Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Day in the Life of Joe Republican

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF JOE REPUBLICAN
Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joes employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union
.
If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't thinkhe should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

Its noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills.
Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.
Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his
lifetime.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.
Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of
themselves, just like I have."

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Why Christians Deconvert

https://randalrauser.com/2018/12/the-problem-of-christians-becoming-atheists/

The Problem of Christians Becoming Atheists

A central goal of Christian apologetics is to persuade people to become and remain Christians. But what happens when that persuasion fails? In particular, what can we learn from those instances of failure when Christians reject the faith altogether?
In this conversation, I speak with Dr. John Marriott about the topic of Christians deconverting and becoming atheists … and what we can do about it. Needless to say, this is a hugely important topic, especially for anybody interested in apologetics, evangelism, or discipleship, and Dr. Marriott is ideally suited to address it. He is currently an adjunct professor in Philosophy and Intercultural Studies at Biola University and author of A Recipe for Disaster: How Parents and Churches Prepare Individuals to Lose Their Faith, And How They Can Instill a Faith That Endures (Wipf and Stock, 2018). You can learn more about Dr. Marriott online at https://www.johnmarriott.org/.
We cover a lot of ground in our conversation, and for that reason, I’ve divided our exchange into two articles. This article addresses the problem while the sequel will turn to address the solutions.

