Today’s Hartford Currant had an excellent article that gets at the rest of the story about countries like Haiti, the part of the story that is not told. It’s not the whole story either. For starters, the government corruption endemic to so much of Latin America afflicts Haiti as well. But Americans need to know the part of the story Bill Heiden is telling. Haiti Commentary
Jung Courville’s case is another example of the immoral policy of attempting to deport a parent who has been in the country for years as a law abiding citizen. Of course, she and her husband and her neglectful lawyer should have resolved her immigration situation many years ago. Of course, the laws should be changed like the lawyer expected. But given the current situation, deportation is a just plain immoral choice. The right answer is to resolve such cases quickly, either by further extension or preferably by some more permanent fix. Where is the wisdom and the legal structure to do so? Does the administration think this kind of debacle is good publicity? It probably makes good press for Senator Bumenthal to fight the administration on this case. And I am glad he is for the sake of the conscience of us all. Yet how about him joining a coalition to actually get the Democrats and Republicans to agree to a compromise “fix-the-system” legislation. Now there’s a thought! It seems like both parties would much rather make hay with their bases by bashing the other side. Meanwhile people like Jung Courville and Marco Reyes and their families suffer. This situation is unacceptable. It is clear that people like Jung and Marco need a way to fix what has unwisely been allowed to happen over the past twenty years. We need politicians that will get that job done!
If you object to me saying that deportation of parents like Jung and Marco is an immoral choice, I defer to Christ’s Parable of the Good Samaritan and to the repeated direct words of the OT. When the Bible is this clear we have little excuse for obfuscating.
You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien. Ex 22:21 NRSV
There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you. Ex 12:49 NRSV
Since I am an alumnus of four different colleges, I receive more than my share of college magazines. Usually they are marginally useful, just a vehicle for touching base with good memories, educational traditions, and news from former peers. But this winter edition of Houghton Magazine easily stood out as one of the best of the genre. On the issue of relevance alone it stood above the crowd. Titled “Reconciliation,” it addressed the issue of racial division in our country, not so much from a philosophical point of view as by examples of servants of God who are working to bridge the racial chasms in our country in various ways. It featured articles by three different alumni from different generations who are all working directly and in different ways to heal the divisions of our land. Outstanding pieces by our President, Shirley Mullen, and the new college chaplain, Michael Jordan, added to the issue’s power.
In addition. I was very happy to see in this issue other evidences that Houghton itself continues to be a healing force. In the same issue the college announced the initiation of the new Associate of Arts program in Utica, aimed primarily at helping refugees in that city. That initiative is modeled after the highly successful and acclaimed effort in Buffalo. In addition, the college noted that this year’s freshman class has the largest percentage of American-born minority students in the history of the school.
Is everyone a preacher?
I was going to write a typical article rating Super Bowl advertising again this year. I watched the game especially for that purpose. But as I watched the different advertisements, I was surprised by the number of advertisers who all but forsook the direct advertising of their product in favor of generalized moral admonition. It struck me that nowadays it seems everyone’s a preacher!
I was glad for those who spoke up favoring immigrants
Now since I am a preacher by profession (for almost 38 years now), you would think that I would be glad for this turn of events. And, in one sense, I am for it reveals that the high leadership in many of our top companies realize that some of the major issues of today are moral issues and they are courageous enough to speak out. I’m also glad to have allies in speaking up for some key topics of today. I noticed the issue that was most frequently spoken about in Super Bowl ads was the matter of welcoming immigrants, a subject dear to my own heart. All of us with the exception of Native Americans, are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Having worked directly with Burmese Karen immigrants as a teacher during my last pastorate, and heard the stories about refugee camps, it is very easy for me to be in their corner. I also feel the Bible is very clear that we need to be welcoming to those who are strangers and immigrants among us. (For a complete Biblical statement on immigration see https://www.wesleyan.org/237/a-wesleyan-view-of-immigration)
But I’m uncomfortable when everyone is a preacher
But, in another sense, I found myself being surprisingly uncomfortable with the concept that everyone is a preacher. Is it that I am jealous for my position or my profession? Not directly. The more voices take the side of justice and righteousness, the more powerful the cause. To be jealous because someone else speaks up for good would be foolish. Why my concern then? My discomfort arises from the questions of motive and authority for moral exhortation. That’s a mouthful. But let me explain like this.
