Tag Archives: politics

Are You Sure that All Lives Matter?

I have struggled for the past four years with understanding how so many Christians can support a man with Trump’s moral failings. I’ve been discipled in Christian values my entire life and what I observe with Trump and his followers is foreign to anything I was ever taught about Christian values.

It was pounded into my brain that all Christians cling to a similar set of values, even though we might have differences in theology, religious practices, and lifestyles. I might be a Baptist, and you a Catholic, but our values are the same, even if you don’t eat meat on Friday. We always shared the same values with unknown-tongue talking Pentecostals, Saturday church-going Seventh Day Adventists, and Whiskey-palians (as my father used to call them).

All of us valued love for other people. We might not always act like it, but we all knew that every person had value. This idea of loving all people was so ingrained into us Baptists that we took it upon ourselves to do everything we could to make sure the whole world is saved. We were taught that loving others was important enough that many volunteered to give up their lives to preach the gospel to the four corners of the world, which included even the communists, Chinese, and the savages. Every life has value.

Another value we shared is that certain behaviors are to be avoided. The extent of this depended on your Christian tradition, but I’m thinking of things like sobriety (both alcohol and drugs), speech (for most of us, this included George Carlin’s seven dirty words), honesty (not only in what we say but also how we act), and kindness (don’t be a bully, use your manners). There are certain things Christians do and don’t do because of our values.

Somewhere along the way, culminating in the election of Trump in 2016, Christians are no longer identified by values. We have substituted policies for values. In other words, A Christian is no longer identified by a value like loving others or avoiding certain behaviors. Christians are now known by their political policies. These policies include abortion, restrictive immigration, obtrusive law and order, military dominance, and an overarching economic policy of money is good.

Values no longer matter. Policy is now king. It’s permissible to elect a vulgar, dishonest, hateful, greedy candidate as long as he advocates the correct policies. In fact, I’m amazed at how often I hear people say something like, “I know Trump is a bad (vulgar, despicable, obscene, hateful) man, but I support him because I agree with his policies.”

How many “Christians” have you heard make this statement?

I’m aware that some of you Trumpers are going to call me out because, after all, you do oppose abortion—the ultimate value. Opposing abortion is not a value; it’s a policy. The value is to protect life and being against abortion is one policy that sometimes values life. But not always.

Opposing all abortions is not life-affirming; it can be quite destructive. What about the young couple who are excited about having a child and take all the medical precautions to have a healthy baby, only to learn after five or six months they will have to decide between the mother or the baby, they won’t both survive?

Or, what about the 15-year-old who is raped and gets pregnant? Her family is unwilling or unable to help her. She can take a year out of her life, drop out of school, have a baby she can’t possibly raise, and destine herself and her baby to a life of poverty. Don’t tell me that people will help her. Sure. They drag her into a pregnancy help center, show her some videos and give her a handful of baby clothes to take home, but who’s going to pay the medical bills, provide childcare while she finishes school, supplement her minimum wage job, and be there for emotional support?

Don’t forget the woman who has been told by her doctor that her baby won’t survive more than a few hours after birth and that the infant will have severe painful deformities. Sure, she could have the baby, but who will pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs required to try and save the life? How do we affirm the mother’s life after we’ve condemned her to a life of poverty?

These are all hard questions, and fortunately, they are not faced by most of us. But the point is valid—refusing abortions without exception is not always based on valuing life. Anti-abortion is a tool that usually puts value on life, but it’s not the only policy that’s necessary. Refusing to eliminate all abortions does not mean a person doesn’t value life.

The abortion rate has been on a steady decline for decades, even during Democratic administrations. This reduction is occurring while Republicans are waiting for the magic number of Supreme Court Justices to overturn a law. In the meantime, pro-life policies are making an impact. Things like education, birth control provided by insurance, increased support for the poor are all policies that contribute to reducing abortions. Advancements are happening while Republicans are fighting these policies. They don’t want teens to be educated about birth control; they fight against affordable health insurance; they oppose assisting the poor while standing in picket lines in front of abortion clinics wrapped in the righteous robes called, “Right to Life.”

People who refuse to say, “Black Lives Matter,” when it comes to racial issues, ironically refuse to say, “All Lives Matter,” when it comes to issues like abortion, gun control, climate change, immigration, and military superiority. For them, the life of a fetus matters, but the life of the mother doesn’t. The rights of a gun owner matter but the life of a shooting victim doesn’t. The life that wants to drive a gus-guzzler matters but the life of the rest of us on the planet doesn’t. The life of a citizen matters but the life of an immigrant doesn’t. The life of a soldier matters but the life of someone caught in the crossfire doesn’t.

If you want to support a candidate like Trump, that’s fine; it’s your right as an American citizen. But don’t tell me you are doing it because of your Christian values. You’re doing it because of your policies that are not based on Christian values. I’m tired of being insulted because I don’t share your values when the truth is, I don’t share your policies. My values are the same ones we grew up with; you’re the one who changed values.

