An Open Letter to My Friends Who Voted for Donald Trump

My dear friend,

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, especially when you know it’s likely to be filled with sadness and anger. I know this is uncomfortable, but I also know that you care about me. That’s why we’re friends. Thank you for your respect; I will strive to show the same to you.

It’s easy to rant against Trump supporters in the abstract, but not against you, because I know you. I know you’re not racist, or sexist, or homophobic. I know you respect and care for me and others like me. And that’s why, as a woman, as a Millennial, as a writer, and as your friend, I have to let you know how your vote feels, and more importantly, how it functions, to me.

Donald J. Trump has now been elected to become arguably the most powerful person on the planet. He has been catapulted onto perhaps the largest and loudest platform a human can have. And I, as a woman, am deeply hurt by this. We have handed a gigantic megaphone clad in the stars and stripes to a man who repeatedly discusses women as having value based only on their sexual attractiveness to him. He attacks women who disagree with him not by dismantling their ideas, but by calling them “nasty,” “unattractive,” “very hard to be a 10,” saying they don’t “look presidential,” have “the face of a dog,” and asking, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?”.

This is a man who has said that if a woman is sexually harassed in the workplace, it is her job to leave. A man who called a lawyer “disgusting” in court when she requested a medical break to pump breast milk for her infant daughter. A man who has insulted the appearance of his rivals’ wives to undermine their masculinity. A man who said of a ten-year-old girl as she left, “I’m going to be dating her in ten years. Can you believe it?” A man who explained sexual assault in the military as what happens “when you put men & women together.” A man who has bragged about sexual assault, not really apologized for it, and then ridiculed the women who accused him of the same, saying one “would not be [his] first choice,” that she wasn’t even attractive enough to assault.

He is teaching the young people of this country that women like me are worth less, that our ideas are secondary to the utility of our bodies. That I am a piece of meat and my value is tied directly to how much he wants to consume me. That everyone else in society is free to treat me in the same way. And that in treating me that way, in fact, “nobody has more respect for women than [he does].”

Donald Trump is about to become the face of our nation to the world. The president does not unilaterally pass laws, or strike them down, or overturn court cases. He does set the conversation and tell the world who we are and what we’re about. He does lead the process of executing the laws. He does not respect me, and he will not represent me. I do not trust a Trump administration to prioritize enforcing the laws that protect me, because he has never prioritized respecting me.

I cannot speak for the friends of color I know you have. I cannot speak for the friends with disabilities I know you have. I cannot speak for the LGBT friends I know you have. I cannot speak for the friends of different religions I know you have.

I can speak only for myself. And I am hurt and dehumanized by the man who earned your vote.

I have no intention of unfriending you, or ignoring you, or avoiding you. I will have whatever conversations you want that we can have with love. I am not a single issue voter, and I’m happy to talk at another time about why I think the vast majority of his other rhetoric and policy are also unacceptable, some of which I’ve expounded here.

But I am heartbroken by the message that treating me this way is not only acceptable, it may even get you the highest office in the land.

I’m not upset because my team lost, because states went red instead of blue. I am upset because this country told me that it is acceptable, maybe even “honest” and “telling it like it is,” to treat me and others like shit.

And I know that you don’t believe that. So let me say that voting for him doesn’t mean that you have to put up with the things that he says and does that you know are wrong. Protest isn’t limited to the “losers.”

I know that my writing a blog post is not dialogue, but I hope it leads to some. And if I break down in tears when we do talk, you’ll know one reason why.

With love,
Chloe

Who Is My Neighbor? Voting as an Evangelical

It’s really only been this week that I figured out what, at base, so disturbs me about this election. There’s plenty to choose from, sure. But beyond the actions of the candidates themselves, beyond the insane and horrible rhetoric, beyond the general polarization and scandal and dishonesty, there’s one thing above everything else that burdens my heart. This election, more than any other I can remember, we are desperate to save ourselves at any cost.

The Evangelical voting bloc has been a powerful one for a long time. It’s vocal and it’s effective. Conservatives have used lots of different methods to appeal to us, to assure us that they are the best candidates for us. This election, the Evangelical bloc has been courted through fear: fear that our way of life will disappear if we vote for the wrong candidate.

