Living Like a Refugee

Baby we ain’t the first
I’m sure a lot of other lovers been burned
Right now it seems real to you, but it’s
One of those things you gotta feel to be true

Tom Petty “Live like a refugee”

“When candidates say we shouldn’t admit three-year-old orphans, that’s political posturing,” President Obama on the GOP’s opposition to his Syrian Refugee plan

“The whole point of terrorism is to do what hasn’t been done before, before 9/11 planes were never used to go into buildings——So if you would have said what’s wrong with giving Islamic radicals flight lessons—–because that’s the new idea that occurred to them (Islamic radicals). I’m simply saying now, that why should we put it past them to use refugees to smuggle bad guys into the country. It’s just common sense.” Dinesh D’Souza on Huffington Post 11/24/15

A few Issues:

Sorry Mr President, they are not mostly “women and children”, according to the UN’s own numbers 72% are men, and 54% are men between the ages of 18-34.

Contrary to the Presidents assertions about “religious tests” the United States code on asylum seekers demands one. And one of the highest scoring grounds for refugee status is religious persecution. It actually makes sense in a country founded by people fleeing religious persecution.

A few points about the Refugee debate: Neither side can claim moral or biblical superiority, to do so is exactly the arrogance that many in political debates engage in when they complain about imposing morality. While there is plenty of that on both sides, the reality is both sides also have plenty of serious moral standing. It’s not any more moral to want to welcome the innocent from abroad then it is to want to protect the innocent within. I don’t want Syrian children to suffer in bombed out hulks, but I don’t want our children to be victims of suicide bombers. Both are moral and biblical positions.

And please there are two memes we can do without. One is the comparison to Jewish refugees fleeing gennoacide pre WW II. In all sincerity that was a totally different situation, to compare the two is a gross admission of ignorance. Those Jews had no sanctuary, Hitler was invading their homes and hunting them down, they had no homeland to retreat too, no Jewish enclave to take them in. Todays Syrian-Muslims on the other hand live in a world with 52 other Muslim nations and twenty plus Arab-Muslim nations, many of which are wealthy and in far better position to take them in than any nation in the West. The fact is the wealthy gulf States have so far taken in zero of the Syrian refugees, perhaps we should ask why?

Another meme we can do with out is a comparison between todays Syrian Refugees and the early European settlers that came to North America. As Samuel Huntington rightfully points out in “Who are We”. The Europeans that came here were not “immigrants”, they were entering a largely undeveloped uninhabited land (you could take the entire population of Natives in North America-estimated at roughly 15-25 million and stick it in the NYC corridor fairly comfortably). The Settlers that came to North America, came to an empty land with the purpose to build something.

Many of todays immigrants are coming to a Nation with the desire to take something, or be beneficiaries of that Nations largess. And considering we’re running an 18 Trillion dollar deficit, that largess is getting pretty unaffordable. Among the hundreds of radical Imams living off Welfare in the UK included Abdul Salem (the man who led rioting against the Danish cartoons) and Abu Qtada, and Anjem Chaudary all hate preachers who specialize in inciting violence against the very system that pays their checks. I’m not interested in financing Jihad with our tax dollars.

My take is this, to me this is pretty simple. Caution in protecting the country should abound. The reality is teenagers attending a concert or Black Friday shoppers are just vulnerable as many of the refugees fleeing war torn Syria. We should start by taking in children, women and families. This is just basic human decency, and the reality is unlike the 54% of the refugees who are fighting age men, the need to protect the truly vulnerable is undeniable. The next group we must look at is Christians. Christianity (a faith community that pre-dates Islam by several hundred years in the Levant) in the Middle East is truly facing massive ethnic cleansing and gennoacide, and we should apply every method to protect them and rescue them when necessary.

