Why Voting Third Party Isn’t a Waste: A Parable

Let’s imagine you’re in high school. (Sorry to give you flashbacks to failed algebra exams or being picked last in gym class or whatever, but it must be done.)

The administration at Generic Washington High School has decided they want a school song. It’ll be played in the halls during passing periods every day and sung at graduations and sports events, and it will also determine the theme of the special assemblies and programs throughout the year. Being the progressive sort, they let the students vote between two controversial options.

Modern high school entrance

With apologies to any public high schools who feel unfairly stereotyped by this story.

Song A is an odd combination of feel-good self-esteem messages and obscenities. Its lyrics champion respect and love for all and everyone’s right to claim their own destiny and control their own fate, along with a peppering of mystical phrases and repeated uses of the f-word.

Song B is raw in a different way. While it often mocks others and turns into an us vs. them screed for one verse, the chorus affirms belief in God and values like courage and responsibility. Weirdly, the music video both objectifies women and randomly flashes Bible verses across the screen.

A school-wide convocation is called where the vote is explained and students get to hear both songs. The principal mentions that you can write in your own song or start a grassroots campaign for another option, but the school isn’t going to endorse any except their chosen two, and teachers won’t be allowed to promote any others.

The school board decides that each homeroom will vote for a song, then send their teacher to a council to vote only for the winner of the majority vote in their room. Besides that, senior classes get four votes, juniors three, sophomores two, and freshmen one, because why not make things more complicated?

So, imagine you have a small group of Christian friends who attend Generic Washington. (Some of the following scenarios apply if you’re not a Christian, but that’s the crowd I’m mainly talking to right now.) You’re all discussing what you should do. (more…)

Political Choices Are Hard (or Why I’m Not Voting for Trump)

When I was thirteen, I outlawed slavery.

It was probably my proudest jr. high moment (not that it had a lot of competition, because jr. high). Our history teacher declared a session of the Continental Congress to frame the Constitution. We would take two days to debate issues, and each person received a state, a character, and a list of how that person voted that you were supposed to follow.

My history teacher chose what he thought was the perfect role for me, the awkwardly quiet homeschooled kid in the back row: Roger Sherman, the meek, mild-mannered delegate from Connecticut who basically only spoke up in a significant way once during the convention.

(If you’re laughing right now, then clearly you know me better than my jr. high teachers and classmates did.)

My role sheet spelled out my task: I’d deliver the Connecticut Compromise allowing slavery (but restricting the power of the South) like I was supposed to, it would pass, and that’s all I’d have to do.

Guys, compromise isn’t really my thing.


Roger Sherman is the muted-brown, wig-less guy who Alexander Hamilton’s elbow is pointing to. (That might be his biggest claim to fame.)

I actually wrote the speech, two paragraphs of cool-headed assessment of the politics behind slavery and the need to make the choice that was best for the survival of our young nation.

And then, during the actual event, staring out at pimpled and brace-wired faces who I didn’t really know and who didn’t really know me, I completely ignored it. “Gentlemen,” I said after being recognized by George Washington, “I’d like to address the sectional concerns we’ve been discussing.” (more…)

The Bible Says You Shouldn’t Play Christmas Music Before Thanksgiving

It’s October, which means I’m getting taunting texts and Facebook messages from friends who are starting their season of listening to Christmas carols.

If you groaned when you read that insane sentence, this post is for you. If you guiltily turned down the volume on the Mannheim Steamroller version of “Little Drummer Boy” to keep reading…this post is also for you. (You may not know how desperately you need it.)


Now, please don’t read this in a spirit of judgment. I just want to show, using Scripture, why God wants you to save the caroling for December, or at the very earliest, after Thanksgiving.

Let’s start with the biggest musical collection in the Bible: the book of Psalms. They cover a wide range of topics: helping the people of God to join in corporate worship to thank the Lord for deliverance and favor, repent of sin, and extol praises. All that to say—a season of thanksgiving is critical to our spiritual life, and is often neglected when we move too quickly to Christmas (often cluttered with all kinds of commercial baggage).

Are there songs about Christ’s birth? Sure. Mary’s song of praise is a lovely example, and you could argue that John 1 is an example of a poetic tribute to Jesus’ coming. But notice that they are kept in their place: Scripture sings about Jesus’s birth…when specifically and purposefully telling about Jesus’ birth, which we take time to do in December. (more…)

You Believe the Wrong Gospel (And So Do I)

If this were a catchy, click-bait-y post, the title would be Five Ways to Tell If You’re Believing Heresy.

Except there’s really only one foolproof sign you need: you’re a human. (And not Jesus, which is technically a second sign, but so oddly specific that I didn’t count it.)

Here’s what I mean: maybe you have perfectly orthodox beliefs, prioritized in just the right order with the essentials at the core and the interesting doctrinal potpourri on the fringes. Maybe your pastor is careful to interpret the Bible well, maybe you pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, maybe you compare everything you hear to Scripture.

Even with all that, there will still be days where you believe the wrong gospel. On paper you may say you believe one thing, but what you do reveals where your heart is.

