Fear Itself: Why I Wear The Safety Pin. A Promise.

When Franklin Roosevelt said that the people of the United States had nothing to fear but fear itself, he was speaking of the fear of failure that had locked the United States into the Great Depression. Because people were afraid that all businesses would fail, they would invest no money, and without investors, no businesses could succeed.

Today, in the wake of last month’s election, we have many fearful people. Truth be told, we had many fearful people before the results of the election. The fear has not changed, for the most part. But the quality of the fear, and how it is being expressed, has changed immeasurably.

I was wrong about the way this election would turn out. The only consolation I have about that is that I was in very good company. But the reasons for my error are a topic for another time. It is apparent to me, and, I think, to many others, that one of the reasons the election played out as it did was the fear that permeates our society: the fear that caused us to be so very nearly evenly divided, and the fear that caused us to back two such hugely unpopular candidates.

It is my belief that this election turned out the way it did for two closely related reasons: that many people are afraid, and that we do not care that other people are afraid. I cannot tell you how many of my friends who chose to support Donald Trump did so because they believed that the government of the past eight years has actively scorned their fears.  And they were told by supporters of that government that if they were afraid, it was because they were stupid or because they deserved it. And now those people voted for Donald Trump, and the result is that we have a whole other set of people who are afraid of what will happen to them. And already I am hearing Trump supporters, and others, disparage those fears, as if they are not worth having. I greatly sympathize with the people who do have those fears, because as I said before the election, Donald Trump has said things that, I believe, any person who cares for Constitutional government should be afraid of.

Now, I think it is plain that many of these people have already experienced cause to be afraid. My friend, Jim Hines, wrote an eloquent request to those of you who chose to support Donald Trump in this election. I think it is well worth reading. There are many people out there who have been emboldened by this man to do and say terrible things. I can add some. On election day, a friend of mine, who is black, had his tires slashed while he voted. I don’t know if that was politically or racially motivated (he himself did not say), but if I were him, I would think so. At church two weeks ago, a friend told me that his adopted cousin, from Colombia, who has been a citizen since childhood, was told by no less than four people this week that she could “go home now.”

This angers me beyond my capacity to express. The Republican Party was the party that freed slaves. It was the party of Abraham Lincoln. If conservatives stand for anything good in this nation, and we had damn well better, it means that we stand up for the rule of law. It means that we stand up for the rights of our citizens. It means that we protect them from anyone who would dare to harass them based on their religion, their skin color, their ethnicity, or their expressed political views. Conservatives follow and uphold the laws. We do not break them, and we do not support, by action or inaction, those who would break the law because they are on our “side.” Such an attitude is the betrayal and antithesis of ethical conservative  principles.

I did not support Donald Trump in this election. If I have not made that plain over the past few months, I do not know how to make it plainer. I did not vote for him. I do hope, desperately, that I am wrong about the kind of President he will be. Nothing would make me happier, in four years, if I could say here, on this blog, “I was wrong. Donald Trump was a wise and just President, and I am happy to cast my vote for him in the 2020 election.” I didn’t think Hillary Clinton would make a good President. Had she been elected, I would be saying the same thing about her.

Nevertheless, I am a conservative. And because I am, I am less likely to feel the negative effects of this election personally than my fellow-citizens of other races, genders, religions and orientations. And it is vital that we stand up for them. It is vital that we stand up and say: “You are Americans. You have God-given rights, enumerated in our Constitution, and we will defend you from all of those who would seek to violate those rights.” We absolutely must do this, for two reasons: Firstly, it is the right and moral thing to do. If you supported Trump, do you remember how it felt, just weeks ago, when certain Clinton supporters called you evil and breezily expressed their hopes that a liberal Supreme Court would make you suffer simply for voicing your beliefs? Liberals are afraid that a conservative Supreme Court will do the same, and much more, to them. They are afraid that they will be rounded up and imprisoned based on their religious beliefs or their sexual preferences.
If you’re happy that what you feared won’t come to pass, that’s natural: no one sane should blame you. But if you’re glad that they are afraid? God help us all. Because we can’t have society, let alone government, when half the nation is scared to death of the other half. Secondly, if you fail to protect the opposition when you are in power, you are just asking to be shown no mercy when they are in power. And they will be in power again. Not in 2016, and maybe not in 2020. but someday. There is no permanent conservative majority, here. The liberals made the mistake of thinking history was on their side: that was one of the reasons they lost. Conservative Trump-supporters had better not make the same mistake!

We will never move away from this terrible election until our nation learns to reject fear. And we can never reject fear if we refuse to take each other’s fears seriously. And this is the moment for conservatives to do this, because we are in power (or at least people THINK we are, which is the only thing worse than actually BEING in power). Because the Trump voting was largely motivated by fear, this is the time for conservative Americans to stand up for something better. We must stand, at all costs, for protecting our fellow Americans. And that is why I will wear a safety pin. It says, specifically to those who fear, that I will stand for their safety against any who would harm them. No, it’s not much. No, it doesn’t make me a wonderful person; I don’t expect any damned applause for it; it’s the least I can do. It is only the beginning of all I am willing to do.

The limits of what I am willing to do, I can’t know. I don’t think anyone knows until they are tested. But for now, please understand that I am willing to do what I can to help you feel safe. If you need my expertise on history and politics, I will share it. If you need to tell someone you are afraid, I will listen. If you need help because someone is threatening you or violating your rights, please call on me and I will do whatever I can. Whatever you need me to, to the limits of my ability.

I do not think that now is the time to panic and leave the country. If I did, I would be making arrangements to move, right now. I do think that it is time to be watching our government very closely. I do not think that we are about to go down one of history’s darkest roads, but I think we are closer to that than we have yet been, and it concerns me deeply. So know this: no one takes my fellow Americans off to prison or throws them out of the country in violation of the Constitution without getting past me and my family. That’s what this country is about. If it should come to that, we will shelter you, we will hide you, and we will shield you. To this we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. We would consider it, as Corrie ten Boom’s father once said in WWII Holland, “the greatest honor that could come to our family” if we were to lay down our lives for you. And I believe the vast majority of my fellow conservatives are with me on that point.

Fortunately, such extremes as concentration camps are not yet happening. I hope they will not happen and will do whatever I can to prevent them from happening. But what concerns me more immediately is the disdain I see from some conservatives about even expressing concern for those who are frightened. Tell me: since when did not giving a shit about people become a conservative value? I mean, I get that a lot of conservatives are tired of being undeservedly called bigoted racist misogynists (I sure am), but surely the answer isn’t to BE all those things? Even if it were not morally wrong (which we know it is), it’s not in our interest. Andrew Carnegie said that keeping people loyal to capitalism required providing “ladders on which the aspiring can rise.” And if Donald Trump’s election shows us anything, it’s that WE NEED MORE DAMNED LADDERS! How on Earth can we conservatives surrender concern for people to the left, as “their” issue? Friends, that’s as stupid as when the left decided that “patriotism” was somehow a thing that right-wingers did. I’m unbelievably frustrated by this idea that caring about people makes us wimps. It’s what would make us worth voting for, dammit!

Bobby Jindal once said that the Republican Party had to “stop being the stupid party.” Whatever you think of him, he was right to say that. And conservatives have to stop being the party of not caring what people are afraid of. It stops here. It stops with me.

Call on me, Somewhere In Orbit.

To My Fellow Evangelicals, A Last Plea Against Trumpery.

I am writing this, my last political message before the election, to my fellow evangelicals. I do not believe there will be much of value in it to any non-Christian readers, unless you wish to see a dialogue between Christians. Here I am going to lay out my reasons that I believe that no Evangelical Christian (indeed, any Christian) should cast a vote for Donald Trump. I will also answer some common objections to these reasons.

Firstly, I would like to point out that Donald Trump has, throughout his life and public appearance, acted in a manner that is utterly opposed to Christian values. He has treated his employees and those he has contracted with abominably, cheating them of what was agreed to. He has lied about his own words. He has remained ignorant of the Constitution and its tenets. He has degraded people in public, both specifically and generally: he has insulted and quite possibly assaulted women, Black Americans and Mexican-Americans. It is terrible that he should say these things while claiming to be a Christian. It is equally terrible that he should become a Christian and not seek forgiveness for this behavior and take steps to repent of it.

Secondly and moreover, by acting this way, Donald Trump has become a caricature of what many non-Christians, both in the United States and in the world, see in the Evangelical Christian culture. We are accused of being centered on white, middle-class American culture rather than on Christ. We are accused of not caring for the poor, and not caring about the abuse of women. If we embrace and vote for this man, it will be a damning and convincing proof to a generation who are already more than half-convinced that we care more about our middle-class comfort and our political icons than we care about Jesus Christ and about our fellow man. More importantly, he becomes our witness to the world as the kind of politician we support.

And I will point out that those who claim that Donald Trump is anointed by God to lead us are resting on an unscriptural and unhistorical interpretation of the Bible. While it is certainly Biblical that God can (and has) used flawed, and even unbelieving people as his leaders, no prophet has anointed Donald Trump, and their claim has absolutely no basis in fact. It would be far more relevant in this case to remember the many examples in Scripture of God punishing those who did believe in Him, but nevertheless broke his commandments. They were not blessed for performing empty rituals before God. But Micah said (4:8), “He has shown thee, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee: but to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” The Trump who violates contracts does not love justice. The Trump who threatens to sue his accusers (even suing false accusers would be wrong, but these are almost certainly telling the truth) does not love mercy, and the Trump who will not admit that he needs forgiveness is not walking humbly with his God.

The only reason left to vote for Donald Trump would seem to be that he could hurt Hillary Clinton. But can he?  I would like to point out that according to any reputable poll, Donald Trump cannot win this election. In order to do so, he would have to take almost every state that is even close to voting for him. These polls have not been wrong in recent memory, and it is unwise to suggest that they are wrong now. Therefore, I suggest that all the arguments for voting for Donald Trump that imply that he is the only candidate that can beat Hillary Clinton are invalid. He cannot defeat Hillary Clinton. True, he will come closer to defeating her than any other candidate, but that doesn’t matter. If you are jumping a 15-foot cliff, it matters not at all whether you jump two feet or twelve feet. You will not make it to the other side. Donald Trump will not be President.