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Why You Should Not Vote in the Presidential Election

Many years ago, my father was driving in the mountains of Colorado. As he rounded a corner, he was confronted with a large truck coming toward him in his lane. Apparently, the truck was trying to pass another vehicle and stayed in the oncoming lane too long. My father reported that he was forced to decide between the lesser of two terrible options. He could smash the oncoming truck head-on, or he could steer off the road and plummet down the side of the mountain. If you have ever driven in the Colorado mountains you are aware it is not like driving into the bar ditch in west Texas.

He chose the lesser of the two, and fortunately his car was halted by the pine trees about a hundred feet down the cliff. He lived to tell the story.

Sometimes life forces us to make a choice between two bad things, and the result is going to be unpleasant no matter what choice we make.

Many people are feeling that way about the upcoming presidential election—there is not a good choice. Approval ratings for both candidates are at historic lows and are destined to get worse after five more months of name calling, mudslinging, and third-grade behavior that is characteristic of this year’s campaign.DontVoteButton

Each candidate has a small hard-core group of voters who wave their flag obnoxiously high, but for the most part, you hear people say, “I could never vote for..,.” and they name one of the candidates. More people are voting against someone this year than the number of people who are voting for someone.

Much of the campaign rhetoric consists of saying, “if this person is elected terrible things will happen to our country.” I get it. We have two bad choices. I feel like my father must have felt as he steered his Buick over the edge of the cliff—he didn’t have a better choice.

But, we do have options. I’m not talking about a miraculous final month by Bernie Sanders or an out-of-nowhere Republican savior. There are some legitimate options that keep us from being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils.

The most obvious option is that when you go to vote you will find other candidate’s names on the ballot. As of the first of June, 1,751 folks had filed the paperwork necessary to be considered a candidate for President. Obviously, you will not have to read through hundreds of names while in the voting booth since most of those people will have long departed the race, but there will be other names for consideration. Continue reading

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It Might Be Time for a Course Correction

My Facebook news feed has been flooded the past few weeks with articles trying to explain how evangelical Christians can support Donald Trump. It seems that people are struggling to understand how people of faith can stand with a candidate who spouts anger and hatred, one who has no understanding of the Christian faith, in spite of his claims to the contrary.

I confess the notion perplexes me as well. Just today, the well-known pastor or a large inner-city Baptist church in Dallas (you can no doubt figure out his identity) stood beside Trump at a large rally and sang his praises. This pastor’s endorsement is far outside everything I have ever been taught about Christianity. course correction

There is no need for me to delve into all the reasons why Trump should not be the candidate of Christians, just listen to him yourself for five minutes. But he has become just that, the candidate of choice in the Republican Party for Christians. He is even trouncing the candidate who has built his entire campaign around the notion that he is a Christian. Go figure.

Why are we surprised? Trump is simply spouting the same hateful rhetoric many have been throwing out there for the past eight years. When you criticize everything about the government for years, and you vilify the President for every move he makes, and you spew hate toward everyone who disagrees with you, don’t be surprised that the one who criticizes, vilifies, and spews the best suddenly becomes the one to lead the party.

I haven’t heard Trump say one thing that Christians haven’t already posted on Facebook in the past few years. The Republican Party is simply following the natural progression they have been on for years. Christians, yes even Evangelical Christians, have led the charge and now they claim not to understand. What is there to understand? This is where the party has been headed for years. Trump simply came along and sped up the process.

It’s really a shame. The candidate that I could most easily support is being trampled in the rush toward anger and hate. He professes to be a believer in Christ, holds reasonable positions on the issues, but his biggest problem is that he is not angry enough. There is no way anybody could secure the party nomination without being angry and hateful.

There is no way Trump could understand that Evangelical Christians might be opposed to him. After all, it is what many have been advocating for years. At least that is the inevitable conclusion from their Facebook posts and Tweets the past few years. That’s why Trump continually claims to be loved by Evangelicals. He’s not lying; he’s simply responding to what he has seen the last few years. If you still don’t understand, take some time and review the stuff some of your Evangelical Christian friends have been posting.

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Newspapers and Bibles

We should strive to understand the world with the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other. These words have been around a long time, at least as far back as my seminary days, and they are not credited to some right-wing Christian politician. It is commonly taught the idea first belonged to Karl Barth, a German theologian. Although the words might have been spoken in the first half of the last century, they have never been more true than they are today.

