The Intersection of Politics & Religion

The way I see it, there’s a four-way stop at the intersection of politics and religion.

In order to move forward, everybody in every lane needs to come to a full and complete stop, look both left and right (double-check those blind spots) and proceed with caution…

Otherwise there’s bound to be a horrific crash.

(With casualties.)

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying the two shouldn’t intersect. I’m simply saying we should be cautious. I cherish the far-reaching rights our democracy has afforded us, including freedom of speech. We are a country of ideals and ideas. (And yes, a handful of idiots too. < Let’s just try to ignore them.) You have the freedom to believe what you like and speak your mind about it, anytime, anywhere. And so do I. And that’s a good thing.

But we need to be careful or we’re going to lose the graces of mutual respect and collective strength in all of our clamoring to be heard and heeded.

Once upon a time, common courtesy was…



In the heartbreaking aftermath of 9/11, we witnessed something truly extraordinary. The profound comfort and consolation our country found in this one (big) little gift:


(Remember that?)

Somehow that solace succumbed to an outbreak of sputtering, spewing, ranting and reviling in the public square. Cable news became a round-the-clock purveyor of angry rhetoric, relentless accusations, and irresponsible/inflammatory/biased/bombastic reporting. And the emergence of social media provided a platform for all sorts of strife.

It’s an alarming cultural shift…

And it’s effectively eroding the “United” in our States.

There’s a rising tide of “us” versus “them,” rather than “we the people.” And it’s threatening to flood/drown/destroy America the beautiful… from sea to shining sea.

I know there are some folks that share my faith who struggle to accept those who have rejected it. (And as much as I’d love for everyone I know to experience the amazing grace and peace I’ve found in Jesus, I willingly acknowledge that each one gets to decide for themselves who He is and what they believe.) Many of those same folks can’t fathom how other people who do share their faith can disagree with their positions and politics. Christians on both sides of the political spectrum seem stunned that their brothers and sisters could possibly oppose what they perceive is the “right” way to think and vote.

And that’s when they/we/I tend to get reckless, run a red… and T-bone a big blue Buick.  Underneath all the wreckage, there’s a mangled mass of pride, prejudice and judgment.

Not saying our deeply-held convictions shouldn’t influence our political views. Not at all. I’m simply saying we shouldn’t be trying to manipulate our theology – or worse yet, scripture – to “fit” our political views. (Though some try mightily, manipulating God is not an option… Thankfully, He cannot and will not be crammed or contorted into a manmade container.)

Abraham Lincoln said this during the Civil War, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

And I daresay the only way to know what and where God’s side is… is to walk with Him.

Pray. Soak up His word. Follow His example. (If we really want to know WWJD, we can read His authorized biography in the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.)

In order to align with God’s cause, we’ve got to abide by His Book. We have to search it, study it, ponder it, pray it and (here’s the hard part) live it. The whole of it… not just the “sliver” we select to serve our purpose, promote our cause, advance our agenda.

There’s a notable difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus. One is subject to the whims of mere mortals. The other isn’t.

“Will Christians turn once again toward an approach that imposes its will on the rest of society? By doing so we would betray our founder, who resisted a temptation to authority over “all the kingdoms of the world,” and who died a martyr at the hands of a powerful state. In the words of Miroslav Volf, “Imposition stands starkly at odds with the basic character of the Christian faith, which is at its heart about self-giving—God’s self-giving and human self-giving—and not about self-imposing.” ~ Philip Yancey, Christians and Politics: Uneasy Partners

I think there’s some pretty clear directives in scripture about who’s supposed to do what around here. And I think some people (myself included, more often than I care to admit) think it’s their responsibility to do God’s job. But the older I get, the more I understand that I can’t possibly. (I don’t have enough foresight, strength or smarts. And besides that, I’m sorely lacking in mercy and patience.)

So I’ve decided to let God be Judge…

Jesus be Savior…

His Spirit be the One who corrects and re-directs.

(None of the above is in my job description.)

My mission is simply this:

Love God.

Love people.

(All of them.)

Whether we agree or not.