It is a new version, a stronger version of the us versus them mentality. No more are we just on separate sides: now we are told to weigh our own interests in Supreme Court justices and freedom of conscience laws against the dignity, safety, and rights of others — and to find our own interests overwhelming.

Where in the Bible, I wonder, does Jesus tell us to protect ourselves at all costs? Where does He tell us to barricade ourselves inside the church walls no matter what evil is occurring outside them? Where does He command that we avoid those who hate us and give only to those who already love us? Where does He declare the protection of the church to be above the rights of the poor and slaves and refugees?

The safety and comfort of the church should not guide our thinking — the giving, sacrificial, other-centric nature of the Kingdom of God should. We are told to be afraid, to believe that we must stand up for ourselves first and foremost because no one else will.

Thank God Jesus didn’t take that advice.

10 Points on Eric Metaxas

In July, I wrote a response to a piece by Wayne Allyn Root advocating that Christians must vote for Donald Trump. Root’s piece didn’t turn out to have much readership, but then Eric Metaxas, of Bonhoeffer fame, wrote his own piece for the Wall Street Journal. This piece, in contrast, has gotten a lot of Evangelical response. It has the tone of many of the pieces written by this community: yes, Trump is distasteful, but hold your nose and vote for him because the alternative is worse. Here is, point by point, why I believe Eric Metaxas has it wrong.

1. “Over this past year many of Donald Trump’s comments have made me almost literally hopping mad. The hot-mic comments from 2005 are especially horrifying. … So yes, many see these comments as a deal breaker. But we have a very knotty and larger problem. What if the other candidate also has deal breakers? Even a whole deplorable basketful?”

I’m disturbed by the rhetoric that the 2005 tape is Trump’s only, and most damaging, “deal breaker.” Of course, Metaxas leaves room for the other offensive statements, but this is the only one he mentions specifically. Implied to me, especially in the context of this leaked recording, is that we wouldn’t have any deal breakers with Trump otherwise — “odious” behavior, sure, but not deal breakers.

This appears all over the internet, but a few other possible “deal breakers”.

2. “What if not pulling the lever for Mr. Trump effectively means electing someone who has actively enabled sexual predation in her husband before—and while—he was president?”

This is a complex issue, but I want to start by pointing out that Metaxas nowhere acknowledges the sheer volume of sexual assault or harassment allegations Mr. Trump has had against him. Trump recently responded to one of the allegations by telling his supporters, “She would not be my first choice,” as though her appearance made the allegations obviously false. Politico published a list here, with links to the original sources. There is a more thorough list here from New York Magazine reaching farther back into the past, although you may have to dig a little more to find credible sources. There are also at least 20 lawsuits about sexual harassment within Trump’s businesses. It also appears there is a pending lawsuit in New York alleging that Mr. Trump and Jeffrey Epstein both raped a thirteen-year-old girl in 1994, Mr. Trump multiple times. It’s true that he has not been convicted or lost a lawsuit for sexual assault or harassment, but his accusers are legion. It may be worth noting, also, that Ben Carson, one of Trump’s advisors, says it doesn’t even matter whether his accusers are telling the truth. It’s a little disingenuous to talk about Bill’s horrors in this area without talking about those allegations.

Talking about Hillary’s treatment of her husband’s accusers is harder, and I won’t try to defend her actions, or at least the actions of the Clinton staff of the time, in trying to discredit them. CNN has a good individual analysis of the different accusations and the treatment of them here. There’s also a more in-depth and critical article in the New York Times. A few things worth noting here:

  • Like Trump’s accusers, Bill Clinton’s accusers of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment have not been vindicated, either — he has not been convicted or lost a civil suit. He did settle the sexual harassment suit by Paula Jones with no admission of guilt for $850,000.
  • There is some amount of uncertainty about Hillary’s exact involvement in these events.
  • These allegations are, at base, about Bill. Bill is not running for president. Hillary is.
3. “What if she defended a man who raped a 12-year-old and in recalling the case laughed about getting away with it?”