When I clicked on the website of the local newspaper this morning this was the bold headline that struck my attention – “Baptist free-for-all: Cruz over Huckabee.” Of course I read the story. It seems that a Metroplex mega church held a presidential wanna-be forum last night with six Republican candidates in attendance. More than 6,000 gathered to listen to these politicians proclaim their faith, portray their platform, cast aspersions on their opponents, and plead for votes. It sounds like it was two hours of listening to half-a-dozen men, and one woman, talk about how they are better than anyone else. newspaper-and-bible

Although this event occurred relatively close (at least by Texas’ standards) to our little band of believers known as Bread Fellowship, the two meetings could not have been any more dissimilar. We did not have thousands of people meeting in an enormous auditorium. Instead, we were barely more than a dozen sitting in a circle of stackable chairs in a rented art/dance studio.

The conversation at Bread Fellowship was also about greatness and what it looks like and how it can be achieved. As we are working our way through the lectionary for the year, the passage for the day was Mark 10:35-45. In that passage, Jesus reminded his disciples that the pathway to greatness is through servanthood. After reading the newspaper headline, it is amazing how appropriate Jesus’ words were for this particular day.

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Simple Similarities Between the SBC and the Republican Party

Sunday morning I was watching one of those cable news shows where they interview politicians and dissect the issues of the week. A Republican Congressman was interviewed about his thoughts on the recent resignation of the Speaker of the House and the discord over naming a replacement. As he was summing up his comments, he suggested they need to get the matter resolved so they can get back to “fighting the other side.”SBC Politics

It is interesting to me that a Congressman believes he was sent to Washington, not to represent the people of his state or the nation as a whole, but to fight the Democrats. I was under the assumption, apparently mistaken, that Congressmen should strive to find ways to work together to accomplish things for the good of the nation. Instead, this man seems to think his purpose is to whip his own party into shape so they can get about the business of beating the other guys.

It reminded me of my experience as a Southern Baptist. I grew up a Southern Baptist, and up until the last couple of years considered myself to still be one, although not quite as involved or interested as before. Much like this Congressman, Southern Baptists have so focused on whipping their own into line so they can attack others that they forgot the purpose of the church is not to fight the enemy. As a child I was taught that Southern Baptists existed to carry the Gospel of Christ around the world.

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The Tenacity of Racism

When we elected an African-American President I anticipated changes for the good in race relations. It has not happened. It seems that race relations are now worse. Why is that?

I haven’t done any kind of study, but it seems there are more racially caused riots, crimes with a racial component, and a greater number of racial comments in social media. Having a black President has not brought us closer together.

I think the problem is that having a black President has revealed a rampant racism that many of us thought had ceased to exist, yet it is still there. Let me explain this by telling about my own experience from many years ago.Monkey

I grew up in Denver and went to High School in the north part of the city. The school was located in an industrial area, and the student body was an eclectic mix of numerous races and ethnic backgrounds. The junior college I attended was just down the road, and it was no different. That was my world. I thought racial prejudice had ended after the work of Martin L. King, Jr. I was pretty naïve.

The college I graduated from was in West Texas where there was only one race so it did nothing to change my perception. However, I then went to seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Big change! To be honest, I was shocked to learn that churches still did not allow blacks to attend, or that schools, in spite of laws, were still segregated. I told you I was naïve.

Nearly four decades later we elect a black man to be President, and once again I thought we had made progress, but we haven’t.

Racism is the only way I can explain the anger, hatred, and vitriol people have toward the President. I completely understand political differences of opinion. I am even on board with passionate arguments in support of your beliefs and opinions. It is great when we have opposing viewpoints; that is how we experience creativity. But what I see and hear directed toward the President goes far beyond differences of opinion. Continue reading

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Keep Me Out of Your Boxes

I recently shared an article on Facebook that said something positive about the President’s religious faith and practice. As you can imagine, it was like kicking a hornet’s nest in an abandoned barn. Getting folks stirred up is not a problem for me; I don’t mind a lively discussion, as long as everyone is civil.

When I shared the article I expected a few comments. I have a bunch of good Facebook friends who are not afraid to speak up. However, I must admit, I was caught off guard with the response. The second comment took the conversation in a totally unexpected direction.

The article I shared was a description of the President’s activities and comments about Easter. Immediately, a pastor who is a Facebook friend essentially said he did not believe the President was a Christian because of his belief about gay marriage. I can live with someone making that statement in today’s political/theological climate. It seems that gay marriage has become the default discussion for every conversation.Boxes

However, he kept insisting that I declare my position on gay marriage. He wouldn’t give it a rest, even calling out others who commented during the discussion. For some reason, it was extremely important to this man that we all declare our stance on the issue of gay marriage.

I understand that some have a need to put everyone neatly in a box. It makes their life simpler. “I can relate comfortably with those in this box, but I need to be careful around those in this other box, and I must stay away completely from those in that box over there.”

Several years ago I was trying to build a consulting business, helping churches and individuals arrange their lives around good stewardship principles. A friend in another state was trying to expand his similar business to Texas, and it appeared that by working together we would both benefit greatly.   Continue reading

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