Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Constitutional Oxymoron

Depending on who is doing the talking, it turns out that voting on a proposed amendment to the US Constitution may be unconstitutional. It has honestly been said by some in the US Senate that the proposed Flag Protection Act is an affront to, if not a downright violation of, the first amendment's free speech clause. Those who had opposed this proposed amendment actually suggested that such a proposal cannot become law because it is unconstitutional to begin with. They missed the entire point of the effort.

Aside from the political nonsense that this measure brought out, it is an affront to the voting public that an elected official would actually make such a statement. The whole purpose of the amendment process is to determine the will of the people in a particular matter. This is why a proposal must not only get past the US Senate but must also have the support of thirty-eight states in order to become an amendment to the Constitution.

Like many, I am sensitive to the US flag because there is nothing that make me more aware of the blessing bestowed upon me by my having been born in this nation than to see the flag waving majestically in a gentle breeze. It makes me proud of my own service, and it makes me mindful of so many who have given their lives in defense of everything that mighty flag stands for. To desecrate the flag in any manner is, to me, to spit upon the faces of all who endured the horror of combat and are living with the memories. Though these men and women are not gods in any sense of the word and are not necessarily all heroes in the strictest definition, the very least they deserve from us is respect, admiration, and profound gratitude.

These are also some of the very reasons why I agree with the statement made by Michael Douglas in the movie, "The American President" about how the symbol of this nation has to be about more than just a flag. However, it must also be remembered that once a torch is set to the flag, those who might be at least inclined to listen to what protesters have to say will stop listening, and the cause - whatever it may be - will have lost some support that it otherwise might have been able to count on.

Destruction of property is not a legitimate means of protest under any circumstances, and seeking to cut to the very heart of the symbol so many hold so dear is not the way to win friends and influence people. But I think we've lost so much civility toward one another so much so that we do not care whom we hurt along the way so long as we get our way. It is not unlike Ann Coulter's latest book that is all the rage among extreme right-wingers. She is not trying to make a legitimate argument against liberalism; she's only trying to anger folks, preach to a choir that already agrees with her, and make a lot of money. So as success is measured, she's done this.

So it is with those who would choose to burn a flag in protest. The only ones who may not take offense are those who already agree with the protesters, and nothing will have been accomplished except perhaps to steel the resolve of those who might have otherwise been influenced.

Even if the proposed amendment had become law, it would have accomplished very little. Remember that it was once illegal to burn a US flag until a court decided that doing so was protected by the first amendment, so the first "law-breakers" were not afraid of going to jail then. Why would they be now?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

New Life

I finally made a discovery today. I suppose it could be considered an epiphany of sorts even though none of what occurred to me is necessarily new. Yet the implications of how neatly everything came together this Sabbath are so profound that I could barely contain my emotions.

I have been reappointed to another part-time charge, and the transition has been a challenging one for me and for my family. While I was on hiatus we began attending a United Methodist Church near our home, a much larger church than what we had become accustomed to due to my appointments to smaller rural churches. This church is big, it's relatively new, the pastor is a great guy, and the church has ministries for young and old alike. My children and my wife had gotten pretty deeply involved in Sunday school and were looking forward to really delving into the life of this new church.

When I was reappointed, my family became concerned that just as they were getting settled into this new church that I would expect them to stop what they were doing to follow me. As it turns out, my new church has a very early service and is not so far that I cannot join my family in worship later in the morning after enjoying worship with my new congregation. I even had time to stop at a nursing home to visit with a parishioner on my way to my "other" church! All this without even trying to rush.

In "big" church this morning we celebrated the baptism of a baby boy. Now I've seen many baptisms for infants and converts alike, and it is always a good time of celebration. Today, however, coupled with the other pastor's sermon about hope and witnessing the child being baptized with a word from the pastor about why we celebrate baptism at infancy - and after a visit to a nursing home where there seemed to be nothing but old faces with no more hope and no more life - the true meaning of what it is to be baptized (not what WE do but what the Lord does) came crashing in all around me.

I was never so consciously aware of my sins as I was today. Now you might wonder how such awareness can be a good thing with all the misery and despair that comes with such knowledge and conviction - and I assure you that I was a "convict" - but with the pastor's sermon about hope, my own sermon about what it means to live in humility and watching this precious child be baptized into the faith, I was never more sure of the Lord's grace even as I was aware of my own transgressions.

