Skip to content

Category: Politics

It is time us Americans to grow up

Fifty—a hundred—years from now, history is going to shine its light on this past week in the United States and cringe if not maybe throw up in its mouth a little.

One week ago today, former president—and current presidential candidate—Donald Trump was shot during a campaign rally. By what many called divine intervention, Trump turned his head as the shooter pulled the trigger, marking the difference between a clean head-shot and a mere grazing of the ear.

Before this, every presidential assassination—or attempt—has caused the nation to pause. It didn’t matter if one was a Democrat or Republican, Americans have instinctively circled the wagons around their leader to collectively share their horror, grief, and anger following the event.

I was in the seventh grade with President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr. Lesson plans were put on hold as my teacher wheeled in a TV set to watch the updates following the horrific event. Politics paused. Debate took a breath. America became united that day.

At least for a time.

That was when we were still human.

That was when we saw each other as human.

That was when we weren’t categorized by our political or religious opinions.

This last week was the antithesis to all of American history.

The week following Trump’s assassination attempt was not the starting point of this change. It was more of a culmination.

In the hours since a bloodied Trump was rushed off-stage, posts surfaced on social media of individuals grieving that fact that the shooter missed. And this wasn’t just limited to wannabe influencers screaming in their parents’ basements. A Pennsylvania Fire Chief advised the shooter: “A little to the right next time please.”[1] (Ironically, the one individual killed during the assassination attempt was Pennsylvania firefighter Corey Comperatore.) A police sergeant in Dallas posted: “Aim better.”[2] A staffer for the New Jersey Education Association, stated: “What we know: they missed. Smh.”[3] A teacher in Ardmore City Schools in Oklahoma wished the Trump shooter “had [a] better scope.”[4] A school counselor in Yadkin County Schools posted: “I’m currently sitting on the beach this afternoon, disturbed by the fact, sickened with myself, that I was disappointed the shooter missed when I saw the news.”[5]

Fortunately, all of those examples posted above were either fired or resigned following the exposure to their hatred.

How did America get to this? How have we crossed the line between arguing over different political philosophies and wishing political opponents dead.

The media has to take a great deal of the blame. The late commentator Dr. Charles Krauthammer once said “Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.”

The media, government bureaucracy, and the entertainment industry has run with the latter.

For nine years, Trump was vilified, demonized, and dehumanized in these institutions. In this campaign, the Democrats have run solely on Trump being “an existential threat to American democracy.” Joe Biden himself stated that Donald Trump and his voters “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.”[6]

For nine years, America has seen photos of “comedian” Kathy Griffin holding up a bloodied, severed head of Trump, Madonna saying she would like to blow up the White House, TV anchors and journalist calling everything Trump said were “lies” without specifically describing what those lies are. Then a week before the assassination attempt, one magazine cover showed a close-up of Trump with a Hitler mustache. Recently, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, tapping into her hyperbole and lack of historical understanding, referred to Trump as a Nazi. This vitriolic rhetoric has come from the highest levels, including Biden himself. Even the White House itself has called Trump a fascist, racist, and “existential threat to democracy.”

With that kind of rhetoric, it is no surprise that one off-kilter ne’er-do-well decided to take it in his own hands to “neutralize” this threat to democracy. With that kind of vitriol, it was simply a matter of time before something like this was to happen.

My hope in the days after the Trump shooting would be that America would pause in the same way it had done throughout history. I prayed we would take time to reflect how we got here. There were calls to tone down the heated rhetoric. However, in typical American methodology, we acknowledged the heated rhetoric while at the same time justifying their own rhetoric because the other side is so evil.

I at least hoped that the media would stop and reflect what part they played in the heated rhetoric.

Sadly, that was not to happen.

The initial CNN headline initially reporting the assassination attempt was—and I wish I was joking: “Secret Service Rushes Trump Off Stage After He Falls at Rally.” The Associated Press’s headline read: “Donald Trump Has Been Escorted Off The Stage During A Rally After Loud Noises Ring Out In The Crowd.”[7]

In the days to follow, individuals seriously asked if the shooting was staged with one report stating in a poll 12% “suspected the event was ‘planned’, and 33% of Joe Biden’s supporters thought it was a set up.”[8]  (And I thought conservatives were supposed to be the conspiracy theorists.) Fortunately, most of the main press openly corrected that misinformation.

Still, one does not look far to see the media downplay the shooting or simply to redraw the focus. When Trump stands after being shot and shouts “Fight! Fight! Fight!”, CNN’s Jamie Gangel lamented that this is “not the message that we want to be sending right now.”[9] CNN played victim in the aftermath: “You’re Next: Some Trump supporters blame the media for the assassination attempt.”[10] ABC’s George Stephanopoulos while basically denying President Biden contributed to the heated rhetoric implied Trump and his supporters share some of the blame: “President Trump and his supporters have – have contributed to this violent rhetoric as well.”[11] (Note: to a point, he is correct; however, to compare the Conservative’s rhetoric with that of Progressive’s is like comparing the shooting a bullet and throwing one.)

