Charlottesville, Trump And American Christians

Let’s just make this clear: the president of the United States (and yes, I didn’t capitalize “president” on purpose) has presented a narrative of the Charlottesville events sympathetic to white supremacists rather than those opposing racism. ‬

‪Let me say that again: the president of the United States has refused to condemn racists. The president has played racists as the victims and as “fine people.” ‬

‪The president is furthering the narrative that peaceful demonstrators (who had permission to be there) who opposed the removal of a confederate statue were attacked by the violent “alt-left” (who had no permission to be there).‬
‪But there are severe problems with this narrative.‬

First, there is no such thing as the “alt-left”. Trump made it up to create a false equivalency. Instead, there were white supremacists and those opposing racism. Yes, there are some violent leftist protesters now know as “antifa” and their violence must be condemned, but they’re not really the focus of the narrative. Or at least they shouldn’t be. Most estimate that there were maybe a couple dozen antifa protestors compared with 500 or so white supremacists and around 1,000 or so peaceful anti-racist protestors.‬

Second, despite claims to the contrary, the White Supremacist protests were not about the statue removal. It was billed as a “Unite the Right” rally and, as a whole, the so-called “alt. right” has never shown a particular interest in Southern issues. In fact, they chanted “Soil and Blood” and “Jews Will Not Replace Us” while wearing swastika armbands, making it clear that this was not about statue removal. It was about white supremacy. Now you tell me how chants against the Jews apply to the removal of a Confederate statue without the common denominator of white supremacy.‬

‪Trump’s narrative knowingly minimizes the blatant racism of the white supremacists and presents them as the victims while trying to cast blame on others.‬

Many people I know are frustrated that Trump is receiving so much blame for these abhorrent events. After all, he wasn’t there and he’s just asking that we all get along, right? Let me tell you why I think that bucket is full of holes and dripping disrepute all over our democracy’s good shoes.‬

‪They wore his hats. They literally chanted “Heil Trump”. David Duke asserted that the protests were fulfilling Trump’s promises (Duke made no pretense that the protests were about the statue). Richard Spencer is giddy the the president’s comments condemning “both sides”. Trump not explicitly condemning white nationalists, white supremacists, racism, and the “alt. right” is Trump condoning all those things. And that’s exactly what the white supremacists have heard; even while many conservatives try to explain the whole thing away. The damage is done.‬

‪Trump doesn’t have empathy. OK, we should stop asking him to bring the country together because he has made it clear that he wants to foster confusion and produce conflict. We should stop asking him to bring peace because, he has no interest. It’s fine to let him be himself. ‬

‪But it’s not fine to pretend that this president has a moral compass. And we have to admit that many just don’t care. It’s not fine to deny that Trump has continually fanned the flames of racial tension. For example, he declared himself the “law and order” candidate. If you’re unfamiliar with the racially charged weight of that term, I recommend reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow or watch Netflix’ 13th for more context. Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions are among his closest advisors. You might not think Sessions is a racist, but Corretta Scott King sure did.‬

And as if all this weren’t enough, some high profile “evangelical” leaders have publicly praised Trump and the way he handled the Charlottesville situation.‬

‪It is time for Christians to publicly condemn this man. It is past time. 81% of white evangelicals supported this man and retains a good chunk of that support, even though his overall popularity is the worst of any president at this point in his term. ‬
‪At least Esau got a bowl of stew. Judas got thirty pieces of silver. Many Christians in America have settled for a Supreme Court Justice. ‬

Why Saying “America First” Is Not Compatible With Christianity

The American experiment is predicated on the notion of the peaceful transfer of power. We just underwent one such transition. On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump swore on a Bible to stand on behalf of others and gave an address. An inaugural address can tell us a lot about what a new president values.

A new president can tell us a lot about what we value (even though he lost the popular vote in a landslide).

Trump’s speech was simply an extension of his campaign rhetoric promising us that we would win and that, from now on, it’s going to be “America First”. We’re going to put up a wall, we’re going to turn away refugees and immigrants, we’re going to tax companies that build things out of the country. In short, we’re not going to be pushed around any more and gosh-dangit, it’s about time we thought of ourselves. As Trump said:

From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.

I wrote the other day about how Christianity is always political. Our faith informs and fuels our politics. Every election season, Christians confound one another trying to convince each other that certain political positions that automatically mean you’re not a Christian. And, of course, if you only took your faith as seriously as I do, we would vote the same.

Part of the difficulty, of course is that, for many, Christianity also means being a patriot. We have adopted this sentimental notion of the “good ol’ boy” who loves his Momma, loves his truck, loves his guns, loves God and his country. To be a Christian in America, for many, means being an American, and being proud to be an American. There is a good section of our country that believes that America is a “Christian” nation and that to be Christian inseparably means supporting America.
But what do when “American values” contradict Christianity? For example, Trump’s message is unbiblical at best, anti-Christian at worst. Do you think that’s an overstatement? Despite that the fact that many people claim to have voted for Trump out of sincere Christian convictions, he proved on Inauguration Day that he not only misunderstands Christianity, he stands in direct opposition to many core Christian convictions. Do you think that’s an overstatement? Let’s think about it.

During the campaign, Trump promised his supporters that, under his leadership, America would “win” so much that: “You will be tired of winning. We will win win win.” Every candidate promised to help get their country ahead. But “winning” in Trump’s world seems to be a zero-sum game. In other words, for us to “win”, someone else must lose. Trump has proven that he is not the forgiving type. He has admitted to holding grudges and promotes getting even with others.

The Christian understanding leads us to pursue the “flourishing” (shalom) of all. In other words, we win when others win. This is part of the reason why God tells His exiled people to seek the betterment of their captive cities (Jeremiah 29). Christians win when others flourish. But this is not what Trump means by “We will win win win.” He has already shown that, if Mexico is unwilling to pay for our wall, then we will punish them. Winning for Trump always means beating someone else. This is simply not in line with a biblical approach to dealing with others.