Now someone might respond to this argument and say, “That is only true because of people like you who are voting third party. You should trust God to do a miracle and vote for Trump!” That’s a false objection for three reasons: Firstly, national polls suggest that Hillary already has a majority of voters behind her. Secondly, if that is true about Donald Trump, it is true for all the other candidates. Those who vote for Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and Evan McMullin are under no obligation to change their votes simply because Trump voters will not change theirs. If defeating Hillary Clinton is indeed the goal, Trump voters can do that as well, and achieve the same goal. And if the issue is trusting in the power of God to do miracles, then He can do them whether I vote for Donald Trump or not. He could elevate anyone to the Presidency, including myself. And if we want God to do a miracle, wouldn’t it behoove us to vote for a man whose heart is closer to God’s than Donald Trump’s?

If it is true that Trump cannot win by our efforts, then the only thing left to ask ourselves is, “what sort of person do we want to stand behind? How can we attest to the character of Christ by our vote?” We must act both as wisely as we can, and we must act as morally as we can. And while there may be those who say, “it is a wise strategy to vote for Donald Trump so that we can show the nation that Hillary Clinton is opposed by a united front,”  I would point out that strategy cannot be our idol. Our Lord said that we were to be “wise as serpents, but harmless as doves.” And Donald Trump is anything but harmless. And there are strategies that do not involve winning this election. Frankly, even if Trump COULD win this election, voting for him would be bad strategy: It would alienate further those we are commanded to win for Christ. It would be impossible for us to get rid of him in four years (whereas we may very likely rid ourselves of Clinton in four). And it would put the blame for electing a bad President directly on our own heads. If we must HAVE a bad President, at least let it not be our fault!

The strategy that we must want, as Christians, above all else, it seems to me, is not to find ourselves back here in four years. Not to once again have to choose between two evils, one who claims to support us while spitting on our values, and the other who openly boasts of wanting to change our values to her own. And in all US history, there is only one way we have seen to do that, and that is for a third party to win states. It happened in 1892, 1912, 1948, and 1968. And each time, one of the major parties underwent a great character change, absorbing the values of the third party. An there is only one candidate that is capable of winning a state: Evan McMullin is quite likely to win the state of Utah. Therefore, I suggest it would be wise to vote for Evan McMullin.

Now some might say that while it is wise to vote for McMullin, is it really Biblical to support a Mormon? Well, first of all, if you’re considering voting for Trump, I’m guessing you likely voted for Romney, in which case, you have already crossed that particular bridge. Second of all, Mormon beliefs, while we consider them to be scripturally and theologically unsound, are not much ethically different from our own. But judge for yourself: McMullin’s positions are here. And finally, who is our neighbor? Have we forgotten the good Samaritan? He was, by Jewish lights, a heretic, and yet his acts made him a neighbor to the wounded Jew. Surely Evan McMullin, who shares most of our beliefs, and could make our issues heard again, is not unworthy of our respect.

Friends, I am not the only Evangelical who is speaking out against Donald Trump others have said it better than I. Join us. Vote against this man who is poised to do us such damage. Stand up against him: he is far more damaging to our witness than anyone else in this election could ever be.

A Plea to Conservatives On Behalf of Evan McMullin

I am writing this, my last series of political messages before the election, to my fellow conservatives. There will be little in it of value to liberals, except, I hope, a useful insight on how some conservatives think.

Over the past year, I have listened to a number of arguments for voting for Donald Trump. None of them have convinced me, and I remain adamant that conservatives should NOT vote for Donald Trump. I am going to attempt to answer those arguments here. The arguments may be summed up as follows: that we must vote for Donald Trump because he is a conservative. But he is not. The National Review says so.That we must vote for Donald Trump because he shares our values. But he does not. That we must vote for Donald Trump because he is the only candidate that can defeat Hillary Clinton, whom we cannot afford to allow to become President.

Now many of my readers at this point are doubtless thinking that as much as they agree with me, they cannot afford to have Hillary Clinton win the next election. They feel compelled to vote for Donald Trump because he is the best chance of stopping her. And they are both right and wrong. Certainly, Donald Trump will get the second-highest number of votes (both popular and electoral) in this election. But all reputable polls indicate that Hillary Clinton has already won. It is not even close.  Therefore, I suggest that the argument for voting for Donald Trump because he is the only candidate that can beat Hillary Clinton is invalid. He cannot defeat her. True, he will come closer to defeating her than any other candidate, but that doesn’t matter. If you are jumping a 15-foot cliff, it matters not at all whether you jump two feet or twelve feet. You will not make it to the other side. Donald Trump will not be President.

This leaves us with only two questions: How do we want to display our character, as Conservatives, to the nation? And what should our strategy be?

On the character issue, voting for Donald Trump is, quite frankly, playing into the hands of the radical Left. He has become a liberal caricature of what conservatives are “supposed” to be. He has advocated racism, religious tests, limiting the freedom of the press in defiance of the Constitution, in suggesting that assaulting women is fun, dishonoring gold star families, in hinting that riots and assassination are legitimate political tactics. Have we forgotten who we are? We are conservatives! We who vote Republican vote for the party of Lincoln, the party of the 13th Amendment, the party of honorable service and courage in the face of those who would seek to intimidate the weak! We do not engage in tactics that are beneath us! And if we seek to win at ANY cost, no matter how base, no matter how violent, then we are not worthy to lead the United States of America. No, not even at the cost of a Clinton victory. It would surely be better to lose to the enemy than to become the enemy ourselves. Once our nation allied with Stalin. Do we remember the consequences? Republicans should remember the results of that Democratic bargain better than any! We should not and cannot tolerate Donald Trump’s subversion of our character, and if we vote for him, we are complicit in that subversion.

On the strategic side, the truth is harder to swallow. Many Republican voters, in their rush to embrace a candidate because of what he was not (an “insider” that they distrust because of Republican failure to bring them economic prosperity or victory in the culture war) failed to realize that he WAS in fact inexperienced in government and used to operating in a business environment where his money mattered more than his appeal to large numbers of people. This played into the Democrats’ hands and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Frankly, even if Trump COULD win this election, voting for him would be bad strategy: It would alienate the minorities we MUST win to our cause. It would be impossible for us to get rid of him in four years (whereas we may very likely rid ourselves of Clinton in four). And it would put the blame for electing a bad President directly on our own heads. If we must HAVE a bad President, at least let it not be our fault! This election is lost, and conservatives are not getting it back. So we are left with taking the long view.

The strategy that we must want above all else, is not to find ourselves back here in four years. We need to fundamentally change the Republican and Democratic Parties. And in all US history, there is only one way we have seen to change a major party, and that is for a third party to win states. It happened in 1892, 1912, 1948, and 1968. And each time, one of the major parties underwent a great character change, absorbing the values of the third party. And there is only one candidate that is capable of winning a state: Evan McMullin is quite likely to win the state of Utah. Therefore, I suggest it would be wise to vote for Evan McMullin. We must vote against the horrors of this terrible election so that we and our children will not be trapped in it again in four years. And in eight. And in sixteen.

Will McMullin win? No. Not this year. There is a remote chance that he could throw it into deadlock and toss the election to the House of Representatives, but that’s no more likely than a Trump victory. Hillary Clinton is, and I shudder to say it, the next President of the United States regardless of what we do. But McMullin can and will redirect national politics if he wins votes in the Electoral College. And consider in what position a solid conservative who won the first third-party electoral votes in fifty years  — after a mere three months of campaigning – will be in four years from now. McMullin will not win the Presidency in 2016. But what about 2020? Please join with me, and vote for Evan McMullin.

A Plea to My Fellow Kansans On Behalf of Evan McMullin

evan

In 1892, the state of Kansas stood at the cutting edge of a new political movement. The Democrats and the Republicans were mired in a deadlock over issues that the people of Kansas cared little about. The things Kansas did care about, such as the adoption of silver-backed currency, was an issue that neither major party felt was important enough to be worth their time. Who, after all, cared what the little farmers and small-town workers in Kansas thought?

Then, Kansas took the extraordinary step of giving its ten electoral votes to General James Weaver, who ran not for the Republicans or the Democrats, but for a new party calling itself the Populist Party. Kansas led the way, taking Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and North Dakota with it to send the message to the major parties that the people of the Great Plains would not be told that their concerns would have to take second place to what the rest of the nation thought was best for them.

James Weaver did not win the election. But his loss shook the Democratic Party to its core, and caused William Jennings Bryan to adopt the entire Populist platform as the Democrats’ own in the next election. Kansas altered the course of the national conversation about politics. And over the next two decades, four amendments to the Constitution – including the right to directly elect our Senators and Women’s Suffrage – would follow as both Democrats and Republicans realized that the people of Kansas were a force that they could not ignore.

Not all of these changes were positive, when looked at in hindsight. Indeed, the Eighteenth Amendment’s Prohibition goes down in history as a failure. But that misses the point: The point is, that by taking a stand against those parties that would take it for granted, Kansas – despite losing THAT election – won for itself and its people a stunning political victory that would put our issues at the heart of the nation’s politics.

Now we, the people of Kansas, are in a similar situation. No one in the nation cares about us and what we think. The Democrats largely revile us as stupid hicks who will always vote Republican because they think it appeals to the motives they say energize us: racial and religious bigotry, anti-intellectualism, and an unreasoning defense of the 2nd Amendment. They don’t care for the liberals of Kansas either, since their votes will never matter. Republicans, on the other hand, take us for granted, telling us that we must vote for whoever they dangle in front of us. Even a lecherous fool like Donald Trump, lest we be sacrificed to Hillary Clinton’s cronies.

