To Boycott. Or Not.

I have been besieged with requests to boycott the NFL.  And to buy burgers at In-N-Out.  (Except that other people have asked me to stop buying burgers there.)  I’ve been told that I need to support Chick-Fil-A, while others are offended if I do.  I’ve been told that I need to avoid Starbucks.  I’ve been asked to burn my Nikes.  Today, I even received a request to boycott Willie Nelson music because he’s singing at a fundraiser for a democratic politician.

The requests, boycotts, and demands are based—in every case—on the politics of the business, the business owner, or the entertainer.

I don’t want to offend you, but I typically ignore these requests.

I don’t make business decisions based on the political status of the business.  I recognize that many people agree with my politics.  And many do not.  I’m okay with that, so I won’t make business decisions based on politics.  And neither will I be offended if you decide to do so.

One of the things I love about America is that we have freedom.  The freedom to take a stand.  The freedom to state our opinion.  The freedom to affiliate.  The freedom to do business with those we choose.

And so my choice is simple.  I won’t boycott you or ignore you or stop doing business with you based on your politics.  My political disagreement with you doesn’t mean that I must separate myself from you or your business.

If I decide to drink coffee, I will choose it based on taste, price, and convenience.  (That means, usually, that I make it at home.)  If I decide to buy a burger, I will choose a burger place with good food, good service, good prices, and a good atmosphere.  I don’t care if the business owner gave money to the Republicans or the Democrats.  I will buy chicken based on the same factors.

I will watch sports or listen to music when I find it enjoyable and when I have the time.  I won’t watch or listen (or refuse) because a politician asks me to do so.  I know that there are good people on all sides of every political viewpoint in every business, sports league, and musical genre.

If I bought shoes, I bought them because I liked them, I could afford them, and they do what I need them to do.  I’m not going to burn an otherwise good pair of shoes because of an advertisement.  It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the fact that I’m too cheap to burn money.

Understand, I won’t judge you if you do boycott.  Please don’t judge me if I don’t.

That’s enough writing.  I’m going to buy an In-N-Out Burger AND some Chick-Fil-A nuggets and sit down with a hot cup of coffee.  And I’m going to put on my Nike shoes, my Adidas shirt, and my Reebok socks and listen to Willie Nelson while watching the Oakland Raiders.

Don’t judge me.

 And I won’t judge you.

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Before I Vote for You . . .

Some find it easy to choose their candidate and make their vote.  I don’t.

Maybe it’s because, as a Christian, I have unusually high expectations for leaders, and we aren’t always offered high quality candidates.  Maybe it’s because I’m disgusted with our two-party system, for I don’t identify completely with either party.  And maybe it’s because I’m not looking at the same things that others look for.  Honestly, I often find myself disagreeing even with other believers on who to vote for.

Or maybe it’s just supposed to be hard.

I’m only one person with one vote, so I don’t expect a candidate to cater to me.  Nevertheless, if you want my vote, this is what is important to me:

  • The most important thing I look for is character.  Do you have personal and public integrity?  Are you honest and do you tell the truth?  Are you a person with high moral standards?  Can I trust you to do what you say you will do?  Do you do your homework so that when you speak, you have the facts?  Are you willing to tell me where you stand and what you believe on the hard issues?  Can you run on your integrity rather than participate in the name-calling and mud-slinging that are common in today’s politics?  Can you resist bribes and pressure from others?  When you’ve been wrong, can you admit it?

  • One way I examine your character is to look at your personal and business life.  I don’t need all the details, but have you released enough information about yourself that I understand your family, your values, your morality, and your finances?  I’m not looking for perfection.  I’m willing to vote for people who have made mistakes and who have done dumb things, but I want you to admit it and move on rather than hide it or lie about it.

  • I want to see integrity in your voting record.  Did you vote the way you promised, or at least give an honest reason on why you changed your mind?  Does your voting record show that you’re not a clone of another politician or your party?  Are you more interested in doing the right thing for your country than in pleasing your political party?  Are you a strong enough person to resist the inevitable pressure to conform?

That’s where I start.  Character is the most important issue, and I will not vote for you if you don’t meet my character test.

If there are no candidates in a race with that kind of integrity, I’m completely willing to leave that portion of the ballot blank.  I want candidates and political parties to nominate men and women of character.