Likely the most retarded—and I use the literally definition of the word—came from MSNBC’s Joy Reid who, not only questioned if Trump was even shot, compared President Biden getting COVID (something that has happened to him three times) with Trump getting shot (something that has happened only a handful of times in American history:

This current President of the United States is 81 years old and has COVID, should he be fine in a couple of days, doesn’t that convey exactly the same thing? That he’s strong enough – older than Trump – to have gotten something that used to really be fatal to people his age. So, if he does fine out of it and comes back and is able to do rallies, isn’t that exactly the same?[12]

Sadly, America has not used the time following the shooting to reflect and commit to doing rhetoric differently. We have not looked within to see how we ourselves, individually and institutionally, contributed to the problem. (I even see a progressive response to this essay as: “well, you’re doing it right now” although I propose that shining a light on ugly examples of heated rhetoric is not the same as calling someone Hitler or wishing death upon political opponents.)

On Friday(July 19), congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee lost the battle to cancer at the age of 72. She was a Democrat and very liberal. Instead of celebrating her death, Republican Senator Ted Cruz posts: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of my friend & colleague Sheila Jackson Lee. She was a tireless advocate for Houston. I will always cherish our friendship & the laughter we shared throughout the years. Heidi & I offer our prayers and sincerest condolences to her family.”[13]

We can and will have heated political discourse. That’s the strength of our republic.

But we have to stop seeing each other as evil. No one running for office is an “existential threat to democracy.” Anyone who has a novice knowledge of history knows that no one running for office is anything close to Adolf Hitler.

It is a difference of opinion. Everyone has one.

The person expressing a difference is still a human, one created in God’s image.

It is clear we can’t trust the media to tone down the heated rhetoric.

Instead, we have to do it ourselves.

I truly believe this is an area where the kingdom of God can clearly lead.


[1] https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/pennsylvania-fire-chief-resigns-over-inappropriate-post-about-trump-assassination-attempt/ar-BB1q6w6O

[2] https://www.dallasnews.com/news/public-safety/2024/07/15/donald-trump-shooting-dallas-police/

[3] https://www.shorenewsnetwork.com/2024/07/16/njea-staffer-goes-dark-after-posting-comment-about-shooter-missing-trump/

[4] https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/oklahoma-education-official-to-revoke-license-of-teacher-who-wished-trump-shooter-had-better-scope/ar-BB1qaOKL

[5] https://www.yadkinripple.com/townnews/politics/yadkin-schools-counselor-resigns-following-trump-comments/article_dd95eec2-4446-11ef-a79d-6789cdc02aff.html

[6] https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/biden-calls-for-calm-after-years-of-calling-trump-threat-to-democracy/ar-BB1q0UbZ

[7] https://nypost.com/2024/07/14/opinion/lefty-media-kept-bias-on-full-display-after-trump-was-shot/

[8] https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/a-fifth-of-us-voters-think-donald-trump-s-shooting-could-have-been-staged/ar-BB1q5TuZ

[9] https://www.mediaite.com/tv/cnns-jamie-gangel-complains-about-trump-shouting-fight-fight-fight-just-seconds-after-being-shot/

[10] https://www.cnn.com/trump-supporters-blame-media/index.html

[11] https://www.mediaite.com/tv/abcs-martha-raddatz-singles-out-republican-rhetoric-for-ire-in-wake-of-attempted-

[12] https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/joy-reid-suggest-biden-recovering-from-covid-is-exactly-the-same-thing-as-trump-surviving-an-assassination/ar-BB1qblgY

[13] https://www.khou.com/article/news/local/sheila-jackson-lee-death-reaction/285-ea90e62c-6299-4dad-9b55-49cb35f951f3

Leave a Comment

How the church lost our prophetic voice in 2016 (and how we might get it back)

On Friday, our next president will be sworn in.

The 2016 election ended the most bizarre, unsettling campaign season I’ve ever seen. Afterward I felt great relief, not because my candidate won (I couldn’t vote for either major candidate) but because it was finally over.

Thankfully, mercifully, happily over.

Then the protests and riots began—the most violent of them in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. The losers threw tantrums while the winners gloated.

My heart hasn’t stopped aching about the 2016 election season. However, what troubled me most was not the candidates, but the body of Christ. I consider 2016 to be the year the church lost its prophetic voice.

Both progressive and conservative Christians took their eyes off God’s simple requirement: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). Each side seemed to have a sickening case of tunnel vision, condemning vile behaviors in the other candidate while overlooking equally vile behaviors in their own. God’s people could have called for justice and repentance without scrambling down into the mud with everyone else. But we didn’t. So we lost our prophetic voice.

What do I mean by prophetic voice?

Consider King David.

In 2 Samuel, David had just committed a string of terrible sins. First, he sleeps with the wife of Uriah, one of his top warriors. Then, when she gets pregnant, he craftily calls Uriah back from the battlefield for a little—ahem!—“R&R” with her, to hide who the father is; but Uriah won’t enter his own home because doing so would dishonor his fellow warriors, who are still fighting and can’t enjoy such luxuries. Thwarted, David resorts to premeditated murder. He commands his general to put Uriah on the front lines and then withdraw the troops, leaving Uriah to be killed.

The plan works; David gets away with both adultery and murder.

Until the prophet Nathan shows up to tell the king a story:

“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him” (1 Samuel 12:1-4).