In middle age, I’m finally learning something I wish I’d learned a long time ago:

How to lovingly disagree.

Loving well doesn’t mean never getting angry. Jesus did… particularly in the face of hypocrisy, injustice and greed. At one point, He got so furious He flipped over tables in the temple and drove out hucksters trying to turn a profit in the name of religion. (Hmm. A handful of media-mogul/mega-church preachers might want to keep this in mind.)

Absolutely, there’s a time to fight for what you believe in.

But I’m convinced that some people want to fight about everything. They don’t choose their battles; they invite – or incite – conflict. (Not sure why. Attention-getting? Anger problem? Power grab?) They’re habitual pot-stirrers/troublemakers/flame-throwers… and that’s not doing anybody (including them) any good.

But here’s the beautiful thing. We don’t have to take the bait.

We can simply ignore the insults/irritation/idiocy and just keep swimming…



And if we choose to engage in meaningful, constructive conversation – and why bother with anything else? – we need to…


Really listen.

And learn the fine art of loving disagreement.

Or we’re going to do ourselves in.

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. ~ Jesus 

Listen, we don’t have to agree to stick together. We don’t have to share political views to care about one another. We don’t have to see eye-to-eye on every issue to stay united. We don’t even have to like each other… to be respectful and kind.

May we pledge ourselves to remaining…


May we celebrate both our diversity and our unity.

To those with whom I vehemently disagree, I just want to say this (loud and clear):

I’m happy to be stuck with you!


