Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Faith Lessons – And Teenage Driving

My oldest daughter, Molly, recently turned 15-1/2. As some of you know, that means she is old enough to get her driving learner’s permit in our state. She’s doing very well (as long as it’s not in my stick-shift Altima, where she’s not nearly as comfortable with a clutch).

Here’s something I never thought I would say about her - I detect a bit of a race driver in her. Twice now, she has pulled into the garage too fast…with me saying “Brake, brake!”… and all she can do is give an evil laugh, stop short, and then look over at me with a gleam in her eye. This is not her finest moment…

This weekend, I let her drive me around on a couple of errands. As she was driving down the highway at fifty miles per hour one morning, it occurred to me that we…no I…was very much at risk. She has never had to stop very fast because somebody ahead of her slammed on her brakes. If you think about it, the accelerator and the brake are really close together on our mini-van (2-5/8”, actually – I just went out and measured it). And to top it all off, it occurred to me that the net closing speed of the two-ton Suburban on our left was in excess of a hundred miles per hour. If she swerved, or if the Suburban did, there would be NOTHING I could do about it from the passenger seat. My safety – and I hate to say, my life - was completely in her hands at that moment.

For about a half-second, I was suddenly scared.

And then I thought, “We’re in God’s hands anyway. And we both know that we’re going to heaven if we die. So I don’t really care if she’s in a situation a little beyond her ability. I’ve got to let it go.” Really. I thought those very words to myself. It still seems a little crazy to me.

And so it struck me what a great comparison teenage driving is to trusting in God. Not that God is working beyond his ability. No, it’s more about how you can’t simply keep preparing yourself for His will without ever getting to the task. Like Molly’s driving, at some point, you have to assume she is ready for the next big step and so you go let her engage in the real thing.

Sometimes, it’s very hard for me to simply let go and trust that God will take control of a situation. My father raised me to believe that if you want something done right, you should do it yourself. So I’ve been doing things myself all my life (just ask some of my neighbors, who still think I’m crazy because of the way I landscaped my entire yard with very little in the way of power equipment). It’s one thing to pray that God will intercede. But for me, it’s another thing to understand when He has done so, and to trust that the prayer has been answered – and that there is nothing left for me to do. It’s even harder to detect when he has answered my prayer with a “No”. I like to see visible results, but that is not always God’s way.

I think I need to learn to be more comfortable that God has a plan for me…AND that He is executing it. My tiny mind still finds it hard to believe that the God who created the universe would spend any time caring for me. But He does, because He tells me that He loves me more than any love that I can imagine. Ephesians 3:18 – “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…” If God can love me more than I love my own wife and kids, then I have to trust that He is working His plan for me more faithfully than I can possibly do it myself. So, I will try to be still and know that He is God.

But if you see Molly and me driving through your neighborhood, you might want to move out of the way.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Songs I Can’t Sing Anymore – Part 5

I grew up listening to rock and roll from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I have always maintained that there is no era of music that I prefer to listen to more, and I listened to a lot of it in college and during the years before my wife and I had children. I amassed over two-hundred albums on vinyl over the years, before compact discs took over. I have spent a great deal of time over the last couple of years transferring this music to my iPod. As I’ve recently begun listening to this music again, I have been struck by the lyrics of many of the songs – seen anew from a refreshed Christian perspective. I believe that I listened only to the music back in my younger days, but today I actually pay attention to the lyrics. This is the first in a series of articles discussing the possible hidden (or overt) meaning in many songs I used to sing out loud -- without actually listening to what the words were saying.

This one might be tougher to accept than some of the articles I’ve written about other rock-and-roll groups. So, before any of you Beatles fans give up reading, let me just say that there is still a great deal of their music to which I love to listen. But, in the next few paragraphs, let me point out a very poignant cultural analogy….one that might not seem so obvious until you read it.