Hearing this tale of injustice, David rages: “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity” (12:5-6).

Only then does Nathan close the trap: “You are that man” (12:7).

This story can help us understand the prophetic voice, and also how we lost it.

The prophetic voice speaks truth to power. Nathan had to deliver a stinging rebuke to a king. Although David’s kingdom was ruled by God’s law (the Torah), in a monarchy the king is the arbiter of the law, and can essentially do whatever he wants. Though David was considered a man after God’s own heart, he did not hesitate to commit sin and then hide it.

I admit I can get pretty starry-eyed around “kings” (people who have wealth and fame – like when I used to do on-air interviews of musicians, politicians, and other celebrities at a Christian radio station). In fact, who doesn’t? For some reason, most of us want rich, famous people to think we are cool. However, if God so instructed, would I have the courage to speak God’s uncomfortable truth to power? Nathan did, even knowing it might cause his political downfall or possibly his physical death.

It took great courage for the prophet to deliver this rebuke to a king. But the prophetic voice must speak God’s truth to whomever God instructs, no matter how powerful and no matter what the potential consequence.

The prophetic voice must transcend our own political agenda. Nathan could have convinced himself that maybe he didn’t hear God correctly, or that David’s sin wasn’t all that bad. After all, David was doing some great things: establishing a beautiful capital in Jerusalem, bringing the ark of the covenant back home, and defeating some pretty bad enemies of Israel. He was a good king overall, so why care about his personal life? Why bother with his sins (or “mistakes”)? After all, bringing him down would d– evastate not only the palace and royal family, but the entire nation as well.

When my alma mater’s president posed next to then-candidate Donald Trump with a Playboy cover on the wall behind them, I cringed. I know he didn’t pick where he stood in Trump’s office, but that photo seemed representative of what was going on among Christians at that time: we were more than willing to overlook sin if it benefited our political agenda. Maybe Trump was our guy because he preached pro-life, so we didn’t care about his playboy lifestyle; or maybe Clinton was our gal because she preached benefits for all, so we didn’t care about her unethical practices; or maybe Sanders was our guy because he preached social justice, so we didn’t care that he doesn’t even really believe in God.

So we lost the moral high ground. Or, as Judge Judy says, we accused without clean hands. We found that we cannot call out the splinter in our opponent’s eye when we have a plank in our own.

The prophetic voice should lead to a repentant heart. Nathan approached David not just to spew vitriole or delegitimize his kingship, but to call David to repentance. And David immediately responded, “I have sinned against the Lord” (12:13). Psalm 51 beautifully expresses his repentance:

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain m
(Psalm 51:10-12).

True, David was a true follower of God who cared deeply about God’s opinion, while many of today’s politicians and pundits aren’t. Still, we don’t even try to do what Nathan did: confront them directly and call them to account, led by God with the purpose of effecting repentance. Instead we confront them indirectly on social media, led by our own silly passion—pointlessly mocking them, repeating wild rumors about them, and insulting their followers. That’s the world’s methodology, and we are not being God’s prophetic voice when we imitate it. Our objective must be repentance—which, by the way, always includes our own.

So, under a new president, can the church regain its prophetic voice? Or will we keep practicing the world’s ways of jeering, rejecting, and tearing down without building up?

I hope we’ll do the former. But we’ll have to look within. Will we try to speak God’s truth, in love, to everyone or just to those with whom we disagree? Will we seek justice for all, or only for those we personally deem oppressed? Will we pray for our president, not for him to grow a brain or roll over dead but to humbly repent, seek reconciliation, and lead our nation with wisdom and grace?

Nathan’s gentle, truthful approach softened David’s heart to hear God’s words. We too must maintain a gentle spirit of repentance for ourselves, our opposition, and our whole society. God’s kingdom must come first; no political party, preference, or agenda is more important.

To regain our prophetic voice, we must be brave, loving, and consistent, or else remain silent.

I am pretty sure silence is not an option.

We must do better.

Leave a Comment

Seriously, what is going on with this presidential election, and what do we do now?

hillary_clinton_vs-_donald_trump_-_caricaturesIn the last few days – amid yet another outbreak of scandalous news items and a second debate involving the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates – traditional and social media continue to warn us that if the “wrong” candidate wins, the sky will fall, children will starve, and the Yellowstone caldera will erupt.

Then there are thoughtful commentaries by Christian writers and leaders, trying to present biblical reasons why Christians should vote one way or the other. Theologian Mirasolv Volf says the policies of Hillary Clinton best represent Christian values; theologian Wayne argues that Trump is the better choice.

Christian progressives wag their fingers at Christian conservatives for being single-issue voters, without admitting that they themselves often are too. And don’t get me started on the old argument that “if you don’t vote, then X will win and the sky will fall, children will starve, and the Yellowstone caldera will erupt.”

If I am for anything in this election, it is for hitting the reboot button on 2016 and trying again.

I am pretty sure that as Jesus watches this election, he is slowly beating his head against the pearly gates.

Of all the presidential elections in my ever-lengthening lifetime, this one is the most bizarre, frustrating, and insane. If nothing else, it is a commentary on the level to which we the American people have sunk.