There have been multiple times in recent years in which I didn’t vote in a particular race.  I’ve been challenged by friends—and I understand what they’re saying—who tell me I’m letting others decide for me. But that’s not how I look at it.  You have to earn my vote with your integrity.

I may still choose to vote for you if I disagree with you on issues—but I do want to know your stance.  (I won’t bore you in this blog with my own stances.  I keep most of my political opinions—but not my moral opinions—out-of-the-pulpit and church publications, but if you ask me in person, you might get an earful!)  I do expect candidates to openly share their stance on abortion, religious liberty, immigration, the border, the budget, Dreamers, the environment, gun control, the military, racism, public education, wages, crime, health care, terrorism, the safety of our schools and public areas, government regulation, and a whole host of other issues.

And I want to know more than simple platitudes.  Before the primary election, Dawn and I (who recently moved and are in a new legislative district) researched the official web pages of a host of candidates.  Every candidate said they loved their country and they supported the constitution, local businesses, faith, family, and morality.  That sounds nice . . . but I needed to know more.  (I also emailed their campaigns for more details on specific issues.  The only response I received was of the “I thank you for your support and please send in your much-needed contribution” type.)

If you can’t tell me where you stand on the issues, I can’t vote for you.

I’d also like to hear what you plan on doing about some long-term issues that most politicians avoid.  How are you going to deal with the long-term stability of Social Security?  How will you deal with growing racial tension?  How do you plan on dealing with Russia, Iran, North Korea, Syria and other international issues?  How will you deal with our serious environmental issues?  We have a very large—and growing—prison population.  Is there anything we can do to reduce this population and still reduce the crime rate?  Healthcare costs continue to rise more rapidly than the overall cost-of-living.  Do you have a plan to deal with this before many Americans are priced out of the healthcare system?  Our education system needs to be improved if we are going to keep up with other nations.  Do you have a plan?

I know ahead of time that I won’t agree with you on every issue, but I do want to know that you’ve put some time and energy into solving the issues we face.  And I want to see something much more intelligent and nuanced than you can give me in a 30-second soundbite or in a one paragraph webpage.

What am I saying?

It’s simple.

I probably won’t agree with you on every issue, but I won’t vote for you until you’ve earned my respect.

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A Daughter’s Tribute

United States Senator John McCain passed away this weekend.  As a pastor who wants to focus on Jesus, I usually don’t say too much about politics and politicians.  Nevertheless, I was deeply moved when I heard the news.  I didn’t agree with him on all things, but I deeply respected him as a man who lived by his convictions and stated them when they were popular and when they were not.  The fact that even his political enemies considered him a friend says a lot about the type of man that he was.

I was even more moved when I read the words that his daughter, Meghan McCain, penned for her father at his passing.  I don’t know that I have ever read a better tribute.  If you have not read them, let me offer them to you in their entirety.

 My father, United States Senator John Sidney McCain III, departed this life today.

I was with my father at his end, as he was with me in the beginning.  In the thirty-three years we shared together, he raised me, taught me, corrected me, comforted me, encouraged me, and supported me in all things.  He loved me, and I loved him.  He taught me how to live.  His love and his care, ever present, always unfailing, took me from a girl to a woman—and he showed me what it is to be a man.

All that I am is thanks to him.  Now that he is gone, the task of my lifetime is to live up to his example, his expectations, and his love.

My father’s passing comes with sorrow and grief for me, for my mother, for my brothers, and for my sisters.  He was a great fire who burned bright, and we lived in his light and warmth for so very long.  We know that his flame lives on, in each of us.  The days and years to come will not be the same without my dad—but they will be good days, filled with life and love, because of the example he lived for us.

 Your prayers, for his soul and for his family, are sincerely appreciated.

My father is gone, and I miss him as only an adoring daughter can.  But in this loss, and in this sorrow, I take comfort in this:  John McCain, hero of the republic and to his little girl, wakes today to something more glorious than anything on this earth.  Today the warrior enters his true and eternal life, greeted by those who have gone before him, rising to meet the Author of All things:

 “The dream is ended; this is the morning.”

Did you catch the quotation at the end of her words?  They are part of the final paragraph in C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle,” the last book in his “Chronicles of Narnia,” undoubtedly, my favorite writings (other than the Bible) of all times.

In the closing, the lion Aslan (representing Jesus,) says to those who are now in heaven:

Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadowlands—dead.  The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

That’s the hope and the ending—which is really the beginning—of every believer in Jesus Christ.  We put our faith in God and in Jesus and we do our best in this life, only to find out that this life is only the title page to real life.

