Month: October 2016

Christians: Don’t Justify Trump’s Behavior

In a recent PBS documentary on the musical Hamilton, Daveed Diggs said of the character he plays, Thomas Jefferson (a slaveholder who had children with one of his slaves…who was also a brilliant writer, politician and leader): “You don’t have to separate these things with Jefferson. He can have written several incredible documents with things that we all believe in, and he sucks.”

Daveed and Jefferson. Can't you see the resemblance?

Daveed and Jefferson. Can’t you see the resemblance?

He makes a good point, relevant to this election as well. Our Founding Fathers, who we sometimes see as perfect, weren’t. They were also gifted leaders who had to make difficult choices in a new nation.

Many people will make the comparison to Trump. (I could also write about Hillary, but I have more followers/friends who are Republicans than Democrats, so I’m going to be ignoring her for a bit here.)

Personally, I would disagree and say that Trump is not Jefferson or Washington—in my view, he has more of the failures and less of the skills/qualities needed for the job—but I realize some people feel caught between two less-than-ideal options and are picking the one they think is least damaging.

(Quick sidenote before I keep going: remember that I love and care about my friends who disagree with me politically. The things I say next may not apply to you. Even if they do, please do not read anything I say as a personal attack. We can’t do much good from a posture of defense, and besides, this is just a reminder because it’s something I’m concerned about, not a lecture.)

So, if you think Trump is the leader we need in America (or his policies are), vote for him. But, please, don’t minimize his moral failures. Don’t justify what he’s said and done. Especially if you are a Christian posting on social media, I think that confuses what people believe about our faith. I think it already has.

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Ten Scriptures to Pray for America During Election Season

I blog about politics because I like annoying people.

(Kidding. That’s not a thing.)

I actually blog about politics because I don’t see anyone discussing our government and potential next president these days and feel I need to fill that huge gap.

Ha. Hahaha. Ha.

No.

As you’re already aware, the world is cluttered with people, even Christians, voicing views and reasons on politics, so trust me, I don’t suffer from the delusion that I have something radically new to offer. I’ve blogged on the subject a few times because I want to be a voice expressing thoughts on controversial topics in a gracious way.

But you know what? In the end, you don’t need more of my thoughts, as if I am the all-wise expert with the final word. This weekend, I was thinking: what would happen if I talked about our political situation less and prayed for it more?

Everyone knows we’re supposed to pray for our country. It’s the typical Christian response to all things red-white-and-blue. But if you’re like me, this basically means a quick, “And bless our leaders, and help Christians in our country to be united” tacked on to other, more personal requests.

After all, how do you pray for a nation with such a wide range of needs and hurts and sins and shortcomings? How do you pray for a church divided in a contentious election? How do you pray for God to bless a country that doesn’t seem to want his blessing?

Maybe by using the Bible itself to guide our prayers. With that in mind, here are ten passages that can be used to pray for our country and leaders and the American church over the next few weeks.

Read them—all at once if you like, or one a day. Pray through them next Sunday afternoon, on the night before the election…or the night after. Post them as your Facebook statuses, write them on a sticky note on your mirror, or print them out and stick them in your Bible. Let them inform the way you pray for the America and the choice before us.

For wisdom in deciding what’s best for our nation:

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. . . . For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”—Jeremiah 29:7, 11-13

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”—James 3:17-18

peace

For gracious political discussions (among the church in front of a watching world):

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”—Romans 12:16-18, 21

“Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult. An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies. The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.”—Proverbs 12:16-19

For our leaders at local, state, and national levels:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”—1 Timothy 2:1-4

For perspective for Christians:

“For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”—Philippians 3:18-20

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? . . . Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”—Isaiah 58:6-9

For faith in God’s complete control, regardless of the outcome of the election:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”—Psalm 20:7-8

“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’”—Daniel 4:34-35

plans

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.”—1 Chronicles 29:10-13

Any other passages that come to mind when you think about praying for our country?

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.

convention

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.)

batman

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…)