Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

As our nation is now embroiled in fierce debate about right and wrong, and as Christians are drawn into the discussion, I find some need for clarity on what is good, what is godly.

Below are a few thoughts: None of this is directed at a political party or political figure. I find myself disillusioned with partisan, party politics and with leaders on all sides who seem to spend their time attacking each other rather than working together on our problems. I find myself longing for wise leadership that can bring sides together, that values everyone. I find myself longing for God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

What does that look like?

Within God’s perspective, public virtue is always based on private virtue. Evil in private, virtuous in public is not virtuous. Within Christ’s teachings, congruency is expected, integrity required. Jesus taught that a good heart produces good, an evil heart evil.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Luke 6:45

Jesus condemned those who looked good but had greedy and selfish hearts.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Mathew 23:25

Inside the cup matters. Greed and selfishness is a chronic personal and political leadership problem for all of us. Care for others, unselfish thoughts of our nation’s future, other nation’s futures. our planet’s future should — if we are unselfish — enter our discussions about race, gender, debt, wars, pollution, health and community fairness and integrity.

The kingdom of God is unselfish. It thinks of the welfare of all people, men and women, all races, all faiths, all nations. It seeks peace, it is willing to negotiate, to listen, to be fair.

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 

James 3:17

We would do well to use James’s standards to judge the wisdom of our leaders, to judge what is love, to judge governmental decisions, laws, and to measure ourselves.

Next, we must hold to this: a good end is never justified by an evil means. If someone does evil, God may work some good out of it — perhaps their downfall and replacement by a better person — but God holds all of us responsible for our actions.

Evil behavior is never justifiable. Paul gets at this in one key place saying. “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”

Romans 6:1

No person in any culture or government has an exemption from being moral, good and legal. A public official does not have an elite, morally exempt status. Nor does a rich or powerful citizen. Nor does a group. We are all judged by our laws and by God alike. Right is right for all.

God held the ancient Jewish kings to his standards and commands. Saul didn’t get away with disobeying God. Neither did David get away with immorality. Neither did the nations of the Old Testament sin before God without God noticing and responding.

We can’t see this as clearly today, but I am convinced God is watching and in his time and way he will bring justice and kindness to many.

What are the means by which we might measure a godly kingdom or government?

The greatest Christian and Jewish moral code provides a standard for behavior; this is the Ten Commandments. Many laws are derived from that. That’s a starting point for standards.

But there is a Biblical standard beyond that. Jesus came with something new. He taught that the highest Christian measure of godliness and of virtue is love. He brought love and forgiveness in as a deep part of God’s plan. Apply this to politics. The best leaders love; they that means they understand grace. The best government is the most loving, like the best person. It is certainly not the most dominant. Love is the greatest law and the greatest power.

The great command by which we measure good is love. Does this person, public or private, love people, all people, neighbors? Does this government love? It’s odd that we never ask that, seldom apply that standard to government, particularly when we have a people’s government, government by the people of the people and for the people. A group of people is not subject to a different moral law then one person. They may have different functions but there isn’t a different morality to govern them.

The state has the right, for instance, to arrest, judge, incarcerate and punish. But only and always morally and justly and by law. We are commanded to respect this and our leaders in Romans 13.

In this role authorities should protect, as they are appointed to do, but protection must still be guided by love and protection from evil is to be accomplished by doing good. Good government doesn’t protect just one group or one kind of person. Jesus set up a love standard and he didn’t exclude anyone or any group from it. Thus there is a Christian ban on racism.

We should respect governments, engage them to engage the kingdom, vote, lobby, protest, serve in them in order to establish love on earth.

But when government is wrong, we have a higher calling to respect God. When men, especially when leaders or governments are wrong, we must speak and act for the good.

When commanded to stop preaching about Jesus, “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’”

Acts 5:29

Particularly in the United States, where we have freedom of speech, we are responsible to speak up when things are wrong and to stand for what is good. That is our civic duty, to stand up for love. The kingdom of God looks like wise love!

Finally, who do we Christians look to for protection?

We do look to governments, just and fair governments, but we must apply great wisdom and oversight. Too often governments have used people, us, all of us, to do evil and they have also abused us for being good. Sometimes they have protected us, and we are grateful for that, and we must continue to use and work with governments to create order and protection of the good, but ultimately, we look to God for our help, even in crafting good governments and electing good leaders.

Scripture constantly points to God, not government, for guidance, wisdom and protection precisely from the ways and means of unreliable humans and dangerous enemies.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

“Never will I leave you;

    never will I forsake you.”

So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.

    What can mere mortals do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5-6

Today I saw happened to be walking by the house of an old friend in my neighborhood as he drove up. I waited for him to get out of his truck. We greeted, then chatted about the landscaping remodel of his front yard, now half finished.

I brought it up, his wife, acknowledged his wife, what had happened last year, how she was tragically killed in an accident. He talked about her, how he is working at surviving, going to groups, going on, doing the landscaping she had wanted. We hugged — three times. We were present to each other. He mentioned the need for a new hairdresser. I gave him the name of my friend who cuts hair in a shop and told him, “This guy has this awesome personality and doesn’t charge too much. You’ll love him.” Then I texted him the phone number.

After I left and returned home, he texted me.