We have much to live for in this life, and it is a great adventure.

But the greatest adventure will be the one we experience on the other side.

 

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Public Behavior

Many celebrities, politicians, athletes, and social media users seem to be having trouble determining what is right or wrong.  (Or they just don’t care.)  As a result, we are seeing an abundance of racist tweets, name-calling on Facebook, and putdowns in speeches and interviews.  These remarks are widely condemned and then widely defended.  Unfortunately, the condemnation and defense usually has more to do with politics, religion, or race than with right-or-wrong.

Apparently, it’s wrong when they do it but it’s okay when we do it.

The worst part?

Believers are beginning to act exactly like those who don’t profess Jesus.

Right-from-wrong is not complicated.  Jesus’ standard-of-behavior is easy to understand.  It’s called the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  It’s easy enough that preschoolers can understand it; simple enough that no one who violates it can claim ignorance.

Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Don’t let the behavior of others determine how you act.  Instead, determine how you want to be treated and treat others in that way.  That is what Jesus taught.

Do you like it when people put you down?  Then don’t put others down.

Do you like it when people call you names?  Then don’t call others names.

Do you like it when you are judged because of your race, your sex, your looks, your accent, your education, your political party, or your income?  Then don’t judge others.  Then don’t make racist or sexist comments.

Do you like it when people post false things about you on social media?  Then don’t post incorrect or misleading things yourself. 

Do you like it when people use profanity in conversations with you?  Then don’t resort to profanity when talking to others.

Do you like it when you can’t make a political, moral, or religious point because the person you are talking to resorts to yelling and screaming?  Then don’t yell to others.

I’ve heard all of the excuses and all of the justifications, but none of them pass the Jesus test.

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

It’s Jesus’ Golden Rule, and it’s not complicated.  It applies to personal conversation, political conversation, religious discussion, and social media posts.

If you are serious about following Jesus.

 

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Abusive Relationships

The words of a prominent Southern Baptist leader (made several years ago but brought to public attention in the last few weeks) has caused a firestorm of anger, accusations, debate, and defense.  The leader essentially said that in the case of physical abuse, a woman should rely upon prayer and the help of the church and stay in the relationship.

He was wrong.

I believe in marriage and the family.  I believe in prayer.  And I believe that the church can and should help strengthen marriages.

But I also strongly believe that a woman should get out of a physically abusive relationship immediately.  And she should stay out until her spouse has sought and received real help.  I’m not counseling divorce.  I’m saying that a woman in an abusive relationship needs to protect herself.  There will be time later to talk about reconciliation, but she shouldn’t be reconciled until there is real evidence and an established pattern of change.

An apology is not enough.  Tears and deep regret are not enough.  Promises are not enough.

The truth is that in a huge majority of cases–even when apologies, tears, and promises are offered–the pattern repeats itself and the abuse becomes a cycle.  And usually the cycle grows worse each time around.

Women, my advice is simple.  Get out of an abusive relationship until help from outside the family is sought and received.  It’s good that you want to believe his apology.  It’s appropriate to believe his tears are real.  It’s loving to believe his promises.  But an abuser needs to do more than apologize, cry, and promise to be different.

Men, my advice to you is also simple.  I know that your apologies are sincere, your tears are real, your shame is genuine, and your promises are heartfelt.   But you need outside help.  Start with your pastor.  Go to the classes and counselors he suggests.  Join a men’s group.  Make deep and honest changes–before you try to talk your wife into coming back.

My prayer is always for reconciliation.  But no woman should feel that she has to stay in an abusive relationship.  It’s not the right thing.  It’s not the Christian thing.  It’s not a helpful thing.

My advice to this Christian leader at the heart of this firestorm is also simple.  Rethink your words and your advice.  Repent of your remarks.  You’ve backed down somewhat from your original statements, but you didn’t go far enough.  No woman should feel like her church is leading her to stay in an abusive relationship.  And as a leader, you need to make that abundantly clear.

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Pro-Life From The Womb To The Tomb

You can call me a pro-lifer, as long as you understand that being pro-life is much more than being against abortion.

I agree with “Choose Life,” as long as you understand that it is much more than an anti-abortion slogan.

