Monday, October 17, 2016

Peace Wielder

My brother and I were talking tonight, about a painting I saw, called “The Peacemaker”.  Peacemaking seems to me to be an art that is rare, one that I am unfamiliar with, and that when my friends and I pursue it, we're begging God to lead us in, because we're clueless.  We’re making these things up as we go, having few examples to follow. 

I want to learn about peacemaking. I want to help heal breaches, but also, I think, God wants me to wield peace against lies and hatred and despair and loneliness - to make peace strong and alive. There is this picture in my head from the stories I've been reading, of grape vines invading things with life, and winding around them, and binding them together, and making them strong as a defense against that which would break us.

Tonight I'm working at these words, but they aren't capturing how excited this idea is burning me, how even trying to ponder the words to use is deepening the picture, and grabbing at parts of me I wasn't sure were connected.  But they are.  They remind me of a time this past year when my identity and calling seemed to be clarifying:

“I like people, a lot, and I love to find out who they are.  I want to help them to know what God is doing in their lives, and also to help them walk in those things by faith.  I’m especially interested in helping them to persevere in hope and faith; to love others and pursue unity; and to live church as a sort of radical, God-empowered inter-dependent family.”

Because I don’t believe that, when God saves us, He turns us only into evangelism machines.  He gives us back the abundant life that was His idea with humans in the first place.  We become the light set in the lampstand that won’t be hidden.  Our lives have fruitful, governing purpose in this world, and, God help me, I want to live it wildly well. 

Our world needs this.  The weapons of division, of hatred, of bitterness, of classifying people as hopeless and other, are damaging nations, families, God’s church. 

The darkness, though, it has a lot of work to do, to hack at a many-corded strand that is already plaited.  It has a lot to do to dim the glory of the good works God has ordained for His people.  It fights weakly against the strength of truth and love, chosen and held up and uncompromised.  Evil gives up ground to the fruitfulness of a people zealous for good works, abiding in the Christ whose we are.  It bows in the face of self-sacrifice purchasing reconciliation through forgiveness. 

To God be all glory.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Five Presidential Candidates More Worthy of Consideration

The following are not endorsements, but according to my research, these are the more qualified candidates running for election (in Colorado, at least): Tom Hoefling, Darrel Castle, Evan McMullin, Mike Smith, and Michael Maturen. There are a few others who seem like good people, but probably couldn't handle being president. I have objections to some of the policies of each of these candidates, some more than others. If you are from another state, and would like help finding out whether any of these men are qualified to receive votes in your state, please contact me.

Of the ones on this list, only Castle and McMullin, I believe are on enough ballots to, by some miracle, win the election in the Electoral College (get to 270 votes). Hoefling could win outright via ballots and write-in’s (he’s registered as a qualified write-in in enough states). But the rest of them are on enough ballots to force the election to go to the US House of Representatives for a decision between the top three recipients of electoral votes (per the Twelfth Amendment). Also, Hoefling, Castle, and Maturen represent parties that could be built for the future, whereas McMullin and Smith are essentially** Republicans who would just be sending a message to the GOP for the future to nominate such candidates rather than a man of doubtful conservative credentials like Donald Trump.

Tom Hoefling (America’s Party, but running as a write-in in most states) is my favorite candidate. I'm not endorsing* this man, and I'm not sure whether I will vote for him or someone else or no one else. His website has a basic summary of his "plan for America" and on the right sidebar, a list of categories or topics in blog format which you can click on if you are interested in a particular issue. That site is: There is also a site for America's Party, with a platform and constitution that goes into more detail:

I have appreciated the access this candidate grants to the general public. He has a teleconference townhall that anyone can join every Tuesday and Thursday evening, and he is quite responsive to questions on Facebook. He is well-read on the founding fathers and other philosophy of government type books. I believe he is a Christian, and a God-fearing man. He believes the US President should/legally can use his office to enforce the 5th and 14th Amendments in the case of abortion (I think he calls this his "Equal Protection for Posterity" position). Even if he doesn't win anything, and even if I don't vote for him, I believe his candidacy is educating many people on some important issues, particularly the debate over "judicial supremacy". 

Darrel Castle (Constitution Party, American Constitution Party) also seems like a good Christian man. His running mate, Scott Bradley is a Mormon. The Constitution Party’s Platform is the best commentary on the US Constitution that I’ve ever read. I’m not sure Castle is as genius as the platform, and I’m not sure he holds to it all, either. He was in the Marines during the Vietnam War. He’s had his own website ( for years, on which can be found audio files explaining many of his positions. I don’t think I ever got around to listening to any of them. It seems to me that, like most Americans, Castle’s belief in the Declaration of Independence and the “rights” claimed in the US Constitution are blended with his religious worldview to shape his understanding of government. As I understand it, he is big on states’ rights. For more information on the issues he’s running on, you can see his campaign website:

Evan McMullin I list next because of his ballot access and popularity. All along I’ve understood McMullin to be a Republican’s Republican. If you have believed in the party and its platform, and if you trust them to act on these issues, he’s probably the man for you. He has a background in the CIA, with Goldman Sachs, and also as an advisor to the United States Congress. Most of his policies are straight down the line status quo (see his website:, with the possible exception of his belief in global warming. He wants to replace Obamacare and keep our military involved in policing the world. He is a Mormon, polling competitively in Utah.

Mike Smith I first discovered when showing my sister-in-law the long list of people in the United States running for president, and he was from Colorado, so I looked up his website, I was pleasantly surprised that he wasn’t some crazy (because there are some of those running). He, like McMullin, is pretty typically Republican, but likely for slightly more limited government (balanced budgets, reduced spending, simplified tax code), and has an educated understanding of “apocalyptic Islam” and the threat it poses to American interests. A highlight from his social policy is, “I will not nominate any Justice to the Supreme Court who believes that the Constitution provides unenumerated rights to abortion.”