As far as the majority of young single men that are refugees, ecspecially those without families in the US, we should first try to protect them in Syria in safe-no fly zones. And then to repatriate them with our so-called allies in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. The reality is we simply can’t vet them, we don’t have access to Syria’s criminal or military records, so the “vetting” process is basically a crap shoot, and admitting them in the country with out good records is risky at best. I lock my doors at night for a reason, it’s not because I hate outsiders or I’m a racist, it’s because I want to protect the individuals and contents inside. A Nations first duty is to protect it’s citizens.




Hash Tags, South Park, and Paris

President Obama said this yesterday on Good Morning America “ISIS is not getting stronger, we have contained them”. Last night after the attacks he described the attack as “an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share”. In both cases he was sadly mistaken.

And frankly I’m sick of these goat scewing bastards believing that walking in to a concert hall with hand greenades and AK’s is a form of political expression. I’m sick that when thousands of them show up in Europe to protest cartoons, there aren’t hundreds of thousands marching in counter protest. The reality is ISIS is capable of paralyzing any major city in the West, Sydney? London? DC? Chicago? LA? Berlin? whose next?

These were not attacks on “Universal Values”, Freedom of Speech, Religion, Assembly, Expression, the Press, Freedom from undue search and seizure, and the Right to Bear Arms only exist in a small slice of the planet, and they are under attack there. Just this week, we had a protest at the University of Missouri which included an assault on freedom of the Press. At Yale, Freedom of Speech is clearly under assault. And sadly judging from my face book feed today many Americans are far more worried about micro aggressions, Safe spaces, and Islamaphobia than they are about an attack on Universal Values. Perhaps the President should define these “Universal Values” and explain to us, and the world, why they are superior?

To paraphrase Mark Steyn, the farmer in Yemen who thinks his daughter should be stoned because she was raped doesn’t share these values. The Goat Herder in Pashtun who believes in beheading those who blaspheme the prophet doesn’t share those values.  The magistrate in Iraq who issued the order to throw homosexuals off the roofs of tall buildings doesn’t believe in those values, and the ISIS terrorist who opened fire in the concert hall in Paris certainly doesn’t share those values. They are not universal, the sad fact is, a vast majority of humanity doesn’t share those values Mr President. Even in France “hate speech” laws have rendered the Charlie Hebdo attackers successful.

Je Suis Charlie, neat hashtag, but don’t print copies of the cartoons here. They might offend. Evidently even “I am Charlie” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? But “Bring back our girls” worked great didn’t it? The girls were sold into sex slavery, but we showed our solidarity with them, we “did something”.  We aren’t serious, they are. They believe in their values, we apologize for ours. They build bombs, we create hash tags. They open fire with AK-47’s, slaughtering innocents, we change our Facebook profile pics. They blow up a civillian airlinner we have candlelight vigils. They send millions of immigrants into Europe, we send fifty “boots on the ground” to Syria. Seriously is this an episode of South Park that I’m trapped in?

Hillary Clinton who now believes “Climate Change” is the greatest threat to the Planet, made the charge during the Primaries in 08 that Barak Obama would not be prepared to answer the call at Three AM for a world crisis. On Sept 11, 2012 that call came, at Seven PM, we STILL don’t know were the leader of the free world was that night, only that he rushed to a fundraiser in Vegas, and Ms Clinton whose asking us to become the new leader of the free world spent seven hours before any response. And then the response of the administration was to throw a harmless you-tube video-maker in jail. So much for “Universal Values”. It’s hard to defend them if even your own administration doesn’t share them.

It’s bad enough that the Leader of the Free World and the leading candidate from one American political party don’t promote those values, but it’s even worse when they are deluded. ” Isis is not getting stronger, we have contained them”. Lets forget for one minute the events of Paris last night. The President made these comments in a week when ISIS had brought down a commercial airliner and pulled off two suicide bombings in Beruit. Even before the attacks that is a delusional statement, with no basis in reality But in light of the events in Paris that same night one has to ask is he fit to lead?