I have a deep respect for all human life, from the womb to the tomb.  I want to love, help, and care for all human beings, of any age, ethnicity, situation, background, and faith.  It is a deeply held conviction that human life is special, unique, and almost sacred.  This deep respect and love for human beings is based upon the Bible teaching that all human beings are made in the image of God.

Therefore, my love for humanity and individuals is not limited to the unborn, to American citizens, to whites, to English speakers, or to Christians.  I try to live in such a way that my love and respect for human beings is not limited by any factor or situation.  It’s a human thing based on a God thing.

Therefore, let me point out some specifics of what I mean when I say I am “pro-life” and what I believe it should mean to every Christian:

  • I believe that life begins at conception and that it should be valued from that moment. I will let others argue the definitions and the legalities; but I do believe that from the moment of conception, there are two lives at stake—the mom and the baby.  It’s not just a women’s right issue.  There is another human life and that life also has value.  So when I speak against abortion, I am not speaking against a women’s right to choose what to do with her own body.  I am standing up for the rights of another human being.

  • But I believe that pro-lifers need to do much more than just speak against abortion. We need to work hard with mothers and fathers to give them the health, the nutrition, and the skills they need to be good parents.  That is why our Pregnancy Center spends the bulk of its time and resources on counseling women, teaching parenting skills, and providing clothing, diapers, and other necessary items to families.  We do share our pro-life opinions, but we focus our energy on helping anyone who shows up regardless of their situation, opinion, or decision.

  • I believe that pro-lifers need to take a strong stand for children—especially hurting children. We should work hard to stop child abuse.  We should work hard to provide adoptive families and foster parents.  We should work hard to strengthen families and to teach strong marriage and parenting relationships.  We should work hard to support quality public and private schools staffed with quality (and decently paid) teachers and staffers.  We should work hard to make sure that the children in these schools are safe and protected from danger.  And we should pay whatever taxes are necessary to support our schools.

  • I believe that pro-lifers need to work hard (as Jesus did) to help those who are underprivileged, poor, homeless, sick, and disabled. That’s why our church offers free medical care, free brown-bag lunches, and a free homeless shelter.  We do it because we value human life for those in our congregation and those who are not; for those who agree with us and those who do not.  We call on other churches to do the same.  It is a great thing to worship and love God, but real worship and real love for God will show itself by loving those whom God has created.

  • I believe that pro-lifers need to treat all people with respect. When we evangelize—and we do—we will do so without putting down others who disagree with us.  We believe strongly in God, in Jesus, and in the Bible, but we will still treat those who disagree with us respectfully, regardless of their faith, their skin-color, their language, their nationality, or their morality.

  • I believe that pro-lifers need to work hard for those in America and beyond our borders. We are called to care for hurting people wherever they may be and regardless of their citizenship.  We believe what our Declaration of Independence so eloquently states, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”   The rights come from God and so they are not limited to those who hold American citizenship or who live underneath the freedoms granted to us by our constitution.  This includes aliens within our borders, refugees who are fleeing tyranny and war, and citizens of other countries faced with hunger, homelessness, and hardships.  That’s why our church builds homes and sends food to Dominica.  That’s why we partner with and support Disaster Relief Teams.  That’s why we partner with an organization that helps refugees.  We wish we could do more, but our love for God demands that we at least do something

  • It is because I am pro-life and I want to treat all people fairly that I support the right of Dreamers to have permanent status and even citizenship in our country. They were brought to our country by a family member when they were young; it was not their decision.  To deport them now that they are adults goes against my understanding of fairness and justice for all.  There are, I know, other immigration policies and border security issues that need to be debated and decided, but my pro-life understanding demands that I treat all people fairly and respectfully.

  • It is because I am pro-life that I believe people should have some control over their death. If someone wants to die at home rather than in a hospital, I support that right.  If someone decides that treatment is no longer necessary or desirable, they have the right to make that decision.  I don’t condone active euthanasia (life is too sacred to take it unnecessarily), but since death is a natural part of life, I don’t feel the need to prolong life just because we can.

I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.  I believe in God and I believe that human life has been created in the image of God. Therefore, all human life is to be protected, respected, and loved.  And if my faith in God is real, it will lead me to love and respect people.

All people.

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Things I’d Like to See . . . Respect

I believe in respect.

Unfortunately, I don’t see much of it anymore.  American culture seems to run on disrespect.  Politicians show complete disrespect to other politicians.  Crowds at ballgames disrespect the players, the referees, the coaches, and fans of the other team. And disrespect aimed at teachers, police officers, retail clerks, waiters, the flag, and drivers is rampant.  We have become a disrespectful society.

