President Trump, Your Words Matter

What we honor matters a great deal. And what our leaders honor by their speech sets the tone for what we honor as a nation.

“The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.”

Psalm 12:8

What we honor matters a great deal. And what our leaders honor by their speech sets the tone for what we honor as a nation. In the wake of Charlottesville and the ongoing conversation about the realities of racism and hatred in our nation it is incredibly important that we clearly name what is taking place.

The wicked strutted about freely in Charlottesville this week. In the 1950’s and 60’s, the racism was much more violent as young black men and women were lynched and raped. And yet the angry white men disguised themselves in pointy hoods. What was honored openly by our leaders and our society did not include vindictive, sharp and divisive rhetoric. It was a virtue to be polite and respectful. To be sure, the hypocrisy was deep and the hate and ugliness real. But we did not openly honor these things and even the racist leaders spoke in measured tones.

And yet this week we saw wicked white supremacists marching openly, brazenly and full of vile. No hoods. No shame. Why? How is this possible? There is no doubt that this is a deeply complex issue. But as a white man who loves Jesus and loves my neighbors I will not stand by silently as a deeply flawed man leads our nation and honors what is vile.

President Trump, you have spent your life honoring what is vile. You have degraded women with your words and your actions. You have called an entire group of people “rapists” and claimed a man was unfit to lead because of his ethnic heritage. You have openly called for violence against protestors and against your rivals. You elevate every petty dispute and take it personally, childishly calling out opponents on Twitter. It doesn’t matter if you were “joking.” You honor and promote what you speak out. All our words matter, but as the President of the United States your words matter probably more than any other human on the planet. President Trump, you have honored what is vile and because of it, the wicked strut about freely today. They are emboldened in ways we have not seen for decades. And there is direct correlation.

So what are we to do? We must call the vile by its name and declare that it has no place in our nation. We cannot honor it and we cannot let leaders who do so get away with it. Instead we must call on our leaders to honor what is good and right and true. What is kind and strong and pure. We must call them to account every time they honor and elevate any vile thing. And it must start with our President.

Do not tell me, “what more do you want? He condemned it in the strongest terms!” If he is serious about his condemnation he will change his tone. He will stop tweeting. He will apologize for his many vile comments and repent of his wicked acts. Just as I must first acknowledge the darkness and sin in my own heart if I hope to find redemption, so must he. And just as we would not say someone is a changed man if they were baptized and yet actively continue in sin for years with no attempt to change, we cannot say that one strong statement constitutes a sufficient response to this time in our nation.

I have opposed Donald Trump from the very beginning of his campaign not because of a single policy position he held but because of his character. That’s it. So many conservatives scoffed at me and gave me all the reasons why opposing him was foolish. I never wavered. Why? Because “when the righteous thrive, the people rejoice.” But “when what is vile is honored by men, the wicked freely strut about.” Leadership matters. Character matters. Words matter. Just ask Heather Heyer.

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“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice.”

Proverbs 29:2

4 Things Bonhoeffer Would Say To Us Today

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a young, vibrant, brilliant man imprisoned and killed by the Nazi’s. He was arrested for his alleged role in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler and later hanged, just as the Nazi regime was collapsing. He wrote faithfully to his family and friends while imprisoned. He reflected passionately and with great insight on the prevailing culture and the importance of standing up for Truth in the face of confusing, chaotic and difficult times.

I found his “Reckoning made at New Year 1943” haunting and at the same time comforting for the tumultuous days we are in. For now, we face nowhere near the threat Bonhoeffer and his fellow Germans faced. I pray the horrors of the Holocaust never again revisit this Earth. But we are indeed in a time of national crisis. We have a crisis of conscience. A lack of moral and ethical clarity from our political leaders. And cultural upheaval and unease where many are taking sides, few are building bridges and, I daresay, battle lines are being drawn.

Against this backdrop I wanted to share several passages from Bonhoeffer that I think offer needed clarity. Reflect on them, find comfort in them and above all, let them inspire you to grounded, steadfast action for the common good.