Christianity is, at its core, “other-centric”. It requires that we consider others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2). Paul tells the Romans that if they want to compete, they should out-honor one another (Romans 12:10). Jesus tells us that the path to true greatness is through humbling ourselves and putting others first (Matthew 20:16) and just in case we’re unclear, Jesus clarifies that greatness lies in serving others (Matthew 20: 26-27).

Yet, Trump promised to put “America first” and this is exactly what many of his supporters wanted him to say. Even many of his Christian supporters. But what do when “American values” contradict Christianity? Let’s unpack this a bit for a minute, speaking in the context of a presidential inauguration, to Americans, the contextual implication of putting “America first” equals the same thing as saying: “Let’s put ourselves first (even at the cost of excluding others).” “Let’s put ourselves first” is simply the plural of “ME FIRST”.

But Christianity requires us to put others first. Christianity is simply not compatible with the sort of nationalistic patriotism. Christians in America seem to be at a perpetual crossroads. Will we influence the American culture more than we let it influence us? Alan Wolfe argues in The Transformation of American Religion that, despite the best efforts of many Christians, American culture tends to win:

“in every aspect of the religious life, American faith has met American culture – and American culture has triumphed. Whether or not the faithful ever were a people apart, they are so no longer”

Christians must separate themselves from a culture which promotes self-service. Christians must regain lives of sacrifice and the practice of service. God is love and far too often, no one would know it by watching us. What will we show a watching world? Will we buy in to a nationalistic patriotism that’s simply flag-wrapped selfishness or will we follow Jesus into servanthood seeking the good of others?

Christians, What Now?

reconciliation-clipart-sj7The election of Donald Trump has swirled a storm of questions around Christians in America. The deep divisions across the country are mirrored in our faith communities. Some voted for Trump because they agree with Republican economic principles while opposed him because of his outright immorality. Some voted for Trump because they believe that he will help curb abortion in America while others opposed him because of his promotion of war crimes, including torture. Some voted for him because they wanted to “shake up” Washington while others opposed him because he seems to exude sexism and even appears to have confessed to sexual assault. Some ignored his transgressions. Others held their nose and others simply couldn’t pull the lever for this candidate.

And yet we are all part of the same family (John 1:12Romans 12:21, etc.)  with the same Father (1 John 3:1-2, etc.) and the same callings. We are called to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), offering safety, comfort, security, bringing knowledge and driving out the darkness. We are charged to seek the welfare of our cities (Jeremiah 29) while opposing oppression (Proverbs 14:31;  Psalm 103:5-6Zechariah 7:9-10, etc.) and standing for marginalized, being the voice of the voiceless (Jeremiah 22:3; Micah 6:8, etc.) and fighting for the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40, etc.). Christians are called to be good citizens while speaking truth to the power structures of our day.

As I wrote about yesterday, because of and through Jesus, Christians are charged with the “ministry of reconciliation” in a divided world. We must seek peace and we must stand in the gap, reconciling warring factions. This is only possible when we understand our calling to be greater than partisan politics.

But that’s not all we’re called to and herein lies some of the difficulty we are heading towards. Trump has peddled in fear and given rise to bigotry. He has demeaned others, bragged about adultery and made a living swindling others. Christians must not only be among the calmest voices pursuing reconciliation but among the loudest voices holding the Trump administration accountable. I’ll be honest: I don’t know what this looks like.screen-shot-2015-05-11-at-3-06-41-pm

How can we strive to be good citizens, fulfilling our mandate to care for others and love our enemies while still retaining the prophetic voices of salt and light? We can accept the results of the election. This is not the same thing as endorsing Trump’s beliefs and behaviors. But he was elected and we are called to honor our leaders. We can separate his transgressions from political policies. We can listen to those whose frustration ushered Trump into the Oval Office while also listening to those who feel threatened by his rise. We can give Trump a chance while not forgetting his past because right now, it’s up to him to prove that he will do good with power and that’s he’s not the person he’s led so many of us to believe him to be.

But we must not expect government to fulfill our mandate. It’s one thing to speak truth to power, asking Trump to change his rhetoric and it’s another for us to tangibly put this love in to practice. It’s not enough to call our leaders to welcome immigrants if we’re not doing it. It’s not enough for us to call our leaders to honor life if we don’t.

Christians are called to speak against oppression. Christians are called to pursue reconciliation. I don’t know where else to look to try to understand this other than the life of Jesus. He condemned the hypocrisy of his days’ religious leaders while spending time (thus validating) the marginalized. Somehow, He was able to pursue reconciling men and God (and men with men) while speaking against injustice. This is the task ahead of Christians.

Those who supported Trump have a lot to answer for. Many feel that turning a blind eye to his transgressions cost Christianity in America valuable credibility. Those who opposed Trump must not give in to cynicism. Both sides must find a way to honor their convictions while coming together. Both sides must show the world that we are Jesus’ because of our love for one another (John 13:31), speaking against immorality and for the weak.

We have a lot to figure out. Let’s work together.

The Problem(s) With Christians Supporting Donald Trump

untitled-2Since I have spent the bulk of my professional life as a pastor, I have avoided endorsing political candidates. I have, in the past, tried to remind people that the current election (whatever year it was) was not the “most important election of our lifetime”. I have also tried to remind people that if they lived in fear of the other party winning, then they likely didn’t fully trust God. But I have refrained from endorsing any particular candidate. I have also urged people to think of people on the other side of the aisle as people rather than enemies. But I have not publicly endorsed a candidate. And I’m not endorsing any candidate this year.

But I am speaking out against Donald Trump.

I have been asked several times this election season why I have been vocally opposed to Donald Trump but not other candidates. It’s because I don’t have a significant number of family, friends and peers trying to convince people that Clinton, Johnson, Stein or even McCullin are “the biblical” choice and the candidate Christians should choose (especially when said candidate is so utterly antithetical to everything else these people claim to value but more on that later).

