Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Advent is my favorite season of the year. I think it comes from my own psychological baggage. I’ve always felt deeply empty – my therapist might encourage me to say worthless. Oh I know I’m a beloved child of God and I’m not out there looking for abuse or anything. I know who I am; I just don’t always feel it.

I heard Ian Morgan Cron speak to Olivet Nazarene University chapel recently – he talked specifically about this lack, this need, this inner sense of emptiness. He called it a universal piece of the human condition and that made me feel better. Perhaps I’m not as alone or unusual as I might’ve thought. I suppose a sanctified Nazarene elder such as myself shouldn’t still be struggling with issues of worth and purpose, but here I am and I don’t think I’m alone.

That’s exactly why I like Advent. Advent is the season that provides impetus for Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of incarnation, of Christ coming to Earth as a cute little baby boy. But that begs the question: why? Love, of course - it’s always love - but more specifically why do we need the kind of amazing sacrificial godly love we see in the birth of Christ?

It’s because we’re in such a sorry spot.

The world is pretty messed up most of the time, and we, the people of God, are far too often in the middle of it. There is pain and violence and abuse and war, depression and divorce and greed and selfishness – and there’s just as much of it in the Church as there is outside. We’re all terribly inadequate, yet deserving of so much more.

It’s that distance, that great divide between who we are and who we are created to be that Christ comes to bridge. That’s Christmas. Advent is about measuring the gap and affirming its impossibility. In Advent we mourn, we lament, we confess, and we beg.

We mourn the great potential of God’s creation and the ways in which we’ve helped to mess it up. We lament the great terrors we human beings have wrought on the world and just how many of them have grown out of control. We confess our inadequacy to tackle even the simplest of tasks without the divine presence of God almighty. And we beg for mercy. Please, Lord, don’t let us go down with this ship!

Advent is the season where we remind each other of how far we have to go, but also of how much God loves us and the absolute, unquestionable salvation that is just around the bend. Yes, we are preparing to celebrate the coming of messiah, but also of his immanent return. We bask in the joy of God’s love – the love spoken of so eloquently in John 3:16 – but we also sit with baited breath, anticipating the culmination of the Kingdom that Christ ushered in with his presence and that we so desperately need.

I love Advent, I think, because this one time of year, in the midst of our holiness culture, there’s permission to be me. I know we like to say we’re not about sinless perfection anymore, but that idea is just such a part of our DNA its shadow always lingers. There’s an unspoken (hopefully) drive to be light years ahead of where we are. Always better. Never satisfied.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that… in spurts, but we need a season to escape that pressure and be faulty human beings in need of a savior. It might not sound like Advent is a time for rejoicing, what with all the confessing, mourning, and lament, but Advent can be freeing for people who feel obligated to solve all the problems of the world most of the time.

Advent is our season to give up, to recognize the futility of our strivings, and place all the responsibility on God. The early cry of Advent was maranatha, “Come, Lord,” the only prayer possible when we’re at the end of our rope, when our only hope is THE only hope. It’s true that God meets every need, but we rarely see God’s way through the darkness of our desperation.

Salvation comes in unsuspecting ways: like a baby in a manger when it feels like we need an army.

Advent prepares the way for Christmas, like Lent for Easter. We need the struggle to appreciate the miracle. We need to live in the midst of who we really are before we can approach the awesome majesty of who we’re created to be.

Don’t skip Advent. Don’t make it just four weeks of advertisement for Christmas – Walmart does enough of that for everyone. Sit in the tension of the already and the not yet. Create anticipation for the glory yet to come by recognizing the profound sadness of a world not yet complete.

And when you get to Christmas, enjoy the whole thing. Those twelve days are not just an annoying song. The wisdom of our forebears knew we needed more than just one hectic morning of wrapping paper and pajamas to fully pay off the anticipation of our sorrow. We’ll be back in the midst of the world soon enough. Sing carols on New Year’s. Say “Merry Christmas” during the Rose Bowl parade.