As an independent who leans right of center on most issues, my struggle is not which candidate to vote for, but whether to vote at all. I know, I know – in a constitutional democratic republic such as ours, voting is a privilege and a duty. I agree. But this time, it feels like a choice between being buried alive and being burned at the stake. How can I vote for either?

Honestly, as an evangelical Christian, I have serious problems with both of the top two candidates. Equally.

I know it’s un-Christlike, but I have trouble seeing either of them with the compassion of Christ. I would prefer that neither one be my president. Neither exhibits the moral compass or the character traits I desire in my nation’s leader. Both seem corrupted, out of touch with ordinary people, and willing to say anything to get votes. And in truth, one cannot—absolutely cannot—point out the character flaws in one without pointing out virtually the same flaws in the other. (The conspiracy theorist in me can’t shake the uneasy feeling that we, the people, are somehow being played.)

No matter who becomes president, I am not optimistic about the next four years.

So as Christ-followers, what do we do? Here is my advice to all Christian voters, which I really hope to follow myself.

Vote your own personal conscience. If, unlike me, you have a preference of one candidate over another, by all means vote. Even if you simply feel led to choose one as the lesser of two evils so the other doesn’t win, then cast your ballot. But don’t delude yourself that your candidate will advance Christian values. In politics, Christians – like most other segments of our society – are just a voting block to be patronized or demonized every election year. No matter what is promised before the election, Christian concerns are unlikely to carry any special clout afterward.

Pray for the candidates and other leaders. It looks like either Clinton or Trump soon will be elected president. Yet neither seems to be seeking God’s perspective. That’s all the more reason to follow the biblical mandate to pray for them, and for our other leaders. And our prayers should be not cynical (“Lord, help this idiot to get a clue”) but sincere, seeking God’s wisdom, discernment, and protection over the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court as well. We must pray with a pure heart for the occupants of all three.

Remember that God’s kingdom is greater than earthly governments. The kingdom of God never has been, and never will be, represented by any secular government. It begins in our hearts, not in Washington, D.C. – and is carried out through our own actions, not through the actions of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of government. No matter who wins this election, things can change, rights can be taken, and Christians can be pushed further toward the margins. But the kingdom of God has outlasted countless forms of government in the last two thousand years. We can be pretty sure it will outlast a Clinton or Trump presidency. It will even outlast a shift in the Supreme Court.

In less than a month we will have a new president, and the winning side will wrongly claim that their win is a mandate. (I say wrongly because when a majority of voters see both candidates unfavorably and blindly vote for the one they find slightly less despicable than the other, that’s not a mandate.) Then the losing side will vow cooperation with the new administration, while at the same time planning its demise.

Many voters will be filled with gratitude that this surreal election is over – but also filled with fear and anger at the outcome. Maybe, instead of railing against the new administration, we should spend the next four years reflecting on how the winner was able to channel that fear and anger into votes by tickling our ears.

And each Christ-follower should spend the next four years being the church to his or her own little corner of the world. Doing so will bring change far better and faster than any bloated bureaucracy ever could.

6pnyquv

1 Comment

Reclaiming my identity in Christ, not politics

Especially during election season, politics make me crazy – and Facebook is the first place I show it.

Usually, it begins with news of some political action or position I find untenable. I sink into a funk and share witty quips to expose it – but too often I take personal aim at its supporters, devolving into biting sarcasm. Since my ultimate goal is to be loving, not biting, I’m constantly asking God to save me from myself (and constantly thanking him for the “delete” function).

One recent funk started on a Tuesday, the day of the Oregon primary election. All morning I tried to ignore my ballot on the corner of my desk, debating whether it was worth the effort to turn it in. I have never been so unexcited about voting in my life.

political_partiesLike millions of other voters, over time I have felt more and more beaten down by politicians from both major political parties – specifically by their tone-deaf disregard for us, their constituents. However, our current choices, specifically for president, seem no better than those of the past; in fact, to me they seem much worse. In most elections I am concerned that my candidate might lose, but this time I am horrified that one of the remaining choices is actually going to win.

They’ve ignored us, lied to us, insulted us, and promised us a fantasy so far beyond the Constitutional powers of a president that no president could legally deliver on it.

But we don’t seem to know or care; we just keep crying out, “Gimme! Gimme!”

It seems Paul’s ancient warning about theological pandering could apply almost equally to political pandering today:

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3, NIV).

Sadly, there are a lot of teachers, leaders, politicians, academics, and even ministers willing to tickle those itching ears. It is amazing how quickly we will abandon critical thinking in our quest for identity and security. Like a barnacle on a boat, we’ll latch on to anything – including any leader, no matter how crass, dishonest, or delusional – just to hear what we want to hear.

However, as I stared in depression at that ballot, I realized something which brought me great hope.

identity1It is this: I haven’t lost my identity at all. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I identify with the kingdom of God. I don’t have to fight or campaign for it because it has been given to me. My kingdom identity cannot be taken from me in an election, nor is it represented by a political party. This identity does not need to be affirmed by a fickle candidate or cause, and its existence is not contingent on popular support.

Further, I realized that the church has an opportunity to re-establish its identity within the culture. No matter who wins the election, we may have lost the culture wars in America – but we can still be spiritual warriors in God’s kingdom.