1 – On Failing to Speak Against Injustice and Immorality

This passage so concisely critiques the failure of so many Christians and others of moral leadership today that you would think it was written this week. May we not “step aside in resignation or collapse before the stronger party” but instead stand firm in the Truth – unafraid, not bitter, humble.

The “reasonable” people’s failure is obvious. With the best of intentions and a naive lack of realism, they think that with a little reason they can bend back into position the framework that has got out of joint. In their lack of vision they want to do justice to all sides, and so the conflicting forces wear them down with nothing achieved. Disappointed by the world’s unreasonableness, they see themselves condemned to ineffectiveness; they step aside in resignation or collapse before the stronger party.

Here and there people flee from public altercation into the sanctuary of private virtuousness. But anyone who does this must shut his mouth and his eyes to the injustice around him. Only at the cost of self-deception can he keep himself pure from the contamination arising from responsible action.

2 – On the Folly of Blind Acceptance

This passage so closely mirrors the reality I see with both Trump supporters and #TheResistance. So many have “given up trying to assess the new state of affairs for themselves,” instead relying on their chosen media (or social media) outlets to tell them what reality is. In so doing, we become fools. Yet my disposition to those who behave this way should be the same that I would ask from them – loving grace for the ways I fail without compromising truth.

If we look more closely, we see that any violent display of power, whether political or religious, produces an outburst of folly in a large part of mankind; indeed, this seems actually to be a psychological and sociological law: the power of some needs the folly of others. It is not that certain human capacities, intellectual capacities for instance, become stunted or destroyed, but rather that the upsurge of power makes such an overwhelming impression that men are deprived of their independent judgment, and – more or less unconsciously – give up trying to assess the new state of affairs for themselves. The fact that the fool is often stubborn must not mislead us into thinking that he is independent. One feels in fact, when talking to him, that one is dealing, not with the man himself, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like, which have taken hold of him.

The only profitable relationship to others – and especially to our weaker brethren – is one of love, and that means the will to hold fellowship with them. God himself did not despise humans but become man for men’s sake.

3 – On the Proper Response to Trump

We will not and must not be either outraged critics or opportunists, but must take our share of responsibility for the moulding of history in every situation and at every moment, whether we are the victors or the vanquished.

How deeply this convicts me! How easy it is to become the outraged critic and how prevalent this is among so many in the United States right now. I confess that I am quick to criticize when I should be quick to listen, slow to speak and abounding in love. I should take my share of the responsibility for what has come to pass and for what lies ahead.

And yet how easy, too, to become the opportunist and rationalize it.  So many Christians in particular have rationalized their way to support for President Trump in ways that shirk their moral responsibility to the most fundamental of commandments, “love your neighbor as yourself,” as they see the President display every manner of sentiment toward others except love.

We must reject both unthinking, shrill criticism and compromising opportunism.

4 – On the Way Forward

Unless we have the courage to fight for a revival of wholesome reserve between man and man, we shall perish in an anarchy of human values. When we forget what is due to ourselves and to others, when the feeling for human quality and the power to exercise reserve cease to exist, chaos is at the door.

What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straightforward men.

Here Bonhoeffer offers a path forward. Not in “clever tactics” or grand strategy, though they may be necessary in turn. No, we need “plain, honest, straightforward” men and women who will step up and lead. We need a “revival of wholesome reserve” – looking not only to our own interests and agenda but also to the interests and needs of those with whom we share this great nation.

My dear Dietrich, thank you. We honor your sacrifice and pray for the grace and courage to heed your wise counsel in these tumultuous times.

 

 

NOTE: All quotes come from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers from Prison, The Enlarged Edition, Copyright 1971 by SCM Press, LTD.

Political Husbands, Love Your Wives

Recently, as Representative Jason Chaffetz was under fire and announced that he would not seek re-election he posted a flurry of “I love my wife” communications. I don’t know why, nor am I insinuating anything. But I’ve been troubled by it ever since. I’m not troubled by his love for his wife. I celebrate and encourage that. What troubled me is that this is a pattern I’ve seen play out so many times. Elected married men find themselves under pressure, often because of infidelity, but not always, and they all of a sudden “find religion” as it relates to their marriage.

