Moved to Cacoethis Scribendi

Deep in the Heart is now a completed chapter.  It’s been in operation since 2006, and has evolved from a blog on issues related to the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist General Convention of Texas, to a more general reflection on Christian community and church at large.  I have remained involved in ministries connected to the Southern Baptist Convention, but haven’t attended an SBC church on a regular basis since moving to Pennsylvania in 2010.

The title of the blog, “Deep in the Heart” was borrowed from Texas origins.  But I’m not a native Texan, and unless God has plans that he hasn’t yet revealed to me, I’m not planning to return there.  “Back East” now, I like it here and I’m not planning on leaving.

So I’m now at Cacoethis Scribendi, Latin for “compelled to write.”

In Philippians 2:12, Paul says to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  I understand that eternal life is a gift from God that is the result of grace, through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ.  The key word is eternal.  It starts when we come to this initial understanding, but it is also a process that continues over the course of our entire life.  Past experiences aren’t supposed to be conclusions, they are supposed to be places from which we move forward, and make progress, but sometimes they prevent us from seeing just how deep, how wide, and how broad faith in God can be.  I once placed a lot of value on distinctives which I was taught, and believed, were truths that set my brand of Christian faith apart from others, and made us “closer” to the truth than others.  What I’ve discovered through experience is that as God revealed himself and his will through the writers of his word, he didn’t intend for us to develop distinct doctrine to set us apart, but community and fellowship to unite us around faith in Christ, and serve God by serving others.

Please join me on this journey,

http://cacoethisscribendiblog.wordpress.com

 

On November 9th

What will I do when November 9th arrives?  Aside from being glad that campaign commercials will be over, not much will change.  Specifically, what I will do will reflect who I am and what I believe.  Election day is one of the most consequential days in the life of this country. Here’s what will happen.

I will accept the results of the election as certified by the state officials who have that responsibility. 

I’m an American, and I’m a patriotic one at that.  We live in a big country with lots of people, and there are attempts to sway elections at the ballot box that aren’t honest, or consistent with our values.  But our history is one of integrity at the voting booth that is unmatched anywhere else in the world, and there’s no reason, especially with the way elections are monitored now, to believe that the few instances of voter fraud or error which are inevitable when more than a hundred million people vote, will have any effect on the outcome of this election.

The privilege of voting, and the peaceful transfer of power, are two of the most basic elements of American democracy, and American greatness.  True patriotism is rooted in these elements.  If you are a patriotic American, and you love your country, you accept these results, understanding that you will have multiple opportunities for your voice to be heard, every time the ballot box comes out, at every level.  The four year term for a President, nestled between the two years for house members and six for the Senate, means that people speak directly to the federal government every two years.  Talk of secession, taking up arms, “rigged” elections and “taking back” the country are the words of the selfish, not those of patriots.  Patriots work within the principles of the system to bring about change and make things better, they don’t destroy it when they don’t get their way.

I will still love and care about people without qualification.

Your relationship with me is not dependent on your political perspective.  My personal principles and values are rooted in my Christian faith.  “If anyone says, ‘I love God.’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen.”  And we have this command from Him:  The one who loves God must also love his brother. I John 4:20-21.  And you can figure out who your “brother” is by taking a look at the way Jesus defined that term.

I’ve deleted a plethora of junk and trash from my social media accounts this election cycle.  When it pops up on its own, it’s easy to get rid of, but when people share stuff that’s been posted elsewhere, it’s not as easy.  The list of slanted media sites that I’ve blocked on Facebook alone takes up three cyberpages, and that doesn’t count Twitter or LinkedIn.  But I haven’t unfriended a single person, or deactivated a single link because I don’t agree with someone’s candidate choices.  I’ve entered into a lot of discussions, respectfully, I hope.  I do my “homework,” and I try to find the facts, rather than the spin.  I believe that living in peace with each other, a Christian principle by the way, transcends those things that are not as important.

I will not engage in name calling, rejection, hatred, or any kind of disparaging comment toward those who didn’t see things the way I do.  I believe that we all must work together to keep our country great, and that we’re at a point where, as citizens, we need to demand that our representatives end gridlock, and think about the people they represent.

Spend an afternoon on 14th St. NW, in Washington, DC.  Walk the whole distance from Thomas Circle to Columbia Heights.  It’ll take a while.  Count how many different languages you hear, how many people from different ethnic backgrounds you encounter, how many different ethnic food restaurants you pass.  That’s the essence of this country.  People can be who they are.  They may be completely different from you, think differently, act differently, worship differently and speak differently, but they are still Americans.  The constitution guarantees your individuality and rights, as it does theirs.

