Category Archives: election

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.

Election 2020: Between Apathy and the Apocalypse

“If Trump wins, cities will burn!” “This is the most important election in history!” “If the Democrats win, it is the end of America.” Such is the rhetoric of our divided society. By all public accounts, everyone is on one extreme or the other, and moderates are a vanishing group.

Every election is important. Thousands of local, regional, and state officials are elected and entrusted with billions of dollars and hundreds of decisions. Nationwide, the entire House of Representatives is up for election every two years. A third of the Senate is elected. The next President will appoint many judges, including those on the Supreme Court. The 2020 election matters.

Our current crises do amplify the consequences of how we vote. This said, we must avoid two mistakes: apathy and apocalyptic fear. The former simply gives up and says, “My vote does not really matter” or “The same power-brokers are still in charge, so what is the use?” The latter term frames this election as an “end times” choice between good or evil. How do we avoid these tendencies and take our civic duty seriously?

Here are some insights I have gleaned from thoughtful women and men over the past several years that I think are helpful as we go to the polls:

  • Are we praying for all in authority and blessing those we disagree with most?
  • Do the candidates truly support freedom of conscience and religion, peaceful assembly, redress of government, and free speech?
  • American Presidents are very powerful, but they are not messiahs or antichrists.
  • Are we engaged locally, or obsessed with a few national campaigns? Change for good begins locally, and we can have much influence here.
  • People do not fit into neat little ideological or partisan boxes and we must be careful not to judge too quickly. There are pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans. There are Democrats that affirm traditional marriage and Republicans living and supporting alternative lifestyles. Voters often feel they are trapped, and they end up voting for the lesser of two evils.
  • Are any leaders looking to balance a budget and be fiscally responsible?
  • Are we reading the fine print on ballot propositions?
  • How do all candidates propose to change our trajectories for failing cities and rural communities, poor education, and crumbling infrastructure without just printing more money?
  • What are the policies on immigration? Do they combine compassion and security or just yell at the opposition?

Let’s say, “NO!” to apathy and apocalyptic speculation and, “YES!” to wise engagement, and personal commitment to fostering peace and justice. Our future rests more on the moral decisions of millions of citizens that the rhetoric of a few politicians. Leaders are powerful, but our voice can be more so, if we have courage.

What Does “There” Look Like? 2020 Election Edition

For years I have been challenging myself, other leaders, and elected officials to offer compelling visions of the future that are inclusive, just, and propel all people and communities toward flourishing. Without hope (tempered by realism), we are left with either anarchy leading to new forms of totalitarianism, or timeworn experiments that have proven fruitless.

Here are some questions for those who care about our global and local future:

  • Is your vision inclusive of all classes and cultures? Or are you preying on envy and resentment and fomenting conflict to secure power over others?
  • Is your vision doable and can it be paid for without stifling creativity and opportunity? Are your ideas incrementally achievable or grandiose talking points rooted in scare tactics?
  • Does your vision continue enshrining freedom of conscience, religion, speech, and peaceable assembly, or are you placing whole groups outside the pale because they are not enlightened enough?
  • Does your vision include both changed hearts and just systems? Good intentions are helpful, but without access, equity, and opportunity, they will ring hollow.
  • Does your vision allow for progress without instant perfection and proximate justice on the way to full liberation? Can you find ways for principled compromise?
  • Does your vision build on the lessons of history so that old mistakes are not repeated, and wisdom can be applied afresh to new challenges? Or are you trapped in the recent fallacy that dismisses the insights of previous generations?
  • Does your vision reflect the need for people of character as well as new public policies?

A fresh vision of “there” will require imagination, integrity, intentional action, and a love for continual learning and refinement. We will never build a perfect world, but we can make the present one better.

Pre-Election Insights and Prayers

Regardless of the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election, our national experiment in virtue-based liberty is in a fragile and fraying state, with unprecedented private and public anger. Thoughtful women and men are distressed that the major parties offer two such deeply flawed candidates. Journalistic bias and agitation propaganda have replaced careful research and measured writing. Lost in all of the presidential chaos are the important local and state elections that immediately affect citizens where they live.

I offer these prayers and reflections as a cri de coeur – a cry of the heart – for divine mercy and decisive repentance and renewal in all of us. Underneath the public scandals focused on money, sex and power are deep moral and spiritual ambivalence, with various elites perverting ethical values for their own ideological agendas.