This is not a phenomenon afflicting only elected officials, of course. All of us married men have probably had some moment (or many if you’re me) in our marriage where, because we’d screwed up in some way, we engage in a flurry of “I love my wife” activity. And of course sometimes that’s exactly what we need to do – we need to regain trust, shower her with love or just plain pay our debts.

Instead of beat up on Chaffetz (plenty have done that already) I thought I’d turn this on its head. I believe deeply that if we are going to turn this country around one of the things we need is elected leaders of character, integrity and kindness. Role models for our children. Men and women who are committed to the simple acts of goodness and kindness that seem to get shouted out of our political discourse. And just because there is so much shouting, I’ll disclaim here and now that I’m not saying women shouldn’t celebrate their husbands, singleness isn’t affirmed and valued or that I’m somehow elbowing out people who don’t share my views about marriage.

Here’s the reality: the majority of our elected leaders are white men  – many of them married – and I think it would do us all a lot of good to pause for a moment, for no reason other than its the right thing to do, and call them to honor their wives as those of us who are married do the same.

Elected married men – love your wives well today. That’s my challenge, should you accept it. Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike, all over this country from the White House to the Town Hall – I challenge you to this simple act of goodness and respect that maybe, just maybe will bring a bit of good to this toxic time. Share it, retweet it, hashtag it, but most importantly, do it.

#ILoveMyWife

 

E Pluribus Unum: The Radical Center Must Rise

Unity does not require agreement in all things. That is impossible. Unity is strongest, in fact, when it is diverse. This is the hard work of democracy.

In the constant upheaval that is the Trump presidency and our current political environment I fear we are rapidly losing sight of a core foundation that keeps our nation and our culture functioning. Trump’s firing of James Comey, and the ensuing conversations and coverage have thrown this into sharp relief.

Some say we’ve long since abandoned any shared foundations.

My friends on the cultural right argue that our culture is now fully owned and operated by secular humanists, atheists and progressives and therefore shared foundations are impossible. My friends on the political right argue that Obama and progressives did so much damage to the institutions and our standing in the world and that progressive governing philosophy is so wrong that shared foundations are impossible.

My friends on the cultural left often come from such condescension toward any opposing ideas that challenge their “orthodoxy” while arguing that any traditional values must be bigoted so there cannot possibly be shared foundations. My friends on the political left are so obsessed with #TheResistance and further left-trending progressive policies that unless and until Trump is ousted or Congress #flipped, they see no hope for any shared foundations, even if they are interested in finding common ground.

All is war. All is polarization. All is defined in terms of friends and enemies. Enemies are meant to be defeated. That is their only purpose unless you’re a war-monger, in which case they also serve as a handy profit-generator.

I reject all of this.

Of course people way smarter than me have made these cases and I accept that there are many who truly feel there is no hope for shared foundations in our governing going forward. Their actions indicate they believe their best course of action is to fight for their tribe and gain as much territory as possible.

But it is this sort of tribal thinking that we have seen wreck civilizations throughout history. The great American experiment is unique in so many ways but one of the most unique attributes is this voluntary setting aside of certain tribal priorities and desires for a shared greater good.  We dare not dismiss these strong tribal divisions. They are deepening, not healing.

But I submit that the same simple foundation that birthed our nation, that barely, but ultimately, held us together through the Civil War, that drew us together in the face of clear evil in World War II and have allowed us to endure through so much more – I contend that this foundation remains in place. It’s just getting shouted out and crowded out by a deafening cacophony of warring voices.

E Pluribus Unum.

This shared foundation has been our motto from the earliest days. It’s an incredibly unique goal for governing, rarely successful throughout human history. It’s built around the simple truth that there is strength in unity, so we should seek it. Unity does not require agreement in all things. That is impossible. Unity is strongest, in fact, when it is diverse. Real unity is a setting aside of some disagreements and distinctions to rally around a central vision. This is the hard work of democracy.