The Beatles started out as a seemingly innocent pop group. Their music was different enough and good enough to become a worldwide phenomenon. I remember sitting at a friend’s house around 1970, watching the famous Apple record label spin around on his turntable. I didn’t really understand at the time how enormously popular these four had become, nor what an influence they would have on millions of lives (of course, I was only six at the time!).

The band moved through many phases. From the clean-cut innocence of their first popularity around 1964, they became darker and more politically involved. The media touts this as their “growing social awareness”. By 1969, they looked like the photograph at the left. They had begun experimenting with various drugs such as marijuana and LSD. And they began to profess beliefs in line with Eastern religions, culminating in a prolonged visit to India to learn from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and experiment with his brand of transcendental meditation. Many of their songs on The White Album were written during this period (and you can tell).

The Beatles produced an incredible volume of music over a very short ten-year period. Their schedule was intense, their lives were made public, and expectations were always high for their millions of followers. But along the way, a not-so-subtle change was happening to the group and to their music.

From 1964 to 1970, it’s important to observe the cultural shift in their style, and most importantly, in their lyrics. The best way to put it was summed up by Kevin Swanson, the executive director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado, who recently said, “During their career, The Beatles took us from ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ to ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’” Kevin’s made the point that The Beatles have some responsibility for the societal shift that has occurred in our culture –one where sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll rule the airwaves and the media. The drift from innocence to pornography that is demonstrated in these two song titles – written just six years apart – is analogous to what happened to society during that same period. And it happened very quickly.

Is their music just harmless entertainment? One could make the case that it has made a lot of people happy over the years. Or does it embody something else – something that is exactly parallel to the cultural decline we have seen around us over the last forty years? The Beatles certainly aren’t the only thing to blame for the decline in morality around us. But it is precisely through such seemingly innocent entertainment that Satan gains a foothold. He brought about the fall of Man through a simple apple all those years ago. It just occurred to me that he might still be accomplishing some of his work through that same symbol.

Back to the first entry in the "Songs I Can't Sing Anymore" series...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Good Marketing Can Sell Anything

One of the newest coffee crazes that has hit the States in the last few years is “kopi luwak”, a very special blend of coffee made from very….um….select beans. A product of Indonesia, it is made from coffee beans which have been consumed by a weasel-like animal, called a luwak, and harvested from…well…the stuff that comes out of the back end of a luwak. This has prompted the phrase “good to the last dropping”. I did not make that up (but I wish I could say that I did!). I can’t bring myself to post a picture of the stuff they harvest, but if you must see it…here you go. You might want to read to the end of the article before you click on that link.

According to the Indonesia Tourism Promotion Board, "the secret of this delicious blend lies in the bean selection, which is performed by a luwak, a species of civet cat endemic to Java. The luwak will eat only the choicest, most perfectly matured beans which it then excretes, partially digested, a few hours later. Plantation workers then retrieve the beans from the ground, ready for immediate roasting." So, we are led to believe that the luwak has a special nose for only the best beans, meaning that this animal is the one that chooses which beans go into the special blend – rather than a human being.

That, my friends, is marketing.

But the hype gets even better. A cup of kopi luwak is described by one coffee aficionado in this way - “The aroma is rich and strong, and the coffee is incredibly full bodied, almost syrupy. It's thick with a hint of chocolate, and lingers on the tongue with a long, clean aftertaste. It's definitely one of the most interesting and unusual cups I've ever had.” Another expert claims, “it has a top note of rich, dark chocolate, with secondary notes that are musty and earthy… the scent as the smell of moist earth after a rainfall, with hints of vanilla, that teases the palate for hours after the cup is empty”.

You know, I don’t really approve of anything that teases my palate for hours. It sounds more like a popcorn husk that gets stuck in between your molar and your gums – and no one enjoys that.

Finally, before you run out to find some of this rare blend, you should know that it sells for as much as $600 per pound. A single cup served to you at a coffee shop which features the product will cost you at least $25. Hopefully, half-and-half and Splenda will be offered free of charge – you might need it.

