Time to Come to Our Senses

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.  And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.  God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.  2 Timothy 2:23-26 ESV

The rhetoric surrounding this upcoming election cycle has been disturbing and depressing for a long time, but there are a couple of things that are now making the rounds that are particularly disturbing, and need to be set straight.  Before you read on, here’s a warning.  This isn’t going to be an endorsement of, or a bashing of, any candidate, or their positions, or anything having to do with how you decide to vote.  If that’s what you were hoping for, you’ll be disappointed.

Violence has never been, nor will it ever be, the correct response to the results of an election that doesn’t go your way.  It is a selfish reaction that is based on a foundation of ignorance and hatred.  The democratic republic that is the United States of America has not been immune, through its history, from violent reactions to political situations, the Civil War being perhaps the most egregious example of how badly something can go wrong.  It took more than a generation to recover from those wounds, and in the long run, it was the restoration of constitutional law, with the necessary changes to prevent future problems, during a time of peace that allowed America to emerge from that tragedy and become the strongest and most prosperous nation on earth.  The Civil War was a shameful failure, a breakdown of order and morality, and a warning sign that America was not immune to the same kind of hatred and prejudice that laid waste to the population of Europe on more than one occasion.

Protest is a protected constitutional right.  We call it “free speech” and it is right there among other protected and cherished constitutional rights like the freedom of religion, and the right to bear arms.  I find it very ironic, and disturbing, that many of those who are hollering the loudest and the longest about alleged encroachments on the “right to bear arms” are also indicating that they are willing to use those arms to take other rights away from fellow citizens.  You’ve heard and seen them, the people who are saying that they are not going to accept the results of the election if their guy doesn’t win, and that they will take things into their own hands.  So does that mean that they’re OK with the other side doing the same thing, if it turns out that their candidate doesn’t win?

As I said before, violence is bred by selfishness and ignorance.  The perception is systematically being created to undermine the results of the election by one of the candidates who claims that “it’s rigged.”  His surrogates are beating their heels to convince voters that he isn’t implying that the actual vote count will be rigged, its just the influence of media bias.  But that’s not what he’s saying.  He’s saying that if he loses, it will be because of voter fraud at the ballot box, an allegation that has no basis in fact whatsoever.

If you consider the vast size and scope of conducting a nationwide election in this country, voter fraud is an almost non-existent problem, and there is a mountain of evidence to prove that assertion.  Sure, there are instances of where dead people somehow showed up at polls to vote, or where people who weren’t really who they said they were cast more than one ballot.  Those things get a lot of attention, as well they should, since the integrity of the voting booth is the most important underlying principle of a representative democracy.  But you can almost count the known instances that have occurred, over more than 200 years, and after billions of votes have been cast. And the other fact that most people ignore, is that both Republicans and Democrats have been involved in those few instances.  One news source stated that there are actually more people in the US who get struck by lightning in a year than there are actual, proven instances of voter fraud. There are too many cross-referenced ways to watch the polls and ensure the accuracy of the vote count.  Yeah, I’ve heard stories where computer programmers allegedly set machines to tilt the count.  Try to find verification for any of those.  It doesn’t exist because that never happened.

As far as the media goes, yes, it is fallible.  But if you’re getting your political information from talk radio dee jays, or obviously biased sources that have signed on to run the campaign of one party’s candidate, then you’re getting information that is even more biased and inaccurate than the mainstream media puts out.  The only qualification that virtually any of the daytime talk radio show hosts have to lay claim to “expertise” when it comes to political issues is that they have a voice that sounds good on the radio.  There’s a problem if you think that a guy who used to play round, black plastic discs on a turntable, and tell you the names of the songs and artists he was playing is now an expert on political issues.

If you want to call yourself a patriotic American, if you claim the rights that are outlined in the constitution as your own, then you have to take the responsibility to participate the way that the constitution says that you can, and that is by voting, and then accepting the will of the people as it is represented by the majority of those who exercised their rights, and cast ballots.  That is your entitlement to protest.  Violence only demonstrates the selfishness and ignorance of those who attempt to use it to get their own way.


American Mythology

I’ve just about come to the conclusion that I’m going to shut my facebook account down, and get off social media.  I’m on there mainly because it is a way to keep up with friends and family who don’t live close by, and I enjoy that kind of communication.  But this election is driving my decision.  I can eliminate most of the trash myself, stuff that comes from places that are identified as Rebel Nation, Anonymous, Patriot Journal, Federalist Papers, etc., by simply clicking the button that takes me off their list.  But when friends share these posts, you still see them cluttering up your screen.

