No Matter Who Wins the Presidency….

A couple weeks ago I began musing about things that would be true, regardless of who became president.

Steve Predicts #1: No Matter Who Wins on Nov 8:

A majority of Americans will be disgusted, saying stuff like this: “What’s wrong with America? How could we have elected a person like this?” And it’ll be, at most, a one-term presidency.

Steve Predicts #2: No Matter Who Wins on Nov 8:

Evangelicals will do some soul-searching about their decades-long allegiance to the Republican Party. It’s already happening. In consecutive elections, evangelicals supported a Mormon (who has worked to direct people away from an eternity with God), and then a man who values almost nothing that Jesus values.

A lot of evangelical voices are raising concerns about how the quest for worldly power harms the Gospel of Christ, Christian witness, people’s perceptions of the church, and our credibility as Christ-bearers within society. There will be much hand-wringing–articles, books, forums, and more. However, as 2020 approaches, the Republican candidate will shout “Abortion! Supreme Court!”, and once again evangelicals will flock around him. Little will have changed.

Steve Predicts #3: No Matter Who Wins on Nov 8:

Christians will say, “God is still in control,” without really knowing what that means, theologically. It’s kind of become the spiritual thing to say, a righteous cliche. But in what way, exactly, is God in control of the government? How does that apply to the governments of Russia and China and North Korea? Is it merely a statement about God’s sovereignty? Regardless, people will say this without thinking about it, and it will sound very spiritual.

Steve Predicts #4: No Matter Who Wins on Nov 8:

There will be several years of investigations, either by official government inquiries or by the press (which could lead to official inquiries).

If Hillary wins, there will be four years of re-investigations into emails and Benghazi, and new (and justified) investigations into the Clinton Foundation and perhaps other matters.

If Trump wins, the press will continue investigating many issues which haven’t been explored in any depth–business ties to Russia, fraudulent use of the Trump Foundation, Trump University (the jury trial starts Nov 28), continued allegations of sexual assault, illegal campaign contributions, and as-yet-unknown business dealings. Plus, he has promised to sue his sexual accusers and to have Hillary Clinton jailed, so we’ll have those investigations.

It’ll be a messy four years. We could easily see a president be forced out for the first time since Nixon.

Steve Predicts #5: No Matter Who Wins on Nov 8:

Young evangelicals will increasingly drift away from the Republican Party as they are drawn to issues more likely to be supported by Democrats and Independents–the poor, social justice, prison reform, immigration reform, economic disparity, gender equality, climate change, and peace. They have little tolerance for any kind of racism and discrimination.
Their numbers will continue to increase, while older evangelicals–my generation and older–will continue to decrease. In will take another, say, 12 years to make a deep difference in elections, but the shift will eventually become apparent. The alarming growth of atheism and agnosticism will further diminish the ranks of Bible-waving Republicans.

Steve Predicts #6: No Matter Who Wins on Nov 8:

The person elected will be MY president, duly elected by We the People. I will no doubt criticize many of that person’s policies, actions, and judgments, and may even come to favor the person being ousted from office. But I will not seek to delegitimize that person, as so many people shamelessly did to President Bush (because of the Supreme Court ruling) and President Obama (birtherism). Nor will I claim the system is rigged. Whoever emerges on top will be MY president.

Steve Predicts #7: No Matter Who Wins on Nov 8:

Barack Obama will have a stellar post-presidency. And as people become disgusted with the chaos of either a Clinton or Trump presidency, Obama will be viewed much more favorably–not as the evil caricature popularized 24/7 by FoxNews, Rush, and others, but as a president who, as a general statement, was measured, thoughtful, articulate, gracious, funny, personable, and faithful to his role as a husband and father. His popularity will only increase (as usually happens with ex-presidents).

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The New Religious Crackdown in Russia

Since June, I’ve been following a new anti-religion law in Russia which has been getting almost no coverage in the US (probably drowned out by the election). It’s pretty disturbing. I’ve been watching it because the United Brethren church supports missionaries in Russia, though we can’t identify them on the internet.

On July 20, Vladimir Putin (well on his way to dictator status) approved new laws which severely restrict Christians. The laws are embedded in a package of anti-extremism and anti-terrorism laws designed to keep Russia safe (sound familiar?). Putin is using islamic terrorism as a pretext for clamping down on all religious activity.

  • Though not necessarily explicitly stated, the law does the following:
  • Restricts all religious activity to registered church buildings or other places specifically designated for religious activity.
  • Prohibits religious activities in private homes.
  • Bans house churches.
  • Bans informal witnessing–even responding to a friend’s questions.
  • Prohibits sharing faith online, even in an email or text.
  • Imposes fines of up to $15,000 on organizations.
  • Requires missionaries to have permits, with connections to officially registered churches. Missionaries need a government permit to speak in churches and other settings.
  • Requires citizens to report religious activity to authorities.

