Trump in Flight

A chain reaction was set off earlier today when CNN reported that Tuesday’s White House lockdown was due to the sighting of a “slow-moving blob” crossing the sky.

Learning of the report, Fox News broke into regular programming to announce that Donald Trump apparently had gained the ability to fly.

Pat Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network immediately followed with a news release proclaiming that God had given this ability to Trump in thanks for “Making America Great Again.”

Hard on the heels of that release, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Robert Jeffrees and Paula White said in a joint statement that the flight proved again that Trump was “The Chosen One.”

They also noted that Barack Obama had flown only with the assistance of airplane.

Trump himself added a final note by tweeting that while it was true God had given him the gift in thanks, it was also true that He had given it in worship.

The tweet also noted that “every one of the heavenly host” agreed that Trump was the greatest leader of all time.

Meanwhile, speaking off the record, national security officials said that the mysterious “blob” was likely a large flock of birds or a drone.

Eric and Franklin in Never Never Land

It is hard to know whether to be shocked, amazed or mournful about the relationship of many white, conservative evangelical leaders with Donald Trump.

The latest example can be seen and heard in a recent interview of Eric Metaxes with Franklin Graham, Jr.

While Metaxes is a gifted author and Graham has begun and continued important service ministries, both seem to share a blind spot toward Trump that has led them into a strange world populated entirely by those few who not only admire Trump but also worship him.

The Metaxes-Graham conversation began somewhat normally until Metaxes gave the first indication of his citizenship in an alternate world by observing the “bizarre” phenomenon of people “who exist” to “undermine” the president.

Keep in mind that in past years in this world, many people would actively oppose a president and work against his (never her) policy initiatives. Those people were called “opponents.” Apparently, in the eyes of Metaxes and Graham such people have become sinister and, as we shall see, evil.

For his part, Graham agreed with Metaxes on the “bizarre” behavior and even raised the ante by saying that such people are “almost demonic.”

It got worse.

Metaxes topped Graham by saying, “Almost [demonic]? I would say it is demonic.”

He added that they both know that this is a “spiritual battle.”

Wow! Who knew but them! Trump is fighting with the heavenly forces in the eternal, cosmic battle with. . . gulp. . . “demons” like me.

It continued to worsen.

Graham argued that it is easy for anyone, Republican or Democrat, to see how good Trump is as president.

Yes. He said this. Worried about those child separations? How about his acting against United States policy interests for personal favors? Appalled by the lies and bullying? Franklin says you shouldn’t be.

He went on to add that the economy is “screaming forward.”

Metaxes pulled them both deep into Never Never Land by adding that “everyone knows” that the economy was “dead in the water three years ago.”

Well, no. That is wrong.

Instead, even if Eric cannot face the fact, we can all celebrate that the economy continues to perform well under Trump, just as it did under Obama.

After taking office in January 2009 with the economy in a nosedive, Obama went on to enjoy the final 75 months of his administration with an economy that grew and added jobs each month. In the end, over 11 million jobs were added in that time period.

Meanwhile, Trump’s administration has added 6 million jobs and the economy continues to grow.

Both are good news for Republican and Democrats, even if not for Graham or Metaxes.

We can hope they both return to Earth soon and come to understand that political differences in the United States are not necessarily “demonic” but part of the democratic process and that presidents are men (and, soon, women) but are not gods much less God.

Our Lawless President

I can understand why congressional Democrats are reluctant begin impeachment proceedings. After all, following his ordeal in the late 1990’s, Bill Clinton’s popularity rose. Why take the chance that the same might happen with this president?

Nonetheless, the time may be drawing nigh when impeachment is forced upon a reluctant Congress by the acts of an openly lawless president.

Today’s Washington Post reported that the administration considered a plan to bus groups of immigrant “detainees” to certain sanctuary cities and dump them there.

The Post noted that the preferred destinations of choice were Democratic strongholds, such as San Francisco.

Surprisingly, United States “immigration officials” verified that the bussing plan had been considered both last fall and this winter.

Later this morning, the president sent out two tweets that went much further than the WAPO story.

One said, “Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only.”

A second tweet added, “The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!”

So goes policy discussion within the White House—how to use people as pawns to strike at political enemies by diverting ICE and Border Patrol from needed duties.

Of course, there is another facet to the story—that the president would act purely to sow political and societal discord and division on people of this country.

So much for a president who seeks the common welfare.

There is yet another facet to the story—that the administration regards people (mainly families with minor children) as pawns.

However, leave it to Trump to come up with a still more outrageous action.

CNN reported this afternoon that our president told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan that he would grant McAleenan a pardon if he went to jail for having border agents block asylum seekers from entering the US in defiance of US law.

He encouraged an employee of the federal government to break the law.

So much for upholding the laws and constitution of the United States.

The man needs to be held accountable.

 

Uh Oh! Will the Democrats Blow It?

There is plenty for Democrats to celebrate as the 119th Congress gavels to order, but this Democrat wonders if we need to temper our hurrahs and reset our goals.

True, we can raise a toast to gaining control of the House of Representatives. That means not only a Democratic Speaker, but also control of House rules, committees and calendars.