Fashionable and trendy products like this are not new. It’s just one of many unusual and incredibly expensive experiences that our society longs for. I read stories like this, and all I can think of is how people are lulled into paying enormous sums for things that are nearly worthless. Maybe the coffee is really that good, but it seems to me that this is just one more example of a needy society that can easily be tricked into exchanging value for worthlessness. Is this an analogy to bigger things going on around us?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is Racism Ever Justified?

We tend to think that the roots of racism go back to slave ships sailing from Africa with a cargo hold full of black men bound for America. If they make the trip, they will live out their lives in somber duty to a harsh master, and die at an early age – penniless and without hope. I know that public school impressed this upon me, as did the release of Alex Haley’s Roots when I was in junior high. Of course, racism goes back much farther than that, likely to the very moment when the first race became two. We read of racial events in the Bible itself.

There is a group of people in our country who believe that they are right to counteract former acts of racism – by supporting the practice of reverse racism. In their mind, since blacks were repressed by the white man during a period of time, it seems reasonable to write and pass laws which favor blacks over whites (you can substitute American Indians or Chinese railroad workers in here – it doesn’t matter). One of the very definitions of affirmative action is “to redress perceived disadvantages due to overt, institutional, or involuntary discrimination”. Said a little differently, it is “to pay back wrongs inflicted by one race on another”. This may feel like justice to some…but it is actually, in itself, racism – giving advantage to one class of people over another because of their race.

Call it what you like, but reverse racism is still…racism.

In politics, it is truly of no importance to me whether our president is white, black, yellow, red, or green. Nor does it matter whether or not he has one arm, bad breath, or speaks with a lisp. What I do care about are the policies and beliefs to which my president ascribes. I care about what he is willing to fight for, and what he considers to be non-negotiable due to principle. And yet, there are people who were absolutely enamored by the prospect of having a black man elected to our nation’s highest office. Indeed, it seems as if some were even more excited to picture themselves in a voting booth casting their vote for a black man. Be careful - there is a real difference between the previous two sentences. If we were truly past racism, would we make such a big deal over the skin color of our president?

We are nearing the point where we are going to see Sonia Sotomayor appointed to the Supreme Court. I don’t really know what to think of her (she’s clearly giving evenhanded answers in an effort to hurdle the appointment process), but I do know one thing. In nearly every article that I have read about her, the opening sentences are about how she overcame a poor economic upbringing. And also, that she is a Latina. And that she’s a woman. In all seriousness, do those three things matter when evaluating someone for their ability to apply constitutional law fairly to Americans? Does anyone believe that the “poor-Latina-woman” triple-score is an accident? Or do you think that the Obama administration, like many prior administrations before them (Republican and Democrat), created a list of potential nominees based on judicial experience…and then began handing our extra credit for “poor”, “Latina”, and “woman”? Of course they did. And lest you think that a high judge is really above racism, consider the prior ruling of Sotomayor’s which was recently overturned by the very Supreme Court that she wishes to join – a ruling where she discriminated against potential white firefighter applicants by tossing out the results of a promotions test which “did not yield enough minority applicants”.

Finally, I can’t help but share the following video. In the video, California Senator Barbara Boxer is completely flummoxed by Harry Alford, a black man who challenges her insistence on quoting “black” groups who have passed policies on clean energy. She clearly cannot see that good energy policy ought to come from people who know something about energy – not based on lines of race. I wish more people had the tenacity of Mr. Alford, who came to an energy meeting with facts gathered from energy-related companies, but who left with disappointment in a senator who cannot see past her own reverse racial bias. Well done, Mr. Alford!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Obama Pledges “Everything Possible” to Limit Abortion

Our president recently met with the pope at the Vatican. It was the first meeting of the two men – two men who are diametrically opposed in so many areas.