I’d like to make a strong call for a return of respect and civility, especially in Christian circles.

I know all of the standard excuses for not offering respect.  “You have to earn my respect” is a common refrain.  I’m often told, “He isn’t worthy of my respect.”  And in a silly justification that makes adults sound like preschoolers, I often hear, “He disrespected me, so I don’t have to show him respect.”  That’s the same argument of “he started it” that drives parents crazy when it comes from their children.  And it’s less justified among adults than it is among children.

I’m calling for respectful behavior whether or not it is earned, and especially when it is unearned.  As believers, we are not responsible for the behavior of others.  We are responsible for our own behavior.  And respectful behavior is part of the character of the Christian.  Peter told the church,  “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”   (1 Peter 2:17, NIV)  And he wrote this in an era in which the emperor was unworthy of respect.  His point is not to respect those who have earned it, but to offer respect to all people–to be respectful in all situations and not to just act respectfully in certain situations.

Now that I’ve introduced the topic, let me be specific about what I want to see in a return to respect and civility:

  • I want politicians to STOP calling other politicians names. I want an end to Twitter wars between governmental leaders.  Disagreement is to be expected; disrespectful behavior is not.

  • In a similar fashion, I want to see respect shown by all people for all political leaders.  Right now, conservatives show respect to conservatives and call liberals disgusting names.  Liberals show respect to liberals and call conservatives disgusting names.  Respect doesn’t require agreement and shouldn’t be offered just to those agree with you.  Political discussion today now sounds more like the name-calling and spitting contests that occur between kindergartners when there are no adults in the room.  And that description may be unfair to kindergartners. 

  • I want to see police officers shown respect.  I’m not saying that all police officers are always right, but they deserve our respect because of the job they have been hired to do.

  • I want to see sports figures, coaches, and referees shown respect.  I am deeply disgusted when I’m in an arena or ballpark and the entire crowd is shouting an obscenity–in unison.  It’s repugnant and barbaric behavior.  We have forgotten that our opponent in a contest is not our sworn enemy.  And the referees charged with running the game will often be wrong, but they still deserve respect.

  • I want to see ballplayers and crowds show proper respect to our nation, our leaders, our ideals, our national anthem, and to the flag.  I know there are real issues that need to be addressed.  I know that people have a right to protest and share their opinions.  And I want to hear (and I even agree with some of) those opinions.  But if you want your protest to be heard respectfully, you need to first offer proper respect.

  • I want to be able to have political and even religious discussion on social media without name-calling and falsehood.  In today’s world, because of the widespread lack of respect for the opinions of others, it’s almost impossible.  I often keep my mouth shut, not because I’m ashamed of my opinions, but because it starts a war of words that I want nothing to do with.

When I lead Children’s Camps, I give the children 3 basic rules for a good camp.  Rule number 1 is “Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there!”  Rule #2 is “Respect all nouns!”  That includes the camp, the counselors, the other kids, the camp pastor and musicians, the vehicles we travel in, and anyone else we meet.  And rule #3 is simple, “Have Fun!”

Those are pretty comprehensive rules for anyone at anytime.  And rule number 2, “Respect all nouns” is deeply needed in the Christian community of today.

Respect.  Civility.  Dignity.  Courtesy.

They are almost forgotten American characteristics.  But they should never be forgotten by the true follow of Christ.

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Things I’d Like To See . . . Arizona Version

I love Arizona.

I’m not a native, but I’m close. My family moved here when I was 2.  I’ve lived in Arizona for 54 of my 59 years. And I’ve never really wanted to live anywhere else.

But that doesn’t mean I love everything about Arizona. There are many things I’d love to see change. Some of these are political. Others are non-partisan in nature. Some of them are personal.

What would I like to see?

  • I’d like to see teacher pay increase dramatically.  I believe in education, and my children have been privileged to have some excellent teachers, but they are severely underpaid. Starting teacher pay needs to be increased about $10,000 per year. Immediately.  I’m personally willing to have my taxes increased to make sure this happens—as long as it goes to teacher pay. If this doesn’t happen, we will fail to attract the quality of families and jobs we will need.

  • I’d like to see a freeway all-the-way from Phoenix to Las Vegas.

