Does God care who you vote for? No.
Let's just get that straight. I am sick and tired of politicians and ministers telling us that there is one candidate that God wants elected and one the God wants to lose. The fact of the matter is, God just doesn't care. You see, God's will is much bigger than any single candidate. God has set Creation on a trajectory toward God's peaceable kingdom. Even elections we point to as historically important, like whether Bush or Gore won the Presidency in 2000, do not change the reality of God's plans for humanity one little iota.
So to those yelling from the stump that they are God's chosen one or yelling from the pulpit that they can tell you who is God preferred candidate... STOP IT! I will not sit idly by as you use God's name in vain to serve your own self serving purposes.
Because that is the thing God actually does care about. God doesn't care who you vote for, but God does care why you vote for your chosen candidate. Are you voting based on self-serving perspectives or focusing on something higher? More specifically, are you letting your biased '-isms' (classism, sexism, racism, heterosexism, etc.) guide your will, are you letting your fears control your mind, or are you witnessing to the teachings of Jesus as you sort through mountain of mis-information in hopes of finding the pony in the room full of malarkey?
Are you looking for the candidate that shows outward signs of loving their neighbor? Because if your candidate is telling you that some people don't deserve to have their basic needs met, you are not. Are you looking for the candidate that encourages you to love your enemy? Because if your candidate encourages you to fear Muslims, you are not. (Not that Muslims are actually our enemy, they are not, but some candidates would have you believe they are). Are you looking for the candidate that believes God created us all equally? Because if your candidate is interested in taking away someone's ability to function as equal, you are not.
Because that's what matters. You see, this isn't about the candidates, this is about you. God isn't interested in who is elected but rather in why you elect them. With absolutely no uncertainty, we are told by Jesus to seek first the peaceable kingdom of God. That is not a place were some people have more rights than others; where fear not only rules the day but it rules our minds; and where the sick, the hungry and the thirsty go without their needs being met. God's peaceable kingdom is a place where all are welcome at the table of God; where there is no suffering or sorrow; where the first shall be last; and where the meek inherit the earth, the merciful obtain mercy and those who work for justice find the peaceable kingdom.
When you vote are you voting to bolster an earthly kingdom or are you voting to help usher in God's peaceable kingdom - that's what God cares about.
Of course, there is no candidate that ever comes close to that standard, but there are some that are very clearly nowhere close to it. So, yes at times the reality will be voting for the lesser of two evils. But the only thing more evil than voting for the lesser of two evils would be not voting at all out of some personal sense of a higher moral ground, because doing nothing is the theological equivalent of pointing to Jesus and saying, "I do not know this man." For when you do it unto the least of these so too you do it unto him.
Does God care who you vote for? Clearly not, but God does care why you vote for your chosen candidate. So go vote. Do it wisely. Do it with biblical integrity. And for heavens sake, seek first the kingdom of God rather than earthly kingdoms.
Jon Stewart's Rally To Restore Sanity
takes place this week. I have to say, I am literally praying that it hits a nerve with most Americans. Admittedly, we know very little about what will actually happen at the rally. It's hard to say definitively that it won't just turn out to be a jokefest, but even in his most comical moments Jon Stewart manages to slip in biting, level-headed, rational social and political commentary, so I can't help but believe the rally will be similar.
And none-to-soon. As a matter of fact, you could easily make the argument that it is almost too late. The divides in this nation are as deep as they have been in recent memory. Political attack ads don't even pretend to be sane. If anything there seems to be a competition for who can get away with the most insane, unfounded, outrageous ad. “I'll see your 'scary Mexican illegal immigrants
' and raise you a 'Latinos shouldn't vote.
And it isn't just the Right that isn't...well, right. The left plays their own version of this reactionary, thoughtless insanity. From the recent firing of NPR analysts Juan Williams
for giving commentary on a show where he was taking on the role of commentator to the USDA firing Shirley Sherrod
for something she said about a white farmer which was taken out of context. In both cases rational, sound minds might have contextualized their statements and made reasonable choices rather than capitulating to the either\or with\us against us false dichotomy than has been falsely set up as the prevailing narrative our our nation.
As I said, we don't really know what Stewart's (and Colbert's) plans are for the rally, but the signs being proposed for the rally (check them at at saneornot.com/sane
) do give us a general idea of what might be the day's theme: “I understand the difference between, communism, fascism, and socialism and don't use the terms interchangeably,” “My political views cannot be summarized in a pithy sign,” “One of us or perhaps neither of us may be right.” At the heart of each sign: rationality, reasonableness and acceptance.