Russia’s Baptist Council of Churches said the new law “creates the basis for mass persecution of believers,” and described it as “the most draconian anti-religion bill to be proposed in Russia since Nikita Khrushchev promised to eliminate Christianity in the Soviet Union.”

Within a month of going into effect, at least seven people were arrested, including a Baptist preacher from the United States who held services in his home; he was convicted and fined. This past week, on October 11, a representative of the Ukrainian Reformed Orthodox Church was arrested while preaching to a Jewish group–something considered “illegal missionary activity.”

Putin built on his 2007 law that defined religious extremism as promoting “the superiority of one’s own religion.” That law has been used to arrest many nonviolent Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses and to label various religious texts as “extremist.”

The Billy Graham association cancelled a conference they had planned for October. The Mormon Church reassigned 65 missionasries who were originally assigned to Russia.

A Google search will produce a lot of information about the crackdown. However, it remains Page 4 stuff, and to my knowledge (I’ve searched), no presidential candidate has addressed it. Russia should not be our friend.

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Conservative Newspapers Opt for Clinton

I stumbled across a list of newspaper endorsements from the primaries. Nobody pays much attention to newspaper endorsements. However, I found it interesting that John Kasich–the guy I voted for–had 52 endorsements, more than any other Republican. Marco Rubio was second with 22. Trump had just four, including the National Enquirer and the paper owned by Ivanka’s husband.

I sure wish Kasich had won the primary. I’m quite certain he would have sailed to the Presidency. From a political resume standpoint, Kasich and Clinton had the two best resumes. It would have been great watching them square off in truly substantive debates about policy (as did, mostly, Obama and Romney). But, Republicans chose Donald Trump, the only candidate more flawed and damaged than Clinton, and it will cost them the election.

I realize (now) that the Republican Party has changed in fundamental ways, becoming an electorate motivated too much by fear and anger, and overly willing to give a pass to lots of very, very immoral stuff. I’m guessing, sadly, that this mindset will become even more entrenched by 2020. Kasich, like me, doesn’t fit in that party anymore.

Several newspapers which have been conservative bastions have endorsed Clinton this year. The Dallas Morning News and Arizona Republic had NEVER endorsed a Democrat for president, and the Cincinnati Enquirer hadn’t endorsed a Democrat in nearly 100 years. During the primaries, all three of those newspapers endorsed John Kasich. For the general election, they very surprisingly chose to endorse Clinton.

Most recently, the USA Today sided with Clinton, or at least against Trump. Their article was excellent.

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The Missed Opportunity Plague

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Eminent theologian Dave Barry says overrunning Egypt with frogs was the type of originality which earned God the title “Supreme Being.” Did this plague ever strike you as odd? As not particularly fearsome?

Frogs was the second plague, when God was just getting warmed up. Maybe he was using frogs as a somewhat harmless demonstration. “Imagine if this was camel spiders–because instead of a bunch of frogs, I could definitely do camel spiders.” I mean, it’s like overrunning the country with Beanie Babies. Unless there was something in Egyptian culture that led to an unusual fear of frogs, just as in modern day America, we have a fear of, well, just about everything, including getting vaccinated against smallpox.

The picture shows a camel spider, one of the major reasons to never ever visit Egypt. Later plagues included swarming the country with lice, flies, and locusts, but not even a wrathful God would cover the land in camel spiders. Although, if #2 had been camel spiders instead of Kermits, there might have been only two plagues and the Israelites would have hit the road a whole lot sooner. Then, instead of the Passover, Jews would annually celebrate the Feast of Camel Spiders.

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The Missed Opportunity in John Kasich

I stumbled across a list of newspaper endorsements from the primaries. Nobody pays muh attention to newspaper endorsements. However, I found it interesting that John Kasich–the guy I voted for–had 52 endorsements, more than any other Republican. Marco Rubio was second with 22. Trump had just four, including the National Enquirer and the paper owned by Ivanka’s husband.

I sure wish Kasich had won the primary. I’m quite certain he would have sailed to the Presidency. From a political resume standpoint, Kasich and Clinton had the two best resumes. It would have been great watching them square off in truly substantive debates about policy. But, Republicans chose Donald Trump, the only candidate more flawed and damaged than Clinton, and it will cost them the election.

I realize (now) that the Republican Party has changed in fundamental ways, becoming an electorate motivated too much by fear and anger. I’m guessing, sadly, that this mindset will become even more entrenched by 2020. Kasich, like me, doesn’t fit in that party anymore.

Several newspapers which have been conservative bastions have endorsed Clinton this year. The Dallas Morning News and Arizona Republic had NEVER endorsed a Democrat for president, and the Cincinnati Enquirer hadn’t endorsed a Democrat in nearly 100 years. During the primaries, all three of those newspapers endorsed John Kasich. For the general election, they very surprisingly chose to endorse Clinton.

Most recently, the Arizona Republic sided with Clinton, or at least against Trump. Their article was excellent.

