Trump Declares His Inauguration Day a “Day of Patriotic Devotion” #notajoke #notadrill

I’ve been arguing for months that it’s Trump’s intention to turn us into a Russian style oligarchy. So far, he’s done nothing to convince me otherwise. And now there’s this:

day-of-patriotic-devotion

Yes, that’s actually declaration, signed by Donald Trump, declaring the date of his inauguration to be “A Day of Patriotic Devotion”.

Honestly. I don’t even know what to say, except this is not a drill. This is really happening. I believe that if we the American people, who still believe in our values, constitution and way of life, continue to show up, we will stop this. But it’s definitely going to be a fight. Sigh.

Update: Apparently Obama also made a declaration regarding his inauguration day, except with a completely different, service oriented, non-fascist tone:

As I take the sacred oath of the highest office in the land, I am humbled by the responsibility placed upon my shoulders, renewed by the courage and decency of the American people, and fortified by my faith in an awesome God … On this Inauguration Day, we are reminded that we are heirs to over two centuries of American democracy, and that this legacy is not simply a birthright — it is a glorious burden. Now it falls to us to come together as a people to carry it forward once more.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2009, a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, and call upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

I wonder if this is going to be Trump’s tactic: to ape action’s Obama took while giving them a scary, fascist twist. His supporters are so far in denial that they’ll just point to whatever precedent Obama (or whoever) set and ignore the substance of the matter. I mean, I’m literally involved in an argument online right now with people advocating for jailing someone for sharing a dark fantasy, even in jest. Uuuuuuggggggghhhhhh.

What’s the Point of Protesting? #womensmarch

Image result for women's marchAfter the shudder and wretch inducing inauguration, the incredibly successful Women’s March on Saturday was balm for a lot of our souls. A reminder that Trump does not have the support of the American people. Which is all well and fine,  but what good does protesting actually do? Especially when the aims of the protest are so nebulous and ill defined? Even if we have the numbers, the bad guys have the power. Does all this marching and protesting actually matter? Are we just yelling to the wind as some critics have charged?

Well, I would argue that protests – especially large, noisy, hard to ignore protests do matter and will make a difference. And this is true even when there’s no specific policy goal or demands being made. Heck, the Republicans have spent the last 8 years (or longer) demonstrating that protest works, even when no one actually agrees with what you are trying to do.

The reason that protests work and are worthwhile has to do with the way that most people think about politics and the political process. Which is to say that they really don’t. Most Americans are what are referred to as “low information voters“, meaning that they aren’t keeping up with all the ins and outs of what’s going on in the political and policy world. And let’s face it, with the complexities and competing narratives surrounding politics, a lot of people are going to struggle to make sense of what’s going on even if they did paying attention. So what most people rely instead when forming their opinions are called heuristics, or rules of thumb, in evaluating the political sphere.

One of the important heuristics which people use when deciding whether a president (or party, but mainly the president) is doing well or not is the presence of open conflict. If there’s open conflict, that sends a signal to voters that the president is not doing his job well. If there’s relative quiet and things are getting done – even if they are things that voters don’t necessarily agree with – that sends a signal to voters that the president is doing a good enough job. This is a well documented phenomena which has strongly influenced which party holds power in the legislative branch for the last 30 years.

Typically, the conflict is created by the politicians from each party on capital hill. But given the Democrats’ demonstrable inability and unwillingness to provoke and sustain conflict, the work of creating conflict has fallen to the American people. While conservatives have been busy having a meltdown over the protests which basically amounts to screeching “shut up stupid women” over and over, this massive show of discontent and opposition sends a powerful signal to the average low information voter that there’s a problem. And when there’s a problem, it’s the president and his party which gets blamed.

Of course, one protest isn’t going to change things, popular though narratives about “protests that changed the course of history” are. In order to bring about change, there needs to be sustained efforts, protests and confrontations which keep the conflict front and center in the public’s eye. At this point it seems likely that those of us who oppose Trump aren’t going to settle quietly back into normal life. The election of Trump has already radicalized a significant number of people. And Trump appears determined to do his part to keep the movement motivated and active.