Michael Maturen is running with the Solidarity Party, which I first heard about from a Catholic blog. As such, the party’s values are very Catholic, including matters of abortion, marriage, and war. Maturen has the potential to appeal to Christians who were attracted to Bernie Sanders. His economic policies and beliefs about the size and scope of government are far more socialist than I believe in or want to support. For example, “The [American Solidarity Party] advocates the replacement of privately-funded health insurance with a decentralized ‘single-payer’ system.” Such programs would be unconstitutional, unless our Constitution is amended. Their energy and environmental policies are a moderated take on the environmentalism that may appeal to Green Party constituents. If you are Libertarian only because you think the government is wasting its resources fighting the war on drugs, the Solidarity Party is for “decriminalization (not the legalization) of recreational drusgs.” This party presents the most complete synthesis of Democrat and Republican ideals that I’ve ever encountered. The Solidarity Party’s website ( presents a thoughtful approach to government, and I believe Maturen constitutes a more worthy candidacy than Trump, Clinton, Johnson, or Stein.

* Tom Hoefling believes, with the Declaration of Independence, that government ought to be of the people, by the people, and for the people; and that governments are instituted to secure the rights of the people to life, liberty, and happiness; and that when a government establishes for itself a pattern of tyranny, lawlessness, or disregard for God's righteousness, it is the right of the people to throw off such government. Whereas I believe that God ordains governments to carry out justice, and that the citizens do not have the right, before God, to rebel against their governments. I believe that submission is a lost virtue in our society, and I am not sure that in good conscience I can endorse someone who promotes philosophies of unsubmission. But in that case, I do not know if there would be any candidate in America for whom I could vote. So. That's my crazy hang-up this election season.

**Evan McMullin is associated with a few parties, including “Better for America”. He is still essentially a Republican.

To God be all glory.  

Thursday, September 08, 2016


I realized a while back that I was trained to be a hoarder.

Each of my older relatives: parents, aunts, grandparents - wanted to know what I collected.  I had to have an answer.  Otherwise I was an incomplete person and buying birthday gifts for me would have been unnecessarily tricky.

So. I began to think of things I would like to collect.  Here is a sample: tea cups, old books, Belle Barbie dolls, candles, pens.

In addition to "collecting", people set me an example of saving things in case I would need them, or my children might want to.

Books romanticized saving, describing heroines discovering forgotten treasures stored in attics.

We went to garage sales and learned that items have resale value.  Why throw them away when your kids can auction them for profit at an estate sale in a hundred years when you're dead?

The Antiques Road Show showcased items whose value appreciated the longer you saved them.

So, when I tell myself I don't need something; when I drop off a load of things at the Goodwill, and don't even get paid for them; when I evaluate which things in my possession I would actually want to save from a fire, and find a rather short list of necessities - I'm doing pretty well, overcoming this narrative of hoarding.

I'm trying to get better at being a simple, more-Millennial person.  I have friends who teach and encourage me.  And now, since I've identified all these influences, I can devise a rebuttal:

As my friend says, "We collect friends, not things."  Another friend says that "Stores are for storing things."  I don't even have an attic, and it is not quite so romantic to think of finding treasures in the trunk of my car.  My last three garage sales taught me that the time and work it takes to sell my own junk yields a low hourly wage.  Antiques Roadshow has started airing episodes where they show how much the item's appraised value has changed, from the original airing to the rerun, and a lot of them have gone down.  (Beanie Babies are not a craze anymore.)

I don't know if there is a moral reason to hoard or not, but here was a glimpse into my journey to becoming less encumbered.

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016


Today I was thinking about heroes.  So often our favorite super heroes can save everyone.  Doc Ock tosses six different people six different directions, and destroys the brakes on a speeding train.  Spider-Man shoots his webs to save the stragglers, uses his super strength to stop the train, and saves the day.

In that same movie, Spider-Man decides to come out of retirement to save a little kid from a fire, and is disheartened to hear afterwards that some "poor soul" on a higher floor didn't make it out.  But this isn't shown as an inevitable edge to the protagonist's reach; I get the impression that we're supposed to believe that if only Spidey hadn't been taking some time for himself, both victims would have made it out alive.  

Sometimes the crisis of the plot is the hero deciding whether to save one dear friend or to save a larger group of people (and somehow, predictably now, the dear friend  heroically sacrificed is saved in the nick of time anyway).  Other times, the super hero makes a glance at the crushing weight of collateral damage: fighting evil is a destructive war. 

How often do the heroes in our tales face the fact that their powers are, however impressive, limited, and they cannot save everyone?  What if we saw heroes not only facing this, grieving this, but standing slowly - like a weight-lifter, only the weight is borne in the heart, bending shoulders -  standing, straightening, squaring those shoulders, and going out with all the zeal they had yesterday, to save the ones they can, to face defeat again and again, to still care about every one they can't save the same as they care about the ones they can, and still to try? 

Today I was driving to an abortion clinic, to stand outside among such heroes, who spend day after day watching most of the moms they encounter go right on ahead and end most of the lives the sidewalk counselors are trying to save.  This is a heavy burden.

It is not all discouraging failure.  Yesterday, a couple changed their mind, and rejected the violence they had intended.  Would Spider-Man bear up against those odds: one rescued for dozens lost?  These people do.  By the grace of God, they are real heroes. 

To God be all glory.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Across the Sky

Have you noticed that many processes are interactions?

Farming and gardening are examples that involve a lot of work and initiative and dominion - but in cooperation with what "naturally" occurs: rain, sun, a branch sprouting in the wrong direction. To get good fruit, we humans both initiate and respond.

