Tag Archives: election

The Whitelash and This Year’s Thoughts about the Election

Van Jones said it was a whitelashVan Jones became my favorite CNN commentator during the election. I agree with his summation of what happened yesterday: “This was a rebellion against the elites, true. It was a complete reinvention of politics and polls, it’s true. But it was also something else. This was a whitelash. This was a whitelash against a changing country. It was a whitelash against a black president in part, and that’s the part where the pain comes. And Donald Trump has a responsibility tonight to come out and reassure people that he is going to be the president of all the people who he insulted and offended and brushed aside.”

It was also a whitelash against the thought of woman president. And, unfortunately for any hope I have of evangelism, it was a whitelash against the “godless people who have taken over the government and the Supreme Court that aids and abets them.”

This was my Facebook summation last night: “OK. I voted. To paraphrase Paul on both his prophetic and practical sides: In Christ there is no Republican or Democrat; Jesus is Lord. In the voting booth I voted to bring as much justice as I could with my measly vote. Now back to the everyday transformative work we do…with joy.”

Friends, let’s get back to the reality that Jesus does not need the American government to do His work.  Let’s have confidence in the kingdom that cannot be shaken. Let’s remember how Jesus told us, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Let’s return to the mentality Paul taught us: “The time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not;  those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep;  those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

I wrote a lot about the campaign, beginning back in May when Circle of Hope did some theology together about what elections mean to God. In retrospect, some of the basic teaching might be useful today as so many of us are trying to make sense of where we are now and what Jesus calls us to do.

Here are excerpts from seven blog posts. Hit the titles to take the link to each piece.

Oct 18 — The alternative to politics: take hold of that for which Jesus took hold of me

On the other hand, I am appalled that we are paying so much attention to two bonafide members of the one percent duking it out to be king or queen of the elite. Hillary Clinton is so cozy with the world’s domination system it would be surprising if she manages to see outside the bubble. The people at the top really think they own the world and need to take care of it. At least Donald Trump is generally despised among the elite as a brash idiot who can’t help opening the curtain and exposing all the secrets. We all tune in and suck up the illusion that we are not their slaves. Many people believe that one of them is somehow going to represent their interests.

debate vs hillary donald
Still my favorite GIF of the election.

Sep 27 — If someone puts the Geiger counter on you, stand in grace

I admit that Donald Trump made me pull my hair out last night — interrupting, bullying, talking about 400 pound people and other tabloid interests. It was kind of embarrassing.

But I also learned a bit about what people like about him. Here’s what I think: Everyone is becoming a bit sick of what I call “Geiger counter” accountability. What I mean is the feeling that some kind of powerful person or entity is holding a tester over you to pick up some tiny particle of being out of line. We’re always setting off the no-go alarm. We’re always getting the red notice that we have not filled out the inexplicable form properly (like I just experienced with a City of Philadelphia form). The Donald is just so splendidly incorrect, he gives us hope that a real person might be acceptable in reality. Hillary Clinton has somehow mastered so much material that she can actually function well in political unreality.

Sep 20 — I am sick of the campaign…but still alternative.

I get discouraged. But then the Holy Spirit revives my hope again. Sin happens every day – and will keep happening inside us and out. We’re sick. But our work in the Lord is not in vain. My wounds are not permanent. Our sins could not keep Jesus in the grave. I still know we are the alternative, and we need to be: a circle of hope wherever God takes us.

Jul 29 — About Hillary — we can do better

It is tempting to spend another four years hoping things will get better – and the government can and does makes things better, as it should. But we still don’t put our hope “in chariots and horses,” that is, in the capacity to threaten ISIS, the wealth to promise free education, or the exceptionalism of our supposed democracy. So let’s not fall into temptation. Someplace, Jesus needs a platform to speak the truth. Someplace, normal people need to struggle face to face in faith and do what they can do, not dependent on their corporate overlords to allow it. Someplace, the alternative to two years of vying to be the top dog has to be available. The church is the Lord’s people and we are, like it or not, the best hope of giving people real hope in a 46%-43% society. I think our witness has been drowned out by big money, big systems and our own complicity (in general). But Jesus is still making connections and is still using us. I’m with Him.