It’s a long year and a long life. We need Advent. We need Christmas. They help us celebrate all of who we are: complex, oft-inferior, and entirely messed up; but also beautiful, beloved, lovingly crafted creations, in the very image of God.

The world isn’t going to hell in a handbasket, but it’s ok to think that it is once in a while. That’s called Advent, and it’s my favorite season of the year.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Visual Comfort Food

Disclaimer #1: Basketball season has begun and thus my often regular blog posts may becomes less regular. I am doing more this year than last (both within and outside the basketball world), so it might be harder to keep the twice weekly schedule.

Disclaimer #2: My recollections here are the impressions of a ten year old, filtered through a quarter century of memory. Please do not use them to judge anyone as they are very likely wrong and almost certainly inaccurate.

That being said, I've found myself really liking the NBC sit-com Superstore. I know, I know, with all the great TV being made right now, why would you spend time with what has to be the most traditional, uninspiring, predictable show on NETWORK TV? Short answer: it's funny. Yes, it's a very cliched premise: a bunch of diverse people work at a Wal-mart stand-in; chaos ensues. It's a traditional workplace comedy - the show is about the characters and their interactions more than it's about any actual thing. The lives of the characters outside the store occasionally enter the story-line, but only as out-of-place intruders that must be dealt with.

I'm not going to make this post about how Superstore has some deeper meaning and overarching lesson for today's society. It is everything you feared it would be - it's typical; it's traditional; it's a set-up you've seen a hundred times before. One difference, though: it's funny. Really funny. The writing is clever and they make sure to pack every episode with two or three interstitial three second scenes where something funny, yet also believable happens in the store with none of the main characters involved. It's inventive within a very rigid box and I appreciate the creativity. It's also super well written (did I mention that?). The jokes are funny. I chuckle A LOT - which is saying something.

All of that to say, one of the best performances (as one might expect) is Kids in the Hall and SNL alum Mark McKinney, who plays Glenn, the store manager. His character is a take off on conservative Christians, with a little mormon love thrown in there. It would be easy for the performance to be hackey; a boss used for mockery and as a comic foil is pretty typical of these typical network shows. Glenn, though, has heart. He's a real person who doesn't at all fit a stereotype (even as the show tends to play into and then subvert typical sit-com stereotypes - dammit, I did end up making the case that there's more to this show than appears on the surface - honestly that was not my intention; I promise).

What I like about Glenn is how comfortable he is to me. I realized this morning that Glenn is like the evangelical Christians I knew growing up, before they were co-opted by the Republican party. He's religiously devout and morally ultra-conservative (in one episode he buys all the store's "morning after" pills to keep them from being used, but then has to sell them from a card table at the front of the store when he realizes how expensive they are and can't return them), but he's not hardened or ideological. Glenn loves people. All people, in every situation, and he repeatedly works to compromise between his deeply-felt convictions and his love for other people.

This is the environment in which I grew up. We were political, only in so far as abortion was concerned. A one-issue community, for the most part. I'm sure people cared about tax policy and whatever else, but none of those things were tied up in their faith. Morality was important (and it is actually important), but in the context of loving and caring for people. I grew up in a worshiping congregation that routinely welcomed people who were left out in the larger world and loved them not only into community, but into a better story for their own lives. When I say routinely, I can think of a half dozen people in a second and probably three times that if I sat down intentionally.

I thought of Glenn this morning at random, but I realized he perfectly embodies that thing so many conservative Christians are known for these days: he is "love the sinner, hate the sin." The guy's got integrity and purpose - he has views that he's pretty up-front about, but never in the context of condemnation. He doesn't disprove of some mistake or choice a friend has made in the moment - he just think the best of everyone and tries to help.

Yeah, it's just a sit-com. It's not a life lesson. But certainly the things we watch shape us in some way - that's why we like deep story and creativity. Superstore is really none of those things, but it does speak deeply to how people who are profoundly different can also be united in common cause. There's no big message there, but it's funny and comforting and well made.

That's all I wanted to say.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Policy over People

I've struggled to write this post. I've re-written it entirely at least three times. I even posted it once, very briefly and then took it down because it didn't quite say what I wanted to say. I'm not sure if it does now.

