Election Forecast: Russian Roulette

Five Thirty Eight,  Nate Silver’s political polling and statistics site, gives Hillary Clinton an 85% chance of winning the U.S. Presidential election, about a 5 in 6 chance.

That leaves Donald Trump with about 15%, or 1 in 6, chance.

The same odds as Russian Roulette. Lovely. 

And the same outcome, at least for some people. Remember,  you’re voting for a man who’s promised to commit war crimes, intentionally target civilians, assassinate, and even torture the families of suspected terrorists, without trial.

Remember the 1990’s? Maybe it’s time to bring back the old bracelets & slogan: “What Would Jesus Do?”

Wayne Grudem Is NOT a “Good Man Giving Bad Advice” 

[I wrote this in early August, but shelved it until I’d cooled off some. Sometimes being timely isn’t worth it] 

Conservative evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem wrote a terrible article called “why voting for Donald Trump is a morally good choice.”

In it, he whitewashed Trump’s misogyny and racism, including his refusal to denounce the KKK.

Grudem minimized the dangers of having such an egotistical, unstable bully at the command of the world’s most powerful military.

He raised the spectre of widespread persecution of Christians under a Clinton presidency,  with no real evidence that this would happen,  while ignoring the persecution of Muslims that Trump has promised.

Obviously, I disagree with Grudem. So do conservative theologians like the Southern Baptist Convention’s Al Mohler and Russel Moore, though perhaps for different reasons. 

In fact, there had been a lot of pushback against Grudem from the Christian Right, which is encouraging.

This article sums up the general approach these articles have taken, assuming that Grudem is a generally good and wise man who has been misled by fears of who Clinton might appoint to the Supreme Court.

I want to take a more critical approach. Wayne Grudem and Donald Trump are a near-perfect match.

Torture: Donald Trump has advocated not only torturing trout suspects (without trial) just as his Republican predecessor,  evangelical darling George W. Bush did, but even torturing their families if it helps get useful information.

Wayne Grudem called waterboarding and other Bush-  era “enhanced interrogation” techniques a “moral responsibility” of government. Not only did he give his sanction to torture, so long as it was the kind that didn’t leave permanent scars, but he actually said “not to have used them would have been morally wrong…” (Politics According to the Bible, p 432, quoted in Christianity Today).

Christian supremacy: Donald Trump has shown open hostity toward Muslims, even the Muslim parents of a soldier killed in action.

And while few people actually believe Trump’s conveniently timed religious awakening (an awakening that has not led him to change any of his positions, apologize to anyone he has wronged or insulted, or divest himself of his strip clubs and casinos), it’s pretty clear which religious group he’s currying favor with.

Wayne Grudem’s examples of religious liberty in his endorsement all centered around Christians being allowed to deny God’s and services to people the disagree with (mostly gay people) Or limiting medical coverage for their female employees, Hobby Lobby style.

Grudem’s book on politics us called Politics According to the Bible, a title that is certainly ambitious, if not hubristic. Much of what he advocates is standard Christian Right “get this country back to God” soft theocracy.

It is safe to say that Trump’s hostility toward religious minorities is of no real concern to Grudem.

Misogyny, or at least male dominance. Trump has proven his misogyny over and again on the trail. And that’s leaving aside a history of adultery, objectification, rpe allegations, abd sexualizing his daughters on talk radio.

Grudem is one of the leading proponents of complementarianism, a theory in which the men lead and the women submit and support thrm. Men are spiritual and worldly leaders, protectors, and providers. Women are caretakers. They raise the children, support their husbands’ ministries and activities, and follow.

This aligns him with Trump, who proudly claimed to have taken little role in raising his children, other than bringing home a lot of money, and whose three wives have all set their careers aside for him.

Sure,  Grudem is a moralistic man who’d never be involved with something as crass or sleazy as a strip club, who’d never say “grab ’em by the pussy“, but fundamentally, he and Trump are the same: authoritarians who believe in male dominance, force, torture, and the suppression of civil rights for unpopular minorities.