July 22 — About Trump — we can do better

I live among people who are not happy with Trump. But sometimes I think they are posturing, since they probably have a relative from the South or Middle Pennsylvania (or keeping quiet in Philly, at least) who thinks Trump is great. So they must have some sense of affinity with the guy. Don’t worry if you do or you don’t — It is crazy politics, people, but it is still just politics. And even if the election turns out to be a life and death matter for some people, we are still Jesus followers. Every election serves to remind us why we are glad to have a savior who triumphs over death. I don’t say that in a fatalistic way, just a realistic one. I know Americans think they can control everything so nothing bad will happen or happen again, but how many times does our control system need to be proven faulty until we give up on it?

May 9 — We have no king but Bernie?

I sent in my absentee ballot, but, I have to admit, I did not even pray about it.

That’s mainly because I remember the crowd Pilate drew to his rally during the Passover feast in Jerusalem when the powers that be infiltrated an audience that would normally have gone for Jesus (and had just a week before) and got people to use the system to get Barabbas off and Jesus crucified. When Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to crucify your king?” they shouted, “We have no other king but Caesar.” Sometimes crowds get it right; but I am not trusting the vote to fulfill my hopes. They might not recognize the Son of God if he were standing right in front of them!

We are going to do some theology about elections on May 2 because even radical Christians react to U.S. elections like they are crucial to justice and world peace. Many feel, even if they don’t act, like the president (and whoever those other elected officials are) is even important to their faith. There are a lot of good historical reasons for that attitude, which has almost no relation to anything happening in the Bible, certainly not in the life of Jesus. The feeling of importance is hard to shake off when you live in the most recent preeminent empire, which loves to call itself the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth (see Bernie’s website, linked above). Living in it makes you think, that even if the 1% effectively own the government, your vote is going to start a revolution, you are just that special.

May 5 — Elections: Constantine, Trump, etc.

The Anabaptist’s disgust with Constantinianism is not about the sincerity with which Constantinian Christians use top-down, coercive, worldly power or about the goodness of the ends toward which they wield such power. The shift labeled “Constantinian” is the willingness of God’s people to deform their specific God-given identity by merging with worldly power structures and using top-down, coercive, worldly power to accomplish what God has given his people to do without such power.

John Howard Yoder said: “The most pertinent fact about the new state of things after Constantine and Augustine is not that Christians were no longer persecuted and began to be privileged, nor that emperors built churches and presided over ecumenical deliberations about the Trinity; what matters is that the two visible realities, church and world, were fused.” That is one reason Americans can spend two years electing the president. People think it is VERY important.

I am sick of the campaign…but still alternative.

When Gwen and I were travelling around the Poconos last weekend we came across a General Store in Lackawaxen. It had a big sign out front: “We trust in God. We trust in guns. We trust in Trump.“

We started complaining about the state of the country, but then we basically just changed the subject. We’re sick of it. I, in particular, am surprisingly sick of it. I have seen politics as a “hobby” since I was in high school – history in the making and all that, but what is going on now is so broken, I can’t even get serious on that level, anymore.

This presidential campaign is pounding us. How about you? Are you sick of it yet? The proportions of its nastiness and untruthfulness are so huge that I think people might finally wake up and realize that the world is a sin sick place. It has gotten so bad our general denial might be upended! Our leaders are helping Jesus out.  We might finally get to the place Paul hopes people will get:

Everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:13-16

I know, I know. Many people will just go into deeper sleep: pile into work, buy things, drink or drug, game until they can’t see straight and then buy an Oculus.

But I can’t help but think that many people will actually wake up and seek out alternativity. That’s where Jesus is waiting. There is an alternative: true life in Christ, a new life built together by his followers. I’ve always been serious about that, but now the country’s leaders are making me real serious.

I was singing this old song this morning that answered the longing of Jeremiah as he lamented the condition of Israel in his day — his country was a wreck. “Is there no balm in Gilead for my suffering people?” he cried. The song answers:

There is a balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead,
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my hope again.