How? To do so, we must wrestle with three important questions:

1) What is the church’s most important role in our society right now? Is it to champion a cause or a belief, or is it to serve people in Jesus’ name?

Currently, in the U.S., I believe it is the latter. The Christian right correctly believes we are to be a moral voice in our culture, telling the truth about sin and repentance. The Christian left correctly believes we are to be advocates for “the least of these,” helping the poor and oppressed. However, in both cases, we as Christians should be doing those things ourselves – not trying to get the government to do them.

2) Are we ready to submit all of our political agendas to Jesus as King? After all, when the presidential election is over, the “winners” will herald utopia while the “losers” will proclaim disaster; but the new administration will last only a few short years before another will take its place. Do we truly believe that God’s very kingdom itself depends on the outcome of human governments?

Newsflash: No political party – conservative, progressive, or socialist – can claim exclusive rights to the kingdom of God, which is far greater than Trump, Clinton, or Sanders. His kingdom will outlast this election and all future elections.

3) Are we willing to lose our place in society in order to gain Jesus? In the U.S., we Christians struggle with the idea that our faith is becoming marginalized. One could argue whether we were ever a “Christian” nation, but even if we were, we are quickly becoming a secular one. We are now on the outside looking in, living in the margins. The question is, what should we be doing in those margins?

Maybe, instead of working to reclaim America as a Christian nation, we should be working to surrender America to God.

No matter who wins the election.

thebodyofChrist

Leave a Comment

“Hosanna!”: The presidential election, terrorism, and the state of the world

Last Saturday in Arizona, protesters tried to silence a presidential candidate while supporters retaliated with fisticuffs.

Hours later, on Palm Sunday, Christians commemorated Jesus’s kingly entrance into Jerusalem.

The next day, in Brussels, terrorist attacks killed over 30 people and injured at least 200 more.

This year has been that kind of surreal.

The elections, the unrest, the terror—all of this craziness makes me feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed and afraid.

I can’t quite describe my feelings, but they include anger, horror, frustration, numbness, bewilderment and more, depending on what’s in the news each day.

I am distressed and heartbroken over the terrorism, crying out to God for the victims. But I can’t stop it. So I focus on something closer to home: election year, and how our next president might respond to terrorism and all of the other problems facing us, both here and abroad.

uncertainty-aheadYet it unnerves me to think who We, the people may choose as our next president. I am so un-thrilled by the choices that if I had to vote today, I couldn’t, even while holding my nose. I simply cannot shake the feeling that we are preparing to elect a dictator—because that’s what we seem to want.

I say this because I see a trend of feverish devotion, with several candidates being exalted to nearly messianic status. I understand that in a democratic republic, researching the candidates and trying to support the best one is a good thing. But where is the line between “support” and “worship”?

I’m not sure, but I think we border on worship when we defend our candidates by…

-shouting down or cold-cocking the opposition.

-attacking other candidates’ shortcomings while giving our own candidate a pass for the same offenses.

-name-calling and bullying anyone who dares to question our candidate.

-insisting that our candidate is the only one who has the answers.

All of these could fit the definition of “worship.”

It’s funny how history repeats itself.

In 2008 we elected a president based on a promise of “hope and change”—yet the world is still divided, hate-filled, and violent. Now we are preparing to elect one based on promises of “revolution” or “national greatness.” More and more these days, we seem to believe that the right person will be able to solve everything, and ring in utopia. Yet in truth, any president is lucky to fulfill maybe five percent, at most, of everything promised on the campaign trail (because our laws clearly define what a president can and cannot do—thank goodness for the Constitution’s “division of powers”!). In fact, no matter how great their desire, vision, and ability, none of these leaders will ever be able to save us—as a nation, or as individuals.

It has never happened, and it never will. 

Well, except once.

Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, things were much the same as they are today. Then, as now, people felt a sense of political unrest and unhappiness with the government (and it was a government of brutal Roman occupiers, not their own self-government). Then, as now, many of Jesus’s followers were seeking a social revolution instead of a spiritual one. Then, as now, they despaired when their leader didn’t do what they wanted. And then, as now, people feared forces beyond their control and longed for a messiah to deliver them.

Yet Jesus came in riding into town not on a white steed, like a military hero, but on a humble donkey.

Palm%20Sunday_jpgAnd crowds of Jews spread palm branches before him and cried, “Hosanna!”—a rich, ancient word that we now use only on Palm Sunday. But I’m thinking we should revive it, because its meaning is, “Lord, save us!” (Psalm 118:25)—an urgent and desperate cry for deliverance.

The people were quoting this word from the Psalms. They weren’t welcoming Jesus into their city; they were pleading for divine rescue—as at Passover when God rescued their ancestors from slavery in Egypt, and as at Calvary when he rescued humanity from sin. No one knew it yet, but Jesus was coming to completely and finally answer the cries of “Hosanna.” He was coming to rescue us all.

Ironically, those cries for rescue would be answered just days later, after these same crowds turned on Jesus and demanded his death—the very death which would save the world.

If only they had known.