This is one I’m getting a little frustrated with. Here’s a fact check article on it. Hillary Clinton (then Rodham) worked for a legal aid clinic, one of whose functions is to defend those accused of a crime who can’t afford their own legal counsel. She was on a list of lawyers who would represent indigent clients, so the judge assigned her to the case and didn’t remove her when she asked. You can listen to the recording here as far as the “laughter” is concerned — to me it sounds a lot less like someone laughing at a rape victim and a lot more like laughing at the weird legal idiosyncrasies of one of her cases as a young lawyer. Not classy, maybe. But not laughing at a rape victim, and not “getting off” the defendant, as some claim — plea bargaining isn’t the same as “getting off,” meaning being found not guilty.

This is how our legal system is supposed to work — lawyers do the best job they possibly can for their clients, because everyone is entitled to representation.

4. “What if she used her position as secretary of state to funnel hundreds of millions into her own foundation, much of it from nations that treat women and gay people worse than dogs?”

This whole area looks a little murky, but this particular claim also seems to be unsubstantiated. Here’s a pretty good overview of the situation. Charities are tricky, because they don’t have to precisely disclose the identities and amounts of donors, but you can go here to see cumulative giving (in large categories) from the Foundation’s donors. Metaxas is probably referring to:

  • Saudi Arabia: 10-25 million
  • Sheikh Mohammed H. Al-Amoudi (Saudi Arabia): 5-10 million
  • State of Kuwait: 5-10 million
  • Nasser Al-Rashid (Saudi Arabia): 1-5 million
  • Dubai Foundation: 1-5 million
  • Issam M. Fares (Lebanon): 1-5 million
  • Friends Of Saudi Arabia: 1-5 million
  • Amar Singh (India): 1-5 million
  • State of Qatar: 1-5 million
  • The Government of Brunei Darussalam: 1-5 million
  • The Sultanate of Oman: 1-5 million
  • United Arab Emirates: 1-5 million

“Hundreds of millions” looks like an exaggeration, but the real issue here is whether she used her position to get these donations. Keep in mind these donation amounts date back to 2007 and include those from both before and after her time as Secretary. This Politifact article goes through the various ethical landmines, and this one gives more detail on the accuracy of Trump’s pushback toward the Foundation. Some highlights: Hillary was not on the Board of Directors for the Foundation before or while she was Secretary, and Saudi Arabia (likely the main focus of Metaxas’s comments) did not donate during her tenure. It is difficult to definitively tell whether Hillary “used her position” to “funnel” money into the Foundation.

It’s true that some of these nations treat both women and the queer community badly. The government’s entanglement with them, however, is far from limited to possible overlap with the Clinton Foundation. To criticize that, we’d have to look much more closely at our own foreign policy — the Clinton Foundation, after all, is doing charitable work. What are we doing?

Somewhat separately, the similar accusation that the Clintons “lined their pockets” through the Foundation while she was Secretary of State is false. The Clinton Foundation has an A rating from Charity Watch, and 88% of its fundings goes to actual program costs rather than overhead, which is considered very good.

Worried about all this entanglement if Hillary becomes president? In that event, the Foundation will stop accepting foreign and corporate funds, and Bill will step down from the board. See more here.

5. “Since these things are true, can I escape responsibility for them by simply not voting?”

This felt a little disingenuous, like he could bolster his argument more by repeating to readers that his statements are true. But I take his second point — I agree that we can’t escape responsibility for these issues by simply not voting. We also can’t escape the much more serious issues that a Trump presidency would create.

6. “The anti-Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer also did things most Christians of his day were disgusted by. He most infamously joined a plot to kill the head of his government. He was horrified by it, but he did it nonetheless because he knew that to stay ‘morally pure’ would allow the murder of millions to continue.”