I have not received unsolicited e-mails from family and friends with pieces from well-known evangelical leaders preying on people’s fear and urging them to support a particular candidate other than Trump. I have not been sent pieces claiming that any other candidate is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy or comparing any of the other candidates to biblical characters.

I have not seen American Evangelicalism eviscerated by any of the other candidates. I have not seen the Religious Right forsake its identity to support any other candidate. I have not seen American Evangelicalism make a deal with the devil to support any of the other candidates and I have not seen people bully others into voting for any of the other candidates the way I see well-intentioned people trafficking in guilt and shame in order to try and persuade others to vote for their candidate.

I know people who feel pressured by family and friends to vote for Trump. I know many people who feel  shunned by evangelical family and friends because they refuse to support Trump and I know many people wrestling with guilt because they feel so surely that something is wrong with Trump while being so soundly rejected by important people in their lives.

The reason all of this concerns me is that I come from an Evangelical tradition which has often aligned itself with a faction of the Republican party often known as “the moral majority”. Founded by Jerry Falwell and others in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, this was a group who insisted that morals not only mattered but were demanded of our elected leaders.

Remember when the Moral Majority said that “character counts” for our elected untitled-1leaders? Such is no longer the case (see here, here and here). We have perhaps no clearer example of this shift than noted theologian Wayne Grudem who, earlier this year, argued that “Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice“. The problem, of course, is that Grudem was among 150 Christian leaders who condemned Bill Clinton’s scandals in 1998. Grudem has now openly admitted that what he held against Bill Clinton does not matter in Donald Trump. What’s different? The political affiliation and perhaps the level of sliminess.

After the revelation of 2005 “hot mic” video of Donald Trump confessing to sexual assault, Grudem changed his mind, saying:

I previously called Donald Trump a “good candidate with flaws” and a “flawed candidate” but I now regret that I did not more strongly condemn his moral character. I cannot commend Trump’s moral character, and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election.

While one may initially simply say, ‘Well, Grudem made a mistake,” but I want to point out what he says later in the same article:

Some may criticize me for not discovering this material earlier, and I think they are right. I did not take the time to investigate earlier allegations in detail, and I now wish I had done so. If I had read or heard some of these materials earlier, I would not have written as positively as I did about Donald Trump.

It’s not that we didn’t know who or what Trump was prior to the sexual assault video, it’s that Grudem didn’t look. Grudem didn’t look because he’s so committed to Republicanism that he didn’t want to look. While many were decrying the absolute lack of morals in the candidate the party of “family values” had chosen, Grudem was one of his most notable and unexpected cheerleaders. Unexpected because Grudem has once so strongly stood against the very behavior Trump revels in. Notable because Grudem now seemed to be willing to trade policy for character.

Grudem has made this clear, now saying: “If You Don’t Like Either Candidate, Then Vote for Trump’s Policies“. Though he still does not defend Trump’s character, Grudem, when faced with voting for Trump or Clinton, (as though those are the only choices) says:

“I overwhelmingly support Trump’s policies and believe that Clinton’s policies will seriously damage the nation, perhaps forever. On the Supreme Court, abortion, religious liberty, sexual orientation regulations, taxes, economic growth, the minimum wage, school choice, Obamacare, protection from terrorists, immigration, the military, energy, and safety in our cities, I think Trump is far better than Clinton”

In other words, policies “trump” character (pun intended). In other words, Grudem will vote Republican regardless of who the candidate is, what they do or what they stand for. In fact, he will lay aside once held convictions about the importance of character when the deviant politician is on his own team; even when it’s unclear whether the candidate in question actually believes anything Grudem attributes to him. And Grudem (along with those for whom he speaks) is willing to make weak arguments in support of Trump, seemingly out of nothing more than party loyalty.

For example, Grudem is willing to make the “supreme court argument” (presumably with a primary view to abortion) even though clear evidence shows that this point is moot at best and misleading at worst. As many have argued, there is no “pro-life” argument for Trump. Not only do we have little to no evidence that he is actually pro-life himself, the point is moot. As a friend recently pointed out on Facebook:

In the 43 years since Roe v Wade, there has been 25 years of Republican presidents. There was a Republican in office when RvW passed. There have been 18 years of Republican majority Senates, and 18 years of Republican majority Houses. There were 12 years where both the Senate and the House were Republican majorities. There have been 40 years in which the Supreme Court had a majority of Republican appointed justices. There was a total of 4 years in which there was a Republican president, a Republican majority in both the Senate and the House, and a majority of Republican appointed justices. Still—no reversal of RvW.

I disagree with many other of the positions Grudem wishes to defend but that’s not my point here. Instead, I want to urge Dr. Grudem and those he represents to stop making light of the true danger posed by Trump and the damage (t)he(y) is/(are) doing to the Evangelical witness in America. You no longer have any ground to assert that morals matter in leadership if you support Trump.

I particularly take issue with Grudem’s approach of “if you don’t like either candidate”. This is not an issue of not “liking” Trump. The man has proven himself to be not only unqualified but unfit for the highest office of the land by demonstrating persistently bad character. In addition to being a thin-skinned, quick-tempered bully who fears losing above all else:

  • Trump traffics in fear and fosters an “us vs. them” mentality, promoting the idea that to be “other” than him and his base is to be dangerous (even within his own party).
  • If Trump is not a racist, at least knowingly traffics in racial invectives and refuses to distance himself from openly racist supporters who claim that he speaks for them.
  • Trump has pridefully announced that he does not apologize for anything and that he had never asked for forgiveness (which, by the way proves that he is not a Christian.).
  • If Trump is himself not anti-Semitic, has at least knowingly trafficked in such invectives and refuses to distance himself from openly anti-Semitic supporters who claim that he speaks for them.
  • Donald Trump confessed to sexual assault. Then denied it and now threatens to sue women who have come forward and the newspapers who reported the story as well as NBC for having the tapes at all.
  • Donald Trump has not only had multiple marriages but has bragged about committing adultery. Numerous times.
  • This is a man who has historically and continues to objectify some women while demeaning others.
  • Donald Trump has encouraged physical violence against protesters, even offering to pay legal fees.
  • Donald Trump paid the maker of the “Project Veritas” videos $10,000.
  • Donald Trump has refused to release his tax returns.
  • Donald Trump mocked a disabled reporter.
  • Donald Trump attacked John McCain as a failure for getting caught while serving our country, then attacked the family of a fallen soldier.
  • Donald Trump was the public face of the “birther” movement.
  • Donald Trump lies every five minutes, even directly contradicting himself. Even on issues on which his comments are documented.
  • Donald Trump openly said that an American born judge was unqualified because of his Latino heritage.
  • Donald a Trump has threatened to sue journalists who are simply doing their job, ushering in legitimate concerns about limiting the First Amendment.
  • Donald Trump has fostered and encouraged division in his own political party.
  • Donald Trump has used this campaign to pay himself and his family millions of dollars.
  • Donald Trump is on record making inappropriate comments about his own daughter and even encouraged Howard Stern to think of her as a “piece of ass”.
  • Donald Trump has admitted that he does not listen to or even seek counsel.
  • Trump has repeated the assertion that not only does he never apologize, he has never asked for forgiveness (thus dispelling any notion that he is any sort of “Christian” in any meaningful sense of the word).

We all make mistakes. I don’t list these things simply to hold Trump’s past mistakes against him but to show that he has persistently showed the world just what kind of person he is. In a newly surfaced video, he brings a beauty contestant in front of a group with the express purpose of humiliating her while saying that he had decided not to humiliate her. He literally denies doing it while doing it. This horrifying scene is introduced with Trump very clearly laying out his life-code: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe that.”

As if his character were not enough, Trump is genuinely dangerous. In addition to his character, we have many legitimate “policy” issues which should concern everyone:

  • Donald Trump has encouraged foreign powers, namely the Russians, to engage the US political process through cyber-attacks and hacking. Then denied saying such things. He has then ignored security briefings demonstrating that the Russians have, in fact done these very things for the benefit of Trump’s campaign.
  • Donald a Trump has threatened international stability by suggesting that the US abandon NATO.
  • Donald Trump has threatened international financial stability by threatening to walk away from free-trade agreements.
  • Donald Trump has praised authoritarian leaders, praised Vladimir Putin as being a stronger leader than Barack Obama and received the support, not only of Russia but of North Korea.
  • Donald Trump openly undermines the foundational underpinnings of democracy, leaving open the option that he would reject the election results if he loses and urging the country to simply cancel the election and declare him the winner.
  • Donald Trump has advocated racial profiling.
  • Donald Trump has advocated voter suppression/intimidation and has not rebuked supporters who threaten violence if he loses.
  • Donald Trump has advocated torture.
  • Donald Trump has advocated killing the families of enemy combatants.
  • Donald Trump has made light of war, even nuclear war.
  • Donald Trump has threatened to thrust the US in to trade wars with China and Mexico.
  • Trump supports tax plans that not only benefit himself but threaten trillions of dollars added to the deficit.
  • Donald Trump doesn’t seem to understand or care how government actually works.

gettyimages-484797712_custom-695b9781e4a550ac0cdd3eba481660feefd333a8-s900-c85Again, I don’t list these things to simply nitpick someone but to demonstrate that Trump has consistently lived the exact kind of life and held the kinds of positions that the “Moral Majority” (sometimes equated with the “Religious Right”) has just as consistently condemned. So what changed? The political affiliation of the candidate in question seems to be the most obvious and disturbing answer. If this is correct then the “moral majority” was really only interested in “morals” when they furthered a particular political agenda (now we see, ironically, the political party identifying with “family values”).

We are left wondering what “morals” the “moral majority” really ever cared about. We are left wondering what religion the “Religious Right” was really advocating for. A man like Trump is fairly vocal about being in this first and foremost for himself and yet he has enjoyed the support of those who once decried men like him in the town square. It appears that now, morals only matter when they fit your agenda. It seems that, as Russell Moore has warned: “The Religious Right turned out to be the people the Religious Right warned us about.”

The “Moral Majority” has traded in credibility to cling to a perception of cultural power and influence. They no longer have the right to condemn the morality of the other party because they have condoned one of the most openly immoral candidates in my lifetime, if not ever.

I want people to know that there are Christian voices who have remained adamantly #nevertrump from the beginning. I want people to know that, it’s OK if your family and friends have chosen to support Trump. We’re all entitled to our own opinions. But it’s not OK if your family and friends somehow try to convince you that support of Trump is somehow the more “Christian” option. It’s just not true. He will receive undying support from some simply because He is the Republican candidate. But he should not receive the undying support of those who claim that character counts.

If you support Trump, I will still be your friend (and/or I’m still your family whether you like it or not). But please don’t try to say he’s a good choice other than the party placeholder he really is. If you are so committed to Republican principles that you have now realized that you will vote along party-lines regardless of who the candidate is, please, at least, admit that this man is no leader. If you are a Christian supporting Trump, at least admit that the man directly contradicts everything you claim to value other than partisan policies (and there’s good question of what the candidate himself actually believes or how he will govern). If you are voting for Trump simply out of opposition to Hillary, don’t say he’s any “better” of an option.

Christians who support Trump must weigh whether the ends justify the means? Are we willing to give up our prophetic voice to the culture for short-term political gain? It is inconsistent at best and hypocritical at worst to continue to claim that character and morality matter to us if we are willing to support a man like Donald Trump. Is this worth it?

It’s not enough to vote for a candidate simply out of opposition to another candidate. To vote for a candidate, I believe that you must be able to objectively argue that you think they are the better choice. Is it worth it to sacrifice our position as the voice of faith in our culture in exchange for party loyalty? Apparently, many not only think so but actively condemn those who won’t take such steps.

No matter who you vote for, don’t be like this man. Don’t hold grudges. Forgive. Seek reconciliation. Walk in humility and think the best of others. Seek the best for others. If you are part of God’s family (and even if you’re not), please commit to being a minister of reconciliation. Don’t judge those who vote differently. This is a contentious and important time for our culture. Christians, let’s not make it worse.