Children are raised not by a curriculum, but by attentive discipleship: when we go out and when we come in, when we sit and when we lie down and when we rise up.

Writing or creating art - even these are best done when, as I have read, we "sit with" our material (sometimes sharing the process with a community of artists). We look at it in lots of lights. (Isn't it convenient that the sun moves across the sky, shining on different aspects of creation in the course of a day?) We wait until we have enough facts, and the facts from outside of us have been catalyzed by the spirit within us. Then comes culmination, fruit-bearing, birth, harvest, maturity.

This is sometimes ugly, sometimes bearing witness to what we wish would just erase itself from existence, and letting it change us instead of ignoring it. This is sometimes painful, sitting in the dark with grief and failure. This is sometimes hard, persisting in a process whose end we are unsure of.

I think that God is (slowly) teaching me about His wisdom and glory in *using* time, and this truth is part of it. It isn't only beautiful seeing a basket of picked elderberries, or a kid finally making a selfless choice, or a fleeing sinner caught at last by the merciful Shepherd. The *process* is beautiful. The loving abiding with people, and tender tending of our works are profoundly moving. I think God is excited to work this way, and that inspires me.

To God be all glory.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Response to Dr. Wayne Grudem's Endorsement of Donald Trump, July 2016

A missionary I know, Cal Zastrow, said, “If the primary goal of voting is winning, instead of being a faithful witness for Christ, then all kinds of evil grows.” I believe that as Christians, more than being patriotic to our nation, we are called to be faithful ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, and to further that kingdom.  We do this, in part, through involvement in earthly matters like grocery shopping, like changing diapers, like giving food to the poor, and like voting. 

This week, respected theologian Wayne Grudem endorsed Donald Trump for president in an article, “Why Voting for Donald Trump is a Morally Good Choice”.  A friend shared the article on Facebook.  I admit that I was shocked at how much I disagree with such an influential evangelical Christian.  I was overwhelmed by how many things seemed 1) unsubstantiated; 2) rational leaps; and most grievingly, 3) misinterpretations of Scripture.  There were other things that may be qualified as more differences of opinion. These do not surprise me; I am used to being in a minority in what I believe about how government should function.  For a brief discussion of these things, see Footnote [1]

The first category of concern, things that seem to me to be unsubstantiated, mostly fall into three subsections.  They are either wild speculations or what I believe to be delusions of fear.  Most of these have to do with the future.  The third subsection is ignoring relevant truths.  

The treatment of third parties at least excludes some truth: the truth of why our political system allows third parties; the truth of what some third party candidates (with far more demonstrable integrity and intelligence than Trump or Hillary) have said they will do as president[2],[3]; the truth of history, that parties have fallen and risen[4], including the Republican Party which was a new, third party when Lincoln was elected president[5]; the truth that the reason we don’t presently see third parties as viable is because we have consistently refused to vote for third party candidates who better represent us; and the truth that votes for third parties have impacts on future elections. 

This year’s election is not an unusual opportunity.  Every year there is an evil candidate, or rather many evil candidates (for many third parties put forward evil candidates), which we the people have an opportunity of defeating.  Sort of:  I can try to persuade you to help me to defeat evil.  I can pray.  And I can vote.  It may not actually be within my power to defeat the Democrat or any other candidate. 

Grudem believes that Trump sincerely wants what is best for America.  I am not in a position to say that this is false.  I don’t have evidence that Trump is plotting the demise of the United States.  I get a different impression, though, that Trump actually wants to further his own interests and to build his own ego.  I am wondering what evidence Dr. Grudem has for his belief in Trump’s motives. 

Will the election be close?  (If he didn’t believe the election will be close, would the arguments in his article be the same?)  We’re three months from Election Day.  Polls of the popular vote, even when factoring in the Libertarian and Green Party candidates, show Hillary Clinton neck and neck with Donald Trump[6].  But elections in the United States are not decided by the popular vote.  They are decided by electors in each state.  News outlets[7],[8], analyzing polling data and voting patterns in previous cycles, have Hillary in the lead by about 50 electoral votes likely to go to her.  Estimates have her with around 200, Trump with around 150, and around 180 votes from a number of states too close to guess.  But if you look at the breakdown of how strong each candidate is in the votes analysts think they are likely to get, you can see that Hillary has far more votes in the “almost certain” and “very likely” categories, whereas about half of Trump’s fall into the “leans towards” Trump description.  If third party campaigns are somewhat successful, as many Republicans fear, more of the independent voters will go to the Libertarian or other conservative parties than would be persuaded to vote Republican, and Hillary’s lead could be even bigger. 

Given the extent of the criminal behavior already documented on Hillary Clinton, without producing prosecution or sufficient public outrage[9], it is very unlikely that “additional shocking email disclosures” would have any new effect.  Obama has endorsed her[10] and has nothing to lose (except before God) from standing behind her and abstaining from prosecution.

The article gives a description of liberalism, “pro-abortion, pro-gender-confusion, anti-religious liberty, tax-and-spend, big government…”  The author applies it to Clinton and Obama, but the definition can just as honestly be applied to Trump[11]Therefore, we will not defeat “that kind of liberalism” by voting for Trump.  He is that kind of liberal.  He may practice it to a different degree, but the essence is the same. 