It's been a week since the election. The first day or two were terribly emotional - that's how people react, both positively and negatively. There's been a lot of negative. People aren't coming together the way the United States typically does in these times. I've spent a sizeable chunk of the last week talking with upset people, hurting people, angry people. What I have to say are my words and they are knowingly filtered through the reality that I am an educated, straight, white man. While I can't understand all of what many around me are going through, I do see what they are going through and feel the need to say something.

If you think it's the wrong thing or the wrong time or I'm the wrong person, I apologize; you are very likely correct.

With regards to this election, there are real two levels of upset that don't seem to be speaking to each other. People who held their noses and voted for Trump (those who did so happily and with glee can really stop reading; this is not for you) have often said, "he's not going to do the things he said he would," but that misses the point. That statement is one of policy and policy is not at the root of the anger and discontent.

Don't get me wrong, people who don't like Donald Trump's ideas are apoplectic. He wants to build a wall, perhaps limit who can enter the country in ways some find unconstitutional. He has a tax plan that benefits the rich over the poor and expands the deficit with some vain hope that the third time's the charm for disproven economic theory. People don't like his suggestions for the Supreme Court, for the Cabinet, for how to handle his own personal conflicts of interest.

But in the end, those are just policy decisions. It's not like he's the first politician to suggest any of them. He's not. Not even close. People are upset about that, the same way those on the losing side of any election rue the future their now-empowered opponent will bring about. If this were a typical election, "get over it" would be the call of the day - and it would be appropriate. In a Democracy, the people speak, even if a majority of them spoke in a different direction. The system is not fair, but it is universally unfair.

People might be upset about the things Trump said he would do (even if you believe he won't do them), but people are hurt by the things he said - about women, about minority groups, about the disabled: about people. Trump took aim at all sorts of people and even if he was singling out one woman or one disabled reporter or one particular group of immigrants, many, many, many people saw themselves in those abusive remarks.

People did not see Donald Trump as just some guy with policies they dislike (in fact, a surprising number of hurt people I've talked to this week don't much mind many of his policies), but as a guy who's a mean, abusive, cruel, sexist bully - not a person they can respect, even if they agree with his policies. Too many times I've heard someone say, "I can't believe my mom/brother/friend would choose the Supreme Court/abortion/taxes over me." For the hurting people out there, this election was not political, but personal (even beyond the ways proposed policies might personally impact people).

I understand that those people who voted for Trump did so largely for reasons of policy. Whether is was the Supreme Court or abortion or taxes or corruption, most of the Trump votes were votes for some policy that is more likely to happen with him than with Hillary Clinton. I think those angry friends and relatives out there understand those things, too (even if they disagree with you on them) But, as I said, this is not the issue. In the end, I don't really care what you think about any of these things; I might disagree with you on some of them, but they're not worth getting angry about or damaging friendships over.

What is more difficult to stomach, though, is that people I love and care about found these things, particular issues, policy, so important that it was worth overlooking the vile nature of Trump's words and actions - and, perhaps worse, his patent refusal to apologize for them. Even after the election his justified those words with his victory - as if any means of achieving a desired end are good if they succeed.

No ends, no matter how good, righteous, holy, or important, mean enough to justify the means, if the means are Donald Trump.

That's the quandary. That's the divide which people must now bridge if there is any chance in calming the storm or finding unity. It is NOT about what policy you might approve of that I don't - it's about the guy you voted for to get those policies enacted. As I said, I'm the educated, white male in this room - the outrage is only mine by proxy.* I don't have the deep seated personal hurt that so many women and people of color feel right now.

To me this great pain is a sad illustration of what I've been saying and writing all along - we take this process far too seriously. It's not that elections and governments can't be avenues for us to live well in the world and take care of each other, but they MUST NOT become the only way by which we see paths to do this. Real relationships are in jeopardy - both because some people overlooked serious moral and ethical deficiencies in the name of progress, but also because some people have put such (false) hope and faith in the goodness of this nation that their worth was wrapped up in election results.