P.S. “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.” ~ St. Augustine

Fill-in-the-Blank Test

My dear reader,
All this time I have kept quiet. If you know me, that’s quite a feat. But I haven’t taken the bait. Any of it. (And believe me, there’s been plenty. Big, fat, squirmy worms and tempting soundbites dangling daily in the cesspool of modern media.) And up until this point, I’ve chosen not to bite. I’ve been Nike’s antihero:
Just Don’t. Do. It.
But there’s an elephant in the room. And his name is Donald. And I have to speak up; otherwise I might step in a steaming pile of pachyderm crap… or be crushed. (There’s also a stubborn mule in here. I’ll get to her later.)
I have watched coverage and considered viewpoints and read posts. Pondered, puzzled, prayed. Typed – red-faced – then deleted, more than a few times. And after months of refraining and restraining, biting my tongue and tempering my responses, I am breaking my self-imposed silence and venturing where I never intended to go. Out from my safe zone of Swiss-modeled neutrality into the raging political firestorm. (Whew… It’s HOT in here.)
Why now? Why not sooner? Frankly, I just didn’t want to go there. So many others were spatting and spitting and spewing. And I didn’t want to be one of them. I wanted to quietly and conscientiously consider my options, cast my ballot, and… well… hold my breath. But after the latest bombshell, I ducked and covered, then quickly came to the realization that… I have a vote and a voice. And there are times, like now, when perhaps I should use that voice. Maybe somebody like me needs to speak up.
To point out some glaring flaws in these people (not to mention this process).
To cry out against all that is unsavory, ungodly, and untoward. And…
To reach out to rational, reasonable, respectful fellow citizens on both sides of the aisle (and to those in the balcony seats too) and appeal to them.
To you.
First, you should know that I have friends who are voting for all four of the “party” candidates, and I respect and cherish every last one of them. My friends. Not the candidates. (On a side note: the political process does not sound, look, or feel at all like a party to me. Parties are supposed to be festive. And fun. And blissfully free of bullies, blowhards, and buzzkills. But that’s just my two cents.)
I have friends who are voting for Hillary. If elected, she’ll become the first female president of the United States (and I must say, a woman commandeering the Oval Office would be pretty. freaking. cool). Yes, she’s tested and tough. Experienced, educated, articulate. (And bonus points: she actually attempts to answer the questions posed during debates.) But her track record has been cagey, careless, and in at least a couple of cases, unconscionable. I believe she lacks forthrightness and uprightness… aka honesty and integrity. (Just for the record, my news sources are not Breitbart or Bill O. My journalism degree compels me to go straight to the AP for fact-checking and/or debunking.) But even if Hillary did possess those deeply desirable and exceedingly rare qualities, she still wouldn’t earn my vote. And here’s why. Because I feel an obligation to vote not only for myself, but for every single child in America who cannot yet vote. My daughter. My nephews. My godchildren. The trio of preschoolers who live across the street. The precious newborn baby of our dear friends. I want my vote to count for them. To make a difference for them. To protect them. Especially the little ones who are the most vulnerable. The hungry, the homeless, the helpless. The disabled and disadvantaged. The unprotected, neglected, and abused. I want my vote to matter for those children.
And the unborn ones.
(Wait. Before you stop reading and dismiss/disparage/delete me entirely and scroll/scan/click something else, please hear me out.)
See, every single adult in our nation gets to make their personal political preferences known with their vote. What issues are most critical to you? Likely, those will dictate your vote. You want to see our next president push for economic growth or pull back our troops? Re-prioritize or preserve the make-up of the Supreme Court? Tighten gun laws or protect 2nd amendment rights? Retain or repeal Obamacare? Broaden renewable energy initiatives? Build a pipeline or build a wall? Privatize social security or legalize marijuana? Guess what? You get a say, because you have a vote. “We the people” (registered voters, ages 18 and up) get to choose the next Mr. President… or Ms.
But the children? They don’t get a vote. They just trust… us. Their parents and grandparents, neighbors, teachers, coaches, youth leaders and lifeguards, pediatricians and piano instructors and playground supervisors. It’s our job as “the grownups” to vote with them in mind.
And then there are the littlest ones… the precious premies. And the pre-born. In-utero or “evacuated,” it’s not simply tissue or an embryonic blob.  It’s a human being. Tiny, tender, but truly an individual. With his or her own distinct DNA. Made in God’s image.  And growing and learning, even very early on. Who are their advocates? We are… or ought to be. Every single one of us. Let’s do right by them, for heaven’s sake. They are voiceless and utterly defenseless, and easy access to “safe, legal abortion” is obliterating so many. I cannot just turn a blind eye to their plight. You may not agree with me on this. And I know there are vehement arguments about personal freedom and victims’ rights (which I hope and pray I would never, ever dismiss) and anatomy/physiology that impact people’s passionate positions on this legal/moral/political issue. Please hear me loud and clear: I respect you, your body, and your rights. But along with the embarassment of riches we enjoy in this nation (as beneficiaries of so many rights and freedoms) comes responsibility. Social responsibility… and yes, sexual responsibility.
I could go on and on about gestational development and abortion alternatives and tell you beautiful stories of birth moms who selflessly (and heroically) chose adoptive families for their children. I could also share heartbreaking details from friends who chose to terminate their pregnancies and suffer lingering regrets… or, in some cases, mental health crises in the aftermath. But I doubt they would influence your position. Or change your vote. I’m simply trying to avoid any misunderstanding about mine.