 

External Processing, Thoughtful Dialogue and Pride

dialogue-tagsI find myself in the curious cultural position of being an external processor. I think out loud and I learn by considering other viewpoints and talking through ideas. I sometimes put ideas out in the public sphere specifically to facilitate discussion and learn from others. But I have been accused of “trolling” (I had to actually Urban Dictionary the phrase the first time it came up) because this sometimes means posting about controversial topics. I am offended by the trolling comment because it assumes ill-intent in my motives for posting about controversial issues. As if I’m simply wanting to incite people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I guess I can see where the accusation comes from. It’s our natural bent to avoid controversy. Unless you’re a power hungry reality television star, who believes that all press is good press. But I digress. After all, it is considered impolite to discuss religion and politics at family functions. But why? Well, because faith and politics are issues held with the head and the heart. Our beliefs become convictions. And we often can’t seem to really figure out how religion and politics go together in the first place, can we? Much less how to thoughtfully discuss issues without becoming needlessly offended or needlessly offending.

When you disagree with my political position, you also disagree with my religious position which also means that you’ve attached me personally (or so we think). Emotions are the track for these roller coaster discussions. Tempers flare from crests of emotions because to disagree with my convictions is to disagree with me. And how could any sane person believe what you just said. I’m saying you’re a moron. But . . .

Cultural Arrogance, Christians and Political Independents

Arizona_flagOver the past couple of months I have had two nearly identical situations in which different Christians have said nearly the exact same thing to me. I won’t say what it was but I will say that the nearly duplicate events set me to some thinking. Each situation centered around the other person offering their (unsolicited) opinion that (I’m paraphrasing here): “Of course all Christians in America think like I do and I’m going out of my way to point out that you don’t think like I do”.

I don’t think either person meant to really insinuate that they thought I am not actually a Christian but that was certainly an unintended implication of their statements. Either that or that they think I’m less intelligent than them. Or both.

Essentially, the bigger picture made manifest in these two conversations is that many Christians seem to believe that there is only one way to think. Of course this tendency to sweep entire groups aside is not isolated to Christians. This is the heart of what the two-party system now engenders. But, Christians, of all people should resist such urges. And yet, we seem as susceptible as anyone. Consider, for example,  Arminians and Calvinists continually nipping at one another. I have known people in both camps who have said that if you were in the other camp, then “of course you can’t be Christian”. Poppycock.

Perhaps one of the areas where see this tendency made most evident is with politics. “Of course a Christian belongs to “X”  or “Y” party”. The problem, of course, is that there are Christians in every political party who believe this (Google here or here).

There is a certain type of cultural arrogance on display here. We forget or ignore that, in some theological areas and in politics, we are dealing with interpretations and opinions. Your worldview leads you to believe that political approach “x” is better for society but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those who hold approach “y” are wrong, just that you hold different viewpoints.

We (Christians included) have come to believe that, if only the other group were smarter or would think more critically, then of course they would agree with me because, after all, “I’m right”. But we forget that this arrogance of opinion is no less present in the other group. Instead of admitting that we hold certain opinions, even if we hold them strongly, we turn our positions into “facts” which cannot be disputed. The two-party political system was designed so that those holding differing views would compromise and meet in the middle. Yet both parties now decry centrists as somehow being weak on the party line. The result has been that the far edges of each party controls the narrative and is left with nothing to do but simply denigrate the other resulting in gridlock and a broken political system.

Instead of working together, we demean and belittle the other side of the aisle (no matter which side you’re on) instead of striving for compromise, we dig in our heels. Welcome to politics (and theology) in America.

Christians have no place in such shenanigans. I’m not saying that Christians should not be involved in politics. But I am saying that Christians should never stay with a party of our “party loyalty”. This is fine for career politicians but not for Christians. When Christians pledge party loyalty, we give up our prophetic voice.

We are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). We add flavor and preserve but we are not actually part of the main dish. We’re there to make it better. We are supposed to be in but not of the culture. We are to strive first and foremost for the kingdom of God and proclaim our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven. We are to work for the good of our cities and this require that we rise above political bickering. We are to call out evil and injustice no matter where it exists and that includes every political party. Ours is a calling above partisanship and ours is a family with people on both sides of the aisle.

Christians should avoid divisiveness. We should find plenty to disagree with in every political party and we should remember that our allegiance lies with none of them. We must stand above the fray and speak the Truth and lead with love. We must demonstrate humility that is demonstrated in a willingness, especially, to work with those with whom we disagree.

It seems to me that Christians should nearly always be political independents. I understand that you believe that your worldview (as biblically-minded as you insist it is) lead you to support one political party or the other. But, remember, it is possible to be a Christians and belong to the “other” party. And Christians should avoid “party loyalty.” When any political party feels like it can “count on” Christians for our support, we are no longer holding them accountable for the betterment of society, we are nothing more than voting blocks (i.e. pawns).

This current political season is a vital time for Christians in America. Many Christians who should be holding hands, praying together and working for justice and peace are more than willing to simply sweep aside those who disagree. May we regain our prophetic voice and shirk the yoke of political loyalty.

the Weekly Town Crier

towncrierWell hi there. How are you? How’s your week been? was it a good week or a bad week? Was it a busy week or a slow week. Did your week leave you feeling weak?

Well have no fear, the Weekly Town Crier is here to inform you on all of the things about which you are ill informed. Or maybe he just collects links of interest and passes them along to you for your interest.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

Listen to a mix of some of my favorite songs released in 2015.

Browse my 42 favorite albums of 2015.

Download a three-volume mix of Jesusy songs I collected.

R.I.P. Louis Meyers, co-founder of SXSW.

R.I.P. Marco Rubio’s presidential bid.

Read Christianity Today‘s piece: “Israeli Christians Think and Do Almost the Opposite of American Evangelicals”.