Where do they get this stuff?  It seems that the more ridiculous the claim, the more people want to post and share it.  I saw one about a postal worker in Ohio who claimed to be destroying absentee ballots marked for Trump by the thousands, intimating that the orders came straight from President Obama.  If you gave that just a fleeting thought, you’d be able to figure out that one is false.  Under surveillance, and with the system for accounting for the mail that it in place, there would never be a time that one postal worker would ever be in a position to open all of the ballots to see which ones were for Trump, and which ones were for Clinton, put the Clinton ones back, seal the envelope so it looked untouched, and then shred all of the Trump ballots and get rid of the evidence without being seen.  You’d have to assume that there are no postal workers who are either Republicans or Trump supporters.  And there would have to be absentee ballots in the mail in order to be able to accomplish this task.  In Ohio, so far there’s early voting at polling places, but it’s just a tad early for absentee ballots to be mailed, in fact, about a week ahead of the deadline.  So if those thousands of people had actually sent those ballots in, they wouldn’t be counted anyway.

As it turns out, the guy who made the claim doesn’t work for the post office.  And he’s in California, not Ohio.

The idea that this election will be rigged at the ballot box, and that votes won’t be counted fairly, is coming from a Trump campaign that is seriously in trouble, and knows that it is.  That can’t be blamed on any circumstance other than the fact that Trump is a lousy campaigner, has not followed the advice of either his own political party, or his campaign advisors, about how to conduct and win a presidential campaign, and his flip flopping, back and forth, “tell people whatever they want to hear and whatever it takes to get their vote” approach to issues.  He’s free to claim that the media is biased against him and is doing whatever it can for Hillary, but he’s offered less than half a shred of proof for that claim.  Oh, yeah, many of his followers believe that, but that doesn’t make it a fact, it just makes them gullible.

The integrity and accuracy of the voting process in America is an easily verifiable fact.  Sure, there are incidents of voter fraud, and of course when there is one, it gets a whole lot of attention.  It should.  But those few incidents have involved people on all sides of the political spectrum, Republicans as well as Democrats, and the one clear fact about all of them is that the odds of their occurring is roughly equal to your chance of getting struck by lightning.  You can look that up by the way, there’s plenty of evidence to support that statement.

You’ll have to decide for yourself whether the media is biased, and whether they have the ability to “rig” an election.  Clearly they have an influence.  Disreputable sites that are nothing more than rumor mongering, like Patriot Journal or Rebel Nation, have a lot of followers who implicitly believe everything they say, and that is media manipulation by definition.  They don’t even make a pretense out of twisting the truth, they simply ignore it, and tell as big a lie as they think they can get people to believe.  We’ve failed to teach successive generations how to check the facts for themselves, so the media gets a whole lot more influence than it should have.  But even though its not something that Americans seem prone to do these days, the facts can always be checked.  Most of the major networks realize that.  Most of these fly by night social media sites don’t care about the facts, and are far more interested in whether or not they can get gullible people to spread rumors in order to reap the benefit.

If Donald Trump loses this election it will be because he could not convince enough American voters that he could be trusted, or has integrity, or possesses the personal capability to be the President of the United States.  Personally, I would have to violate every Christian-based, Biblical, moral principle and value I hold to cast a ballot for him, and I know a lot of Christians who have also decided that a very uncertain and indecisive political outcome is not worth the sacrifice of integrity that it would take to support his election to the nation’s highest office.  Clinging to the argument about who he would support to the Supreme Court doesn’t justify that compromise, because he is such a liar, and is so prone to saying what he thinks people want to hear in order to be elected, that there can’t be any confidence in any justice he would appoint, especially when it comes to the kinds of issues and integrity that most Christians think are requirements.  He’s been an ardent, lifelong supporter of abortion on demand, and of same-gender marriage, that is who he is, and his justice appointments will be people who support his position on eliminating the tax obligations of the wealthy.

If you want to resort to the argument of “the lesser of two evils,” you’re selling out as well, regardless of which side you are supporting.  There is no such thing as a degree of evil.  If you would have to abandon your moral values and convictions to vote for Hillary Clinton, then voting for Trump represents exactly the same kind of abandonment of them.  The lesser of two evils is a myth, as much as voter fraud is a myth, or that Trump is pro-life is a  myth.

No Prepositions in This Sentence

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.  Psalm 146:3, ESV

Genesis 25 contains a few paragraphs describing how Esau, the twin of Jacob, or Israel, son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham, sold his birthright to his brother for a bowl of soup.  In a cultural context, a birthright was the most important thing that a son could inherit from his father.  Esau, because of his hunger, decided to sacrifice the best thing in his life for something that he wanted, and thought he needed to meet an immediate need.  He never let his father know what he had done, and neither did Jacob, because later on he had to conspire to deceive his father in order to get the blessing.