That is not to say people shouldn't be mad or hurt, that relationships shouldn't be strained by this election, but that we must be committed to working through them with honesty and humility.

There is an argument that Hillary Clinton is no paragon of virtue - and that may be true - but I don't see people upset that someone didn't vote for Clinton, simply that people did vote for Trump. Whether those votes were in spite of his nasty rhetoric, they enabled it and piled hurt upon the people hurt by it. God may have no hierarchy of sins, but the consequences of such are simply not the same. Lying and corruption are not the same as misogyny and assault - they're just not. They have a different bearing on our relationships with each other.**

Another response is that Clinton's policies would be so corrupt and morally bankrupt that she had to be stopped at all cost. That argument is one of policy and while it might be a good one on its own merits, it skirts the real issue of hurt and harm - because we've seen what "at all cost" actually costs. It costs the emboldening of the alt-right and their white supremacist brethren. It costs fear and abuse for women and minorities across the country. While we can be unified in our opposition to such results (and, as I've said, Trump voters especially need to be more vocal and more frequent denouncers of such things), there is hard work to overcome the very real (if unintended) support a Trump vote gave to these people. "At any cost" has a face and it's a familiar one to many of us: wives, mothers, daughters, friends.

That hurt is real and it's not going away.

It's perfectly acceptable to say "wait and see" or "give him a chance" when it comes to policy. That's the rhetoric we're hearing from all sides and, honestly, I think most of your friends and family who are upset can come around to that idea. The policy stuff hurts, but it'll pass. But those hatemongers showed up within minutes of the election - emboldened by the words of our President-elect (not to mention his subsequent appointment of one of their champions to his White House staff). Donald Trump may say, "stop hurting people," but he's yet to denounce the views represented in these hateful crimes, the same views he espoused on the campaign trail and refused numerous opportunities to take back.

I get that people can't be entirely divorced from policy, 1) because policy is intrinsically linked to words and attitudes, and 2) because people really believe in the ultimate value of the policies they support. I do make the distinction, though, because we must understand each other if there is any hope of peace and reconciliation.

If there's anyway forward we must be able to listen to each other - to hear why some policy was worth electing Trump and to hear why no policy could ever be worth it. As much as we don't like it, we should probably also admit how easily we could be on the other side of this divide, how utterly simple it is to overlook personal failings for what we believe to be a greater good, and how easy it is to demonize someone for it.

That doesn't remove responsibility, though. Its not that your friends and neighbors think you're a racist or a sexist, but people felt personally attacked and when the people they loved had the opportunity to defend them with their votes, they didn't; they chose policy over people. There are consequences to our actions that cannot be covered up with good intentions. When we've hurt people we love, we cannot minimize those feelings. We can't say, "I didn't mean to" or "I meant something different," because even if those things are true, the hurt still happened and it has to be acknowledged in order to heal. I suspect the President-elect will be learning that lesson along with his supporters in the weeks and months to come.

I hope the cost of this victory is not too much for our society and our relationships to bear.

*I'm disappointed in this election for sure - and I resonate with many of the things I outline here, but I'm not surprised by this election. I'm saddened that my tribe, evangelical Christians turned out with a record percentage for Donald Trump, but I've spent my adult life dealing with theology and studying scripture. It's no surprise that the people of God choose power over patience; it's always been that way. What breaks my heart are the people, many of whom I love, for whom this reality is just now dawning. This post is not about me, but I feel I have to say something.

**And if you need proof: ask yourself if you feel towards your Clinton-supporting friends the way they feel towards you. It's not just a personal failing that correlates perfectly with voting record or results. Both sides of the comparison may be rotten, and they may be equally bad when it comes to policy, but with regards to people, it's rotten apples vs rotten oranges.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Way Forward?

Paul Harvey told a Christmas story once on his radio program. My father uses it quite often in his Christmas Eve services; I've read it for him at least once. It's called "The Man and the Birds." The basic gist of the story is that a man stays home from Christmas Eve service because he just can't bring himself to believe in the incarnation - that God actually became human. While at home, a storm kicks up and he notices a flock of birds lost and weary in his front yard. The man has compassion on them and tries mightily to shoo them into the warm barn. Exasperated, the man wishes he could become a bird to lead the flock to safety - and the realization ignites within him this spark of faith.