The preacher’s motivation must have integrity
Would companies like Budweiser and 84 Lumber have advertised as pro-immigration as they did if they had thought that it would be unpopular, detrimental to their bottom line, and cause the company’s leadership difficulty? I doubt it. They advertised as they did because they knew that those positions are very popular and would result in a good feeling about their company in most circles. But true preachers are called to speak the truth even if it hurts their own position and popularity. Most American preachers today cannot do so very often because in many American churches, we would either be voted out or people would stop attending and supporting the church. But in a true church, one where growing in discipleship is prized, people expect that sometimes the preacher will tread upon their toes, so to speak. To put it another way, sometimes the truth will cut across the grain and that is a good thing. How can we grow if that does not happen? Now you can see the motivational issue for my concern. Not just any preacher will be faithful to say what is not popular yet needs to be said.
The preacher’s authority must come from God’s Word
The second half of my concern has to do with sources of authority. When everyone is a preacher, everyone is entitled to use whatever source of authority they feel is right. Most of the time popular figures are drawing from some kind of perceived cultural consensus that supports what is being advocated. There is a strong relationship between the laws of society and cultural consensus. But for both Jews and Christians, the only true source of moral authority is the revelation that comes from God in Holy Scripture. When everyone’s a preacher, it is anybody’s guess what the relationship or lack of relationship will be between what is advocated and what the law of God says. That is another key source of my concern. The Christian preacher’s first job is to see that what he or she teaches is congruent with, indeed arises out of the Words and teachings of Scripture.
So not everyone is a preacher!
So there you have my concerns. When politicians, beer advertisers, movie stars, sports figures, businessmen and TV personalities all become preachers, there will be an increasing need for people to discern who the true prophets are. The genuine purveyors of godly ethics will be distinguished as those whose authority is not their own, it is derived from God’s Word; and the preachers to be listened to will be those whose motivation over time shows love for God and for others above oneself. Anyone can address an issue and oft times they should as a part of their own moral responsibility, but not everyone is a preacher!
The head of the Wesleyan Church, the denomination in which I served for 34 years, has written an excellent post-election reflection. While he wrote it for Wesleyans, it is fantastic advice for all Christians.
I am glad I did not vote for either candidate in the presidential election as it gives me more latitude to comment on it. My brother Allen (a Bernie Sanders fan) posted the link to this article on his Facebook page. It is one of the best articles I have read for understanding the election. It does not hit everything, but it covers some of the main topics that are not usually addressed.
Add to this article two additional dimensions and then I believe you will have a pretty complete picture of what fueled Trump’s victory. One dimension relates to Obama’s and Clinton’s identification with and exacerbation of the culture wars. This is what pushed the religious right into an uncomfortable corner. As a whole, I believe they did not like Trump but could not stomach a promised worsening of Obama’s cultural affronts under a second Clinton administration. Secondly, I believe one probably needs to factor in Democratic opposition to NRA positions. I believe that stances in both of these issues would likely follow similar urban/rural geography to the election returns, strengthening the end result.
As I was meditating this morning, thoughts came to me concerning further helpful ways to cope with this election.
Grieve the losses
Grief is a process given to us to help us navigate loss. Today we are more insulated from grief and the associated natural process of recovery because death is much less with us, thankfully, than in previous generations. But there are times, like now, that we need to understand grief better. We also need to know that we grieve for all types of losses, including the kinds associated with this election. For example; there is no doubt as evidenced by the news every day that there’s been a loss in respect for minorities among some because of the election. Also, the principle of respect for women has suffered a loss by the elevation of one who has disrespected women. How do we react? Feelings of denial, sadness, anger (both focused and projected), and second-guessing ourselves and others are normal parts of grieving. Learning to handle our grief in healthy ways is part of the human experience.