Out of context, this is a beautiful excerpt. I’m going to assume Metaxas is equating Christian voters, and not Trump, with Bonhoeffer, because it would be a tough argument to analogize trying to assassinate Hitler with bragging about sexual assault. What I’m struggling to understand is the implicit assumption here that not intervening in a Clinton win would be tantamount to watching the Holocaust without doing something. Whose Holocaust are we worried about right now? Mexicans? The press? Muslims? Political dissidentsWomen? Or maybe just an outbreak of preventable disease? I’m exaggerating — sort of. But I guess I’m unclear what Hillary’s corollary to the Holocaust is.

7. “It’s a fact that if Hillary Clinton is elected, the country’s chance to have a Supreme Court that values the Constitution—and the genuine liberty and self-government for which millions have died—is gone. Not for four years, or eight, but forever. Many say Mr. Trump can’t be trusted to deliver on this score, but Mrs. Clinton certainly can be trusted in the opposite direction.”

No, that’s an opinion, and one I’m a little confused by. This must be the aforementioned Holocaust metaphor. I’m going to take a wild guess and say we’re probably talking about abortion, gay marriage, “freedom of conscience” laws, and maybe the second amendment. Here’s the thing, though: the Constitution also includes freedom of the press, freedom of speech, equal protection of the law, due process, the right against cruel and unusual punishment, and freedom of religion for more than just Christians. See #1.

If you’re a one-issue abortion voter, I know there’s not a whole lot I can say to persuade you. Trump is certainly not a long-term pro-lifer, but he has pledged to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court. The thing is, though, Roe v. Wade was 7-2 decision with some pretty conservative justices in the majority. It’s not nearly as liberal of a decision as people think, and I’m incredibly skeptical of his ability to get it overturned, especially because justices don’t always rule the way their appointing presidents expect. This seems to be one of the biggest ways Evangelicals find to make a decision in this election, and why they think Trump is better. I also think it’s a completely misguided attempt to accomplish something much more difficult than it would appear on its face.

Also, “forever”? Hillary would “ruin” the Supreme Court “forever”? I’m a little surprised to hear language that extreme and that unsubstantiated from him. I’m not sure how it would be possible that this would stop the Supreme Court from ever having a conservative majority again.

The judiciary is independent of the executive branch once they’re appointed. There’s only so much a president can do there. Yes, appointing Supreme Court justices is very powerful — powerful enough that I certainly don’t want Trump to do it — but our Constitution separates our governmental powers for a reason.

8. “If imperiously flouting the rules by having a private server endangered American lives and secrets and may lead to more deaths, if she cynically deleted thousands of emails, and if her foreign-policy judgment led to the rise of Islamic State, won’t refusing to vote make me responsible for those suffering as a result of these things?”

This is another one that’s a little impossible to have a conversation about. Here’s the New York Times on the timeline of what happened with the emails. Yeah, this was careless and stupid. Also, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice also did this. It sounds more like she was disorganized than “imperiously flouting the rules.” Also worth noting — WikiLeaks’s leaked Clinton emails? Looks like Russia was probably behind the hack, despite their denial of meddling in the election. Also, a Putin ally said the US had to elect Trump or face nuclear war, but I digress.

To the ISIS accusations: the roots of the terrorist group stretch back to 2004, way before Obama’s presidency or Clinton’s Secretary career. There is an argument to be made that the administration’s policy in Libya, which Clinton had a strong hand in, created a power vacuum that ISIS exploited. The trick there is whether we’re willing to say that the continued reign of an oppressive military dictator didn’t warrant intervention — foreign policy is more nuanced than saying what she did “led to the rise of the Islamic State.” ISIS relied on a broad range of elements, and Clinton’s foreign policy was only one of them.

Also, Trump’s foreign policy — well, several pages’ worth of Republic national security professionals say they refuse to work for him. A former head of the CIA under both Republican and Democrat administrations endorsed Clinton because he believes she is a capable leader and he would be “a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief” and “is already damaging our national security.” He wants to pull back from our allies, loves flattering Putin (who loves jailing dissidents and invading things), and doesn’t understand why he can’t use nuclear weapons.