“Thanks for stopping by and for the hair contact. Pretty much available to stop and talk anytime (if no appts or nap pending)? Great to see you.”

What is precious? Presence. Another person’s presence — that is of the highest value. Being with, being near, being proximate — this is superlative! Stopping to talk, standing within another’s magical realm — this is nonpareil! Lingering, listening, absorbing, merging with another being — it is always a mysterious encounter with a stunningly significant life form. Such moments are exquisite! Not doing, being, not doing business, but letting someone else’s state of being be our business — transcendent!

You and I can do nothing better with our time and then be present with each other.

A person is a space heater; a group is a bonfire, an event is a conflagration

Recently, I had a friend over. He grew up in Zimbabwe, worked for some time in London, then in Montana, and now lives here in San Diego. He’s been around. I like that.

We watched a rugby match together and warmed ourselves with discussions of scrums, rucks and mauls. He is a big New Zealand rugby fan and so we viewed a match between New Zealand and Australia on Youtube that began with a fearsome haka. The quivering hands and intense war cries of the Maori people were awesome.

My new friend schooled me in the fine art of the rough art. As he was out the door I invited him back another weekend to watch some Cricket. We are socia-sportifying, internationalizing, warming up the place.

Every person close to every person is the potential for a cozy hearth fire. Every race, tribe, nation and people breaching, teaching and reaching every other people is the good within the transcendent social good. We were meant to warm each other up, made for congeniality, created for affability, programmed for closeness.

The problems seem to arise when we team up against each other. when we stereotype each other, label each other and hatefully oppose each other. The solutions come when we sit down together, focus on the same thing, explain stuff to each other, do something fun tougher, play together, laugh together.

My current thoughts, find someone from somewhere else, treat them as your personal space heater, fire them up with your own curiosity, ask questions, learn from each other and  warm up the place.

The politicians up for election, how they clobber, club and crucify each other — the back room hacking, the in-your-face attacking, the under-the-table cracking, the character fracking and reputation hijacking.

Campaigns are pretty much a public brawl, in a skirt or a tie, on a hill, in a hall.

I long for something else — a quiet friend, who isn’t running for office, who isn’t telling other people off, who isn’t hiding smutty history, who has no record of groping or doping or wheeling or dealing, the wall or the hall or the floor or the ceiling.

I long for something unselfish, undivided, unbiased — something not frantic, forced, frothing, fierce.

I think of my father, now in his final years, bending over my mother in the bath, gently splashing water on her shriveled, shrunken, surgeried skin — softly, soapy sloshing what she can’t clean herself.

I think of my brother, at the City of Hope, wrist band 86, wasted wait again, the needle in the arm, the unexpected end — of work and wish and want. He will be going back to work in a few hours to make sure people are taken care of, to make sure things will be okay when he doesn’t get to go to the office anymore.

I think of my friend who lost her husband two years ago. Thirty years then gone. There she is in the therapy room after the group meeting, waiting until everyone is gone so that she can secretly pay for her disabled friend’s care, even though her own financial future isn’t certain.

Such pauses from ourselves, such thoughts of someone else, such quiet, unseen, brave campaigns — they rise up to the top and rule when all else is lost.

Such kindness as these are of great note.

Such kindnesses as these all have my vote.

Note: You can find my other modern soliloquies at

I’ve been watching the 2016 Presidential race play out over the last few months, and it has been been eye-opening, fascinating, astonishing really, a study in some of the worst traits of human nature. I’ve have been particularly interested in how my fellow Christians have reacted, what they have been willing to support and what they have been willing to overlook.

It appears to me that there is some degree of inability to judge character well.

Politicians who show a consistent pattern of insulting others, of lying about what they have said or not said in the past, of self-aggrandizement, of greed for excessive wealth, of exploiting those they hire, of harsh judgmentalism of other races, of belittling, objectifying and misusing women, of scoffing at other’s weaknesses but of not sincerely grieving and apologizing for their own — such leaders show not merely that they fail to say the right thing; they fail to be the right person. Such failures are failures of the most profound order. They are failures of character and failure of love, and they represent the exact opposite of the character of Jesus.

Jesus consistnely maintained an opposite pattern from this, a pattern of humility, a pattern of profound respect for the weak, for the poor, for the sick, for women, for children, for the mentally disabled, for other races, even for those from other religions — such as the Samaritan woman. He was consistently kind to people who weren’t like him — except, as you may note, that Jesus was hard on leaders who were self-seeking, harsh, domineering, greedy and judgmental.

Who should we support, politically? It is challenging. It requires good discernment. But I don’t believe that it is an issue that should be decided for us by a political party, or by how we have voted in the past, or by the preassure of others who fire off their political opinions with little thought or reason. Nor should our choice be decided by our own moral weakness, by what we excuse in ourselves, or by our need for hitching our wagon to someone powerful so that we might ourselves seem to gain a little power.

I’m not sure how it all sorts out, but I am sure that Christians should not blindly support anyone with a persistently harmful character, thinking that this doesn’t matter as long as that leader advocates  something they have traditionally favored. And I am sure of this: Character matters! Whatever our political biases, we should never align ourselves with any leader whose character has a pattern that is precisely the opposite of Jesus’s.