Christians who have a mandate to share the hope that they have are going to find it difficult to get a hearing, much less engage in a relationship with people who sense that they are despised and rejected because they don’t share the same political perspective.

I will not “take my football and go home,” or try to make a mess because I didn’t get my way.  I will continue to advocate for the things in which I believe. 

I’m proud to be an American, and I love my country.  It’s an appreciation for the life I’ve had, and for the freedom I enjoy.  I don’t expect the government to be perfect, but I expect it to be responsive. I would never do anything that would undermine our democratic republic, or endanger our freedoms, like threatening to use arms to “take out” a government I didn’t like, or advocate for states to “secede,” or even civil disobedience.

I don’t believe that America needs to be made great again, because I think it is already great, and that is a concept that doesn’t depend one whit on who is President, or who is in Congress.  It depends on Americans, and what we do.  Whining and complaining is a privilege that has to be earned by more than just participation at the ballot box.  Apathy and disinterest are enemies, and deciding not to get involved because you don’t like what is happening, or you don’t think you can make a difference is a cop out, and its selfish.

I’ve been given a privilege, related to my job, over the past three years that has put me in direct contact with state senators and representatives, and with congressmen and senators.  These are people just like the rest of us.  They put on their pants one leg at a time, or their panty hose.  And most of them, regardless of their political position, are good people with a heart for public service.  Granted, some are self serving.  But for the most part, the people who really make a difference are willing to take the risk that what they do might not be the most popular thing, or that their ideas differ to the point where they must give up votes to stay true to their convictions.  Let talk radio deejays go to the gutter with the name calling, the rest of us need to take the high road.

I believe in this country’s future.  I believe in our constitution and our government, and I believe that its authority comes from the people.  The only threat we face regarding our existence is from within.  No politician is ever going to make a difference if the people aren’t willing to think and act for themselves.  “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

 

 

 

The Second American Civil War

Quote from an article in the Boston Globe from a Trump supporter at a rally in Cincinnati:

“If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,” Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take. . . . I would do whatever I can for my country.”

You can read the whole article here:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2016/10/15/donald-trump-warnings-conspiracy-rig-election-are-stoking-anger-among-his-followers/LcCY6e0QOcfH8VdeK9UdsM/story.html

I’m a firm believer in the constitutional guarantee of free speech.  I’m also a firm believer in the democratic republic that is the United States of America.  It is the greatest country on earth and it doesn’t need to be made great again.  Statements like the one above are a demonstration of ignorance of this country’s history and foundational principles, selfishness that puts personal perspective above everything else, and of what happens when misinformation is allowed to spread unchecked because it profits those who are spreading it in some way.  The person who made that statement is no patriot, and isn’t interested in helping his country, he’s helping himself.

No one who is really interested in helping his country would ever make a statement like that.  No one.  Never. Period.

The divisiveness going on in this election campaign now is nothing like we’ve ever had in modern history.  In my opinion, it’s a consequence of years of inadequate public education about our history and government, and years of affluence in which the pursuit of the almighty dollar is the main values after which Americans chase.  We’ve raised a couple of generations now without teaching critical thinking skills, with the result that many people are not capable of thinking for themselves, and they allow their own self-absorption to separate them from relationships that would lead to different results.

It is also the consequence of our constitutional guarantee of free speech.  There’s profit to be made in the marketplace of ideas, and there are those who realize that playing to people’s fears and prejudices helps them get a big share of it.  When someone resorts to name calling, and castigates people who think and act differently than they do by using terms like “libtards,” and “feminazis,” it should be an instant signal to a reasonable, intelligent, thinking person to turn it off and stop listening.  The acceptance of diversity is a strength, and it is something that this country cannot afford to lose.  It is powerful, because it disarms enemies by removing the weak points where they can attack.  Diversity  turns those who would attack us back because they can’t gain a foothold from which to operate.  The more diverse we are, the less oppression and frustration is felt by people who, because of their identity, are not like the majority.  And it doesn’t matter whether that’s skin color, or country of origin, or religious belief.

The kind of attitude revealed by this particular individual, and by others of his ilk who are coming out of the woodwork, being incited by some right wing media sources, and one of the candidates for President himself, is dangerous.  If you are a patriotic American, you accept the results of elections without complaint, because in fact, there is no reason not to accept it.  Advocating for assassination of a President, or presidential candidate, and threatening revolution, aside from being treason, is a complete abandonment and destruction of the constitutional principles you claim to be defending.  Have you ever read it?  I can be pretty sure that the individual who made this particular statement doesn’t understand how the constitution works, or what it guarantees, and he has nothing but contempt for it, or for the majority that has the right to determine who holds office.