RR: John, thanks for joining us. Your major area of research has been focused on deconversion, specifically from Christianity to atheism. What is it that drew you to this topic?
JM: Thanks for having me. I think the short answer to that question is that in the midst of my doctoral program  I stumbled across a website for former Christians. I was both intrigued and shocked at the number of former believers who had posted their deconversion stories. And not just nominal folks. There were former pastors, missionaries, worship leaders and seminary grads. It was troubling to say the least. So, I began looking into deconversion and what I found was captivating. The number of people who once identified as believers but no longer do is increasing at record numbers and record rates. I wanted to find out why? What did they know that I didn’t?
RR: That prompts several questions in my mind. But to begin with, could you say more about those record numbers? What kind of numbers are we talking about?
JM:  Those are good questions. It’s always hard to determine exact numbers. And we all know that you can get statistics to say just about anything you want. But in the case of faith exit, it really does seem to be the case that people are leaving the faith in droves.
For example, In 2001, the Southern Baptist Convention reported they are losing between 70 and 88 percent of their youth after their freshman year in college. Of SBC teenagers involved in church youth groups, 70 percent stopped attending church within two years of their high school graduation. The following year, the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life also reported that 88 percent of children in evangelical [Baptist] homes leave church by the age of eighteen. The Barna Group announced in 2006 that 61 percent of young adults who were involved in church during their teen years were now spiritually disengaged.
Supporting Barna’s findings, a 2007 Assemblies of God study reported that between 50 percent and 67 percent of Assemblies of God young people who attend a non-Christian public or private university will have left the faith four years after entering college. A similar study from LifeWay Research that came out the same year claimed that 70 percent of students lose their faith in college, and of those only 35 percent eventually return. In May 2009, Robert Putnam and David Campbell presented research from their book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, to the Pew Forum study on “Religion and Public Life,” in which they claimed that young Americans are leaving religion at five to six times the historic rate. They also noted that the percentage of young Americans who identify as having no religion is between 30 and 40 percent, up from between 5 and 10 percent only a generation ago.
That same year, the Fuller Youth Institute’s study “The College Transition Project” discovered that current data seems “to suggest that about 40 to 50 percent of students in youth groups struggle to retain their faith after graduation. The 2010 UCLA study “Spirituality in Higher Education” found that only 29 percent of college students regularly attended church after their junior year, down from 52 percent the year before they entered college. A second UCLA study, “The College Student Survey,” asked students to indicate their present religious commitment. Researchers then compared the responses of freshmen who checked the “born again” category with the answers they gave four years later when they were seniors. What they found was shocking. On some campuses as high as 59 percent of students no longer described themselves as “born again.”
Given what we know regarding the loss of faith among American young people, it will come as no surprise that America’s Class of 2018 cares less about their religious identity than any previous college freshman class in the last forty years. A third study by UCLA found that students across the U.S. are disassociating themselves from religion in record numbers. “The American Freshman” study reveals that nearly 28 percent of the 2014 incoming college freshman do not identify with any religious faith. That is a sharp increase from 1971 when only 16 percent of freshman said they did not identify with a specific religion.
RR: Whoa, thanks for that helpful, if depressing, survey. So how widespread is the problem, geographically speaking?
JM: The focus of my research was on the United States. I have since broadened it to include Canada as well. Although I cannot prove it, I suspect that what we are seeing in the U.S. and Canada regarding the loss of faith is similar to the secularization process that has taken place in Europe. Although the prediction of Secularization Theory (as societies become more modern they will become less religious) has not been fulfilled on a global scale, it most definitely has proven to be true in the case of Europe. Canada is clearly following in Europe’s footsteps, and I suspect given enough time we will see a similar state of affairs in the United States.
RR: What are most of these people becoming when they deconvert? Do most become atheists? Or are many becoming “spiritual but not religious” nones?
JM: When individuals leave their Christian faith they have a number of new identities to choose from. They either become atheists, agnostics, “nones” or “spiritual but not religious.” The “nones” are not necessarily atheists. They may still believe in God but no longer identify with any kind of religious group. The “spiritual but not religious” folks are similar to the “nones” but they are more likely to be involved in spiritual exploration. It is hard to know how many former Christians are “nones” and “spiritual but not religious” and how many are atheists. Either way, there are large numbers of folks no longer identifying as Christians. My interest is in those individuals who were once committed Christians of an evangelical sort, that now identify as atheists. And by atheist I mean they no longer believe in God. They may either deny his existence or simply no longer affirm it.
RR: Thanks, that’s very helpful. So keeping in mind that we can only scratch the surface here, how about we proceed by first addressing a diagnosis and then a solution? With that in mind, what are some of the major factors you see behind this precipitous decline in the faithful?
JM: I think there are at least three factors. The first is mistaking a particular take or interpretation of Christianity for Christianity itself. This becomes problematic when the take or interpretation that is assumed to be Christianity elevates an excessive number of doctrines and practices to the level of the non-negotiable. This produces a house of cards faith. If an individual comes to reject any one of those doctrines or practices, the entire edifice will collapse.
RR: Like what?
JM: For example, a common refrain among the deconverted is that they were told that the creation account had to be a literal 6 day, 24-hour period of time. If not, the rest of the Bible had no foundation and thus no justification for it’s claim that we are sinners in need of a savior.  When, for various reasons, they came to the conclusion that the universe was billions of years old they felt that they could no longer be Christians. For them, being a Christian meant “believing in literal 6 day creation”. In rejecting the young-earth view they assumed they were rejecting Christianity. In reality they were only rejecting a doctrinally bloated take on Christianity they mistook for the real thing.
RR: I couldn’t agree more. I regularly encounter people who left the church because of particular beliefs or practices that are far from what I would call mere Christianity. Young earth creationism is a great example, but there definitely are many others: everything from hell as eternal conscious torment to the idea that good Christians vote Republican.
So what’s next?
JM: The second factor is unmet expectations. When God and / or the Bible doesn’t live up to what deconverts expect a crisis of faith results. The problem, of course, is not God or the Bible but what many deconverts were taught to expect from the God or the Bible. One of the most common expectations that deconverts have is that the Bible is completely error free. And not just that it is inerrant but that it must be inerrant or else it cannot be the word of God. Somewhere along the way they were told that in order for the Bible to be the word of God it had to be free of error. Furthermore, the discovery of even one error would prove it wasn’t the inspired word of God. Eventually, they encountered what they believed was an error in the Bible. And, given what they assumed about the Bible, they were forced to conclude the Bible wasn’t God’s word. Rather than question the assumption of inerrancy, they took the more drastic action of concluding Christianity was a sham. The unquestioned assumption that the Bible is, and has to be inerrant, or else it cannot be the word of God, is the number one assumption / expectation that appears in deconversion narratives.
RR: Bart Ehrman is a great example. In his bestseller Misquoting Jesus he recounts how after studying at Wheaton College as an evangelical inerrantist, he came to study at Princeton. In one of his papers he focused on developing a long, convoluted argument that Jesus did not make a mistake in Mark 2 when identifying the priest during the time that King David ate bread from the temple. His prof responded to that long, convoluted argument with a simple observation: “Maybe Mark just made a mistake.” (Misquoting Jesus, 9)
Ehrman was initially very disturbed at this undeniably simple explanation. But eventually, he found himself considering that it was likely true: maybe Mark did just make a mistake. He then observes, “Once I made that admission, the floodgates opened. For if there could be one little, picayune mistake in Mark 2, maybe there could be mistakes in other places as well.” (9)
In Ehrman’s case, it’s easy to see how a particular understanding of inerrancy helped send his faith right onto the rocks of agnosticism.
So what’s the third example?
JM: Yes, Bart is a good example. In fact I tell his story in the book. It’s clear that he not only had misguided assumptions and expectations about the Bible, but also of God. When God did not live up to what his expectations he became disillusioned. The one-two punch of unmet expectations concerning the Bible and God can be fatal to faith.
The third factor is that we have not done a good job of communicating the content of the faith in what Charles Taylor calls “A Secular Age”. Taylor, as you know, argues that the conditions for what is believable in the modern West have radically changed. No longer is belief in God, or the truth of Christianity the default position in our culture. To the contrary, affirming even bare theism is difficult for educated, reflective, culturally aware folks. And believing in the God of the Bible can be downright embarrassing.
How, former Christians ask, can an intelligent, educated person accept the biblical story of two naked people, a talking snake and a magical tree, at face value given the world we live in? Or that a man lived inside a fish for three days, people lived over 900 years, and the dead come back to life?
What such questions reveal is that although deconvert’s understanding of reality became more nuanced, and sophisticated, as they aged and became more educated, their biblical understanding stayed at a simplistic, Sunday school level. Ultimately, they could not bridge the gap between having a “university” understanding of reality with their Sunday school concept of the contents of the Bible. For many former Christians, the “Old, Old, Story” sounded more like an ancient fairy tale than it did sober history. Believing in fairy tales is embarrassing. Children, not adults believe fairy tales, and no one wants to be considered an intellectual child.
RR: Well said. I like to say that we live in the age of the flying spaghetti monster, that is, an age in which Christian beliefs are viewed by many in the wider culture as arbitrary, absurd, and infantile. And when you grow up within a Christian subculture where your beliefs are rarely if challenged, it can be a real shock to the system when you first encounter the deep skepticism of many in the wider culture. It becomes even worse when you discover that many of those people are articulate and thoughtful and appear to have good reasons for what they believe.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our conversation, “The Solution to Christians Becoming Atheists.” And for a far more in-depth explroation of these issues, be sure to check out John Marriott’s new book, A Recipe for Disaster: Four Ways Churches and Parents Prepare Individuals to Lose Their Faith and How They Can Instill a Faith That Endures.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Advent Meditation by Fr. Kenneth Tanner