The Free World needs an adult leader, more Churchill, less Valarie Jarrett. We don’t’ need a pacifier, a child who wants to get along, because ISIS understands weakness as one thing, an invitation to attack, something to exploit. And we’ve answered violence with weakness for far too long. An administration that calls spending Four-hundred million to train four or five fighters in Syria an ISIS policy, is not adult. An administration that yields leadership in the power vacuum of the Middle East to hegemonies of Putin and the Mullahs is not adult. An administration that percieves the Manbearpig of Climate change as greater threat than radical Islam is not adult, even in an episode of South Park.

For the good of the country and those Universal Values you claim to hold I ask you Mr President, please resign for the healing of the country and what’s left of Western Civilization?  I am not sure we can survive another year and a half of your childish leadership. And another hash tag campaign with a candlelight vigil is not enough.  You weren’t ready, and that’s not OK.

Fox Business Debate Festivities

FIRST PLACE: The American people, there are real differences on issues between these candidates, and the moderators were determined to steer the discussions in that direction. It actually got a bit boring, candidates discussing substantive issues, and having to defend sound bites. This is what happens when you have quality moderators.

THE SURPRISE DEBATE WINNER: Rand Paul, I went into this process with him as my first choice. And I must admit that as the emphasis of the electorate has changed with the rise of ISIS, his stock has fallen. But last night he made the best conservative case for the Presidency, and had the strongest grasp of the issues. Even when he challenged someone (Rubio on Conservatism and Military spending) he did it based on philosophical differences not on trite personal attack. Is it enough to resurrect his candidacy?  I doubt it

THE TIE FOR SECOND PLACE: Rubio and Cruz. Cruz had the one Rick Perry style slip up where he named five departments he would close and named Commerce twice. But he also delivered the best line in the debate about economic effects of immigration. “If those were men with Journalism degrees crossing the Rio Grand and driving down the wages of Journalists, the coverage of this issue would be far different”. He’s also lightened up a bit, and only mentioned the Constitution once.

Rubio, continues to have the best grasp of the issues and the easiest time defending his positions off the cuff. When Rubio is talking about the economy and referring to Uber and Candy Crush, he speaking from personal knowledge of America today, not some younger advisors tip on how to be cool for the hip voters.

THE BIGGEST LOSER: John Kasich, I’ve always liked the guy, he was my original pick for VP, but he’s so busy giving talking points to Hillary attacking Republicans and making his claims about the Ohio “miracle” all the while being rude. He belongs in the corner getting a time out at the next one. The kids table is too good for him. Kasich made Trump seem humble on the stage that is quite an accomplishment.

A SOLID THIRD: Ben Carson, I realize he has a lower bar in some ways, but his answers were solid, especially on the minimum wage. His statement about Hillary and the contrast in coverage was right on the money. My biggest complaint with him was actually the moderators fault. He wasn’t asked enough questions, or given enough time. He is not an interrupter or a boorish lout like Kasich, it’s not in his nature, to me this is one of the most appealing things about him. But because of this the moderators need to take the debate to him, he is polling way higher than Kasich who got about double the air time.

BLAH: Donald Trump and Carly Fiorino, Donald for sounding vapid, the more details he’s asked, the more he goes back too “it’s gonna be great, it’ll be huge”.  Basically his detailed position on the issues is, trust me, I’m the Donald. Between this and his attacks on Carson, and his lack of substantive attacks on Hillary, I have to wonder if he’s running for the Republican nomination. The more he talks trying to appeal to conservatives, the more tone death he sounds. If you want a “substance free” Presidency vote for Trump, come to think of it he may be the perfect candidate for the America of the Kardashians and the Voice.

Fiorinio, to me has the opposite problem, she is as well versed on the issues as anyone, but she comes across as to clinical, the Al Gore of the Republican party, a policy wonk who would want to discuss Quantitative Easing over a beer when you want to discuss the College Football playoff system. She just doesn’t seem in touch with the lives of ordinary Americans, something Rubio and Cruz get.

TAKE A HIKE: Jeb (along with Kasich) displayed a fundamental mis-understanding of the banking system. While he had a few good points in the beginning, he is not on the game. And if his last name was Gilmore or Pataki he wouldn’t be on the stage. The fact of the matter is both Jindal and Christie are more credible candidates.

