The California primary is coming up in just about 6 weeks. As a No Party Preference voter who doesn’t get to vote in the Presidential Primary, and as someone who really isn’t involved in national politics anyway, my attention for the March primaries is on the local races.
Here’s why I’m a YES on Prop 5 on the California ballot:
Friends who live in the La Mesa / Spring Valley School District: Please consider voting for Rebecca McRae for LMSV 2018. I know Mrs. McRae as a passionate first grade teacher at Jackson’s school. She’s running as a parent of two kids in the district, her lack of name recognition and political experience speak to her simple desire to see improvements in the district. She’s not running to advance anything other than making the schools better and more welcoming to all.
Why am I showing you a picture of dirt?
I’m showing you this dirt because I made it. It’s important to me. It’s no ordinary dirt. This dirt has a story to tell.
As I’ve shared before, our family is on a journey transforming our yard, from something chemically controlled and non-native to something organic and more respectful to where we live.
So what’s that got to do with dirt? Specifically the dirt in this picture?
So… how did we get here?
The United States, self-billed as the greatest country in the world, is lead by Donald Trump, a man whose shown no interest in public service but instead largely used his time to-date for his own self-interest.
I don’t blame Donald Trump for his presidency.
I blame us.
In December 2007 I wrote:
For every cultural phenomenon, there is an equal and fear-based Christian equivalent. Harry Potter is “bad” (according to some) so let’s make some money by publishing books telling people how bad Harry Potter is! Christian pundit James Dobson has made a lot of money with his catch phrases “an attack on truth” and “an attack on the American family” or “liberal activist judges.” Just listen to more Focus on the Family and you’ll know how to protect your family from atheism, homosexuals, and judges.
Never mind (sic) the fact that these are the stupidest statements in the world. If something is true you can’t attack it because it is truth. And my family is not under attack if my next door neighbors are gay. (When was the last time you heard of a gay family leading a raid on heterosexual neighbors?) But you sure can make money on telling people to be afraid of stuff like that. Why? Because fear is a short-term motivator. If you scare people they will buy. (Or give to your cause. Or visit your website.)
What’s Changed Since 2007?
- Fear is a short-term motivator. The reason news agencies and politicians spend so much time sensationalizing each instance of fear is because the internal motivation we have to respond is so short-lived. But fear almost never results in long-term positive change to address the core of the problem. Was there gun reform after the massacre of children in Newtown, CT? Has there been immigration reform after we spent more than $1 billion on a wall? Has anything changed because of protests regarding police brutality? Of course not. Why? Because when the primary motivator is fear… people don’t stay scared long enough to generate change. You’ve just habituated them to wait for the next thing to be afraid of.
- People are more susceptible to the economy fear now than 8 years ago. We live in a society where a knee-jerk response to fear has been monetized. Why are Republican candidates stumbling over themselves to say the most un-American things about refugees? They think attention will lead to money for their campaigns. I would argue that this economy of fear hasn’t just been monetized, it’s been weaponized against people who cannot defend themselves. The more vulnerable you are, apparently, the better the target of fear you appear to be from the popular majority.
Where is this Going?
I think we’re reaching a tipping point. You have a generation of young adults that have grown up in a world where fear has become monetized (or weaponized.) And since fear is such a short-term motivator that’ll lead to one of three directions.
- Nothing will change. The middle 70% of the population will be just as susceptible to this in 8 years as they are today.
- People just won’t care anymore. A certain portion of the population will just cease to care. They will become un-engageable on social issues, even ones that directly impact them.
- People will game the system. Expect more violence, fear-mongering. There are people who think, “You want me to be scared? I’ll give you something to be scared of.” What will this be motivated by? A desire for power.
On June 15th, 1904 the PS General Slocum was chartered by St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of New York City for $350. 1,360 people showed up that Wednesday for the 17th annual Sunday School picnic. It was a calm and beautiful morning… anyone who has visited Manhattan in the summer can envision this morning. The sun warming away cool breezes, the river waves slapping the dock, and building excitement as people arrived for a fun day.
Even by today’s standards… a church event with 1,360 people is a really, really big deal.
With just 2 weeks to go until the elections I am really enjoying some of the comedy to come out of this election.
Practically speaking, I can’t believe I’ve really watched all four debates. Some of them I’ve actually watched twice. The irony is that I watched the last 2 debates after already voting!
Question: How is your church handling the election? Are you encouraging people to vote? Are you avoiding it altogether? Or are you hosting some way for folks to talk about various candidates for various offices?
Two Big Surprises in the Campaigns
- Obama – While he’s had some very good crowds and some big names, I’ve been surprised at how little attention the Republicans have made about his failed use of star power. The left’s alignment with “Hollywood elite” seemed to work as a political attack in the past, why not in 2012? Seems like they should have talked about how lackluster some of that stuff has been compared to 2008. I mean, compared to 2008 the Obama campaign has been really, really lame. Since California isn’t “in play” we don’t really hear many of the commercials. So maybe I’m just not seeing those attacks?
- Romney – I can’t believe Democrats aren’t appealing to evangelicals over Romney’s Mormon faith. Whether you think Mormonism is another religion altogether or a cult of Christianity, Romney would be the first non-protestant to hold the office since Kennedy. Either way, it’s a really big deal. (Sidenote: I hope the BGEA fires Franklin Graham for rejecting the orthodox position on Mormonism to re-assure conservatives.) My assumption is that many of my evangelical friends really are torn, will say they will vote and tell people they voted, but probably won’t because they can’t vote for either candidate.
