Category Archives: Democrat

Understanding the 2020 Election

While the final results are still being litigated, there are some clear takeaways from the 2020 election that are vital building blocks for a better future. It is my hope that all thoughtful people will pause and discern this moment well.

Insight One: Just as 2016 was in large part a rejection of Candidate Clinton, so 2020 will be seen among some as a reaction to four years of President Trump. Though he and Republicans did better than expected, there were still enough negatives to change votes.

Insight Two: 2020 is a repudiation of extremes, particularly socialistic tendencies within the Democratic party. Americans intuitively lean toward the center and are suspicious of groups calling for an overhaul of major systems.

Insight Three: We must do better to ensure access, equity, and opportunity for all citizens to vote, and eliminate any hints of fraud and malfeasance. Whether current lawsuits and testimonies change the projected winners, we can do better.

Insight Four: COVID-19 cast a shadow over what was a growing domestic economy and several foreign policy wins for the current Administration. Hopefully the next Administration and Congress will not undo much of the progress that has been made.

Insight Five: American media and polling agencies are failing the populace in their pursuit of a political agenda. Apart from direct incitements to violence and salacious material, there should be no censorship of opinions. The “fact-checking” agencies need women and men of all persuasions at the helm if they are going to have any credibility.

Insight Six: There is a silver lining in the clouds of anxiety: record numbers of people actually voted. Though we must improve systems, it is heartening to see millions peacefully casting their votes and no widespread accusations of voter suppression (this is distinct from the current processing and tallying issues).

Insight Seven: Finally, the contentious American public square reveals a need for a moral and spiritual awakening that will propel reverence before the Almighty, respect for one another, and shared values and virtues that are essential to liberty.

Regardless of final results, there are clear signs of the beauty and brokenness of our beloved land. May we help build a better future.

Agitation Propaganda: Projection and Subversion

In my writing, I aim for civil, principled conversation across ideological, political, and religious boundaries, respecting differences and aiming for consensus where possible. I am grateful for the many who join me (often with far greater eloquence and influence) in such peacemaking. But I would be remiss not to expose two tactics of the enemies of freedom: projection and subversion. These are the twin towers of agitation propaganda (known as “agitprop”) and have flourished for a century in communist and fascist societies. (One note here: the extreme Left (communist) and extreme Right (fascist) differ in some particulars but share similar roots of totalitarian control over people and societies, along with philosophies favoring particular groups [Party members or a particular race] over others.)

Projection is when one group accuses another of the very actions they are doing themselves. For example, a group of students, in the name of freedom and safety, calls for the firing of a professor that disagrees with their philosophies. Another form of projection is deflection: when individuals or groups ignore difficult questions and merely repeat their slogans. For example, a pro-choice activist was asked what she thought of recent remarks by her governor concerning his support of late term abortion and even infanticide (“Make the baby comfortable while the mother and physician decide what is best.”). Rather than answering with revulsion, support, or even a nuanced middle ground, the activist just shouted, “You want to deprive women of their access to healthcare and return to the days of the coat hanger.” This happened four times as the question was repeated. Religious adherents are declared intolerant when they refuse to support alternative lifestyles contrary to their tradition. This is projection – for the accuser is her or himself intolerant of the religious point of view (or wants it confined to private spaces!).

Subversion appears as the true agendas of groups are revealed. White nationalists and Nation of Islam adherents want to subvert the Bible, the Constitution, and a positive history of improving race relations and create completely segregated nations. Many Marxists are happy to use capitalistic and democratic means to achieve communalistic and undemocratic ends. They also combine projection and subversion when they accuse some of their own of not being revolutionary enough! Such was the case in the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions, where millions died for not being radical enough. Think about these historical illustrations:

  • The Nazis burn the Reichstag (parliament) building, blame the communists, and use it as an excuse to kill and imprison thousands (projection and subversion).
  • Lenin spoke of his need for capitalistic “useful idiots” to fund his revolution (subversion).
  • Closer to home, “Rules for Radicals” author Saul Alinsky advocates to creating chaos and dissatisfaction (subversion) and making sure no other peaceful solutions get in the way the radical agenda.
  • Radical Islam promotes deception and temporary truces with opponents as part of the long play for domination (subversion). Anyone who does not honor their Prophet is pronounced a blasphemer and subject to severe penalty, even as they claim victimhood status (projection).
  • And today, several extremist groups in the USA are calling for an end to nuclear family, and end to free enterprise, and overturning particular religious influences (subversion), as well as declaring all their opponents’ oppressors (projection).

May we examine our hearts and choose advocacy over mere accusation and acceptance of complexity over childishness. Let’s keep projection and subversion far away as we pursue peace and justice.