Debate Winners and Losers

Well I DVR’d the great “event” and caught it later, here’s my take:

THE BIGGEST LOSER, NBC, remember CNBC is part of NBC’s news division. A tip for NBC “news”, go back to Brian Williams, his made up stories are more credible than political hack John Harwood masquerading as journalist. Someone should tell him Halloween is on the 31st. But not to be out done, Becky Quick CNBC’s info babe should change her name to Becky Slow, hint from Journalism 101, research is your friend, try it some time.

THE SECOND BIGGEST LOSER, Jeb Bush, Jebs half hearted attack on Marco Rubio was easily handled. Rubio was everything Bush wasn’t, informed, quick on his feet, and prepared. For the good of the party Jeb, drop out.

THE INCIDENTAL LOSER, John Kasich. John’s attack on Trump was easily handled by Trump and John being unprepared for answering questions about his stint at Lehman Brothers showed he wasn’t ready for prime time. I liked him at the last debate, but I did mention that I thought he needed to move on from his constant drone of numbers from Ohio. Sadly he hasn’t and he has become an attacker instead of portraying someone with a vision for the future. This might play well if he’s attacking the other side, but not when he’s attacking those on the platform.

THE ALSO RANS. Rand Paul and Mike Huckleby. Rand needs to take a no-dose. I think the biggest issue for him is that the key issues in this campaign (foreign policy and the economy) are not the mainstays of his wheelhouse. And while he may have credible ideas on both he doesn’t present them with enthusiasm. And I’m saying this about a guy who was my pick going in. Huckleby is a great debater, and actually last night he played the compassionate conservative better than Bush. I like the guy, but we don’t need another W, liberalism light is just a weaker version of the policies that got us into this mess today.

THE OUTSIDERS, I don’t think the outsiders Carson, Trump, and Fiorino did anything to hurt themselves last night. Hardwood made Trump look measured, intelligent and reasonable, no small feet. Fiorino, is a great debater, but I always get the nagging feeling with her that resume is an issue. Unlike Hillary she had coherent and fairly consistent positions on everything which she articulates with ease. But like Hillary her Resume of accomplishment is fairly week. Yep, she was CEO but was she a success?

Carson, had a better night than last time. I think one of his strengths is his humility. He doesn’t claim to be the most well versed, only the most reasonable. He doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but does claim to have a core set of principles and the willingness to listen to good advice and adjust the details to stuff that will work. I suspect that’s his main appeal.

THE WINNERS, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are no doubt ready for prime time. Cruz combines passion with brilliance, you may disagree with him, but there’s a reason he was a top member of the debate team at Harvard.  I would dare say that as a policy wonk he would run circles around any of the other parties nominees. The biggest reason I hesitate on supporting him is people tend to like to vote for the best guy to have a beer with for President. And Cruz is almost too passionate, I think he needs to lighten up a bit on his presentation, he did that some last night. This is one of the reasons I suspect Hillary will not be as formadible a candidate as some assume.

Marco Rubio, did not have a bad moment last night. I can understand why many Democrat party insiders fear a Rubio candidacy the most. He showed a grasp of the issues, self deprecating humor, and didn’t have to fake it to present himself as an everyday person.

2012’s BEST CANDIDATE, Watching Gov. Christie last night I’m convinced he would have wiped the floor with the President in the debates in 2012. He is a master politician, no doubt the best natural politician on either side in the race. The problem is the country is sick of politicians.  To me these are the only candidates left in the GOP race worth considering, and in this order 1) Rubio, 2) Carson, 3) Cruz, 4) Florino, 5) Trump, and 6) Christie. All the rest should leave the building.

Demographics, Church, and Relevance?