But the people of Kansas have already shown themselves, this year, to be better than this. It was not we who stuck the American people with a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. We voted for Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders.  We did not swallow the Democratic lie that they were running a fair primary election, nor did we accept the media’s shoving of Donald Trump down our throats by giving him free advertising in the name of telling the story they thought would get them the most attention.

But now that Kansas faces the general election, we seem poised to give our votes to Donald Trump, the man we rejected, who has returned in triumph to the top of our ballots, and who rather contemptuously expects our votes as the only legitimate way to show that we do not want Hillary Clinton for President. He demands our votes, as a kind of homage, paid to the Republicans, who for years have promised us they would represent our values in Washington.

And what both parties fail to understand is that this is why Kansas, overall, does vote Republican: because we believe that it is more important that the President direct the nation than it is that he makes us prosperous: we can do that ourselves. Even liberal Kansans know this: it’s why they voted for the Bernie Sanders they believed in, not the Hillary Clinton who could easily win. But most Kansans vote Republican because the Republican party says it will represent the values most of us share (the Democrats openly tell us we are backward and wrong), and we believed them.  But have we won any of the values Kansas is nationally known for supporting by voting Republican? Has Roe v Wade been overturned? Has religious freedom expanded over the last thirty years? Of course not. Why should the Republicans care to do any of these things when they will have our votes regardless?

And what will we get if we do vote for Donald Trump? We will get, overwhelmingly, three things we do not want. Firstly, whether we win or lose, we will alienate the swing voters, who will rightly see that the Republicans of Kansas are willing to vote for an abusive, bullying and dangerous thug who is utterly ignorant of the Constitution, simply in order to stop Hillary Clinton. Secondly, if he should win (which all polls say he cannot, but more on that later) we will be stuck with him not for four years, but for eight. We will not be able to withdraw our support in 2020. And all his mistakes and sins will be justly laid at our feet: the feet of Kansas conservatives. But that isn’t the worst. The worst and final thing we shall get, if Trump should somehow win, is a New York businessman, exactly the kind of man who does not understand agricultural policy, nor does he understand any economics except that which involves moving money around to his advantage via manipulation of the markets. He neither understands the military nor its uses, and treats those who have made the ultimate sacrifice with contempt. Is this the kind of man who is likely to understand, much less care about and defend, the interests and values of the people of Kansas?

Now many of my readers at this point are doubtless thinking that as much as they agree with me, they cannot afford to have Hillary Clinton win the next election. They feel compelled to vote for Donald Trump because he is the best chance of stopping her. And they are both right and wrong. Certainly, Donald Trump will get the second-highest number of votes (both popular and electoral) in this election. But all reputable polls indicate that Hillary Clinton has already won. It is not even close.  Therefore, I suggest that the argument for voting for Donald Trump because he is the only candidate that can beat Hillary Clinton is invalid. He cannot defeat her. True, he will come closer to defeating her than any other candidate, but that doesn’t matter. If you are jumping a 15-foot cliff, it matters not at all whether you jump two feet or twelve feet. You will not make it to the other side. Donald Trump will not be President.

This leaves us with taking the long view. It leaves us in the position of having to act boldly, as our ancestors did 124 years ago, and vote for another candidate, a third-party candidate, so that we can once again send the message that we will not be ignored, and we will not be dictated to by two parties who are determined to treat us like a dull and unloved child. We must vote against the horrors of this terrible election so that we and our children will not be trapped in it again in four years. And in eight. And in sixteen.

We can, if we have the courage to face the facts with open eyes, and the vision to look beyond this dark time to the next several elections, send a message that we reject this two-party system and redirect the whole course of American political dialogue. And at this time I believe that there is only one man who can assist us to do that: Evan McMullin. The advantages of voting for Evan McMullin are these:  Evan McMullin represents most of the values that conservative Kansans have tried to vote for over the past thirty years. And yet, a vote for McMullin is not likely to result in policies that liberals will find oppressive. I also recommend him to liberal Kansans who hate the thought of supporting Clinton, whose DNC crushed Bernie Sanders while assuring us that of course they were running a fair primary. More importantly, Kansas will never vote for Clinton, but a vote for McMullin might deny it to Trump. Secondly, Evan McMullin ALONE among third-party candidates actually leads a state in the most recent polls. He is leading right now in Utah and is likely to be the first candidate since 1968 to actually win electoral votes. This is what Jill Stein and Gary Johnson do not understand, but McMullin has: third parties can be ignored because they never win electoral votes. But Evan McMullin will win Utah’s six.

Will he win? No. There is a remote chance that he could throw it into deadlock and toss the election to the House of Representatives, but that’s no more likely than a Trump victory. Hillary Clinton is, and I shudder to say it, the next President of the United States regardless of what we do. But McMullin can and will redirect national politics if he wins votes in the Electoral College, just as James Weaver did, and Kansas can once again help him do that. Every time a third party has won votes, the change in American politics has been deep and profound. Let us follow Utah’s lead as they followed ours so long ago and send a clear cry out into the political wasteland that we will not support the insupportable, or defend the indefensible. Please join with me, and vote for Evan McMullin.

From Somewhere In Orbit

Theology vs. The Memes #5: God the Federal Government

God Terrorism

As Samuel L. Jackson’s character tells us in the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight: “When you make an assumption, you make an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘umption.'” Making an assumption about human motivations is always dangerous. One of the greatest causes of the deep political divisions of our nation today stems from the belief that we can tell what our opponents “really want.” People who are pro-life don’t care about babies, they really want to make women second-class citizens. People who want gun control don’t care about safety, they really want to establish a tyranny.

The meme above is a perfect example of this in action. What does the bumper sticker say? It says that God is bigger than government. One would hope, of course, that He is. Given the almost legendary incompetence of governments in general and the United States government in particular, worshiping a God that was not bigger than the government would be a waste of time. Quite frankly, if that were the case, I’d leave the church and begin worshiping my cat. At least that way I would occasionally receive the blessing of snuggles. The worst, really, that you can say of this particular bumper sticker is that it says my God is bigger than your government, giving some cloak of innocence to the voter who displays the sticker, as though he or she were not equally culpable in the mess. If that is what is meant, then the believer is guilty of some degree of hypocrisy, yes. But terrorism?

There are really only two ways to get to the claim that this sentiment is “how terrorism starts.”  One is to automatically assume the worst about people. We’ve already seen why that’s a bad idea. But of course, there is a far more dangerous basis for making the claim, and I suspect that it is this idea that stands behind the meme: it is the idea that the entire concept of something bigger than the government, something bigger than unified human action (because that is what a government is, when boiled down to basics) is equivalent to terrorism. And that, I suspect, is the real motive of whoever created this meme. And yes, before anyone else points it out, I will save you the trouble and admit that I too may be falling into the trap of assuming the worst of my opponents. But whether the makers of the meme intended it or not, this idea is out there, and it is dangerous.

It is dangerous because it cuts right to the heart of the binary between theism and atheism: either there is a God, a Being that holds the absolute truths of existence in an unshakable grip, or there is not, and human desires and concepts are the ultimate determiners of right and wrong. If that latter is indeed the case, then God the Father is a lie, and must be replaced by human values. And herein lies the irony. The very concept of the God-King was rejected during the Fall of the Roman Empire, perhaps one of the few true advances in human thought during that decadent and hopeless time, when the Divine Augustus gave way to the servant of the Divine, Constantine the Great. But the atheist must replace the servant of the Divine with humans who, if not gods themselves, wield all the authority of God to determine what is right and wrong with the force of law; God the Federal Government. Therefore, it must follow that if this is true, people who believe in a God that is greater than the government are not only delusional, they are blasphemers. They are heretics who believe that something more, and something better than God the Federal Government exists, and therefore they are equivalent to terrorists, who will dare to defy the Holy People’s Will in the name of their ridiculous God. And of course, they will have to be suppressed for the good of the people.

This bumper sticker is not how terrorism starts. It’s quite possible to believe that God is bigger than the government and not need to undertake any violent (or even non-violent) action against the government. This meme is how fascism starts: the belief that no idea can challenge our secular lords and masters without being a threat that must be destroyed and criminalized.

From Somewhere In Orbit

 

 

 

Another Modest Proposal: The Only Thing We Must Change Is Change Itself

So, the Presidential campaign this year has given us two of the least-regarded Presidential candidates in history, and while it is certainly short on integrity, vision, and even intelligent rhetoric, one thing it will never lack is people telling you how you have to vote. Medium reminds us, in the ponderous tones of the pedantic that there is no such thing as a protest vote in an article with that title.

The author’s point, if one clears away the condescending lectures on the fact that we have an Electoral College, is that since “no one” is listening to or cares about your useless “protest vote” (that’s a vote for anyone but half of the Clintrump chimera) then you are really only allowing everyone else to decide whom they prefer.

“Throwing away your vote on a message no one will hear, and which will change no outcome, is sometimes presented as ‘voting your conscience’, but that’s got it exactly backwards; your conscience is what keeps you from doing things that feel good to you but hurt other people. Citizens who vote for third-party candidates, write-in candidates, or nobody aren’t voting their conscience, they are voting their ego, unable to accept that a system they find personally disheartening actually applies to them.”

Now according to this, only an act that results in a change is morally responsible, and I might agree with that, but what the author is actually contending (and does not admit to contending) is that change only counts if it is immediate and visible. And that’s just ridiculous. In fact, it’s actually extremely harmful. It’s part and parcel of what I wrote about two weeks ago when the Wichita barbecue was criticized for not leading to “change.”

What is ironic is that the people who seem most hostile to this idea that change can come slowly and invisibly should be the ones who understand it the most. The Civil Rights movement in this nation suffered what must have looked like decades of dormancy. From the founding of the NAACP in 1909, it would take 55 years to topple Jim Crow. It would 45 years even to strike down Plessy v. Ferguson. Yet where would Martin Luther King have been without the long, quiet years of raising scholarship money for men like Thurgood Marshall? Was that an act of ego? Of course it wasn’t.