I am grateful for Halloween. It’s the defensive wall that keeps Christmas from taking over October, from creeping earlier and earlier into autumn.
I love it’s neighborly, childlike goodness; I t’s reminder that there’s something greater than darkness and death, that resurrection is the end and not the grave, and so our fear of the dark is based on an illusion. (I guess what I love is something closer to the Day of the Dead, All Saint’s, and All Souls, than how some celebrate Halloween.)
Thanksgiving, my favorite weekend of the year, is almost now eclipsed or taken up into Christmas, especially the way it felt this year.
Do not get me wrong, I love Christmas. My Spotify Christmas playlist—no humility, no apology—is the best on the planet. I like way too much of the culture of Christmas, much of the ways my fellow Americans celebrate it. 😃
Yet I *cherish* Christmas because of what it means for humanity: God granting his permanence to our nature by becoming flesh.
Still, in my mind and heart, in contemplation and practice, in the worship of Holy Redeemer, we gratefully keep a holy Advent for three-four weeks *prior* to Christmas.
Our family and our community slows down and ponders the mysteries of the human God, this speechless baby in a feed trough who at the beginning spoke all things into being.
We also watch and wait for the coming of God once again in human flesh at the end of time and on our altars at the Eucharist, the good news that our human brother—acquainted with our sufferings and temptations and griefs, the one who loves us more than he loves himself—is our judge, that the dark red fire of his love will at his second coming like a good surgeon laser away everything in us that is not of love.
We often say that someone who suffers a physical trauma is not quite his former self but the promise of Advent is that we are not quite our future selves, that we wait in hope for all the chaff in ourselves to be separated from the wheat.
I don't know about you but I long for the work of God that will make me a new creation, free of sin consciousness, even the memory of sin—mine or anyone else’s.
Forgiveness is a great and remarkable grace but all that we have done wrong must also be made right and only the human that is God can do that.
I have no idea how it happens but Advent celebrates the promise that our collective and personal violations of love will—in the end—be somehow made right. Alleluia.
Anyway, it was even stranger this year to watch everyone dive into the deep end of Christmas for ten days before Advent had even begun. 🤦🏻‍♂️
Now that Advent is here, I walk in Christmas and Advent together, hoping for authentic contemplation of the great mysteries, holding at bay the madness of some aspects of our culture’s celebration, so that my arrival at the manger and the wondrous twelve days of Christmas (Dec 24-January 6) that follow will land me in the realms of glory, where real joy and peace and hope and love are encountered in the song of the angels, the surprise of the shepherds, the heart contemplations of Mary, even in the delayed adoration of the Maji.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Evangelicals who Truly Are



I've just heard today's (Nov. 29,2018) Oregon Public Broadcasting radio show, "Think Out Loud," featuring Jason Fileta from Micah Challenge USA. His measured, wise responses were an encouragement to me as a Christian. I no longer call myself an evangelical, because American Evangelicalism has gone so far off the rails from faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ. The work of Micah Challenge USA is evidence to me that God is in the business of renewal and resurrection. May God use younger Christians like Jason and Fileta and Katherine Hayhoe to change the hearts and minds of American evangelicals, and move us to put our faith to work when it comes to climate change and the poor.

https://www.opb.org/radio/programs/thinkoutloud/segment/yemen-religion-climate-change-columbia-sportswear/


Religion, Racism, and Republicans

A fight for white nationalism and white cultural supremacy has in some ways been more successful after its transformation into an expressly religious, rather than merely racist crusade.

Religion is endlessly pliable. So long as pastors or priests (or in this case, televangelists) are willing to apply their theological creativity to serve political demands, religious institutions can be bent to advance any policy goal. With remarkably little prodding, Christian churches in Germany fanned the flames for Hitler. Liberation theology thrived alongside Communist activism in Latin America. The Southern Baptist Church was organized specifically to protect slavery and white supremacy from the influence of their brethren in the North, a role that has never ceased to distort its identity, beliefs and practices.>

Pastors, Not Politicians, Turned Dixie Republican

https://www.forbes.com/sites/chrisladd/2017/03/27/pastors-not-politicians-turned-dixie-republican/#7310cbb1695f

“White Democrats will desert their party in droves the minute it becomes a black party.”
Kevin Phillips, The Emerging Republican Majority, 1969
Thirty years ago, archconservative Rick Perry was a Democrat and liberal icon Elizabeth Warren was a Republican. Back then there were a few Republican Congressmen and Senators from Southern states, but state and local politics in the South was still dominated by Democrats. By 2014 that had changed entirely as the last of the Deep South states completed their transition from single-party Democratic rule to single party rule under Republicans. The flight of the Dixiecrats was complete.
Reasons for the switch are not so hard to understand. Legend has it that President Johnson, after signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, mourned “we’ve lost the South for a generation.” That quote might be apocryphal, but it accurately reflects contemporary opinion. Fiery segregationist George Wallace would carry five Southern states in his third party run for President in 1968. Southern anger over the Democratic Party’s embrace of civil rights reforms was no secret and no surprise.