Over the last fifteen years or so there has been a new movement within the Church. The church has tried to become more relevant to society. We even have a magazine based on the subject. First, let me make it clear I’m not attacking that movement, obviously the gospel should be revealed to people in the context of their culture, environment and lifestyle. There is no question Jesus approached people where they were at. He didn’t try to “churchify” people and make them presentable for the congregation or Temple in his case before he reached out to them. But there are a few questions and troubling things I see in the “lets make Church relevant” movement.

One, it seems to me that much of this movement springs up is in churches that are in upper middle class, sometimes wealthy communities.  It’s a lot easier to have an impressive multi media service with your churches own iPhone app if the tithe is bringing in hundreds of thousands not hundreds. And while I’ve argued for excellence what does it say about  our “target” congregation if they have to be entertained with expensive high tech multi-media in order to reached and have their lives changed?  And what does it say to the members of your community who are struggling and pull up in with a 15 year old car in a parking lot full of Lexus’s and Range Rovers?

Two, Are we in danger of Idolizing youth and good looks the same way the World does? If you look at celebrity culture one thing becomes blatantly obvious, many of our celebs never grow up. Wether married or single their lives seem to consist of partying or shopping. And their status is determined by the amount of bling they have and either where or who they show up with. Oh, as they get older they may show up at parties for causes, and their taste may change from beer to champaign but the truth is they never grow up.

In some ways I see the same in many churches, with the target audience for Music, and the Arts and even the message apparently between 25-35. Wether it’s the video displaying some young couple that looks like they just got back from and Abacrombie and Fitch modeling shoot to the music that sounds like a bad Coldplay-U2 tribute band. There are two issues with this.

First, when are we going to grow up? Wether it be simple messages that don’t require any consideration because we volunteer for the right causes or music that lacks even a shred of creativity or originality. And Second what about those who show up who 45 or 50 is in the rear view mirror? Didn’t Jesus die for them too? What if their divorced? If they aren’t able to physically participate in a marathon for food in the Sahara? Do they still have something to contribute? I’m not sure being relevant means targeting the same audience as Forever 21.

Three, How does targeting demographics effect the Gospels call to reach the whole world, Samaritans included? I use the word Samaritan included because Christ reaching out to the Samaritans is a vastly different meme from the “targeting” that many churches promote today to grow their ministries. I know I referred to age, but this transcends age to culture itself. How is it that a Evangelical Church in Birmingham MI can be 90% white while a church less than a mile and a half away in Southfield,MI with almost identical doctrinal beliefs can be 90% African American? It is said that the most segregated hour in the USA is between Eleven AM and Twelve PM on Sunday mourning.

Why are so few troubled by that and what chance does our society have for racial reconciliation when we can’t even do Church together?  I realize that many white churches care about blacks and participate in all kinds of ministries towards the inner city. But we go home to our lily-white burbs and rarely do we Worship together. Now I get it that the culture is different from preaching style to music what is relevant to most African Americans isn’t relevant to most white suburbanites. But doesn’t that just mean we have to try harder?

In this one way I suspect we are less relevant than we think in a world of Prada where hip-hop owns the pop charts while we’re hipsters and One Republic fans. But perhaps that’s the biggest pitfall of all in trying to target specific demographics and being “relevant”? To quote Tower of Power, “What’s hip today may become passé”

Boehner Shutdown

To me there are two things that trouble me about John Boehner’s resignation:

One, Why is Speaker Boehner resigning completely from office? Wasn’t he elected first to represent the people of the Eighth congressional district? Isn’t that his first job? Why do so many “public servants” have the attitude that taking a demotion is somehow beneath them?  John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson didn’t think it was beneath them. They both served in the House and Senate respectively after leaving the White House. Maybe they had a little different attitude than todays “Public Servants”. I also suspect they didn’t have big money lobbying careers waiting for them when they left office.

Second, Speaker Boehner claimed he was leaving the house to avoid the fight for his position that might hurt the “integrity” of the House. Really? What Integrity? For years, well  pre-dating the current parties control, the House has been the place where you get elected in mostly uncontested districts where you keep power by doling out political favors in exchange for campaign contributions from lobbyists, corporations, and labor unions. If he really wants integrity they should put for sale signs on each office and force the representatives to wear logos for the special interests the represent. Integrity? Please?

