Our Political Gymnastics

Gymnastic_Background

Image Source: Club Penguin

When George W. Bush was in office he was harshly condemned from the political left and loyally defended from the right for his response to Hurricane Katrina. Instead of visiting in the immediate aftermath, President Bush was photographed observing the destruction from the comfort of Air Force One as it flew over.The image would be used to supposedly show the president was disengaged from the storm’s victims.

bush flyover

Jim Watson/Getty Images

Later Bush reflected on how he would have been taken to task if he had landed instead. He imagined his critics would have said, “How could you possibly have flown Air Force One into Baton Rouge, and police officers that were needed to expedite traffic out of New Orleans were taken off the task to look after you?”

Which happens to be the exact reasoning people are using to defend President Obama for golfing instead of going to assess the current flooding in Louisiana. The tables have turned and it is the lack of boots on the ground that is now ridiculed from the right and rationalized from the left.

I don’t pretend to know what the right response is for a president in times of crisis. I don’t know when one should abandon a needed vacation or when the magnitude of a disaster requires the president’s presence.

What I do know is that we are overly willing to bend and maneuver our opinions in order to line up with the politicians we support.

We have become Olympic level gymnasts in our ability to backflip and contort ourselves into whatever position will most serve our politics. We jump and twist and twirl, though without any of the elegance exhibited by the Simone Biles of the world.

Had it been Hillary who recently showed up to Louisiana with a truckload of supplies the folks at Fox News would have called it a publicity stunt and the people at MSNBC would have skewered Trump for not caring enough to respond. Instead it is the opposite. Our opinions change based on which side did what.

If our preferred politician does a thing, we defend or justify their actions. “Give them grace,” we say. If a politician we don’t support does the same or a similar thing, we condemn or vilify their behavior. We cry, “Crucify them!”

This is why Trump backers can talk about Bill Clinton’s infidelity with straight faces and Hillary supporters can claim that Trump is out of touch with ordinary citizens.

We are so devoted to our political positions that we’ve lost the ability to be objective, honest, and consistent. We reek of hypocrisy. Our flexibility exceeds that of the world’s elite gymnasts and we are probably going to hurt ourselves.

Somehow we have reached the point where we are afraid to call out the behavior of the people we support politically. We are unable to acknowledge that people from our political slant make mistakes or that at times we may strongly disagree with them.

It should not be hard for us to say, “Despite supporting this person on a large percentage of issues, this decision was wrong.” Or “I will probably vote for this person, but the way they responded to this was not okay.”

Sadly, it has become unfathomable to admire the response or policies or decency of a person from the other side of the aisle. Instead we end up awkwardly swinging back and forth as if we are on the uneven bars. Our moral position is summed up as, “Today it is okay when my side does it, next time it will be wrong when your side does.”

If our moral indignation is determined by the person, not the behavior or belief, we lack core values of much substance. If the party name behind a politician is what determines how we respond to what is said or done, we lack intellectual integrity. When we have selective outrage and relativistic convictions we lose our credibility. There no medals for this balance beam routine.

There are certainly times worth calling out politicians. Let’s just do it with integrity. Let’s not excuse or dismiss behavior we wouldn’t allow in a person from a different political persuasion. Or condone behavior we opposed yesterday. Let’s not condemn things we have previously applauded or applaud that which we have previously condemned.

Let’s be fair and honest in our political assessments. And consistent and principled in the things we believe and the standards we hold our leaders to. And let’s leave the backhand springs and gravity defying stunts to the professionals.

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To My Daughter On The First Day of Kindergarten

pen-crayon-color-sharp-40757.jpegTo my daughter on the first day of kindergarten,

You have many steps to take on your way to graduation, but this first step is a big one. Here are some lessons I hope will help you as begin this journey:

Do your homework. That is probably hypocritical of me to say, but I have heard it helps. Study. Desire to learn. Better yourself, challenge yourself, equip yourself. Make the most of your education.

But don’t let your grades determine your value. Try hard, but be prepared to fall short sometimes. There are plenty of ways to learn and grow without having to get straight A’s. You may need to close a book and go outside to really understand something. Experience is a great teacher.

Realize popularity is fleeting. The cool kids won’t always be the cool kids. Pursue kindness and goodness instead. Those things will last forever and make you the type of person other people will eventually look up to. Don’t compromise your core values in order to feel like people care about you.

Don’t define yourself in comparison to other people. They may have different abilities or attributes, but they aren’t you and you are plenty wonderful. There is always going to someone else to compare yourself to, but there will never be another you. You do you.

At some point someone may tell you that you can’t do something because you are a girl. They are wrong.