A political renaissance is brewing as a new center is quietly but certainly emerging. Not a squishy middle full of “moderates” and “problem solvers.” That will never have the needed strength to endure and enact real change. No, we need the messy, difficult and ultimately much stronger unity found when we can both fight for what we believe in and have the wisdom and humility to know when to lay down our tribal priorities for the greater good – for the good of the whole and not only ourselves.

Out of many, one. Although diverse, united.

So to our elected officials I say: sit down together – together – and find our shared values, then work on those first. Right now, you’re starting with the pluribus. Start with the unum. But don’t you dare give up your principles. You can do both. It’s hard. But it’s your job. Do it.

To those with whom I disagree politically I say: Let’s talk. I enjoy coffee, beer and water so surely we can start over one of those three. I want to hear your point of view. I want you to listen to mine. We won’t agree on everything. That’s ok. I want to find common ground and work on those things first.

To my fellow political professionals I say: Stop being war-mongers. Everyone else is not your enemy and your tactics are not uniting, they are dividing. We can be a part of the problem or the solution. Don’t stop fighting for what you believe in, just stop framing everything as war. The Art of War should not be the consultant’s handbook anymore.

To all my fellow Americans I say: Don’t give up on the great American Experiment. It would be easiest to stay in our comfortable tribal villages with people who will reinforce and protect us. That will not make us stronger as a nation. We must re-engage in the hard work of democracy.

Revolution and renaissance need not come only from the fringes. The radical center is rising. E Pluribus Unum.

 

Prayer for a Long Journey

“It’s a long and rugged road, and we don’t know where it’s headed. But we know it’s gonna get us where we’re going.” – The Wailin’ Jennys

It’s been a hard year. It was almost exactly a year ago when I was in Washington, DC secretly meeting with a very prominent public figure and asking them to run for President. They said no. You can read that story here if you’d like. Over the course of this year I’ve been through a lot of change. And I’ve watched our country go through enormous change. Many say Donald Trump is just a symptom of much deeper, longer-term struggle in our nation. That may be true. But actually electing him was a significant change in our country no matter your feelings about it.

I’m one example of a life dramatically changed simply because of an election. I quit my job as the CEO of a very successful and honorable company so that I could pursue finding an independent candidate to run for president. I put my livelihood and the well-being of my family on the line. I say that not for pity or admiration. I simply point out that there are many stories out there of people who, over the past year (many post-election) are re-thinking how they live, where they put their efforts and energy professionally and politically and asking, “what can I do to advance the good in our nation?”

I’ve never liked the label #NeverTrump. It was never about that for me. I was always opposed to both nominees. And my driving motivations were always about my optimistic belief that our country had so much better to offer. It’s always been about a long-term journey and core convictions. I could not let my fellow citizens and our friends around the world watch our election and see no signs of principled people making principled stands for basic standards of decency, kindness, truth and humility. The 2016 election was completely devoid of these basic human values.

So as I reflect on the past year on this, the National Day of Prayer, I offer this simple prayer, inspired by the Wailin’ Jennys:

Father, We confess our many sins as a nation.

We ask for your mercy.

Father, we confess we cannot get it right on our own.

We ask for your grace.

Father, we need more of your love on earth as it is in heaven.

We ask for your love to be manifest through those who love you, to one another.

Give us the grace to travel on, even as some days we eagerly await our arrival at the destination.

We place our trust in you and have faith that the journey we are on, however rugged it may feel, is worth it.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons From A Loser

On Tuesday I lost my second straight election – another crushing defeat by the raw numbers.

David Abroms was unable to get traction in the crowded and ridiculously expensive field of the Georgia 6th congressional special election despite investing a lot of his own money and more importantly being a truly great candidate and fine human being. My last loss was in the presidential election, serving as the campaign manager for Evan McMullin.

I’ve been working in politics long enough to know that you’re going to lose some races. I’ve also won a lot of races over my ten years working in the business. But as a political professional, unless you work in only the most winnable, well-funded campaigns and ignore the principles and deeper motivations for why you’re in this business in the first place, you will almost certainly lose more than you win.