Worship anyone?

First as someone brought up in the church who is also a Musician, I’ve experienced about every form of worship music service one can imagine. Perhaps the only form of Worship I don’t have much experience with is higher liturgical forms like a traditional Catholic mass or conservative Lutheran service.  And I’ve been around contemporary ( I hate that word) Christian Worship since the late 1970’s. When we started we were the crazy hippy church in the minority. Many of the churches I came from didn’t even allow drums in the sanctuary.

But now thats changed, it’s hard to find a church without a live band. In fact in many communities the best gig for a musician is in a Church building on Sunday morning. Some pay better than clubs, and you don’t have to put up with a drunk cousin requesting Freebird at Two AM. So it’s all good, right?

First, Worship doesn’t necessarily require a church band and Hillsong MP3 to inspire. I Cor 10:31 says “Whatever you do, wether you eat or drink, do all to the Glory of God”. If I can chew a Taco to the glory of God, I can certainly play a Coltrane tune to the Glory of God. Worship is where you find it, there are no formula’s, no one way to do it, and like medicine no method that will apply to every situation.

Second, Groups can be manipulated. I have been involved in several worship teams for several different churches from large “freer” charismatic churches to seeker churches with the service planned down to the thirty second mark. In every case there were certain songs played at certain times that would ALWAYS generate certain emotional responses. In some cases the leaders were aware of this and wether subconsciously or consciously  used this formula to elicit a certain response from the congregation. The problem is and I’ll get to more about this later is when the formula becomes a crutch and instead of looking to “Sing a new song to the Lord” we become satisfied with the routine and the familiar.

Third, Be Creative. Mt 5:16 says ” Let your light so shine before men so they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  Throughout the OT, God constantly ask his people to bring their best to the altar, not something you throw together 10 minutes before the service.  Bringing our best means as musicians we should be constantly practicing, learning new material, exploring new forms of music, and most of all bringing up the congregation to new levels of Worship.

Here’s what it doesn’t mean:

Targeting demographics: Excellent songwriters, and I mean the really good ones, the Stevie Wonders, Paul McCartney’s and Stings of the world didn’t get there by targeting a specific audience. They got there by being inspired and inspiring others with excellence, and for the most part they really didn’t care what audience showed up, they cared about where they wanted to take them (a GREAT definition of what good worship is). They didn’t mindlessly pander to the audiences taste.

Being repetitious:  Great songwriters may have a similar sound in many of their songs but they aren’t afraid to try new things and they rarely repeat the same formula twice. One of the annoying things I’ve noticed in Christian worship music lately is how many songs start loud, do a verse or two and then have the band drop out for an acapella chorus. Do it once or twice it’s a creative way to bring people into worship, do it every song, it’s lazy. Letting your light shine is the opposite of settling for what you did on the last twenty songs and bringing people into worship implies your taking them some where not driving them around in the same vicious circle.

Poor Musicianship: Ex 23:19 says “The first of your first fruits of your land shall you bring into the house of the Lord”.  God doesn’t demand many things, but the one thing he does demand is our best. Now obviously this is relative, not every Guitar player playing on an average worship team is the Edge or Pat Metheny. But God does expect to give our best to him, this means to show up prepared, and play your best stuff.  Oh, and for the record God has nothing against a good instrumental solo. It’s interesting that the Psalms tell us to praise the Lord with a loud instrument as often as they tell us to praise the Lord with our voices.

Not learning from the past: It amazes me how many young Christian musicians I meet who have never heard a Miles Davis tune and think the Edge invented the electric guitar. Being an excellent musician and therefore someone who has a light to shine is someone who is constantly exploring the world of music. The great musicians get as much inspiration from as many sources as possible, wether it’s Mozart, Coltrane, Van Gogh or Hendrix, they were all created and given their creativity by God.

Gods call is to be excellent, creative and inspiring as Christian Musicians. Let’s embrace it.