What many Christians in this country are doing now is selling their birthright, so to speak, for the bowl of soup that is political influence and power.  There, I said it.  I studied theology at a seminary, so I know that this is not a literal interpretation of the scripture, and I’m not using it to bring across a Biblical objective.  I’m using it as a comparison in order to explain what I see happening.  Some Christian leaders are sacrificing their reputation and their integrity, in effect, their testimony, which is one of the most important aspects of their witness, in exchange for the remote possibility that a particular candidate for President will name the “right” people to the Supreme Court, if he gets the chance.

Now I really do want to put some accurate hermeneutical principles to work.  Look at that verse I cited from Psalms.  Is staking your reputation on the vague promises of a presidential candidate who is already noted as being the most notorious liar ever to run for President of the United States worth it?  Do you really want to take a chance on putting that out there against the very remote, and highly unlikely possibility that he might actually nominate the kind of Supreme Court justice that you think you need?

And what is it that a Supreme Court justice will do for the cause of Christ that you don’t think God can do?

In spite of objections to the contrary, and the now popular statement among some Christians that “We’re not electing a pastor in chief, we’re electing a commander in chief,” which is nothing more than a complete and total cop-out, the fact of the matter is that the entire “Christian Right” movement within the Republican party owes its existence and influence to its emphasis on the importance of values, principles and character in the person of the candidate who is running for President.  Character is not just an important element of a candidate’s campaign, it is the ONLY element of it.  The politics of position and platform are secondary to the character of the candidate, and that is exactly how the leadership of the Christian right has promoted itself since 1980. We are, indeed, electing a commander in chief, and we want someone who has the moral character to make the right decisions that go along with those responsibilities.

The day after this election, the church in America will still be in desperate need of revival.  That need won’t change, regardless of who is elected, and nothing will be done to meet it regardless of who is elected.  The cause of Christ will not be advanced by any decision about who becomes a Supreme Court justice.  And God will not be deterred or moved from his will or his plans.  But you will have to live with your own conscience, and you will have to live with the consequences of determining that your politics are more important than your religion.









On Colin Kaepernick, Standing During the National Anthem, and Free Speech

This is an incident that has received far too much attention.  It’s a good example of social media making a mountain out of a molehill.

I didn’t grow up in a place where there were very many people who weren’t wholly patriotic, so I was in my mid thirties, living in Kentucky, a long way from where I grew up, when I first encountered individuals who deliberately chose not to stand during the national anthem.  It was during a high school graduation ceremony in a packed gymnasium.  The state song was played first, and the whole audience stood.  That was a new experience, since I didn’t really think of “My Old Kentucky Home” as an anthem, but I stood anyway, out of respect for the fact that I was living there, and it was apparently a custom of the place.  Then, the band played the national anthem, and in front of me, about ten rows, a group of people sat down.  In a couple of other locations in the gym, the same thing occurred, out of maybe 5,000 people, there were a dozen or so who sat down after the state song was played.

At first, I thought perhaps it was because they were from a foreign country.  Or that perhaps they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, though they had stood for “My Old Kentucky Home.”  But a friend told me that it was pretty typical in that particular community, at gatherings like that, for people to sit down during the national anthem.  It was a protest, I was told, of perceived unfairness by the culture at large, the government in general, and in some cases, the local government and local culture.

OK.  I get that.  It’s not something I would choose to do.   My way of protesting is different.  I write, sometimes in a journal like this, sometimes in letters to people I think can make a difference.  I speak up.  But I’m not inclined to make a public protest out of something I feel is an act of respect, and isn’t connected with my grievance.

Be that as it may, free speech is a constitutionally guaranteed right, and it ranks right up there with the right to bear arms, which might help you think about this in correct terms and context.  And the fact of the matter is that Colin Kaepernick has the right to remain seated during the national anthem, as a protest against whatever he chooses for it to be.  As deplorable as you might think that act is, in and of itself, it’s no worse, in my opinion, than donning a white robe, and a white, peaked cap and covering your face with a sheet before you light a cross on fire.  It’s his constitutional right.  It’s his chosen way of making a statement.

I’m not going to comment on what his statement is about.  For one thing, all I know about it is what I’ve seen on social media, and I’m absolutely sure that’s distorted, especially when it comes to his reasons and motives for doing what he did, and when it comes to the issue that prompted his protest in the first place.  I won’t contribute to either fanning the flames, or to speculation that distorts and twists the truth completely out of shape.  Social media lets you lie without being accountable, and there’s already way too much of that on Facebook.

