.  After his doctor’s clearance to play sports, he does so until the 10th grade when he decides to escape into the world of computer games and entertains the possibility of becoming a video-game developer.

A single woman and speech pathology professor, Gay Master from Buffalo, New York, begins her search for a newborn baby to adopt, until someone shows her a picture of Oksana and she declares, “That’s my child.”  Only after persevering the 2-year ban on Ukrainian adoptions does her dream come true.  A late night in January of 1997, Gay finds Oksana wrapped in a sweater in a freezing building.  When she wakes up she says in Ukrainian, “I know who you are.  You’re my mother.  I have a picture.” 

Fast-forward to Rob’s junior year at Virginia Tech University and you find him making the decision that will change his life forever.  He signs up for the Marines with no real clear reason:  “I realized that there are things out there that are more important than me.”  Despite no strong political or moral reasons, “or even the ‘why’ of his country’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; he just wanted to live through the what of them.” 

Oksana and Gay move to Louisville, Kentucky in 2001 and it feels like an avalanche of change for the budding teenager.  A surgery to remove the leg above the knee followed by therapy and prosthetic legs stretch the boundaries for this painfully self-aware 12-year old.  At age 13 and before her second amputation, she learns the “privacy” of rowing.  As she attacked the water, “the central theme of her early life was inverted.  She could be as violent as she wanted, while everything around her stayed serene.”

Rob enlists in January of 2008 and goes to Iraq as a lance corporal specializing in IED (improvised explosive device) detection.  His tour of duty ends in August of that same year, but in April of 2010 he is deployed to Afghanistan.  One day in July while clearing the area after a blasting cap explodes, an IED blows his legs off.  In his shock and disorientation, he asks a fellow marine to kill him.  After a morphine injection, he flies to his base and then Germany before finally landing back in the states at Bethesda Naval Hospital 3 days later.  By then, he has changed his mind about ending his life.

I discover what brings this marine and orphan together when I read their amazing story in a Sports Illustrated article by Michael Rosenbergat the end of August.  They are training for the Paralympics in London in the mixed double sculls, where I later discover they win a bronze medal, the first U.S. medal ever in this event. 

What brings them together is their loss … their loss of limbs and heightened awareness of life’s fragile nature.   Both remember moments of life ending and then suddenly beginning again.

What brings them together is their pain … the pain of their past and the ongoing “phantom” pain of their present.  Both speak to the moments when bursts of pain come to the legs they no longer have. 

What now sends them on their way is the belief that they will not waste a single day of their life.  And neither should you!