Read about the Florida Sheriff who has pledged “to arrest CEO Tim Cook if Apple resists crypto cooperation”.

Read as Consequence of Sound considers the legacy of MTV’s 120 Minutes. Remember when the Music Television Network actually thought music mattered?

Read as jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb reflects on the making of some of Miles Davis‘ greatest albums at Uncut magazine.

Read as Paste magazine talks with a proponent of the flat earth theory.

Read as Flavorwire profiles Obama’s SXSW role this year.

Read as Peter Capaldi criticizes their BBC for neglecting Doctor Who.

Read as Damien Jurado talks with Paste and opens up about battle with depression: “I Went from the Light Really Into the Black.”

Read as Salon reports that the estate of Harper Lee has begun actions to cease the publication of the (rightly) ubiquitous mass market paperback edition of To Kill A Mocking bird.

Read Consequence of Sound‘s report that the Eagles are breaking up.

Read Brain Pickings‘ piece: “Neil Gaiman on How Stories Last”.

  • Read as The Guardian considers “Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: maybe a film adaptation just isn’t meant to be”.

Read as The Atlantic considers: “The Trader Joe‘s Lesson: How to Pay a Living Wage and Still Make Money in Retail”.

Read Uncrate‘s report that AC/DC is canceling the remainder of their tour dates as Brian Johnson faces total hearing loss.

Read as The Daily Beast profiles “The Stupidly Simple Spy Messages No Computer Could Decode”.

Read as Ars Technica reports: “Google AI goes 3-0, wins Go match against Lee Se-dol”.

Read as On The Media argues: “Why The Publishing Industry Isn’t In Peril”.

Read as Bryan Cranston tells The Advocate that he’d love to star in a Malcom in the Middle reunion.

Browse “The Scariest Urban Legend From Every State” at Thought Catalog.

Read about the “New company offering same-day in-home releases of new films”from Napster founder Sean Parker which has received the “backing of Abrams, Spielberg.”

Read Techly‘s report that “In Switzerland, It’s Illegal To Own Just One Guinea Pig Because They’re Prone To Loneliness”.

Browse Fast Company‘s list of “7 Interview Questions For Measuring Emotional Intelligence”.

Read Damn Interesting‘s profile of Colonel Sanders.

Crank Out Infinite Geometric Designs With The Wooden Cycloid Drawing Machine” at Colassal. 

Read Brooklyn Vegan‘s piece about an increasing problem: homeowners move into areas with (already) existing music venues and then make noise complaints, and win.

Read “Relevant”‘s report that Hillsong is getting its own television network.

Read reports that Christian celebrity speaker Mark Driscoll will launch his new speaking platform here in AZ on Easter Sunday.

Read The Observer‘s profile of Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band on the release of their magnificent double album The Rarity of Experience. Forsyth discusses the influence of R.E.M, Television, the Dead and wonders on his Facebook page of the interview: “I talked a lot about why the Solar Motel Band is actually jazz band in flannel or something.”

  • Read Pitchfork‘s review of the album: “Solar Motel Band leader Chris Forsyth strikes a near-perfect balance between ’70s rock tradition and present-day experimentation with his signature guitar tone.”

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the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copyI don’t know about you but I love spicy artichoke jalapeño dip. I mean, with some wavy potato chips or the thicker plain chips. Not the thin ones because the dip is too thick for those sissy chips. No sissy chips up in he-yah. Know what I mean, Vern?

Man, sometimes it just hits the spot if you know what I mean. No? Well, you really should try some.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

Listen to a mix of some of my favorite songs released in 2015.

Browse my 42 favorite albums of 2015.

Download a three-volume mix of Jesusy songs I collected.

R.I.P. Harper Lee.

R.I.P. Umberto Eco.

R.I.P. Samuel Willenberg, “the last known survivor of the Nazi death camp Treblinka.”

R.I.P. Jeb Bush’s presidential bid.

R.I.P. Ben Carson’s presidential campaign.

R.I.P. First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Browse the lineup for this year’s Pitchfork music festival.

Browse Phoenix New Times‘ list of “Arizona’s 30 Most Influential Musicians.”

Learn about caffeinated toothpaste.

Read about Sub Pop Records offering “college scholarships to ‘losers’ and ‘art-enthused misfits'”.

Read as Smithsonian considers “How the Phonograph Changed Music Forever”.

Read as Salon argues: “Stop buying old Bob Dylan albums: “Every time somebody buys a reissue, they’re just taking money away from new musicians”. But I like Bob Dylan and new music . . .

Watch a “1970 documentary about Hunter S. Thompson‘s run for mayor of Aspen”.

  • Read as The Washington Post opines: “If only Hunter S. Thompson could have lived to take on this election”.

Browse as NPR’s Jazz Night In America considers the history of “Jazz slang”.

Read as The Washington Post considers three cocktails that “pair perfectly with classic literature”.

Read USA Today‘s profile of Mavis Staples.

Browse as The Guardian compares streaming services.

Browse Paste‘s picks for “10 Essential Short Story Collections”.

Read as The Guardian considers: “Slave to the algorithm? How music fans can reclaim their playlists from Spotify“.

Read as Consequence of Sound reports that a “Fall Coachella Festival” is imminent.

Read reports that Apple is implementing a trade-in program for iPhones.

Read Vinyl Factory‘s report that new printed city guides for vinyl are being made available for select cities.

Read The Atlantic‘s report on the return of Planet Earth.

Ever wonder why you sometimes feel “phantom phone vibrations”?

Read Smithsonian‘s piece: “Long Before Jack Daniels, George Washington Was a Whiskey Tycoon.”

Read as Gillian Anderson talks about Dave Grohl‘s X-Files cameo and how it came to be.

Read as AV Club urges us to reconsider “the grim and gritty Dark Age of superhero comics.”

Read Live For Live Music‘s report: “The Leaked Tracklisting For The National‘s Extensive Grateful Dead Tribute Is Incredible”.

Hear “a giant 800-track alt/indie-focused 90’s playlist in chronological order”.