This life can easily overwhelm us. When we look around and see such a broken world, it is not hard to be so overcome with a sense of helplessness and hopelessness especially when in a nursing home with so many who are doing nothing more than waiting to die, so many who are not even aware of their surroundings. Yet in the midst of this chaos and brokenness and loneliness and pain, the Lord makes Himself known in the most subtle of ways, through the life of a newborn child, "for God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of His own eternity". Wisdom of Solomon 2:23

Take heart, people of faith! The Lord is indeed with us!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Meek and Humble

What does it mean to be humble, to act in a manner of humility? And why is such a trait admirable in a Christian beyond what is written in Philippians 2:8: “Being found in appearance as a man, Jesus humbled Himself and became OBEDIENT to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Probably the hardest part about being humble or trying to be humble is that we associate humility with weakness without fully realizing or appreciating how much strength is required to bite our tongues when we would really rather say what’s on our minds!

What Paul is offering to the Philippians is an astounding portrait of Jesus in which He could have claimed His rightful place upon a throne where He really belonged but chose instead the ultimate portrait of humility. Why? It surely must have been to serve as an example for us. Why else would the God of all creation make such a choice? And this is a little hard for us to embrace because too many of us are so far removed from such a life that we cannot imagine backing down from a confrontation when so much may seem to be at stake.

Yet consider this. When we find ourselves in difficult situations in which we believe it to be in our best interests to “stand our ground”, what are we really trying to protect?
It’s not like we live in the “wild west” in which we are homesteading and trying to protect our property. Today there are legal means by which we can protect what is rightfully ours and yet Jesus challenges us beyond our property and what we THINK we own.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’, but I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” Matthew 5:38-42

So when we get our backs up and we go into “protect-mode”, what are we really trying to protect? What do we really think is at stake? Considering my own life and work and my sometimes foul temper and knee-jerk reactions, the only thing I can seriously consider to be at stake when I’m challenged on any level is my own sense of pride. What else can it be? I have these little niches carved out in my life and in my family and in my work so much so that anything that seems to threaten that sense of order is a threat to …. what?

Yes, suggesting to many of us that we need to learn to live more humbly and stop trying to perfect a ‘tough’ image is a pretty tall order because ‘tough’ means ‘strength’. The problem with this kind of mindset, however, can be seen in how we tend to rely upon ourselves for our strength. We need a man-made image to make us feel good about ourselves and our lives. In other words, we decide that if we are going to survive in this world we will have to depend on “number one” in order to take care of “number one”. What does this say about our level of faith?

Even though I think that our refusal to work harder to be more humble in the truest Christ-like sense has more to do with protecting our PRIDE, I also think that being unwilling to be more humble in our lives speaks more about our FAITH. If we are truly convinced in our hearts that there is a better life to come after this one for persons of faith, why do we feel compelled to control our environments and protect our “stuff” or our pride?

We live in a sue-happy society in which the wrong word or a simple accident could land us in court with someone who is seeking monetary “damages” beyond what is reasonable. Our gut and cultural reaction would be to find an attorney to protect our interests. Yet Jesus says that if someone sues us for our coat, we hand it over without question AND with our cloak as well. There is no need to defend something that we think we need in this life and should be reasonably sure that we will not need it in the life to come, but we would defend to the death our right to protect ourselves!

“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He teaches sinners in the way. The HUMBLE He guides in justice; and the HUMBLE He teaches His way.”
Psalm 25:9

The psalmist uses the word “humble” to make a point in his prayer when he pleads his case with the Lord. It is traditionally been taught and believed that many of the psalms were King David’s own prayers. Yet how many of us would consider King David to have been a humble man? Or is it that King David perhaps knew that he needed to be more humble, realizing that the Lord is most inclined to answer the prayer of the humble and more willing to teach those who live in humility?

But could it be said that the Lord is “more” willing to teach those who are humble, or would it be more accurate to say that the humble are more WILLING to be taught and are perhaps more susceptible to the Lord’s influence? Think about it. If we are too self-reliant in which we lean more toward our own education, our own experiences, our own environment, our own sense of justice, how open could we be to the influences of the Lord? How willing could we be to “be still” and let God be God?

“Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him – for the redemption of their souls is costly…”
Psalm 49:6-8

I do not want to give the impression that being humble is a simple matter of choosing between heaven and hell or between condemnation and redemption. I think it goes much deeper than even that. There is a life we are called to lead not just so we can be received favorably on the Day of Judgment. Would that not be more about depending on our own good works as the means of our salvation?

