Why I’m voting for Donald Trump

January 25, 2016

Ha… got your attention didn’t I?!?!

I am very reluctant to send out this rumination but it is in response to a question asked by a dear friend:  How should churches respond to “Donald Trump (and the fact that so many Christians find him attractive despite his total lack of faith or evidence of moral integrity)”?

Somehow I want to respond to this question without simply quoting a number of secular political “talking points” that we hear each day in the news.  Without wanting to play semantics, and yet realizing that words and language are enormously important, I would want to define a few things.  The press not only has reported that “Christians” are voting for Trump in large numbers, but they also include the term “evangelicals” in their statistics, i.e., “large numbers of ‘evangelicals’ are determined to vote for Trump.”

First, “church” is simply made up of people so the question might more accurately be “how should ‘church people’ respond to Donald Trump.”

So how does one define “Christian” in our culture?  In my mind… it’s not so easy.  Allow me to mention something that I talked about a few weeks ago.  There is a difference between “the church”, and “The Church.”  The first refers to the numerous man-made institutions across the globe that are filled with “Christians, nominal Christians, non-believers, posers, universalists even practical atheists,” you name it and they are in the church.  Most of them would identify with the term “Christian.”  And of course there are the many folks who claim the title “Christian” who have zero connection to any Christian body, institution, home group, or para-church organization.  They are “Christian” because they may have been raised in the church, but no longer have any affiliation.  They are “Christian” because they say “yes” if asked if they believe in God.  They are “Christian” because decades ago they made some sort of “faith proclamation,” i.e., prayed the sinner’s prayer.  Or they may even be “Christian” because they live in the U.S.A.  I suspect, however, this group diminishes daily.

And then there are those who are few in number.  Those who are part of the “invisible Church,” i.e., True Believers across the planet.  These are the folks Jesus talked about when he said:  Matthew 7:13-14  “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. This is one of those scary verses in the Bible, but I take it to mean that there are not very many real “Christians” but a lot of self-proclaimed “Christians.”

So when we say that “Christians” are voting for Trump, I’m not really sure who the polls and the press are talking about.

Years ago I had a number of people in the church who were mad at me and “accused” me of being an “evangelical.”  Sadly they had no idea what that word meant.  Basically I was put into the Jerry Falwell camp.  Please know that even when years ago we did have a clearer sense of what that word meant it did NOT mean “televangelist”!!!  If you’re going to accuse someone of something, at least know what you are talking about!

I was in seminary over 30 years ago.  I remember one prominent Christian scholar saying that he no longer used the term “evangelical,” nor did he want to be called an “evangelical.”  His reason?  Because the term was used so broadly and irresponsibly that it no longer had meaning.  I know this much… if he didn’t know what it meant 30 years ago I can assure you that neither you the reader, nor the secular press knows what it means either!  So in answer to the question about “evangelicals”… again, I don’t really know who we are talking about.

I honestly have not spoken to one person who has said they are voting for Trump; not that I have that many conversations about these things because they nauseate me.  But if the polls are accurate, there are a bunch of “church” people voting for him.

What about “Church” people – true believers, the “narrow gate” Christians, the Invisible Church people?  Are they voting for Trump?  I don’t really know since the press and the polls do not clearly distinguish these folks.

Why then are “church” people or the loosely defined “christian people” voting for Trump “despite his total lack of faith or evidence of moral integrity?”  Since many of these people have less concern for “faith or integrity” than they do for getting what they want, and they are angry and disgusted with the status quo, it makes total sense to vote for someone who is going to shake up the establishment.  The thought seems to be, “Let’s roll the dice and see what happens.  It can’t be worse than where we are now.”  I should add that the front runner on the Democratic side is no star herself when it comes to “faith or integrity.”  In reality I have no memory in my lifetime of two worse front running candidates for President.  One is an embarrassing, spoiled, loose cannon.  And the other might soon be brought up on felony charges for, at the very least, stupidity and at worst dealing irresponsibly and illegally with top secret information.  Pick your poison, I guess.

Years ago there was an abandoned barn near where I lived.  The barn was FILLED with rats.  My friends and I would quietly go into the barn, plug up the escape holes and kick any place where the rats were hiding.  We would then chase them with bats, hockey sticks, or BB and pellet guns.  On one occasion I was in a very small room with a friend and we had trapped a rat in the corner.  We hadn’t factored in that the room was too small to swing our bats.  The cornered rat panicked and ran at us.  I opened the door like a matador and let it run right past my foot. Why do I tell you that?  Read on.

In the end I think people are simply angry and fearful.  When we are backed into a corner we get vicious.  Trump is a vicious candidate.  Not the only one, I might add; he just doesn’t try to hide it.  The “Christians” who are voting for Trump (in my humble opinion) are responding more to their anger and fear than they are to the Lordship of Jesus.  That’s why the way is “narrow” – because it’s HARD.

I should add this verse from 1 John 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, ecause fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

What does that mean?  If God is love, and we allow ourselves to be controlled by our fears and there is no fear in love…, well… you figure it out.