Read about the new vinyl-pressing plant promising tw0-week turnaround.

Read CNN‘s report: “Beyoncé offered security for concert by Louis Farrakhan“.

Browse as Consequence of Sound considers “Which Artists Are Still Holding Out on Streaming”.

Browse “Relevant”‘s list of “8 Biographies Everyone Should Read”.

Read Paste‘s report: “Pixar Made an App That Helps the Blind Experience Movies”.

Read Fact Magazine‘s report: “Discogs sold 6.6 million records in 2015”.

Watch Bill Gates DJ on Jimmy Fallon.

See shoes that grow with you.

Read “Relevant”‘s piece: “Justin Bieber: Without God I’d Be a Terrible Person”.

Listen as the BBC discusses poetry form.

Read as Lucinda Williams discusses her discography with Spin.

Browse Flavorwire‘s picks for “The 10 Albums You Need to Hear in March”.

Ever wonder: “How Does ‘A Wrinkle in Time‘ Look on a Map?”

Read Paste‘s: “4 Questions for Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver”.

the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copyDo you remember that time we were together at that place and we did that thing? Oh man! It was the bombdiggity.

Wait, you don’t remember it? Are you sure? It was bombalicious, yo.

You’re sure, because it was bombtastic. Truly and for reals.

No? Not ringing a bell?

Sorry, wrong number. Sorry to bother you. Perhaps I can offer you some online thought-provoking entertainment? I have collected some links. Why don’t you grab a container of your favorite beverage, put your feet up and peruse.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

Listen to a mix of some of my favorite songs released in 2015.

Browse my 42 favorite albums of 2015.

Download a three-volume mix of Jesusy songs I collected.

R.I.P. Dan Hicks.

R.I.P. Giant Sand.

Meet the 107-year-old’ man who’s “secret to a long life is four bottles of red wine a day”.

See some amazing “these Tiny Hand-painted Wes Anderson Sets”.

Read Rolling Stone‘s interview with Lucinda Williams in which she “Talks Meeting Dylan, Southern Identity, Shopping Online”.

Read Washington Post‘s piece: “A Stanford psychologist explains why spacing out and goofing off is so good for you”.

Read as The Guardian considers” “Villain or victim, Shakespeare’s Shylock is a character to celebrate”.

Browse “10 Paradoxical Traits of Creative People” at Fast Company.

Read about a rare, unreleased Rolling Stones album that was recently stolen.

Read as Warped Speed considers why having a beard is good for your health.

ReadWilliam S. Burroughs on Creativity” at Brain Pickings: “The price an artist pays for doing what he wants is that he has to do it.”

Take a Peek Inside Neil Gaiman‘s Library”.

Read/watch as The Chicago Tribune profiles a new documentary about John Prine.

Maybe movies should end whenever a character says the title out loud“.

Read as Slate wonders “Why Can’t Apple Figure Out Television?”

Meet the man who created Papyrus, the world’s second-most hated font.

Read about the “First U.S. Doctor Sentenced for Patient ODs”. “A California doctor was sentenced to 30 years in prison on murder charges Friday in connection with three overdose deaths from medication she prescribed.”

Read as The Guardian considers “From Berlin’s warehouses to London’s estates: how cities shape music scenes”.

Read about the priceless antique Martin guitar Kurt Russell smashed during the filming of Quentin Tarantino‘s Hateful Eight.

Read as “Andrew Zimmern Explains How to Acquire a Taste”.

Watch Wilco‘s Jeff Tweedy sing Stephen Colbert a lullaby.

Read as Inc. wonders: “Why Are Millennials So Unhappy at Work?”

Read: “Proust on What Art Does for the Soul and How to Stop Letting Habit Blunt Our Aliveness” at Brain Pickings.

Ever wonder “What happens to a tiny town when Walmart disappears?” Find out at The Washington Post.

Looking for a new career path? “Stone Temple Pilots Launch Open Audition for New Singer”.

Read as The New Yorker wonders if we’re maybe missing the point in our hatred of Martin Shkreli.

See “What $1 USD Gets You In Food All Around The World”.

Read “Relevant”‘s report: “The Pastor of China’s Largest Official Protestant Church Has Been Arrested”.

Read The Guardian‘s piece: “In 1971, librarian Marguerite Hart asked famous names in the arts, sciences and politics to write to the children of Troy, Michigan, encouraging them to cherish their new public library.”

Read Consequence of Sound‘s report: “Josh Brolin to star in George Jones biopic from Straight Outta Compton writer”.

Browse “America’s Largest Collection of Early Tavern Signs”.

Read “Relevant”‘s report: “Seal Will Play Pontius Pilate in Tyler Perry’s Televised Passion Play”.

Read Ars Technia‘s piece: “The NFL wants you to think these things are illegal”.

Watch the Harlem Globetrotters interrupt Jeff Tweedy at AV Club‘s offices.

Read as Glenn Danzig discusses his recent Portlandia appearance with Rolling Stone.

Learn “How to Read a Book a Week”.

Read Sojourner‘s piece: “Why I’m a Politically Correct Christian (And You Should Be Too)”

See David Bowie‘s art.

Watch a guitarist play “the World’s Last Playable Stradivarius Guitar”.

Read Stereogum‘s report that Belly are reuniting.

See “Gorgeous, Extremely Private Writing Retreats” at Flavorwire.

Read Paste‘s report that Beyoncé told Coldplay that she did not want to collaborate with them.

See the “Last Known Photos of Jim Morrison“.

Read as Alice Cooper reflects “on His Dinner With David Bowie and Ray Bradbury“.

Read Fact Magazine‘s report: “The Pirate Bay now streams torrents in your browser”.

Read AV Club‘s report that a Saved By The Bell-themed restaurant and bar is coming to Chicago.

Learn “How to Make Your Own Moonshine Still from Hardware Store Parts” at Man Made.

Read as Stephen King confirms rumors of a Dark Tower movie.

Read about the Titanic replica set to set sail.