The problem we face is that Trump and the GOP are authoritarians who don’t much care what the public thinks or wants. And the GOP has managed to gerrymander and essentially cheat their way into a permanent grip on power. Which just makes it all the more important that we continue to engage in frequent, highly visible displays of opposition. While our opposition may not move Trump or lawmakers, the public has the expectation that the president will create peace, not turmoil. Really, there’s nothing that the average Joe blow wants less than a breakdown of social order and the ongoing presence of this conflict will send a powerful signal to them that the president is failing in his most basic tasks and duties.

The danger of pursuing a course of action which maximizes conflict is that Trump’s authoritarian impulses will lead him and/or his supporters to respond with a show of force meant to shut down opposition. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the kinds of state violence which we observed against Standing Rock water protectors will become common place throughout the country.

However, a president who essentially goes to war against his own people will be signing his own resignation papers. Americans value peace and order (at least within our own borders), but at the very core of our identity is that we are a free people. We can be manipulated, but we’re damn hard to exert control over. No president who openly turns on masses of his own people will long endure. And when that president seems to be going out of his way to be as divisive and unpleasant as humanly possible, people are not likely to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I mention the possibility of provoking a dangerous, repressive response because we need to be honest with ourselves about what we’re dealing with. However, I don’t think it will come to that. While it’s been criticized by the “give cheeto Mussolini a chance” brigade, the fact that there is such intense opposition right out the gate will work to our advantage so long as we maintain it going forward. Donald Trump is a thin skinned, vengeful billionaire who isn’t used to engaging in fights that he can’t just buy his way out of. He’s also a megalomaniac who has to bring his own cheering section with him where ever he goes. Either he’s going to start trying to placate us (getting rid of his appointees and advisers who have ties to white nationalists would be a great place to start). Or he’s going to continue to misstep badly. Either way works to our advantage.

Never forget: both reality and the will of the American people are on our side. So protest away! It’s going to make all the difference.

Going High When They Go Low Isn’t How You Win; You Gotta Fight to Win

fight-to-winLiberals don’t know how to talk to or appeal to conservatives. And for whatever reason, they refuse to learn. Probably because they’re good Americans and in the words of that great American sage and cartoon character, Ed Wuncler, “We’re American. We don’t quit just because we’re wrong. We keep doing the wrong thing until it turns out right.”

There’s an interesting interview with cognitive linguist George Lakoff going around in which he discussed this problem. His thesis, essentially, is that it’s not so much policy differences that make Liberals so unappealing to conservatives. It’s that Liberals have erroneous ideas about how to win people over while Republicans have it down to an art form. He argues, and has been arguing for decades now, that Republicans are masters of messaging and framing while Democrats prefer to work from facts, idea and reason.

Basically, Republicans understand how people think about the world in real life because they approach politics from the perspective of marketing and communications. Most people reason from their emotions, their values and their worldview with facts, ideas and reason serving primarily to shore up what they already believe. If a fact, idea or reason doesn’t fit with their values, worldview or emotions, it will be dismissed or explained away because to do otherwise would require adjusting if not completely overturning the mental framework they depend on to function. Which is a much bigger upheaval than the simple admission of error and adjustment of opinion which liberals assume would be the response to encountering information which conflicts with current beliefs.

Liberals on the other hand, tend to rely on academic ideas about how people should think. The problem, of course, is that how we think things should work, generally has little effect on how they actually do work. It’s always going to be more effective to start with how things actually work and try influence change from that point of reality than it is to simply stand on how you think things should work and demand that everyone move to where you are. The Democratic insistence on working from facts, ideas and reason without learning the nitty gritty of messaging and framing which would allow them to show how their policies fit into or build on existing conservative worldviews dooms them to failure over and over again.