In a bold move, the pope gave the president a booklet explaining the Catholic opposition to abortion and embryonic stem cell research. I’m glad that the pope didn’t just resort to the simple and expected formalities. He had an agenda, and he pursued it because he believes it is vitally important. Obama’s response to the pope’s request, according to the Vatican, was that the president would do everything possible to reduce the number of abortions in the United States.

I got a little excited when I saw that. If I promise someone that I’m going to do “everything possible” to get something done, I tend to…well…do everything possible. But it looks like that was wishful thinking on my part.

Obama has stated that his method of doing everything possible is to improve the economic climate in the U.S., so that fewer women will feel the ‘economic need’ to have an abortion. Such an indirect method is a lot like me saying that I will commit to spending more time each day with my kids – by working for hours a day on a time machine that increases the number of hours in a day to twenty-six, instead of the usual twenty-four. The proposed solution is completely out of touch with the objective, and doesn’t guarantee the objective will be attained even if such a machine could be invented (I might use the two extra hours to sleep, or go fishing).

Obama’s comment is predicated on the belief that abortions occur because of economic hardship. But is this really the reason? According to an Alan Guttmacher Institute study in 2004, only 23% of all women electing to have an abortion cited economics as their primary motivator. In the same study, 59% gave their primary reason as one of convenience (not ready for motherhood, already has all the children she wants, etc.). Only 7% gave health as a primary reason.

Further, assume for a moment that economic times get better. Will this really lessen the number of abortions performed? Or will they increase? It seems to me that the more money a family has, the fewer children that family has. More children brought to term does not necessarily follow as a result of increased economic wealth. In fact, one could make the case that better economic times will increase the number of abortions in this country, as more families can afford to have them, and as their selfishness for more time with their boat or fancy car is increased. I think there is a strong case to be made that links better economic circumstances with an increase in the incidence of abortions. It would make an interesting case study. Just check out the graph above which shows abortion rates have declined somewhat in Michigan…during a period where Michigan’s economy has soured.

If President Obama really means what he says when he will do “everything possible” to reduce abortions in this country, then he should start by supporting the reversal of Roe vs. Wade from every aspect in his power. He should appoint strict constructionist judges who support this reversal. He should promise support to lawmakers who will sponsor legislation to help overturn the practice of abortion. He could hold a press conference (or one of his free infomercials on CBS) boldly stating that he believes abortion to be wrong and a stain on our country’s history. Don’t get me wrong – I truly believe that our president and our congressional leaders could have exactly this change of heart. I pray for it nearly every day. Maybe we all should. God can change men’s hearts in mighty ways.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Brokenness Over Sin, Acceptance of Grace, or Somewhere In Between

In a recent men’s Bible study, we talked about the sensitivity of our world to sin, and whether or not this view has changed in our lifetime. I know in my own life, I am much more sensitive to bad language or immorality in movies than I was when I was a teenager. I cannot watch some of the movies that I did when I was younger – and I cannot believe that some of the scenes I watched back then did not bother me more at the time – even though I was a Christian.

In my experience among Christians, I have found an entire spectrum of views toward both sin and grace. At one extreme, there is the person who struggles constantly under the weight of sin – one who never feels truly forgiven and is continually broken by their inability to live a perfect life.

At the other extreme is the person who, once they obtain the grace promised by God, never has a care for their actions because they know they are forgiven. The weight of sin is never on their mind, and they go through life happily and without regret, proclaiming that this never-ending feeling is exactly what Jesus wanted us to have.

But I wonder if either extreme is really what God has in mind.

There is certainly a movement in today’s modern church toward the second extreme. The grace movement abounds in this country because it is popular in a culture that strives to be constantly moving forward, and which is rarely reflective about what has gone on before. Let’s face it – we live in a country where the idea of preaching “hellfire and damnation” has passed (mostly). I grew up in the South in the 60’s and 70’s and there was absolutely no fear about preaching to people that they needed to, 1) accept Christ, and 2) change their lives, or else they would be in danger of experiencing hell for all eternity. Has anyone else noticed that the second part of this message – changing your life - is not emphasized as much in churches today? It’s now much more palatable to simply say “accept Christ” and leave out the rest. After all, America wants to get back to our normal lives – television, cars, and vacations – after church services are over. We don’t want to be too bothered about changing our lifestyle, or dwelling on our own lives to change them in some uncomfortable way. Hey, I’m guilty of these feelings as well.