Those who have insisted on change, change NOW at any cost, have left a devastating legacy: John Brown insisted on immediate change, and pushed the nation closer to Civil War.

But hey, if we agree that only acts that result in immediate change is morally responsible, then hell, let’s take that principle to it’s logical conclusion. According to people who agree with this article, people who are voting red in blue states, or blue in red states, are only voting their egos. I guarantee you, no one in Washington D.C. wants to hear why you are voting for Trump, and no one here in Kansas wants to hear why you’re voting for Clinton. In fact, Gary Johnson, judging by past elections, is statistically more likely to win electoral votes in this election than either of those electorates is to flip in the College.

So if you’re not voting your ego, you have to vote with the majority. That’s the only rational choice: not to have one. Only voters in swing states should be voting for the candidate they prefer. Remember, this election isn’t about you! It’s about not hurting people with your selfish desire to have the candidate that your obviously ignorant self has the temerity to think is best!

Can’t stomach voting with the majority? Stay home. Oh, but wait, we can’t do that! That wouldn’t bring change either! So if you can’t vote with the majority, and you can’t stay home, then the only other thing to do is to… what?

Revolt? Rebel? “Vote” for REAL change? John Brown style change? The justice that comes out of a barrel of a gun, as Chairman Mao — another fervent believer in change NOW, at any cost* — would say?

It seems the logical conclusion from this whole train of thought, incremental change having been shown to be a lie.

Or perhaps — perhaps rather than Civil War — we might entertain changing the idea that change is the highest good?

If the abolition of democracy is the alternative, it’s a change worth considering.

*to other people, of course. Not to him personally.

The Conservative Christian Who Cannot Make Voting For Donald Trump A Morally Good Choice: An Open and Respectful Fisking of Dr. Wayne Grudem

I was dismayed last week to read Dr. Wayne Grudem’s call to Christians to vote for Donald Trump. You can find the whole thing here. While I disagree vehemently, I also respect Dr. Grudem as a capable theologian whom I have found generally respectful of those he disagrees with. Dr. Grudem’s words will be in italics. Mine will be in bold. And this is gonna be a long one. For reference: I am not a liberal by almost any definition. I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton either. But that is another topic.

Some of my Christian friends tell me they can’t in good conscience vote for Donald Trump because, when faced with a choice between “the lesser of two evils,” the morally right thing is to choose neither one. They recommend voting for a third-party or write-in candidate.

As a professor who has taught Christian ethics for 39 years, I think their analysis is incorrect. Now that Trump has won the GOP nomination, I think voting for Trump is a morally good choice.

American citizens need patience with each other in this difficult political season. Close friends are inevitably going to make different decisions about the election. We still need to respect each other and thank God that we live in a democracy with freedom to differ about politics. And we need to keep talking with each other – because democracies function best when thoughtful citizens can calmly and patiently dialog about the reasons for their differences. This is my contribution to that discussion.

So far, Dr. Grudem, I don’t really have anything to object to. Although I disagree with your thesis, I think you are absolutely right about respect and patient dialogue. However, I just have to ask whether those two qualities are in fact hallmarks of the candidate you are choosing to defend here. 

I do not think that voting for Donald Trump is a morally evil choice because there is nothing morally wrong with voting for a flawed candidate if you think he will do more good for the nation than his opponent. In fact, it is the morally right thing to do.

I did not support Trump in the primary season. I even spoke against him at a pastors’ conference in February. But now I plan to vote for him. I do not think it is right to call him an “evil candidate.” I think rather he is a good candidate with flaws.

Again, I’ll agree with the core thesis: all candidates are flawed. On occasion, it may be better to accept those flaws than to accept much worse flaws. But let’s look at what those flaws are, on your own showing:

He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages. These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.

Here’s my first serious criticism: if you believe that bombing the families of terrorists is morally reprehensible as a strategy, then this cannot be waved away as a “mistaken idea.” Punitively killing people’s families isn’t a “mistake.” That’s a deliberate strategy that involves killing non-terrorists to influence terrorists. Mass killing may in fact be necessary to end a war, and that did work in World War II, but let’s not pretend that the firebombing of Tokyo was a “mistake.” Either defend it on moral grounds, having the courage to say outright that it is a morally terrible but necessary choice, or don’t. But don’t call it a mistake. Furthermore, Donald Trump has not “abandoned” this position. He just evaded it when cornered and said that “take out” didn’t mean “kill.” What it does mean, he has not made clear.

On the other hand, I think some of the accusations hurled against him are unjustified. His many years of business conduct show that he is not racist or anti-(legal) immigrant or anti-Semitic or misogynistic – I think these are unjust magnifications by a hostile press exaggerating some careless statements he has made. I think he is deeply patriotic and sincerely wants the best for the country. He has been an unusually successful problem solver in business. He has raised remarkable children. Many who have known him personally speak highly of his kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity. 

Of course, the press is hostile to Trump now that their free advertising — whoops, I’m sorry, I meant “dedicated coverage” — has made him the Republican candidate guaranteed to lose to Hillary Clinton. He’s the kind of Republican candidate they’ve had wet dreams about since Nixon kicked McGovern’s ass in 1976! Of course they magnify his statements. That doesn’t mean that those statements don’t exist (nor do you need to be particularly leftist to find them. Is Fortune magazine leftist? Seems hard to credit). But they scarcely need much magnification and they don’t seem “careless.” And if your candidate goes around placing full-page ads in newspapers to object to removing “hate and rancor from our hearts” CARELESSLY, then that is a major problem in and of itself. Indeed “carelessness” seems to be a hallmark of Donald Trump’s candidacy and character. When the young men falsely imprisoned in the case linked above were exonerated, Donald Trump… didn’t care.

And while I am sure many people speak highly of him, many people speak highly of Che Guevara, but he was still a racist mass-murderer.

But the main reason I call him “a good candidate with flaws” is that I think most of the policies he supports are those that will do the most good for the nation.

Should Christians even try to influence elections at all? Yes, definitely. The apostle Peter says Christians are “exiles” on this earth (1 Peter 1:1). Therefore I take seriously the prophet Jeremiah’s exhortation to the Jewish people living in exile in Babylon:

“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” (Jeremiah 29:7).

By way of modern application, I think Christians today have a similar obligation to vote in such a way that will “seek the welfare” of the United States. Therefore the one overriding question to ask is this: Which vote is most likely to bring the best results for the nation?

Okay, sure, although I think you hardly have to reach this far into Scripture to support the idea of seeking the welfare of your own nation, and I definitely agree that Christians have a moral imperative to use the power granted us to make sound decisions based on effective policy.

If this election is close (which seems likely), then if someone votes for a write-in candidate instead of voting for Trump, this action will directly help Hillary Clinton, because she will need one less vote to win. Therefore the question that Christians should ask is this: Can I in good conscience act in a way that helps a liberal like Hillary Clinton win the presidency?

Well, no. First of all, write-in candidates are not the only other choice, and it’s disingenuous to pretend that they are. Gary Johnson is going to be on the ballot in all fifty states, and he’s polling ahead of Clinton in Utah. This may be the first election since 1964 that a third-party candidate wins electoral votes. Jill Stein has far less support, but at least is nationally known.

Under President Obama, a liberal federal government has seized more and more control over our lives. But this can change. This year we have an unusual opportunity to defeat Hillary Clinton and the pro-abortion, pro-gender-confusion, anti-religious liberty, tax-and-spend, big government liberalism that she champions. I believe that defeating that kind of liberalism would be a morally right action. Therefore I feel the force of the words of James: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).

Dr. Grudem, this is unworthy of you: you are using Scripture as a club to try to beat people into submission by using a strategy very similar to victim-blaming. You might as well say that crime victims “sin” because they know that going outside increases their exposure to crime. They know this, so they should stay indoors. And it can be just as easily argued on the same grounds that defeating Donald Trump is a morally right action and claim that people who vote for him “sin.” This sort of spiritual Mutually Assurd Destruction gets us nowhere, and should be avoided. In addition, one might very well have used the same argument to defend voting for Hitler in 1933, when Josef Stalin had killed millions of people, while Hitler (as far as I can tell) had killed none. “A vote against Hitler is a vote against Communism!” And in case it’s in doubt, I believe impeding, let alone defeating Stalin’s Soviet Union would have been an immensely morally right action. But we have to ask: defeat it in favor of WHAT?

And, Dr. Grudem, as long as you are using James’s epistle to back your position, let us see what he has to say about “careless statements:”

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear,slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
James 1:19-20.

“For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,[c] these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
James 3: 7-12.

The Scripture, sir, tells us not to trust men like Donald Trump. BECAUSE OF their words. So I have to question whether your “moral choice” is a Biblical choice.

 

Some may feel it is easier just to stay away from this messy Trump-Clinton election, and perhaps not even vote. But the teachings of Scripture do not allow us to escape moral responsibility by saying that we decided to do nothing. The prophet Obadiah rebuked the people of the Edom for standing by and doing nothing to help when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem: “On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that . . . foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.” (Obadiah 1:11).

But voting for a third party is not voting for Hillary. And it is not doing nothing. I agree that staying home is a bad idea. But it is not the only idea, and it is wrong to equate “doing what is unlikely to succeed, but right” with “doing nothing.”

I am writing this article because I doubt that many “I can’t vote for Trump” Christians have understood what an entirely different nation would result from Hillary Clinton as president, or have analyzed in detail how different a Trump presidency would be. In what follows, I will compare the results we could expect from a Clinton presidency with what we could expect from a Trump presidency.

Okay, good: let’s discuss policy. That’s what this election is supposed to be about. Whether it is about that is a different question.

The Supreme Court with Clinton as president

Hillary Clinton would quickly replace Justice Scalia with another liberal like Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. This would give liberals a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court even without Justice Kennedy, and 6-3 when he votes with them.

