“None of the above,” or NOTA, is a voting concept that would allow ballot-casters to express their frustration with the available candidates. It’s been a staple of voting procedure at the United States Libertarian Party for years.
The Florida legislature is now considering an “I Choose Not To Vote” option. This choice is not the same as NOTA, since if it “won” a majority of votes it would not result in any necessary action. The candidate who gets the highest vote total would still win the race, but the option would “enable uninformed or disgusted voters to opt out in a way that clearly displays their intention to abstain for elections officials,” according to state Sen. Mike Bennett.
The idea is basically NOTA without the teeth. But it may be a step in the right direction for a nation facing depressed voter turnouts, increasingly negative campaigns, and a problematic nomination system.
And at least in the case of Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, it may be a more attractive option than simply not casting a ballot at all.
Every single day courageous and faithful Christians in Zimbabwe are suffering and dying through their resistance of the brutal reign of president Robert Mugabe. You would never know this is true from the lack of interest or response of conservative Christians in America. Of all the causes that are taken up by the Christian Right I have not heard a single voice lifted on behalf of the church in Zimbabwe and their struggle to resist the reign of terror led by President Mugabe.
In January, eight high-profile Christian leaders were arrested by security forces as they, and hundreds of supporters, opened a new office of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, an international agency that promotes non-violent resistance to Mugabe’s rule. But Mugabe’s government continues to crack down on this resistance as the nation faces total economic and social collapse. Zimbabweans struggle to survive with an inflationary rate of 1,700% as well as widespread unemployment and profound poverty. More than 3/4ths of the people live in poverty, unemployment is at 80%, and hordes of people are escaping to South Africa as refugees. Mugabe has led the nation since 1980 and every call for political and social reform has been met with more force and resistance. Other African leaders are complicit in allowing this to happen, including the president of neighboring South Africa.
Thankfully, the Lutheran World Federation has called on the international community to respond. And the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, with 75 million members in 216 countries, has also urged action by a pan-African Union to act to end this oppression. I support the actions of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches as a Reformed Christian.
While the Christian Right struggles to "rescue" America it almost universally ignores the plight of the poor and oppressed around the world, as well as in our own country. Evangelicals are rarely heard from when issues like Mugabe and Zimbabwe rise to international attention. Why? Could it be that what I have called our "America-centric" mindset is in fact a form of worldliness? Could it be that we simply don’t care about profoundly Christian concerns beyond our own land unless they represent efforts to win individual souls to Christ through our flawed approaches to mission?
Look, I believe the free-market is needed to help Africa lift itself up economically and to experience and practice real freedom. But the free-market will not work when the leadership is corrupt and the economy is a disaster because of oppressive governments. The problem is simple–most of the world doesn’t care enough to do anything about Zimbabwe. While we fight a war in Iraq, ostensibly to build freedom and to protect our own national interests and what we believe to be peace in the Middle East, we treat places like Zimbabwe as unimportant at the very best. To my mind, something is very wrong with this picture. Evangelicals need to join their Catholic and mainline Lutheran and Reformed brothers and sisters in resisting Mugabe and fighting for true reform in Zimbabwe. If we will not defend the helpless and the weakest then our witness will be blunted and our prophetic edge, if we still have one left, will be lost entirely.
Pray for Zimbabwean Christians. Better yet, do something about Zimbabwe if you have an opportunity. Your brothers and sisters need you to truly love them. Talking about politics is easy, doing something that saves lives and cultures is what really matters. Consider James 2:12-26. I don’t hear much serious preaching on James in our conservative churches. I fear that I know why. We are American Christians first, and kingdom Christians second, if at all. We love the message of faith, but we shun works of mercy and compassion when it costs us something. Something is very wrong with this picture.
John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."
John Baird, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, says that following the requirements of the Kyoto protocol would lead to a deep recession in his nation’s economy. Mr. Baird claims that the 6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required by Kyoto would lead to a 25 percent increase in Canada’s unemployment rate by 2009. I haven’t researched John Baird, Canada’s economic status as influenced by global warming, or the accuracy of Mr. Baird’s numbers. I’m mostly amused by the close of the BBC article I just read on this matter.
Some opposition MPs and environmentalists countered that Mr Baird’s findings were based on assumptions chosen for their frightening conclusions.