Other people are, of course, entitled to their opinion.  They can sit in the stands at football games and say what they think, or behave anyway they choose within the limits of the law.  And a lot of them probably will, which could be intimidating for someone trying to focus on playing a football game.  Noting that there are a significant number of people who support Kaepernick, if the argument gets carried into the stadium, seeing how emotional people have been when it comes to this issue, that could spell difficulties for the NFL at Forty Niners games.  Is that his fault?  I don’t think so.  I’ll say it again.  This is America, and this is a protected, individual, constitutional right.

I’ll always stand when the national anthem is played.  That’s the message I want to send.  But the very fact that I can choose to do this is at the crux of the matter for Colin Kaepernick, and for anyone else who wants to exercise their right to free speech.

Louisiana Flooding: A Disaster That Needs Relief, not Politics

I’ve lived in a flood prone part of the country, so I know what it’s like to keep an eye on the sky, and the weather, and worry about the possibility of your home or your workplace being flooded.  In Southeast Texas, where hundreds of thousands of homes are build on flat, and I mean flat, land that is less than 50 feet above sea level, I’ve seen the actual flooding, not just the footage on television, I’ve agonized with co-workers and fellow church members who’ve experienced loss of personal belongings in a flooded house, and I’ve helped in clean up efforts afterward.  I’ve also experienced the agonizing fear when the rain kept coming, and the water crept up to within inches of my own doorstep.

So the political atmosphere that is now swirling around Southern Louisiana is shameful and disgusting.  It just needs to stop.  Quit turning this into a political circus, get off your duff, and either get your checkbook out or head down there yourself, but get off social media and pipe down.  This is not your opportunity to pump a sagging presidential bid, or bash the President, or make the other guy (or lady as the case may be) look bad.

A Few Facts

Hurricane Katrina was the worst natural disaster in American history.  It was the storm that everyone had been waiting for, knew was coming, but hadn’t quite happened yet.  The odds that everyone, including those who provided and built the infrastructure to handle 90% of the storms that hit the area, had played against for years came up short, and the once in a hundred years storm capable of taking out the levees did just that.

The city government, the local parishes and the state were just not prepared for the scope of the disaster.  The combination of inept leadership and shortage of resources was too much.  But the surprise was that FEMA, the federal government’s disaster relief program, was also inept and unprepared.  That was a disaster not only for Louisiana, but also for the Bush Administration, which took a public relations beating.  Remember that?  The President wound up having to replace the director of the agency, and it took months for it to mobilize the resources it needed to provide a level of assistance that was anywhere near as helpful to the people of New Orleans as they needed.  It was one of the biggest black eyes of the Bush years, outside of the recession.

Contrast that with the fast response of FEMA this time around.  The governor, John Bel Edwards, asked for, and got, a disaster declaration within three days of the realization of the extent of the flooding, before many areas had even been inundated.  The director of FEMA was in Louisiana the same day, and the federal agencies that are at work there now are in daily, direct communication with the President, in spite of the fact that he is on vacation.  He is still directly handling the crisis in Louisiana, something that his political critics either seem not to be aware of, or are deliberately ignoring.

The governor also noted that it would not be beneficial for either of the major party candidates, or the President, to come to Louisiana at the present time.  They are still dealing with flooding, and its aftermath, and do not have the resources to spare to provide the kind of security and equipment necessary for the President, or the candidates, to tour flooded areas.  It’s hard, really, for me to see the benefit of strutting around in a campaign slogan hat, with the devastated, destroyed houses of people in the background, just to prove what?  That you’ve got a jet and can get down there?  Or just so you can claim to score one over your opponent?  Or so you can one-up the President, who has already committed billions of dollars and thousands of people providing assistance, as you are standing there?

The media has also taken a beating over their coverage of this, though from my perspective here in Pennsylvania, I’ve seen plenty of pictures, and have been reminded, several times each day, that I need to be grateful that I’m not there, enough to motivate me to help out in some way.  I’ve done that, as have most of my neighbors and friends.  How much more coverage do we need?  How much more invasion of people’s lives, when they’ve lost their home, their possessions, in some cases family members or friends, is necessary?

And do you really expect me, or anyone else for that matter, to believe that just because a politician doesn’t share my particular political perspective, they are any less concerned than any other politician about the people of Louisiana?  Or any other part of the United States for that matter?  Go peddle your hateful ignorance somewhere else.  There’s not a market for it here.

Help for Louisiana

For about 18 years, I’ve worked with a group of people known as World Changers.  Not the church in Atlanta, but a group that initially came out of the Brotherhood Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention as a mission service ministry for junior and senior high age youth.  World Changers started with a few construction projects in the Appalachian region of the country, helping low income and elderly homeowners accomplish some much needed repair, weatherization and maintenance work on their homes.  It also offered opportunities to minister to neighbors and friends who came in contact with the youth groups.  Over its existence, hundreds of thousands of youth have participated, and thousands of homeowners in hundreds of locations, all across the country, have benefitted from this ministry.