But that is not all. Justice Ginsburg is 83, and she has had colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and has a heart stent. Justice Kennedy is 80. Justice Breyer is 78. A President Clinton could possibly nominate three or four justices to the Supreme Court, locking in a far-left activist judiciary for perhaps 30 or more years. She could also add dozens of activist judges to federal district courts and courts of appeals, the courts where 99% of federal lawsuits are decided. Judicial tyranny of the type we have seen when abortion rights and same-sex marriage were forced on the nation would gain a permanent triumph.

The nation would no longer be ruled by the people and their elected representatives, but by unelected, unaccountable, activist judges who would dictate from the bench about whatever they were pleased to decree. And there would be nothing in our system of government that anyone could do to stop them.

That is why this election is not just about Hillary Clinton. It is about defeating the far left liberal agenda that any Democratic nominee would champion. Liberal Democrats are now within one Supreme Court justice of their highest goal: gaining permanent control of the nation with a five vote majority on the Supreme Court, and then relentlessly imposing every liberal policy on the nation not through winning elections but through a relentless parade of one Supreme Court decision after another.

Even if Clinton were to drop out of the race (perhaps due to additional shocking email disclosures, for example), our choice in the election would be just the same, because any other Democratic nominee would appoint the same kind of liberal justices to the Court.

This is the reason that a lot of people whom I otherwise respect give for casting a vote for Donald Trump: BUT THE SUPREME COURT! And given the overreach of the judicial branch and the federal government, I share the concern. But Donald Trump isn’t the answer to that concern. Firstly, there’s little evidence that he’s actually in favor of limiting that overreach. Trump was in favor of Obamacare just in FEBRUARY! And the mandate! Secondly, Trump has made proposal after proposal that shows that he is ignorant of the basic limitations of the Constitution! How could such a man reliably pick a Supreme Court justice that is NOT the very kind of “liberal” you fear? He could do it through sheer ignorance.

Abortion

On abortion, a liberal court would probably find the ban on partial-birth abortion to be unconstitutional (it was upheld by only a 5-4 majority in Gonzalez v. Carhart, 2007). In addition, the court could find an absolute “right to abortion” in the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and then sweep away with one decision most or all of the restrictions on abortion that pro-life advocates worked for tirelessly over the last 43 years, including ultrasound requirements, waiting periods, parental consent requirements, and prohibitions on non-doctors performing abortions.

Voters should not doubt the power of the Supreme Court to abolish all these laws restricting abortions. Think of the power of the Obergefell v. Hodges 5-4 decision in June, 2015. It instantly nullified all the work that thousands of Christians had done over many years in persuading the citizens of 31 states to pass constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. But no one is campaigning for such laws or amendments anymore, because it would be futile. The Supreme Court has spoken, and therefore the issue is settled in the political system of the United States. We lost – not at the ballot box, but because we had a liberal Supreme Court that nullified the democratic process regarding the definition of marriage.

So it would certainly be with any efforts to place legal limitations on abortion. Nobody would campaign any more for laws to limit abortions, because any such laws would be unconstitutional. The legislative lobbying work of pro-life advocacy groups would be totally and utterly defeated. Millions of unborn children would continue to die.

Yes, well, I’ve already written on why opposing same-sex marriage on the legal level is a bad idea. In addition, I really hate to break it to you, Dr. Grudem, but most Americans want abortion to be legal, at least under certain conditions. If you want the court to oppose this, then you are engaging in the same type of judicial rule you object to liberals using, and that’s dishonest. Additionally, the Bible does not consider abortion to be the equivalent of murder: Exodus 21:20 states that: “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[e] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows.” The same law would require the death of the offender if the woman died, but only a fine for terminating the pregnancy. This practice of “fining” seems to imply that Old Testament law considers  termination of pregnancy (even when it is caused by someone NOT THE PREGNANT WOMAN) morally equivalent to theft, which was also punishable by fines.
I cannot therefore find any Biblical grounds for taking this objection seriously. I dislike abortion intensely, but I didn’t write the Bible.

Religious liberty

The current liberal agenda often includes suppressing Christian opposition to its views. So a liberal court would increasingly nullify rights of conscience with respect to forced participation in same-sex marriage ceremonies or expressing moral objections to homosexual conduct. Already Christians are being pushed out of many occupations. Florists, bakers, and professional photographers have had their businesses destroyed by large fines for refusal to contribute their artistic talents to a specific event, a same-sex wedding ceremony to which they had moral objections.

Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran in Atlanta was removed from his job because of self-publishing a religious book that briefly mentioned the Bible’s teachings regarding non-marital sexual conduct, including homosexuality, amidst a host of other topics. His situation holds ominous implications for any Christians who hold public sector jobs. In our military services, many high-ranking officers have quietly been forced to resign because they were unwilling to give support to the homosexual agenda.

Mozilla/Firefox CEO Brendan Eich was pushed out from his own company merely because he had donated money to Proposition 8 in California, supporting marriage between one man and one woman. This event has troubling implications for Christians in any corporate executive role who dare to support a political position contrary to the liberal agenda.

Last year Boston urologist Paul Church, a Harvard Medical School faculty member, lost his hospital privileges at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center because he had expressed concerns about the medical dangers associated with same-sex activity.

Are my predictions about this kind of loss of religious liberty too grim? The three conservative justices still on the Supreme Court expressed similar concerns just last month. The case concerned a Washington pharmacy that has been owned for 70 years by the Stormans family, who are committed Christians. They will likely now be put out of business by the Washington State Pharmacy Board for refusing to dispense an abortion-causing prescription drug. On June 28, 2016, the Supreme Court refused to hear the Stormans’ appeal, in spite of the strong dissent written by Justice Alito (joined by Roberts and Thomas):

“At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications. . . . . there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State . . . . If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.” (italics added)

I generally share these concerns, but again, given Trump’s ignorance of the Constitution’s guarantees on freedom of religion, it’s pretty hard to believe that Trump would be able to appoint justices who wouldn’t do exactly what you fear from Clinton.

Christian business owners

If Clinton appoints just one more liberal justice, it is likely that many Christian business owners will be targeted. Hobby Lobby won its 2014 Supreme Court case (again 5-4), so it was not compelled to dispense abortifacients to its employees, but that case could be reversed (the four liberal justices in the minority, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, are still on the court). If that case is overturned, it would force Hobby Lobby out of business, because the Green family had said they would shut down the company of 23,000 employees and over $3 billion in annual sales if they lost the decision. The implications for other Christian business owners with pro-life convictions are ominous.

These incidents show that it is not an exaggeration to say that, under a liberal Supreme Court resulting from Hillary Clinton’s election, Christians would increasingly experience systematic exclusion from hundreds of occupations, with thousands of people losing their jobs. Step-by-step, Christians would increasingly be marginalized to the silent fringes of society. Is withholding a vote from Donald Trump important enough to pay this high a price in loss of freedom?

Some Christians have even hinted to me that “persecution would be good for us.” But the Bible never encourages us to seek persecution or hope for it. We should rather work to prevent such oppression of Christians, just as Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). Paul did not encourage us to pray that God would give us bad rulers but good ones who would allow us to live a peaceful life:

“I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1Timothy 2:1)

Yes, Dr. Grudem, I share your concern, and even more, believe your interpretation of Scripture to be right on, here, but it still doesn’t make Trump more familiar with Constitutional law than he was in the last paragraph. It also doesn’t exactly jive with your willingness earlier to use an argument that voting third party is morally equivalent to voting for Hillary. By your own logic here, any action that could be expected to lead to the strengthening of our faith through persecution should be taken: after all, strengthening our faith is a good thing, right? And you just told us that not doing a good thing is sin.

Christian schools and colleges

A liberal Supreme Court would also impact education. Christian colleges would likely be found guilty of “discrimination” if they required adherence to the Bible’s standards regarding sexual conduct, or even required affirmation of primary Christian beliefs. Campus ministries like Cru and InterVarsity have already been forced off of many university campuses following the 5-4 Supreme Court decision CLS v. Martinez (2010), which upheld the exclusion of the Christian Legal Society from the campus of Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. And now California’s Equity in Higher Education Act (SB 1146), which recently passed the California state senate and will likely become law, would prohibit Christian colleges from requiring students or employees to hold Christian beliefs or abide by biblical moral standards regarding sexual conduct, and would prohibit colleges from assigning housing based on a student’s biological sex if a student claimed to be transgender. Colleges like Biola and Azusa Pacific could not long survive under those regulations.

With regard to elementary and high schools, laws promoting school choice or tuition voucher programs would likely be declared unconstitutional if they allowed such funding to go to Christian schools. A tax credit program for scholarships to private schools, including Christian institutions, was only upheld by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn in 2011, and all four liberal justices who voted against it are still on the court. Another possible target of the liberal agenda would be laws that allow for home schooling, if the secular/ liberal governmental hostility to home schooling in European countries is any indicator.

I feel like I’m in church again, singing a hymn where I don’t know the words to anything but the refrain, only in this case the refrain goes: “I share all thy concerns, but thy solution doth not impress me.” 

Churches

Churches would not be exempt from the impact of a liberal Supreme Court. The court could rule that any school district is allowed to ban churches from renting school buildings on Sundays, an action that could severely hinder the work of small churches and church planting in general. (This was already the ruling of the Second Circuit in the Bronx Household of Faith case regarding New York City public schools.) And some churches in Iowa have now been told that they have to make their bathrooms open to people on the basis of their “gender identity” if the churches are going to be open to the public at all.

“I share all thy concerns, but thy solution doth not impress me.” 

Freedom of speech

Freedom of speech would be increasingly restricted in the public square. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that prayers of visiting pastors who prayed “in Jesus’ name” when they opened a city council meeting were allowed under the Constitution, but again it was a 5-4 decision (Town of Greece v. Galloway) and all four liberals who wanted to restrict such prayers are still on the court.

“I share all thy concerns, but thy solution doth not impress me.” Especially since Trump has spoken of his own willingness to clamp down on free speech. I sure don’t want that to be a precedent, still less a precedent set by a Republican.