So let’s be honest.  If there are people who are serious about a forceful government takeover because they don’t like the candidate who gets elected to the Presidency, then we will be on the verge of another civil war.  The last one resulted from the election of Abraham Lincoln, and it took generations to repair the physical, emotional, and political damage that was done.  Launching a coup or an assassination, aside from being treason, couldn’t be the result of love for this country, because another civil war would lead to the complete destruction of America.

It’s time to wake up, people!  This kind of rhetoric ought to be setting off alarm bells.  We can’t keep moving in this direction, or we will not have a country to love and defend.

 

 

Can Wikileaks be Trusted?

Is WikiLeaks Reliable? 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

In a simple, one word answer, no.

Can you trust the illegal hacking of constitutionally protected information and privacy?

Can you trust someone who is obviously on a personal power trip, and selectively exposes private documents based on his own perspective, and to affect issues from his side of them?

The standard of journalistic verification, especially among journalists in the US and Western Europe, is pretty high, and involves something that, for reporters is as sacred as confidentiality in the confessional is to Catholics.  The verification of the accuracy of a source, and the protection of the source’s right to privacy are the two pillars on which this principle rests.  You can’t have one without the other.

Both of those principles are violated by wikileaks.  There’s no source confirmation.  So there’s no way to check on the accuracy of a document in a dump, whether its authentic or whether its a calculated fake.  It just gets dumped into the public domain, regardless, where its veracity becomes a matter of personal speculation and bias, but not confirmation of truth.  And on the other side, digging into private communication might be a fun challenge for someone with those kinds of skills (which are more useful in criminal activity than in something legitimate as far as I am concerned) though I don’t believe hacking is moral, or is an indication of any kind of positive character trait.

As far as its effect on this particular election campaign for President goes, I’d say that it helps Hillary Clinton, mainly with the type of people that are attracted to her candidacy, by providing proof that the “other side” is willing to stoop as low as they can go, a pattern that affirms her contention that she has been unfairly attacked for most of her public life.  US intelligence sources have also confirmed that the hacking was done by Russia, and has been traced to some known Russian hacker identification that has appeared before.  Those who accept, and attempt to use the information to discredit her are not likely to be people who would have ever supported her anyway, and this is the sort of thing that appeals to the conspiracy theorists that abound on the Trump side of the campaign, going back even further than the birther nonsense.

The whole thing is a distraction and annoyance to those of us who like to see a campaign be conducted on the issues, and not on conspiracy theories.  But it should be a major concern to all voters, because the interference of a foreign power in our national affairs, particularly a presidential election, and particularly by Russia, because making it a divisive political issue is giving it the kind of credence, and power, that they intend for it to have.  That’s much more critical, and dangerous, to our country and our future than the alleged content of a speech one of the candidates made to Goldman Sachs half a decade ago.

A Change of Direction

This blog came into existence during a time when I was serving on the staff of a Southern Baptist church as a Christian discipleship pastor and general church administrator.  My job transitioned from that, to more of an interim pastor/administrator role during a period of more than two years following the resignation of the pastor.  I became very involved in Texas Baptist, and Southern Baptist convention issues, and joined in with a group of individuals who were contributing to the shaping of denominational opinion through blogging.

All of that came to a rather abrupt end as the opportunity came for me to get back into Christian school education, and serve as a head administrator of a school in Pennsylvania.  I’m still interested in Baptist churches, conventions, and their ministry, and I’m still involved with them when it comes to mission service and commitment.  I still enjoy conversation with the friends I met during those blogging and convention attending years,  and we had a lot in common when it came to our concern for, and support of Baptist ministries and churches, even though we live and work in different places, and maybe don’t always agree on politics.

So for a while now, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted as much, and the themes are different.  I get interesting responses, especially when it comes to political issues, which are the hot buttons right now.  I open my computer and log in, and see thirty views have happened in just a few hours after a post, many of whom leave comments, and with my rules, many comments are either edited completely or they are not shared, not because I disagree, but because I know I have readers who are current and former students, and individuals in churches where I’ve lived and served, and I want to be faithful to my values and standards.

I’m giving a name change some real consideration.  I haven’t put up a lot of political posts here in the past, but I like to talk politics.  I taught high school students social studies, including Government and Economics and American History for years, and I have a graduate degree in the field, so, well, why not?  The name of the blog came from living in Texas, and is kind of a play on both the source of my writing, and a song that is very well known and associated with that part of the country.  Then again, I’ve been writing her for about 10 years, so perhaps a change of name now isn’t necessary.  At any rate, I hope if you’ve been reading, you continue, and you comment every now and then.  If the name changes, I’ll leave a link and a way to find the new address.

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.