Christian Leaders Address the Refugee Executive Order

Too many Christians let their views on public policy be shaped by talking-head pundits. This is particularly sad when it comes to issues of morality and biblical faithfulness. I always want to hear what Christian leaders have to say–missionaries, ministers, theologians, Christian college presidents, leaders of Christian organizations, etc.

Regarding President Trump’s executive order against refugees, a number of Christian leaders have spoken out. I give their views far more weight that the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews–people whose views are shaped by ideology, not by Christian values.

Here is a statement from the leaders of eight Christian organizations, including World Relief and World Vision. These people are on the front lines, ministering to refugees and others devastated by conflict and natural disasters. I highly value their voice, and appreciate them speaking truth to power in the name of Christ.

Dear President Trump and Vice President Pence,

As evangelical Christians, we are guided by the Bible to be particularly concerned for the plight of refugees, individuals who have been forced to flee their countries because of the threat of persecution. Evangelical churches and ministries have long played a key role in welcoming, resettling, and assisting in the integration of refugees from various parts of the world. As such, we are troubled by the recent executive order temporarily halting refugee resettlement and dramatically reducing the number of refugees who could be considered for resettlement to the U.S.

The Bible teaches us that each person — including each refugee, regardless of their country of origin, religious background, or any other qualifier — is made in the Image of God, with inherent dignity and potential. Their lives matter to God, and they matter to us. While the U.S. has in recent years received only a fraction of 1 percent of the world’s refugees annually, we believe the refugee resettlement program provides a lifeline to these uniquely vulnerable individuals and a vital opportunity for our churches to live out the biblical commands to love our neighbors, to make disciples of all nations, and to practice hospitality.

Our faith also compels us to be concerned with the well-being of families. Most of the refugees admitted to the U.S. in recent years are family reunification cases, coming to join a relative already in the country. A temporary moratorium will unnecessarily delay families whose cases already have been screened and approved from being reunited.

We fully affirm the important role of the U.S. government in vetting and screening those considered for resettlement to our country; indeed, it is a God-ordained responsibility of government. However, the U.S. refugee resettlement program’s screening process is already extremely thorough — more intensive, in fact, than the vetting that is required of any other category of visitor or immigrant to our nation — and it has a remarkably strong record. While we are always open to improvements to our government’s screening process, we believe that our nation can continue to be both compassionate and secure.

We would ask that you reconsider these decisions, allowing for resettlement of refugees to resume immediately so that our churches and ministries can continue to live out our faith in this way.

We are praying for you and for all of those in positions of civil authority, that God would continue to grant you wisdom and guidance.


Chad Hayward
CEO, Accord Network

Shirley V. Hoogstra
President, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

Hyepin Im
President & CEO, Korean Churches for Community Development

Leith Anderson
President, National Association of Evangelicals

Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez
President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon
Ambassador. The Wesleyan Church

Tim Breene
CEO, World Relief

Richard Stearns
President, World Vision U.S.

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“For the Lord is a God of Justice….”

A turning point of sorts occurred for me in 1980, when I attended an Evangelical Press Association convention in Chicago. The closing speaker, Wes Pippert, referenced biblical teachings about the poor and justice. I remember it distinctly. It was as though God grabbed me by the collar and said, “Pay attention to this! It’s important!”

I grew up under great biblical teaching, but don’t remember ever hearing messages about justice. Four years of Huntington College were similarly silent. So when I heard Wes Pippert, I was pretty much a blank slate. Ignorant. And thus began for me a decades-long journey during which God taught me about issues of poverty and justice. God reshaped my mind, and prepared me for things he had planned for me.

IN MY EXPERIENCE, evangelicals just don’t teach about justice. I’ve sat under some excellent pastors, but only one has preached on the subject (thank you, Tim Hallman). It’s puzzling to me. To an extent, I think white evangelicals (my tribe) view justice as a “black” issue, or as something only “liberals” champion. Beyond that, I can’t figure it out.

After a couple decades along this journey, I reluctantly accepted that the Republican Party TENDS to work at odds with bringing justice in society. They care about justice for the unborn, but that’s about it. When I talk or write about justice, I sense people’s eyes glazing over. They think I’m just trying to spiritualize what they view as anti-God liberalism. I get that a lot.

Anyway, I don’t talk about justice because, as people sometimes mistakenly assume, I’m a raging liberal. I talk about it because God stabbed me through the heart with the issue way back in 1980, and has patiently shown me how much he cares about justice. Justice for the poor, for prisoners, for aliens, for the marginalized, for racial minorities, for women, for workers, for children, for the oppressed.

These SHOULD be concerns for all Christians.

So no, I won’t shut up about it.

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Alternative Sports Facts

Green-Bay-Packers-shoot-for-first-win-in-BuffaloIt was great seeing the Packers make it to yet another Super Bowl. Don’t believe the liberal media, with their fake news, which says the Falcons won. The Packers won, period. I look forward to them defeating the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

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The Gold Pitch

You’ve seen those alarmist commercials, often on cable news, which want you to invest in gold. They tell you about a coming global economic collapse which will make your money worthless. But if you have gold, you’ll be okay.

SO, they urge you to send them your money–which, of course, will become worthless–and they will send you their valuable gold. What am I missing here? Why do they want your worthless money? What do they intend to buy with it–platinum?