And now, during this holy Passion Week, we need saving more than ever. We see Americans attacking one another, a capital city recovering from fatal bombings, and a world possibly inching closer to the next great war.

None of this is exactly new (we’ve seen it all before), but it still feels so chaotic, so desperate, so uncertain. I simply do not have answers—nor, despite the politicians’ promises, does anyone else.

I’ve lived long enough to realize that we will never be rescued by anyone on the ballot.

And at that realization, my spirit cries, “Hosanna! Lord, save us!”

Only one Messiah has sacrificed himself for us, instead of for his own political ends. Only one Messiah possesses all of the power, authority, and credentials required to save us.

There is only one Savior.

And he is not currently running for President.

810_2689-f8-stars

Leave a Comment

Why I am already giving up on 2016

20130704-defeat-chess1When things are beyond our control, we tend to “give up” in one of two ways. The first way, which does little good, is to appear to give up by saying, “I’m done” – and throwing up our hands in disgust. The second way, which I recommend, is to truly give up.

Let me explain.

In 2015, I tried the first way.

I immersed myself in the news, trying to get my mind around the emerging crises of city riots, global terrorism, leadership vacuums, and the uneasy feeling that we may be headed toward another world war.

I couldn’t discuss these issues on social media, because the response there is always character assassination from angry people with pat answers which they (wrongly) believe will solve everything. So I internalized my concerns and frustrations. But that choice led to worry and despair. Many nights I couldn’t sleep because my mind raced with headlines, talking heads, and complete nonsense I had heard during the day.

Finally, I defiantly told the world (well, at least, my little world): “I’m done.” Done with the chaos that appeared to multiply with each passing day. Done with not being told the truth, or being told that the truth doesn’t matter. Done with the idiocy of social media. And definitely done with elections –all of the posturing, defending, promising, accusing, and denying.

Done.

I threw up my hands, gave the world the finger, and plunged my head into the sand. I chose ignorance over awareness. I pretended that since I couldn’t see or hear all the madness, it had disappeared.

On the surface, this approach had some merit: it gave me a moment of peace.

Unfortunately, though, the harder we try to ignore something, the more we think about it. Announcing “I’m done!” can never change the soul. Inside, I was still as uptight and stressed as ever.

So my moment of peace was an illusion, because it never healed my inner turmoil. It didn’t eliminate my frustration and anxiety, or their cause; it only drove them underground. My mouth said, “I’m done” – but my heart continued to pump vinegar. The fire – the fight – was still there. I was just denying the problem, yelling, “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!” with my ears covered – and then washing my hands of the whole situation.

But in doing so, like Pontius Pilate, I missed the Truth himself – standing right in front of me.

I realized that, despite every attempt to withdraw and hide, I was still overwhelmed by the vitriol, the violence, the threat of war, the lack of direction, the uncertainty in the world. No matter what I did, I could not escape the insanity all around me.

At about that time, 2015 ended and 2016 began.

So I decided that in the new year, I would work on trying the second approach: truly giving up.

I would quit fighting. Raise the white flag. Tap out. Accept my total helplessness to affect world events. Understand that the issues before us have no simple solutions, no easy answers.

Truly giving up doesn’t mean washing my hands of the whole mess, but rather admitting it’s out of my hands. Embracing my inability to fix things. Acknowledging that there may be no earthly solutions at all.

3985490626_4ece1bf58aTruly giving up may seem like a hopeless response – but it is not, because it shifts my focus back to the Creator of the universe. And staying focused on him is the most hopeful response there is.

Since 2008, when “hope” was used as a campaign slogan, the word has lost its power. Just as in every other election, we placed hope in a finite man who made many promises, but things didn’t get better. In fact, one could argue that they’ve gotten worse. And now we have a new batch of candidates stepping up to the plate, again asking us to place our hope in them.

But by truly giving up, I am choosing to place my hope in God, who is far bigger than any candidate or cause.

When I do that, my peace returns. When I focus on Jesus, the Prince of Peace, I find peace that can’t be quashed by parliamentary procedures, executive orders, or judicial override. Peace that can’t be won or lost in an election. Peace that can’t be stomped out by terrorism.

Then I don’t have to work so hard to ignore all of the unraveling going on around me. I don’t have to fret, stress, or worry over it. Instead, I can give it up to a Creator who thoroughly understands every problem – and holds every solution.

And he is GOOD.

So that is why I choose to give up on 2016.

In other words: surrender.

Take it, Savior. It’s all yours.

550995_10150911342631192_1110867674_n

2 Comments

Five reasons I hate debate on social media

 

Recently, I broke my cardinal rule to avoid joining political debates, especially in social media. Just before heading out to see a movie with a friend—like a real, actual human in the flesh—I went online and checked my Twitter account.

And there it was: A provocative political comment at the top of my feed, beckoning me to respond. Such comments are my kryptonite, my greatest danger. They often come across as punchy and irrefutable to those who agree, but shallow and half-baked to those who don’t – and they tempt me to respond with some quick, off-the-cuff remark which I immediately regret. So I am constantly on the alert to ignore them. But this comment was especially hard to ignore; it was one of those that seemed ripe for a ready-made zinger.