The judicial supremacy described in this article may be a dominant theory, but it is not true, constitutionally speaking.  We should hold judges accountable for the subversion they commit by usurping the rule of law (the US Constitution) and exceeding their jurisdiction.  Impeachment could moderate their extremism.  And it could remove actual vigilante judges from office.  Then the activism wouldn’t be locked-in.  States and presidents, especially, are obligated to obey the supreme law of the land, the United States Constitution, and there is an argument to be made for states and executives to defy broad applications of specific decisions by the courts.  That is, Obergefell, for example, wouldn’t have to apply to any actual laws (court rulings are not laws) or states or cities or policies that were not included in the original case being brought.  This is the position that Alabama Justice Roy Moore seems to be most recently in trouble for[12].  There are also third party presidential candidates[13], [14] in the current election who agree with at least some of these answers to the Supreme Court argument, and would be willing to act accordingly.  I do appreciate Grudem bringing these problems to light, even if I disagree with his submit-to-the-corrupt-system solution. 

Grudem mentions several close votes on the Supreme Court over the past 30 years, such as the Partial-Birth Abortion Act[15] and Hobby Lobby’s conscience and religious freedom case against being forced by Obamacare to pay for employees’ abortifacient contraceptives.  Some of these have gone in ways we agree with, submitting to the clear language of the Constitution and upholding liberty.  Many significant others have not.  Republican-appointed judges have a long history of assenting to egregious Supreme Court decisions.  Four of five Supreme Court justices giving us the decision in Utah v. Strieff[16], weakening the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches[17], were Republican-appointed[18].  Republican justices have given us Roe v. Wade[19], upheld Obamacare[20], and decided Obergefell[21] (attempting to mandate homosexual marriage).  

I don’t see how a “right to abortion” could be found in the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, nor how it would be substantially different from the Supreme Court rulings already dominating our political climate.  Groups seeking to end abortion are seeking to have Roe v. Wade overturned.  Some are doing this, not by increasing laws that would regulate abortion[16], but by using the wording of the Constitution, including the Equal Protection Clause.  These laws include so-called “Personhood” legislation[22] and the “Sanctity of Life Act”[23].  With an unaccountable judiciary, the court is likely to strike such laws down.  They are, perhaps, slightly more likely to “with one decision” remove all abortion-regulating laws from our country, as Dr. Grudem fears.  I don’t see how a more liberal court would be much more likely to do this than the court we already have, or the one we had when Roe was decided. 

In the history of our country, few significant Supreme Court decisions have been overturned by that court[24].  Fashions have shifted.  The Constitution has been amended.  Wars have been fought.  These have affected the application of some rulings.  Christians want Roe v. Wade to be overturned.  We want justices who uphold justice and the rule of law.  Republicans have not given us such radically righteous justices.  It is an extremely unlikely hope that Donald Trump (who is more liberal than previous Republican presidents) would appoint enough justices who would oppose the trend of popular opinion (our country is more liberal than ever) on abortion, and overturn Roe v. Wade.  I cannot find such a wild speculation to be even a considerable justification for voting for a man who disregards morality (unashamed adultery[25], owning a strip club[26], lying[11], essentially stealing[11]) and justice and the rule of law (promotion of unconstitutional laws, executive orders[27], and policies) himself. 

At multiple points, Dr. Grudem indicates that he is a proponent of state-regulation of things like marriage and abortion.  On both of these issues I believe he is wrong.  Under the United States Constitution, Article IV: Section 1[28], separate states must honor the laws of other states.  If Massachusetts “marries” same-sex partners, then Connecticut is obligated to consider the couple married if they visit or even relocate there.  Thus marriage ought not to be excluded from the jurisdiction of the federal government.  Regarding abortion, the Constitution requires[29], “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  Thus the federal government also has a responsibility to enforce this part of the Constitution, taking only an oversight role if the states are in compliance.  States allowing abortion are not in compliance.  The solution to the immoral and unjust status of our laws is not just to have Supreme Court decisions return authority to the states.  We have a bigger problem. 

Many of the threats to our religious liberty are not coming from courts, but from private businesses or from other branches of government.  Trump, if he were to be elected as our executive, is sympathetic to the homosexual agenda[30], at least, and would no doubt be influenced by that perspective when “executing” his office.  That is, we wouldn’t need a liberal Supreme Court to infringe our rights; the president (whose power via executive order has gone basically unchallenged for decades) would be committing the very trespasses we’re afraid of the court for. 

Even if I prove so wrong, and Trump is electable, and Trump does nominate an honest and wise and selfless judge, and the judge passes the scrutiny of the Senate to have the appointment confirmed, and if the court can hear and rule on cases in such a way as to reign in the courts – we will still have the problem of a lazy, impotent Congress and a largely-unchecked executive branch (the latter of which would likely be exacerbated by a Trump presidency as by a Clinton one – Trump has promised to use executive orders to accomplish his will[27]). 

While the argument that historically, politicians have not “gone back on most of what [they have] promised to do, especially on issues that are crucially important in the election,” might be accurate (and I have doubts even about this), it would be hard to apply to Donald Trump for two reasons.  The first is that he is demonstrably a liar[11].  And the second is that he has, in this one campaign, made many contradictory “promises” about what he will do.  It actually seems incredibly gullible to let a politician take many possible positions that could appeal to different constituencies, and to assume the one he’ll actually faithfully come through on is the position that you prefer. 

Since the article focuses on the issue of the Supreme Court, let me here briefly address the things that Trump has said about the court during this presidential campaign.  Early on, Trump suggested that his sister would make a “phenomenal” appointment to the Supreme Court.  She’s already a federal judge, and she’s not a conservative[31].  Afterward, he said he was joking[32].  Then, he said he would release a list of 5-10 names of potential Supreme Court appointees, and guarantee that, if president, he would pick from that list[33].  Then he released a list of 11 names[34].  Within days of publishing this heralded list, he said he was not guaranteeing that he would appoint a judge from the list[35].  There is also the chance that he would attempt to appoint one, and then back down at the least resistance from the Senate, and appoint someone else. 