While the “why” behind the flight of the Dixiecrats is obvious, the “how” is more difficult to establish, shrouded in myths and half-truths. Analysts often explain the great exodus of Southern conservatives from the Democratic Party by referencing the Southern Strategy, a cynical campaign ploy supposedly executed by Richard Nixon in his ’68 and ’72 Presidential campaigns, but that explanation falls flat. Though the Southern backlash against the Civil Rights Acts showed up immediately at the top of the ticket, Republicans farther down the ballot gained very little ground in the South between ’68 and ’84. Democrats there occasionally chose Republican candidates for positions in Washington, but they stuck with Democrats for local offices.
Crediting the Nixon campaign with the flight of Southern conservatives from the Democratic Party dismisses the role Southerners themselves played in that transformation. In fact, Republicans had very little organizational infrastructure on the ground in the South before 1980, and never quite figured out how to build a persuasive appeal to voters there. Every cynical strategy cooked up in a Washington boardroom withered under local conditions. The flight of the Dixiecrats was ultimately conceived, planned, and executed by Southerners themselves, largely independent of, and sometimes at odds with, existing Republican leadership. It was a move that had less to do with politicos than with pastors.
Southern churches, warped by generations of theological evolution necessary to accommodate slavery and segregation, were all too willing to offer their political assistance to a white nationalist program. Southern religious institutions would lead a wave of political activism that helped keep white nationalism alive inside an increasingly unfriendly national climate. Forget about Goldwater, Nixon or Reagan. No one played as much of a role in turning the South red as the leaders of the Southern Baptist Church.
Jesus and Segregation
There is still today a Southern Baptist Church. More than a century and a half after the Civil War, and decades after the Methodists and Presbyterians reunited with their Yankee neighbors, America’s largest denomination remains defined, right down to the name over the door, by an 1845 split over slavery.
Spirituality may be personal, but organized religion, like race, is a cultural construct. When you’ve lost the ability to mobilize supporters based on race, religion will serve as a capable proxy. What was lost under the banner of “segregation forever” has been tenuously preserved through a continuing “culture war.” A fight for white nationalism and white cultural supremacy has in some ways been more successful after its transformation into an expressly religious, rather than merely racist crusade.
Religion is endlessly pliable. So long as pastors or priests (or in this case, televangelists) are willing to apply their theological creativity to serve political demands, religious institutions can be bent to advance any policy goal. With remarkably little prodding, Christian churches in Germany fanned the flames for Hitler. Liberation theology thrived alongside Communist activism in Latin America. The Southern Baptist Church was organized specifically to protect slavery and white supremacy from the influence of their brethren in the North, a role that has never ceased to distort its identity, beliefs and practices.
In 1956, the Supreme Court had recently struck down school segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education case. President Eisenhower had sponsored sweeping civil rights legislation. Dr. Martin Luther King was organizing bus boycotts in Montgomery. Pressure was building against segregation across the South. At that time, there may have been no more influential figure in the Southern Baptist Convention than W.A. Criswell, the pastor of the enormous First Baptist Church in Dallas.
At a convention in South Carolina, Criswell turned his popular fire and brimstone style on the “blasphemous and unbiblical” agitators who threatened the Southern way of life. Beyond all the boilerplate racist invective, Criswell outlined an eerily prescient rhetorical stance, a framework capable of outlasting Jim Crow. In a passage that managed to avoid explicit racism, he described what would become the primary political weapon of the culture wars:
Don’t force me by law, by statute, by Supreme Court decision…to cross over in those intimate things where I don’t want to go. Let me build my life. Let me have my church. Let me have my school. Let me have my friends. Let me have my home. Let me have my family. And what you give to me, give to every man in America and keep it like our glorious forefathers made – a land of the free and the home of the brave.
Long after the battle over whites’ only bathrooms had been lost, evangelical communities in Houston or Charlotte can continue the war over a “bathroom bill” using a rhetorical structure Criswell and others built. He had constructed a strangely circular, quasi-libertarian argument in which a right to oppress others becomes a fundamental right born of a religious imperative, protected by the First Amendment. Criswell’s bizarre formula, as it metastasized and took hold elsewhere, could allow white nationalists to continue their campaign as a “culture war” long after the battle to protect segregated institutions had been lost.