Control of committees not only translates into the oft-noted ability to investigate this corrupt administration but also to shaping all committee work (where most Congressional work gets done) and managing the lion’s share of committee staffs.

In the long-term, perhaps even more important than the above is the incoming Democratic freshman class. Taken as a whole, it better reflects the country’s age, religious, sex, racial and ethnic complexion and complexities more than any prior freshman group. It also boasts the nation’s first Native American congresswoman and first Muslim congresswomen in addition to a record number of newly-elected women and what appear to be more than a few burgeoning political stars.

But at least two things worry me amidst all the good.

First, Congress is open, but parts of the federal government are not, and the Democrats are doing little to open it. Instead, they seem fixed on yet another internecine partisan battle, this one with federal employees used as political pawns.

It is likely that their efforts would be better directed to helping repair the Roman ruins that Congress has come to so closely resemble. Simply put, our second branch of government is as decrepit and crumbling as the Roman Colosseum. This continuing dysfunction inflicts deep damage on our country and its people. Our nation is falling behind globally according to several important measures and many Americans’ quality of life has slipped notably over the last two generations.

Instead of going down the same destructive path, the nation needs Congress to repair itself and begin passing effective bipartisan legislation in any number of areas, such as: vast infrastructure improvements; affordable and available healthcare; and, any number of initiatives to combat global warming and mitigate its already present effects.

Yes, I know the latter would not be easy in the face of a consistently obstinate and doctrinaire Republican party. However, Congressional rebuilding needs to begin. Instead of this, however, the Democratic party is breaking from the gate with more partisan warfare and nary a bipartisan initiative in sight. This is short-sighted and misguided. Which, of course, is what our politics and our Congress have become. And, so it goes.

Second, for its part, the Democratic progressive wing has begun the session balking at one of the first acts of an incoming Congress—adopting rules. Some of its members have said they will oppose a set of rules otherwise widely agreed to within the Democratic caucus. If they get enough votes, the proposed rules will fail or be pulled from the calendar, thereby giving an immediate black eye to the party and its House leadership. This progressive position is disappointingly reminiscent of the Republican Freedom Caucus and its continuing confrontation with Republican House leaders. It also likely foreshadows a number of future problems.

And, here is something for Democrats to add to their agenda: a rural initiative, including proposals related to reinvigorating smaller farms and ranches at the expense of the Big Ag and chemical lobbies; rolling back presidential tariff and trade powers to ease the pain being suffered by dairy and soybean farmers; and, adopting a full-bore rural internet initiative much like the rural electrification initiative of the New Deal. Measures such as these might gain bipartisan support and also peel some Trump voters away and reinvigorate Democratic parties in red states.

Evangelicals Struggle with Self-Identity

The National Association of Evangelicals issued a statement yesterday aimed at clarifying widespread misunderstanding of evangelical beliefs and practices.

Their longing for clarity arose out of the fact that a growing number of people consider “evangelicals” to be a political grouping rather than a religious one.

The NEA  statement is clear about how they see themselves, “We identify ourselves by our spiritual convictions in the authority of the Bible, salvation through Jesus Christ alone and living out our faith in everyday life, especially sharing the good news of Jesus with others.”

Unfortunately, the NEA is deluding itself if it thinks such statements are meaningful.

No matter whether it is fair or unfair, the vast majority of Americans do not know evangelicals by their spiritual convictions or actions. They do not see evangelicals doing the work of Jesus. They do not see evangelicals worshipping at church, leading foreign missions, feeding the hungry, etc.

Jerry Falwell, Jr. welcomes President Trump to Liberty University.

Instead, they know evangelicals primarily through their well-publicized association with President Trump and the Republican party.

They hear that white evangelicals are the most stable part of the Republican base. They read headlines about 80% white evangelical support of Trump. They see photographs of evangelical leaders clustered around Trump in the Oval Office. They hear about leading evangelical figures giving full-throated support to Trump.

Not surprisingly, they believe what they see and hear—that Trump trumps Jesus and politics trumps faith in the hearts and minds of most white evangelicals.

Evangelical claims of faith are not enough to overcome the overwhelming media coverage—much of it coming from evangelical sources—to the contrary.

God knows, even if evangelicals don’t, that this confusion about evangelical identity was foreseeable and predictable.

Jesus certainly lived his life differently. He did not seek standing with the prevailing powers of the day, he confronted them. He did not seek his own base of power, he gave his life for others. He did not subordinate the gospel to other purposes, he lived it. His priorities were clear and his identity remains clear thousands of years later.

However, white evangelicals chose not to follow Jesus’ path. Instead, they intentionally embarked on a path to gain political power and use it. They have followed that path for decades and show no changes of changing.

They formed the Moral Majority in the 1970’s with the avowed purpose of profoundly impacting public policy. They have given their time, work and money to this effort.

At first, their work resulted in most white evangelicals supporting Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election. Over the years, however, their movement slowly became more identified with Republican policies and the Republican party. By the 2016 presidential election, white evangelicalism was seen by most, even themselves, as being fused with rock-ribbed Republicanism.

And, they got what they wanted. They got political power. They got their Supreme Court nominee. They have the president’s ear and consider him to be their savior, at least in a political sense.

