Category Archives: Politics

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.

lakewood-church-houstontx-040

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.”

winters-sobel

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

port-a-potty-lines

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

loretta-lynch

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 Vocativ.com 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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