Look for the balanced perspective
For those on the Democratic side, remember that anytime a candidate wins the popular vote while losing the Electoral College, it is a sign that the election was very close. Any time a candidate wins as strongly among younger people as Clinton did, it is a strong sign for future elections. Democrats have some things to feel good about too. For Republicans, to gloat is arrogant and counter-productive. A strong majority of urban Americans voted against you and they live in the most influential centers of the country. The Bible urges humility. Humility is a lost virtue today and suffered further loss in this election. But humility helps immensely in human relations. Unfortunately, on-screen it is usually wrongly mistaken for weakness. I would caution us to look for the balanced perspective in our circumstances.
Do not return evil for evil
One of the Bible’s most famous sayings is, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (Rom 12:17). Just because the election featured rude, crude, and obnoxious conversation, is no excuse for us to join that party. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21). While Hillary Clinton’s embrace of the “nasty woman” epithet may have been a shrewd debate move, “nasty” is not exactly a winsome characteristic. But kindness is. Donald Trump’s past behavior and attitudes are a problem, not something to be emulated. But if we copy the worst elements of leaders, we magnify the difficulties. If we repay evil for evil we become part of the problem, not part of the healing solution. Instead, “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11).
Be thankful for what is good
I, for one, am very glad that Thanksgiving follows this election. It will be very healthy for us all if we can get our minds off the divisions and contentious issues of the election and step back and be genuinely thankful for the blessings that we have. It will lessen our stress, it will lower our collective blood pressure, and will help us to have a better emotional and mental foundation for the cooperation in daily life and in government that the people of this land desire and deserve.
All Scriptures from Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2001 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved.
In the wake of a disturbing election how do we cope? Here are a few suggestions from a long-time pastor.
Do not live in fear.
One of the most prominent messages from God to his people in the Bible is simply yet powerfully this; “Do not be afraid!” These exact words occur 74 times in the current NIV translation. The words were spoken in times more uncertain than ours. While this election has elicited fear on all sides for multiple reasons, it is the heritage of believers in all times to “trust and not be afraid” (Isa. 12:2). As Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Our hope is always in God, not a person or a political process. And when we feel threatened, we look to God for our hope and strength to overcome.
Do something fun
Jesus himself recognized that we needed times to get away from the stress of thinking about things like elections (Mark 6:31). Sabbath rests and time of exercise or recreation help us to keep our perspectives wholesome and they lift our emotions too. Personally, I like to take a long walk in the nearby forest preserve.
Stand firm in your own life for what is good.
One of the most disturbing things to me about this election cycle has been that it has seemed to further legitimize the rude, the crude and the divisive in America. Both parties set new lows in negative advertising. So all of us face a challenge afterwards as to what our vison is for our country and what our behavior will be. Will we be part of the decline or part of the recovery? For Christians, our course is clear. “Show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17). “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29). This is a high calling that affects how we use language to emphasize a point or express anger, what movies we approve, what jokes we tell, how we speak about those with whom we disagree, who we choose as heroes and stars, and how we treat those different from us. Let us be “eager to do what is good” (Tit. 2:14).
A pastor friend of mine referred to this verse this morning in a post. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Ps 127:1). No matter who is in charge on this earth, peace and blessing are ultimately God’s gifts. This November is also a good time to remember one of our basic prayer verses, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). Pray especially for our president elect whether we like him or not. If you like him, pray that God will use his strengths to benefit all. If you don’t like him, pray that God will protect the country from his weaknesses. (The same prayers could be prayed for every public servant.) Pray for the government transition in the US as well.