If you call that “good,” you know how to vote in November.

If not, you can be like Al Mohler and Russel Moore and vote third party, or you can be like Rachel Held Evans and Shannon Dingle and vote for Hillary Clinton.

But let’s not pretend that Wayne Grudem’s endorsement of Donald Trump was some weird, outlier mistake. The two are much more alike than they seem.

Thoughts on the Presidential Debate 

Watching the presidential debates, it occurs to me that Donald Trump either cannot or will not answer the question as asked. 

He talks in whatever direction he wants to talk about, rambling on, repeating the same points and going over the same lines again. 

When asked about his earlier comment that Hillary didn’t have the presidential “look,” he claimed that he’d said she didn’t have the stamina to be president. 

He literally ignored the actual question and his actual (sexist, inappropriate)  comment. He pretended it didn’t exist. 

Clinton was specific and knowledgeable, going into detail. She went after Trump for being vague. I doubt that will hurt him much, but eventually he’ll have to give some details. 

Trump didn’t come off as a mad cartoon like he had in some interviews and soundbites.

But he was evasive, as if he either didn’t know the answers or didn’t want to answer the questions.

And sometimes he outright lied. Like how he repeatedly said he was against the Iraq war from the beginning, when he actually said in 2002 on the Howard Stern Show,  this: 



But revisionist history is pretty much a part of the Trump game. People are quick to buy that he’s the pro-life candidate, but he only “became” pro-life once it was time to run for office as a Republican. Before that, he was in favor of partial birth abortion being legal:

For the record, Clinton said she could support a ban on partial birth abortions so long as it had an exemption for the life and health of the mother. 

That’s more pro-life than Trump’s old position,  but less pro-life than the position he is vaguely but vociferously taking now, I think. 

Honestly, I’m worried. Trump sounded more reasonable and sane than I’d expected. 

I feel like we’re one step closer to having a bribe paying, scam college runningtorture advocating, warmongering, strip club owning, misogynist, unqualified, alleged child rapist as our president. 

Sigh.

I don’t want to sound like I’m trashing Republicans in general. I’m not. The GOP presidential field was pretty weak this time, but someone like McCain, Kasich, or even Romney would probably do a good job in the White House.

I know I’ve moved to the left quite a bit since I was younger, but Donald Trump really seems like the worst human being to run for president in my lifetime, maybe longer. I think he’s dangerous in a way that no nominee I’ve ever seen had been.

And it frightens me that so many sane, functional, good,  intelligent people disagree. 

It really frightens me that he may be leading our country for the next 4 to 8 years. 

All Things Right and Good

You’re going to reach a point (We all do)

Where you must decide whether you will be right or good.

I know, Jesus never found Himself in such a spot

But he was God made flesh. You and I are not.

And when I reach that point, I want to say:

“I don’t know if this is right.

I don’t know how it fits in with systematic theology

With moral law, with moral codes

But I know how to be good.”

I’ve learned the hard way that right, like rights,

Can be abused, can be abusive:

  • Right and wrong (who decides?)
  • Legal and illegal (who makes the laws?)
  • Winning the argument
  • Contempt for the loser
  • Insiders and outsiders
  • orthodox and heretics
  • Moral panics
  • “They deserve it.”
  • “They would do the same to us.”

These are tools of domination. These are acts of violence

They’re labels and weapons the powerful use to maintain their supremacy

Be it white or male or hetero/cis.

It’s all the same. Power. Money. Control.

The rich men who wield it

The rough men who enforce it

The abuse and domination of women

And the blood of dark-skinned people

And anyone different in religion, sexuality, or creed

The enslavement of millions in for-profit prisons

And the torture of the few with neither trial nor hope

We can be right.

We can be in control.

We can hold the moral high ground

Or we can be good.

Or we can love as Jesus loved.

But we cannot serve both God and mammon.