I've been thinking about that story this morning, because I resonate with the desperation of the man. I'm not sure how to say this without coming off holier than thou (anyone who's read my twitter feed in the last 24 hours knows that's certainly not true), but part of claiming the title "evangelical" means one cares an awful lot about proclaimed truth. Instead of trying to herd a flock of birds into a barn, picture a man trying to guide trapped birds out of the barn to safety and freedom.

I believe with all my heart that the Kingdom of God is bigger, bolder, freer, more beautiful, and more expansive than any candidate, country, or campaign. I believe the good news of Jesus is that we don't have to get caught up in the machinations of power, choosing between flawed rulers and making due the best we can. When we're caught in this system is feels like birds bouncing back and forth between the walls of a barn they think encompasses the whole world, but is really a cage. Whatever floundering I do, waving my proverbial hands with exasperated one-liners, sub-par attempts at critique and satire, or wildly irresponsible mock presidential campaigns, is a desperate attempt to get the attention of my people who seem lost and unaware of it.

I know it makes me extreme and radical, but I do truly believe we shouldn't vote - not as Christians and at least not for President. As much as we try to hem and hedge and make excuses (and I'm just as guilty as anyone, see aforementioned twitter feed) our participation in that system is idolatry. It is a statement that the Kingdom of God is not enough for us, we must also have the kingdoms of this world.

When Dietrich Bonheoffer joined the plot to kill Adolf Hitler, he wrote, essentially, that he believed his actions were sinful and that they might earn him an eternity in hell, yet he willingly committed them anyway because he could stomach no other option. I try to take this perspective to heart when dealing with difficult issues (especially the taking of life), recognizing that we do not always possess the "right" solution in every instance. Similarly I recognize my tendency to do nothing over an imperfect something has not and does not always prove beneficial to me, my faith, or those around me.

At the same time, it feels as though Bonhoeffer's position is the only one that makes sense for Christian voters. If you're there, I might disagree, but I can understand. I just think we shouldn't be voting if we can, at all, help ourselves. There's nothing good in our preoccupation with power. It's dirty and messy and wreaks of lack of faith. We can't play pretend, saying we believe in a Kingdom ushered in by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then invest ourselves and our future in kingdoms that operate on an entirely different foundation.

I've written this before, but I know it gets trickier on a local level - since we have to get along with our neighbors. If there weren't a town council, we'd have to invent one, right? Or maybe we really could just live sacrificially for the good of the other? Maybe I'm just as trapped in the barn as everyone else, none of us really believing the door exists, or, if we do, not really believing we can ever find it.

I don't mean not voting for one person or another, but exempting ourselves from the conversation of us vs them (or even them vs them, with some obligation to choose sides). There is just us. As much as we'd like to say we can be loyal to our first allegiance and also take sides as Republicans or Democrats, we're fooling ourselves. Those identities in some way hinder us from being who we were created to be. The same is true for our identities as American or Arabian, Ugandan or Dutch. They seem convenient, but they just get in the way. Paul said neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (boy, is it hard to let go of that one!), and I'm even starting to wonder if even our identity as "Christians" gets in the way of our identity in Christ.

I don't think I've handled myself well in this flailing attempt to point our attention towards the door. I sure hope I've not come off as demonizing "them" who might think differently than me. My genuine desire is to caution "us" about the dangers we have embarked upon - and they are quite likely the exact same dangers we'd've encountered if 80% of us had voted the other direction.

I think it's an emotional over-reaction to say last night's vote was similar to the ancient Church's embrace of Constantine, but that's how it feels. In the US, people who most overtly name themselves the people of God have sided with amoral people in an amoral system we are desperate to sanctify. No, I don't think the other outcome would have produced a different result. Hence my reluctant call to give up voting.

I recognize the great sacrifices that have been paid to secure voting rights for people - and I admonish us to continue that work. Every person deserves the right to voice their opinion through the ballot box, but, as people following in the wake of Christ Jesus, I suggest we give up those rights in favor of living out an alternative.

