Wednesday, July 27, 2016

This is Not a Political Endorsement

The blatant quid pro quo with which one Donald J. Trump has treated Christianity over the past several months is absolutely galling. For the greedy, plutocratic Trump, such transactional modes of communication may well be the default, but for those of us who follow and worship a Messiah who very explicitly and repeatedly not only disowned for Himself but condemned in general worldly wealth and power, it should have never come to this.

And by "this," I mean the insertion into Trump's acceptance speech last week--amid apocalyptic threats of illegal immigrants, zombies, and the ghost of Vladimir Lenin--in which he came out for eliminating what nominal constraints on political speech currently exist for pastors and for churches.

Those constraints can basically be boiled down into one: we cannot endorse political candidates as a part of any office or position we hold. I am free to donate my time or my treasure to a candidate or a cause, but it has to be off company time and on my own nickel.

Since I consider this blog a part of my ministry, this post, therefore, won't contain any endorsement from me--at least, not for any candidate who may or may not be running for political office. There are, indeed, many other things that I do wholeheartedly endorse. The Bible. My churchladies' casseroles. Single malt scotch. Kansas City sports teams.

But you won't see me endorsing a political candidate here.

That doesn't mean you haven't--and won't--see me avoid talking about those candidates either. I'm a policy junkie from my days as a debater on the high school and college circuits, and that isn't an itch that I can scratch only on rare occasion. I pore over the positions of candidates I consider voting for, I consider their public statements, and I ponder what they may do (versus what they promise--a key difference) if/when elected.

Which is why, instead of an endorsement, I'll simply say this:

Please, do not vote for Donald Trump.

If you're #WithHer, then vote for Hillary Clinton. If you're a suffering Republican--and I empathize with you, because America needs and deserves a center-right party based on humane ideals and conscientious policy, not a cult of personality--who is considering voting for Gary Johnson, then vote for Gary Johnson. If you aren't quite down with Sarah Silverman and her message, then vote for Jill Stein.

Just, please, do not vote for Donald Trump.

I have never been so explicit in my political advocacy as a pastor regarding any candidate; in fact, during the 2012 cycle, I don't believe the words "Barack Obama" or "Mitt Romney" left my mouth from the pulpit the entire time.

And there is a reason for that. While I obviously had an opinion on who between them should be president, I did not see either of them as an existential threat to democracy or to the fundamental value of life that we Christians--and all people--are meant to hold sacred. The candidate I preferred could have lost and while I would have been very disappointed, I could have gone to bed that night confident that the republic would stand and that I wouldn't have any problems singing the Star Spangled Banner in the morning.

With Donald Trump, that quite simply is not the case. Compared to the major party nominees of the past two cycles, we are being presented with someone who has openly endorsed torture, attacking civilian targets, punishing women for seeking abortions, banning an entire religion from the United States, mass-deporting millions of people who have committed no violent crime whatsoever, and who in turn has been openly endorsed by two of the most ruthless strongmen in the world--Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un (nope, not making that one up).

At a certain point you would think that we would have asked ourselves, why would we want the choice of two authoritarians who are loudly and unapologetically opposed to our interests to be our next president? And as I write these words, Trump just called on Putin's government to continue its cyberwar. No, I'm not making that one up either.

And really, you'd think that would be the last straw for people. You'd think we would be asking ourselves that simple but critical question of why Trump is nakedly against our interests--he literally just said he cares more about embarrassing the first female major party nominee for President than he does about state security. But you--and I--would be wrong. So, I'm talking about it to try to spur these sorts of questions onward.

I'm talking much more frequently about politics this election cycle because, quite simply, this election cycle is different. One of its candidates is different. Spiritually, existentially, morally different. Which means that, as a Christian pastor called and ordained by God's church to teach *truth* as concerns life and God's teaching, I am compelled to speak.

And I will continue to speak even in the face of the depressing news that roughly three-quarters of evangelical Christian voters have fallen in behind the Donald, even though he is a latter-day Caesar in every sense of the term: someone for whom morality is measured only by material wealth and who longs to rule as a selfish, self-serving emperor, not as a democratic servant.

Such rule is not Christian. Such rule never was, and never has been, Christian.

A dear couple at my congregation are mostly my opposite politically--as is the case with many of my beloved people in my politically diverse congregation: we run the gamut from the very conservative to very liberal. And I think that's actually pretty freaking cool when many churches simply act as echo chambers, either being an echo chamber of homogeneity or simply sticking their heads in the sand altogether.

I got a chance this spring to chat with this couple about their hopes for 2016, and they told me that they really liked John Kasich for president. And frankly, I get the appeal, even though I likely wouldn't vote for him myself. So I told them that I really hoped they got a chance to vote for him in the Republican primary. And I truly meant it.

But then the Indiana primary happened at the start of May, both Cruz and Kasich packed it in, and by the time the Washington primary rolled around later that month, Trump had become the de facto nominee.

And in addition to feeling terrible for the wide swaths of people who Trump has gleefully libeled and demonized this election cycle--Muslims, Mexicans, and so on--I felt terrible for my own congregants who did not get a chance to substantively register their disapproval of Trump from a different perspective than mine.

Their perspective deserved to be heard. And I hope the perspectives of all of us will get heard in November.

I'm not telling you who to vote for this November for president. I do not believe that I, or any pastor, should be allowed to do that, despite Trump's blatant pandering to me and to Christendom as a whole.

But I am asking you, begging you, pleading with you: do not let that person be Donald J. Trump. His agenda is one that is against Latinos, Muslims, women, and, indeed, the security of what remains the most prominent democracy in the world.

That is not godly. That is anything but godly. And such an agenda simply cannot be rewarded with legitimacy.

Thanks for listening.

Vancouver & Longview, Washington
July 27, 2016

Image of Cheeto Jesus courtesy of Youtube

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