Southern Baptists remained at the vanguard of the fight to preserve Jim Crow until the fight was lost. A generation later you might hear Southern Baptists mention that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Baptist minister. They are less likely to explain that King was not permitted to worship in a Southern Baptist Church. African-American Baptists had their own parallel institutions, a structure that continues today. Evangelical resistance to the civil rights movement was not uniform, but dissent was rare and muted. Southern Baptist superstar Billy Graham was cautiously sympathetic to King. Early in King’s career, in 1957, Graham once allowed King to lead a prayer from the pulpit in one of his campaigns in faraway New York City. Graham advised King and other civil rights leaders on organizational matters and offered considerable back-channel support to the movement. However, in public Graham was careful to keep a safe distance and avoided the kind of open displays of sympathy for civil rights that might have complicated his career.
King was once invited to speak at a Southern Baptist seminary in Louisville in 1961. Churches responded with a powerful backlash, slashing the seminary’s donations so steeply that it was forced to apologize for the move. Henlee Barnette, the Baptist professor responsible for King’s invitation at the seminary, nearly lost his job and became something of an outcast, a status he would retain until he was finally pressured to retire from teaching in 1977.
In 1965, after President Johnson’s second landmark Civil Rights Act was passed, the Southern Baptists formally abandoned the fight against segregation with a bland statement urging members to obey the law. In 1968, the Southern Baptist Convention formally endorsed desegregation. That same year, in a remarkably passive-aggressive counter to their apparent concession on civil rights, they elected W.A. Criswell to lead the denomination.
Onward, Christian Soldiers
Defeated and demoralized, segregationists in the 1970’s faced a frustrating problem – how to rebuild a white nationalist political program without using the discredited rhetoric of race. Religion would provide them their answer. Armed with the superficially race-neutral rhetorical formula Criswell had described, prominent Southern Baptist ministers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson would emerge to take up the fight. All they needed was a spark to light a new wave of political activism.
In 1967, Mississippi began offering tuition grants to white students allowing them to attend private segregated schools. A federal court struck down the move two years later, but the tax-exempt status of these private, segregated schools remained a matter of contention for many years. Under that rubric, evangelical churches across the South led an explosion of new private schools, many of them explicitly segregated. Battles over the status of these institutions reached a climax when the Carter Administration in 1978 signaled its intention to press for their desegregation.
It was the status of these schools, a growing source of church recruitment and revenue, that finally stirred the grassroots to action. Televangelist Jerry Falwell would unite with a broader group of politically connected conservatives to form the Moral Majority in 1979. His partner in the effort, Paul Weyrich, made clear that it was the schools issue that launched the organization, an emphasis reflected in chain events across the 1980 Presidential campaign.
The rise of the religious right is usually credited to abortion activism, but few evangelicals cared about the subject in the 70’s. The Southern Baptist Convention expressed support for laws liberalizing abortion access in 1971. Criswell himself expressed support for the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe, taking the traditional theological position that life began at birth, not conception. The denomination did not adopt a firm pro-life stance until 1980.
In August of 1980, Criswell and other Southern Baptist leaders hosted Republican Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan for a rally in Dallas. Reagan in his speech never used the word “abortion,” but he enthusiastically and explicitly supported the ministers’ position on protecting private religious schools. That was what they needed to hear.
Evangelical ministers, previously reluctant to lend their pulpits to political activists, launched a massive wave of activism in Southern pews in support of the Reagan campaign. The new President would not forget their support. Less than a year into his Administration, Reagan officials pressed the IRS to drop its campaign to desegregate private schools.
In a casually triumphant moment in 1981, Reagan advisor Lee Atwater let down his guard, laying bare the racial logic behind the Republican campaigns in the South:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “N...r, n...r, n...r.” By 1968 you can’t say “n...r”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N...r, n...r.”
For decades, men like Atwater had been searching for the perfect “abstract” phrasing, a magic political dog whistle that could communicate that “N…r, n…r” message behind a veneer of respectable language. Though quick to take credit for Reagan’s win, the truth was that Atwater and others like him had mostly failed. Their efforts to construct their dog whistle out of taxes and other traditional Republican talking points never quite connected on a deep enough emotional plane to turn the tide at the local level.
It was religious leaders in the South who solved the puzzle on Republicans’ behalf, converting white angst over lost cultural supremacy into a fresh language of piety and “religious liberty.” Southern conservatives discovered that they could preserve white nationalism through a proxy fight for Christian Nationalism. They came to recognize that a weak, largely empty Republican grassroots structure in the South was ripe for takeover and colonization.
Fired by the success of their efforts at the top of the ballot in 1980, newly activated congregations pressed further, launching organized efforts to move their members from pew to precinct, filling the largely empty Republican infrastructure in the South. By the late 80’s religious activists like Stephen Hotze in Houston were beginning to cut out the middleman, going around pastors to recruit political warriors in the pews. Hotze circulated a professionally rendered video in 1990, called “Restoring America,” that included step-by-step instructions for taking control of Republican precinct and county organizations. Religious nationalists began to purge traditional Republicans from the region’s few GOP institutions.
The Southern Strategy was not a successful Republican initiative. It was a delayed reaction by Republican operatives to events they neither precipitated nor fully understood. Republicans did not trigger the flight of the Dixiecrats, they were buried by it.
A young Texas legislator, Rick Perry, spent much of 1988 campaigning for his fellow Southern Democrat, Al Gore. In the crowded landscape of Texas Democratic politics, Perry showed little breakout potential, but he was aware of the activism that was sweeping Democratic Southern conservatives into empty Republican precincts all over the state. The next year Perry made a bold move, switching to the GOP and rising immediately to the front ranks as a potential statewide candidate.
It was in the 90’s, not the 70’s, that Southern conservatives at the local level finally took flight into the GOP. Armed with the strange, apparently race-neutral logic Reverend Criswell had laid out in the fight for Jim Crow, and organized by a new generation of religious leaders, an enormous wave of party-switching transformed grassroots politics in the South. Republicans seized control of the Texas state legislature in 2002 for the first time ever apart from Reconstruction. When Republicans took control of the Arkansas legislature in 2014, the flight of the Dixiecrats was over and Republicans controlled state government across all of the former Confederacy.
The Past Is Never Dead
In the 2016 presidential election, Re. Russell Moore, an early and frequent critic of Donald Trump, says, "I understand those who are lining up with Trump with great reservations. I'm not persuaded by it. But that’s different than the people who have been telling us that we need this kind of strongman to save Christianity." (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Russell Moore became the President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s social outreach arm in 2013. In that capacity, he began to challenge many of the darker elements of the church’s history. From a post in the church traditionally dedicated to hand-wringing over gay rights and dirty movies, Moore criticized those who stirred up hatred against refugees and ignored matters of racial justice. He drew sharp criticism when he denounced the Confederate Flag, explaining, “The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire.”
The real fury came when Moore applied to Donald Trump the same standard of conduct Baptists had demanded of Bill Clinton. Southern Baptist leaders in the 90’s savaged President Clinton as the details of the Lewinski Affair began to surface. Moore drew the obvious comparison last year between Trump and Bill Clinton, urging voters to reject the 2016 Republican nominee. As religious leaders lined up solidly behind Trump last fall, Moore commented, "The religious right turns out to be the people the religious right warned us about."
In the end, evangelical voters backed Donald Trump by a steeper margin than their support for Romney in ‘12.
Today, W.A. Criswell’s Dallas megachurch is pastored by Robert Jeffress, who has remained faithful to the most bigoted strains of the olde tyme religion. He has led an effort to withdraw funding for Russell Moore's organization. Jeffress has called the Catholic Church “a Babylonian mystery religion.” He explained that Obama was sent to pave the way for the Antichrist. He has demogogued relentlessly on gay marriage. And naturally, he endorsed Donald Trump.
Heir to Criswell's pulpit at Dallas' First Baptist tweets a photo with Donald Trump
Pastor Robert Jeffress, heir to Criswell's pulpit at Dallas' First Baptist, tweets a photo with Donald TrumpDr. Robert Jeffress, Twitter
Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, retooled the ministry he inherited, turning it into something a civil rights era segregationist could love without reservation. Graham, who earns more than $800,000 a year as the head of his inherited charity, has made anti-Muslim rhetoric a centerpiece of his public profile and ministry. While his father quietly befriended Martin Luther King, the younger Graham has chosen a different path. In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, Graham explained that black people can solve the problem of police violence if they teach their children “respect for authority and obedience.” Franklin Graham enthusiastically supports Donald Trump.
Jerry Falwell's son also inherited the family business, serving now as president of his father's university. His support for Trump is less surprising than Graham's, and far less of a departure from his father's work. Falwell spoke in support of Trump at the Republican National Convention.
Russell Moore may envision an evangelical movement unhindered by racism and bigotry, but just like Henlee Barnette, the Baptist professor who invited King to speak at a Southern Baptist seminary, Moore is wrestling with a powerful heritage. For Jeffress, the heir to W.A. Criswell’s pulpit, to champion an effort to silence Moore, reflects the powerful persistence of an unacknowledged past. After being pressed into an apology for his “unnecessarily harsh” criticisms, Moore has been allowed to keep his job – for now.
Falwell appears with Donald Trump at a campaign event in Iowa. Do not try to cash this oversized, under-funded, replica check (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Public perception that a “Southern strategy” conceived and initiated by clever Republicans turned the South red is worse than false. By deflecting responsibility onto some shadowy “other” it blocks us from reckoning with the past or changing our future. History is a powerful tide, especially when it runs unseen and concealed. A refusal to honestly confront our past leaves us to repeat our mistakes over and over again.
Texas House member Rick Perry was taking a chance in 1989, when he decided to leave the Democratic Party to become a Republican. He leaned heavily on the emerging religious right and their campaign to convert the state’s Democratic majority. His efforts were richly rewarded. Baptist mega-pastor Robert Jeffress was a major supporter along with other evangelical leaders. Now Perry, after becoming the longest-serving governor in Texas history, sits in Donald Trump’s cabinet as the Secretary of Energy.
No one needs to say “N..r, n..r” anymore. With help from evangelical pastors, this new generation of politicians has found a new political party and a fresh language with which to stir old grievances and feed their power. By merely refining their rhetoric and activating evangelical congregations, a new generation of Southern conservatives grow ever closer to winning a fight their forebears once thought was lost.