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I Always Wanted One of These

I always wanted to be on my high school football team. However, I never liked the idea of experiencing pain, of getting hurt. I preferred playing on the tennis team. So four times, I had the chance to go out for the football team, but four times I consciously chose not to. But I was thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if one of my high school classmate who DID serve on the football team just GAVE me his football letter jacket? I always wanted a football letter jacket, but that would be much easier.

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Redemption and the Manson Family

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For me, and possibly you, the Manson “family” has been a reoccurring presence. I was 11 when the Tate-LaBianca murders happened, and certain names were indelibly etched into my memory–Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten. Their names have kept popping up over the years, usually in relation to parole hearings. And each time, the gruesome details are recounted.

Except for Manson, who is insane, all developed into model prisoners. And interestingly, after all this time, only one of them has died–Susan Atkins, in 2009, of cancer.

This morning, I read that Leslie Van Houten was denied parole for the umpteenth time. Parole was recommended, but Gov. Jerry Brown denied it, saying she “currently poses an unreasonable danger to society.” I’ll confess, there is a very large part of me that wants to see her released. She’s not the same person she was at age 19. But after reading, again, what she did in 1969…well, it’s shocking.

In Norway, the maximum prison sentence is 20 years, regardless of the crime. A person might remain imprisoned longer than that, but the initial sentence doesn’t go beyond 20 years. There is no “life sentence,” and certainly nothing like our obscenely unjust “three strikes” laws, which are so beloved by law-and-order politicians.

Part of the reasoning, in Norway, is that people change over time. I’m reminded of the scene in “The Shawshank Redemption” where Red says at his parole hearing, “I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone, and this old man is all that’s left.”

Norway apparently believes in redemption and life-change. In America, our focus is punishment and vengeance. You can argue that some of these Manson fanatics did redeem themselves, but must continue paying the consequences. I don’t know. It’s an interesting discussion to have.

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Republican Convention, Night One

I thought the first night of the Republican convention went well. It was a good collection of speakers, and they (from what I could tell) stayed on message and didn’t say anything stupid. I’ll never vote for Trump, because my criteria emphasize biblical values, and Trump doesn’t embody or stand for anything that Jesus values. But for those who like Trump, I’m sure they feel pumped up after tonight, and rightfully so.

It was even upbeat. I’ve gotten used to Republicans continuously dissing America–that we’ve become a broken, second-class, non-great country with a decrepit military and where nothing works. I beg to disagree, as does the rest of the world; we are the Gold Standard. But the Republican honchos decided to refrain from hammering those negative themes tonight, and I thank them.

I watched CSpan, instead of a cable news channel, so I could hear all of the speakers without pundits breaking in with their spin. The two guys who talked about Benghazi were riveting. Flynn and Joni Ernst–especially Ernst–were perfect for this base. Melania: she did commendably. I didn’t learn anything new about her husband–no great, insight-filled stories, like I was expecting (and which Anne Romney delivered). But it was fine. She rose way out of her comfort zone, so kudos.

I was totally astonished that Trump kept brief his introduction of Melania. I thought he’d ramble on for a while, unable to avoid the spotlight, and that tomorrow the pundits would only talk about him. By giving only a cursory introduction, he will allow the spotlight to focus on all of these other speakers (at least for tomorrow).

In 2012, I got tired of delegates repeatedly breaking into the “USA! USA!” chant. I still feel that way. “Oh, here we go again.”

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A Glimpse of a Father’s Rage

I’ve been thinking about a devotional speaker I heard during an Evangelical Press Association convention back in the 1980s. He was a pastor and an award-winning author. in addition, he and his wife, both white, had adopted and raised two black boys.
 
During one devotional, he mentioned how his sons had been stopped by cops different times, and he KNEW it was because they were black. No other reason. He related this in a calm, objective way, as he used it to illustrate a point. But I distinctly remember something very different about his voice, for just a second. Leaking through that pastoral calm exterior, I saw a father’s rage. It was just a glimpse, and I think he meant to hide it, but it was there. His beloved boys had been treated unjustly, and there’s no way he could disguise his anger.
 
How many moms and dads in the black community, how many grandparents and siblings and spouses, live with the scars of having been treated unfairly because of their color? Injustice casts a long shadow. It’s not something you get over.
 
When I see African Americans marching, I remind myself that they are individuals with stories to tell–if not from their own lives, from the lives of people they know and love. It’s not something I know anything about, but as a Christian wanting to reflect Jesus, I’m trying to learn. Or, at the least, I’m trying not to be blindly critical of things beyond my experience.
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Thinking About the Unthinkable

Donald Trump has ramped up his enthusiasm for torturing prisoners, saying we need to do the “unthinkable.” What do you think he means? Pulling out fingernails? Attaching electrodes? Breaking toes? Gouging out eyes? Raping family members in front of prisoners? When you’re talking “unthinkable,” all of this is fair game. So if you’re going to vote for Trump, you might want to learn what exactly “unthinkable” means to him.

This would obviously go way beyond what the Bush administration started, striking at the heart of what we stand for. And it would make it profoundly absurd to then sing, “God Bless America.”

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