Probably the most glaring example of this failure on the part of liberals has to do with liberal’s unwillingness to fight. Somehow liberals seem to have decided that they are above fighting and they eschew it whenever possible in favor of trying to persuade or when persuasion fails, regrouping to try again. No where was this on more vivid display than during the aftermath of the election. Obviously, the election was close. And there were reports of serious discrepancies between exit polls and election results of the sort which are known to be possible indicators of fraud. And how did the DNC respond? They didn’t. It fell to Jill Stein to raise the money necessary to demand a recall in effected states. When it came time to execute the actual recounts, the RNC had lawyers crawling everywhere, challenging ballots and processes left and right while the DNC’s presence was barely visible.

After the recounts, there was still the hope that the electoral college might save us. Protecting the country from a foolish mob electing a despot is literally one of the reasons the founding fathers created the electoral college. We all know that if the roles were reversed, the Republicans would have mounted a coordinated, well funded campaign and media blitz to convince the electoral college to give the election to the winner of the popular vote. They would have been working it from any and every angle they could think of, no matter how outlandish. The DNC, however, did essentially nothing. Told us to accept that an apparently racist, unhinged, authoritarian con-artist would be running the country and move on for the sake of unity. What fight there was on that front came from private citizens and social media.

Not only is the unwillingness to fight bad strategy, it absolutely guarantees that conservatives will prefer voting for a dirty sock over a liberal. At least the sock has the temerity to raise a stink. Conservatives tend to place a very high value on community and loyalty. Part of that sense of community and loyalty knowing that someone’s got my back and will go to battle for me if need be. Someone who won’t even fight for themselves can’t possibly be trusted to fight for someone else. Liberals don’t know how to fight and they don’t want to fight. They seem to have eschewed fighting as somehow beneath them. They seem to have conflated fighting with “going low” and they want to be known for “going high”. But going high is NOT synonymous with refusing to fight.

The fear that liberals have – and I’ve gotten some of this pushback myself – is that by fighting we make ourselves no better than the belligerents who went to figurative war with Obama after he was elected. We’ll be seen as sore losers, they say. They worry that we’ll alienate people. And all of that is pure and utter rubbish.

From the conservative perspective, if you won’t fight, you can’t be trusted to defend. If you won’t fight, you’re not committed. If you won’t fight, you don’t really have confidence in what you’re saying. If you won’t fight, you’re not a person who can be trusted much less followed.

And yes, when you fight, you will be chided for being rude, for being stubborn, for sowing conflict. You will be accused of being a sore loser. You will be told that you’re alienating people and hurting your own cause. You will be told that you’re being unreasonable and pushy and unfair. You will be mocked and ridiculed and called names and told that you smell bad and your mother dresses you funny. Because that’s what fighting looks like; you put your truth out, people push back and see if they can get your to back down. So you double down, stand your ground and do exactly what your opponent tells you you must not do. In a fight you have to be indefatigable and creative and confidently certain as all get out. It’s a fight, not a prayer circle.

And here’s the thing about conservatives; by and large, they mean to be good people. They want to do right by people. They in no way intend to cause harm. And they want pretty much the same things that liberals want for themselves and our country. The problem is that on one side, you have this dishonest, manipulative, untrustworthy party who, by any reasonable measure, seeks power rather than the best interest of the American people. But they’ll fight you tooth and nail. They’ll wage a war on you that you aren’t even participating in and win three battles in the time it takes for you to learn chords to kumbaya or construct your next argument. They don’t care if their enemies get mad and say mean things about them. They’ll just use that as a badge of honor and a weapon to wield.

And whether liberals like it or not, whether they think it’s the way it should be or not, the reality is that fighting works. A lot of people simply feel safer throwing their support behind people who they can trust to fight for them in the face of threat over someone who may be right all the time, but don’t even have the wherewithal to fight for their own ideas and their own share of the power. It’s much easier to change the way people think by working with current reality than by just demanding that they change, after all.

So that’s the kind-of bad news for a lot of liberals. If they really want to win and have a shot at offering a serious counterweight to the unAmerican right wing radicals who have taken over our country, they’re going to have to learn to fight. They’re going to have to learn to absorb the blows, the criticism, the rejection, the accusations and nastiness that are part and parcel of fighting without shifting, moving or bending. They’re going to have to learn to dish it as well as they take it. And that’s damn uncomfortable for a lot of us.