If we really believe in salvation by faith alone – that is, in trusting completely in the mercy of the Lord God – then our sense of humility and being humble before God AND man cannot be the kind of “false humility” that Paul warns the Colossians about when they are depending on “works” by their own hands.

Instead, our sense of humility must first be fed by our sense of needfulness. Our sense of needfulness must then be fed by our sense of faith and NOT IN OURSELVES and our self-reliance to overcome adversity by taking matters into our own hands and depending mostly upon our own resources.

Does this mean that we have to become patsies by our standards? Is there no way we can retain some measure of pride? We have families. Does all this mean that we risk the well-being of our families by simply rolling over and handing to every Tom, Dick, and Harry with his hand out our means by which we feed, cloth, and educate our families?

I’m not sure that Jesus is trying to force us to make choices in whether to allow ourselves to be overrun by anyone who would take advantage of our good, HUMBLE nature. But people of faith have yet another out.

Consider the story of Abraham and Isaac. In complete submissiveness and humility, Abraham – without question – was prepared to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac because he felt that the Lord called him to do this unthinkable thing. Of course we know how the story turns out. The Lord not only relented from His demand but He also provided the ram that had been caught in the thicket by its horns for the sacrifice.

Did Abraham know that the Lord would provide this sacrifice and protect him from having to do such a thing with Isaac? Of course there is no way to know. What we do know is that Abraham entered into this deal with no hesitation. And we must also remember that Abraham’s faith – and not works; remember there was no law yet – was “accounted to righteousness” for doing nothing more than simply BELIEVING - that is, trusting - the Lord, as it is written.

So it seems to me that if we are going to make a more intentional effort toward humility, then we must first examine our faith. Humility we can do with a little effort and a lot of will. Faith, however, will help us go a lot further to enable us to completely submit ourselves to the Lord and not to ourselves or to this world. FAITH will help to remind us not only that there is something for us much better beyond this life, but FAITH will also get us thru the day-to-day matters in which we may find ourselves handing over our coat AND our cloak – BELIEVING that it is the right thing to do and that even in this life, everything will be OK. After all, the Lord is not asking us to sacrifice our children or be nailed to a cross.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Is It Really About Homosexuality?

There was a time when I relished a chance to mix it up. I could think of nothing better than to enter into a discussion about religion or politics (or BOTH!) in an effort to make my own positions known and then be forced not only to defend my positions but to destroy the opposing views with rational thought (my own).

I still enjoy the give-and-take of opposing ideas because even as a conservative, I know that there is a much broader viewpoint that I have yet to consider, some angle I’ve overlooked. Even if I never come around to the opposition, I usually feel a little more enriched and that something has actually been accomplished.

I have tried to be as broad and as open as I could be on social issues, believing that I will earn respect only if I choose to show respect and, ultimately, be heard as much as I am willing to hear. I have allowed and expected that there will be those who will take exception to my “soft” approach, and I have enjoyed those who have responded with a resounding “amen”. The time to be diplomatic and gracious must always be in the present. There is also a definitive spiritual “line in the sand” that must never be crossed, and I am afraid that we have not only crossed that line but have actually built a sturdy bridge to make it easier. In the end, we have done a greater disservice to the church, her people, and to our culture in general by allowing the “different strokes” mentality to enter into that portrait we call “grace”.

Having said this, however, I do not believe that homosexuality in and of itself can or should serve as a catalyst for more profound explorations on human sexuality and how we have become such a sex-oriented culture so much so that we celebrate men and women who leave their homes and spouses specifically because they have somehow embraced the misguided notion that “the Lord led me to this happiness” in the arms and bed of another. Even though homosexuality as an issue has permeated the Church so much so that we feel compelled to “discuss” and “dialogue” as a way to find some sort of middle ground upon which we can all agree, I still believe there is a greater and more compelling issue at heart.

“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless. They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, ‘You shall have peace’’, and to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’” Jeremiah 23:16-17

We have within our grasp a Bible in which was established long ago a strict moral code. Some would suggest that this was an “ancient text written for an ancient people who no longer exist”. In fact, Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson made such a statement I heard for myself as reported on CBN back when he was being considered for bishop. He does not stand alone, however. There have been instructors whom I have had to endure in Course of Study who felt it necessary to straighten out us uneducated rubes. After all, “I have a degree in biblical studies”, said one professor.

Sorry, teach, but I know atheists who can quote Scripture more quickly and readily than I. I also happen to believe you to be among them.