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Trump: Hitting the Ground Running with the Economy

After 30+ years at the United Brethren national office, I’ve seen (from the sidelines) hundreds of pastoral transitions occur in our churches. It’s always nice when a church is all primed to move forward–problems have been dealt with, the congregation is unified, finances are doing well, good leadership is in place. You know that the next pastor will be able to hit the ground running.

I kind of view the Trump presidency that way, at least when it comes to the economy. I like what he did with Carrier, and that most corporations are going to think twice about relocating operations overseas. That’s a great way to use the famed Bully Pulpit. I think the economy in general is primed for him to move forward in job creation, revitalizing the middle class, and other areas.

It was reported this week that in December, the economy added jobs for the 75th month in a row, which is a record. The inflation rate has been very low for many years now (1.6% or lower for the past three years), stocks are up, exports are up, domestic oil production up, gas prices down. The auto industry, once on the brink of collapse, is now humming along nicely.

Of course, a great deal remains to be done. I don’t want to paint a totally rosy picture. Many people are unemployed and under-employed, or are working at very low-income jobs. But nothing ominous, economy-wise, faces the incoming president. It really does remind me of a church which is ready to move forward.

President-elect Trump should be able to take office and hit the ground running. No impending economic meltdown to address, no major industry facing collapse. Problems will arise, obviously, but Trump won’t be hit with them on Day One. He can lay out a path and move the economy forward. I hope that is what happens.

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Why Not Celebrate New Year’s Day in March?

Why does the New Year start in January? Why not a nicer, more optimistic month, like March? Well, it used to start in March. Which explained why the last four months of the year were named after numbers. September (septem) was the 7th month, October (octo) the 8th, November (novem) the ninth, and December (decem) the 10th.

But then along came Julius Caesar. He thought January would be more appropriate, since it was named after Janus, the god of doors and gates. That started in 45 B.C. So when Jesus came along, January had already been imposed across the Roman Empire.

The 5th month used to be called Quintilis (quint=5), but Caesar changed it to Julius to honor himself. The next emperor, Augustus, did likewise with the sixth month, which had been Sextilis. All the previous months were already named after gods–Janus, Februus, Mars, Aphrodite, Maia, Juno.

After the Roman Empire went away, January fell out of favor. Countries did their own thing. March became popular. But in 1582, Pope Gregory created the Gregorian calendar, which restored January 1 as New Year’s Day.

The British Empire didn’t adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752, which means the Founding Fathers grew up celebrating the New Year in March. Russia held off until after the Revolution in 1917. So godless communists also preferred the Pope’s calendar, apparently.

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Let’s End the Electoral College

No state uses the electoral college to elect a governor. Ever wonder why? States go strictly on the popular vote. Electoral college lovers will argue that that just gives certain counties more power (in my state, that would be Marion, Allen, and Hamilton counties). I argue that it makes every citizen count equally. Equality is kind of an American value, isn’t it?

Every four years, we hear tortured explanations of why the electoral college is a good thing. Why the all-wise Founding Fathers decided to use it back in the 1700s. I realize it’s never going to go away. But I’d like to see the popular vote prevail. The winner is the person who gets the most votes. THAT is democracy. The electoral college is NOT democracy.

Majority vote prevails at every other level–city, county, state, US Representatives, Senators–but we use a whole different method for selecting a president. Doesn’t that seem odd? It’s like playing a full basketball game, and if it’s tied at the end, you switch and play Rock-Paper-Scissors.

This electoral college thing treats states on a winner-take-all basis. Most states are already considered in the bag for one candidate or the other. Trump wrote off California, Illinois, and New York–some token campaigning, but voters in those states didn’t really matter TO HIM. Hillary wrote off Texas, Wyoming, Indiana, and most of the deep South. Voters in those states did not matter TO HER. When I vote for a Democrat for president, it’s totally irrelevant, because Indiana is going with the Republican.

In the general election, each candidate focuses on just a handful of “battleground” states. I’m tired of Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and Wisconsin being the only states whose citizens really matter. The states where candidates devote their time and resources. I matter, too. So do citizens in Idaho, Montana, and Massachusetts, whether they live in cities or in the country.

There are 4.1 million people in California who voted for Trump. But they might as well have stayed home. Likewise for the 3.8 Texans who voted for Hillary. Consider that in Wisconsin, the TOTAL number of votes cast was under 3 million. But every one of those votes counted A WHOLE LOT. That’s not American.

Over the years, hundreds of proposals have been introduced to reform or end the electoral college (a term which doesn’t appear in the Constitution). Polls consistently show that a wide majority of people favor abolishing the electoral college (75% clear back in 1981). It’s an archaic system, which may have fit the world of the late 1700s, but it’s time to go. Plus, the electoral college is death to third parties. Ross Perot won 19% of the votes in 1992, but received NO electoral votes because he wasn’t strong enough in any single state. I’d love to see a third party candidate who actually stands a snowball’s chance.

Brazil, France, Finland, and Argentina are among the countries which once used an electoral college kind of system, but replaced it with a direct, popular-vote election. In the US, state legislatures appointed US senators until the 1900s, when we switched to a popular vote. So it CAN be done.

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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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