A lot of people associate open conflict and the intense battles of a fight with those who are abusive, dishonest, manipulative and cruel. But you can be plenty abusive, dishonest, manipulative and cruel without fighting. It’s not the fighting that’s the problem. You don’t have to fight dirty, be dishonest, dehumanizing or even particularly harmful to fight. You just need to fight clever, judicious and strong. Because the good news is that if we fight, we’re going to win. The other side leans so heavily on dishonesty, cruelty and manipulation because what they’re fighting for is bullshit. Behind that strong, take-no-prisoners, fight to the death front, there’s not really much there that anyone actually wants.

On the issues, once you strip off the liberal label, the American people agree with us. They just can’t trust us or take us or any of our policies seriously. What good is having great policy goals if you don’t have the gumption to fight to enact them anyways? So we’ve got to step up and fight because if we don’t, we’re abandoning ourselves, our country and our neighbors to an abusive, dishonest, manipulative and cruel movement ruled by a racist, unhinged con-artist. If that’s not worth fighting over, I don’t know what is.

Trump’s Responsibility to Avoid the Appearance of All Kinds of Evil

16143192_1277634628970695_4412907211557642267_nA few years back, I looked out the window and saw my then 6 year old daughter riding her bike in the driveway while my tweenaged son ran after her, swinging a baseball bat at the back tire of her bike. My daughter was laughing while my son wore an angry scowl on his face as he just missed the back tire of her bike. Since this isn’t actually the sort of behavior we encourage in the Trotter household, I immediately called to my son to stop and come explain himself to me.

He came over and assured me that they were just playing and he was being very careful not to actually hit his sister or her bike. He explained the he had worked out the timing of his swings so that he could make his fake baseball bat attack look realistic without running the risk of actually hitting her. Being a tweenager, the possibility of error or accident hardly existed in his mind, of course. So far as he was concerned, there was nothing to worry about because he was actually being very careful as he staged his faux “I’m going to beat my sister with a baseball bat attack”.

Rather than focusing on the safety issue, I pointed out something rather obvious to him: if he is deliberately creating the false impression that he is trying to beat his sister with a baseball bat, how does he suppose anyone who sees him will react? Will they say, “hey, look at that kid with amazing timing and gross motor skills playing harmlessly with that little girl”? Or will they say, “oh my gosh, it looks like that kid’s trying to kill that little girl with a baseball bat!”

I could see a little light bulb going off in his head. I pointed out that his father, who has PTSD from growing up in a violent home where people actually had been hit with baseball bats from time to time, would have had an automatic, unthinking and extreme reaction to the sight of his son swinging at baseball bat at his sister. Which was unlikely to turn out well for any of us. More lightbulbs.

I pointed out to him that being safe is important, of course, but it’s not the only issue for him to concern himself with. He needed to be aware of how he appeared to people who may not even know him. You can’t expect people to see someone engaged in behavior which has every appearance of being dangerous, aggressive and violent and not react as if that person was dangerous, aggressive and violent. In fact, it would be irresponsible for someone who witnessed an adolescent kid swinging a baseball bat at a 6 year old to assume the best about the situation or wait to evaluate what’s going on before responding. It was his responsibility, I explained, not just to be safe, but also not to engage in behaviors which will cause alarm and panic in people who witness them.

Obviously this issue hadn’t been on his radar, but as I explained it to him, he caught on because even a tweenager can understand this pretty simple basic idea. Don’t create the impression that you are dangerous or people will respond to you as if you are dangerous and when they do, it will be your error, not theirs.

Unfortunately, it seems that many Trump supporters are no more aware of this concept than my son was prior to our conversation. They believe that the onus is on Trump’s critics to give him a chance and view those of us who are responding to Trump as if he is dangerous as paranoid and overreacting. They think it’s ridiculous that we won’t just wait and see what happens before jumping to the conclusion that Trump is dangerous. They are certain that Trump isn’t dangerous so, like my son who knew that he wasn’t actually going to hit my daughter or her bike with a baseball bat, it seems not to have occurred to them that this isn’t the only thing that matters about the situation.