As a Christian minister, I have to say I'm majorly in favor of moving this nation away from our current wilderness of division and hate, toward a narrative of acceptance and sanity. John the Baptist brought a similar message from the wilderness in a time of political and religious divides. During a time when those with power and money were constantly taking advantage of those without, he proclaimed the coming of one that would lower the mountains and raise up the valleys; make the crooked straight; and the rough plains smooth.
Jesus did just that. Calling for the world to stop it's dividing and belittling ways, to recognize the value in everyone, to offer a helping hand to those in need, and to stop the corruption practiced by so many of the powerful. Much later in the history of the world another man would pick up the great theme of which John the Baptist proclaimed as he stood in Washington, DC and said, “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
The fear and the divide that political ads and reactionary responses to sound bites place on this nation move us further away from Jesus' vision which was so soundly reiterated in Dr. King's dream. We must not let the fear, division and thoughtlessness win out.
Clearly Stewart is no Dr. King, or John the Baptist or Jesus. But (even though the far Right will no doubt bash his message as elitist, socialist, and naïve) it does seem that, Stewart stands in the shadows of these giants in as much as, it would seem, he will be reiterating their message to us... only he'll be funnier. Let us hope, let us pray, that all flesh will see that day together.
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
- Carl Sandburg
I suspect Sandburg was just talking about actual fog in this poem, but we English major types do tend to over analyze...particularly poems. One way of looking at this is to see the fog as the problems we sometimes face (be they death, worry, etc.).
For many, many years, the dumbing down of America has been our fog – never rolling in over us, but coming in on cat's feet and looking over America, threatening to pounce. It has been acknowledged, but not much more than noticed and notated (see books like, “Anti-intellectualism in American Life
” and “The Age of American Unreason
” ). It is as if we believe that, like Sandburg's fog, it will eventually move on. It hasn't.
Anti-intellectualism has pounced on America. We celebrate shows that reward people for being smarter than a fifth
grader (a show, I might add, which is hosted by the “you might be a redneck” guy). Possibly the two places that most clearly show our embracing of ignorance are church and state. From gay bashing Christians who when engaged by someone presenting biblical hermeneutics simply quote scripture, call names and question your piousness to politicians who don't even know that the first amendment directly addresses the relationship between religion and government, the dumbing down of America has pounced on us and now it is just batting us around until it decides to devour us.
Not surprisingly, those who embrace ignorance in both church and state also want to see the two combined (one would assume it is for the sake of making ignorance much more convenient – why be ignorant about two things when you can roll them into one convent package? What the pancake wrapped sausage is to breakfast, conflation of church and state hope to do for anti-intellectualist).
Worse yet, the unreason of our nation has combined with another terrible instrument that the Republican party has learned to play like a virtuoso: the 'could-be-me' myth. It started with defending millionaires by telling middle American, “Hey, when you make your million, do you want the government to take it away from you?” It worked. Middle America started supporting policies that broadened the rights of the rich and big businesses and decreased the rights of the rest of us all on the off chance that we could make our own million - hey, it could-be-me.
So, they took it to another level. Why not have a President that could be your drinking buddy? A "decider-er" for the nation that reminds me of me...or at least of one of my drinking buddies or that frat guy I knew in college who wasn't very smart but sure was committed. If that guy could be President, I could be President - it could-be-me.
Anti-intellectualism has pounced on America as the good-ol-boy elected official that could-be-me has morphed into Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell style political candidates that are mostly performance with very little content. The reality is their lack of content is lauded as making them more like us. “What? You can't see Russia from Alaska?” “Really? The Constitution says government shouldn't get tied up in religion?” “I didn't know that either.” “How awesome is it that Palin/O'Donnell could win and they don't know the same things I don't know. Hmmm, it could-be-me.”
It does not escape me that the powerful (like Rove and the Koch brothers), who would not be able to get elected themselves, are behind this rush to losing our minds (quite literally). It serves them well to have shills they can shuffle around in the nation sized shell game they have created, moving their interests and those of big business back and forth with a deft hand skilled in trickery and deception while the American public play a guessing game trying to decide under which political party their interests are actually hidden. For the powerful, having someone who doesn't actually have the capacity or desire to question their motives or the constitutionality of their actions in place to play the game is not a moral question but the height of good gamesmanship...and in their eyes, we are the pawns.