What does it say about us as a Christian people if we can so easily dismiss what was written long ago as “ancient” and thus no longer relevant? What does it say about us if we can decide for ourselves that “this is not what it really meant” but instead wait on someone with a degree in biblical studies to tell us that we’ve been wrong for thousands of years?

We fornicate, we gamble, we cheat, we lie, we judge, we drink. In fact, we will do pretty much what we darn well please when we darn well please. Anything, that is, except to discern a true biblical concept of ourselves as a people. We don’t know what “sin” really is, and we know even less about what “love” really means. In my limited reading of the Koran, I get a sense that Mohammad was more acutely aware of what it means to be a “people of the Book” than we ever will.

In a sense, it is about homosexuality but not to the end that all sin can be traced back to this one item, and sin is not singularly defined by that very unnatural physical act. Neither can homosexuality be excused as a means by which we may finally one day call ourselves truly “united” Methodists. But how can we dismiss homosexuality and embrace divorce and even abortion as excuses for a new lease on life and finally “true happiness”? How dare we let these off the hook while seeking to condemn a lifestyle that, while also morally objectionable, violates the very way we were physically designed?

I don’t want to talk about homosexuality anymore. What I really want is for someone to tell me what “love” in the biblical context really means because I only know what it does NOT mean: seeking to satisfy one’s own desires. I also know that homosexual persons are not exclusively guilty. How can a man honestly say he “loves” God but still leaves his wife to take up with another woman? How can a woman say she “loves” God but thinks nothing of bedding down with another woman’s husband? How can anyone bet hundreds of dollars at a race track or casino and say they “love” God but fail to understand that these same dollars will go much further in the collection plate or at, say, Heifer Project?

We do not know what “love” really means. I’m not so sure we even know who “God” really is.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Hair of the Dog

Numbers 21:4-9
John 3:1-17

Something does not add up. When the Lord calls Moses up to receive the Law, the first recorded commandments involve a rejection of “other gods” which would include the so-called “graven images” lest our focus be diverted from the Holy One who delivered a people and created for Himself a nation.

Yet in Numbers 21:4-9, a graven image is prescribed by the Lord in order for this same nation to be saved from their judgment. All they need to do is look upon this bronze serpent, and they will survive the serpent’s bite – the “judgment”. Sort of like the “hair of the dog that bit you”.

In John 3:14, Nicodemus is reminded by Jesus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

The parallel that Jesus makes between the serpent and surely what is about to happen to Him is not hard to spot, and He is speaking to a Pharisee who would have known the Numbers passage well. The oxymoron lies in the Israelites’ ability to look upon a serpent, actually an image of a serpent, in order to be spared their judgment. Jesus specifically refers to this image in trying to make His point with Nicodemus.

It is not as if something sinister is going on, yet there is a marker somewhere in this parallel or in the incident in the wilderness with the serpents that requires our attention.

Jesus’ life was filled with purpose, so such a discussion would not have been a matter of idle chit-chat. Nicodemus came to Jesus, maybe on behalf of the Sanhedrin but maybe more for himself, to determine what Jesus was really trying to accomplish by His ministry. There is a point that Jesus is making with the reference to the bronze serpent.

But does the reference take into consideration that King Hezekiah ordered this bronze serpent to be destroyed (2 Kings 18) because the people were burning incense to this bronze serpent and worshiping it, having forgotten of its origin and reason for existence? Or maybe it is that they remembered all too well that this serpent was at one time the focus of their judgment as well as of their deliverance from that same judgment. If this bronze serpent was at one time the commanded focus of attention – and this seems to be the case - it would be an easy mistake to make.

Moses was their point-man with the Lord, and he brought this bronze serpent to them and told them what to do in the name of the Lord. Yet a righteous king ordered its destruction because the people of the Lord were giving this bronze serpent too much attention.

Could it be possible that there is such a thing as “too much” focus on the Son of Man, that one day our focus could somehow become distorted? After all, Jesus specifically states, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (the bronze serpent that was ordered destroyed), so must the Son of Man be lifted up …”

In a time when there are scores of Christian denominations that cannot seem to agree on much of anything and in a world seemingly gone mad, the one thing we can surely agree on is that there can be no such thing as “too much” Jesus. If anything, there is not enough of Him in our hearts even though there is plenty of Him to go around. Yet I cannot help but to be confused with the parallel.