I learned a lot about how to handle losing by playing sports growing up. In both victory and defeat, the key for me has always been to learn. To grow. To get better. You simply can’t guard against losing in elections. It’s a single winner game. But you can control what you do next. In politics, you can also control who you choose to work for.

I’ve been attacked from the left and the right the last 6 months for my work. Those attacks are sure to increase as I keep fighting for what I believe in. The center is a lonely place in professional American politics. I have, of course, made lots of mistakes running campaigns over the years. Some of them contributed to losses. I own those. They have real consequences for people and I take them very personally.

In David and Evan I worked for candidates who were aspiring to VERY difficult change. They were swimming upstream of a powerful current of partisan politics in our nation that works against people like them. People who are open-minded AND principled. Passionate about their causes AND sympathetic to the views of others who disagree. David Abroms and Evan McMullin represent much of what is good and right and true in our country. Men who are willing to make tremendous sacrifices for what they believe in, even knowing the long odds.

I believe we are pioneering a new generation of leaders in this country. I’m proud to be working with the Centrist Project to recruit and elect a new type of independent servant leader from the U.S. Senate down to local offices. Pioneering is always hard. There are always casualties and scars and many difficulties.

But it is in the trials that we learn the most. In fact, it may be the only way we truly learn. Malcom Muggeridge puts it brilliantly:

“Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained. In other words, if it ever were to be possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence by means of some drug or other medical mumbo jumbo…the result would not be to make life delectable, but to make it too banal and trivial to be endurable.”

We are formed in the crucible. Shaped in the potter’s hands by force. Sometimes our misshapen pot gets smashed back into a lump of clay to be necessarily remade altogether. Many have asked me the last 24 hours what I learned from the Georgia special election. I get the same question often about Evan’s campaign. As I reflect on it I am focusing on what I can learn – about voters, about candidates, about the system, about the media and about myself.

The sting of defeat is real. You’ll be mocked and scorned. But the only way defeat becomes permanent, instead of temporary, is if you let it define you and refuse to learn from it – if you give up on the reasons and principles that motivated you to try in the first place.

The list of great figures of history who have failed, numerically, way more than they succeeded is a long one. But in learning from their failures they were shaped, “enhanced and enlightened.” I’m trying to stay humble, open and eager to learn. I believe deeply that our country needs a new way, a new approach, new options in our political system. The time is coming. Don’t give up. I’m not.

 

 

 

5 things you can do this week to save the country

Our nation is in a time of great uncertainty. For many, it feels as if all they hold dear is threatened. Others fear global upheaval. Still others, thinking they had “won” with the election are facing afresh the hard realities of a broken political system. It can be downright depressing. It can make us angry. We can lose hope. We are tempted to throw our hands up and say, “we’re screwed!”

I am not someone who fundamentally believes the government can offer any ultimate, solid hope, in the ways the human soul needs. This colors all I think and do regarding the government and my political career. But neither should we think that the government plays no role in promoting and ensuring human flourishing through tools like justice, protection and order. Because these things are important and the government does play the primary role in these areas, I believe some of us must give ourselves to ensuring the government is healthy. And what makes a healthy government? For me, its simple: Healthy people running it.

“The Government” is not an organism (though some confuse it for a scary beast sometimes.) It’s a collective body, made up of people, working together within an ordered system, ideally for the good of all our people. (You know, liberty and justice for all and such.) The problem with Washington is not “the government.” The problem in Washington is not “the system.” There are deep structural flaws, to be sure. But those structures were put into place by people, many to ensure their own power and self-interest.

So the task before those of us who are trying to “make a difference” in our American political system – to build a better future for our children and grandchildren – is one of human development, leadership and relationship. I’d like to offer 5 ways I think we can begin to turn the tide of political dysfunction – five things that any of us can do, no matter our position in life, access to power or money or our political views.

