Say wha... ? That's right, you heard me, Republicans don't really want a Christian President. It's not really all that difficult to believe if you think about it for a minute. Being a Christian frequently is understood to be a “follower of Christ” - Christ-like.
Let's just take a moment and consider, what would it look like if Jesus were President. (After all, he already has the bumper sticker). Jesus said, “ I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” The first thing President Jesus would do would be to greatly reduce the amount of money we have in war related line items (if not get rid of it completely) and, in being “wise as serpents,” shift quite a bit of it over to education. As you can see in the video below, we have plenty to spare.
Jesus said, “When you have done it unto the least of these, so too you have done it unto me.” Specifically, he was talking about 1) the hungry: Jesus would probably increase the budget for food stamps and invest heavily in programs that help people get jobs so that they would have the resources to be financially stable.
2) The thirsty: over 3 million people die every year around the world because of a lack of clean water. Pres. Jesus would shift some of the money saved from de-funding the war machine over to insuring no one dies from a lack of something as basic as clean water.
3) The Stranger: Jesus would open up the boarders, do away with immigration law. He would welcome the strangers into a strange land.
4) Those who are naked: Charity organizations would receive a sizable increase in money from the government to help those in need.
5) The sick: Jesus would immediately institute a national health care plan. Doctors could stop having their first question be, “Do you have enough money to pay for this?” and start having the first question be, “Where does it hurt?”
6) Those in prison: There is an outrageously disproportionate percentage of minorities in jail. President Jesus would not only make certain those in prison were properly cared for, he would also address the inequalities that lead to so many minorities being there. He would deal with systemic issues that led to lives that put them there as well as biases that unfairly focus on minorities. This might include insuring that programs like Head Start are fully funded and as well as fully funding college grants for low-income families.
Jesus also would not have accepted the current arrangement that Big Business seems to have with Washington, D.C. Jesus did not take it lightly when people took advantage of those who already had very little. The power play that is going on between Big Business and bureaucrats would be put to an end as Jesus would take to flipping metaphorical tables.
There are many, many other parts of the teaching of Jesus that would not sit well with Republicans if the President took them seriously, but one in particular would drive them batty. In Luke 20:27-38, Jesus makes it clear that marriage is an institution created by humanity not God. Jesus also spent a great deal of his time teaching his disciples (and us) that we are all equal in the eyes of God and should be treated equally. He also never once said a condemning word about homosexuality. Jesus would drop “Don't ask, don't tell” immediately as well as give everyone, regardless of gender, the right to marry whomever they choose.
I realized the President can't actually make all of those things happen, but if the President were a Christian who was governing from a religious perspective, she or he would be trying to do these things. I'm not even saying that it is or isn't a good idea. I'm just saying, the Republican would not like it.
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 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!
“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.
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.