9. “We would be responsible for passively electing someone who champions the abomination of partial-birth abortion, someone who is celebrated by an organization that sells baby parts. We already live in a country where judges force bakers, florists and photographers to violate their consciences and faith—and Mrs. Clinton has zealously ratified this. If we believe this ends with bakers and photographers, we are horribly mistaken.”

She doesn’t “champion” partial-birth abortions, she voted against a blanket ban that included no exceptions for the life and health of the mother — there’s a difference. In 2000, she said, “I have said many times that I can support a ban on late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortions, so long as the health and life of the mother is protected.” More recently, in March, she said, “I have been on record in favor of a late-pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother.”

Planned Parenthood is not selling baby parts. They do donate tissue and costs can be covered. Only 3% of their budget goes to abortion (which does not, itself, get federal funding), and 45% goes to STI/STD testing and treatment.

The last bit of this section is a tricky issue, I think. In this country, you’re not allowed to discriminate. If your business is open to the public, you can’t refuse to serve someone who’s black or Hindu or in a wheelchair, and refusing to serve someone because they’re gay is discrimination. Whether you think people ought to be able to discriminate that way is a different question. We as Christians are called to love and serve everybody. I’m unconvinced that Trump will be the staunch defender of Christianity that he claims, considering his total lack of understanding of what Christianity is. It’s also worth noting here, again, that defenders of religious freedom need to advocate for religious freedom for everybody, not just themselves.

10. “A vote for Donald Trump is not necessarily a vote for Donald Trump himself. It is a vote for those who will be affected by the results of this election.”

I agree. It’s a vote for the Muslims who are afraid to be recognized, like the man who was kicked off a plane for saying “Inshallah.” For the press who shouldn’t be threatened for doing their job. For Mexican Americans whose character is called into question. For the women he can’t stop objectifying. For the victims of the largest refugee crisis in history who need our help.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Metaxas himself, from a blog post in June called “A Few (Passionate) Thoughts on America!

The fundamental idea of “exceptionalism” comes from the first pages of the Bible, and it means that God blesses a people in order for them to bless others. If this country has been blessed, and it has, that was always meant to be thought of as a way for us to use those blessings to bless the whole world. To bless immigrants and to bless those beyond our borders and to bless those within our borders who were struggling.

Let’s do that. Let’s go bless the world.

Are Christians “Missing the Boat” on Donald Trump?

Wayne Allyn Root, a businessman and political commentator among other things, wrote a column in which he argues that Christians are “missing the boat” on Donald Trump and that they should not only vote for him, but that doing anything else is denying the messages that God is sending us. I had enough thoughts on this that I wanted to write my own point-by-point rebuttal of where I believe Root is missing the whole point.

Root begins with the famous joke about a devout man stuck on a roof during a massive flood. He refuses any and all help, claiming that he’s waiting for God. Now, the man dies and meets God, and he asks about God’s refusal to save him. God replies, “What did you want? I sent you three different people to help you.”

This man on the roof, the writer claims, is America, and Trump is our rowboat. “Maybe God,” Root says, “is trying to tell us something important — that now is not the time for a ‘nice Christian guy’ or a ‘gentleman’ or a typical Republican powder puff…. Because right about now we need a miracle, or America is finished.”

My first question to Root — what’s the flood? What’s the supposed disaster that only someone who is as much of a “warrior” as Donald Trump is (we’ll get to that in a second) can save us from? And how exactly is Donald Trump, who has offered to pay legal fees to defend those who attack his dissenters, a miracle? And finally, if Root is worried that putting Hillary Clinton in the oval office will “finish” America on the world stage, imagine the damage Trump could do. Just look at his kowtowing to Putin and say that under Trump, America is in no danger of losing its place in international relations.

“Maybe a gentleman… would lead us to slaughter,” Root says. Slaughter? As in, mass death? How exactly would the election of a democrat, even one as hated as Hillary Clinton, lead us to a slaughter? Maybe what we’re talking about here is the fear that Hillary would appoint super-liberal Supreme Court justices who would extend the power of the government and whose politics would far outlive her presidency. I would be just as worried, if not more, about the justices Trump would appoint, considering his opposition to a free press, free exercise of religion, and free speech from anyone who disagrees with him.

