Tag Archives: politics

Election Anxiety after November 8?

In a little more than 24 hours we should learn the identity of our next President of the United States (We hope; recall the hanging chads and drama of the 2000 election). And we hope we will be able to take a collective sigh and return to daily life without being bombarded by attack ads and new revelations about the character (or lack thereof) of the candidates.

It has, by every account, been an especially long and  difficult election season. We are tired. We want it over. But will the angst really disappear on Wednesday?

Probably not. But maybe you can do something about your own anxiety and distress.

  1. Detach from social media.
  2. Engage in a face-to-face conversation with a person about their history and future. Find out what excites or energizes them.
  3. Detach from the faux breaking news sites. If you want to look, look to stories that have depth of reporting and which avoid clickbait titles.
  4. Engage other important stories of our day, both here and beyond our borders.

Remember, your true safety does not come from a president or a king. Your future is truly in God’s hands. Do talk to him about your angst. Do ask him to intervene. But also listen and look for evidence that God’s kingdom is expanding. Look for where he has placed you “for such a time as this.”

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Filed under News and politics, Uncategorized

Treating a whole population with suspicion always ends badly

I’m currently reading Spectacle, the telling of the story of Ota Benga, a Congolese man held captive in 1906 at the Bronx Zoo and placed on display in the zoo’s monkey house. This tragic story reveals our ugly history where Americans, by-in-large, believed in the superiority of the White races. But in chapter five, the author talks about another incident, The Brownsville Affair, during that same year. It is this affair that I wish to highlight.

The Brownsville Affair

In late July of that year, there was an altercation between a black member of the infantry division and a white man. The white man was killed. A mob ensued and when it was over, three more lay dead. Fast forward a few weeks into August and suddenly a bartender (white) is killed. The suspicion is instantly laid on the infantry, despite their white officers reporting that every infantry member was in his bed at the time. Evidence was planted to try to incriminate the men. When the men were interrogated, they denied any involvement and of course could not say who had killed the bartender.

But the people of Brownsville continued to accuse the men. And the decision was made to castigate them all for a so-called “conspiracy of silence.” The decision went all the way to President Theodore Roosevelt who signed the order having 167 men dishonorably discharged as punishment for a crime they did not and could not have committed. Here Pamela Newkirk recount Roosevelt’s comments

Despite pleas from black leaders, including Booker T. Washington, Roosevelt would sign the order denying the men–who had been deprived of legal counsel or a hearing–back pay, pensions, and eligibility to serve in the future. Roosevelt, considered a racial moderate for his time, unapologetically defamed the innocent men, saying, “Some of the men were bloody butchers; they ought to be hung.”

Not until Nixon, did this injustice be made right (and then the “justice” did not include any form of restitution.

The Trajectory When We Dehumanize others

Notice the trajectory:

  • One person of a group (a minority group) does something wrong.
  • Later, another ambiguous thing happens and blame is laid at the feed of an entire population.
  • Facts are not sought out but evidence is created and “justice” delivered because “these people” are butchers.

Is it any wonder that such minorities don’t feel particularly warm feelings when thinking about national pride. How could they? We’d like to think we are well beyond the years that we would place a human in a zoo to be gawked at. Indeed, we are. We’d also like to believe we are well beyond the years where we would demonize and be suspicious of an entire population of people. We are not there yet. There might be people who are butchers among the innocent. So, let’s ensure they don’t remain among us and accuse them of a conspiracy of silence for not pointing the guilty out. Let’s keep them all out just to be sure.

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Filed under Christianity, Civil Rights, Good Books, Historical events, Justice, News and politics, Race

Mis-speaking, lying, or telling a truth you didn’t mean to tell? Reasons why we say things we regret

If you have been following American presidential politics, you will understand references to candidate faux pas like Romney’s “47%” or Obama’s “guns and religion.” [Check out this link for a comparison of the two].

Ever wonder why these gaffes happen? Is it a matter of mis-speaking as so often is claimed? Or is the candidate saying what he/she believes only to discover in the light of day that they wished they hadn’t been so honest? As I look at the possibilities, I see 4 reasons candidates  say things they later must apologize for.

