Category Archives: Politics

Are all Evangelicals Caucasian? Sort of, According to Politicians.


For me, “evangelical” is a theological term. Definitions vary in nuance, but usually involve belief in the authority of the Bible, a rebirth through faith in Christ, and evangelizing the world. Various statements of faith, such as the one from the National Association of Evangelicals, capsulize evangelical beliefs.

But for politicians and pollsters, “evangelical” is a sociological term. I only recently became aware of this (duh!). When pollsters (of either party) say “evangelical,” they mean “white, politically-conservative Christian.” When Republicans talk about courting their “evangelical base,” they are talking about white Christians. And as an NPR article points out, this emphasis on Republican evangelicals can make it seem that all evangelicals are white. Notice: when news reports mention evangelicals, they typically use a clip from a suburban megachurch.

For pollsters, it’s mostly about race, not theology There are millions of black evangelicals and Latino evangelicals. Down the road from Anchor is Zion Tabernacle, a wonderful black church. We’ve held joint services with them several times, and I’ve played keyboard with their worship team. Marvelous folks. In ways, more evangelical than we are.

But Republicans include Anchor, but not Zion Tabernacle, in their “evangelical base.” Nor do they include some of our own United Brethren churches that consist of immigrants from Jamaica, West Africa, Latin America, and Haiti.

I really dislike that politicians divide evangelicals. The people they teach you to disdain as “liberals” may have the exact same theological beliefs that you have. You may sit next to them in church. And you’ll worship God alongside them throughout eternity.

This distinction–theology vs. sociology–is a distinction I just recently became aware of, thanks to a couple articles–an excellent NPR article from mid-December, followed by a shorter piece by Jonathan Merritt (one of my favorite Christian writers) in The Atlantic. I recommend both.

Don’t let the political world tear the unity of the Body of Christ.

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“We Salute the Rank, Not the Person.”


Kudos to FoxNews for suspending two contributors who used vile and inappropriate language about President Obama. Ralph Peters and Stacey Dash were both suspended for two weeks. You can look up what they said.

I grew up with a deep respect for the office of President. It’s how I was raised, in a different time. It doesn’t mean I’m a fan of everyone who holds that office–by no means. But each one has been THE American president–MY president. I think of the line from Band of Brothers, when a rival of Major Winters tries to walk past without acknowledging him. Winters stops Captain Sobel and admonishes, “We salute the rank, not the man.”

I personally choose to believe that every president has had the country’s best interests at heart. They also all lie, possess enormous helpings of ego and ambition, and exhibit numerous other characteristics a Christian must label as sin…yet each one is MY president. I can dislike, even detest, certain policies and actions they advocate (abortion and torture come to mind)…but still MY president.

So I have great difficulty with the way so many people, Christians and nonChristians, demonize and mock President Obama. It goes way beyond what was directed at GW Bush. One Christian lady here on Facebook recently blustered, “I call him Lucifer.” The way I see people talking about President Obama far exceeds the vigorous policy discourse we cherish in America. He’s a Muslim, a communist, a nazi, not really an American, out to destroy Christianity, the anti-Christ, a traitor, against everything our country stands for. Such baseless demonization is, to me…unbecoming of a Christian. It grieves my heart.

That’s not how I was raised. And I refuse to give in to it (though I’ve crossed my own lines sundry times). Whether the next president is President Clinton or President Trump, that person will be MY president–and YOUR president. I will have profound disagreements with either one. But IF you choose to believe the Bible, that person will be the authority “which God has established.” It’s a biblical concept I don’t understand, and I want to point at all kinds of tyrants and say, “But what about…?” Yet it’s right there, in Romans. Deal with it.

Though I will voice my policy differences with conviction and with every writing tool at my disposal, including heaping spoonfuls of sarcasm, I’m gonna salute the Office of President. And I can’t do that while demonizing the person who holds the title. The Presidency belongs to all Americans, not just to whatever party occupies the White House. As an American, respecting the Presidency seems like the patriotic thing to do. And as a Christian, it just seems right.

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The Line Outside the Oval Office


You have the president, then the vice president, then the Speaker of the House. There seems to be some confusion as to whether Paul Ryan, as Speaker, is second in line to the President, or third in line. So let’s clear this up.

There is a line at the Porta-Potty. The President is INSIDE the Porta-Potty. Outside are the Vice President, who will enter when the President leaves, and behind him is the Speaker, who is having doubts about how long he can hold it.