Usually, I type out my zinger and then delete it when my  better judgement convinces me to let it go. But this time, my better judgement was late to the party and I clicked send. True to form, immediately I regretted it and tried to delete my reply, but the poster had already seen it and had sent me a direct question.

Like an idiot, I took a shot at an answer. The next thing I knew, we were locked in a pointless spiral of “thrust and parry” which went on for at least an hour. Fortunately, I came to my senses and bowed out. But I still felt like crap the rest of the day.

DebateBelieve me, I have opinions on culture and politics. They’re pretty strong and can be uttered with great—I daresay uncontrollablepassion (see the “Zealot” chapter in my book, Losers Like Us). But experience has taught me two things about getting myself into any debate on political topics: 1) Nothing good ever comes out of it, and 2) I feel incredibly icky afterward.

I have yet to come across an exception.

Thus, my cardinal rule to avoid such debates.

My original reason for making this rule was not simply to stick my head in the sand, away from the stresses of politics (although that is a wonderful side benefit), but to keep my relationships peaceful. As a broken person who has experienced the need for healing myself, I want to spend my time healing others, not debating them. I want to listen and help, instead of trading jabs which diminish and divide us.

But diminishment and division is exactly what happened in my ill-advised Twitter debate.

The truth is, our society has changed. In the age of social media, debate isn’t what it used to be.

So below, I share my rationale for seeking to remain as apolitical as possible, especially in online forums,

Social media has changed the goal of debate. There was a time when debate was used as a tool to change hearts and minds regarding worthy causes. For example, after the Revolutionary War, robust debate was used at America’s Constitutional Convention to persuade adamantly opposed conventioneers that the new nation needed a Constitution. The persuasion was successful, and the Constitution was adopted. Similarly, in England, William Wilberforce used tireless debate to convince adamantly opposed parliamentarians to end slavery. Again, the effort was successful.

But in social media, the goal is for the poster to shout down all opponents with brute insults, just to get “likes” or “retweets” from those who already agree with him or her. Changing hearts and minds is the least-considered objective.

Wallistweet copySocial media has also changed the strategy of debate. The strategy of official competitive debate is to start with a stated premise and examine its legitimacies and fallacies with critical thinking. But in social media, the strategy is simply to throw out an inflammatory statement, fishing for a response. When someone takes the bait and challenges that statement, the initial poster often asks a question. This is a good strategy; however, in social media it’s used not to understand others, but to sideswipe them. Asking a question casts the poster into the role of superior, nuanced teacher, and the responder into the role of defensive, inferior student who must try to give a complex answer in a short sentence or two. (Note – if you can’t think of a question, a good default is “What do you mean by ________?”)

Social media limits our words, and therefore our thinking. Great thinkers have written volumes of books debating complex political issues—yet in social media, somehow we think we can reduce these issues to 140 characters on Twitter. That’s about the length of the sentence you just read. And Facebook and other forums aren’t much better. Everything is abbreviated. No matter how hard we try, social media can never capture the essence of a person’s knowledge and experience, or the contextual nuances of her perspective.

politcaltweetSo we shoot back a reply based on one sentence, launching a quibble-fest that devolves into simplistic arguments and ridiculous name-calling until one or both parties grows tired and leaves the discussion. No one wins; yet each side typically claims victory.

Social media eliminates face-to-face contact, and thus a bit of our humanity. Online, we are reduced to little more than avatars, making it easy for us to stereotype one another. But we forget that behind every avatar and every zinger is a real human being for whom Christ died. And if that human being believes in Christ, we will be sharing the Great Feast in heaven, no matter how much we disagree here on earth.

Occasionally, a poster will try to sound more humane by calling the opposition something like,  “my progressive friends” or “my conservative friends” – but this phrase usually masks subtle mockery of, rather than true respect for, that opposing group. If the insulting stance is called out, the poster generally feigns innocence, like Miss Piggy: “Who—moi?” The truth is, when people are face-to-face, most would be too ashamed—and rightly so—to use the scathing language which is commonly used online.

Political debate tends to divide the body of Christ. Last week, when a shooter killed nine prayer warriors at the historic Emanuel AME (“Mother Emanuel”) church in Charleston, South Carolina, believers glorified Jesus in a very dark situation. Supported in spirit by the body of Christ across the country (see onechurchliturgy.com), the victims’ families faced the killer and told him they forgave him. From those saints and from the solidarity of churches nationwide, I learned more about forgiveness and grace that week than in all of my years at seminary. In social media, some have tried to divide the body by politicizing the shooting—but such efforts have largely fallen flat due to the unity of the churches.

thebodyofChristThe kingdom of God is about showing Christ’s light. It is about his followers caring for the poor, the sick, and the oppressed (instead of trying to get the government to do it for us—that’s just laziness). We have the resources to represent God’s kingdom on earth, but we cannot do it unless factions of believers stop bashing each other and recognize that we are part of his kingdom first, even though we may disagree on some issues.

Debate is healthy. It stimulates thought and drives the democratic process. But we are Christ-followers first. Our mission is to lift up Jesus, not a political party, candidate, or referendum. None of these can perfectly embody the kingdom of God. Cramming God’s kingdom into a political party (as if we could) makes the kingdom subservient to the party.