Criminalizing dissent

Another troubling possibility is that liberal activists, once in power, would further entrench themselves by criminalizing much political dissent. We have already seen it happen with the IRS targeting of conservative groups and with some state attorneys general taking steps to prosecute (!) groups who dare to disagree with activists’ claims about the danger of man-made global warming.

“But my conscience won’t let me vote for Donald Trump,” some have told me. But I wonder if their consciences have considered the gravity of these destructive consequences that would come from a Clinton presidency. A vote for Trump would at least be doing something to prevent these things.

Well, you’d like to think so, anyway.

In addition, I think there are several positive reasons to vote for Trump.

The Supreme Court with Trump as president

Trump has released a list of 11 judges to show the kind of nominee he would appoint to the Supreme Court. A lawyer familiar with many of these names has told me that they constitute a “dream list” of outstanding judges who would uphold the original meaning of the Constitution and would not create new laws from the bench. Trump has said he would rely primarily on advice from the Federalist Society, the organization that promotes the “original meaning” view so strongly exemplified by Justice Scalia before his death.

If Trump would appoint a replacement for Scalia from his list of 11, and probably one or two other Supreme Court justices, then we could see a 5-4 or even 6-3 majority of conservative justices on the Supreme Court. The results for the nation would be overwhelmingly good.

Such a Supreme Court would finally return control of the nation to the people and their elected representatives, removing it from dictatorial judges who repeatedly make law from the bench.

Well, that’s great news. I very much admired Justice Scalia. But all of this hinges on Donald Trump being a man of his word. And you just acknowledged that Trump is a man who makes careless statements. Moreover, the legal record abounds with cases of Trump and his companies NOT keeping their words to pay bills.
Political promises are the currency of the business of politics. Why should we trust that the man whose company claimed that they should be let off because they had “paid enough” will not tell us, when he is elected, that he has “kept enough promises?”

Abortion

Such a court would likely overturn Roe v. Wade and return abortion laws and the regulation of abortion to the states.

Dr. Grudem, it’s not going to happen. I don’t like abortion either (saying it isn’t murder, by the way, doesn’t mean I think it’s a right, nor that I think it should be carte-blanche legal) but Republicans have been fighting this for FORTY YEARS. One of the main reasons trump is popular is that Republicans who WANT to see it happen are damned tired of Republicans promising to end it and it keeps being legal. You don’t have the support among the populace for this. And promoting bad policy because you really, really WANT it to happen is exactly what you say we shouldn’t be doing.

Religious liberty

A conservative court would vigorously uphold the First Amendment, protecting freedom of religion and freedom of speech for Christian colleges, Christian ministries, and churches.

Such a court would likely overturn the horribly destructive decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) that changed the meaning of the First Amendment and ruled that a government action “must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion” (note: not a specific denomination but “religion” in general). A conservative court would likely declare that the First Amendment was only intended to prohibit the establishment of a state-sponsored church or denomination.

Such a decision would once again allow the nonsectarian affirmation of personal belief in God in public schools, would once again allow coaches to pray with their football teams before a game, and would allow visiting clergy to be invited to give a prayer at high school graduation ceremonies. It would also imply that nativity scenes without Santa Claus and Buddha should be allowed in government-owned parks and buildings at Christmas time. It wouldn’t require these things, but would allow them if local officials chose to approve them. It would restore true freedom of religion as the First Amendment intended.

It would also protect freedom of conscience for Christians who object to participating in abortions, or dispensing abortifacient medicines, or who do not wish to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies. It is also possible that a conservative Supreme Court would eventually return control of marriage to the states.

Slightly modified refrain: “Generally a good idea, if you trust Trump.”

Freedom for Christian influence in politics

Significantly, Trump has pledged to work to repeal the 1954 Johnson Amendment to the IRS code, which has been used for 62 years as a threat to silence pastors from speaking about political issues, for fear of losing their tax-exempt status. This would be a great victory for freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

In short, a Trump-appointed Supreme Court, together with dozens of lower court judges appointed by him, would probably result in significant advances in many of the policy areas important to Christians. It would also open the door to huge expansion of influence for the many Christian lobbying groups known as “family policy councils” in various states, especially enabling them to work for further legal protections for life, for marriage and family, and for religious liberty.

Speaking of which, at least you’re honest enough to ask:

How can we know that Trump won’t change his mind?

“But Trump has changed his mind in the past,” a politically-minded friend said to me. “How do you know that he will do what he has promised? Maybe he’ll betray you and appoint a liberal Supreme Court justice.”

My reply is that we can never know the future conduct of any human being with 100% certainty, but in making an ethical decision like this one, we should base the decision on the most likely results. In this case, the most likely result is that Trump will do most or all of what he has said.

I disagree, obviously. Trump has a track record of NOT doing what he says he will. That’s what a bankruptcy IS.

In the history of American politics, candidates who have been elected president have occasionally changed their minds on one or another issue while in office, but no president has ever gone back on most of what he has promised to do, especially on issues that are crucially important in the election. In this election, it is reasonable to think that the most likely result is that both Trump and Clinton will do what they have promised to do. That is the basis on which we should decide how to vote.

Possibly correct, but Trump has said so many contradictory and unconstitutional things that it breaks all precedent. It’s almost impossible for me to believe that he WON’T have to break many, if not most of his promises.

And notice how Trump has changed his mind. He continues to move in a more conservative direction, as evidenced by his list of judges and his choice for vice president. Just as he succeeded in business by listening to the best experts to solve each problem, I suspect that he has been learning from the best experts in conservative political thought and has increasingly found that conservative solutions really work. We should applaud these changes.

Of course he is moving in a more conservative direction. He’s already poison to all liberal and most swing voters (which is why, barring a disaster, I’m fairly confident he won’t win) and a lot of conservatives hate him. He has to play to the base. He doesn’t have to keep playing to them after he’s in office.

His choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate is an especially significant indication that he will govern as a conservative. Trump could have picked a moderate but instead picked a lifelong solid conservative who is a thoughtful, gracious policy wizard. Pence is a lawyer and former talk radio host who served 12 years in Congress and had significant congressional leadership positions, so he will be immensely helpful in working with Congress. He is a committed evangelical Christian. He is a former board member of the Indiana Family Institute, a conservative Christian lobbying group in Indiana.

However, the Supreme Court is not the only issue at stake in this election. While I disagree with Trump on a few things (especially trade policy), on most important issues, Trump will likely do much good for the nation.

Taxes and jobs

Trump has pledged to cut taxes significantly, while Clinton wants to raise them. Trump is advocating a 15% tax rate for corporations rather than the current 35%. Lower corporate taxes would lead to business expansion and a massive increase in available jobs and higher pay levels. For individual taxpayers, Trump favors a top rate of 25%, but for Clinton it’s 45%. Most small businesses file under this individual rate, so once again Trump’s lower taxes would result in substantial expansion of businesses and many more jobs. Finally our economy would snap out of its eight years of anemic growth.

In my judgment, Christians should support lower tax rates that would lead to more jobs, because Obama’s economic policies for the last eight years have hurt lower income and low-middle income families the most. Many can’t even find jobs, and others can’t find full-time jobs. Those who have jobs struggle to survive with no meaningful pay raises year after year. It is no surprise that these are the people who are supporting Trump in overwhelming numbers.

Tax rates are also a good indicator of government control. Higher tax rates mean greater government control of our lives, while lower tax rates indicate greater freedom.

If all that comes along with closing loopholes in the system, I’m all for it. Has Trump said ANYTHING about that? Or is it just more “tax cuts promote growth because magic?”

Minorities

Two of the deepest causes of poverty among minority groups and racial tensions in our country are failing public schools in our inner cities and lack of available jobs. Trump expressed a commitment to solve these problems at several points in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention. He pledged to reduce taxes and regulations, leading to many more jobs. And he said:

“Nearly 4 in 10 African-American children are living in poverty, while 58% of African-American youth are not employed . . . . This administration has failed America’s inner cities. It’s failed them on education. It’s failed and on jobs. It’s failed them on crime . . . . Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Ferguson who have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child in America? . . . . We will rescue kids from failing schools by helping their parents send them to a safe school of their choice.”

By contrast, Clinton will bow to the teachers’ unions and oppose school choice at every turn, and she will continue to strangle businesses with high taxes and regulations, preventing job growth.

Awesome, but that’s not a policy. It’s a vague goal at best.

The military

Trump has promised to rapidly rebuild our depleted military forces, but Clinton would continue the liberal policy of eviscerating them through denying funding. This is dangerous in light of increasing threats from China, Russia, Iran, and ISIS.

Funding the military will make very little difference if it is employed ineptly, as has been the case since approximately 1991, and I’m being generous, there. Trump has even less experience with military action as an arm of government policy than Clinton does, and I think SHE’S going to be disastrously bad at it.

Borders

Trump has repeatedly promised that he will finally secure our borders, an urgent need to protect the nation from ever more terrorists and drug smugglers. Clinton will not do this but will continue to allow in what she thinks will be thousands of future Democratic voters.

Promises, again. There are 11 million — ELEVEN MILLION — illegal immigrants who are determined to live here regardless of what the law says. Many citizens support them in this. Many of both groups believe their political power can only increase by increasing the flow. Amnesty and a path to citizenship for these folks, giving them a stake in closing off the pipeline, is the only alternative to actual civil war.

ISIS and terrorism

Trump has pledged to aggressively attack and utterly defeat ISIS. Clinton will continue the anemic Obama policy of periodic bombing runs and drone attacks, under which ISIS has continued to thrive.

See the comment on use of the military, above.

China and Russia

Trump will not let China and Russia and Iran push us around anymore, as Obama has done, with Hillary Clinton’s support when she was secretary of state. If Trump is anything, he is tough as nails, and he won’t be bullied.

