Category Archives: Politics

No Do Overs

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Many Brits are wanting a do over of their vote to withdraw from the European Union. But in addition to letting off some nationalistic steam, they are now stuck with their decision. No do overs.

Elizabeth Warren greatly wanted to become head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2011, the agency she designed, but her name was withdrawn because of Republican Senate opposition. Had she been confirmed, she would have disappeared into an obscure government agency, perhaps never to be heard from again. Instead, she became a US Senator and is now continually crawling under Donald Trump’s notoriously thin skin. I’m guessing the Republicans would like a do over.

Republicans also passed on a relatively moderate, and relatively old, Supreme Court nominee in Merrick Garland–somebody Republicans were once somewhat enthusiastic about. In Garland’s place, Hillary Clinton will probably nominate a 40-something liberal firebrand to the Supreme Court. Once again, they’ll wish for a do over.

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The Silliness Over Saying “Radical Islam”

I am SO tired of the phony fuss over saying “radical Islam.” It’s petty and silly.

Newflash: it’s a form of political correctness. Donald Trump brags about not being politically correct, and then insists that everyone say the words “radical Islam.” He’s blind to the hypocrisy.

So was every candidate during the Republican primary. Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and others said we’ll never defeat ISIS as long as the President won’t “name the enemy.” Really? Suppose President Obama DID use the term “radical Islam.” Would that make ISIS shrivel up and go away? What difference would it make?

As far as I can tell, the term was invented deep in the bowels of FoxNews. Producers decided, “Let’s insist that President Obama say ‘radical Islam,’ and if he doesn’t, we’ll puff out our chests and act very very outraged.” Of course, it’s been going on for years. Every conservative pundit promotes the term.

President Obama has explained that he doesn’t want to give ISIS the legitimacy of representing Islam–which is what they want. Instead, he calls them terrorists, thugs, killers, violent extremists, and such. And he kills a whole lot of them.

It’s like saying the KKK is “radical Christianity.” To me, the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has nothing to do with Christianity. The vast majority of the world’s Muslims feel the same way about identifying ISIS as part of Islam. ISIS, after all, has been slaughtering Sunni Muslims, who make up 90% of the world’s Muslims.

President Bush said, “Americans understand we fight not a religion. Ours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith. Ours is a campaign against evil.”

That’s almost identical to President Obama’s approach. “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Another time: “The terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology.”

And another time: “They try to portray themselves as religious leaders — holy warriors in defense of Islam. That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the ‘Islamic State.’ And they propagate the notion that America — and the West, generally — is at war with Islam.” Donald Trump and other Republicans also want to propagate that notion. Don’t go along with it.

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The Republican Party You Once Cherished is Gone

I think of the numerous Republican statesmen I admired in my earlier years: Howard Baker, Mark Hatfield, John Danforth, Bob Dole, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Richard Lugar, Alan Simpson, George HW Bush, Caspar Weinberger, George Schultz, James Baker, Henry Kissinger, Jeane Kirkpatrick, George Romney, James Schlessinger, Elizabeth Dole, William Cohen, Brent Scowcroft.

Remember those folks? Quite a list, huh? Those were persons with class and dignity. Some were people of faith, some not.

I grew up Republican, and proudly wore that label. I even canvassed for Dan Quayle when he first ran for Congress in 1976. But I stopped calling myself a Republican about 15 years ago, when I saw the party veering in directions which, as a Christian, I couldn’t endorse (the embrace of torture was the final straw). And now the Republican Party–the “Christian” party according to so many people–has chosen a man whose character is antithetical to every Christlike characteristic. Is there anything Trump values that Jesus would value?

It’s a different Republican Party. Yet a great many Christians I know (since I’ve spent my life among conservative evangelicals) remain committed to Republican politics, refusing to accept that the party they grew up with no longer exists.

I don’t write this as an endorsement of any Democratic candidate. By no means. But I do wish people of faith would disentangle themselves from allegiance to political parties. None of them represent Christianity. We need to be a separate, called-apart people within a secular society. We are explicitly told to not conform to the patterns of this world, and political parties are one such pattern, in no way created by God.

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President Obama at Hiroshima

Tonight, conservative pundits will criticize President Obama’s speech at Hiroshima. They will say, as they always say, that he is “apologizing for America.” They will isolate specific words, phrases, and sentences as proof of something unAmerican.

So before you tune in to the 24/7 naysayers–Hannity, the Five, Rush, et al–read the full text of his speech. You can find it many places. This link is from the New York Times.

The speech isn’t so much about Hiroshima as it is about war itself, and WW2 in particular. He makes no apologies for America dropping the bomb; doesn’t even raise questions about it. The overwhelming consensus of history is that, despite the incredible devastation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those bombs undoubtedly spared far more destruction and death.

I find it amazing that, 71 years later, with many other countries now in possession of nuclear weapons, no other nuclear weapons have been used in anger. Pretty incredible, when you think about it. And it’s also incredible that, all things considered, we have such a close friendship with both Japan and Germany. That our peoples moved beyond the horrors of WW2.

The President concluded, “The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child.”

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Day One of a Cruz Administration

I’m amused by how many things Ted Cruz says he’s going to do on his first day as President. It will be a very busy  day. Last I checked, he’s going to repeal every word of Obamacare, rescind all “illegal” executive actions by President Obama, kill the Iran agreement, authorize the Keystone Pipeline, end Common Core, restore sanctions on Iran and Cuba, abolish the IRS, cure the common cold, bring everlasting peace in the Middle East, end Daylight Savings Time, remove every liberal judge, make cable companies stop jerking people around, sew a copy of the Constitution into every shirt pocket, eradicate the comic sans font, end class basketball in Indiana, criminalize saying “Happy Holidays,” and retire Flo the Progressive Girl. I don’t know what he plans to do during the rest of his presidency.

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Assumptions about Evangelicals by the Man on the Phone

A couple days ago, I fielded a call from a guy who wanted us, as the headquarters of an evangelical denomination, to mobilize our people to vote. He’d been calling the offices of various evangelical denominations. He had just talked to people at the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters. It was our turn.

Such calls often get shunted to me, the lowly Communications Director. He talked for ten minutes before I even had a chance to respond. He didn’t want us to tell people how to vote, but that was kind of disingenuous, because the issues he cited were Republican issues (and he did mention Trump and Cruz). And of course, as people say with EVERY election, the upcoming election will be “the most pivotal election in American history.”

He apparently assumed that all evangelicals of the United Brethren stripe would, obviously and inevitably, vote Republican. That’s how I read him, anyway. We just needed to encourage them to go vote, and Good would prevail.

The guy was actually very nice, articulate, and good-intentioned. He just carried some assumptions that, in my view, were incorrect.

I didn’t engage him in discussion, though there was plenty of fodder for doing so.

I didn’t tell him that some of our churches consist of evangelicals who are African-American, or Hispanic, or immigrants—folks who might have a different perspective on things.

I didn’t tell him that, though the majority of our people will most likely vote Republican, thousands of UBs will vote for Democrats because these UBs are passionate about issues which find support primarily among Democrats—issues involving the poor, the use of military force, the death penalty, social justice, refugees, immigrants, healthcare, alternative energy, income disparity, racial and gender discrimination, earthcare, and others.

I DID tell him that we, as a denominational headquarters, don’t get involved in the political arena. That we leave political action to the discretion of our pastors and laypersons at the local level. Besides, we’ve got a tax-exemption to protect.

He wanted to leave his phone number, so I could pass it along to others who might want to talk to him. I told him there would be no passing along of phone numbers, but that I appreciated that he was passionate about issues and was taking action.

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

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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.”

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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

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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.
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