  • At the same time, though, I’d like to see a less car-dependent state, with more good options for mass transit, biking, and even walking. I’d like an easy way to go from my home in Avondale to downtown Phoenix on mass transit.

  • I’d like to see revitalization of places like Maryvale and South Phoenix.

  • I’d like to see more independents in the State House and Senate.  And I’d like to see more ethnic diversity in all levels of government.

  • I’d like for those who don’t belong to a political party to have the right to vote in presidential primaries.

  • I’d like to see the Diamondbacks, Suns, and Cardinals all make the playoffs in the same year.  (I can dream, can’t I?) And as long as I’m dreaming, I’d like to see it happen when Larry Fitzgerald is still playing.

  • I’d like to see UA or ASU win a national championship in football and/or basketball.  And I’d like to see GCU become a national powerhouse in basketball.

  • I’d like to see more affordable college education and job training opportunities.

  • I’d like to see walking trails and recreational corridors following the canals and rivers in the Phoenix area.

  • I’d like to see more prosperity in the inner city areas and on the reservations.

  • I’d like to see Arizona do more to conserve water and energy and to keep our air clean and for us to become a world-leader in these areas.  We need to recognize that we live in a desert with extreme temperatures and very little water. We need to learn to live accordingly and to show others how it can be done.

  • I’d like us to see us do more to recognize and even celebrate our Spanish and Native American heritage and culture.

  • I’d like to see more Caucasian Arizonans (like me) learn to speak Spanish instead of complaining about Spanish speakers.

  • I’d like to see more quality jobs in the west valley and in our small towns.

  • I’d like to see more churches feed and house the homeless.  We can do it more effectively and more compassionately than can government.

  • I’d like to see us treasure our natural areas and wilderness areas even-more-than-we-do and keep them clean.

  • I’d like to see us thin our forests effectively to reduce the chance of catastrophic fires.

  • I’d like us to find a better way to deal with mental illness and drug addiction. Many end up in jail or on the streets; neither is a good solution.

  • I’d like more shade in the summer time!

I love Arizona, but there are many things we can do better. My prayer is that a combination of good government, good policies, strong churches, and solid families can help bring these things about!

 

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Things I’d Like To See . . . Washington Version

I follow politics rather closely, but, as a Pastor, I don’t endorse candidates from the pulpit or in my official position as Pastor.  Nevertheless, I think and pray about political and governmental issues a lot.  (And I’ve even been known to rant–regularly, actually–but only at home and with close friends.)  Since I want to reach both Republicans and Democrats with the gospel, I don’t publicly identify with either.  I want to be known more for my faith than my politics.

Nevertheless, there are some things I’d like to see in Washington that are non-partisan in nature.  Here are a few of them:

  • I’d like to see a change in the current “attack” style of politics, starting at the top. That will require less verbal attacking of the president and by the president, and it will need to trickle down to the Senate, the House, and the news media.  I believe that it is possible to show respect even when we strongly disagree, and I’d like to see more of that in Washington, the news media, and especially among believers.

  • I’d like to see more working together “across the aisle.”  I personally believe, though others will disagree with me, that there are both Democrats and Republicans with integrity who have good ideas and should be heard.

  • I’d like to see us pass a budget every year without the need for temporary short-term extensions.  Having a “crisis” every month with one party or the other threatening to shut down the government is no way to govern.

  • I’d like to see us cut government spending now that we’ve cut taxes.

  • I’d like to see Washington deal openly, honestly, quickly, and fairly with those accused of sexual harassment and immorality regardless of their party affiliation or their position in the government.

  • I’d like to see Washington deal with the many tough issues that our country faces.  I hear the standard arguments from both sides but rarely do I see a decent bill or even a suggestion on how to deal with climate change, immigration, Social Security stability, infrastructure needs, energy production and use, racial inequalities, a way-too-high murder rate, widespread drug use and overdose, and the many other issues our country faces. I expect our leaders to have the courage to deal with the tough issues, even if the best answers tend to be unpopular.

  • I’d like to see some real and definitive conclusion to the many ongoing investigations and probes, and I’d like these conclusions to be based on real facts rather than politics.  Right now, Democrats attack and investigate Trump and Republicans attack and investigate Clinton with each party defending their own.  If there is guilt–regardless of party–prove it and deal with the consequences.  If there is no guilt, let’s move on to more important issues.