When we make kings and queens of the ignorant we become a nation of fools. I don't want anyone serving this great nation that isn't quite a bit more intelligent than me. Every time I see a candidate doing well who clearly isn't among the top political minds our nation has to offer, I don't think, “Well how refreshing, a commoner like me.” I think “Holy shit, that person could be helping run the nation!” (and I don't even cuss when I bang my thumb with a hammer.)
To quote Forrest Gump, “Stupid is a stupid does.” I can't wait to see what we do this election cycle. Just keep one thing in mind, Wisdom is the thing in which God delights daily. (Proverbs 8:30)
The Republican party has finally jumped the shark. “Jumping the shark” is a T.V. production term that refers to the “Happy Days” episode where Fonzy literally jumped a shark. It was originally meant to indicate a point at which a T.V. show's plot goes so far it becomes absurd. Colloquially, the term has come to mean the point at which a one time successful organization or project takes a turn for the worst.
A Republican group with a typically misleading name, Latinos for Reform (update: this group is backed by the Swift Boat people
), bought up $80,000 worth of ads on Univision in Nevada. They were not promoting all the good things the Republican party has done for the Latino community (how could they?). They were not making promises to the Latino community about how they will champion their causes (because they won't). They were trying to encourage them not to vote
Why? Because they, and I quote, they “can't ask people to support a Republican candidate who has taken a completely irresponsible and bordering on racist position on immigration.” So, they try to run an ad to encourage the Latino population not to vote. And (big surprise here) they aren't exactly upfront about why they are doing it.
The argument in the ad is basically, the Democrats haven't done anything for you, so show them a little something by just not voting at all.
Wow...just wow. The Republican party's willingness to manipulate reality all for the sake of a win speaks directly to their lack of respect for the citizens they are suppose to represent if elected. An ad that pretends to support the Latino community's cause is actually designed to do the opposite, insure that the person elected will continue actions that their supporters themselves call “irresponsible and bordering on racist.” Basically, they use double talk and false sincerity to encourage inaction, so that their candidate can win and promote racially motivated immigration law.
As far as I'm concerned, they jumped the shark on this one. Like them or not, just based on shear effectiveness alone, you have to admit that the Republicans are pretty good at the mudslinging and political double talk that has become unfortunately essential in a candidate’s T.V. ads. And they always manage to walk that line of deniability even when their accusations are out and out lies. This time they didn't. They jumped the shark in both understandings of the word. They crossed the line that that have so carefully walked for so long in their blatant disregard for the Latino community. In doing so their successful ad campaigns have clearly taken a turn for the worst. It also has taken a turn to the absurd.
Their false motivations, political lies and willingness to sacrifice truth for winning could not be clearer on this. I am astounded that the general public still manages to identify the Republicans as the most Christian party. Jesus was the truth. Those who play fast and loose with the truth do not follow Jesus. Jesus ' primary message was love. Those who step on the least of these do not understand what love of neighbor looks like. Jesus spent a great deal of his time with the marginalized. Those who would encourage a terribly underrepresented segment of our society to not vote clearly do not grasp the bias the Gospels have for the marginalized.
The ad that they planned to run asked the question, “aren't you tired of politicians playing games with your future?” Well, Univision certainly is. They decided not to run the ad
. Viva La Univision!
I have never really cared for Fox News. It is even difficult for me to type their name without either cringing or laughing. I much prefer the more descriptive Faux News because, let's face it, that pretty much nails what they do - by their own admission
Recently, a convicted criminal has identified one of Faux News' show hosts, Glenn Beck (for whom I admittedly have a distaste)
, as the inspiration and motivation for his attempt at murder
. With the ramped up hate-speech and fear-mongering that can be heard almost hourly on Faux News, some of which borders on apocalyptic language, it is almost surprising that something like this hasn't already happened.
What is both surprising and totally expected, at the same time, is The Christian Right's resounding silence on the topic. For example, when violence and death are connected to Heavy Metal even in a cursory way, you can count on them to show up at concerts with hate filled signs (even at Christian Heavy Metal shows), voice their disdain news and talk shows to sound their objections and write articles in every medium that will publish them to pronounce the Devil inspired evils of Heavy Metal.
When the same connections are made in their sibling arm of the Republican party, all you hear from them is deafening silence or maybe the random cricket "chirp." To The Religious Right I say, unless you care to reinforce the growing public opinion that your movement is full of hypocrites, it is time for you to step up and demand that the hate filled, apocalyptic talk of Faux News be brought to an end in the name of the Prince of Peace.