John 3:17 (NIV) says: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” If you are a Christ-follower who feels called into the area of politics or political debate on some level, then prayerfully follow that call. But no Christian is called to mudslinging. Instead, we are called to reflect Christ’s salvation throughout cyberspace and to the ends of the earth.

Leave a Comment

Ahh…political! Relief from earthly politics

elephant-donkey-boxingAs my blog evolves, I often reflect on experiences in my life and how they relate to my overall life message.

One area I have consciously worked to avoid is politics. It’s not that I don’t have political opinions; I do. And sometimes I can get passionate about an issue. Sometimes I want to tear my hair out when I don’t agree with local or national politics in our country.

But politics can deeply divide people into pro vs. con, us vs. them, progressive vs. conservative, or—in Christian-speak—God’s prophet vs. Satan incarnate. I’m sad to think public discourse can be so polarizing, but unfortunately, divisiveness is a part of our fallen nature.

There was a time when I truly believed that the implementation of God’s kingdom on earth depended upon the victory of a particular party. Honest. If “my” candidate won, all was well in the world. If he or she lost…well, pass the Prozac. So, as a follower of Christ who sincerely desired God’s will for my nation, state, and town, my “kingdom work” revolved around leaving literature in screen doors and encouraging people to vote – which, especially if I believed in a particular cause or candidate, I did with conviction. (And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that.)

But it never happened – the implementation of God’s will through political means, that is. Politics is too wobbly. Whenever a particular party actually got in and held the majority in government, it seemed to result in either a scandal or the collective governmental IQ falling to the level of bean dip – mainly because whenever one party has a strong majority, especially for a long time, the opposition becomes too weak to check them, challenge them, or counterbalance them.

My kingdom view began to change as well. As I sought Jesus’ direct support for my cause, I quickly realized the difficulty of that task. I found that Jesus was apolitical, and no political philosophy can lay sole claim to his teachings. Despite popular implications that he was liberal, conservative, or anything else, he refused to be categorized as anything other than God. His enemies constantly set him up and baited him, but each time they thought they had him pegged, he skillfully twisted out of their grasp. And despite being wrongly accused and executed as a revolutionary king (so in a way, you could say politics killed him), he steadfastly resisted citizenship in any earthly political system, demonstrating again and again that his citizenship was in the kingdom of God.

And so is ours. I wonder how the world might change if we, as Christians, focused our time, money, and energy less on politics, and more on prayerfully living out the kingdom of God on earth. While I do recognize that some Christians are called to serve as elected officials, committee members, lobbyists, or other participants in the political process, I don’t believe our primary allegiance should ever be to any earthly political party. Instead, it should be to the Lord.

JesusVotesRepublican-1The idea of being apolitical is somewhat new to me. I graduated from a conservative Christian college in the 1980s. At that time, Christian conservatives were a powerful and sought-after voting bloc. They identified Christianity with conservative party politics and believed Jesus would have agreed. They pursued family values as their primary cause and worked to get conservative politicians appointed or elected to office, including Ronald Reagan twice, in order to pass and enforce laws supporting this vision. They believed God’s will could be actualized through political avenues. So they sought to gain political influence. And they got it. Conservatives came into power, and conservative Christians were appointed to presidential commissions, invited to serve as spiritual advisors to those in power, and consulted on national policies. If a scandal involving conservatives broke out, the conservative Christian voting bloc tended to overlook such indiscretions in order to keep its people in power.

jesus_donkey300Fast-forward thirty years, and Christian progressives began making the same mistakes as Christian conservatives did in the 1980s. Christian progressives became a powerful and sought-after voting bloc. They identified Christianity with progressive party politics and believed Jesus would have agreed. They pursued social justice as their primary cause and worked to get progressive politicians appointed or elected to office, including Barak Obama twice, in order to pass and enforce laws supporting this vision. They believed God’s will can be actualized through political avenues. So they sought to gain political influence. And like the conservatives before them, they got it. Progressives came into power, and progressive Christians have been appointed to presidential commissions, invited to serve as spiritual advisors to those in power, and consulted on national policies. If a scandal involving progressives breaks out, the progressive Christian voting bloc has tended to overlook such indiscretions in order to keep its people in power.

Each side can make a case for a biblical basis.

But neither side is completely correct. Neither side fully represents God’s perspective. And even in their political successes, neither side is capable of accomplishing God’s will on earth. Only God can do that.

The church is called to a higher vision than current political systems. We are called to be a countercultural example of the kingdom of God (not preach it, but be it). We are called to oppose sin as conservatives remind us, and work for peace and justice as progressives remind us. Note that I said the church should do these things, not elect politicians and pass laws to do them for us. The money we invest in political causes would be better invested in kingdom work. Instead of working through political systems on the left or right, what if we reached out to people directly with the power of the gospel? Some Christians have already caught this vision and are doing great work, not for any earthly political party or kingdom but for the kingdom of God.

In seeking to become apolitical (that is, less political and more kingdom-minded), I have found a greater sense of freedom – and relief. According to Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases” (NLT). So, no matter who gets elected or which laws get passed, God is always in charge, always working to accomplish his good purposes. Our primary job is to follow and obey him, and to work and pray for HIS kingdom to come to earth.

1 Comment