  • I’d like for Washington to find a fair way to treat Dreamers and give them a path to citizenship.  I understand there are broader immigration issues that we disagree on, but most Americans agree that those who came here as children should not be forced out of our country.  We can still debate the bigger immigration issues we face without being unfair to those who are here through no fault of their own.

  • I’d like for Washington to find a fair but temporary way to help people in need without designing a system that encourages lifelong welfare.  We can be both tough and compassionate–but some of our policies need to change to encourage work-instead-of-welfare, job creation and job skills training, and personal accountability and responsibility.

So when I pray for our country and our leaders–and I do so often–these are some of the things I pray for!

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A Cake and a Court

There is an interesting case before the Supreme Court right now that is of great interest to believers.  And despite what you may have heard from both sides, it’s not an easy decision for the court.

The case is relatively straightforward.  A Colorado baker refused to design a cake for a gay couple.  He would have gladly sold them anything off the shelf.  He didn’t refuse to do business with them, but he did refuse to design a cake celebrating their wedding.  Here are his words:

“I’m happy to sell a cake to anyone, whatever his or her sexual identity. People should be free to make their own moral choices. I don’t have to agree with them. But I am responsible for my own choices. And it was that responsibility that led me to decline when two gentlemen came into my shop and invited me to create a wedding cake for their same-sex ceremony.  Designing a wedding cake is a very different thing from, say, baking a brownie. When people commission such a cake, they’re requesting something that’s designed to express something about the event and about the couple.  What I design is not just a tower of flour and sugar, but a message tailored to a specific couple and a specific event — a message telling all who see it that this event is a wedding and that it is an occasion for celebration.  In this case, I couldn’t. What a cake celebrating this event would communicate was a message that contradicts my deepest religious convictions, and as an artist, that’s just not something I’m able to do, so I politely declined.”

Colorado, however, considered their actions discrimination, since they were a public bakery and Colorado law doesn’t allow discrimination on the basis of sexual preference.  The case has made it all the way to the Supreme Court.  Essentially, the case pits the rights of business owners to exercise their religious freedom against the rights of a state to enforce anti-discrimination laws.

Religious freedom is a bedrock value of our country and our constitution.  At the same time, we all want to live in a country where discrimination has been eliminated.  So I encourage you to understand both sides of the argument before you decide which is right.

On the one hand, all believers can understand the point-of-view of the baker.  He is saying that it goes against his strongly held religious beliefs to contribute his talents to a wedding that he doesn’t agree with.  He asked the court a good question, “If a consumer tried to hire an ad agency to promote the KKK, would the ad agency have the right, based on their religious and moral values, to say no?  Does the court have to agree with my moral and religious values in order to say that I have a right to refuse?”

I completely understand his argument and the point of his questions.

On the other hand, the state is saying that they have a right to enforce anti-discrimination laws.  And they asked a good question, “If a restaurant said that it was against their religious and moral beliefs to serve black people, couldn’t we enforce our anti-discrimination laws and force them to do so or else shut them down?  And since the courts have ruled that gay marriages are legal and that homosexuals are a protected class, can’t we enforce our anti-discrimination laws against the baker?”  (Set aside the argument, for now, about whether sexual identity should be a protected class.  The courts have ruled, at least in Colorado, that it is a protected class.)

Colorado asked some good questions, but I think that they are missing an important distinction, and it’s my hope that our Supreme Court will be wise enough to see it.

There is a significant difference between selling a cake and being forced to use your artistic talents to design a cake that promotes something you don’t agree with.  A  Christian baker should sell anything in his bakery or in his design book to anyone that comes in off of the street.  If a gay couple comes in and says “I want that cake in your design book that has two rings on it,” and the baker refuses to sell it to them, he is guilty of discrimination.  But if the same couple comes in and says, “I want you to design a cake that celebrates a man marrying a man,” the baker should have the right to refuse based on freedom of religion.

Here’s the bottom line for me if I’m a Christian baker:  I want to treat all people with respect and equality, so I will sell them whatever I can whether I agree with them or not.  But I don’t want to put my talents into promoting a value that I am morally opposed to, so I want the right to say “No thank you” when necessary.

It’s a fine distinction, but an important one, and one that the court should understand.  If the court decides appropriately, it can honor our country’s strong stand on religious freedom. At the same time, it can still express a strong and necessary anti-discrimination message.

I’m praying that our court can see this distinction, and make a wise decision.

 

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