On the other hand, maybe “slaughter” is referring to the possibility of widespread Christian persecution, of ultimately outlawing Christianity. I find this a difficult possibility to imagine from a candidate who also claims Christianity, unless persecution here is taken to mean the allowance that non-believers not be bound to Christian morality. In a world where Christians in other countries are being actively arrested for practicing their faith or even hunted down and killed, this, too, is an offensive parallel. And this is to say nothing of Trump’s repeated desire to stop Muslims of all sorts from entering the United States (including those Muslims who are also being hunted down and killed) and to assume the guilt, rather than innocence, of Muslims who are already citizens. This is persecution.

But either way, “slaughter” sounds more like fear mongering than an actual danger.

Then Root brings up several past Republicans, presumably the “all-around nice Christians” he’s warning about, who have failed to do what Root wants. “Did any of them lead the GOP to ‘the promised land?’”

What exactly is this “Promised Land” that the GOP is ostensibly looking for? It seems that what Root would really like to see is a theocracy, a government run strictly under Christian values. A country run by God — or at least, run by what we think God wants. A country to bless those around it — or at least, to tell them why they’re wrong. However admirable doing what we perceive to be God’s will may be, it is not the government’s job, nor under conservative ideology should it be. It’s ours.

Root seems to think America is the new Israel. It would take a whole other column to explain why I believe that’s so wrong, but suffice to say for now that America is not Israel. We are not the Chosen People. We have been promised nothing more than His grace and mercy, which is far more than we deserve. But it is not “the Promised Land.”

Then Root answers his own question: “No, because if you don’t win, you have no say.” This, to me, betrays an ultimate misunderstanding of the American government, or deliberate oversimplification, which seems more likely, given Root’s political experience. One senator can force things to grind to a halt on procedural grounds or start a filibuster. A minority can be significantly more problematic. And, you know what’s interesting? The GOP currently has majorities in both chambers of Congress. Does Root really believe that the Presidency is the only seat of US political power? Republicans have managed to block major policy from the Obama administration since gaining the Senate, and had managed to block plenty from just the House. If they’re don’t “have any say,” I don’t think it’s because of who’s sitting in the Oval Office. Maybe it’s because they’re not doing their job.

So, then, Root addresses what happens if “we” (Christians, or in Root’s estimation, Republicans) have no say. “Maybe God understands if we don’t win this election, America is dead. It’s over. The greatest nation in world history will be gone. Finished. Kaput. Adios. … And God can’t allow that.”

I find this premise faulty at best — America is finished if the Republican nominee doesn’t win this election? What is his definition of “finished” here? Is he talking about a failed state with an inability to protect its citizens, or is he talking about less power and prestige, less acknowledgement of American exceptionalism? Or, even deeper, is he talking about losing the ability to turn this country into a Christian theocracy? But there’s a larger question at issue here.

Does God need America?

Root seems to think that God needs America in order to accomplish His will, that America is the Kingdom come to Earth. And without America, God will fail.

Put that way, Root’s assertion is hubristic at best, blasphemous at worst.

But, Root argues, America has used power to overcome evil before. “When we won World War II, was God ‘nice?’ Were we gentlemanly when defeating Hitler?” Well… yes. At least as far as chivalry goes — in World War II, we were defending those who could not defend themselves. Yes, it’s more complicated than that, but comparing defeating the Democrats to liberating concentration camps and stopping the wholesale slaughter of millions of people is more than misleading and tone-deaf. It’s blind to the point of absurdity, and it’s offensive.

Then, Root does the requisite scripture-quoting and cites Isaiah 40:30-31: “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” Trump has lots of energy for someone his age, Root says, more than the rest of the primary contenders, and therefore his energy must be from God. “You mean that kind of energy in a 70-year old [sic] isn’t inspired by God?” Apparently, a few cans of Red Bull and you’re divinely inspired.