There are three insights and three prayers I invite all to consider and confess as we prepare the election and the aftermath.

Insight One: We are dehumanizing and disintegrating human identity and wholeness. When we ignore biological gender, separate sexual intimacy from marriage and fostering the next generation and reduce identity to current erotic impulses, we are not progressing past religious restrictions. We are actually regressing into primordial impulses that ruin health, oppress non-conforming people and hinder productive life. When we separate “personal morality” from “public policy”, arguing that one can be messed up in private and still lead effectively, we are destroying the foundations of the common good and true liberty. Everyone should bring their whole self to their work, and allow their values to inform their actions and policies. I am not advocating religious tests or totalitarian uniformity of adult relationships. I am asserting that healthy people make better leaders.

Our prayer: “O God, Creator of heaven and earth and fashioner of humankind, forgive our pride and rebellion. Forgive our attempts to improve on your design and destiny. Help us rediscover the dignity, equality and uniqueness of each person and desire for all others the responsibilities and rights we affirm for ourselves. By your grace, empower us for work that expresses neighborly love, creates value and helps generations yet unborn to flourish. Help us to realize that your moral precepts are for our good and any restrictions of our behaviors are for our protection and ultimate fulfillment. Amen.”

Insight Two: We are so ideologically polarized that we are often missing creative solutions for seemingly intractable problems. Economic growth and opportunity include private investments and wise public policies. Rapprochement with Islam and the West must engage both the historic mistakes of colonialism and the rapacious history of Islamic empires and jihadist movements. Peace in the Middle East will never come until Muslim leaders can say the words, “Israel in the national state of the Jewish people.” We can balance the budget and pay off our national debt in a generation, if we will stop seeing wise stewardship as “starving children” and insist on best practices for all that manage the public trust. Urban transformation requires mobilizing servant-leaders from all fields and includes personal transformation and systemic change. Will we roll up our sleeves and serve, or merely keep accusing others?

Our prayer: “O Lord, forgive our arrogance, thinking we could solve every problem with human engineering. You invite us to cry out for wisdom and you promise to bestow it generously, if we come with humility. The signs of divine wisdom include peace, justice, courage and love, fostering harmony and generating hope. Lord, we need the ‘wisdom to do justice’ that Solomon requested as we navigate so many difficult issues, most of which we have generated though our varied intentions and actions. Help us seek you, listen deeply to one another and discover new ways to help people and communities flourish. Amen.”

Insight Three: We need a fresh vision of what personal, local, and national flourishing look like, especially in a global world where we are blessed and informed by so many cultures. This is not wholesale abandonment of the first principles of America’s Declaration and Constitution. In fact, a reaffirmation of the deepest values that informed our founders will help us define citizenship, national identity and liberty in a rapidly changing world. We must reaffirm the virtues of personal responsibility, healthy families, hard work, civil and religious affiliation and local civic engagement. We will not always agree on every definition and policy, but shared vision helps us forge a preferred future.

Our prayer: “Gracious and loving God, you remind us that without vision we will lose restraint and without a sense of purpose, we often compromise our principles. Forgive us, merciful Lord, for all the competing fantasies, the dystopian and utopian visions that do not align with your kind and loving desires for us. Forgive our focus on momentary pleasures at the expense of the coming generations. Transform our shortsighted lusts into loving service. Help us strive for excellence without perfectionism, and principled living with true toleration for other perspectives. How we need your help as we find new common ground for the common good. Amen.”

Our presidents, governors and majors are not messiahs. The finest laws fail without personal and community virtue. The best of our human nature is often corrupted by the worst of our fallen state. All of these insights and prayers are mere words without a thorough spiritual awakening rooted in the good news of Jesus Christ. When confessing Christians repent of compromise and begin compassionate service for their neighbors, such integrity overflows and blesses those that do not have the same religious commitment. When the common good is understood, alliances are formed and people of conscience find ways to work together. Even while we (with civility) argue about our differences (and they do make a difference!), we can act sacrificially for our neighborhood and nation.

May God grant us courage, love and wisdom in these days. Today’s discipline is tomorrow’s destiny, for by divine design, our decisions matter.