He won’t APPEAR to be bullied. That’s very different from actually being bullied. By asking Russia to expose the emails it might have from Hillary Clinton, he has ALREADY rewarded Russia’s interference in our elections, setting a dangerous precedent. I have little use for Obama’s foreign policy, or Clinton’s, but at least they have the advantage of not scaring the bejeezus out of our allies, whom Trump has openly threatened not to support if they should fall behind on their NATO obligations, FURTHER encouraging Russian bullying of NATO.

Israel

Trump has promised to vigorously defend and support Israel, while Clinton will most likely continue the Obama administration’s criticism, snubbing, and marginalization of Israel.

And why does that need to be a cornerstone of our foreign policy? Maybe it does, but it’s worth perhaps not simply assuming.

Energy

Trump has said he will approve the Keystone oil pipeline and grant more oil drilling permits leading to lower energy costs and providing thousands of jobs. Lower energy costs help everybody, but the poor most of all. Clinton, by contrast, will make fracking nearly impossible and essentially abolish the coal industry, causing energy prices to skyrocket.

Here, I agree, but I’d love a statement supporting nuclear power.

Executive orders and bathrooms

Trump has promised to rescind many of the most objectionable executive orders given by President Obama, so he will likely end the compulsory moral degradation forced on us by a liberal agenda, including orders forcing schools to allow boys in girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms, in defiance of the will of the vast majority of Americans. But Hillary Clinton would likely perpetuate and expand these policies.

The problem is not which laws govern our bathrooms. The problem is there is law about bathrooms at all. Trump is just the opposite side of the same terrible coin, here, but that is a large topic, for another time.

Health care

Trump will work to repeal Obamacare, which is ruining the nation’s health care system, and replace it with an affordable free market system in which companies have the ability to sell insurance across state lines, thus substantially lowering insurance prices especially in those states that currently allow only high-priced “Cadillac” insurance plans. But Clinton would continue to work relentlessly toward federal government control of our entire health care industry.

Not according to what he said in February.

The unprotected

Trump will finally begin to recognize and protect what Wall Street Journal writer Peggy Noonan calls “the unprotected” in America — people in lower income areas who cannot find good jobs, cannot find good schools for their children, do not feel protected from crime, and find their retirement savings are not enough because for years they have been earning no interest in the bank. Trump said in his acceptance speech, “Every day I wake up determined to deliver for the people I have met all across the nation that have been neglected, ignored, and abandoned . . . I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves.”

These American citizens recognize that Trump has built a business career on listening to experts, solving problems, and getting things done. They realize that Trump didn’t earn $4 billion by being stupid, and their instinct says that he might be exactly the right person to solve some of the biggest problems in a nation that has for too long been headed in the wrong direction and stuck in political gridlock.

They may not have college degrees but their old-fashioned common sense tells them that America would be a much better place if we no longer had to be afraid to say “Merry Christmas,” or that boys are different from girls, or that Islamic terrorists are Islamic terrorists. They’re sick and tired of being condescended to by the snobbish moralism of the liberal elites who dominate the power centers in our nation. That is why they cheer when Trump repeatedly violates the canons of politically correct speech. They have found in him someone who gives them hope, and they are supporting him by the thousands.

This is unquestionably Trump’s appeal. This is what his supporters want. But he’s not God, or even a ruling king. He can’t do it by fiat.

Does character matter?

“But are you saying that character doesn’t matter?” someone might ask. I believe that character does matter, but I think Trump’s character is far better than what is portrayed by much current political mud-slinging, and far better than his opponent’s character.

In addition, if someone makes doubts about character the only factor to consider, that is a fallacy in ethical reasoning that I call “reductionism” – the mistake of reducing every argument to only one factor, when the situation requires that multiple factors be considered. In this election, an even larger factor is the future of the nation that would flow from a Clinton or a Trump presidency.

Your statement on reductionism is correct. Interesting that I rarely see a Christian figure make those same argument when a Christian politician of better character (but questionable policies) runs against a Democrat with worse character (but better policies). And hopefully, I’ve addressed many issues by now, sir.

To my friends who tell me they won’t vote for Trump because there is a chance he won’t govern at all like he promises, I reply that all of American presidential history shows that that result is unlikely, and it is ethically fallacious reasoning to base a decision on assuming a result that is unlikely to happen.

Consider instead the most likely results. The most likely result of voting for Trump is that he will govern the way he promises to do, bringing much good to the nation.

But the most likely result of not voting for Trump is that you will be abandoning thousands of unborn babies who will be put to death under Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court, thousands of Christians who will be excluded from their lifelong occupations, thousands of the poor who will never again be able to find high-paying jobs in an economy crushed by government hostility toward business, thousands of inner-city children who will never be able to get a good education, thousands of the sick and elderly who will never get adequate medical treatment when the government is the nation’s only healthcare provider, thousands of people who will be killed by an unchecked ISIS, and millions of Jews in Israel who will find themselves alone and surrounded by hostile enemies. And you will be contributing to a permanent loss of the American system of government due to a final victory of unaccountable judicial tyranny.

When I look at it this way, my conscience, and my considered moral judgment tell me that I must vote for Donald Trump as the candidate who is most likely to do the most good for the United States of America.

By all means, Dr. Grudem, vote your conscience. The only way forward is for us each to vote our consciences. But your reasons, I regret to inform you, have not only failed to move my conscience, they have utterly strengthened my determination not to vote for Donald Trump, because I cannot place my faith in the God of the Bible, and in the Donald Trump that I have learned about. I regret even more to inform you that, because of what I can only see as a selective use of Scripture to support a partisan political viewpoint, and in spite of the respect I have for your many years of Biblical scholarship, I cannot hold that scholarship in the same high regard I have previously. However, please believe that, should Trump be elected (which I doubt he will), I shall pray to the God we both worship that you are correct and that I am wrong. Because may God help us all if you are not.

Dallas and Wichita: This Is The Post You Are Looking For

This was not the blog post I was going to write today, but Steven Barnes asked me to write something up about what I saw and experienced, so here it goes.

I don’t often say that I am proud to live and work in Wichita, Kansas. I grew up here, and have lived most of my adult life here, as well. It isn’t and never will be a tourist destination. But yesterday, I was proud of my city.

Black Lives Matter, in the form of a local group called IGYB (I Got Your Back) had planned to hold a protest here on Sunday. Rather than oppose it or warn people, our new Chief of Police, Gordon Ramsay (really!) spoke with IGYB and decided to hold a public cookout for any and all who wanted to come and play and talk and eat together. I have to credit my wife for our participation: I would never have seen that the event existed without her.

At first, when Mr. Barnes asked me to write this essay, I was unsure of what I was going to say. I wasn’t able to really join in the discussion or listen to the speakers. By the time people were speaking, my children, who are seven, five, and three, were up past their bedtime and were starting to melt down. I would have done nothing by staying except frustrate them (and doubtless the people around us). Nothing earth-shattering happened, either in general or to me and my family. I didn’t make a new friend, sadly. I’m not the kind of person that easily begins conversations with people I don’t know. And I didn’t say or hear anything life-changing. I didn’t have a conversation that opened my or anyone else’s eyes.

But as the conversation on Steven’s Facebook page grew, I could see how much people wanted to know about this event, and how very, very basic the questions were. So this is what I saw:

I saw my White and my Black neighbors there. I’d say that the races were pretty evenly present. Maybe about 45/45 Black/White and 10% Other.

I saw dozens, if not scores of Wichita Police officers (and Kansas Highway Patrolmen, and Firemen and EMTs) mixing in with the community, smiling, and glad to be there. I saw them speaking with people with Black Lives Matter shirts on. I saw both groups speaking with men who looked like bikers. Everyone was greeting one another. No one looked afraid.

I listened to a young Black singer while we ate. He had a good voice. I regret I got caught up in my children and didn’t find out his name.

I had a brief discussion with an officer who seemed optimistic about the way the city was headed, and he’d been on the force since 1988, when I was entering high school.

I saw my children jumping through bounce-houses with my Black neighbors’ children, with huge smiles on their faces.

I watched my children enthralled by a couple of eight-week old puppies that were being carried by a pair of Black men who were a little older than I am. They let the puppies down on the ground to play with my enthralled kids. I thanked them for their time.

As we left, I heard a speaker. I don’t know who he was and I don’t know exactly what he was saying, but he was saying it to a crowd of all ages and races, several hundred strong, who were giving him their undivided attention. And he called on them to become more active in their community, and to be involved in the political process. He had faith in our democracy, and our people, that we would be able to come together and to do what is right.

And this morning I saw photos posted by a young Jewish officer holding Black children and dancing with them. Ten years ago, that young man was sitting in my history classroom. And I was proud of him, and grateful to have had the privilege of seeing him grow into his dream of serving our community, and doing it well.

And today I am remembering Dallas, and how easily Wichita and Dallas might have changed places. Because right before the terrible act of violence that seared Dallas across our minds, they, like we, had come together — White, Black, Police, and Civilian — to talk to each other, confident that they could make peace.

Today, because of the leadership of our police chief and our Black community leaders, I have new faith that we here in America can make peace with one another. No people on God’s Earth ever had a better chance.  Things are really and truly getting better in our nation, despite the terrible things that some choose to do. I am a history teacher, and I can tell you that this is not usually the way that things go. When a nation has a history of conquest and enslavement, it’s much more common to see increased separation leading to violence, oppression and revenge. And all those things are still with us, yes. But the pain that we are now going through is in may ways because our expectations of ourselves and of others are rising. I can tell you from living in them that many other countries do not go through this pain — but it is not because they are less oppressive than we. It is because prejudice and concepts of race superiority are so entrenched that they are not even questioned.

I know there are those who will think that I only say such things as a justification for maintaining a status quo. I do not. I say it because I see the good that began in Dallas swallowed up and lost in the horror of its ending. And I know that while Mr. Barnes had no need to ask me or anyone else about the terror in Dallas, he needed me to show him the good in Wichita. If we do not believe that good is possible, then how will we ever invest our fortunes in it, much less pledge our lives and our sacred honors?