I do have to say, much like I felt when they were attacking Heavy Metal (of which I'm not particularly a fan), I think it is short-sighted and unfair to heap all the blame on Faux News. There are multiple influences (or lack their of) which move a person to that kind of violence, but for the sake of consistency of message (I know, I know, "big fat chance of that"), I am calling out the Christian Right to voice its disdain of institutions that lead people to such deplorably violent actions, in this case Faux News.
From a Christian perspective, inciting violence is antithetical to living the life Jesus taught us to live. Faux News and Glenn Beck make a mockery of Christianity as they continue to imply that they are a Christian network
and inspire violence at the same time. For that matter, The Christian Right make a mockery of their own doctrine when they hold their friends to different moral standards than their enemies.
This is just one of hundreds of examples of why we all should stop taking either group very seriously (many of us already have). Their own actions smack of hypocrisy and biases. It is time to call them out on the ever-shifting and loose moral standards they practice. It is time for them to stop playing dress-up by putting on airs of Christianity. It is time for them to stop pretending. We don't live in Never Never Land.
“Do not say that it is naïve to think that we can love everyone, even our enemies. It is not naïve; it is Christian. Do not say that it is politically naïve to be forgiving of those who hurt you. It is not naïve; it is Christian. Do not say that it is naïve to make sure the basic needs are met even for the least of these. It is not naïve; it is Christian.” -From my sermon “The 1st Commandment and the 1st Amendment.
I grow weary of Christian who on Sunday worship the Prince of Peace and the rest of the week align themselves with political perspectives that support warring with our enemies. I grow weary of Christians who pray on Sunday, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” and spend the rest of the week holding grudges and seeking revenge. I grow weary of Christians who on Sunday profess their love for the one who said when you do it to the least of these you do it to me and then spend the rest of the week supporting politicians and political platforms that step on the least of these. “Just as you did it to the least of these,” says Jesus, “you do it to me.”
I grow weary of the cognitive dissonance in which some Christians blissfully exist, not realizing that while on Sunday they claim the moniker of Christ, the things they profess the rest of the week belie the teachings of the name they claim.
If you don't want your politics to match your religious beliefs, fine with me. If you don't need authenticity in the balance between what you confess on Sunday and what you profess the rest of the week, fine with me.
But do not pretend that you are practicing what you preach. Do not pretend that you are talking the talk and
walking the walk. Do not pretend it is alright with God.
God expects a life lived with authenticity not a life lived practicing this kind of false duplicity. God expects us to strive to be the people we claim to be, not merely claim to be the people we are supposed to strive to be.
So, don't tell me that the things Jesus taught are naïve when placed within the realm of governance; don't tell me that they are good things to say. Tell me that your faith is big enough to take the first step into matching your Sundays and your weekdays. Tell me that you are so committed to the teachings of Jesus that you will risk loving your enemy. Tell me that the image of Christ is carved out in every face you see and that you could never sit idly by as politicians and big business conspire to step on the lest of these.
Tell me that God's love lives in you; that in you it knows no bounds; that it is bigger than any party loyalty and more valuable than anything wealth could ever bring you. Tell me with your words. Tell me with your actions. Tell me with your political positions. Tell me with your life.
"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God?"
Today, Oct. 11, is National Coming Out Day
. The fact that we even have to have this day is a sad statement about how committed we are as a nation to justice and to equality. It is also a sad statement about the hate and fear-mongering that continues in this great nation. There are still untold numbers of people who must pass for someone they are not, out of fear for how they will be treated.
Yes, we live in a nation where, for some people, being the people God created them to be must be feared and hidden... “In God we trust,” indeed. Justice is blind? From what I've seen, it is not nearly blind enough.
In terms of seeking equal rights for our gay brothers and sisters, we have been traveling in the right direction for some time now, but we have been traveling too slowly, to begrudgingly and by asking too many to hide too much of the reflection of God that is uniquely revealed in them. Justice delayed, certainly is justice denied. And as Dr. King reminded us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Today I ask my minister friends and my straight friends to stand with me on this National Coming Out Day. Stand with me and our homosexual brothers and sisters who were made equally in the image of God and should be treated equal in this great nation of ours. I ask you to come out for equality.
Fear can be overcome with knowledge. So let's let those who have had to pretend to be someone they are not for so long know
that not only does God love them, but we love them – that not only does God stand with them, but we stand with them.