In the process, they have become who many people consider them to be—Republicans seeking and using political power and wanting even more.

White evangelicals should recognize that they have reaped what they have sowed. Any group or organization that lashes itself so completely to the policies, positions and practices of another group or organization loses its original identity. It literally becomes something else.

The NEA and their members may want to insist on their high-minded faith and devotion to Jesus, but no one will pay attention.

Instead of touting things that will be ignored, they might undergo a long needed self-assessment. Perhaps then, they return to the starting point of many Christian journeys  and become like the tax collector Jesus describes in a parable. In Luke 18, Jesus explains that the tax collector went to the Temple, beat his breast and prayed, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.”

After telling the parable, Jesus said that this man “went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

One thing we Christians always can use is a bit more humility before God and humankind and a bit less lust for power, however alluring it may be.

 

Children’s Health Plan and the Axe that Looms

The White House/Administration/Trump continue to be careen on their helter-skelter, immoral course.

Their latest outrage is an attempt to cut the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was renewed for a six-year period earlier this year.

Known more widely as CHIP, this program provides health coverage to nearly 9 million children in low-income families in all 50 states.

It is widely-recognized as successful. It turns out that, just as predicted, children’s health improves with access to medical care.

In addition to its medical and policy successes, CHIP also saves the country money by reducing expenditures on other health care programs, particularly Medicaid. CHIP does this because of the better medical outcomes that result from treating children earlier and in a doctor’s office as opposed to later and in an emergency room.

Nonetheless, it is under threat of the knife.

Indeed, it is on the chopping block to the tune of a $7 billion reduction because of the ballooning budget deficit that the administration is salivating to reduce.

It matters not to the White House that the deficit results primarily from its ill-advised 2017 corporate tax cuts. Those will remain as is, although there are rumors of some wanting additional reductions.

One might wonder why children should go without medical care while the country injects more cash into already-profitable companies, but that is just the way the United States rolls– or, careens– today.

One does hope that our white evangelical brothers and sisters (Where are you Franklin? Jerry, Jr? Rev. Jeffrees? Mr. Perkins?) will use their new-found political muscle to prevent this reduction.

Unfortunately, their political agenda may be too crowded with issues other than the just treatment of children.

 

America’s Sacrificial Lambs: Our Children

Child sacrifices are one of the more gruesome practices of humankind. Genesis 22 describes a chilling scene of one that almost happened.

God tells Abraham to sacrifice his young son, Isaac. Abraham dutifully begins to obey, no questions asked and no emotion shown.

Instead, he soon packs what is needed for the task and leaves for Mt. Moriah with Isaac and two servants. It was there that Isaac would die.

When they arrive, Abraham tells the servants to wait while he and his son find a place to “worship.” He and Isaac then leave for a short hike to find God’s preferred site. Ironically, Abraham gives Isaac the wood to carry while he takes the knife and “fire.”

When they arrive at the appointed site, Abraham builds an altar, puts wood on it, binds Isaac and places him the wood. He then lifts his knife to kill him, to sacrifice his son on altar to God.

There is no indication what Isaac and Abraham were thinking and feeling as the events unfolded. Instead, it played out rather matter-of-factly—like another day, another sacrifice to make. Ho-hum.

So it seems to go in our country. Another day, another sacrifice to make. Or like yesterday, seventeen sacrifices.

Child sacrifice was common in ancient cultures. Today, we think of it as a primitive, barbaric act, something too horrific to imagine.

Unfortunately, we routinely do it as a culture. We are the primitives. We are the barbarians. We are the ones who sacrifice our children. We are the ones with blood on our hands.

We sacrifice them on altars made not of wood but of political power and zealotry. Our gods are the NRA and a particular interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.

God stayed the hand of Abraham that day, but our country does not seem to have the ability to take any meaningful steps to stay the hands of mass murderers, even in our public schools.

Admittedly, there are laws against murder and there are some restrictions on the sale of firearms.

But, there have been twenty-five fatal school shootings since Columbine. There have been over 150 mass shootings (defined as shootings where four or more have been killed by a lone shooter) since Charles Whitman climbed the University of Texas Tower on August 1, 1966 to gun down twenty-five people.

In the last twenty-four hours, the governor of Florida, attorney general of the United States and president of the United States have made statements deploring the act and vowing to end school shootings.

But, the fact is that our governments have done . . . nothing.

And, our body politic has done . . . nothing.

And, more die.

Christians believe that sin is endemic to human beings. Our task as our culture is to seek ways to curb this particular manifestation of sin.

Unfortunately, that requires a national effort and a political effort that includes both political courage and citizen revolt against these murders. To date, all these elements have been missing.

If you are one who cares, then by all means pray for the victims, witnesses and their families. Pray for the law enforcement officers and other first responders who had to see and wade through the carnage. Pray for doctors, nurses and health care personnel who cared for those who were brought in for treatment. Pray for the shooter and his family.

Then, phone, write or email your legislators at all levels of government. Give money to candidates who will change the status quo. Write letters to the editor. Rage on social media. Do anything you can to reduce the carnage.