Assumptions chosen for their frightening conclusions? Let’s not forget that we’re daily told that we’re all going to die in 25 years because of fill in the blank which is a direct result of global warming caused by human emission of greenhouse gases.
I wonder if there is a connection between terrorism and global warming. I’ve always imagined the Middle East to be a generally warm place – maybe terrorism is fueled by rising temperatures. I think if I lived in a generally warm place, I would have issues with the West for increasing temperatures too. As it stands, I live in Michigan (it snowed last week) and I don’t have that problem.
The Call of the Entrepreneur will premiere in Hawaii on May 23 and May 24, 2007. The premiere will be sponsored by the Grassroots Institute of Hawaii in cooperation with the State Policy Network and the Acton Institute. Those of you familiar with SPN may notice that this corresponds with the 2007 Pacific Rim Policy Conference – admission is free with pre-registration for that conference. The premieres will be held at 3:15pm at the Waikiki-Sheraton Hotel.
The Duke Lacrosse case seems to have stirred tensions in America on issues regarding race and class. Many blacks writing about this case seem to have reactions that highlight these tensions. This raises many questions in my mind: Is this case about race and/or class? Where is the national conversation about the morality of stripping? What are we to make of the perspectives below? Does this case do damage to our confidence in the rule of law? Thoughts, anyone?
Christopher Bracey, Professor of Law and Associate Professor of African & African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis offers these thoughts at blackprof.com.
A couple of thoughts. First, I cannot help but make the connection to the Brawley affair. Did a sexual assault occur, or was this yet another sister crying out for help? Is this justice delayed for blacks, or justice denied for the whites? Sadly, we will never know the full story.
Second, and on a similar note, I wonder how the local black Durham community is feeling right now. Do they feel victimized by the Attorney General, who dismissed the charged? Do they feel duped by the local District Attorney, Nifong, used this case to secure re-election?
Third, I wonder about the impact of the dismissal of the charges. Will rape survivors be less inclined to report incidents? Will the public be more skeptical of claims of racial discrimination? What sort of expectations will there be for potential claimants of racial insults?
Gregory Kane, BlackAmericaWeb.com, however, takes a different approach. He confesses that he feels no sympathy what so ever for the three Duke lacrosse players because being falsely accused is something that blacks have has to deal with in America for centuries. Admittedly, this approach is disturbing. Kane writes:
As expected, the cadre of right-wing commentators defending the three have gone into overdrive. And, once again, I’m compelled to write about how I’m so not feeling any sympathy for these guys. I say again, they got off easy. Why do I day that?
Four reasons: Calvin Crawford Johnson Jr.
Twenty-three years ago, Johnson found himself in the same boat those Duke players say they’re in: falsely accused of rape. The similarity in their situations ends there. Let’s look at how they differ, shall we?
The three players are white. Johnson is black. The three players were accused of raping a black woman. Johnson was accused of raping two white women. The three Duke guys were arrested, charged, arraigned, posted bail and walked out of jail. Johnson didn’t get bail. He went to court every day with his hands and feet shackled.
According to published reports, “One popular theory comes from a story in the Quran, the holy book of Islam, about Ibrahim and his son, Ismail. This theory picked up speed because many bloggers wondered if the shootings could be related to terrorism.”
The report continues, “In Islam, Ibrahim is known as the father of the prophets and, upset that people in his hometown still worshiped idols and not Allah, he smashed all but one statue in a local temple with an ax. Ibrahim’s son is Ismail, who also became a prophet. Ibrahim is Arabic for Abraham, who plays a significant role in Christianity, Judaism and Islam.”
From what I’ve seen, however, there is no other evidence so far linking Cho Seung-Hui to Islam.
One of his rants does include this portion, presumably to his classmates: “You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren’t enough, you snobs. Your trust fund wasn’t enough. Your vodka and Cognac weren’t enough. All your debaucheries weren’t enough. Those weren’t enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything.”
These complaints echo Dinesh D’Souza’s take on the major motivations behind Osama bin Laden’s animosity toward the United States: “the immoral ingredients of American values and culture,” and “a decadent American culture that angers and repulses traditional societies.” But its not at all clear whether D’Souza is ultimately right, and therefore even more questionable whether such perceived similarities reflect any real link.