So many questions come to mind. Are we called to live at one of these two extremes? Or are we supposed to be in the middle somewhere, loving grace while at the same time experiencing brokenness over our sin? Is life supposed to be a movement back and forth along this spectrum? Is the answer the same for everyone?

I could speculate all day on the right combination, but instead of relying on my own broken wisdom, I’ll turn to the Bible for answers. I see two approaches in play. In Psalm 6, David speaks of experiencing both extremes. Verse 6 says, “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” But then in verses 8 and 9, he concludes with, “…the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” Clearly, David was moving along the spectrum, from being broken over trials he was experiencing to giving thanks that God was able to grant mercy to him.

Paul goes through the same progression in his treatise on sin in Romans 7. In verse 14, he says, “We know that the law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” But right after speaking of his constant struggles with sin, he says in Romans 8:1-2, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

I once had a church leader who chided me for saying “I am a sinner” in front of a group of leaders. He told me that since my sin was forgiven, I was no longer a sinner. That moment has stuck with me for years, and I now believe that he was only partially correct. I am a sinner, just as Paul claims that he was unspiritual. But through Christ’s blood, God does not recognize my sin as a condemning feature.

So how should we live? I believe that we may move along the entire spectrum in experiencing the weight of sin – sometimes feeling overwhelmed with our inability to overcome it, and sometimes feeling only thankfulness that we have been forgiven. This back-and-forth movement will keep us striving for good, while at the same time we will be reminded of the sacrifice that Christ made for us – and how we cannot achieve heaven and God’s grace alone.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Teenagers Don’t Have To Be Immature

We live in the age of the teenager. Entire businesses and marketing campaigns are designed around the teen years. Kids look forward to this period because many believe that it is a time for “sowing wild oats” and getting out from under their parents’ oversight.

Believe it or not, the word teenager is much less than a century old. The word “teenage” was first observed in the 1920’s, and “teenager” didn’t appear until the late 1930’s. The word “teenager” entered the mainstream when it appeared in a 1941 article in Reader’s Digest and has made progressively more appearance in everyday language.

It’s not so much the language or the word that is meaningful , but more the “concept” of the teenager. Before 1920, people were thought of only as children or adults. There was not a third life stage to be considered. A child worked with his or her parents to learn and mature, and would one day become an adult – no in-between mode of rebelliousness was expected (rebellion surely happened in certain cases, but it was not a given that children would experience this). The Bible supports this two-tiered thinking.

Does our society now expect a period of defiance in our children? Do we think it’s a good thing, and that it’s just part of the maturing process? Without a doubt, there are some children who have gone through this period and come out stronger and as better human beings on the other side. And I detect a distinct expectation from some parents that their children must go through a disobedient, disrespectful phase in order to learn life lessons that are necessary for maturity. But I don’t believe it.

Simply put, we should not expect that our children will go through a phase of rebellion. It is not only possible for them to avoid this trap, it is a desirable thing, and one that every parent should pray for. By expecting such a phase in our young adults, we give in to the lie that “teenage rebellion is acceptable” and pass on to our children a permission slip to do wrong. In some cases, these children will not recover from the temptations and addictions that await them in this very formative period. It is better that our children are taught to see this period for what it really is – a retreat from necessary parental guidance and oversight.

History records some fine examples of men and women who progressed from childhood to adulthood, with no intermediate stopover. Alexander the Great became a ruling regent when he was only sixteen. Joan of Arc led armies to victory and brilliantly defended her faith before the age of nineteen. Goliath looked down on David and “saw that he was only a boy”, but Goliath would be dead only a few minutes later, killed by that very youth. When looking at the historical account of David’s life, I see no evidence of rebellion or disrespect to his father – only that he obeyed his father and proceeded to do great things, even though he was very young.

