Strength vs. integrity: a Biblical response to the presidential debate

What I learned from last night’s final presidential debate (which was the first one I watched) is that the way you “win” mostly has to do with how long you can talk without taking a breath or how willing you are to yell “Liar, liar, pants on fire” while the other guy is in the middle of what he’s saying. The fundamental thing Romney and Obama agreed on is the importance of projecting strength in US foreign policy. “Strength” seems to be defined as not apologizing for anything the US has done in the past and making sure that other nations understand that the US knows what’s best for them. I realize we live in a secular nation-state, but I am really bothered by how thoroughly un-Biblical that way of thinking is. Whether or not it’s effective foreign policy from a realpolitik perspective, the Bible calls us to integrity, not strength.

Continue reading

What would you have done in Libya?

One of the things that makes me hot in watching politics is when one politician criticizes another one’s decision-making without having to explain what he would have done differently. It’s amazing how omnipotent the American president is expected to be about events that are completely beyond his control. Wow, Libya sure did blow up in your face, President Obama; you should have known those Arabs couldn’t handle democracy (say the same people who 9 years ago justified invading an Arab country to “help teach them democracy”). Well, I don’t object to his decision-making per se (since I can’t offer a better alternative), but he should have run all his decisions by Congress (say the same people who were flabbergasted when the opposite side made the preposterous suggestion of “running a military by committee” 9 years ago). This has ceased to have anything to do with making good decisions; it is about coming up with one-liners that stick. And there’s such a desperate need to make Libya into Obama’s Iran hostage crisis that a congressman was willing to do a Wikileaks-style document dump which compromised Libyan allies for the sake of taking down the president. So let me pose the question to you: what would you have done in Libya? Continue reading

60 Jesus tweets for the presidential debate

Tonight from 9-10:30 pm EST, two men neither of whom are the anti-Christ and both of whom are sinners whom God has used to accomplish varying degrees of good in our world will get on TV and attack one another while millions of Americans watch. While this happens, hundreds and perhaps thousands of Christians will get on twitter and damage their witness to co-workers and friends of different races and political persuasions by writing snide commentaries that bash either of the two candidates. The reason I have made a fool out of myself trying to promote the #JesusIsMyCandidate campaign is to offer a different witness of Christ to people who have been alienated by loudmouth Christians who have not spoken with integrity or represented Christ well. If you have a twitter account, I have made it incredibly easy for you to participate tonight. You can cut and paste any number of the 60 sample tweets below anytime today into a tweet scheduler called twuffer.com (yes, the name is silly) so that you don’t have to post live during the debate. Continue reading

Is America 53% Pelagian?

As the pastor of a politically “purple” congregation, I need to tread lightly on the controversy surrounding Mitt Romney’s remarks about 47% of Americans not paying income tax. I am trying my best to transcend the superficial “issue” level of our increasingly absurd political conversation so that I can yank out the theological roots of the bad weeds that we find in our commonly held assumptions. I really believe that America’s problem is fundamentally theological (and it’s utterly bipartisan). One dimension of it is the impoverished understanding of “individual rights” that Ross Douthat and others have linked to the corrosive impact of secularism (which John Milbank correctly categorizes in Theology and Social Thought as a self-disavowing sect of Christian-rooted thought that has gone atheist). Paul Ryan was right to observe that our “rights” have become dangerously stripped of their bark if there is no longer an assumption that we are “endowed by our Creator” with them (and not by whichever majority of Americans happens to be in power). But the irony is that many of the very people who cheer when they hear lines like, “Our rights come from God and nature, not from government,” actually embrace secularism when the question is framed differently. To say that we are a society of “makers” and “takers” is a profession of disbelief in the relevance of the one true Maker. If I believe that everything I have and everything I have used to gain what I have is a gift from God, then He is the only Maker and we are all takers with one Father who commands us to care for each other as brothers and sisters. Continue reading

Why we need to build this meme: #JesusIsMyCandidate

It was only supposed to be a catchy sermon series to attract attention for our fall kickoff season. At first our senior pastor was worried about being misinterpreted in the heat of an extremely divisive election season. We have a beautifully “purple” church where progressive liberals and Tea Party activists worship together. It’s one of United Methodism’s greatest strengths and sources of agony. We’re one of the few big tent Christian denominations left. So many have split on female ordination, homosexuality, and other political issues. And so a sermon series called “Jesus is My Candidate” seemed entirely appropriate for a congregation in which people of all political persuasions worship and serve together. But now it’s gotten bigger than a sermon series; it’s become a meme — that strange 21st century cyber-object that you attach to a hashtag on twitter or hand over to Willy Wonka on Facebook hoping that it “trends.” The vision God seems to be sharing feels about as ridiculous as Kevin Costner mowing an Iowa cornfield to build a ballpark for ghosts, and I need a James Earl Jones with a much bigger platform to swoop in, put this meme on your back, and explode it. It’s really simple. We get as many people as possible on twitter every evening at 9 pm until election day to share as many personal testimonies and prophetic statements about Jesus as they feel like with the hashtag #JesusIsMyCandidate. And if we come up with songs, videos, flash mobs, etc, using the same meme, we go where they take us. It’s not slacktivism. It’s a 21st century act of prayer and resistance against the designs of Satan to use this presidential election to pummel American Christianity (and I’m not being a melodramatic wing-nut to name it that way). Continue reading