1. They mis-speak. Let’s deal with this one first since it is most often claimed as the reason for the faux pas. Anyone can get their tongue twisted around. My father once quoted Isaiah 40:31 during a sermon and said, “ings as wiggles” instead of “wings as eagles.” This is the usual form of mis-speaking. We can get numbers, facts, and ideas twisted around. Mis-speaking is usually fairly obvious to hearers and quickly fixed once it is brought to one’s attention.

2. They say what they think but later wish they hadn’t. Quite often we say what we think but then wish we hadn’t been so forthright. When it comes out, we recognize (immediately sometimes but not always) that what we said doesn’t sound very good. Sometimes we don’t always recognize what we believe until our own ears hear it. We look down upon a group of people (in the presidential examples, religious conservatives and recipients of public funds) and stereotype them as a group because that is how we have imagined them for some time.

3. They are mis-informed. There are times we say something but have mis-understood the facts. For example, there is a commonly repeated stat that 50% of evangelical marriages end in divorce. This is not true, but someone could repeat the stat as fact but later retract it once they learned the stat was not true. Sometimes we hold a stereotype but later discover better facts and change our opinions.

4. They lie to please others or win a point. Have you ever said something because it earned you some point, even if you didn’t fully believe it. Consider a fight with a family member. Did you ever stretch the truth to win a point, “You always… You never…” Or, maybe you said something that would please your audience. You made a joke about another group of people in order to win a laugh. You suggested you agreed with an opinion even though you did not.

So, sometimes we regret speaking what we believe. Other times we regret saying things for ulterior motives. Can you think of other reasons why we say things we wish we could take back? How would you react if a politician said,

What I said was patently false. I said it because I got caught up in pandering to my audience. It was wrong not only to speak falsehoods but also wrong to give in to people-pleasing. I apologize for these two wrongs and I endeavor to speak only the truth, even if it costs me your support or the presidency.

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Filed under Communication, News and politics

Playing fair in politics? Is it possible?

Getting tired yet of the lies and distortions of the current presidential election race? Tired of the Republican/Democrat fights? Tired of biased media? Would you just like a bit of humility and truth? Well, you might want to read Dr. Sam Logan’s new post over at our Biblical Seminary blog.

His point? Start with yourself. Start by telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth about those with whom you disagree. Imagine pointing out the successes of those in an opposing political or theological party. Imagine pointing out an error without hyperbole or exaggeration.

The section that caught me up short was reviewing what the Westminster Divines saw as violations of the 9th commandment. Sobering. Let Christians be known for telling the whole truth, in love, no matter the personal consequences. Let us not give in to fear-mongering just because others do. And even when it might cost us friends, let us acknowledge the good points our enemies make. Let us play fair even if others do not.

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Filed under Biblical Seminary, Christianity, church and culture, News and politics

Power leads to…?

In the US, we have just completed an election cycle where Republicans have taken back power in the House of Representatives. Behind this change is a fair amount of voter anger with the current Democratic leadership, especially from Tea Party sympathizers.

Traveling to work I heard a snippet of a speech by a person (not elected) stated that if the newly elected individual didn’t meet their expectations, they’d work to vote them out the next time.

Seems that sometimes power acquisition breeds more desire for power and less willingness to compromise. Of course, loss and failure may also breed a desire to pretend to compromise but do everything possible to avoid real flexibility.

What makes me think this is a comment my wife made about her current reading pleasure: Bonhoeffer (by Erik Metaxas). From the author’s perspective, there were a number of German civilian and military leaders who were uncomfortable with Hitler’s grandiosity and even interest in taking over other countries. However, once they were smashingly successful, most seemed to get on board and enjoy the power.

In short, they became comfortable with demanding even more power from those who couldn’t defend themselves.

Now, hear me loud and clear. I am not making an analogy between Hitler and Republicans. Nor, am I denigrating recent voting trends of voter anger. But success in the polls ought not make us more embolden to listen only to our own interests. Access to power sometimes breeds less love for the ones defeated. Our newly elected leaders have to find a way to govern (not something we’ve been doing well at for some time in this country) all of their constituents–even those who didn’t vote for them.