It is my expectation from my own children that they move from childhood to adulthood without the rebellion that often occurs in between. My oldest is now fifteen, and for those of you who know her, you can witness that she obeys and respects her parents, while still progressing into the period of maturity and adulthood. I’ve had many talks with her about this very subject. “Don’t be an immature teenager just because others around you think it’s okay. Don’t disrespect your parents, even in private circles away from home, merely because you see others engaging in that practice. And start doing great things for God and others, right now, because you have the maturity to go straight to adulthood.” Paul summed up the parent’s message perfectly in 1 Timothy 4:11-12 – “Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

The “teenage years” are a relatively new concept in history. In less than a hundred years, our society has moved from the viewpoint of expecting maturity at an early age to one of catering to teenage immaturity and encouraging reckless experimentation. I’d rather reverse this trend and go back to the days when expectations were higher for young people. As a parent, I believe it’s possible to bring our children to adulthood without giving in to irresponsible behavior.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Visit the Most Recent "Carnival of Homeschooling"

The 184th Carnival of Homeschooling is up this week over at Henry Cate's Why Homeschool? Wendy and I have entries in it this week. Please feel free to poke around and read about various homeschooling viewpoints and experiences.

Carnival of Homeschooling

California Is Still Leading The Way

For years, California has led the way in so many aspects. The state boasts the eighth largest economy in the world – all by itself. And the residents of the state have long prided themselves on their sensitivity to social issues such as the environment, gay marriage, and immigration laws.

Now, California is leading the way in another important category – state bankruptcy. Instead of checks, the state will be issuing IOUs this week to state vendors who are owed money and also to many of the elderly, the disabled, and the college students who receive aid from the state. Once again – these people are expecting a check from their state government and they are going to open the mail and find an IOU slip instead. California’s credit rating is now the worst of all fifty states, and creditors are considering taking it even lower. The effect of this will worsen the crisis, as it will cost the state even more in borrowing costs than they currently pay on the existing debt. By all counts, this is a “death spiral” from which it will be very hard to recover.

How did this happen? I believe it all starts with the arrogance of a government that thinks it should insert itself into every aspect of people’s lives. By claiming such an interventionist role, a cycle of bankruptcy is started - 1) more government programs are instituted to “help” the poor, needy, or those groups who have well-paid lobbyists– and these programs cost a lot of money, 2) taxes are raised to bring in revenue for these programs, 3) taxpayers grow disenchanted with the tax burden under which they live, so they either leave the state for a lower-tax state, or the state economy becomes so bad that businesses start to go under – taxpayers make less money and businesses collect less sales tax revenue, leaving less overall tax revenue collected by the government. Simply put, the spending went up by the government, but the influx of tax revenue went down.

This phenomenon is called the Laffer curve. Think of it in this way – if the government set a tax rate of 0%, then it follows that the government’s tax revenue income would be zero. But, if the government set our tax rate at 100% of our income, it’s likely that their revenue income would also be near zero, since none of us would have much incentive to work for money that we cannot keep. The curve rises between these points, and it must peak at some tax rate – at that point where people still feel an incentive to work and pay their taxes. The lesson to learn is that at some point, raising taxes will actually decrease the total revenue brought in by the government. Higher tax rates will then begin driving people away or out of business entirely.

The state of California is going out of business, too. Their only hope is to either get help from the federal government (who has so far refused to get involved) or else start cutting back on government programs and tax rates. This last choice is an extremely difficult one. Cutting back on government services will cause jobs to be lost – unemployment will rise, at least temporarily, until workers are able to shift from the government sector back to the private sector. And lowering tax rates is a fearful action, too, because tax revenues will temporarily go down along with them – at least until the economy turns around. This is tough medicine to swallow, especially for a state that prides itself on its standard of living and cutting-edge social awareness. This combination of events in the state has even led certain people within the state to propose the legalization of marijuana or same-sex marriage as methods to solve the budget crisis (they make dubious arguments as to how this will happen, but hey, it’s California).