Syria

This seems to be the week America talks about the tragedy in Syria. And today is the day Pope Francis II called for prayer and fasting for the people of Syria.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on some bad news in my own life (news I’m not sure I want to talk about here), so I haven’t written about Syria yet.

Most likely, President Obama is going to “solve” this by bombing the bad guys, just like he’s doing in Yemen and Pakistan. He’s proven he is perfectly happy to send in the drones, missiles and bombers, with or without a declaration of war.

He can do that with or without Congress ‘s approval. What is this gridlocked Congress gonna do if they don’t like it, impeach him? Not going to happen, especially not over a bunch of dead non-white, non-Americans.

It’s not as if there is any uniform sentiment in Congress. There are good arguments for and against intervention, after all. Right now, neither side in this civil war has any capacity to hurt us. Could that change? I don’t know.

What’s going on over there is an atrocity, and I know the rest of the world has to do something. But I’m not at all convinced that dropping bombs on an atrocity will make it less atrocious.

I don’t have a perfect solution. At this point no one does. But maybe this world would be a little better off if America was a little less ready to fight. We’ve been at war since 2001, continuously.

Most elementary school students and a large number of elementary school students have literally never been alive in a time of peace. Most high school students and some college students are too young to remember 9/11, or a time when we weren’t at war.

And back then, most of the Christians I knew were strongly pro-war. And I was, too. But I wonder if that was be right idea. I wonder if we might have served our country and our God more faithfully by being a voice of peace.

Maybe we should be that voice of peace now.  And maybe we should have a clear picture as to how American bombs are going to help the Syrians…before we drop them.

Means and Ends (Neither Kant nor Machiavelli)

Kant in black & white, Machiavelli in shades of gray

Kant in black & white, Machiavelli in shades of gray

Niccolo Machiavelli famously said, “In judging policies we should consider the results that have been achieved through them rather than the means by which they have been executed.” The ends justify the means.

Immanuel Kant argued in favor of the old Latin maxim, “Do what is right, though the world should perish.” The means justify the ends.

But I don’t believe we can, in good conscience, stand by either maxim. As moral beings, especially as people of faith, we have a responsibility for both our means and our ends. We must balance the rightness of our methods with the most likely outcomes.

It’s easy to brush off Machiavelli. “The ends justifies the means” sounds like something a movie villain would say.

Until national security is on the line.

Until George W. Bush is talking about “enhanced interrogation” and “indefinite detention” (without a trial, of course)

Until Barrack Obama is talking about (or rather, trying very hard not to talk about) using Predator drones to blow up civilians in nations we aren’t even at war with.

But as Christians, we can at least try to avoid that one. We can set our feet down and join Kant in defending the old saying, “Do what is right, though the world should perish.”

But what does that mean? Does that mean being so focused on “biblical” roles in marriage that you treat spousal abuse like it’s a matter of the wife’s submission, as John Piper does below (from his entire demeanor, he either has no concept of what an abusive relationship is really like, or he has no empathy. I think both may be true, given his view of God).

When we focus on what is “right” according to scripture, and then use that to justify hurting “sinners” (such as denying them their [secular] civil rights, advocating discredited and medically dangerous therapies, or advocating for harsh criminal penalties against them in African countries),  we are “doing what’s right, though the world perishes.”

When we let our idea of “biblical” gender roles blind us to abuse in marriages, in families, and in churches, we are “doing what’s right, though the world perishes.”

Even if we are not blinded, if we ignore or minimize suffering (as John Piper is doing above), we are “doing what’s right, though the world perishes.”

When we use our interpretation of scripture (without the humility to question whether we might be wrong, reading the Bible in translation, 2000+ years later, in a totally different cultural context) as a weapon, or an anesthetic that prevents us from feeling the pain of others, we are “doing what’s right, though the world perishes.”

But we’re not doing what’s right. Not really. And our means, no matter how righteous we may thing they are, are utterly and totally tainted by the pain we cause.

Our righteousness is like filthy rags to God. That’s not just a redundant restating of Romans 3:23. It isn’t a declaration of Calvin’s “total depravity.” It means that our rightness, our self-justifications, our focus on “doing the right thing” no matter what the cost to others … is just filthy.