Jesus the balm.

I do get discouraged. I am not sure what will be left of our safe empire in a few years. I believe I will be fine, but what of all the unsuspecting, ill-financed, debt-ridden people? The children! What about the poor of the Philadelphia region? The prospect of big changes is daunting!

When we used to sing There is a Balm, we thought it was funny to sing “there is a bomb in Gilead” in honor of Israel’s nukes and the ongoing Palestinian oppression that blows up every few years. That’s not so funny these days, since there is a bomb in New York City and New York’s country is dropping bombs on families in Syria adding to the refugee crisis that has created the most instability the world has known in decades. I get discouraged.

But then the Holy Spirit revives my hope again. Sin happens every day – and will keep happening inside us and out. We’re sick. But our work in the Lord is not in vain. My wounds are not permanent. Our sins could not keep Jesus in the grave. I still know we are the alternative, and we need to be: a circle of hope wherever God takes us.

We have no king but Bernie?

[Originally published on Circle of Hope’s blog before the primary]

Last week the Bernie machine rolled into town and thrilled a lot of people at the Liacouras Center. Jonny and Madi were out there getting people to tell them their stories and making friends — good for them!

Bernie was making a lot of friends with his unlikely social-democrat “revolution” — which Hillary Clinton says sounds like snake oil in the present political environment, even though she’s been working for the same kind of things as Bernie since she was an undergrad. Meanwhile her husband, Bill, was arguing against Black Lives Matter spokespeople that he was not the author of our present incarceration nightmare and the hyper-poverty at the heart of Philadelphia (like next door to the Liacouras Center!). Meanwhile, pundits were crowing over the weakening of Donald Trump’s candidacy and somehow missing that Ted Cruz is probably even more dangerous to their sense of propriety. Fun week for Philly, big week for Bernie fans.

I like Bernie, but I don’t have another king but Jesus.

The way our infotainment system works, one would think that the election of the U.S. president was the most important thing happening in the universe. We even love looking at ourselves perversely being interested in looking at Trump. The newscasters make news themselves by having tiffs with the Donald! The young people who are flocking to Bernie make news because they are supposedly making history by supporting a 74-year-old man who sounds more like Lyndon Johnson than some revolutionary. I sent in my absentee ballot, but, I have to admit, I did not even pray about it.

That’s mainly because I remember the crowd Pilate drew to his rally during the Passover feast in Jerusalem when the powers that be infiltrated an audience that would normally have gone for Jesus (and had just a week before) and got people to use the system to get Barabbas off and Jesus crucified. When Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to crucify your king?” they shouted, “We have no other king but Caesar.” Sometimes crowds get it right; but I am not trusting the vote to fulfill my hopes. They might not recognize the Son of God if he were standing right in front of them!

We are going to do some theology about elections on May 2 because even radical Christians react to U.S. elections like they are crucial to justice and world peace. Many feel, even if they don’t act, like the president (and whoever those other elected officials are) is even important to their faith. There are a lot of good historical reasons for that attitude, which has almost no relation to anything happening in the Bible, certainly not in the life of Jesus. The feeling of importance is hard to shake off when you live in the most recent preeminent empire, which loves to call itself the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth (see Bernie’s website, linked above). Living in it makes you think, that even if the 1% effectively own the government, your vote is going to start a revolution, you are just that special.

I am sorry I missed the rally. But I think I get the idea. It’s not like someone doesn’t promise a revolution every four years. I thought the last one was interesting. But since we elected Obama, the worldwide cabal that hides our wealth in Panama, or wherever, increased its power dramatically. These things are interesting, but not surprising. They make me glad I follow Jesus.

It would have been even more interesting if the church of Philadelphia (that could be like a million people), had given a clear message to the Clinton and Sanders road shows: “We have no other king but Jesus. Work that into your revolution!” Like Jesus said to Pilate we might have said to them, “Any power you have is derived from God and to God you will be responsible.” It is not the Constitution, not your vague spirituality and even vaguer morality to which you must answer, not even to the people or your own conscience or the invisible hand — all the real snake oil you are trying to sell us — it’s the King.