World Changers were thrust into the disaster relief ministry business with a series of projects scheduled in the city of New Orleans following hurricane Katrina.  God had a different set of plans for those students scheduled to participate in a project in Joplin, Missouri when, just a few weeks before the project was scheduled, a tornado ripped through the town.  It changed many lives forever, and it changed the focus of the World Changers project that week as a couple hundred Southern Baptist youth helped residents recover.

Since then, World Changers projects have focused on recovery from disasters in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Moore, Oklahoma, and along the Jersey Shore following Sandy.  Now, they’re preparing to mobilize and help the residents of Baton Rouge and South Louisiana once again in the wake of their flooding.

This is not a time to play politics.  I remember when the Bush administration botched the relief for Katrina that was supposed to be helping the people in New Orleans.  Part of that was causes by administrative bureacracy, and part just because people wanted to find a way to be critical of a President they didn’t like.  From almost the first news of the flooding in Louisiana, the President has been on top of this, and the administration’s people whose jobs involve responding to such disasters, and providing assistance have been operating in Louisiana for over a week now.  They are in daily contact with the President, and the federal assistance is already making a difference for thousands of Louisianans affected by the flooding.  The fact of the matter is that getting the President into Louisiana now would be a logistical drain on their resources, as the governor pointed out.  And there would be critics who would simply say he’s grandstanding.  What is happening now is what is best for Louisiana residents affected by the floods.  They’re getting help, he’s providing the leadership through his people who are there, and that’s that.  It’s insulting and childish to do what the right wing extremist radio deejays want you to do, and that is to make a political issue out of everything that the President does.  Let’s let this be about what it should be about.

FInd a way to help, do it, and stop gossipping about the President.

What Really Matters to a Christian, American Voter

Albert Mohler and Russell Moore Explain Why They Can’t Support Trump


Character is important.

The voting bloc that has become known as the “Religious Right” has done an excellent job of establishing its political position around what it defines as “Biblical values,” and it promotes this position largely through Republican party politics.  Formed out of common opposition to the legalization of abortion, with the Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court in 1973, the Religious right has influenced the platform of the Republican party, and the election of countless candidates for office, including the Presidency.  Though it has not always been successful legislating its values agenda, it has enjoyed some success as a political force since 1980.

There is no denying that the character of candidates has been a core issue among those in the Religious Right, and that it has been important to them to identify potential candidates for office who understand, and claim to have, a personal relationship with Jesus in the way that the Evangelical branch of Christianity defines it.  It’s not always been easy to do that, and in some cases, to get the support for the values in the political agenda, the definition of “born again Christian” has had to be expanded for political purposes.  But there’s been no doubt that the leadership of the Religious Right has made the Christian character of the candidates it supports a centerpiece of its agenda.

There’s been no point in history when that was made more clear than during the eight years Bill Clinton served as President of the United States.  Perhaps because Clinton was an active, and very visible member of a Southern Baptist church, the Religious Right leadership was relentless in its efforts to attack his character at every possible point, and make sure that all of his behavior which they considered inconsistent with what they defined as “Christian” was made into a major issue.  He didn’t always help his own cause, and though he succeeded in defeating their efforts, including winning two elections and then beat back an attempt to remove him from office via an impeachment, their eight year battle during his time in office crystallized their perspective.  It is quite clear, from that point on, that the Christian character of candidates who receive their support is equally important to their position on the issues.  They established a standard that defied the concept of voting for the “lesser of two evils,” and rightly so, by stating that evil is simply evil, doesn’t come in varying degrees, and that Christians who are committed to their faith are responsible before God for their nation’s spiritual life and reputation.

The conclusion of that perspective is quite clear.  Individuals who don’t meet those standards aren’t qualified to serve.  Period.  There’s no doubt about that.  The words of many leaders in the Religious Right, like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, D. James Kennedy, Robert Schuller, Al Mohler, Richard Land, cannot be taken back.

Mitt Romney’s Presidential candidacy posed a bit of a problem.  Romney’s Mormonism is as politically conservative as Evangelical Christianity in most ways.  Though Romney had departed from the faithful when it came to pushing Massachussett’s version of Obamacare when he was governor, from a values and political issues perspective, he was on board with most things.  But Mormons are not doctrinally compatible with Evangelical Christianity.  From the basic belief in salvation from sin, to acceptance and influence of the Bible, to belief that it is the written Word of God, Mormons and Evangelicals are religious opposites.  So, during Romney’s candidacy, there were some attempts by Religious Right leaders to change the religious aspect of the values position to allow for someone like Romney.  It was hypocrisy compared to their earlier view, but it worked, as more Evangelicals supported Romney in 2012 than had ever turned out for any specific candidate before.

