Poor Leadership: Annan and Ahmadenijad

Annan & AhmadenijadOn the same day, Iran President Ahmadinejad began a conference questioning the existence of the holocaust and outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan ended his stint by delivering his farewell speech. On Ahmadinejad, there’s not much to say other than the obvious… he’s working hard to become a modern Hitler. But Annan took the opportunity to chide the United States for its foreign policy, functionally blaming us for creating the problems in Iraq by using phrases about American unilateralism and emperialism, etc., blah, blah, blah…

I follow the news pretty closely, and I haven’t seen any press releases from countries around the world stating what we all know… that Ahmadinejad’s conference is incendiary and diabolical. Where are the world leaders who are condemning this?

In this vein, Annan could’ve done something constructive with his speech or condemned the madness of a conference that claims the holocaust didn’t occur, but instead, he adjured the responsibilities of American liberty, namely, calling a spade a spade and bit the hand that feeds him. It’s just the last in a long line of cheap shots from a leader whose incompetence is well-documented (sexual harassment situation, oil-for-food scandal, Rwanda, Darfur).

Well, I’m not sad to see Annan go. Being articulate, soft-spoken, well-mannered and gentlemanly is nice and all, but being reasonable and having an ounce of backbone can sometimes be fairly important, too. Rick Warren says, “The only way to not be criticized is to be nothing, do nothing, and say nothing.” The UN, despite its charter to be a peace-keeping and humanitarian organization is proving Warren wrong. They receive my criticism for being a neutered organization that is functionally close to nothing. Bye, bye, Kofi. Good riddance.

UPDATE… later this same morning… several world leaders are condemning it.

United States

… which, of course, simply confirms how lame duck Annan was. However, in light of the fact that world leaders must not have known about it until now, maybe Annan didn’t either. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been an incompetent leader.

Michelle Malkin, always good for a pithy phrase or two, weighs in…


On Being Anti-Hummer: American Excess, Cars, and the Spiritual Nurture of Children

HummerI am anti-Hummer. The audacious excess of these elephantine tanks is beyond absurd… it’s downright silly. Does anyone living in suburbia really need an assault vehicle built to withstand the rigors of war? How often does someone need to drive on the roof of other vehicles like a monster truck? Do we really need zone-specific memory settings that automatically adjust their seat positions and temperatures?

In sharp contrast, I drive a stick-shift early-nineties Ford Escort worth about five hundred dollars. When I pull up to a drive-through, I have to open the door because my window doesn’t work. The alignment is horrendous, the tires shake, the front speakers buzz, and the brakes squeal. Starting the ignition requires a nuanced wiggle of the key. And the engine emits a spurious low-pitched whine… loudly. No power nothing. Escort… appropriately named. That’s what it does. And I’m okay with that. I don’t need anything fancy. In fact, I don’t want anything fancy—I don’t want my kids to someday wonder why their parents spent lots of money on a bigger car just so we’d have extra room for all the groceries.

The only reason I have this car is because a generous couple in our church found out we needed a vehicle and purchased it for us, taxes and all. For their kindness, I am forever grateful. But, as a young pastor with lots of education and student loans but a relatively impotent salary, I watch church members, some of whom are kids, drive up in huge SUVs and, well, let’s just say it makes me think hard about money and life’s priorities.

I an openly, passionately anti-Hummer. Being strung out financially makes one think hard about money and life’s priorities. I am increasingly grateful for temporary financial difficulties because it’s made my wife and I consider what we want, for us as a family, and for our kids’ long-term spiritual health.

Instead of accommodating the excess and busyness of American culture by buying larger vehicles, we want our cars to allow for some margins in our lives. There was a good reason Jesus spoke of taking only one’s staff and cloak. It was because it keeps open the spiritual margins of our lives so we can take seriously spiritual nurture.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti progress or anti culture. I have long used a Palm Pilot, I use a cell phone, and I would donate a kidney for the new Apple MacBook Pro laptop. I don’t believe we should buy things of poor quality and I don’t think God called us all to live in grass huts with no running water, but I do have some questions about what we’re doing with our money and how it’s affecting our children.

Does every social context within which we find ourselves require an appropriate shoe? For many, a style principle like this is axiomatic—because, really, we all know that others’ perceptions of our personal style is far more important than children created in the image of God having enough food to eat, right?!

The amount of time and energy we spend creatively thinking about how to indulge ourselves and enjoy the luxuries of modern life is embarrassing, even for someone of average means.

Can you imagine what God could do with American Christians’ money if they began to think creatively about meeting others’ needs? And what do you think the difference is in children who grow up in an Escort instead of a Hummer?