Pastors and Politics, Part 1: Courage and Wisdom

This two-part series encourages local church pastors with wise discipleship and effective engagement on issues of political concern. In this first essay, the focus is on the boundaries of wise communication. The second essay looks at some of the hidden issues and groups overlooked in our polarized era. The author has been a pastor and public intellectual for over thirty years, speaking at business, educational centers, public forums and in churches.

Dr. Jim Baucom, senior pastor of Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, VA (in the heart of Metro Washington, D.C.), shared about his growing and vibrant community: “People speak of America divided between Blue and Red, Democrat and Republican. Well, our church is very Purple! We have women and men worshiping and serving together that differ deeply on some policies and principles but agree that Christ unites us in our faith and service.”

Pastor A.J. Swoboda leads Theophilus Church: “We are a church in SE Portland. We are here to help people Find Jesus, Build Community and Pursue Justice.” A.J. is a leading voice in ecological theology and helps churches, seminaries and businesses steward the environment as part of worshiping and serving the Lord. He recently published an important book, The Subversive Sabbath, calling believers to recover the divine principle of rest as part of a healthy life in Christ. One of his happiest moments as a pastor came during the 2016 election. Two members of his church are local political leaders from each party. One Sunday just before the November election they served communion together.

These stories of communities finding a deeper unity in Christ and welcoming women and men from diverse persuasions are heartening and offer insights for pastors in our angry, polarized American public square.  How do pastors unite compassion and conviction and wisely disciple women and men for participation in public life?

The fear of “being political” keeps many pastors from addressing critical issues. Pastors are rightly concerned about ideology and partisanship eclipsing gospel focus. At the same time, addressing vital moral and social issues is an essential part of effective discipleship and mission. What are some boundaries and insights needed in navigating these rapids?

Three Insights

There are three initial thoughts which help displace fear with courage and reactions with wisdom. The first principle is respecting clear boundaries of biblical truth and civil law. The Bible clearly leads Christians toward good citizenship, prayerful concern for authority and reasonable adherence to the laws in place (Romans 13; I Timothy 2). At the same time, obeying divine mandates above the civil ones and understanding that kingdom citizenship takes priority over current power structures is vital (Matthew 5; Acts 5; Hebrews 11). According to current American law (The 1954 Johnson Amendment to the IRS tax code), churches and other nonprofit organizations that are exempt from taxation, “are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” So, there are only two restrictions on political discourse that threaten the religious, non-profit status of a local church. The first is endorsement of a specific political candidate. The second is endorsement of one political party over another. In other words, blatant partisanship.

Pastors and churches CAN

  • Speak on any political issues
  • Lead voter registration drives (non-partisan)
  • Host events inviting all candidates

The issue for most is not the letter of IRS regulation but the fear of alienating members and seekers. This leads us to the second insight: Pastors must choose their issues wisely and frame their arguments biblically. The late theologian Donald Bloesch once said that, “Ideology is the enemy of theology.” Pastors must help congregants discover biblical conviction and discernment on particular policies, not just a particular party’s talking points. In many cases, biblically wise framing will help believers engender new ways of seeing (and even solving) contentious issues. Jesus said we are blessed when we are persecuted for obedience in the kingdom, not obnoxious political agitation.

For example, being biblically pro-life is more than being against abortion. Concern for all people from conception to coronation – especially the broken, poor and vulnerable – is foundational for biblical obedience. Respect for those in the military must be joined with a passion for peacemaking, a hallmark of wise Christian leadership. Libertarian and socialist answers for poverty alleviation fall short compared to a Christian vision for human flourishing that incudes spiritual, relational, social and economic help and private/public integration of resources (See Corbett and Fikkert’s seminal work here: When Helping Hurts, a recommended MTF resource).

Boundaries and wise discernment of the deeper issues must be integrated with the third attribute of wise leadership: courage. Courage is the virtue that avoids the extremes of fear and foolishness. In Joshua 1, the Lord tells the new leader of Israel four times to be “strong and courageous.” In Ephesians 6, Paul asks his readers to pray for boldness in proclamation, even under persecution. Some issues are morally clear, and it is the pastor’s task to unveil the rich biblical insights underneath stated convictions. Some issues require more discernment and here humility joins courage as leaders declare their understanding.

Pastors, speaking courageously is needed. When undergirded by deep prayer and tears for our beautiful and broken world, such speech cannot be confused with the agitation propaganda and polarizing insults permeating our public discourse.

History and hope can frame our communication. It took courage for pastors to speak against slavery and it takes courage to foster racial reconciliation. It took courage for pastors and missionaries to oppose rapacious colonialism and it takes courage to promote justice for all. It took courage for pastors to help bring justice to the workplace, reducing child labor, and encouraging fair conditions and wages. It takes courage for pastors to take on entrenched powers in cities and states keeping many from thriving. And it takes courage for pastors to avoid ideological captivity and empower their congregants for leadership in all spheres of society.

Wise boundaries, Biblical foundations for discernment and courage will help pastors shepherd wisely.