Equality is not up for biblical questioning my friends. We are all created equally in God's image. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
So I ask you to step up and speak out. Share the HRC
logo on your FB page, on your Twitter page. Post quotes about equality, loudly claim your love for all of God's children and demand that they ALL be treated with the same grace, dignity, respect and rights that are afforded to you.“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
With Jon Stewart's upcoming “Rally to Restore Sanity
” and today's news that in some races Democrats are making a comeback
by beating their Republican opponents at their own game of attack ads, I can't help but ask this question, "For the majority of the US public in the current state of the electoral process, does the truth presented in a straight forward way, without all the pejoratives and scorn, have enough impact to sway voters?"
Now for some people this may be of little consequence. For some, the honest answer may be a simple, "who cares?". For others, I suspect this question speaks to part of their current frustration. Those who want to see intellect valued over passion in our leaders surely find the current state of dramatic commercials that slams one's opponents in order to gain the electoral upper hand to be a sad commentary on our continued national move away from rationality, education and respect toward hubris, overstated self-confidence and hate. (That is not to say they devalue passion. Clearly, passion is important, but when it is valued over clear thinking our emotions will lead us into very murky and dangerous waters).
For Christians it presents a deeper issue. If you are running for office and are Christian, how do balance a political climate that seems to clearly indicate the need to state the negatives of your opponent in a dramatic, hurtful and attacking way if you wish to be successful with the biblical mandate to love your enemy and to not bare false witness? I am fully aware that the argument will, can and has been made that what they are accusing their opponents of are not false statements, but a simple browsing of FactCheck.org
quickly shows that in an effort to be as attacking as possible, the ads are (at best) overstating the truth to the point that they are no longer factual - they are baring false witness.
I am left with one of two conclusions. Either we simply don't know if it is possible because the right person with the right message hasn't shown up yet or that, with the current state of politics in the US, it is not possible for a Christian who strives to practice their beliefs in all that they do to be elected to a national position.
I think Stephen Colbert's counter rally to Stewart's rally, the "March to Keep Fear Alive
", holds the key to our current predicament. Unlike so much of the current hubris of our great nation would have us believe, fear is not best overcome with force, power and might. Fear is best overcome with knowledge. Years ago, Colbert coined the phrase "truthiness
": "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true." Through outlets like Fox News, we have let truthiness pervade our national dialogue, sacrificing the actual truth on the alter of being on the winning side; we've let winning become more important that the truth...actually, we've let winning become a substitute for the truth.
For Christians, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. That does not change simply because you are running for office. While I suspect Jesus would have never ran for office, I am certain that if he had, he would not have stooped to attack ads. For Jesus, the simple truth always sufficed.
I'm afraid a lot of people aren't seeing what's happening in our nation where, after 9/11, “United We Stand” was plastered on the bumper of what seemed like every car. Many people do recognize that there is a increase in the chatter of disagreement in everything from politics to theology, but I worry that too many are not seeing where this is heading...or worse yet actually want it to go there.
We are approaching The Great Divide in the U.S. We are steadily marching toward a time of a dialogical quagmire – a time when the heated, yet rational debates of our founding Fathers are relegated to historical hooey because we see them as naïve and clearly uncommitted because they weren't willing to besmirch their opponent to the point of devastation.
We are gazing into a gaping chasm of malcontent when the either/or diatribe of “you are either with us or you are against us” will not only define the prevailing zeitgeist of our nation but will divide us to such a degree that we will reach impasses of the likes few have ever imagined. It has the potential to put a strangle hold on an already far too ineffectual congress; the results of which will be to deepen the recession, increase the gap between the haves and have nots, and continue to lessen the influence of the United States throughout the world. That doesn't even begin to touch on other areas that will be impacted such as education, scientific advancement and civil rights (and many, many others).
Those who fan the flames of division all too frequently claim to do it from a Christian perspective. People who promote hate and division are not practicing the core value of Christianity – love. It is time for those of us who take the teachings of Jesus seriously to stand up, to be a light on the hill of rationality, tolerance and unity. We must take back the prevailing Christian dialog of this nation. We must wrestle it away from those who choose to use it to attain power and money. We must claim our voice as Christians and say, “No, I do not hate my enemy – I love them. I do not hate you – I love you. I refuse to be divided from any of those created in God's image simply because they disagree with me, attack me, or call me names.”
It is time to replace the drive to division with a call to love. With love, we do not have to agree, but we do have to be civil. We do have to be respectful. We do have to practice tolerance. We can stand divided, but it will take a deeper understanding of what it means to love your neighbor to do it.