- BONUS – If you missed the Vice Presidential debate you missed an incredible articulation between two views on Pro-Life among Catholics. (watch the video) I’m not Catholic, but I do admire how both vantage points are embraced within the church and the church claims both Biden & Ryan as her own. I’d like to see that same respect shared in evangelical circles.
Reminder for comments. I’m totally cool with comments, but let’s be respectful and calm the rhetoric rather than stir it up.
My morning devotions found me in Romans 13 this week. These are timely words from Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
As I meditated on these words, sat on them, stewed on them, on and on… here’s what I’m trying to work on.
- The Evangelical hermeneutic is very simple. (How we read and interpret the Bible) We take the Bible at face value, unless the author makes it clear to do otherwise. This passage is plain talk, intended to be taken at face value by its recipients.
- Paul was writing to Roman citizens… people whose government killed Christians for sport.
- Paul didn’t give readers an out clause. Paul affirmed that Christians needed to respect and honor the emperor of Rome.
- Paul doesn’t give Christians permission to publicly disrespect a leader, even one they disagree with vehemently. Instead he says the opposite. T
The way I see it, it’s totally fine to be engaged in politics. Actually, I think it’s healthy to ask people to be more engaged and understand what’s going on. But lets be sure not to disqualify ourselves from ministry by expressing our political opinion in a way which Paul would label as sinful.
While the political parties are in full freak-out mode, wouldn’t it be great if level headed Christian leaders modeled Paul’s way of civic engagement?
Don’t disengage. But help people engage in more healthy ways.
I don’t know if you watched Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention live or not. I wasn’t planning to watch it but kind of got sucked in during the speech by the mayor of San Antonio.
If you haven’t seen it, allow me to encourage you to watch it above.
What I saw the best political speech I might ever see in my lifetime.Which is saying something, because her husband has had some epic moments during the 2008 campaign. Anyone remember 1 million people showing up at Grant Park in Chicago? I mean Clint Eastwood says he cried. There are reports that Chuck Norris gave up round house kicks to the throat because of Barack’s speech there.
The speech above is amazing in a lot of ways. But, the real question for my fellow church leaders is… what can we learn from Michelle’s speech?
Here’s 5 lessons:
- She was set-up well. The content of her speech was clearly part of the script for the night. Previous speakers didn’t hint at the content of her talk or step on her themes, they didn’t package a video intro highlighting the key words to listen for, etc. The video intro and the introduction set-up the audience for what they were about to hear. Lesson: Don’t make your services so thematic that the sermon doesn’t reveal something. If you are producing services in a theatrical manner (auditorium, stage, lighting, etc) than use that to your advantage. I can’t tell you how many times the person introducing the sermon has said, “the pastor is about to talk about ____.” I mean, really? Don’t do that!
- She was prepared well. Trust me, this wasn’t a speech she practiced twice on Wednesday morning and then said, “I’m good.” That speech was a team effort. She knew where the cameras were, she knew where he emotive points were, she knew which lines were instant Twitter gold, and she was familiar enough with the content of the speech to get past forced gestures and have the whole thing come off as straight from the heart. That only comes when you really, really know your material. Lesson: Too many pastors depend on talent/experience, foregoing the positive impact of practice and preparation. If you are working on this weekend’s sermon this week, you’re not going to get that response. And if you are creating sermons in a vacuum, even with just your staff, you aren’t going to get that response. Prepare more for a better response.
- She stayed within herself. She spoke within a framework that her audience expects of her. Clearly, her speech was political as she tied her families story to the story of millions of Americans in contrast to her husband’s blue blood opponent. But she didn’t get into issues or stomp the stump. She played her part, she was an expert character witness, and you never felt like she was stretching to become believable. Lesson: One of the things I really like about our pastor is that he stays within what he knows well. Too often, I hear pastors preaching things they know little about. You are left to think… “Wait, what does he know about counseling… he has an MDiv, he’s not a licensed therapist.” When you get outside of what you know you start to look real dumb, real fast. If you need an element for something, bring in an expert or use a video.
- She was centrist. For years I’ve talked about the 1-5-10 rule of content creation. Negative content gets a 5 times multiplier versus normal content. But truly remarkable content gets a 10 times multiplier. She didn’t get 28,000 tweets per minute by being negative. She got the massive response by telling a story every person in the room could identify with. Lesson: I’ve heard from pastors who say they preach in response to what’s happening in their congregation. Um, responding isn’t leadership. Leaders take people where they would not go by themselves. Remember, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for EVERYONE. If you are preaching to the choir than you are limiting your potential impact. Instead of aiming your ministry at the top 15% or the bottom 15% of the learning curve, aim for the middle 70% to maximize.
- She was inspirational. Her speech reminded people that the American Dream is not just about financial success. (Certainly, the Obama’s are no longer poor.) Her speech took the audience somewhere. It started as the Obama’s story and morphed from personal pronouns of “my story” to our shared journey of “our story.” You were left not just cheering for the Obama’s but also for yourself. That’s impressive. Lesson: Take your audience somewhere. Help them see that their life with Jesus can add perspective, meaning, and purpose to their lives. Stop talking about the dreams of the individual and move people towards the dreams we can fulfill as a community of believers. I don’t want to go to the mountaintop alone– I want to go with us.