And the world sees this. It’s not the gospel that’s offending them. It’s our warped Kantian-Calvinistic logic, our weaponized righteousness. And it should offend them.

The Audacity of Losing Hope in Politics

I know it’s easy, in this political season, to look at both candidates and lose hope.

One promises hope and change, but wages a drone warfare against Pakistani villages, killing hundreds of civilians. The other speaks the language of conservativism and the Christian Right, but spent his career dismantling businesses and shipping jobs overseas.

Both seem utterly in the grip of corporate interests.  Neither seems apt to bring an end to warrantless surveillance, extrajudicial execution, and indefinite detention.

Yes, they’re different, but they’re different like Nero and Julius Caesar were different.  One may be worse, one may be better, but neither one will be truly good.  God warned Israel against wanting a king, but Israel persisted.  It looks like we’re still reaping that harvest now [1 Samuel 8:10-18]

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’m not going to be able to vote for either President Obama or Governor Romney, because of their use of (and acceptance of continued use of, respectively) Predator drones to strike Pakistani villages.

Killing men, women, and children, burning houses, and terrorizing  entire towns semi-permanently?  Cruel and pointless.  Defining as “militants” any male of fighting age who happens to be found in these areas?  Deceptive and arrogant.  Hiding these actions from public scrutiny?  Disreputable and disgusting.

Nobody seems to be taking this seriously.  Most of my ‘progressive’ friends and most of the Emergent Evangelical voices on the blogosphere are still singing the President’s praises, as if they’d never even heard of this.  My more conservative friends wholeheartedly get behind Mitt Romney, taking an “anybody but Obama” stance.

Even the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson hasn’t ruled out continuing the drone-slaughter, even as he promises to bring the troops home.  Apparently, Pakistani lives are cheap these days.

And both candidates who actually have a chance of winning are so beholden to corporate interests that we commoners hardly even matter.  Would I have voted for one or the other, if not for this slaughter?  Maybe, but it doesn’t matter now.  I won’t support this with my vote.

I’ve heard people say that President Obama isn’t a real Christian, but never because his hunter-killer drones kill Pakistani children.  No, it’s because he’s pro-choice and pro-gay marriage.  I’ve heard people make similar arguments about Governor Romney, because his economic policies will hurt the poor.

And everybody’s so gung-ho for their candidates that they seem to think the world will end if their man loses.

The world won’t end.  Too many rich people have too much invested in this crony-capitalist, “too big to fail” model.  The world will only end when God ends it.

And that’s the thing to remember.  God is not up for re-election.  God is the king of the universe, regardless of the popular vote or the electoral college.  As Christians, we have to remember that, and remember where our true loyalty lies.

I’ve heard people question whether any true Christian can vote for President Obama.  And I’ve heard the same thing about whether any true Christian can vote for Governor Romney (not because he’s Mormon, but because of his regressive economic policies and his pseudo-Randian VP).  Frankly, both positions are ridiculous.

Christians have a lot of reasons for voting for candidates, and questioning somebody’s commitment to Christ because they don’t share your political preferences is borderline blasphemous.  Election 2012 isn’t the Messiah versus the Antichrist.  It’s two rich, connected power-players competing for the most powerful prize on the planet.  If your conscience leads you to vote for one or the other, fine.  But shut up about God’s candidate.

As Christians, we need to maintain unity, with each other and with our neighbors of other faiths.  Whoever wins will be our President, but not our true ruler.  You don’t like Romney?  You don’t like Obama?  Try living under Nero or Caligula.  Try being a Russian or Ukrainian or Lithuanian Christian during the Stalin years.  Though many were martyred, God preserved his church, and it flourished, even underground.

To quote Longfellow, God is not dead, nor does he sleep.  No matter who wins or loses, we have to stick together, to pray together, to pray for whichever man makes it to the White House, to pray for our nation.  God is our Hope, not any man.