There’s a reason the bible says to avoid the appearances of all kinds of evil. People aren’t required to wait for definitive proof to respond to the appearance of evil. If you aren’t dangerous and evil, it shouldn’t be that hard to take some responsibility for not creating the impression that you are dangerous and evil. Unfortunately, Trump seems to be going out of his way to create the appearance of all kinds of evil while his supporters act incredulous that anyone would think the man is actually dangerous.

But of course, in the real world, if you’re not racist, you don’t choose the leader of a flagrantly racist white nationalist movement to be your closest adviser and you don’t appoint a man known for his racism and opposition to civil rights to run the department charged with enforcing civil rights. If you’re not a tyrant in the making, you don’t continually threaten to sue and shut down the press when their reporting doesn’t please you. If you’re not a wealthy leach looking to enrich himself, you don’t refuse to release your tax records or take appropriate measures to eliminate conflicts of interest. If you are ethical, you don’t refuse to cooperate with the ethics oversight or threaten the person in charge of ethics oversight with investigation if he criticizes you. If you’re not a conman you don’t deny saying things you literally just said and lie continually.

I could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on, but I think you get the point. Even if Trump really and truly is a good guy who wants to do right by the country, the fact remains that at every step of the way, Trump has been behaving exactly the way a dangerous, racist, unethical, despot rising to power behaves. It is not the responsibility of the public to withhold judgment when they witness something which appears dangerous. It is the responsibility of Trump to avoid creating the impression that he is dangerous. And it is both wrong and ridiculous for Trump supporters to continue to insist otherwise. Just because they are fools doesn’t mean the rest of us are obliged to follow suit.

Want To Hear About the Time I Was on Moody Radio?

I was once offered a job simply on the basis of how I said my name. People sometimes stop me and ask if I sing. I had a teacher who let me into class without a late slip if I would say my name for the class. Such is the great power of my voice. Which I, of course, think is weird. If my voice is so great, shouldn’t I have more money than I do? It just seems like the two should go hand in hand or something. Ah well.

Anywho, as I may have mentioned already, I was a guest, along with a dude named Thi’sl and a dude named Joshua, on the Moody Radio call-in show Up 4 Debate over the weekend discussing the church and it’s handling of racial issues. And I’ve had several people ask for the link to listen to it online. So here it is. Right here. This is the link. Click it. 

Obviously the issue of race and the church is a huge one and we just barely scratched the surface on the show. Hopefully I will get a chance to write some more thoughts on race and the church in the next week or so. If my brain will cooperate. 

In the meantime, go listen to the dulcet sounds of my amazing voice. I don’t recall saying anything incoherent or ridiculous, but I’m too chicken to listen myself and find out. And I think I’m OK with that!

God Bless America?

Patriotism  makes me cry. The national anthem gets me every time. And the men and women from the VFW marching in parades chokes me up so badly I can’t answer when my kids ask who they are and why we stand when they walk by. I don’t even know why except that I love my country and am profoundly humbled by those who have served us. And yet as a Christian I am also  aware that my country and its people are no more or less beloved by God than any other. I wrote this last year for the 4th and would like to share it again as we celebrate our nation today. Have a blessed 4th, y’all

In early fall of 2008 I was listening to the radio on the morning that Lehman Brothers failed and there was great concern that this was the beginning of the end of our financial system. It was all a bit scary and I began to pray, “Lord, please protect us.”

The response? “Why should I? I have blessed America beyond anything the world has ever known before. Should I step in now to protect her snowmobiles and McMansions and Supergulp sodas and plastic surgery and $200 Nikes? I have children who will never own a pair of shoes all over the world. Families who will never live in a space larger than your closet. But I need to protect America? From what?”

What can you say to something like that? So I thought for a minute and said, “change. Change is hard. Many people’s lives are going to be changing and people will be losing what they thought was secure. Please help people handle the change. Have mercy on them.”

I’m thinking about this exchange today on the 4th of July when the words “God bless America” are filling the air and our facebook feeds. The thing is that God has blessed America. We are the richest, most powerful country the world has ever known. We have been blessed with a land of beauty and bounty, with toilets and running water in every home, technology that would have seemed like magic not so long ago.