That same Bonhoeffer proposed the idea of religionless Christianity, but died before he could flesh out his vision. I believe the most promising path forward, for the Church and for the world, is to explore together what that means: namely a life free of dogma and power and being "right;" a life of love in imitation of Christ, trying, as hard as the Holy Spirit will empower us, to avoid sacrificing our vision of the Kingdom to the kingdoms of the world.

I can't say I've done this well in recent days. Certainly many of you have felt less than loved. I don't know what to say. I'm sorry. I'll try to be better. But I have to keep trying. Somehow, we've got to get out of the barn.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

There Are More Important Things

This is a very unique election day - mostly because I'm running for President. I am on the ballot in Colorado and available as a write-in candidate in a dozen or so other states. I did this partly as a joke (outlined here), but largely because we take this whole process way too seriously and I thought this "campaign" might highlight that. I made silly videos and t-shirts and I'm really getting votes in more than a handful of states.

More than that, though, I seem to be a safe place for people who don't want to vote for a candidate they dislike, people who don't want to hold their nose and vote just to vote. I enjoy providing that option, but there's a larger message, too. People feel really obligated to vote. We've got people out there encouraging others to vote with words like "its the most important thing you can do today," or "its the responsible thing to do," or even "it's your civic duty." I get those are all in line with the public narrative of an election, but I don't think they're true.

The most important thing you can do today is love your neighbor, or, even better, love your enemy. The way we treat the people we interact with everyday has far more importance and a longer-lasting impact than any vote we could ever cast. Our government was specifically set up for the President to have as little real power as possible. Even in this day and age where the executive branch has more power than ever before, it's not much. Yes, a President can make life a little easier or a little more difficult for people - and voting for one or the other certainly makes sense.

Please, don't take it so seriously. I mean it. This is not the end of the world. In fact, the end of the world may only come when people put their faith in countries and governments to mediate our daily lives. The big lie of history is that power equals security; we are safe when we're in charge. It sure sounds and feels that way when you're scared, but the drive for power just leads to paranoia and the fear you don't have enough.

We live in a world with plenty. Everyone is valuable and there is enough to go around. I've dedicated my life to living into this truth and acting in ways that communicate it to other people. Fear and power and coercion are no way to live. There is always another option. Always. That's why I've tried to create on on the ballot, and I hope to always be a voice for another way in life and in my relationships with friends and neighbors.

Our culture drives us to imbue everything with as much meaning as possible. It's only true if you're trying to win ratings. The most important choices you make are usually the most ordinary. Do you let that guy merge in traffic? Do you bake cookies for the noisy neighbors rather than calling the cops? Do you spend an extra half hour in the midst of a busy day reading to a child or talking to your spouse?

Nothing that happens at the ballot box or in Washington DC could ever rival any of those choices. Even if your worst electoral fears are realized, those everyday decisions will still be more important.

I'm not saying "don't vote." People worked long and hard, sacrificed and sometimes died to provide the privilege. Most people in the world get no say in how their country works. We should use that opportunity as much as it seems valuable to us. But we shouldn't feel obligated. I left more than half the lines on my ballot blank today; there just weren't candidates I was comfortable voting for and there are more important things in this world.

I'm headed to Election Day Communion tonight at 6:30, where we'll gather around the table of God, a place where equality and abundance are joyfully proclaimed for all people, and I'll be reminded, both with words and actions, that there are indeed far more important things in the world.

No one will care about this election in 100 years (do you even know what party James Garfield represented?), what will matter is the kind of community we fostered with our lives and our love. I don't want elections and governments and nations to define that world. I believe there are much more important things.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Nothing is Worth That

You should know by now, I'm not on any "team" when it comes to elections. I encourage you to vote for me, where you can. I'm even fine if you don't vote. What I would like you to do is not vote for someone in order to register a vote against someone else. That's not cool.