The last thing I said at the cookout was to exchange greetings with a Black family that I don’t know. I think it was probably a father, his children, and his mother. We said hello, and the older woman said, “God bless you.” Yes, ma’am. May His blessing be upon us all. And I hope to see you again, at another cookout. There’s talk there may be more of them. I do hope so. If we can, we’ll be there.

 

It Does Not Mean What You Think It Means

One thing you will never run out of in this world is people to make your choices for you. In the current election cycle, we started out with a number of people who chose to run for President of the United States, and those choices have now been whittled, so we have been told, down to two: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has no qualifications that should make him a serious candidate for the highest office in our land, as I have said before. Every word out of his mouth betrays a vast ignorance of and carelessness toward the basic tenets and ideals of the Constitution. The thought of him in the Oval Office makes me cringe.

Hillary Clinton has been pursuing the Presidency with single-minded intensity since 1996. It is her highest goal, and she wants it so badly that it frightens me. No one who wants power that badly is someone I trust with it. And as for her policies, no one said it better than P.J. O’Rourke: “She is wrong. Wrong on every issue. But at least she is wrong within normal parameters.” O’Rourke said this on National Public Radio, as a backhanded endorsement of Clinton (which is astonishing in itself. For those who may not know, O’Rourke is a lifelong conservative Republican).

Predictably, millions of people are looking for an alternative to these two candidates and recommending those candidates. And just as predictably, the same tired old beating stick is being hauled out to stop them: “If you vote for a third party, you’re just throwing your vote away. A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Hillary,” (or alternatively, a vote for Bernie Sanders is a vote for Trump, though that’s looking less common now, as Bernie doesn’t seem to be contemplating an independent run, more’s the pity).

I was going to say something clever about this, but I’ve decided that it would be better to simply call this out for what it is: it is a lie. It is a lie, it is a damned lie, and I will not endure this lie any more. If we live in a free society, then the vote I cast means that I believe the person for whom I cast my vote is the best candidate for President of the Untied States. As a citizen of the United States, a nation which I love and respect (despite its flaws and sins, and they are many), it is my right and my duty to take that seriously. And moreover, it is my right to insist that a vote for Gary Johnson (or any third-party candidate, but I’m going to go with Johnson for now) is a vote for Gary Johnson. Not for Hillary. Certainly not for Trump. And if one of those two candidates wins anyway, then the onus, and the praise, for their election lies with those who chose to vote for them. It does not lie with me, or with you, if you dare to support a third party.

I have written about this before, and the plain truth is that other people do not get to choose where and how you spend your time and moral energy. Our nation has a moral claim on our actions, and deserves our loyalty. Political parties do not, nor should they. If they want our vote, they must earn it, and both Republican and Democratic parties have been doing a spectacular job of not earning our votes for the past two decades.

Can a third party win? Probably not. For the first time in thirty years I see a small — a tiny — chance that the Libertarians might pull off the upset. It would require some great stupidity on the part of both major candidates (a quality neither seems to be short of, but we’re talking heroic amounts of it) and brilliance on the part of Gary Johnson, but it might happen.

But whether our candidates can win or not isn’t the damned point! We’ve been altogether too worried in this nation about whether our candidates, our visions of the future, can win. And to that monstrous obsession of victory, we have sacrificed all other considerations, and now we wonder why our leaders seem to be completely unaccountable to us? The truth is that they are unaccountable because we do not hold them accountable. They are unaccountable because they know we will vote for them, not in the name of our ideals, not in the name of their policies, but in the name of winning. In the name of Not Letting Those Other Bastards Get Their Way.

They are unaccountable for the same reason that Jerry Sandusky was unaccountable: because winning was considered a sacred idol worth sacrificing our children to.

I will not sacrifice my children on the altar of Winning.

And here’s another hard truth. The people who win for their unpopular causes are the people who are willing to lose for a long damned time. If there’s one lesson the rest of us need to learn from our Black brothers and sisters, it’s how to lose, and keep on fighting. Black Americans fought for Civil Rights since practically 1866, and it took almost a hundred years for them to start winning. A winning third party (surely a much smaller goal  than all of Civil Rights for Black Americans) will never win until people stand up and are willing to lose for it. And that starts by preferring principles and ethics to winning, even when it looks hopeless. And preferring them again. And again. Until we win. Until we take this nation back from those who would smugly tell us, that they have a claim on our votes simply because they can win.

My vote is not for Hillary. My vote is not for Trump. If you want to interpret it that way, go right ahead. I don’t care to stop you. But you’re not changing my vote, either. And you’re not tarring me with the blame when someone I did not vote for wins. That’s ridiculous, ethically, on the face of it. If you stand up and admit that you are voting for an evil politician because you can’t stand to see a more-evil politician win, then that is your choice, but stand up and own it. Have the courage to say out loud that what you are doing is voting for evil.The fact that you have numbers on your side does not make it less evil. And it does not give you the right to throw blame on people who chose not to share in that evil. What kind of perverted moral viewpoint does it take to contend that the few people who stand up and vote for what they believe is good are somehow more responsible for a bad outcome than the many people who cowered and voted for what they believed was second-worst?

Make your choice. Take responsibility for your choice. You will not make mine.

From Somewhere In Orbit

Adult Themes. Not Safe For Anyone.

I am indebted to Steven Barnes, author of Dream Park, Lion’s Blood, and countless other wonderful novels for the genesis of this post. On social media, he discusses the concept of adulthood in detail.

I have come to believe that in our society, we are gravely confused about adulthood, and what adulthood means. Sometimes, I wonder what our civilization has come to when the most frequent context for the word “adult” is as an adjective describing entertainment with explicitly sexual themes.

It’s no wonder our society is obsessed with sex, and who is having it with whom, and who has the right to have it under what circumstances. Clearly, we have made the ability to copulate into a significant proof that we are worthy of an honor, and that honor is the privilege of being considered by our fellow adults to be reliable and responsible self-supporting beings. This is amazingly sad when you consider that this activity can be carried out by beings that literally have no brains. Yet for all this, there is a more sinister connotation to the use of the word “adult” in the context of entertainment.

We’ve turned “adult” into a word that means that you are free and unrestricted. That no one can stop you from consuming whatever you want. And the most disturbing thing about this definition of “adulthood” is not that it’s new or strange, but that it is old and depressingly familiar. It’s the definition that we all learned as children, when we resented our parents’ constant direction. They were the ones who stayed up late, watched anything they wanted, chose the food we all ate, liked it all, set boundaries and cut off fun. Our definition of “adult” is the child’s definition, and that says far too much about the culture we have settled for.

So what’s the right definition? Steven Barnes has defined adulthood as (to the best of my memory) the ability to provide physically for yourself and another human being. There’s a lot to like about that definition. It’s practical, relatively easy to measure, and about as unbiased as anything I can think of. But although that is an excellent beginning, I think adulthood is something more than this, too. I think it has to be more. I’ve seen too many so-called adults who were certainly competent providers tear up their spouses, their kids, their co-workers, and their subordinates without ever losing their ability to make a living and support another person. And on a certain level, that’s just, because despite those faults, those people made themselves valuable to others in ways that couldn’t be ignored. But I saw my grandmother and grandfather, who passed the above test (in many ways, with flying colors) turn their marriage into a little annex of hell because of their childishness. And that childishness was a real and dangerous thing because it endangered their son’s ability to repeat their success. It certainly robbed him of many opportunities to learn from their strengths. Further, their childishness endangered their grandchildren’s ability to grow into real adults because of the pain they inflicted.

But now let me tell you about my father. He didn’t come out of that situation unscathed, but I’ll tell you this: he sure as hell took the opportunity to learn from his parents’ weaknesses. The older I get, the more I appreciate that my father took a bad situation, a situation that many people would have used as an excuse to be weak, looked at it, and said, “I will not follow this.” I don’t think I ever heard him put the whole lesson into words. He said things like: “You do what you have to.” He said things like, “We’re family, and this is what we do for each other.” But if I had to put it into words, I would say, that adulthood is the ability to accept pain in your life without sacrificing others to avoid it.

Life is pain. Life is joy, too, but that joy comes with a lot of pain. I can’t count the number of people I know who unhesitatingly, and sometimes with vindictive glee, will throw friends and family members in the path of pain so that they can avoid it. Or so that they can have pleasure. That’s why people have affairs. It’s why people neglect and abuse the children they are supposed to be turning into adults. And while many, possibly most of us, avoid the huge wounds that tear a relationship apart in one blow, most of us habitually indulge in the repeated violations of trust that stretch these bonds to the breaking point over years. Because we want what we want. We want it now. We’re too tired to do one more thing for those we say we love.

Of course, we all have our limits, and there’s such a thing as needing to love and nurture yourself, too. Adulthood is the ability to distinguish between the desires of your heart and the desires of your stomach. Adulthood is the ability to say no to what you want in favor of what you absolutely have to have. And if you can’t tell the difference, then you will never be more than half yourself, the other half eaten up by petty desires.

But I am dismayed when I see how many people seem completely unable to say “no” to themselves, and are trapped in the desire of the moment as if it is their life’s goal. I am grateful beyond measure that my father taught me how to say that word. And I am well aware that I don’t say it enough; I’m not as good at it as he was. And no, he wasn’t perfect either. But he’s better at it than I ever have been. Maybe I haven’t been close enough to the consequences of a marriage that completely breaks down to appreciate it. If that’s so, then there aren’t words to express my gratitude.

Today, I look out at my nation, and I see clamoring hordes of children, crying out that they are adults, but at the same time, clamoring just as loudly for an authority to give them what they want, rather than resolve to make it for themselves or do without. And when they are challenged on this, they cry even louder that they have rights (usually by virtue of existing) but no power to do what they want. These are not the cries of adults. These are the cries of frustrated children. And the thing about frustrated children is, that they usually do get what they need, but they find that it is not what they want. The adults hear their cries and treat them as children.

If we will not be adults, then the adults will come for us, and they will put us in the place we have asked for.