Filed under News and politics, Uncategorized

Do you belong to a tribe?

Dan Shapiro has an extremely interesting article in the latest American Psychologist (65:7), entitled, “Relational Identity Theory: A Systematic Approach for Transforming the Emotional Dimension of Conflict.” In it he describes a “tribes” experiment where he has a group of people break up into 6 groups. After each group forms its own identity (50 Minutes), he sends in an alien creature who says,

I have come to destroy earth. I will give you one opportunity to save the world from utter destruction. You must choose one tribe as the tribe for everyone. You must all take on the attributes of that tribe. You cannot change or bargain over any attributes. If you cannot come to full agreement by the end of three rounds of negotiations…the world will be destroyed. (p. 634)

He reports that he has done this exercise nearly 100 times and across a wide diversity of participants. Nearly every time the world blows up. Tribes “clung to their invented identities, amplified their differences, and ended up in deadlock and destruction.” (p. 635)

Why? Emotional dimensions of conflict are not addressed. He believes that many see political conflicts as primarily rational conversations rather than emotions entangled with identity and loyalty.

What makes for a tribe? Shapiro sees three things: Likekinded, kinlike, and emotionally invested in group’s enhancement. As tribes work and live together and face external threats, they “rigidify” their identities and beliefs–even with other groups who are nearly identical. He quotes a line from Freud–narcissism of minor differences–to illustrate how trivial differences may spawn vociferous debate and hostility. In a footnote, he notices that certain events can make for greater tribal warfare: one leader argues too much for their own positions, a leader is seen as aggressive, a group feels slighted, too many voices in the discussions, and no consideration given for the process of negotiation.

How do you reduce tribalism and thus political stalemates? He lists some tasks:

1. Identify lines of loyalty (figuring out the groups with interest in a tribe)

2. Paying attention to identity concerns (what are tribe’s concerns in negotiating with another group?)

3. Addressing these concerns by supporting autonomy and building affiliation across groups.

Seems this works even in marriage counseling. Though in marital conflict, there may only be one tribal member for each tribe, you can see how emotions maintain the conflict and that when one is able to repeatedly join with the concerns of the other, the rigidity decreases over time.

And notice how other-centeredness breaks down tribal differences. Kinda fits with Philippians 2…

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Filed under counseling science, Psychology

On political and marital fights

Recently presented on the matter of marital conflict. On the way home I had a vigorous (and fun!) political debate with a colleague. I came to the realization that there are many similarities between both conflicts. Conflict is almost always about power with the particular issues (or the content of the conflict) a very distant second. We take positions because we see the dangerousness of the other person’s position or direction (and our loss of power). For example, if we follow our spouse’s financial behaviors, we’ll end up in the poor house. If we allow Obama to make decisions, he’ll ruin America. And just like in marital conflicts, we ascribe intent–he WANTS to destroy us all.

What I notice is that while we barely admit our own failings, we love to play out the failings of our opponent/spouse. Obama is taking advantage of a financial crisis to get some of his interests cared for (which of course fails to acknowledge that Bush got the Patriot Act because of a crisis). We could easily say the same in reverse.

My colleague and I most definitely agree on some things–that most politicians are narcissists, that they are more interested in winning than cooperating for the greater good. Truth be told, marital conflict has some similarities. Being heard, getting the other to acknowledge our points may be more important to us than finding a common bond.

It should surprise us that these similarities exist. Since Eden, we’ve been fighting for position and power.

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Filed under christian counseling, conflicts, marriage, News and politics, Relationships

A rant of sorts

Let me first get something off my chest about the common misperception of the relationship between science and faith. It astounds me when knowledgeable people talk as if science can be amoral, areligious, etc. This week Obama gave a speech in which he made public policy changes regarding stem cell research. All in all, the speech is good. He tries to convince his hearer that his choice to move forward with more stem cell research is worthwhile because of the possibilities of curing a number of disease states–even if one must be “delicate” about the major questions that stem cell work raises.