The words “Ismail Ax” were also written in red ink on the killer’s arm. The Times of London relates the identity of Ismail in Islam as the ‘son of sacrifice’. NBC News says that the killer’s manifesto includes the following statement: “Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.”
Of course, despite the killer’s intentions, that’s where the similarities to Jesus Christ end. Jesus is the one who resists the temptation to strike back at his oppressors and willingly endures suffering for the sake of others: “For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” More on this by PowerBlog contributor John H. Armstrong at his home blog, “A Tragic Day in Blacksburg: Making Sense of People’s Actions and the Words of Jesus.”
But, then again, maybe the explanation for “Ismail Ax” is just as simple as this: “Ismail Ax” is an anagram for “Alias Mix.”
Update: A columnist in a Kuwaiti newspaper writes that America leads the world “towards the abyss and towards a bitter fate – and the crimes that we hear of occasionally are just a drop in the sea of their false culture.” If Cho Seung-Hui wanted to indict American culture, then anti-American sentiment around the world is certainly lending its assistance to his purpose.
See also PowerBlog contributor Jennifer Roback Morse’s piece in NRO, “Waiting Until It’s Too Late: Mental illness and the Virginia Tech massacre.”
Update #2: Jerry Bowyer at NRO on the contents of the killer’s media package: “Envy, deep and powerful, comes through it all. Resentment against our society. Christianity, capitalism, and sports all take their hits. This was a man who hated the American regime — our very way of life.”
I’m pleased to announce that the Acton Institute PowerBlog has added two new contributors to our cast of cutting-edge commentators.
Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, national spokesman for the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, associate professor of historical theology and social ethics at Knox Theological Seminary, and adjunct scholar at the Acton Institute, will be posting some of the annotated comments and links from his periodic Interfaith Stewardship Alliance Newsletter. Dr. Beisner is an author and lecturer on the application of Biblical worldview and theology to economics, government, public policy, and the environment. For online ordering of books by E. Calvin Beisner, go to his website here.
Prof. Anthony B. Bradley is an Acton research fellow and assistant professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. He is completing a doctorate in historical and theological studies at Westminster Theological Seminary and holds an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary. Prof. Bradley will be lecturing at this year’s Acton University, and is a frequent author of Acton Commentary articles, including one posted today, “The Duke Case in Review: Justice Prevails, Virtue Interprets,” a follow-up to his “Wanted: A Duke Lacrosse Team Hero,” from April of 2006.
You can continue to look forward to posts from these and other PowerBloggers on topics like environmental stewardship, business and culture, and theology and ethics.
The Call of the Entrepreneur, Acton’s new documentary on the importance of entrepreneurs in society, premieres in Grand Rapids on May 17, 2007. The film will begin at 7:00pm at Celebration Cinema North with a reception to follow, and a VIP reception will be held beforehand at 6:00pm. If you have not yet heard about The Call of the Entrepreneur you can read a bit more here and here, and be sure to visit www.calloftheentrepreneur.com. If you have been anxiously anticipating the premiere of this film, you can go directly to our secure registration form.
Dr. Samuel Gregg – “Acton’s Chief Thinker,” according to our Executive Director Kris Mauren – put his thinking skills on display yesterday as part of the 2007 Acton Lecture Series, delivering an address entitled “The Crisis of Europe: Benedict XVI’s Analysis and Solution.”
By any standard of civilization growth and decline, Europe is in crisis. Marked by collapsing birthrates, stagnating economies, and denial of its historical roots, Western Europe appears headed for cultural suicide. In his lecture, Dr. Gregg outlined Pope Benedict’s analysis of Europe’s contemporary problems, and discusses the his proposed remedies. If you weren’t able to attend the lecture in person, you can listen online by clicking here (10 mb mp3 file).
You’ll also want to register for our next Lecture Series event, as we’ll be hearing from Mr. Ralph Hauenstein, who will discuss his experiences serving under General Dwight Eisenhower as chief of the Intelligence Branch in the Army’s European theater of operations during World War II. As a history buff, I’ve had this one marked on my calendar for quite a while, no doubt much like a lot of other people. Here’s the link for more information and to register for the event.