Trump’s nomination has served to completely undermine and discredit what integrity the leadership of the Religious Right had left.  Character is certainly no longer the issue, and attempts by some Religious Right leaders to turn Trump into a born again believer are becoming an embarrassment to them.  It’s not for anyone but God to judge, but when he makes public statements that are contrary to what Evangelicals believe about the salvation experience it doesn’t put those leaders in a good light.

But Evangelical support for Trump is also hypocritical.  How can character be so important, for 30 years, after convincing millions of voters that it is, and using it to contrast virtually every Republican who has run for Presidents since 1980 with every Democrat who has run, and then, suddenly, to throw your support to a candidate who is worse than any Democrat whom they’ve attacked in this regard, including Bill Clinton.  President Obama’s Christian faith has been criticized, judged, mis-judged, his church and former pastor attacked, and he’s been accused of being a Muslim.  If all of that is a problem for Religious Right leaders, but Donald Trump’s unrepentant adultery, use of bankruptcy to get ahead, lies and fraud, and promotion of, and earning money from gambling interests, strip clubs, and bars and nightclubs, is not, then you have an example of blatant hypocrisy.

I’m not going to paint with a broad brush.  I’ve included some links here to statements by some Religious Right leaders, including Russ Moore, of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Al Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  They’re not buying support for Trump, and they’re being consistent in not supporting Hillary, either.  I also have to mention David Rogers, who is the son of the late Adrian Rogers, of Memphis’s Bellevue Baptist Church.  David isn’t exactly a high profile leader in the political religious right, in fact, he served on the mission field for a number of years before returning to Memphis to work with a church plant and teach Spanish, but he’s been a powerful advocate of third party voting for Christians to demonstrate their integrity.

If you believed what the Religious Right once stood for, then be consistent.  Character of the candidate is important, and while you are not electing a pastor in chief, you are electing someone who needs to have a healthy dose of values and character, and a connection to the God who created the universe, and his son, the savior of it, in order to be an effective President.



Wayne Grudem is Wrong

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  James 4:17

There is no such thing as the lesser of two evils.  At least, that is the case if you claim to be a Christian who believes that the Bible is God’s written word.  Evil is evil, without degree or status.  You can’t make a moral, character argument against Hillary Clinton without also making the same argument against voting for Donald Trump.  There’s no question that the difference that Grudem is citing boils down to simple politics, and that’s not enough to justify voting for Trump if you are a Christian, and if you accept the Christian right’s political premises and positions.  They can’t be justified with Trump’s behavior, nor with his potential to be a renegade and not pay much attention to his supporters if they wind up electing him.  He’ll pass legislation that allows the legalized robbery of the working class to get worse than it is, putting more money in the pockets of his own billionaire frends.  Sorry if you don’t want to hear that, but it is the bottom line.

If you can’t vote for Hillary, because she is a liar, and is of corrupt character, then you can’t vote for Trump for exactly the same, easily provable reasons.  And if you do go ahead and vote for Trump, while citing Hillary’s corruption and lies, then you are a hypocrite.

You can’t ignore three decades of religious right political history.  The Religious Right, made up mostly of Evangelical Conservatives, has rested its movement on a social agenda that features strong opposition to abortion rights for women, and on the character they claim that Republican candidates bring to the table, namely, having a born-again experience with Jesus as their savior, and sharing a similar, born-again, Evangelical faith.  There’s been a broadening of acceptance of candidates who practice their faith in more liberal, mainline churches, like George H.W. Bush, who was Episcopalian, and George W., who joined his wife’s relatively liberal Methodist church in Dallas.  Patrick Buchanan more or less made it acceptable for religious right acceptance of Catholics with the correct political agenda.  The only real departure from this guiding principle has been the acceptance of Mitt Romney, a Mormon, as the 2012 GOP nominee, and he shared the political values.

Trump has nothing in common with religious conservatives.  Nothing.  Nada.  Personally, I don’t think the adjustments he’s made in his political perspectives in order to win, instead of go down to defeat like he did early in the primaries in 2012, came from convictions, but from his tendency to say whatever he needs in order to get elected.  If he does manage to win, I think his Evangelical, and populist, followers are going to find out pretty quickly that he is not a man of his word, and he will do very little of what he says he’s going to do.  That’s been his pattern as a businessman for his whole life.  What is there about him that makes you think he’ll change?