Taking strength (or energy) to be equivalent to God’s favor/inspiration isn’t supported by scripture, or history — what about the strength of Ahab and Jezebel, of King Herod, of the Roman Empire? What about the strength of Egypt? Sure, they lost — after enslaving Israel for 400 years. What about the strength of the Nazi movement and Hitler, of Stalin’s cult of personality, of the North Korean dictatorship that still refuses to fall? What about all of the Psalms where David mourns the strength and power of his enemies?

Let’s take a look at the people God HAS used in leadership:

  • David, a shepherd boy and the youngest of twelve who only defeated Goliath because everyone else refused to. He wouldn’t accept any shiny armor or acclamation. He was just doing what God commanded.
  • Daniel, who gained power through submission and using his gifts. He refused to give glory to anyone but God to the point of ending up in the lion’s den.
  • Paul, who God struck blind to humble, who accepted imprisonment with thanksgiving, and whose epistles are saturated with gratitude and humility. He told his followers to be joyful when they were persecuted for the sake of the gospel and to continue serving anyway.
  • Moses, who had a stutter or other difficulty speaking and who couldn’t even speak without his brother Aaron to help him. Moses could be someone you say isn’t a “nice guy,” but God humbled him and used him to bring liberation to people who were in literal slavery.

These examples don’t demonstrate that God only uses “nice guys” — God uses humility and those who are able to point back to Him (and not just by accident).

But Root is uninterested in the submissive form of leadership. He wants to fight “against Obama, Hillary, big government, big business, big media, big unions… the powerful forces of evil.” So Obama and his cohort are the ultimate enemy for Christians, despite Obama being a Christian himself. Even if you don’t believe that Obama is a Christian (which seems pretty presumptuous), the assumption in Root’s argument is that Obama, Hillary, and liberal groups are the enemy of American Christians — or maybe even Christianity itself. But I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where Christians are instructed to fight God’s fight against political parties or interest groups. Jesus tells the Pharisees to “render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” and their problem wasn’t just taxes that were too high. Jesus’s messages to the oppressed Israelites were to free the captives and love the poor — not to fight a political revolution or crush their enemies (though his commands are definitely revolutionary on their own).

But Root is in awe. “With Trump we mount up with wings like eagles. With Trump as our leader there is nothing we can’t do. …With Trump we run, we are not weary. … Trump inspires us. Trump gives us hope.”

This, friends, makes Trump God. And Trump is not God.

Let me say that again. In this reading of this passage, Root has given the role of God to Trump. He has told us that our hope is in Trump, and scripture is pretty clear that our hope is in the Lord.

Let me refute with my own scripture citation: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” — Ephesians 6:12. These are not earthly authorities or governments; these are the powers of spiritual darkness. Our fight is not against our “political enemies,” and it’s not against each other. As Christians, our fight is against the forces of Hell, not the forces of the Left.

And the more we fight each other, the more the forces of darkness cheer as we do their work for them.

Silent Saturday

The day after you lose your best friend is actually worse than the day that you watch him hang. Because at least while you’re watching him die, the whole thing has an air of reality somehow, even if it’s the worst reality you’ve ever experienced. But the day after he’s dead, you wake up with this sense of unreal-ness, like maybe you dreamed it all, and now it will all be put right.

Every corner you turn, you expect to find his face on the other side. And every time a conversation starts, you strain to hear his voice. I think that’s really why we’re hiding. I mean, we’re hiding from the authorities, of course, because if Jesus is… dead, then surely the rest of us are soon to follow. But I think we’re also hiding from seeing him everywhere we used to spend time with him–in the market, at the table, sitting by the sea.

The truth is, it’s the silence and the emptiness that’s the worst of it. Because at least when you’re crying, you’re doing something. Most of us have spent the day together, and sometimes we’ve talked, or prayed, or cried together, but mostly we just sit in silence and stare at the wall, wondering what to do. Wondering how this man who we gave our whole lives to could suddenly be gone. Continue reading

40 Days of Meaningful Fasting

Do you celebrate Lent? Lent is typically thought of as a season celebrated by the Catholic church and some high-church denominations, but it’s something that I’ve really been blessed by.