Unfortunately, it seems that our federal government is now proceeding to make the very same mistake. Government programs and government’s intrusion into the private sector are increasing at a dramatic rate. All of this will cost money. So the federal government will propose to raise taxes. And the federal government has one more option that the states do not – they can print more money (and they do). But both of these actions will ultimately result in economic failure. In terms of federal taxation, we are likely already over the peak of the Laffer curve when it comes to tax rates, and inflating the money supply will only weaken the overall buying power of every dollar bill. Will the federal government foresee this, based on California’s example, and make the right decisions now?

Wait and see.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Should We Demand Truth From Politicians?

If anyone still thinks that the media has no bias (and these people have to be a vanishing breed), there can be little doubt after watching what happened this week. More accurately, it’s about watching what didn’t happen this week that points to the bias.

During the presidential campaign of 1988, George H. W. Bush made a pledge during his nomination acceptance speech – “Read my lips. No new taxes.” He gave it a valiant try, but eventually caved to his Democratically-controlled Congress and broke his pledge. The reaction was swift and intense. He was measured against his commitment by the press and the people who voted for him, and his inability to follow through may have cost him the Presidency the second time around.

During the presidential campaign of 2008, Barack Obama made it clear that he would not raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year. This point was driven home time and time again, with the number moving around a bit. But on Monday of this week, when asked specifically if this pledge was still valid, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs basically said “No”. Here is the video of that moment:

I note with some dismay that the press corps seem to be laughing along with his answer. At least they asked the question in a straightforward manner, and some of them even expressed some surprise that the promise is apparently no longer valid. But I have searched the papers and the online news today, and I can’t find these words mentioned anywhere. It’s as if they didn’t happen. Or that people aren’t really interested in holding politicians to promises.

The fault is threefold. The press has a responsibility to publish what happens in politics, and should be doing it in an unbiased manner. I count 191 days since the inauguration of President Obama, just over an eighth of the way through his term, and the fact that his press representative came out and broke his number-one campaign pledge should get some airtime. But I can’t find it in the media (except, where I first saw this story).

The second fault is in the politicians themselves. They had to know that they were likely to break such a promise when they made it, given all the grandiose government programs that they clearly want to foist upon us. Nationalized health care? Has it really worked anywhere else? Don’t we already have the finest health care in the world – and now we want to go break that? Won’t that cost a lot of money, and where will that money come from? These guys aren’t stupid, and they don’t have stupid advisors. They knew that they would need to raise taxes to pay for their programs. They simply will say anything to get elected, because they lack integrity.

Finally, the fault lies with us if we don’t hold our politicians accountable. The integrity that they require should also be present in us. We should be demanding truth and uprightness from them – not just rolling our eyes and expecting them to lie and cheat. There are certainly times when I feel like giving over to the idea that they are all swindlers and “that is just the way it is”. But this country is worth saving, and it’s our responsibility as citizens to demand the very best from our government. Integrity should be expected, demanded, and rewarded.

I intend to use this as a teaching moment with my kids. “Here is where he made a pledge (the past); here is where is broke that pledge (present); and here is where he paid the penalty (presumably sometime in the future).” We’ll have to stay tuned as to the future and whether or not this story gets told. I don’t want my children to grow up to be politicians, but if they do become leaders of some sort, I want them to be honest ones.

Politicians need to keep their word, and we need to hold them to it. I’m predicting that this event will get more press exposure as time goes on. At every event the President attends, someone should be asking him if he intends to keep his “no new taxes” pledge, or if he is breaking it. Eventually, he is going to answer the question, and seeing him say the words, rather than speaking through a press secretary, will certainly have a greater effect.