Stanley Hauerwas on Students Thinking for Themselves

There's much here I think we need to hear, though we need to realize that when Hauerwas uses the term "liberalism," he includes what we mean today by BOTH "liberal" and "conservative."

Stanley Hauerwas: Modern American Puddleglum

By John Shelton
....“I do not want students to think for themselves[.] I want them to think like me.”5

At the beginning of a course, Hauerwas never fails to tell the classroom, with grinning candor, that his goal is not to make them independent thinkers but instead little Hauerwasians. His point, beyond quite literally desiring to make a peaceable army of minions, is this: we never think for ourselves; we learn to think by submitting ourselves to instruction by others. As John Maynard Keynes warned any would-be freethinkers, “practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”6 Individualism pretends as if humans were actually capable of independence, forgetting that we owe our life and our ability to think to others. Insofar as individualism is a refusal to submit to the authority and critiques of others, individualism is a refusal to think.
Together, individualism and liberalism eat away at the conditions and virtues necessary for community, leaving Americans incredibly lonely and without any story by which to make sense of their sad condition. As Jesus warns, when an unclean spirit is driven out of a man, “it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself … And the last state of that person is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26). So it is when liberalism drives out religious narratives from our self-understanding. Just as Legion is the name of the myriad demons Jesus drives out in Mark 5, Nationalism is the name of the many demons that have taken residence in American churches.>
https://mereorthodoxy.com/stanley-hauerwas/>






Friday, November 16, 2018

How to Support a Friend Going Through a Difficult Time


if someone is sad, do not try to cheer them up but try to acknowledge their pain. - Counter-inuitive, though.

https://www.facebook.com/buzzfeedfyi/videos/312037746243989/UzpfSTEwMDAwMjQwMTM3ODY3OToxOTI1NzcwNTEwODQ2MzA5/

https://www.facebook.com/buzzfeedfyi/videos/vb.597771523939856/312037746243989/?type=2&theater

...But Deliver Us from Optimists

This is what I am trying to achieve as the TKR draws near. But I am surrounded by people who want me to be "optimistic." Just as there is a difference between happiness and joy, there is a difference between optimism and hope. God deliver me from optimists!

"Oh, that's easy," he said. "The optimists."
"The optimists? I don't understand," I said, now completely confused,
given what he'd said a hundred meters earlier.
"The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say,'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.">

__________________________________

Stockdale Paradox: Why confronting reality is vital to success

Balancing realism and optimism in a dire situation is a key to success.

  • The Stockdale Paradox is a concept that was popularized by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great.
  • It was named after James Stockdale, former vice presidential candidate, naval officer and Vietnam prisoner of war.
  • The main gist of the idea is that you need to balance realism with optimism.
In paradox we often find some of the greatest bits of wisdom. The difficulty in understanding a paradox comes from the fact that when it's heard as a maxim in some kind of verbal form, it is contradictory and not intuitively grasped. This said, paradoxes are best understood through experience.
The Stockdale Paradox is one such concept that, at first glance, takes some linguistic mental jumping jacks to fully grasp. This paradox was first put forward in Jim Collin's book Good to Great, a seminal corporate self-help and leadership book.
Author Jim Collins found a perfect example of this paradoxical concept in James Stockdale, former vice-presidential candidate, who, during the Vietnam War, was held captive as a prisoner of war for over seven years. He was one of the highest-ranking naval officers at the time.
During this horrific period, Stockdale was repeatedly tortured and had no reason to believe he'd make it out alive. Held in the clutches of the grim reality of his hell world, he found a way to stay alive by embracing both the harshness of his situation with a balance of healthy optimism.
Stockdale explained this idea as the following: "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."
In the most simplest explanation of this paradox, it's the idea of hoping for the best, but acknowledging and preparing for the worst.

What is the Stockdale Paradox? 

After years in captivity, Stockdale eventually home.
The ability to acknowledge your situation and balance optimism with realism comes from an understanding of the Stockdale Paradox. This contradictory way of thinking was the strength that led James through those trying years. Such paradoxical thinking, whether you consciously know it or not has been one of the defining philosophies for great leaders making it through hardship and reaching their goals.
Whether it's weathering through a torturous imprisonment in a POW camp or going through your own trials and tribulations, the Stockdale Paradox has merit as a way of thinking and acting for any trying times in a person's life.
The inherent contradictory dichotomy in the paradox holds a great lesson for how to achieve success and overcome difficult obstacles. It also flies right in the face of unbridled optimists and those positivity peddlers whose advice pervades nearly every self-help book or guru spiel out there.
In a discussion with Collins for his book, Stockdale speaks about how the optimists fared in camp. The dialogue goes:
"Who didn't make it out?"
"Oh, that's easy," he said. "The optimists."
"The optimists? I don't understand," I said, now completely confused,
given what he'd said a hundred meters earlier.
"The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by
Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then
they'd say,'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and
Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas
again. And they died of a broken heart."

Applying the Stockdale Paradox to your daily life 

We all want things to workout for ourselves. We want to be successful, happy, and have achieved something no matter how trivial or personal it may be. Reaching this state of accomplishment isn't going to come just by positive visualization. That's all well and good and it makes us feel nice. It's why so many people like to listen to the endless screeds of "business gurus" and motivational shysters promising us the world if we only just learned to change our mindset.
Confronting the entire brevity of your situation is instrumental for success. There's a bit of positive visualization in there, but it needs to be counterbalanced with the thought that you can utterly fail and to put it frankly – your current existence might be absolutely miserable and hopeless. But don't lose faith, your wildest dreams just might come true. . . hence the paradox.
It's not about choosing which side to take, but instead learning to embrace both feelings in opposition to one another and realize they're necessary and interconnected.