But one line gets me riled up. He stated that his administration, “would make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.” All science is based in ideology. This doesn’t mean that science is loosy-goosy but that one cannot possibly make a decision about which endeavors to undertake and which ones to avoid WITHOUT an ideology. I would much prefer him to say what he meant: “Based on the ideology of utilitarianism (the greatest good for the most), I deem that we should continue and advance the stem cell research programs.” While I would disagree with him on his decision, I would respect him all the more.



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Dividing the church over politics

In the last 2 weeks I’ve heard several stories of individuals getting into heated discussions with other christian friends about whether to vote for Obama or McCain. Each of these stories are told by someone considering Obama as their vote. Each one describes their friend as nearly or actually questioning their sanity or faith if they would vote for Obama. I have yet to hear someone saying that a vote for McCain has cost them a relationship in their church.

Seems to me there are a couple of key reasons some Christians get up in arms over Obama.

1. He is clearly pro-abortion rights. He has as much as said he will have a litmus test for Supreme Court Justice nominees. Thus, a vote for Obama is a vote for the continuation of abortion and probably a roll-back on restrictions that have been one in the last decade.

This argument has merit and I can see Christians having strong opinions and questions about the conscience of other Christians who are planning to vote for him. On the other hand, justice issues take many sizes and shapes. While you may disagree with the democratic plan for dealing with the poor, they are the ones more likely to talk about care. Justice and care for the widow and orphan (the poor) is considered to be one of the key facets of the Christian faith (Matt. 23:23). Should abortion trump all other justice issues. Do those who vote for McCain squirm over capitalistic idolatry and the false assumption that individuals will do enough to care for the poor? Do Republicans walk the walk about voluntary sacrifice (and so actually really give sacrificially to the poor) when they accuse Democrats of trying to force it via taxation?

2. Obama is a socialist and is for big government control and mandate into all aspects of life. Our faith rights will be restricted under his power.

Again, it is an interesting debate about the role of government. I think we should be discussing the size and influence of government. Do all Americans have a right to health-care?  Should the government pick up the tab? Why? These are good questions. But, should a debate here lead to the questioning of one person’s faith? I don’t see that. Scripture doesn’t support a capitalistic or socialistic government, a small government or large one. We are commanded to submit to our leaders. We are commanded to care for the poor.

Let’s not divide the church and question each other’s faith when we have political differences. The issues are important and there will be real consequences when either candidate gets elected. Let’s debate those and not the faith commitments of our brothers and sisters.


Filed under Christianity, church and culture, conflicts, Doctrine/Theology, Gospel, News and politics, Relationships

Kids and political ads

Here in PA we’ve been under a barrage of political ads for some time now. The kids hear or see them quite regularly. When my now 10 year old was 4, he wanted to know why a certain candidate was so angry. He was seeing ads by the candidate’s opponent with less than flattering photos. He proclaimed that he would vote for the one candidate because he smiled more than another.

I suspect we adults choose using similar decision-making skills. Voting may be less intellectual than we would like to admit.

Now we come down to the wire and here are snippets of conversations with my kids

8 year old: Dad, who are you going to vote for? I hope it is Obama?
Me: Why?
8 year old: Well, he’s black.
Me: Why do you want a black president?
8 year old: White people are always being president and leaders and its about time a black person gets to be president.
Me: Yeah, I agree with you, its about time.
8 year old: Why do they have to be so mean to each other?

Conversation with my 10 year old this am:

Me: So, who would you like to vote for
10 year old: Obama
Me: Why?
10 year old: [after saying I don’t know]. I guess because he seems to have more ideas.
Me: Does his being black have anything to do with it?
10 year old: Yeah, about 50% of my reason.

FYI, my kids are black. It is clear that without any real influence one way or the other by their parents, they both really identify with Obama based on color. And I’m pretty sure that my youngest will be very crushed if Obama isn’t elected. He takes these things very personally when things don’t go the way he hopes.


Filed under cultural apologetics, News and politics, parenting, Race, Racial Reconciliation