The LINE has only two persons. The Vice President is FIRST in line, and the Speaker is SECOND in line. The President is NOT IN THE LINE at all. He is inside, which is where the others want to go, literally.

So the Speaker is not THIRD in line, he’s SECOND in line. Consider yourself informed.

But please don’t ask me to explain how the British royalty system works.

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Rand and Alexandra are Concerned About Me

I just received an email from Rand Paul’s campaign. “Rand asked me to email you,” someone named Alexandra began. She said he is counting on my support.

He is? I kinda like Sen. Paul, but I don’t exactly know him personally. I’ve never made any kind of contact with him.

“However,” Alexandra continued, “our records show you haven’t made a contribution.”

What? They have a record on me? How? Why?

As I scrolled down through Alexandra’s email, I found copies of two previous emails. The first was apparently sent on Tuesday, when Paul announced his candidacy; it asked for my support. Then came an email time-stamped 7:28 this morning (Wednesday), in which Paul asks Alexandra, “Can you please follow up with Steve?” He says he’s sent me two previous emails, but I haven’t responded (and he hasn’t).

Like I said, I generally like Rand Paul. He’s an interesting voice. But this email is SO phony, so inauthentic. And I’m sure there’s more to come. I’m still waiting to hear from Ted Cruz.
randpaul1 randpaul2

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The Battle of the Wedding Cake

First Australian Gay Couple Married In New Zealand

The fate of World Christianity apparently hangs on people who make wedding cakes. Unless they hold firm, we’ll descend into a thousand years of darkness and God’s plan to establish His Kingdom will be vanquished.

Well, maybe it’s not quite that apocalyptic.

There needs to be “space” (as they’re calling it) for sincerely held religious beliefs, for accommodation, and laws can address that. But there also need to be loving responses which Christians can give, so they don’t come off as…well, as unChristlike. Let me suggest a few possible responses for Christians who oppose gay marriage, but don’t care about going on CNN and being hailed as heroic Christian martyrs standing firm against the Forces of Mordor.

– If the cake isn’t that big of a deal to you, treat it as relationship-building and just being a good neighbor. “I wish you the best. I’ll gladly refer you to one of my competitors who would do a great job, but if you really want me to do it–sure, why not.”

– If the cake IS a big deal for you, a bridge too far: “I hope your wedding goes well and that somebody makes you a wonderful cake. But please don’t ask me to do it. I just can’t. However, I know a few other bakers who would do a great job for you.”

– If they are being jerks about it, and threaten to take you to court, then you apply Matthew 5:39-42. “Okay, okay, I’ll make your cake.” Then, to go the extra mile and turn the other cheek, you bake not one but TWO cakes, and you don’t charge them. And you throw in a bulk container of candied breath mints.

“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

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It’s What They Do


About 80 of Obama’s nominees for various positions have been filibustered. In the rest of the history of the United States, only 70 presidential nominees have been filibustered. Hmmmm.

After the Senate Judiciary Committee approves one of President Obama’s nominees, they wait an average of 107 days before getting a confirmation vote on the Senate floor. In the Bush administration, the wait was only 43 days. Hmmmm.

When it comes to nominees for Executive Branch positions, the GOP Senate is on pace to filibuster twice as many nominees as experienced by all previous presidents combined.

38 federal courts are now so short-handed, waiting for new appointees, that they are under what is called “judicial emergencies”–a huge backlog of cases. That’s up from 27 courts just two years ago. This doesn’t seem to bother the GOP Senators. Hmmmm.

Loretta Lynch has now waited nearly five months to be confirmed as Attorney General, and it could stretch out many more months. Some Democrats are accusing Republican senators of racism, since Lynch is black. It’s not racism. It’s just what Republicans do to EVERY nominee. Though they seem to be going the extra mile in putting Ms. Lynch–and a very important government position–on hold. I find nothing admirable about that.

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Congressmen Not Doing Their Job

Interesting piece on about the voting attendance of Congressmen.

In the Senate, Marco Rubio has the highest absentee rate, missing 8.3% of the votes since taking office. Only one Democrat made the top 10 of “Most Missed Votes in the Senate.”

But then there’s Susan Collins, the Republican from Maine (whom I’ve always liked). She has a perfect attendance record since taking office in 1997–a stunning 5,788 consecutive votes with no misses. The next closest has 712 votes and no misses, so there’s no comparison.

In the House, 8 of the 10 most delinquent are Democrats, led by John Conyers of Michigan, who has an absentee rate of 16%. That means he skips one of every six votes.

Now that Republicans control the Senate, I’m guessing Democrats will be absent much more frequently, using the time instead to do fundraising.