Trump has also taken confusing positions on Israel.  Dr. Grudem says that Trump has promised to vigorously defend Israel.  In this same campaign, he has also said that he will remain neutral[36] on Israel’s dispute with Palestine.  But a top advisor has also said that Trump might be against a two-state solution[37].  On the other hand, and in contradiction to the fearful portrayal of “facts” that Grudem’s article gives, we have decades of speeches and actions by Hillary[38],[39] that, even if we don’t fully trust or agree with them, distance her from Obama’s snubbing of Israel.  Grudem’s only evidence that Hillary would be worse than Donald on Israel is that Hillary worked for and is of the same political party as Obama.  She is, however, also married to President Bill Clinton, of the same party, whose treatment of Israel[40],[41] was very different from Obama’s[42]

My second concern was about Wayne Grudem’s reasoning.  If he has a way of connecting principles to his applications, he is not including them in the article.  He asserts that it is OK to vote for someone bad (he calls them “flawed”) because he will do more good for the nation than his opponent.  But he doesn’t justify why he believes this is OK.  This is pragmatism.  I am not opposed to we humans evaluating the world in order to figure out what would be most effective – so long as, in the flow-chart of decision-making, we consider those things after we have determined if we could do them without committing an unrighteous act.  A good end does not make the “means” moral. 

Grudem believes Trump will do the most good for the nation.  Some of this is founded in conservative policies.  Some is founded in speculation (particularly on the power and goodness of the Supreme Court under Trump).  Some is based on subjective consideration of some things as more important than others.  That is, if Trump is too busy doing harm to this nation to do it the good that his supporters hope, this reasoning might turn out to be inaccurate.  I see potential, especially in foreign relations, for Trump to do great harm to our country, including getting us into wars resulting in American casualties.  And in this one area, I believe that he may be likely to get us into bigger wars than Clinton would.  There are also the more abstract ideas of the good or harm of having such a man as Trump represent conservatives and Christians in this country.  What does that mean for the future of the Church here?  What about the future of the Republican Party?  What influence are conservatives and Christians left when we have demonstrated that we are willing to compromise – or worse, been led to justify the wickedness we are endorsing? 

I am just as horrified that a vote may help Trump as I am that a vote may help Clinton.  This whole line of reasoning, that a vote for a third party is actually helping the slightly-leading candidate, has redefined what a vote[43] means.  A vote, to my mind, ought to be viewed as a contribution to collectively making a choice.  Like every choice, one choice excludes another.  If I say that my favorite flavor is chocolate, then I am automatically stating that vanilla and strawberry are not my favorites.  A vote is an endorsement, approval, help.  I am helping whom I vote for.  And there will be all sorts of indirect consequences for what I choose. 

Some sure indirect consequences of Christians not voting either Trump or Clinton are: Republicans will receive less votes than they believed themselves entitled to.  The influence of third parties will be increased for the future.  Speculating now, Republicans in the future may feel less confident that the liberal candidates they’ve been putting forward are electable.  They may begin to reform, to shift to the more conservative end.  Or the system might be too corrupt already.  The powers behind the GOP may be too ideologically against justice, righteousness, the Constitution, economic liberty, and limited government to nominate conservative candidates, even if it might help the Republicans to gain power.  In which case, enter speculation category number two: third parties.  If lesser parties collectively get more attention and votes this election cycle, it strengthens the chances of any third party to gain momentum for the future.  If one third party gets a lot more attention and votes, it makes that one all the more powerful for future elections.  There are federal laws that give campaign money[44] to political parties based on if they reached a certain threshold of the popular vote in the previous election cycle.  There are state laws that grant ballot access based on thresholds of votes in that state[45].  (In Colorado[46], I’m not sure if votes for president apply.  The legal language is confusing to me.)  There is market pressure for websites and television and radio to give attention to things their audiences care about.  And votes indicate that we care.  The whole election paradigm in the United States could be shifting. 

Grudem suggests that we should see Trump’s vice presidential pick as an indicator of the trend of his policy shifts.  Trump is, the author says, moving towards the conservative.  While it is possible for a politician’s choice for vice president to reflect one’s values, in a man famed for “closing the deal”, I have a different hypothesis: that he picked someone who would appeal to a demographic that Trump hadn’t secured by his own personality and variously-contradicting policies.  Maybe he picked Pence to lure conservative Republicans to vote for Trump.  This would also be a tactic seemingly consistent with those of past presidential candidates. 

The third point I raised is – coming from a theologian, seminary professor, and author of a much-used systematic theology – by far the most concerning.  This is his use of Scripture in his argument.  I am certainly interested in learning how the Bible applies to the decisions that we make in this life.  So I am not objecting to a Christian leader making a statement about politics, or bringing the Bible into it.  Rather, I am concerned by the hermeneutics he uses. 

The first, general subject of biblical relevance is whether we can classify such a man as Donald Trump as “evil” or “wicked”, or if we should just remind ourselves that “nobody’s perfect” and consider him “flawed”, but decent as statesmen go.  I will agree with Wayne Grudem when he says that Trump is flawed.  I probably see more flaws than Dr. Grudem does, given the differences I have with him on policy issues.  And I agree with Dr. Grudem’s list of character flaws in Donald Trump.  I have some to add, as well[11]He is a liar and an adulterer.  He has, under cover of law (eminent domain for private use and intentional bankruptcy), stolen for his own gain.  For such things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience[47], and we are commanded to have nothing to do with these things[48]

I’m sure, like every evil dictator in history, that Trump has his good points.  The Bible acknowledges that no one is righteous[49].  We have all fallen short[50]But the Bible also categorizes people into righteous[51] and wicked[52], and warns against associating with the wicked.  I especially commend to you the Proverbs[53] for a study of which type of people fall into which category. 