In case you didn’t grow up in the church or have no idea what I’m talking about, Lent is 40 days (which doesn’t count the Sundays) of fasting in preparation for Easter. Different people do it different ways: some give up something like chocolate until Easter, some engage in acts of service, and some fast from things like gossiping or complaining. Traditionally, you abstain from eating meat on Fridays in remembrance of the crucifixion (hence Friday fish fries) and don’t say “alleluia” in church in recognition of the solemnity of the season.

The season is 40 days long to echo Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is February 10th this year. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the day before, traditionally the day when people would make pancakes to use up the rest of their cooking fat before the fast. Of course, it’s also known as a day of going crazy for the same reason. Continue reading

Veni, Veni

A couple of years ago, I put up a short story for Christmas (which you can find here) which used some characters from my current novel, Go. I thought I’d write another one for this year instead of just cheating and putting up the old one! Enjoy! If you’d like to learn more about the MacMasters, ask me about being a beta reader. I’m hoping the rewrite will be done (very) soon!

“And so man was made higher than the angels, and God said that it was very good.”

It was the first time in five years that the four MacMasters had been in church together. Twelve-year-old Xandri sat between her parents, with Curt, her little brother, sitting on her mother’s other side. It was Christmas Eve, and Xandri could just make out snow swirling around outside the stained glass windows of St. Paul’s Cathedral, in Shadyside, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The huge sanctuary was chilly, but made warmer with its closely packed congregation and the ceremonial candles lit on the altar.

“Humans are in a very unique position,” the priest continued, looking out over the filled pews. “We are the only beings in creation who can neither call ourselves good nor evil.” Continue reading

Godspell

My mother’s faith began with a pack of cigarettes
(menthol miracle)
and a nap with a Western Civ textbook on her chest
dreaming of jeans in a sea of togas.
She met Jesus on the Mount
and then in buckskins, asleep,
seven feet tall.
He opened his eyes at her from a wooden sculpture
and sent her an Episcopal priest,
a mountaintop in eastern Kansas.
Whiskey and smoke were His body and blood,
calling the hippy rocker in the 1980s
who wanted nothing to do with this Galilean carpenter.
He was the God of the small things,
the gritty things,
the pot smokers, the drinkers, those who stayed up too late
and were sanctified in the fire of the early-morning radio station.
Seeing visions and dreaming dreams
long after all the drugs and smoke had gone away.
She met Jesus, sharp edges intact,
on the road to Mount Oread.
She’s never been the “church-y” type.

Ashes

“From dust you came and to dust
you shall return.” Empty powder
blown into a strong wind.

A hollow city steeped in darkness,
lifeless shell of a kingdom
with no energy to even let itself burn.

Tears streaked in grey and brown,
stomach barren and eyes raw,
sitting in sackcloth and despair.

Grey memories mix with black earth.
Your grief is fertile ground,
rising with no place left to fall.

All welcome in the Holy of Holies
now. Serve with hands smelling
like His, a fragrant offering.

On the altar, only ashes remain.

From Ashes You Come

“Happy Ash Wednesday” always seems a little bit like an oxymoron. Ash Wednesday, while sacred, is not particularly happy. An Ash Wednesday service is solemn, including putting a cross of ashes on the forehead of each member of the congregation and reminding them, “From dust you came, and to dust you shall return.”

“Lent,” as I just learned from this beautiful article on Relevant, comes from a Latin root that also gives us “lengthen.” In this cold and difficult time of year, the days are slowly lengthening and more light is working its way into every day. Lent is a time to prepare ourselves for the ultimate coming of that light. The more we understand our existence in ashes, the more awe we will find in the coming of the new life.

This Lent, I’m participating in an Instagram project with The Neighborhood Church, my home church in Colorado. Each day, there’s a word to serve as inspiration to take and post a picture. I want to take it a step further, though–writing has always been an important way for me to engage with my faith, so I’m going to endeavor to write a piece each day, or most days, following the theme. “Ashes” is the inspiration for today, so keep an eye out.

I won’t say “Happy Ash Wednesday.” But, along the lines of C.S. Lewis’s Joy with a capital J, I will wish you a Joyous Ash Wednesday and Lenten Season.