Stockdale Paradox in business and hardship

On a higher level, and when it comes to business leadership and management, this duality helps to guard against the onslaught of disappointments that will hit you in the business world. Optimism may drive innovation, but that needs to be put in check to help ensure that you're still on this plane of reality and not bumbling naively into something that can't happen.
It's a great mechanism to keep yourself grounded, but also entertain the idea of being incredibly successful in whatever pursuit you're after.
The Stockdale Paradox can help out an organization assess a current situation and plan accordingly to tackle the challenges they come across. It enforces both the idea that you can be positive and believe you will overcome all difficulties while at the same time you are confronting the most brutal facts of your current situation. The latter is what turns people off, because it can be misconstrued as negative or overly pessimistic.

Similar ideas to the Stockdale Paradox

Yet, we'll find again and again that it is this line of thought that fosters success even in the most dire and inhumane of situations. Viktor Frankl, psychotherapy and holocaust survivor, wrote in his book Man's Search for Meaning that prisoners within Nazi concentration camps usually died around Christmas time. He believed that they had such a strong hope they'd be out by Christmas that they simply died of hopelessness when that didn't turn out to be true.
Here is a passage from his book regarding this thought:
The death rate in the week between Christmas, 1944, and New Year's, 1945, increased in camp beyond all previous experience. In his opinion, the explanation for this increase did not lie in the harder working conditions or the deterioration of our food supplies or a change of wealth or new epidemics. It was simply that the majority of the prisoners had lived in the naive hope that they would be home again by Christmas. As the time drew near and there was no encouraging news, the prisoners lost courage and disappointment overcame them. This had a dangerous influence on their powers of resistance and a great number of them died.
Frankl developed a concept he called "tragic optimism," that is, an optimism in the face of tragedy. This idea has gone through many names and iterations throughout the years. In the Nietzschean worldview, it's the idea that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Tragic optimism is similar to the Stockdale Paradox, as they both express a paradoxical idea about acknowledging your current difficulties intermixed with a positive belief that in the end you will still triumph.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Church of the Rez: The Great Doors are finally finished!

My friend, Janice Skivington Wood, helped design these doors for her church in Wheaton, IL. They are breathtaking, and the story of their creation is humbling. Praise God for giving us artists, and craftsmen, and theologians, and congregation that value beauty.

https://spark.adobe.com/page/fgRpgrjVd2Lvw/?fbclid=IwAR0Sn2TX7jae2RpdO3WdP18dMfpbqBcpqkhfjvy_4ENEwR3EFmwgMD-IkhE

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being pro-life without being a pro-life voter

This is a worthwhile essay, and I agree with it wholeheartedly.

https://peaceaftertrauma.com/2018/10/23/blood-on-our-hands-7-reasons-why-im-a-christian-against-abortion-who-doesnt-vote-pro-life/?fbclid=IwAR3Wz0Poza-JmS0StBtIlgmAbYW9CpnH71T5XKecywiZmC1zqtpxJoS1AKI

Blood on Our Hands: 7 Reasons Why I’m a Christian against Abortion Who Doesn’t Vote Pro-life