Christians have been cleansed from the unfruitful works of darkness, and are therefore not classified as evil.  Trump, by his own testimony[54], has not repented, has not sought God’s forgiveness.  He has not been made clean by Jesus’ blood.  So, he remains where his enumerated sins have put him, in the category of an evil man. 

The Bible records what Moses’ father-in-law advised the Israelites about what kind of men to appoint to their government: "Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness...." - Exodus 18:21[55]  Wayne Grudem does not mention this verse when he declares that despite the wicked character of Trump, voting for him is a morally good choice.  Instead, he uses a passage from Jeremiah[56], about the Israelites seeking the welfare of the nation in which they are exiled.  He then goes on to expound what he believes is meant by “welfare”: that which is most likely to bring the best results.  And from there, he says that to vote for anyone who doesn’t have the best chance of beating evil and liberal and full of bad-policies Hillary is disobeying this instruction.  He claims that this command to Israel is to give us the “overriding question” we must ask ourselves when voting.  I wonder why the overriding question does not come from Exodus 18:21 that I quoted above, or Proverbs, or Romans[57]

Perhaps the verse could be better interpreted as exhorting the Israelites to pray or warning the Jews against insurrection?  Something like Timothy’s exhortation[58] for Christians to “pray for… all who are in authority, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence”? 

How would we actually foretell what will be “most likely to bring the best results”?  It is far less arrogant to decide things based on truth and what is morally good in itself – and maybe on direction straight from God – than to weigh out pros and cons of policies and possibilities and contingencies.  Which items hold more weight as we’re weighing?  National security?  Jobs and taxes?  Civil rights? Abortion?  Marriage? Education?  Good Christians can argue all day long on which should be weightier.  But when we vote for president, I contend that is not what we are being asked to do.  We are being asked to choose a leader (specifically one who will carry out the laws in existence, including the Constitution, to command our military in time of war, and to be the head of our foreign relations).  And a nation is blessed when the ruler is righteous[59]

Which brings up an interesting point.  What about God’s blessing?  What about God’s power to deliver and guide and reform?  If we’re being pragmatic about what is possible from a human standpoint, the way our government is in the habit of functioning (not even trying to exert ourselves to reign it in towards how it should, under the Constitution, be functioning) – then we’re leaving out part of the picture.  Is God more likely to do good to a people who choose evil individuals for rulers?  Or is God able to do much good with our faithful choices?  If a remnant of Christians abides by its conscience and votes for actually good, actually qualified candidates – don’t you think God is more likely to show our whole nation mercy for our sakes? 

Next, Wayne Grudem says that defeating Hillary would be a good thing to do, and that since supporting Trump is a way to do that, it is a good thing to do.  According to James 4:17[60], he says, if we know a good thing to do and don’t do it, we’re sinning.  But what is the intended application of the verse?  It is good to do my dishes.  It is good to do my friend’s dishes.  It is good to be a sidewalk counselor outside abortion clinics.  It is good to perform ultrasounds at a pregnancy center.  It is good to pray.  It is good to write books.  It is good to preach the gospel.  It is good to teach doctrine.  It is good to rest.  It is good to feast.  It is good to fast.  We cannot possibly do every good thing, all at once.  Is defeating the Democrats the only good thing to do?  In a given situation, we need to discern the good thing that God wants us to do.  If we don’t do the good thing that God wants us to do, more so if we know what it is, it is sin. 

But, as we’re discerning about the “right thing to do”, let’s take into consideration this other Scripture: "And why not do evil that good may come?--as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just." - Romans 3:8[61]  So even if some good things could possibly result from our choices, the end does not justify the means.  We have to figure out if the choice itself is evil or good. 

There is a quote going around, attributed to C.H. Spurgeon, “Of two evils, choose neither.”  To some Christians, what seems best to them is to not vote at all in this presidential election.  Wayne Grudem believes this is also sin, citing Obadiah 1:11.  The verse he quotes could be taken to mean that the Edomites did nothing at all, if it weren’t for the context[62], which describes them cheering for evil and aiding those who were attacking Israel.  Cross reference to Psalm 137:7[63]

I don’t believe that abstaining from voting is inherently wrong.  There are some times in the Bible where abstaining from something “good” is advised.  Take, for example, Ecclesiastes 5:5: "It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay." Or, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness." - James 3:1 Or, "The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." But he said to them, "Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given." - Matthew 19:10-11  Or, "And the LORD said to Gideon, "With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home."" - Judges 7:7 Or, "The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent."" - Exodus 14:14 

So the questions we need to ask are: Has God given us the obligation to vote? Are we responsible for the outcome of the election even if we chose a morally acceptable but arguably less strategic vote?  Is it wrong to choose an evil person as our ruler? 

I would exhort everyone, especially Christians, to do all things out of faith and not out of fear.  Or, at least, that we would fear God alone.  Fearing Him, may we be diligent to find out the truth, to seek His perspective on these matters, and follow His will for us personally. 

Update, October 9, 2016: Wayne Grudem removed his endorsement and published this apology, in light of recent revelations about Trump's previous moral corruption: Trump's Moral Character and the Election.

[1] I disagreed with some of Grudem’s approvals of Trump’s policies and what he considers “most likely”.  Below I mention some. 

Lower taxes are good.  They do not in themselves constitute a more just or more limited government.  In fact, if unaccompanied by a budget a fraction the size of what it has been, lower taxes will only mean more borrowing, which is a hidden tax on the future[i].  It is also debatable whether graduated tax rates are just[ii]

I am not convinced that Trump would be good at diplomacy[iii],[iv],[v],[vi],[vii].  He may be convinced that he will not be manipulated, deceived, or out-strategized by Russia, Mexico, or Middle-Eastern nations, but I am not.  Trump’s “tough guy” persona may be useful in standing up to bullies, or it may make our international representative into a bully himself.  He has said that he would be in favor of having our military “go after the families of terrorists”[viii],[ix], and to, when fighting them, match the level of violence terrorists and ISIS use[x].  Victory at the cost of virtue is an unacceptable goal for me to support.  I am also concerned that it would not be so easy to win a war (without making many more enemies globally) as Trump seems to think. 