In the Revelation, John wrote of his vision of the Lord in chapter one: “I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lamp stands and in the midst of the seven lamp stands, One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, white as snow, and His eyes like the flame of fire. His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters. He had in His right hand seven stars, out of his mouth went a sharp TWO-EDGED sword…”

It has been traditionally understood that not only was a two-edged sword the typical design of the contemporary weapon but that having a cutting edge on each side served an imagery purpose as well as a practical one: it can cut BOTH WAYS. That is to say, what is coming from the mouth of the Lord is that which can DELIVER US or CONDEMN us depending entirely upon how we choose to receive His Word and respond to it. Either way, we can be sure that what comes from the mouth of the Lord is true and just.

According to the account in Numbers, Moses fashioned this bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole by command of the Lord God himself; it was not Moses’ idea but, rather, the result of Moses’ prayer to the Lord on behalf of the Israelites. So even as the serpents were sent by the Lord as punishment, or judgment, for their transgressions, the ordered image was also from the same Mouth from which is spoken words of hope and forgiveness – STILL IN THE IMAGE OF A SERPENT! The same image that King Hezekiah ordered destroyed because it was being worshiped by the people. So what?

What is our focus at worship time? What do we intend to accomplish when we gather together? How is our state of mind and soul when we arrive? And when we do arrive, is our focus where it should be? Are we “burning incense” to the bronze serpent, or are we lifting our hearts to the Lord God? Are we focused on the music or the “entertainment” that may be provided, or are we focused on the Holy Spirit who can speak to our troubled souls?

I’ve often wondered about the point of worship when we become so focused on “recruiting” folks to come join us rather than focus on the presence and power of the Lord and allow that to be our primary focus. There are no easy answers but there is one thing we can be sure of: the Lord is present among people of faith. And this may sound callous and hard-hearted but if this Almighty Presence is not good enough for other seekers, then there may not be much more that we can do.

As Christians, we should be so filled with this GOOD NEWS that we cannot wait to share it with someone. Yet I fear that we become complacent because our faith has become a lifeless religion and has become nothing more than a part of a weekly ritual to which we have become accustomed and that maybe our focus is already distorted.

United Methodists are, in my humble opinion, falling behind by failing to celebrate the Holy Eucharist each time we are gathered. There is no reason why we should not celebrate and commemorate this time together in union with Christ and with one another as often as we possibly can. Yet we fail to do this for one reason or another. Surely we do not think it to be too much of a bother or "too Catholic" or too mundane. Surely we can have no fear that we will get too caught up in the "ritual" and not enough into the blessing. It is a time of worship, and I can think of nothing on this earth that we should be more mindful of as our focus of worship.

Everything we do in worship will be a genuine reflection of what is truly in our hearts and in our minds and in our souls. Let us begin anew in the Lord’s Eternal Covenant who is Christ, His Holy Son.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Sense of Justice

I've fallen behind in my writing mainly because I've been down and out and back and forth to the doctor. Two weeks ago I was treated for strep. Shortly after that I had a bad case of bronchitis. Now I'm having a problem with my stomach that has yet to be determined exactly what the problem is. Although the acute pain has diminished somewhat, I still have to go back tomorrow for yet another follow-up to determine whether hospitalization and further tests are in order. To top off this perfect day, my A/C caught on fire this evening. It was mostly the wiring that burned and the damage appears minimal. I will know more tomorrow when I summon the repair service to find out if the entire unit will have to be replaced.

Aside from the bad luck with the air conditioner, I am reminded each time a member of my family or I require a doctor that we are in such a position that our insurance takes care of the brunt of these costs. Consider that I was prescribed three (or maybe four, I lost count!) different pills for my ailments. These expenses are in addition to the office visit costs for which I pay a $25 co-pay, and the drugs were had for a song though I am fully aware that my portion was only a small percentage of the actual cost of the drugs.

Health care and health insurance are two mega-bazillion-dollar industries making money hand over fist because these are two vital services we cannot live without. And while some might tell us that we cannot put a price tag on quality care and coverage, I would argue that the price tag is indeed intact and somewhat substantial. My wife and I make a pretty fair income between the two of us, and yet I am painfully aware that if we had to pay 100% of these costs out of pocket, we would likely be in a position to choose whether to do without some or all of the treatments.

Is it just that only those who can afford to pay are entitled only to the finest health care and insurance available? There are income limits that determine whether one would qualify for Medicare or Medicaid and how much coverage and how much out-of-pocket one would be stuck with. It seems to me, however, that good health care has become much more a privilege of those blessed enough to afford it and not a fundamental human right.