  1. Get to know an elected official personally.
    • Invite them for coffee or lunch. Ask them about their story, their family, what they enjoy doing. Don’t ask them about policy or politics. That can come later.
  2. Encourage good people you know to run for office and support them.
    • Running for office is hard. Really hard. You know that dream where you’re in front of a big crowd and you realize you’re in your underwear? It’s kinda like that. Help good people know that you’ll have their back. Too many good people won’t run even though they feel the pull because it doesn’t seem worth it.
  3. Run for office yourself.
    • Thinking about it? Do the research. Ask some experienced folks for advice. Count the cost. Then jump in.
  4. When you talk to or about elected leaders, do so with civility, respect and kindness.
    • Put yourself in their shoes before you hit send, tweet, post or let that comment fly.
  5. Fight like hell for things you care about.
    • Do NOT mistake being civil, kind and honest with being weak. We must learn the hard task of fighting for what we believe in without demeaning other human beings. It is possible. Learn how. It’s easy to insult, blame and throw bombs. The hard thing is to hold fast to your convictions and fight for them without being a complete jerk.

Just pick one and start this week. Then tweet at me, Facebook tag me or comment here to let me know how it went. It’s too important not to try.

 

 

The System is Rigged. This is what I’m doing about it.

The System is Rigged. This is what I’m doing about it.

When Evan McMullin called me on a hot summer day last year and said he wanted to run for President, I had no idea what was ahead. What I quickly learned was that Evan is a man who cares deeply about our country, has sacrificed greatly to protect it and was ready to stand up against two very flawed candidates, no matter the cost. No one else was willing to do something that bold and courageous about the mess we faced.

There were tons of uncertainties. One thing I didn’t know was if it would have any lasting impact or even, really, why it mattered. I knew it did, somehow – but I wasn’t sure how.

What we showed America, and many of the country’s most powerful and skeptical people, was that a truly normal American with very little financial means could make a very large impact in a very short time with almost no resources. What Evan did was truly incredible. Way more incredible than Trump’s win, I’d argue. And we did it with a message of unity, liberty, truth, and freedom – even as so many pushed back against us.

Evan’s run restored hope for so many and gave so many a reason to get excited and engaged in the 2016 election and now, to keep fighting for good. It also proved that our system, while deeply flawed, is indeed the greatest idea in governance that history has ever seen.

That system is under threat. Not by Donald Trump, though. He’s a symptom. A weather event in a much larger climate pattern.

The problem is that the system is rigged.

 

I’ve spent the last three months reflecting, listening, watching, reading and generally trying to figure out what the heck is going on in the world. I’ve talked to some of the smartest people in the country. Some of the most experienced. Some of the most passionate and caring. Some of the richest. Some of the angriest. From all sides of the political debate. And while many have theories and ideas about the various problems and challenges, I’ve actually found a surprising clarity among them.

First, some context. I recently heard a talk by Greg Thompson of Thriving Cities and the University of Virginia in which he reminded the audience, in these challenging times, to differentiate between what he called “the climate and the weather.” It was a brilliant, simple and transformational thought for me.

Trump is a weather event. The rigged system is the climate, along with the global economic changes, the rise of populism and nationalism and the meteoric pace of technological change. An election year like 2016 is what you get when the climate is so volatile and unstable. It produces nasty, destructive storms with names like Hillary and Donald.

Now, to the rigging. What most of us mean when we say the system is rigged is this:

Those with power and money have ensured they can keep their power and money by creating a system, over decades, that benefits them at the expense of “regular people.”

There are very few people who disagree with this either in the extensive research done on the topic or in everyday conversation. Try it. Ask this question to anyone: Do you think the “system” in America is rigged to favor the rich and powerful?

The specific ways the system is rigged are above my pay grade but you can read smarter people on the topic. While there are a number of ways the system is rigged, there is surprising uniformity in the basic conclusions, even from divergent points of view. This is incredibly important because it confirms that not only do we agree directionally on the problem, but the problem is real and relatively clearly defined.

I believe there are three things that need to happen to tackle this problem.

  • Turn the knob, ever so slightly, on taxes for the wealthy. (credit to Warren Buffett, Joe Ritchie and many more)
  • Make modest but vital regulatory and ballot access reforms to allow independent candidates for office to compete with the two parties. (credit to Jackie Salit, Greg Orman, Nick Troiano, Peter Ackerman and many more)
  • Love one another (credit to Jesus, and many more)

Just these three things. The three most revolutionary things we could do to un-rig the system and reset our amazing American experiment. You’re probably saying I’m naïve or idealistic. I’m neither. Super-smart and principled people agree with me on the tax issue and I’ve personally lived through the barriers to independent candidates having spent most of 2016 trying to compete with a truly independent presidential candidate in Evan McMullin.Trust me – it’s pretty freaking hard.