I think it is irresponsible for Christian leaders to try to make a case for voting for him, based on some kind of Christian or Biblical worldview, or foundation.  It can’t be done, especially if the case depends on a comparison to Hillary Clinton.  If voting for her is bad, then voting for him is just as bad, based on the standard, “Christian” perspective that the religious right has consistently applied to Presidential candidates since at least 1980.

On the core issues of importance to religious conservatives, Trump is probably not on board at best, and couldn’t care less at worst.  He says he’s changed his mind about abortion, but his charitable contributions don’t reflect much of a change.  He’s not opposed to same-gender marriage, or to any LGBT rights, including the right of transgender persons to choose the bathroom they want to use.  Rejecting immigrants based on their religion isn’t a Biblical principle, nor is it constitutional, particularly not from a strict constructionist, or originalist view.  And there’s nothing particularly Christian about his tax proposals which are basically robbing from the working and middle class to give to the wealthy. So what’s the attraction again?

The character issue is where I fail to see why anyone who claims to “vote their values” would even give him a second look.  Though billed as a real estate mogul, he earns most of his fortune from gambling interests and strip clubs.  He’s proud of his third wife’s nude photographs.  His bankruptcies affected thousands of workers, both his own employees, and those of contractors that he didn’t pay, while pocketing millions in his own personal fortune.  He’s admitted, but not apologized for or repented from, the adultery that cost him two marriages.  His business dealings are not the kind of thing that make him an example to younger people.  And while some Christian leaders have tried to be convincing regarding the fact that he’s made a “profession of faith,” it’s not that convincing in light of his behavior.

Honestly, this is the way I look at it.  Vote for whomever you think will be the best person for the job.  Do what Ted Cruz encouraged at the RNC, vote your conscience.  But don’t try to convince me, or anyone else for that matter, that there’s a distinction between the two major party Presidential candidates when it comes to “voting values,” or voting based on some kind of acceptable Christian standard, because there isn’t one here.


Free to Vote Your Conscience

My early October birthday allowed me to register to vote in the presidential election of 1976, when Jimmy Carter ran against incumbent, but appointed, Gerald Ford.  I voted for Carter, who won a close election, though he didn’t carry my home state of Arizona.  Part of the reason for my support was Carter’s Southern Baptist faith, and the way it seemed to permeate his life.  He was an honest man, and a genuine one, and I think a lot of people who normally wouldn’t consider themselves Democrats supported him because of his honesty, and because, in the wake of Watergate and Nixon, Ford represented the corrupt past of the GOP, regardless of his lack of connection to it.

Since becoming involved in politics in relatively large numbers, the character and faith of the candidate has always been at the core of the argument for supporting their election.  Particularly in Presidential politics, Evangelical Christian leaders have gone to great lengths to convince their followers to vote for a particular candidate because they were “one of us.”  Of course, the social agenda, particularly opposition to abortion, and then as it became more prevalent, opposition to same-gender marriage, are bottom line deal breakers.  But the evidence is overwhelming when it comes to the character issue.  So Wayne Grudem’s recent post, which makes the rounds on social media, laying out a moral argument for supporting Donald Trump, is a complete and total departure from where Evangelicals have been in politics at almost any point in the past.

Attempting to turn candidates into born-again Bible thumpers has been, in fact, a key component of Evangelical involvement in the GOP.  While none of the last three Republican presidents would ever actually use the term “born again” to describe their faith experience, it was not for lack of trying to tag them that way on the part of Evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed.  In fact, it was the election cycles in 1992, 1996 and 2000 that made this component of Evangelical involvement in right wing politics virtually dependent on the candidate’s religious beliefs, because the opposition party nominated Bill Clinton, a genuine, water-baptized, born again Southern Baptist who sang in the choir of Little Rock’s largest and most influential Southern Baptist Congregation during his term as governor, and then Al Gore, another born-again Southern Baptist from Tennessee who even attended seminary for a while.

The Republicans have even managed to nominate at least one Evangelical Christian during this long stretch of talking about it.  John McCain was raised Episcopalian, but when he was nominated, was regular in his attendance at the Southern Baptist church where his wife was a member.  He chose another active Evangelical, Sarah Palin, as his running mate.  During the campaign, Evangelical leaders in particular did their part to support him by attempting to tear down the relationship between Barack Obama and his UCC pastor at Chicago’s largest United Church of Christ congregation.

Things have changed.