Discussions crop up from time to time about health care and insurance costs especially at election times when politicians are in the promise-whatever-it-takes mode to get elected, but the truth is this is an issue that should come up every single day. Decent, quality health care should not be a debatable topic, and its cost cannot be allowed to be determined by what the market will bear because insurance coverage for we who are blessed enough to have it cannot fully appreciate what good health care really costs; we are only aware of our co-pay costs.

Even the Clinton-era attempt at providing government sponsored universal coverage, though attractive and tempting, would have accomplished nothing as it pertains to actual health care costs. Providing every citizen with health insurance does not address the rising costs of health care and prescription drugs. And please do not bore me with "it's Bush's fault". These discussions have been going on for a very long time, and costs continue to rise.

It is said that we have the finest health care system in the world. For me, this kind of statement is subjective only in the sense that those who can afford it can make such a statement. For those who cannot afford to go to the doctor each time a visit would be recommended or get prescriptions filled, the quality is not even an issue because they are forced to do without.

I wish I had a solid proposal to offer. Right now I just need to get this off my chest. I'll be just fine after all is said and done because I am able to use my insurance to get the care that I need, but does my financial blessing make me more entitled to good care as opposed to those who are not so lucky?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Thoughts on Political Campaigns

Arkansas just finished up a round of primaries and will have run-off elections to futher narrow the field of candidates who will move into the general elections in November. Most notable among the candidates was the misguided notion that it is apparently necessary to speak negatively about one's opponent than to speak positively about oneself.

In any election is the potential for change. Voters are a funny lot and are sometimes hard to predict. Yet we voters are sometimes so predictable that it stops being funny. We will gripe and complain about the current state of affairs, and then we will step into the voting booth and select "more of the same".

I say "more of the same" because voters lean more toward name recongnition that anything else. I believe this to be the primary reason why incumbents enjoy such tremendous advantage. It is not that they are doing an exceptional job. In fact, it is the only thing that can help to explain why the general congressional approval rating among registered voters is less than 30% and yet most of these incumbents will return to their cozy offices.

There is a notable race in Arkansas in which a young Republican is working to unseat a very popular - and sometimes unchallenged - Democrat who has won reelection handily in his last five campaigns. It is a good and noble thing that there are men and women who are willing to enter into a race at such an extreme and apparent disadvantage. It is good for voters to have choices and to know that they do not have to continue the "more of the same" unless they so choose.

Mr. Andy Mayberry is running against incumbent Vic Snyder; pro-life vs pro-choice even though the pro-choice incumbent and his wife just celebrated the birth of their first child and the pro-life candidate has a young child who was born with spina bifida and is as full of life and love as any other child of grateful parents (the Mayberrys are!).

Mr. Snyder has managed to dodge the "he's a liberal" bullet in each of his campaigns and has survived challenges to his seat because of his opponents' tendencies to talk negatively about Mr. Snyder rather than positively about their own campaigns and platforms. These candidates also tend to ignore the reality that Mr. Snyder is well-deserving of the enormous respect that he enjoys in his district because of his character and integrity even if voters strongly disagree with him (many do).

It may be sad to say that Mr. Snyder will probably continue to serve in the House for as long as he likes until or unless his opponents wake up and realize that attacking this man will only work against them and never for them.

Mr. Snyder is no friend of abortion opponents, believing more in the doctrine of "choice" than in the sanctity of life that deserves our every consideration, respect, and protection especially at state and national levels. Mr. Snyder has also voted for more tax increases than tax cuts, believing in the power of the government and the necessity of seemingly unlimited funding at the expense of the public. Yet this man who seems "liberal" to some will enjoy reelection in a walk because he engages the public in issues discussions and not character assassinations.

OPPONENTS OF CONGRESSMAN SNYDER, PAY ATTENTION! You cannot challenge the character and integrity of a man whose character and integrity are beyond reproach. Notice how he continues to ignore you as you continually nip at his heels like some jealous poodle that can make a lot of noise but be of no real threat. And do not insult ME, an informed voter who actually pays attention to issues, by suggesting that simply being a "liberal" is enough to make me vote for the alternative.

For the record, this very shallow thought process is the reason why I believe the Republicans will lose their majority in at least one house of Congress if not both. Many voters are not interested in labels, and there is more than one issue at stake. Remember this and enjoy at least a more serious consideration from those who will listen as soon as you begin saying something - anything - of substance.