Lessons from the laundry

January 11, 2016

Most of my childhood my father had a second job in some form or other. His primary job, where he worked for over 35 years, was at a plant called “Gulf Research” in Harmarville, PA. You know the drill… he left at precisely the same time each morning with his lunch box and thermos and pulled into the driveway at exactly 5:30 each afternoon… on the dot, without fail, like clockwork. But it was his secondary income that I want to mention briefly.

Before I was born and into my early childhood before I can remember, he worked (on the side) for Sears and Roebuck repairing appliances… stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, etc. Also before I can recall, he owned a dump truck that he used to haul miscellaneous things on the weekends for whoever would pay him. Sometime around 1965 or so, he made the decision to go into business for himself (again “on the side”) drawing on his expertise gained from working at Sears, I suppose. He opened a “coin operated laundromat.” Not sure why so many of them used the designation “coin operated” since that was somewhat implied (it wasn’t free) but many of them did, none the less. Beginning in 5th or 6th, grade I took the bus (every third week) to the laundromat each day after school and “worked” there until my father picked me up at 10:00 p.m. My sisters Peg and Donna worked the other two weeks. Mostly we were responsible for giving change, keeping things tidy and dealing with any other issues that came up. I was okay with the “giving change” part but the “keeping tidy” thing… well let me just say it wasn’t my forte. What on earth is this all about anyway? Well, I thought I would share with you some “Lessons Learned From the Laundry.”

1. This past week I was doing laundry because Ellen was having some back issues and going up and down the stairs was painful. At one point, I pulled a load of pants and socks out of the dryer. Most of the socks had matches but there were two independent, rebellious, rogue socks. (Not surprising) Lo and behold, I found their matches in my drawer!

Lesson: Even the most unlikely miracles are possible.

2. The one thing customers complained about the most at the Laundromat was the fact that the machines were not cleaning their clothes well enough. Inevitably they would be packing the washers so full and tight that the agitators couldn’t do their work. You know… 100 lbs. of manure in a 50 lb. sack.

Lesson: Have reasonable expectations for the circumstances of your life.

3. On occasion people would fuss about the fact that the dryers took too long.

Lesson: (See # 2 above) Dryers are designed to tumble the clothes allowing air to separate the items. One giant clump doesn’t work!

4. I remember once smoke billowing out of the little compartment behind the dryers that allowed access for repairs. I panicked and thought there was a fire. It turned out to be a belt that was going bad.

Lesson: Check out the reality before assuming the worst.

5. Some of you may remember a song done in the 60’s called “Leader of the Pack” that began with the rumbling of a motorcycle engine. A band called “The Detergents” did a parody entitled “Leader of the Laundromat.” My kids bought me the 45 some years ago. Go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qi5yDBvYUcE, if you want to listen. My sister Ellen was in high school when this song came out. I remember her telling me about folks good naturedly teasing her.

Lesson: Most things can be viewed through a “lens of levity.”

6. People would put gobs of Clorox into white loads to try and get out stains.

Lesson: Some “stains” in our lives require more than man made solutions.

7. You can put numerous filters in place BUT lint still finds its way into your laundry room and clothes.

Lesson: No matter how much we protect our psyches and how many compliments and “strokes” we hear, negativity still finds its way into our lives and frankly… it hurts.

8. Clothes wear out after a while. Hard water expedites that process.

Lesson: Aging is inevitable. Hard living brings it on faster.

9. Laundry is never done! It has to be cleaned over and over again.

Lesson: Something about “repentance” here.

10. No matter how hard, efficiently or fast my father worked, machines kept breaking and needing repair.

Lesson: Smooth sailing in life is only a temporary condition. Strengthen your faith in the good time to carry you through the hard times.

11. We had a heavy steel “change machine” on the wall that dispensed dimes and nickels in exchange for quarters. This was before the current machines that can scan and read dollar bills. The machine was made from ¼” thick steel and held onto the wall by another heavy sheet of steel. I can’t be certain but I’m pretty sure the building could have been nuked and that change machine would have still been in place. On one rare occasion when I was tidying up, I was cleaning the aforementioned lint off of the floor. After filling a dust pan I stood up only to hit my head on the corner of the change machine. It knocked me silly.

Lesson: Sometimes even when we do what we’re supposed to do it can lead to painful failures.

12. I’m ashamed to admit that I did not do a good job for my dad while I “worked” for him.

Lesson: Have age appropriate expectations for children.

13. On one occasion a bully from my school who had been harassing me for months came to the laundromat to give me a hard time. I remember that I was afraid of him in school, but this was tantamount to attacking my whole family. I picked up a carton of empty glass pop bottles and threw it at him. Glass smashed all over the place. He looked at me like I was insane and then he walked out.

Lesson: Not real sure the lesson here but I’m glad he didn’t beat the snot out of me.