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The President’s Prayer Breakfast Speech

After getting home, I read the transcript of President Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. It’s really, really good. He made very strong statements about ISIS, and superb statements about the approach Christians should take. I’m proud to see such words come from my president.

I point this out because, on the way home, I listened to The Five on FoxNews. They used one sound bite in which President Obama used the Crusades to illustrate a theological point about the sin nature. They totally didn’t get it. Clearly, none of them are versed in basic Christianity, else they would have understood what the President was saying. Instead, they treated it as a political speech, and took this soundbite as condemnation of Christianity (which it wasn’t at all). It’s just dishonest, and I feel compelled to say something. Because all night long, the other FoxNews shows are going to be saying the same nonsense, and many of you will be listening. You may assume FoxNews is giving you an accurate report on the speech, when in fact they are giving you a very intentional hack job. It’s what they do.

As a Christian interested in the truth, I read the entire transcript. I often do that with speeches which pundits on either side are criticizing. I want to see the entire speech, with everything in context. In this case, I wanted to read what President REALLY said–not what the FNC pundits tell me he said.

Here is an early part of his speech, in which he set up his theme.

Part of what I want to touch on today is the degree to which we’ve seen professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good, but also twisted and misused in the name of evil.

As we speak, around the world, we see faith inspiring people to lift up one another — to feed the hungry and care for the poor, and comfort the afflicted and make peace where there is strife. We heard the good work that Sister has done in Philadelphia, and the incredible work that Dr. Brantly and his colleagues have done. We see faith driving us to do right.

But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.

We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

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Bush and Nixon – The Winning Combo

This morning Joe Scarborough said that since 1932, no Republican has been elected president without a Bush or Nixon on the ticket (as either president or VP). I mentally traced it back; it’s true. Nixon was there for 4 elections, a Bush for 5 elections. Fascinating.

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A Look at 11 Presidents on This President’s Day

L-r: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.

L-r: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford.

On this Presidents Day, I wanted to look back at all of the presidents during my lifetime, starting with Dwight Eisenhower. I wanted to say something positive about each of them. My strong belief is that every one of these presidents has served with the right motives–to advance the United States of America. They have all worked hard in the best interests of my country, and I respect them all. I despise how, today, we demonize our presidents. I despise the way so many Americans show open contempt for these public servants, and the way media pundits feed that contempt. It’s disgraceful, and it’s not the way I was raised.

So I wanted to keep it positive.Yes, there is plenty to criticize about each of these men. They are all flawed men. But that is not for today, President’s Day. Today, I want to honor them. So here goes.

Dwight Eisenhower. I was born in the middle of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency. Bob Gates notes in his book that from the end of the Korean War until Ike’s presidency ended in 1961, not a single American soldier was killed in action. This from the allied commander of the biggest war in history. He was a warrior, but didn’t relish taking military action–he knew the costs. That impresses me. Lately, historians have been taking a new look at Ike’s presidency with great appreciation for what he accomplished and his demeanor as president. I think Ike would have been a fascinating president to observe (had I not been in diapers).

John F. Kennedy. I wasn’t yet politically aware during Kennedy’s presidency, so I wasn’t paying attention to him during his presidency. However, it’s clear that he brought new energy to the country. I’m so impressed by his challenge to land a man on the moon, and return him safely, within 10 years. That was an enormous goal. But he believed in the capabilities of America enough to issue the challenge, and the country rose to it. He also advanced the cause of civil rights, despite plenty of opposition from his own party.

Lyndon Johnson. Johnson knew how to get things done. As Senate Majority Leader, he was recognized as a master at gathering the necessary votes. He knew how to schmooze, how to work the phones, how to twist arms. Bill Clinton, also, is recognized as a master politician in this way. But from what I’ve read about him, Johnson was the true master of the artform. He also passed the Civil Rights Act, and famously said that he had just given Republicans the South for the next generation. He was correct–Democrats switched over to the Republican Party, and they still control the South. But Johnson knew this was the right thing to do, and he was willing to pay the political price. That is so very commendable.

Richard Nixon. Nixon, of course, is a tragic figure in many ways. But I think he was always on track regarding what was best for the country, and he seemed to be able to see around the curve. He dealt skillfully with China and Russia, opening opportunities for later presidents. He took strong action regarding the energy crisis, back when OPEC was becoming dominant; for instance, he instituted the national 65 mph speed limit. Perhaps nobody since has been as strong on the foreign policy front. In his post-presidency, he cranked out a number of books which added thoughtful takes on important issues.