The nomination of Mitt Romney in 2012 forced Evangelicals to decide if they were going to abandon their “born again” criteria as a qualification for presidential candidates, or at least abandon attempts to convince people that the Republican nominee was born again, or support Romney.  Turns out, it wasn’t all that difficult a choice for them.  After some noise at the outset of the nomination, Evangelicals turned out for Romney in a way that they never had for candidates of their own faith family.  Neither Mike Huckabee nor Ted Cruz, both Southern Baptists and prominent Evangelical leaders, got the kind of support that Romney, a Mormon, did.  Evangelicals lost a lot of credibility with that move.  If the faith of the candidate really does matter in an election, citing James 4:17 as scripture support as they have for years, then supporting Romney was a clear departure from that position.

And that’s when all the self-justifying responses started.  “We’re not electing a pastor, we’re electing a President.”  That was one of them.  “I certainly wouldn’t want Romney to serve in my church, but being President is different.”  It paved the way for the kind of pitiful justification for voting for Donald Trump that has been put out by Wayne Grudem, and others.

Evil is evil, and the Bible doesn’t measure it by degrees, it measures it for what it is.  If it is wrong to vote for Hillary Clinton, and you list moral character as a reason for it being wrong, then Donald Trump is certainly not a “lesser” of two evils.  Evil is what it is, and if you believe it is morally wrong to vote for Hillary, then you are a hypocrite if you turn around and vote for Trump.



The Lesser of Two Evils

There is no such thing.

Do you read and study the Bible?  Is that what you use as your standard for measuring truth?  Where, within its contents, do you find the place where it determines that some evil is worse than other evil?  On what page, or in what scripture reference to you find sin measured by degrees of its separation from God?

Oh, I’m sure there is some wording, some nuance of a phrase, or a prophet’s description of a concept that was difficult to put into words, where it might appear that God placed more weight on one kind of evil, as opposed to another.  Something that he called a particular kind of abomination, as opposed to just a regular abomination.  But that was in the interpretation, not the definition.  There’s that bothersome list over there in Exodus 20 that forms the crux of the Old Testament law and puts some definition to those measurements that God intended for us to know.

The other problem is that Jesus, in the other testament, makes a statement about being the one sent to fulfill the law, not abolish it, and introduces the concept of grace.  That really makes it tough to figure out different degrees of evil, because grace is simply and plainly grace, and if there are degrees of it, then it isn’t grace any more.  If grace is the remedy for evil, and it only occurs when there’s a need for it, then there can’t be evil that is more or less evil.  It’s evil.  It’s sin.  It’s separation from God, and if you are separated, you can’t be any further away than you already are.

This presidential election is giving me a headache, and causing a heartache.  Christians are valuing the secular power of a possible Supreme Court nominee, and their perception and perspective of other secular political positions against their own integrity and reputation as the church.  Christ’s church.  They are finding excuses to dismiss, or ignore, one candidate who has displayed evil, immoral behavior while vilifying another candidate for the same thing.  They are using arguments like “We’re electing a commander in chief, not a pastor in chief,” and “I have to support the lesser of two evils” as justification to endorse and support a candidate whose political position, demeanor and treatment of others, and moral life, is visibly contrary to the values and principles that define life in Christ, led by the Spirit.  At the same time, they are joining in the spewing of hateful, slanderous and often exaggerated rhetoric against the other candidate.  It looks like hypocrisy to me.  Frankly, it is.

“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.  The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.  You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors a bloodthirsty and deceitful man.”  Psalm 5:4-6. 

I spent too much time this week watching the RNC.  I don’t care what you think about Hillary Clinton, or her candidacy, or Barack Obama, or how passionate you are politically, there was absolutely no excuse for the kind of character assassination that took place during that convention.  It gives a whole new definition to the term “mudslinging,” which is actually no longer adequate to describe the experience.  I understand that Hillary Clinton is the opponent, but spending the entire week doing virtually nothing but attacking her says, in tones just as loud as the chants, that the Republicans have absolutely nothing to offer the American people that will change anything.  If they had something, they’d have invested some time in telling us about it, instead of how bad she is.

They gave a whole boatload of credibility to her claim that the attacks on her are a sign that the Republicans have nothing to offer.  The point has been reached where the constant beating of the drum is tiresome.  They are actually pushing voters in her direction, rather than convincing them to vote for their guy,  among independents, by almost a 2 to 1 margin.

I’m no big fan of Ted Cruz.  But the man has integrity.  That pledge he signed, to support the nominee, was made before the slanderous falsehoods were made by Donald Trump against his family, who should have been off limits for comments.  Trump’s statements released Cruz from that obligation, legitimately and morally.  And I believe that Exodus 20:16 trumps any reference to remaining loyal to an oath.  Sorry for the pun. Watching the convention turn on him, so quickly, and angrily was surreal.  Who are these people?  How in the world did they become the delegates to the convention of the party of Lincoln.

I’m sorry I watched.  But I won’t be sorry that the RNC nominee won’t get my vote.