Look for the people that don’t fit in and make a spot for them. Be a friend to everyone you can. Even the school bully will need someone to smile at them. “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

Don’t grow up too quickly. Run and skip and pick dandelions. You don’t have to be serious all the time. Laugh at yourself. Hold hands with your friends. Be a kid long into your high school years.

Don’t think you need a relationship to be loved or complete. You probably won’t worry about that for a while, but it is as true today as it will be when you are 45. Relationships can be good, bad, toxic, or forever, but they don’t make you any more or less of a person.

Know there will be a time when you lose. Maybe in the spelling bee or in gym class or on homecoming court. Losing is not the end of the world. It is not nearly as bad as being graceless. Win and lose with character.

Speak up. Voice your opinions and your concerns and your ideas. Your input matters. Don’t let others force you to keep quiet, even when your opinion is not popular. Your voice needs to be heard.

Change the world. Cure cancer or just make a difference in life of someone else. Whatever you do, know you are having an impact. Make your impact positive whenever and however you can.

Ask for help when you need it. Be nice to the lunch ladies. Don’t eat glue. Shine brightly. Pick up trash off the floor. Don’t run with scissors. Choose chocolate milk as often as possible. Love Jesus deeply.

And have fun.

You are loved. I’m proud of you already. I’m glad to call you mine.

Book Review: Vote Your Conscience

— I was provided with a copy of the new book Vote Your Conscience: Party Must Not Trump Principle by Brian Kaylor in exchange for an unbiased and fair review.- –

Vote Your Conscience is a quick read at just six chapters long. It is $2.99 for Kindvote bookle at the time of this writing. The Amazon blurb includes this, “In this book, award-winning author Brian Kaylor addresses the moral issues at stake in the 2016 election, explores how the Christian faith became too closely tied to partisan politics, and considers the alternative political engagement called for in scripture.”

If you are Christian, particularly an evangelical Christian, this book has some things we need to hear. In the later chapters Kaylor spells out some basic truths for us: for too long we have wed our political platforms with our faith (to the detriment of our faith) and our allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, not a nation or a political party. If I could come to your house and read those couple chapters to you, I would. And I may. My biggest concern for this book is that those messages will be lost on people who don’t make it past the author describing why he feels their preferred candidate is morally suspect, which happens in the first couple chapters.

The basic thesis of the book is this, “We do not owe our chief loyalty to the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. Our devotion is not to conservative causes and politicians or liberal causes and politicians. Our allegiance is to the Kingdom of God. We don’t follow the elephant or the donkey; we follow the Lamb.”

Amen.

Kaylor’s concern (one I completely resonate with) is that many Christians have given our preferred political parties our first allegiance. We have been looking for a savior from Washington DC and we often “sell our birthright for a bowl of red (or blue) stew.” He says too many of us are willing to blindly follow a party leader over the principles of our faith or even our basic political leanings. This book is a call to remember what we believe and then align how we vote behind those values, not realign our values based on how we may have to vote.

Kaylor lays out an argument as to why he feels both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are morally unfit to be president of the United States. He clearly states he does not support Ms. Clinton and presents a case against her, but spends most of his time arguing against Mr. Trump. He, like myself, is deeply rooted in white, conservative, evangelical circles. When he spends a disproportional amount of time speaking about Trump he does so because the people he is most familiar with are disproportionally more likely to support the GOP candidate.

I find his moral arguments convincing, though those who are deeply entrenched in support behind one candidate or the other will not be quick to hear them. He calls out a number of conservative Christians and politicians for what he thinks is dangerous capitulation to a person who doesn’t represent their stated values or even basic levels of human decency. He calls out Trump for his misogyny, racism, religious intolerance, and general behavior. He says that to support a candidate who acts and believes in those ways is the same as holding those positions ourselves. That will be a tough pill to swallow for many people. At times his sarcasm and frustration may put people on the defensive.

But again, the overarching message of the book is worth the read. If you don’t want to hear about why you shouldn’t vote for Clinton or Trump, just skip to Chapter 3. At the end he includes a chapter on what to do in response to these two major party candidates and some ideas for how Christians can rise above partisan rhetoric for the sake of the Kingdom.

I join Kaylor in his concern that the work and witness of the Church is being hindered as we line up behind morally bankrupt politicians and alienate people who vote or feel differently than we do. He beautifully says, “We are called to avoid the temptations of power. We’re called to avoid joining the team just because it’s the winning side. We’re called to stand on the margins, prophetically proclaiming the truth.”

I absolutely recommend this book and encourage you to grab a copy today. You will at least become more informed and perhaps you will be more faithful to the work of the Gospel because of it.