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    Obama: A New Perspective

    I just read Barack Obama’s keynote speech on June 28, 2006 to the Call to Renewal conference on the relationship between religion and politics. It was brilliant.

    Before you go any further, listen to it or read the transcript here on Obama’s site. As you do, I encourage you to rid your mind of everything that your friends, family, church, and favorite ministries have said about him. I want you to approach this with an open mind, and listen to what Obama himself has to say about his faith and personal beliefs. There were of course a few who had things to say about the speech later, including James Dobson, whom Obama mentioned. His reaction and the reaction of an outspoken agnostic to Dobson’s comments were both enough to make me want to vomit. The reaction of said agnostic is a quick way to read Dobson’s comments as well, so give both a look at once here . I’ll try not to trigger your gag reflex and give my take on the speech, all at the same time.

    First, I want to point out Obama’s confession of faith. I was a bit skeptical of his testimony and reasons for believing at first, but from everything he said I’m convinced that he is genuinely a Christian. I know that we can play the game all day of whether his policy choices and his history as a community organizer and politician show that he is a Christian or not, but I also know all about how offensive it can be to be told that you aren’t a real Christian. Considering how much similar comments have bothered him, I feel that his faith is something that he takes very seriously. I think I’ll save the rest for a few posts from now.

    A quick note (because I know a lot of you are thinking it): it is true that Obama did not vote yes on the bill to support care for born-alive babies from abortions, and that he has consistently supported pro-choice legislation. However, it is also worth noting that he did not vote no on the said bill either, instead being recorded as present.

    I’m not sure how I feel about that choice (mostly got good right now), but the best part about being a blogger is that I don’t need to have all the answers when my work gets published. I invite you to give your opinion as I try to make up my mind on Obama and the other candidates. I forgot to write this in the last post, but there was more to the interview with Tom that I will post on Monday. Until next time, have a great weekend!

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    A Quick Political Rant

    In Obama’s speech on religion and politics that I asked you to read in the last note, Obama concluded that people of faith must “translate their concerns into universal, instead of religion-specific, values.”

    After reading this view, my immediate thought was that if I were to do that, it would cheapen my faith. I follow God’s rules and suggestions for behavior because I want to be obedient to Him, and any movement to a universal statement for all Americans could not capture this motivation, since all Americans do not wish to follow God. Most universal statements of morality that are translated into laws have the form “Do not do X, which is bad because of Y and Z, or we will inflict W punishment on you.”

    Something that I missed in all of this, and that Christians and other miss as well, is that God tells us to do things because they are good for us. It can seem that God’s laws have the form “You are not allowed to do X because I said so,” but they are really more like “You should not do X because I don’t want Y or Z to happen to you and those around you.” In this light, it should be relatively easy to turn our beliefs into universal statements that can then be turned into laws, by just trying to understand why God does not want us to do certain things.

    Unfortunately, there is still the problem of deciding on a punishment, because without those, the consequences of reprehensible behavior are not enough of a deterrent to allow a nation to exist peacefully. Like I said in a previous note, losing the intent of obeying God is enough to make me reject writing laws based on my Christian beliefs in the first place, but I now understand how and why Obama and others pursue this route. The goal for individual Christians is to allow the desire to follow God and to avoid the consequences of bad behavior (outside of the punitive consequences) guide us away from harming ourselves and others with immoral behavior.

    In other news, I’m very done with this political vein in my writing. You can stop pretending you’re interested now.

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    Interview: Brian Ramsey (Campus Crusade for Christ)

    I had the opportunity to interview Brian Ramsey this evening about Campus Crusade for Christ. Brian is the president of the organization at Mines this year, and we talked about what Crusade is and his experience in the organization.

    Camo: What is Campus Crusade for Christ?

    Brian: Crusade is about bringing college students to a deeper understanding of relationship with God. We believe that Jesus is the son of God, and that he bled and died for mankind but rose from the dead.

    C: What is specific and unique to Crusade at Mines?

    B: Crusade brings in people who are broken and lost, and it is possible to see God’s glory in the most unlikely circumstances. Crusade is an opportunity to fit in with a community of people who all have the common goal of knowing God and pushing to follow him.

    C: So you have told me a little about what your group believes and what your goals are. What are your methods as an organization?

    B: We have weekly meetings, which are opportunities to share stories, pray, and worship God together. We also stress participation in small groups and church attendance. We believe that people grow closer to God through prayer, reading the Bible, and sharing their faith. It all starts with the basic belief that Jesus died for your sins.

    I will leave the second half of the interview until Friday. For those who want to find out more, Campus Crusade for Christ meets every Thursday at 7:00 pm in ballrooms D and E of the student center.

    C: What are your personal experiences in Crusade?

    B: When I came onto this campus as a freshman, I had a lot of depression in my life. I  also wanted to follow God, but I didn’t know how. When I got involved in a freshman Bible study, I met men of God with real love and faith. Things began to change.

    C: How has your experience in Crusade leadership been?

    B: Leadership is very challenging but very rewarding. Having been here for 3 years, it has been amazing to see how God has worked in people’s lives. The Christian community at Mines has a lot of authenticity and love that I will miss. Crusade has areas to grow in, but we have the right foundation. We have a lot of loving people who can make a difference if they are willing to die to themselves.

    C: Any closing thoughts for the readers?

    B: Jesus loves you. You are so valuable to God. Crusade is a great environment to investigate the claims of the Bible and God’s purpose for your life.

    Brian appears to be an ideal representative for his organization. As we were talking, he mentioned that he had blood drawn that day to help someone else and was reminded of the blood that Jesus shed for him. It was hard to get him to talk about his personal experience in Crusade; he clearly wanted to talk about the group more than himself. Also, a recurring idea in Brian’s speech was the idea of sola fide, the concept that faith in Jesus alone is what saves a person from his or her sins. This is a core value of Crusade in their statement of faith and in their literature. It is probably good that Brian holds this idea so strongly.

    I’ll be gone this weekend helping staff a weekend retreat for Men at the Cross, so next week you can expect to hear about my experiences during the weekend. It is always pretty intense, so I should have something interesting to talk about.

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