If I may have the temerity to actually say this – especially on the 4th of July – perhaps we should stop to consider whether we can handle any more blessings. Isn’t a country which can obsess over Snookie and WWF and the latest Apple gadget already choking on its blessing? Our food, our entertainment, our health, our wealth – it is all present in such abundance that the costs of obesity, technology, old age health care, income inequality and such are threatening to devour those same blessings. Perhaps the time has come to stop saying, “God bless America” and start saying, “God, let America be a blessing.” Surely we don’t think that God gives us blessings simply so we can spend nearly $2 billion a year on hair removal?

So, today I will pray, “Thank you for blessing America. God bless Chad. God bless Mexico. God bless the Sudan. God bless Indonesia. God bless Russia. God bless Guatemala. God bless . . . ”

BTW, sorry for the  lack of blogging. My computer died. Hopefully I’ll have a little  cash soon so I can get a keyboard for  the cool kindle my folks got me for my birthday  and I’ll be able to get back at it!

God Bless America?

In early fall of 2008 I was listening to the radio on the morning that Lehman Brothers failed and there was great concern that this was the beginning of the end of our financial system. It was all a bit scary and I began to pray, “Lord, please protect us.”

The response? “Why should I? I have blessed America beyond anything the world has ever known before. Should I step in now to protect her snowmobiles and McMansions and Supergulp sodas and plastic surgery and $200 Nikes? I have children who will never own a pair of shoes all over the world. Families who will never live in a space larger than your closet. But I need to protect America? From what?”

What can you say to something like that? So I thought for a minute and said, “change. Change is hard. Many people’s lives are going to be changing and people will be losing what they thought was secure. Please help people handle the change. Have mercy on them.”

I’m thinking about this exchange today on the 4th of July when the words “God bless America” are filling the air and our facebook feeds. The thing is that God has blessed America. We are the richest, most powerful country the world has ever known. We have been blessed with a land of beauty and bounty, with toilets and running water in every home, technology that would have seemed like magic not so long ago.

If I may have the temerity to actually say this – especially on the 4th of July – perhaps we should stop to consider whether we can handle any more blessings. Isn’t a country which can obsess over Snookie and WWF and the latest Apple gadget already choking on its blessing? Our food, our entertainment, our health, our wealth – it is all present in such abundance that the costs of obesity, technology, old age health care, income inequality and such are threatening to devour those same blessings. Perhaps the time has come to stop saying, “God bless America” and start saying, “God, let America be a blessing.” Surely we don’t think that God gives us blessings simply so we can spend nearly $2 billion a year on hair removal?

So, today I will pray, “Thank you for blessing America. God bless Chad. God bless Mexico. God bless the Sudan. God bless Indonesia. God bless Russia. God bless Guatemala. God bless . . . “

Wandering Souls and the Divided Church

Those of you who are interested in such things have no doubt heard about the latest Pew survey on Religion in America which was released last week. It shows an America which is deeply religious yet growing ever more open to other faith traditions and less and less dogmatic about their own. In particular, there is a lot of fluidity to people’s beliefs. 44% say that they have switched religions, denominations or gained or dropped faith in their lifetime. The mainline Protestant denominations are continuing their downward spiral while non-denominational churches continue to show modest gains. One of the studies co-authors, John Green, says, “It will become increasingly difficult to find people who share a love for distinct doctrine . . . firm beliefs and firm organizations are increasingly a thing of the past.”

Reaction to the findings have been mixed. Cardinal Francis George says that rampant individualism which leads people to “trust only their own spiritual experience” means that they are unwilling to follow church teachings. Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune lauded the supposed humility of Americans which “leads to tolerance, understanding and attitudes that promote true freedom of conscience in a multicultural world”. Others, like Erin Manning at Crunchy Cons lament “cafeteria-style religiosity that lets them accept what’s individually pleasing and reject anything that isn’t”. I think that John Green probably gets it most right when he says, “”Just because they don’t want to believe that there’s only one way to salvation doesn’t meant that they don’t take their religion very seriously.”