What's more, it's not ethical, especially for Christians. That's who I hear talking the most about this. I've tried, over the last few months, to figure out exactly what Hillary Clinton did in the '90s to raise the absolute ire of the evangelical right. I know she did something, because I grew up with the impression she was one of the worst people on Earth. I couldn't, though, even at this point, figure out why. I've heard her called a liar a lot, but I haven't found evidence of egregious falsehoods - at least not any more than the typical politician making empty promises kind of way.

Anyway, I'm not here to defend her, just explain that lots of conservative Christians hate her with an inscrutable passion. This is what leads so many to tacitly support Donald Trump this time around. What I hear most often is the old Roe v Wade argument - "we need a republican President to save the Supreme Court." It's a pretty universal reason for Christians to vote GOP.

These Christians need a reason, because the guy is almost universally recognized as unconscionable. He's crass, selfish, mean, and immoral.* I might say he's more amoral, because I'm not sure Donald Trump possesses the typical human ability to differentiate between right and wrong. People don't like the guy; Christians can't excuse or defend him - and points for actually admitting it (for the most part).

It's the power game, though, that's troubling to me. The argument becomes one of power, particularly the Supreme Court and the underlying message of abortion - the single greatest motivating factor for conservative evangelicals. It is the only issue for so much of this particular part of the electorate - and it's giving Trump some life in this election. It's pretty much the only thing. Without that fear, I'm guessing the electorate might look a little more like Utah - with the religious vote largely going to someone with a very slim chance of winning.

I don't much care who someone votes for in this election. Someone will win and someone will lose. Life will get easier for some people and more difficult for others. Life will go on and things will, on the whole, change very little - even if there are some very noticeable differences that make for good headlines. I do care, however, why people are voting.

To be consistent, at least ethically, Christians really can't use this Supreme Court excuse to vote for Trump. If you genuinely like the guy or his policies, please say that. If you just simply don't trust Hillary Clinton and are terrified of her winning, say it. Don't - please, please please don't - say you're voting for Trump to save the Supreme Court.*

What you're saying there is that the ends justify the means and I know I've written the ethical, theological, and real life problems with that idea into the ground. I searched for "ends means" in my blog directory and found a full 15% of my posts at least mention them both. That justification is bad. It's terrible. We can't justify our means by the ends - that is the very antithesis of the life and teaching of Jesus. The whole point of Christian life is to make the good, right, ethical, and loving choice now, regardless of the consequences. We believe in a world without end and thus the ends are decidedly irrelevant.

I believe some important guy once said something about gaining the whole world while losing your soul.

I suspect the religious right in the US has already lost its collective soul by reckless pursuit of power - that's probably a decades old occurrence at this point. It doesn't have to be the future, though. This is why I so strongly oppose the idea that we have some moral or theological obligation to vote. That's a trap set by the powers that be, attempting to force people to choose the lesser of two evils - to put the ends before the means. You don't have to do it. There is more to the world than elections and government and courts and laws. Life is about relationship, specifically the relationships you have with your coworkers, friends, and neighbors - the people you see every day.

There is nothing - no court case, no law, no election, no cause - that is worth the sacrifice of principles, conscience, ethics, or soul. We can't; we cannot allow the means to justify the ends for us who follow Christ or we have been converted away from the gospel we long to live out.

Vote or don't. Don't feel obligated. If you like one candidate or another, please, by all means, vote for them. If you like neither, vote for someone else. If you're in Colorado, you can just fill in the bubble next to my name. If you're in a dozen other states, you can write me in and it will count. I promise, I won't win. I'd probably be a terrible President anyway - but if I were, I guarantee it won't be because I put the ends above the means.

Please, you don't do that, either. The faith we profess is bigger, better, stronger, and more powerful than anything we might win by betraying it.

*Please understand that these arguments equally apply to people pinching their nose and voting for Clinton because they can't stand the idea of President Trump - I just don't know many people in that situation. It's largely my Christian friends using Christian excuses to violate what I see as a core part of the gospel message. If there's a choice between Clinton and Trump, I'd rather have Clinton, but there's never just an either/or choice - there is always another option - that's part of the Good News of Jesus, too.