What about this third thing – loving each other? “Now you’ve really gone squishy on us, Joel,” you may say. But loving another person, even when you don’t agree and especially when they’re your enemy, is probably the single most revolutionary thing that’s ever been done in history.

Our very natural survival instincts are opposed to loving one another. Whether you think we’ve evolved over millions of years or were created by a sovereign God, it’s pretty hard to argue these days that “people are inherently good and looking out for each other.” We are basically all self-interested and always trying to get ours. This is why love is so radical.

Real love for another person says, “I will set aside my agenda to help you achieve yours. I will allow myself to be inconvenienced so that you can be more comfortable. I will give up my privilege to serve you.” These are radical thoughts in an era of near total self-absorption where we have all the tools necessary to build our own reality through social media and the internet.

So what will I do about the rigged system? A lot, I hope. But I’m starting with love. See you in the trenches.

You cannot serve both God and Trump

There is a strong cultural pressure if you’re a white Christian in America today to feel good about the election of Donald Trump. Like any cultural pressure, it is felt at work, among family and friends, at church, in the media we consume and in an unspoken quasi-biblical “call” to support the president, whomever he may be.

Unfortunately this last call, to support the president, has been abused hypocritically by the church, and white Christians in particular, for the last 30 years. Where was the strong call to support and pray for Clinton? Obama? Now, because “our guy” won, it is used against anyone, and white Christians like me in particular, as a sort of strange manipulation, trying to get me to support Donald Trump blindly and “look past his crazy tweets and to the man himself.” I’ve been asked to do this by people who support him and know him well in recent weeks.

Let me be clear – I DO pray for President Trump and I WILL support him in areas that align with our call as Christians and with the way of the Jesus we follow. I pray for his cabinet and I hope for the best. I pray for President Trump’s soul and for a truly miraculous life-changing encounter with Jesus. But I will NOT blindly support any human authority. Ever.

When Jesus said we cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24) he was articulating a much bigger biblical principle. We cannot serve both God and anything, or anyone. That’s one of the ten commandments, if you’ll recall. Of course he’s talking about an ultimate service – a devotion that demands our loyalty at all costs and in all circumstances and deserves our worship and thanks.

I believe a Christian can serve faithfully in the Trump administration. Or serve our country valiantly. Or pray for our president. We should, in fact. But no Christian who reads the words of Jesus and watches the life of Jesus should ever, under any circumstances, condone speech or behavior by anyone that dehumanizes, disrespects or dismisses the image of God in another. Trump does this often in the way he talks about people and it’s never ok.

In fact, personally this is my biggest concern and point of contention with the President. Sure, there are real policy concerns and debates to be had. But what I see as an even bigger concern is the rhetorical and political environment he is actively promoting and creating. It’s one of division, attack of opponents, demeaning of those who dare to speak against him and a complete lack of the fruits of the Spirit. As a refresher, those are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

We cannot produce these fruits in ourselves by trying harder. They are only borne out of abiding in the Vine, Jesus, and being filled by the Holy Spirit. But neither can we see the antithesis of these fruits spat out onto fellow humans and remain silent. I have said from the days after the election that I will endeavor only to take Trump at his own words. So I am basing this only on what I have heard or read from his own mouth or tweets. And there is much to be concerned about.

What then? Am I just another anti-Trump voice is a sea of bitter losers? That is not my goal. In fact, I hope to meet with the President soon. To affirm that I love and pray for him. And to work in any way I can toward his success, not his failure.

I repent of all the ways in which I don’t bear the good fruit of the Spirit, I seek growth and change in Jesus and I look for ways to love God and love my neighbor well, each and every day. In short, I try to serve my master well, and Him only. I humbly call my brothers and sisters to do the same.