So what is going on here? No doubt there are a lot of complicated things at work which I could go on and on about. However, the one thing which I think many commentators aren’t fully understanding but which I think is probably the most influential development in American Christianity today is the death spiral of denominations. And not just denominations, but the death of any sort of faith in the value of denominational distinctives.

Now, to be clear, I don’t think that denominations are simply going to disappear. However, what I do think is happening and will continue to happen is that the teachings which separate one denomination from the next will become increasingly irrelevant. If you attend the local Presbyterian Church and you move, you may check out the nearest Presbyterian Church in your new town. However, if the pastor is creepy, the people unfriendly and the services dull as dirt, you probably won’t feel any compunction about visiting the Lutheran Church down the street to see what they have going on. The differences in teachings on creeds, baptisms and ordination probably won’t matter much to you unless you find that you want to do something that they don’t allow. The question this begs is whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

There is the argument that an unwillingness to affirm and submit to the authority of a particular church is a sign of individualism run amok and cafeteria style Christianity. However, I think that is an argument which often doesn’t hold up in the real world. First of all, statistics tend to show that the churches which are showing growth are those which are more rigorous in their teachings and which often offer a strong sense of belonging. Meanwhile, the mainline churches which are depopulating the fastest are those which have moved towards an “anything goes” ethos which asks next to nothing of their members in terms of their personal beliefs, morality and loyalty to the group. Also, if you actually talk with people who have changed churches you hear complaints about nasty pastors, bad music, unfriendly cliquish people, management problems, a lack of community, etc. From my experience you rarely hear anyone say, “well, the pastor gave a sermon on sexual purity and I decided that I didn’t want to be sexually pure, so I left.” I’m sure it happens, but to be perfectly frank, most people are failing so badly at the hard teachings of personal morality that the pews would be empty if if was common practice to abandon churches which taught strong personal morality. Really, I would wager that any church which was able to offer the support needed for its members to live out a life transformed by Christ, including resisting the temptations of our culture’s moral free-fall, would be quite successful.

It can be tempting to blame the people, who are almost universally behaving in ways which are anathema to Christian teachings after all, for taking the wrong approach to church. However, I think that the real problem lies with a church which is so divided over everything from infant baptism to speaking in tongues to gay ordination and creationism that it is unable to play its essential role in supporting its people who are trying to function as people of God in a hostile environment. Many people have come to the conclusion that the church is divided over issues which are largely irrelevant to their faith walk, but without any other option, they do tend to end up as wanders simply doing what seems best to themselves. Continue reading

Check Yourself

I have written before about issues of race, especially as pertains to conservative’s perceptions about race before.  My basic premise is that I do not think that conservatives have an accurate or often even rational view of race in America.  Now, mind you, I’m not some goofy lefty here to incite white guilt and pander for more government programs.  I am coming at this from a conservative perspective myself.  For me this is both a moral issue and a practical imperative.  I say a practical imperative because if we think that we can keep the problems which arise in impoverished, minority communities isolated, we’re not paying attention.   Over and over, we can see that things from social breakdown to styles of music and dress spread outwards from our cities into the lives of middle class white suburbanites.  So my point is, it matters.  If you are a conservative who cares about the breakdown of the family or porn posing as music, then you need to care as much about issues of race as you do about what goes on in leafy suburban neighborhoods.

As I have argued before, one of the main barriers to dealing realistically with matters of race and the ongoing fall-out of the history of race relations in this country, is an almost complete denial of race as a real issue worth dealing with.  What is crazy, and what I did not realize was that this is not at all a new phenomena.  We like to think that race is not an issue anymore because we have made so much progress.  Anyone claiming that race is an obstacle for them must be trying to “play the race card” and “make themselves the victim”.  However, it turns out that even back when we would all agree that the state of affairs for African Americans was horrid, unequal and morally indefensible, white Americans thought pretty much exactly the same thing!

I came across some statistics today which I think we all need to remember the next time we are tempted to write off race as an actual issue today: Continue reading