My personal belief is that Hillary is rather smart, and rather interested in maintaining whatever power she can get her hands on.  Therefore, I think that she is actually less likely than Trump to get us into a big war or to alienate our allies.  (And if she does, she’ll probably do it behind the scenes where no one will be able to verify it was her doing it.) 

Both Trump and Hillary have taken contradictory positions on fracking during this campaign, which perhaps could be characterized at this time by saying that they believe in local decision-making about fracking[xi].  I would find it impossible, without prophetic revelation, to determine what each candidate will actually do for or against this energy issue. 

Trump’s words about health insurance have not always sounded like they are entirely free-market solutions, even during this campaign season[xii].  Like many Republicans this year, he does support repealing – and replacing – Obamacare, apparently with a mixture of free market solutions and with some sort of forced “safety net” for the poorer people.  Does this mean retaining an expansion of Medicaid?  Something else?  I believe there is a substantial difference between Hillary Clinton’s intentions for the health care industry, and that of Donald Trump.  But it may be a difference of degree only.  There are manifold problems with Obamacare.  One of them is the individual mandate, what I still believe to be an unconstitutional imposition on our liberties (whatever the Supreme Court says about the penalty being a tax).  The second is that the government funding for these programs is unconstitutional.  They have no enumerated jurisdiction to be spending money on a private citizen’s health care.  Trump’s plan would, presumably, deal with only one of these objections (the individual mandate). 

From what I have read and heard, there seems to be some debate about whether Trump owes his so-called business success to his own abilities[xiii] to “solve problems and get things done.”  Commentators have pointed out that Trump started with a substantial sum of money inherited from his father.  They say that his fortune, if invested in mutual funds back in 1982, and left there, accruing, would be twice what he claims to have made it today through business acumen[xiv].  They mention that more than one of his business ventures has gone bankrupt.  Some of them bring up his wielding of eminent domain for personal gain (abetted by corrupt politicians)[xv]; his use of bankruptcy (not paying bills) to pass off the risk of his investments to those providing the actual goods and services[xvi]; and that he is defendant in a lawsuit for fraud[xvii] in the case of Trump University.  There is even some question as to whether Trump is as wealthy as he claims.  All of these things cast doubt on the prudence of employing Trump to use his reputed problem-solving skills to tackle the big, nuanced problems the United States is facing. 
            [i] Mises Institute, “Tax Cuts Without Spending Cuts Are Pointless”

            [ii], “What About a Progressive Tax?”

            [iii] The New York Times, “Transcript: Donald Trump on Nato, Turkey’s Coup Attempt and the World”

            [iv] Talking Points Memo, “How Donald Trump Is Already Doing a World of Damage Abroad”

            [v] The Boston Globe, “The Day Trump Trashed US Diplomacy”

            [vi] War on the Rocks, “Open Letter on Donald Trump from GOP National Security Leaders”

            [vii] The Chicago Tribune, “Column: On Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton is Bad. Trump is Worse.”

            [viii] CNN, “Donald Trump on Terrorists: ‘Take Out their Families’ ”

            [ix] The video clip here is important. Mediaite, “Trump: The Military Would Not Refuse My Orders Even If They Consider them Illegal”
            [x] YouTube CNN, “Donald Trump Anderson Cooper CNN Interview (part 3)”

            [xi], “Is Trump Flip-Flopping on Fracking?”

            [xii] Originally compiled and published on Facebook January 2016, this is my own research on “Donald Trump’s Similarities to Democrats”.  It is a list of sources about various positions Trump has taken, with a section of sources also demonstrating that he is a liar.

            [xiii] Alternet, “Exposing How Donald Trump Really Made His Furtune: Inheritance from Dad and the Government’s Protection Mostly Did the Trick”'s_protection_mostly_did_the_trick  

            [xiv] Money Talks News, “Trump Worth $10 Billion Less Than If He’d Simply Invested in Index Funds”

            [xv] National Review, “Trump and Eminent Domain”

            [xvi] Forbes, “Fourth Time’s a Charm: How Donald Trump Made Bankruptcy Work for Him”

            [xvii] The New Yorker, “Trump University: It’s Worse Than You Think”

[2] Tom Hoefling for President 2016, “Platform”

[3] Darrell Castle for President 2016, Constitution Party, issues page

[4] Wikipedia, “Political Parties in the United States”, history and early political parties section

[5] Great American History, “How Lincoln Won the 1860 Republican Nomination”

[6] Real Clear Politics, Polls, “Election 2016 Presidential Polls”

[8] 270 to Win, “2016 Election: Clinton vs. Trump”

[9] Huffington Post, “5 Reasons the Comey Hearing was the Worst Education in Criminal Justice the American Public has Ever Had”

[10] Politico, “President Obama Endorses Hillary Clinton”

[11] Originally compiled and published on Facebook January 2016, this is my own research on “Donald Trump’s Similarities to Democrats”.  It is a list of sources about various positions Trump has taken, with a section of sources also demonstrating that he is a liar.