As we approach the November 6 election in the US, I again hear and read comments that people who vote for pro-choice candidates have the blood of millions of murdered babies on their hands. Sometimes the opinion includes the question of how such voters can call themselves Christian.
I’m one of the people those comments target. I am a Christian from the Anabaptist stream — a historic peace church that includes Mennonites and Amish — and I usually don’t vote for so-called pro-life candidates.
Why? Because the Anabaptist ideal, as I understand it, is that as followers of Jesus, we are to be as pro-life as possible in our complex world. (Some people use the term “completely pro-life,” which makes me wince a bit. Because humanly speaking, when are we consistently and completely anything?)
This means no killing. By abortion. Or the death penalty. Or of enemies, even in war.
You see where this leaves me? Given my faith perspective, to cast any vote is to have blood on my hands. I can find pro-birth candidates. But I have yet to find a completely pro-life politician in any party.
Historically, Anabaptist Christians have “solved” this dilemma by not voting at all. I grew up hearing that not voting is a witness to society that we belong to the Kingdom of God, not to the kingdoms of this world. I was taught that not voting is an expression that we are in the world but not of the world.
Some Anabaptists still follow this practice. Others, including me, believe that we have a responsibility to vote, that there are no pure enclaves under a bushel somewhere to hide in and be absolved of the whole bloody mess. As German theologian and anti-Nazi activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Given the complexity, why don’t I just vote for pro-life candidates, as some of my fellow Anabaptists do, even if those politicians are more pro-birth than pro-life? At least I’d know I’m not supporting the murder of babies. Here are seven head-and-heart reasons:
  1. My convictions are shaped by my work as a counselor with left-behind children in public schools, some of whom wished they had never been born. I’m glad people care passionately about unborn children, but I find my heart breaking when that passion seems to dissipate once a baby is born and disappears altogether at our borders.
  2. I’ve done community trauma work on five continents and have witnessed the devastation and suffering of real people impacted by violence, migration, war, injustice, and dignity violations. The way our elected officials vote on war, immigration, and foreign aid have life and death consequences. I want the babies and children in those far-off places, created in the image of God just like my own, to live and thrive, too.
  3. Pro-life legislators are more likely than their pro-choice counterparts to vote against the very programs that research shows decrease abortion rates: access to affordable contraceptives, age-appropriate sex education, paid maternity leave, and access to affordable child care.
  4. Pro-life politicians are more likely to support the death penalty and increased defense spending, which includes bombs and drones that kill other people’s babies and children.
  5. Even if I don’t condone abortion, I know it’s going to happen. I don’t condone war either, but I know it’s going to happen. I don’t support defunding and closing veterans’ hospitals as an attempt to stop war. Rather, I put my effort into supporting policies that reduce the likelihood of war. Likewise, I believe the most effective anti-abortion work I can do is supporting policies that prevent abortion and decrease abortion rates rather than working to defund or close clinics or criminalize abortion. I value the lives of women having abortions and want them to be safe, just as I value the lives of our veterans who need care even while disagreeing with their choice to go to war.
  6. Being as pro-life as possible means we don’t kill through supporting policies that deprive those unaborted babies, once they get older, of healthcare or school lunches. We don’t kill by allowing assault weapons on our streets or supporting systems that pipeline young people to prison. We don’t kill this beautiful planet Creator God has given us through policies that increase our carbon footprint.
  7. If we’re one-issue pro-life voters, foxy politicians — as Jesus called Herod — play us. All they need to do is say they are pro-life, and voilà, they have a whole flock of Christian voters in their pocket, regardless of their character and even if they support policies that increase abortion rates and kill in other ways.
The way I vote comes from being deeply rooted in my 500-year-old faith tradition, yes. But it’s not just something I inherited. It’s based on what I have seen and heard and carefully considered. When another Christian disparages my lifetime calling and my faith, it saddens and sometimes angers me.
Amidst the clamor that deepens divisions, it’s easy to forget that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love each other. I wish we loved enough to stop demonizing: “Pro-life Christian voters are simplistic and end up harming women and children with their narrow focus;” “Pro-choice voters are disingenuous child murderers who can’t possibly be Christian.”
What if we stopped the othering rhetoric and started over with something we all agree is solidly Christian, a humble confession: We all have blood on our hands.
Maybe then we could work together, despite our differences, in the life-giving spirit of that greatest commandment. Love.
As we approach the November 6 election in the US, I again hear and read comments that people who vote for pro-choice candidates have the blood of millions of murdered babies on their hands. Sometimes the opinion includes the question of how such voters can call themselves Christian.
I’m one of the people those comments target. I am a Christian from the Anabaptist stream — a historic peace church that includes Mennonites and Amish — and I usually don’t vote for so-called pro-life candidates.
Why? Because the Anabaptist ideal, as I understand it, is that as followers of Jesus, we are to be as pro-life as possible in our complex world. (Some people use the term “completely pro-life,” which makes me wince a bit. Because humanly speaking, when are we consistently and completely anything?)
This means no killing. By abortion. Or the death penalty. Or of enemies, even in war.
You see where this leaves me? Given my faith perspective, to cast any vote is to have blood on my hands. I can find pro-birth candidates. But I have yet to find a completely pro-life politician in any party.
Historically, Anabaptist Christians have “solved” this dilemma by not voting at all. I grew up hearing that not voting is a witness to society that we belong to the Kingdom of God, not to the kingdoms of this world. I was taught that not voting is an expression that we are in the world but not of the world.
Some Anabaptists still follow this practice. Others, including me, believe that we have a responsibility to vote, that there are no pure enclaves under a bushel somewhere to hide in and be absolved of the whole bloody mess. As German theologian and anti-Nazi activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Given the complexity, why don’t I just vote for pro-life candidates, as some of my fellow Anabaptists do, even if those politicians are more pro-birth than pro-life? At least I’d know I’m not supporting the murder of babies. Here are seven head-and-heart reasons:
  1. My convictions are shaped by my work as a counselor with left-behind children in public schools, some of whom wished they had never been born. I’m glad people care passionately about unborn children, but I find my heart breaking when that passion seems to dissipate once a baby is born and disappears altogether at our borders.
  2. I’ve done community trauma work on five continents and have witnessed the devastation and suffering of real people impacted by violence, migration, war, injustice, and dignity violations. The way our elected officials vote on war, immigration, and foreign aid have life and death consequences. I want the babies and children in those far-off places, created in the image of God just like my own, to live and thrive, too.
  3. Pro-life legislators are more likely than their pro-choice counterparts to vote against the very programs that research shows decrease abortion rates: access to affordable contraceptives, age-appropriate sex education, paid maternity leave, and access to affordable child care.
  4. Pro-life politicians are more likely to support the death penalty and increased defense spending, which includes bombs and drones that kill other people’s babies and children.
  5. Even if I don’t condone abortion, I know it’s going to happen. I don’t condone war either, but I know it’s going to happen. I don’t support defunding and closing veterans’ hospitals as an attempt to stop war. Rather, I put my effort into supporting policies that reduce the likelihood of war. Likewise, I believe the most effective anti-abortion work I can do is supporting policies that prevent abortion and decrease abortion rates rather than working to defund or close clinics or criminalize abortion. I value the lives of women having abortions and want them to be safe, just as I value the lives of our veterans who need care even while disagreeing with their choice to go to war.
  6. Being as pro-life as possible means we don’t kill through supporting policies that deprive those unaborted babies, once they get older, of healthcare or school lunches. We don’t kill by allowing assault weapons on our streets or supporting systems that pipeline young people to prison. We don’t kill this beautiful planet Creator God has given us through policies that increase our carbon footprint.
  7. If we’re one-issue pro-life voters, foxy politicians — as Jesus called Herod — play us. All they need to do is say they are pro-life, and voilà, they have a whole flock of Christian voters in their pocket, regardless of their character and even if they support policies that increase abortion rates and kill in other ways.
The way I vote comes from being deeply rooted in my 500-year-old faith tradition, yes. But it’s not just something I inherited. It’s based on what I have seen and heard and carefully considered. When another Christian disparages my lifetime calling and my faith, it saddens and sometimes angers me.
Amidst the clamor that deepens divisions, it’s easy to forget that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love each other. I wish we loved enough to stop demonizing: “Pro-life Christian voters are simplistic and end up harming women and children with their narrow focus;” “Pro-choice voters are disingenuous child murderers who can’t possibly be Christian.”
What if we stopped the othering rhetoric and started over with something we all agree is solidly Christian, a humble confession: We all have blood on our hands.
Maybe then we could work together, despite our differences, in the life-giving spirit of that greatest commandment. Love.