There is a time for everything
For younger voters especially, I would encourage a little of the perspective of Solomon. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9). I recall a conversation eight years ago after Obama’s first victory. It was a chat between a fervent Republican and a strong Democrat. The Democrat said pointedly to the Republican, “Well, if we can survive eight years of George H. W. Bush, you can survive eight years of Obama.” I thought of that comment again last night as one of the commentators mentioned that it is extremely rare in American history for a party to hold the presidency more than eight years running. There seems to be a cycle that occurs regularly in our sturdy democracy. The pendulum swings repeatedly. I have seen enough elections now to have observed that swing multiple times and I agree. This is why parties in America go back to work and start thinking about next time, like sports teams planning for the next season.
All verses from Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2001 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Most people I talk to are agreed — this is the worst presidential election that they ever remember. People aren’t for a candidate, they just hate one less than the other or think one less dangerous than the other. How is a person to decide what to do in this sorry election? Personally, I have decided to protest by not voting for either one. Here is why.
1. I recall John Maxwell saying, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Conservative Christians like me are being urged to vote for Trump because the Republican platform is more to our liking, etc. But if the leader cannot be relied upon to carry out the agenda, the platform is useless. Trump reminds me of a salesman with empty words. He says himself that he tells people what they want to hear. I can’t vote for a man like that.
2. It is time America returned to an emphasis on character in leadership. Neither Clinton nor Trump are people of high character. They are the most distrusted candidates I ever remember. From the moment Trump opened his mouth in debate 1 with a modus operandi of slander, I knew his character was suspect. Normally I am a pragmatist, able to go for the better of two choices. But in this case, neither leader meets the minimum standard of good character.
3. I am not inclined to vote for Clinton to begin with because the strong pro-abortion values she espouses [among others] are not my values. I have great sympathy for immigrant rights, traditionally seen as a Democratic value, and also with the value of helping the poor, but I’m not convinced Clinton would actually work on either one.
4. It is time the parties received a protest vote. It is a protest against the lack of a viable political middle ground in 2016 American politics. It is a protest against the idea that a party can put up some reality show star who has name recognition and expect thinking people to vote for him. It is a protest that says, there is not a candidate offered that I respect enough to vote for them. As a voter, my vote has to have some integrity—some correspondence, some kinship between the values I espouse, the vision I have for my country, and the candidate I vote for.
My protest vote
So what will I do? To not vote, to not participate in the election at all, I consider irresponsible. As a citizen it is my duty to vote. So I will be at the polls, God willing and cast a vote of some kind. I will vote in all the races too. But for the presidential race, I will be writing in the name of a candidate that I consider qualified and of high character. It will be an act of protest against the quality of the two candidates we are offered by the major parties this year.
This is one of the big questions of the 2016 election. It is also one of the hidden problems that needs to be solved if American democracy is going to thrive again. I found this video article that helps explain how it happened. It makes good sense.
The next question is, “What can we do about it.”
1. More Americans need to vote in primaries. Primaries are very influential. It is intellectually tempting to be an “independent.” But the number of people who are uninvolved in primaries is part of the problem. I was an independent myself for several years until I realized the power of the primaries. Then I registered for a major party so I could express myself in the primaries. I can still vote for whomever I choose in the general election.
2. Primary voters need to keep “elect-ability” in mind when casting their ballots. Primary voters who vote for extreme, irascible or unqualified candidates who will be greatly handicapped in the general election are asking for their candidate to lose in the general election. Primary voters must strike a balance between where they stand and how electable the candidate is. And the farther to the left or right a voter is the more they need to think this way. To fail to do so is to endanger the chances of the party of your primary in the general election as is happening to both parties this year. This year it is obvious that either party would have had a cakewalk with a moderate candidate. If two moderate candidates had been put forward, we could have had a real democratic election.
3. This year’s Republican process is making a case for some kind of “vetting” by major parties in order to run in their primaries. A major party should not be put in a position as the Republicans were this year where a person they cannot truly support squeaks through with popular vote. But there is danger with this idea too as it opens the way for power player control and cronyism in the vetting process.