[12] Liberty Counsel Connect, “Chief Justice Roy Moore Counters Politically Motivated Complaints on Marriage”

[13] Tom Hoefling for President 2016, “Tom Hoefling: Judges, and politicians, behaving badly”

[14] The Castle Report, “Original Intent”

[15] Some people who oppose abortion also oppose these incremental or compromise regulations.  Some of these people believe all regulations are wrong or counterproductive[a], while others only oppose language in laws that implies that if you follow the regulations, “then you can kill the baby”[b]
            [a] Abolish Human Abortion, position paper on “immediatism”

            [b] American Right to Life, position paper on abortion regulations

[16] The Washington Post, “Supreme Court construes the exclusionary rule narrowly in Utah v. Strieff

[17] Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, “U.S. Constitution: Fourth Amendment”

[18] A 5-3 decision, given in October 2015 by Justices Thomas, Roberts, Kennedy, Alito (these four were appointed by Republicans), and Breyer (appointed by a Democrat). Supreme Court of the United States Blog, “Utah v. Strieff

[19] Ironton Tribune, “Republican Nominees have Upheld Roe v. Wade

[20] The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was upheld 5-4, with Chief Justice Roberts being the only Republican-appointed Justice to vote in favor.  The National Law Review, “Analysis: U.S. Supreme Court Upholds the Affordable Care Act: Roberts Rules?”

[21] Obergefell v. Hodges was another 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court in 2015, all 4 Democrat-appointed judges voting in favor, and Republican-appointed Justice Kennedy joining them.  Wikipedia, “Obergefell v. Hodges”

[22] Personhood, Education page, “A Right to Life” section

[23] Legislators who support the Sanctity of Human Life Act reintroduce it frequently.  Here is 2015’s bill. “H.R. 426 – Sanctity of Human Life Act”

[24] Wikipedia, “List of overruled United States Supreme Court decisions”

[25] The Washington Post, “GOP Senator Calls Out Donald Trump’s ‘Many Affairs’ in Lengthy Tweetstorm”

[26] Life Site News, “ ‘Anyone But Donald Trump’: Here’s His Record on Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty”

[27] Bloomberg, “Trump Embraces Executive Orders to Avoid Congressional Gridlock”

[28] Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, “U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 1.”

[29] Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, “U.S. Constitution, 14th Amendment”

[30] PBS NewsHour, “Donald Trump May Support Gay Rights, but Does the Republican Party?”

[31] National Review, “Trump Praises His Sister, a Pro-Abortion Extremist Judge”

[32] The New York Times, “Trump Says He Was Kidding in Suggesting His Sister for the Court”

[33] Fox News, “Trump Says He’ll Release List of Potential Supreme Court Justices”

[34] Politico, “Trump Unveils 11 Potential Supreme Court Nominees”

[35] The Washington Examiner, “Trump Might Not Stick to Supreme Court Nominees on His List”

[37] The Jerusalem Post, “Top Trump Advisor to ‘Post’: Settlement Annexation  Legitimate If PA Continues to Avoid Real Peace”

[38] The Intercept, “Hillary Clinton Wasn’t Always This One-Sided on Israel

[39] Truth Out, “What We Can Expect From  Hillary Clinton on Israel/Palestine

[40] It is very difficult to find somewhat neutral historical summaries of the Bill Clinton administration’s relationship with Israel.  This source has almost a more social take on it. The Washington Post, “What Bill Clinton Can Teach Obama About Israelis”

[41] This one is more political and historical regarding Bill Clinton’s interactions with Israel. Gale Student Resources in Context, 2011 “Bill Clinton’s Role in Israeli Peace Accords”

[42] The Wall Street Journal, “How Obama Abandoned Israel”

[43], “vote”

[44] Federal Election Commission, “Public Funding of Presidential Elections”, General Election Funding section

[45] Ballotpedia, “Ballot Access for Major and Minor Parties”

[46] Ballotpedia, “Ballot Access Requirements for Presidential Candidates in Colorado

[47] ESV Bible, Colossians 3:6

[48] ESV Bible, Ephesians 5

[49] ESV Bible, Romans 3:10

[50] ESV Bible, Romans 3:23

[51] Blue Letter Bible, KJV occurrences of “righteous” in Proverbs

[52] Blue Letter Bible, KJV occurrences of “wicked” in Psalms and Proverbs

[53] ESV Bible, Proverbs

[54] CNN, “Trump Believes in God, but Hasn’t Sought Forgiveness”

[55] ESV Bible, Exodus 18:21

[56] ESV Bible, Jeremiah 29:7

[57] ESV Bible, Romans 13

[58] ESV Bible, 1 Timothy 2:2

[59] ESV Bible, Proverbs 29:2

[60] ESV Bible, James 4:17

[61] ESV Bible, Romans 3:8

[62] ESV Bible, Obadiah

[63] ESV Bible, Psalm 137:7

To God be all glory. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Emotional "Purity"

You only have so much of your heart, so much
love that you can give away.

If you love one little kid you babysit,
you're not going to have as much love to give your own kid someday. If you enjoy your time with these kids now, it's like you're benefiting from a relationship with someone else's kids.

What's more, you'll be comparing your own
baby to all the other ones you've known, and someday you'll have to tell your own children about the kids you loved before them.

Wouldn't it be best not to care too much
about kids who aren't yours, not invest too much in spending time with them or thinking about who they are becoming and trying to be an edifying part of that?

Besides that, when you get close to a kid,
the temptation is way stronger to be frustrated with them when they make immature mistakes, and you'll be provoked to express anger. They also watch you all the time, so if you make a mistake, you're going to set them a bad example. You need to take yourself out of situations that could increase your temptation.

Also, if you love a kid who isn't yours, and
then they move away or for some reason you can't see them as much, it's going to hurt. And wounds like that leave scars that affect the person you are, the ways you love others in the future. Wouldn't it be better to go through life without that kind of heartbreak?

My friend never spent much time with other
kids, and when her son was born, she had a wonderful relationship with him, and she is such a great mom. If you've never had kids of your own, there's no way you can know how beautiful it is to never love any other children before your own.

~ satire on a subject that is very important to me

To God be all glory.