That’s extremely vague and mysterious-sounding, like I’m some sort of spiritual fortune cookie dispenser. To de-guru myself, here are a few examples from my life that I’ve noticed recently.

The Prosperity Gospel

“God wants you to be happy. If you’re experiencing suffering, it must be your lack of faith, because God is waiting for you to call down blessings, live your best life now, ask and receive health, wealth, and a mega-T.V. ministry.”

It’s practically self-satirizing—sites like Babylon Bee don’t even need to do anything to parody this message. You can basically quote the major leaders and it looks like something that no one who read the actual New Testament or examined the life of even one early church leader could possibly come up with.

Joel Osteen and his shiny smile is, in my circles, the universal punching bag for heresy jokes. Kind of like a reverse Chuck Norris. We understand that the Bible tells us we will suffer, in no uncertain terms. (Multiple times.)

Abundance! (Of hair gel, anyway...)

Abundance! (Of hair gel, anyway…)

On the other hand…when things do go wrong in my life, my first reaction is, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” Even trivial problems and delays provoke my whining, as if God somehow owes me sunny weather or a non-snoring neighbor on the plane or the return of Aldi’s limited edition Mint Moose Tracks ice cream.

It gets more serious, of course, when the suffering is real—sickness, broken relationships, death. It can be harder to remember, then, that shouting at God for letting this happen is basically saying Osteen was right all along. I deserve a perfect life in a fallen world, and when I don’t get it, I have a right to be angry. (more…)

On Neverland and Growing Up

My generation has a problem, or so everyone seems to be saying.

Whether they’re commentators criticizing grown adults for playing Pokémon Go, or experts focusing on the fact that Millennials are less likely to marry, bloggers nicknaming us Special Protagonists, or columnists bemoaning the emotional fragility that requires a filter of political correctness and trigger warnings to discuss anything remotely controversial, you get a pretty grim picture of young people today from just about the whole world.

Which is a bummer, given that I’m a young person. Especially because, while I don’t agree with every article bemoaning our (multiple) flaws, I can kinda see their general point.

A recent hit by Twenty-One Pilots, “Stressed Out,” has been labeled an anthem from our generation. You can listen to the whole thing, but the general sense is in the chorus: “Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol’ days, when our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out …Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face, saying, ‘Wake up, you need to make money.’”

So, catchy song, but I’ve got to admit, the whole idea of the good ol’ days being the era we spent drooling in our cribs sounds a little pathetic. In some ways I get the nostalgia for naptime and Lunchables, but with some stress comes great responsibility and at least a little power to, you know, drive yourself places, make choices about your future, think through ideas and beliefs, or,  if none of those appeal to you, at least stop wearing diapers. (more…)

On Leaving a Legacy

Last weekend, I lurked around the American Christian Fiction Writers conference, watching as hopeful attendees took classes and faced dreaded pitching appointments with editors and agents.

When you walk through those halls, you can almost feel the weight of all the ambitions and hopes, from the multi-published author struggling with doubt to the aspiring novelist who clings to a dream that seems impossible to the writer who’s facing rejection or anxiety or comparison.

And it reminded me of the tower of Babel and a hip-hop musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton.


If the second half of that sentence sounds strange, then you’ve probably never heard of Broadway megahit Hamilton. I can’t universally endorse it if you’re bothered by strong language, but the story is compelling, the word play is ridiculously clever, and Washington’s cabinet meetings are rap battles.

Thematic Cliff Notes (no spoilers): Hamilton struggles throughout with a desperate need to leave a legacy, one that drives him to work harder than his peers…and neglect his family and make some incredibly stupid choices. “I am not throwing away my shot” and “Just you wait” are his constant, almost desperate-sounding refrains. He’s determined to make a name for himself, whatever the cost.

In contrast, I give you George Washington: “Let me tell you what I wish I’d known when I was young and dreamed of glory. You have no control: who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”



I’m seriously considering making business cards with these two quotes on them.

Of the two characters, guess who has the best perspective on this one? (more…)

How To Be Outraged at the Right Things

Confession: I saw exactly none of the Olympics, since we use our TV entirely for Netflix and watching movies.

Like those people who try to summarize plots of books without having read them, what I know of the Olympics is basically: Michael Phelps made a funny face, trampoline is an actual event, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team was awesome, and people are racist, sexist, or both because they condemned Gabby Douglas’s alleged bad attitude while shrugging off Ryan Lochte’s alleged vandalism and perjury.


My response to that last one was…maybe. Maybe not.

But I’m pretty sure it showed that we have a problem with our cultural expectations for others.

Think about it. The reason we are outraged by something is because it goes against what we think ought to happen.

When we are outraged and probably shouldn’t be, it’s often because we take something true (“Parents should watch their children carefully. Animals shouldn’t be treated with cruelty.”) and use those truths to completely overreact to a situation we think shouldn’t have happened (“The evil zookeepers who shot the poor, defenseless gorilla and the incompetent mother who let her kid wander into the cage are criminals and horrible people.”).

When we should be outraged about something and aren’t (say, abortion, or another politician is caught lying) it’s usually because it doesn’t affect us personally or we expect it to happen and go on happening. (more…)