Read Vinyl Factory‘s report that The Gap has now entered the vinyl market.

Read as Noisey considers which musicians have the most positive Twitter followers.

Read Kanye West‘s comments about his new album: “It’s Gospel with a Lot of Cursing”.

Read about the lifetime collection of 1000,000 records now up for sale.

Read reports that the eighth Harry Potter book is on its way.

Read as Peter Gabriel wonders what is the point of music at The Guardian.

Read Pitchfork‘s report that Bruce Springsteen is releasing an autobiography.

Read as “Justin Vernon: Bon Iver Is “No Longer Winding Down” at Stereogum.

Read about “Woodstock Organizers Exploring 50th Anniversary Concert”.

the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copyThough I have not yet made it over to the Welcome Diner, I welcome you to the Weekly Town Crier. This is the spot on the Interwebs where I regularly collect and distribute links of interest to people of interest. The goal is to think about a wide variety of topics in such a way that we’re all the better for it. Now, go, browse, think, talk with those you love and those you’ve just met. Make the world a better place.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

Listen to a mix of some of my favorite songs released in 2015.

Browse my 42 favorite albums of 2015.

Download a three-volume mix of Jesusy songs I collected.

R.I.P. Toyota’s Scion brand.

R.I.P. Maurice White, founder of Earth, Wind & Fire.

R.I.P. BMX legend Dave Mirra.

Read about the man helping classic punk and hardcore bands get years’ worth of royalties.

Trumpdonald.org.

Read an article claiming that intelligent people have messy rooms and cuss like sailors.

Read Hypebeast‘s report that “Pepsi Is Opening a Restaurant in New York City”.

Read NME‘s report about the petition to get Snoop Dogg to narrate Planet Earth.

Read about sake flavored Kit Kats being introduced in Japan.

See a $30,000, bottle of 75-year old scotch.

See police sketches of famous literary characters.

Visit the website for The Seer, a new film “Portrait of Wendell Berry“.

Read about the study that “Finds That if You Spend More Than an Hour a Day on Social Media, You’re Probably Not Sleeping Well”.

Read Paste‘s report: “Lego Has Finally Released A Wheelchair Figure”.

Browse “Relevant”‘s picks for “12 Francis Schaeffer Quotes That Will Challenge the Way You Engage Culture”.

Watch as a “Custom 3D Printer Turns Songs into Ceramics”.

Read about the history of “The 27th Letter”, the ampersand at Poetryfoundation.org.

Read as Spike Lee reflects on the role of Michael Jackson being cast to a white actor: “The Legacy Has Been Hijacked”.

Browse the “the Greatest (and Only) Stray Shopping Cart Identification Guide Ever Made”.

Read about “What Happened When Muhammad Ali Met Malcolm X” at Time.

Read as The National Post considers “How comics became literature”.

Read as The Atlantic reflects on Groundhog Day.

Read about “How Gin Became The Meth of 18th Century England”.

Read as Daily News Feed argues: “Americans Becoming Less Christian, More Atheist”.

Read Paste‘s report that Elon Musk’s “Hyperloop” transportation system is more than just a pipe dream.

Read as The Atlantic wonders “What Happened to Nina Simone?”

Browse The Telegraph‘s list of the world’s “most ‘hipster’ neighbourhoods”.

Browse Atlas Obscura‘s list of “Awesome Places (Arguably) Ruined By Popular Books”.

Read as T.S. Eliot considers what makes great detective fiction at The New Yorker.

Read as The Atlantic considers the National Endowment For The Arts and the question: Who should pay for the arts in America?”

Read Consequence of Sound‘s report: “Dolphins love Radiohead“.

Watch Stephen Colbert interview motivational speaker, Joel Osteen (whom I refuse to link because I will not be a party to his increased wealth).

Read The Seattle Times‘s report about Mark Driscoll planting Trinity Church in the Phoenix area.

Read CNBC‘s report that Amazon is planning on opening hundreds more brick and mortar bookstores. Read as The Atlantic wonders why.

Read as Sojourners wonders: “Should Christians Be Socialists?”

Browse Paste’s picks for “The 6 Best New Albums of January 2016”. What were your favorites?

Read as The Guardian considers which book the most people lie about having read.

Read Market Watch‘s profile of “the atheist capital of America”.

Read as First Things considers “David Bowie‘s Search For God”.

Read as Aquarium Drunkard considers “The Darker Side of Diddley“.

Browse The Daily Beast‘s picks for “The 40 Most Intriguing Musicians of 2016”.

Read “Relevant”‘s report: “Televangelism Has Started to Come to Netflix”.

Read as Salon argues: “No, America is not a Christian nation”.

Read Paste‘s report that Batman and Wonder Woman are becoming Barbie figures.

Browse photographs of Kurt Cobain‘s “most intimate belongings”.

See “The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy Explained Perfectly With a Simple Animation.”

Read Noisey‘s report that Martin Skhreli has threatened to slap Wu-Tang Clan‘s Ghostface Killah and read about Ghostface’s response: ““I’ll Break Your Heart In Four Days”.

Browse Paste‘s picks for “The 10 Most Underrated Breweries in America”.

See the “Guitar Pee Urinal” that “lets you play a guitar solo as you tinkle”.

Read comicbook.com‘s report that MacGyver is getting a reboot.

Read Consequence of Souns‘s report that John Kasich has promised to “reunite Pink Floyd if elected”.

Read Pitchfork‘s report that “The Flaming Lips and Kurt Vile Were Answers on “Jeopardy!”

Read NME‘s report: “Romantic comedies encourage female viewers to tolerate stalking”.

Read Time‘s report that “McDonald’s Will Serve Happy Meals With Books Instead of Toys”.

Read as The New Yorker considers “Why Apple and Beats Should Sell Turntables”.

Read Brooklyn Vegan‘s report: “Rivers Cuomo, Ben Gibbard, Andy Partridge & more wrote songs for The Monkees‘ first album in 20 years”.

Read as Rolling Stone argues “In Defense of the CD”.