I have friends who intend to vote for Trump.  I don’t judge them either. I believe that they believe in what they are doing and why. That they are voting in accord with deeply-held convictions. That they are pursuing what they ought: ensuring that the Constitution is carefully guarded by the Supreme Court for decades to come and defending the right to life for those who haven’t yet arrived at their Birth Day. I acknowledge and respect their mission; I just can’t embrace their man.
Whether he has promised to protect religious liberties or grow the economy or nominate strict constructionists to our highest court is moot. He simply doesn’t represent the values that I hold most dear. And, sadly, he has yet to consistently demonstrate many of the things most of us learned in kindergarten: be kind, play fair, no name-calling or interrupting or insults. (Oh, and one more key kindergarten lesson: keep your hands to yourself.)
I have friends (and probably a kid or two) who are voting for the Johnson-Weld ticket. And while they both seem sane and their policy positions relatively straightforward, they won’t win my vote. It’s not the embarrassing “Aleppo moment” or the cannabis crusade that cost it. Again, it’s that pesky pro-life perspective that I can’t – won’t – shake. (BTW, I’m pro-every-life. Black. White. And every beautiful skin tone between. Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, atheist. PHDs and high school dropouts. Single, married, widowed… and “consciously uncoupled.” Incapacitated. Incarcerated. Law enforcers and tax preparers and street performers. Vegans and pescatarians and carnivores. Activists and optimists and pessimists and pacifists. Rich and poor. Old… and very, very, very young.) Sorry, Gary. You seem like a pretty nice guy, but I’m out.
Ditto with Jill Stein. Can’t back her pro-choice platform. And, in all honesty, I’m not sure I actually do know anyone who’s voting for her. (Will my Jill Stein-supporting friends please speak up? Hellooooo? Anyone out there? Buehler… Buehler?)
I’m a devoted fan of Jane Austen. But frankly, I’m growing weary of pride and prejudice (my own and others’) and political upchuck. In this election, I’m desperately seeking sense and sensibilities… and a little serenity. I want to vote my conscience, uphold my convictions, use my critical thinking skills… and let God sort it all out. I’d like to think that He would usher into the Oval Office a president who (at least somewhat) reflected the qualities of His own Son. But let’s not forget that His Son wasn’t appointed or elected or crowned. He was crucified. They – we – killed Him: the One who possessed the most sought-after qualities of any candidate. Ever.
Jesus was not afraid to speak the no-holds-barred, bold truth.
Not afraid to call out the religious hypocrites and welcome in the folks on the fringes.
Never flip-flopping or flinching. Never floundering or failing.
Willing to reach out and pour out. Willing to befriend, feed, help, and heal. Willing to protect and provide for all. Including the sick, the poor, the hungry, the hurting. Without regard to where they came from or what they looked like or how they identified. Because once they got to know Him and soak up His love and mercy… they found their identity. As His.  (Yes, I know that caring for the orphans and widows and helpless and hopeless is the Church’s job, ultimately. And we’d better get after it, all hands on deck. ‘Cause there’s plenty to do. But it’s also our job to engage politically. Shouldn’t our votes match our mission?)
As of today, here’s my Official Polling Place Plan. (Between now and November 8, I will continue to pray for wisdom. And if God redirects, I’ll let you know.)
I’m not going to check any of the boxes.                  
Instead, I’m going to fill in the blank.  Yes, you read that right. I’m going to WRITE IN the name of my candidate.
The governor from my neighboring state who admirably, and in my opinion heroically, chose not to “go low.” He remained steadfastly above the fray, diligently doing the job and conveying his message and mission. Intentionally avoiding the mud-slinging and slime and slander. Strong track record and clear, constructive policies. Good ideas and good sense. Good man. He got my vote in the primary… and he’ll get it again. My very first write-in candidate.
I was dreading… dreading… the upcoming election. And as soon as I came to this decision, I felt relief.
That is why I won’t choose “the lesser of two evils.” Because I refuse to vote for evil. Flawed, I can accept. We all are. But evil? I’ll pass, thank you very much.
I won’t fill in the bubble or punch the “chad” or check the box of a candidate who won’t lead me/us/the children well. Honestly, humbly, justly. When there’s no clear, good choice, I’ll skip the multiple-choice test… and opt for the fill-in-the-blank.
That’s why our democratic system proffers a line on the ballot to write in a candidate’s name. It’s for times like this. When the “party” names don’t reflect who we are or what we believe or where we hope to go. What if we all voted our conscience, rather than following convention… or affiliation… or pre-affixed labels. What if we all opted out… and wrote in? If we stick together, we just might make an impact. Or, at least, a statement. Let’s stand for something, rather than falling for something. Shall we?
As for me, I will exit the voter’s booth with my conscience clear and my dignity intact. But more importantly, I will exit with the knowledge that one day, I will stand before God. And His opinion is the only one that really matters.
P.S.  More bombshells to come, I’m sure. So by all means, take cover. But don’t cower and whimper and whine. And please, please, please don’t stay home on November 8. Or shoot back. (Remember what Honest Abe said? “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”)
Pray boldly.
Vote bravely.
Think outside the box.
Fill in the blank.
And let freedom ring.