Gerald Ford. Ford was the first presidential candidate I voted for…and that was one of only three times my candidate lost. President Ford had a shortened presidency, and his main job was just holding the country together. But he did that, and such will be his legacy. Pardoning Nixon was not a popular move, but I think it was the right move and enabled healing to come to the country after a shattered presidency and a disastrous war. He was a good man, a moral man, a man of integrity and character, and he was respected by everybody in Washington. He was exactly the right man for that unique time.

L-r: Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush.

L-r: Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush.

Jimmy Carter. I always viewed Carter as having a genuine, thoughtful Christian faith not much different from my own. If I sat down to talk with him about my faith, we would be on the same page. And I felt he represented Christ well while in office, and certainly while out of office. He is often mocked for his “malaise” speech, but I don’t think the criticism is fair. I remember hearing that speech and thinking at the time, as a college student, “He’s exactly right. That’s what is happening in the country.” I deeply respect his post-presidency activities, from Habitat for Humanity, to monitoring elections all over the world, to meeting and negotiating with tyrants. I found Carter to be admirable in so many ways. He was also an example for my life, modeling how a Christian can have a strong sense of social justice–and even be a Democrat at the same time. Largely through Carter, I came to realize that many Democratic Party issues are Christian issues. He gave me much to think upon.

Ronald Reagan. Reagan brought a heightened sense of dignity to the White House, setting the stage for every president since (for instance, always wearing a suit in the Oval Office). His sense of humor was tremendous, and he used it skillfully. He had a sense not so much for what he wanted to accomplish as president, as he did for what he wanted America to be. In many ways during the 1980s, America conformed to the image of Ronald Reagan.

George H. W. Bush. President Bush didn’t seem to harbor ill feelings toward people–about things they said about him, or things they did. He was a genuinely nice guy. I greatly admire the relationship he and Bill Clinton have developed. Bush 2 seems to have inherited a lot of his father’s spirit. I also admire the way he conducted the Gulf War, and how he built an international coalition. He respected the roles of everyone around him and let them do their work. He kept his hands out of his son’s presidency, yet maintained his role as father–and by all appearances, he and Barbara were astoundingly good parents. Above all of these other presidents, George H.W. Bush was a humble man.

Bill Clinton. Clinton is the type of person who, when he enters a room, takes over the room. He has an out-sized personality, the type of person who is energized by meeting lots and lots of people–shaking hands, interacting with people, etc. Coupled with that is a stellar intellect and political skills that are off the charts. Since I’m a communicator, I admire people who can communicate well. Clinton knows how to explain things clearly. All the evidence shows that he’s a superb father. And as a Christian, I rejoice that despite his escapades, he salvaged his marriage. As an ex-president, he has done extraordinary work through the Clinton Initiative. He has redeemed himself in my eyes, and I view him as a national treasure.

George W. Bush. George Bush, like his father, is a good man. I believe he’s a man of integrity and good moral character. Bush governed largely by instinct, as he will admit, and for that you want a person of integrity and character. In his second term, when things weren’t going well in our wars, he implemented the surge against the advice of his political advisors, and it turned out to be the right move. He also marginalized Dick Cheney, his right-hand man, and in his place listened more closely to Condi Rice and Bob Gates. This accounts for some of the positive things that occurred during that second term. Cheney continually urged Bush to pardon Scooter Libby for his involvement in outing CIA operative Valerie Plame, but Bush refused. Good for him. As an ex-president, Bush has been absolutely exemplary–perhaps mostly by not doing anything. He has been very gracious toward his successor, and has steadfastly avoided doing anything to get in his successor’s way.

11-obama160Barack Obama. Obama is a deeply thoughtful person, as is clear from his two books, “Dreams of My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope” (both of which I’ve read). In the latter, he wrestles with numerous policy issues, showing me clearly that he had made himself highly informed on a number of crucial issues. I loved the vision he set forth, and the mindset he showed toward dealing with complex issues. I think it has served him well in dealing with the military (who invariably want more men and equipment), and in dealing with Republican Congressman whose top goal was to deny him re-election, and who have continually thwarted him. I feel he has shown much restraint, though his level of frustration must be out of this world. It must also be frustrating to be opposed by so much of the Christian community, and to be labeled continually as a Muslim, when in fact he has clearly articulated his faith in Christ several times. It angers me, the way Christians have demonized him. And yet, he keeps his cool, showing himself to be wise beyond his years. I also greatly admire his role as a father and husband. He has nothing to be ashamed of there.

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