14. We used to sit around our kitchen or dining room table on Sunday afternoons counting and putting change into those paper tubes for the bank. I was allowed to keep any really old and valuable dimes or quarters. I had a few collections of them. Liberty head dimes, and the quarters before Washington was on them. I spent them all in High School.

Lesson: See number 12 above.

15. For the most part I hated my time at the laundromat. It seemed like every time something fun was going on with my friends I had to work.

Lesson: One never knows what sort of experiences will be called upon in the future. Nor do we know how we will be impacted and trained by the things we have done. I should add that Ellen and I were behind in doing our laundry because our washing machine was broken. I repaired it – a new “snub ring” (sorry, can’t explain that to you), a stabilizer spring, and replacement of a leaking internal hose. Thanks, Dad.

New Year’s Resolution for “The Church”

January 6, 2016

I haven’t’ been around in a while… Christmas, New Year’s… etc.… I hope you all are well and had a wonderful Holiday season.

I quite regularly hear criticism of the Christian Church. And as the faith in our country continues to swirl downward, and as more and more people fall into the category of “religious nones” we will no doubt receive escalating flack. I should ask; do you know what “nones” are? It’s a term that has become popular lately to describe the growing number of (mostly young people) who answer the question, “Religious affiliation” with the word: “none.”

Of course we all know what they say about “statistics” but it seems that somewhere in the area of 20% of our population are “nones.” Get that? One in 5 people are claiming “no religion” and that number increases each year. Let me return to this in a moment.

There is no doubt that we in the Church have made a mess of things over the centuries. Let me distinguish between “the church,” i.e., the man made institution and “The Church,” the gathering of God’s people around the world. When we talk about denominations for example like Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics or even Independent churches we are talking about the former, i.e., manmade institutions. I suspect it is “the church” that has made a mess over the years, but that’s just me. We have split, divided, and hurt one another. We have killed innocent people in the “Name of Jesus.” We have failed to care for the poor, widowed and the orphaned due to our own selfishness. I have heard the phrase that “Christians are the only ones who shoot their wounded.” I’m sure that’s not true… Christians are not the only ones. It is no wonder that we are reviled and despised by many outside of the faith. And honestly, we should be on some levels. We are indeed the biggest hypocrites on the planet. HOWEVER…

There is also an upside to the institutional church. One simple example. When hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast several years ago my small church (under the leadership of our then youth pastor) took 6-7 trips to Mississippi to provide relief. We heard much grumbling in the secular press about the slow or nonexistent response of the government and insurance companies. What we didn’t hear was the fact that hundreds of thousands of Christian people over the next several years “flooded” that area with help. I don’t mean financial (although there were gobs of that as well) I mean “boots on the ground” rebuilding, feeding, providing medical care. I would hazard to say that if not for The Church in this country, New Orleans and the surrounding communities would still be pumping out their homes and businesses. And yet, nary a word of that from the secular press. (I should add that many other agencies and “religions” also provided aid.)

No doubt we in the church have our issues, but we also need to carry a burden for the moral trajectory of the world. I’m not implying that Christians are the only ones who provide a moral compass; other religions need to get credit where credit is due. So the question is not one of “how dreadful religion is.” A better question is: What would the world be like if there were no religion?

I can hear my atheist and agnostic friends saying, “Hallelujah! It would be a much better place!” (Well, of course they wouldn’t say “hallelujah” since it’s a Hebrew word meaning “praise God” but…) Really a much better place? I think not. One only needs to look at the history of humanity to know that immorality and more immorality leads to chaos and death. Human beings left on their own only swirl into selfishness and chaos. Oh, for sure there are a few examples of indigenous tribes in the world who have somehow managed to live peaceful lives, but there are very few of them!

George Orwell in Animal Farm and William Golding in Lord of the Flies both had their finger on the pulse of a world where lack of moral certainty and the preponderance of human depravity run amuck. I wouldn’t expect you to remember but a famous line is found near the end of Animal Farm after the total take over by wickedness: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” That is the progression and the mantra of a world with no religion. The truth is “religion” doesn’t even have to be real. It could be that we die and there is nothing but decay. But if there is no pretense of religion; if there is no one standing against the tides of selfishness and power mongers; all the future holds then, is eventual animalistic destruction.

I have had a conversation with some lawyer friends over the years about the inadequacies of our legal system. In particular, the fact that poor black people are more likely to be executed for crimes than are rich white (or even non-white) people. They always fall back, it seems, on this line, “Well, we are still the best system in the world.” Somehow that is seen as the end of the argument. My comment is, “But it still has huge flaws that need to be addressed. It can and needs to get better.” We are not unlike that in the church. We have giant flaws… and we need to get better! I’m not hopeful, but I do at least know the need.

So how do we get better? I think it’s the same process that we should use in our personal life, i.e., we begin with repentance. “God we are sorry that we have not been the people you have called us to be. Change our hearts and cause us to seek after you and you alone.” If the church were to have New Years’ resolutions, maybe that should be it? Just sayin.

Next week we’ll look at “freedom of speech and ‘safe places’”… Oh joy.