Category Archives: Politics

Separating Immigrant Families is un-Christian!

How can anyone look at pictures of their own children and think separating immigrant families is right?

In the wake of news about separating immigrant families at the U.S./Mexico border in recent weeks, the silence from Trump’s evangelical advisory board as children are being ripped from their parents’ arms has been deafening.  Pastors have a Christian duty to hold Jeff Sessions and his boss to account, especially in the wake of Sessions’ claim that Romans 13 supports such abject cruelty.

In fairness, some conservative religious leaders are speaking out.  Franklin Graham, surprisingly, said in an interview last week with the Christian Broadcasting Network, “I think it’s disgraceful; it’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit.” However, he rendered his criticism impotent in the next breath by saying he still supports Trump and blaming politicians of the last 20 to 30 years for creating the mess that has led to the current policy.

Many religious leaders, politicians, journalists, and ordinary citizens have raised the alarm about the plight of these families in recent days.  But if we’ve learned anything in the past 18 months, it’s that Trump cares not one iota for the opinions of those who consistently disagree with him and criticize him.

This is precisely the thing that gives Trump’s evangelical advisory board the power and responsibility to challenge him in a way that most of us cannot.  Having helped catapult him into office, they have open access to him.  He cannot be re-elected without them and the flocks they shepherd into the voting booths.

According to a New York Times article early this year, the Rev. Johnnie Moore estimates that he’s made dozens of visits to the White House since Trump took office.  Moore says, “This White House, the front door is open to evangelicals.  It hasn’t been evangelicals reaching into the White House. It’s been the White House reaching out to evangelicals. Not a day goes by when there aren’t a dozen evangelical leaders in the White House for something.”

While these pastors can make a rational argument for supporting Trump’s policies on issues such as abortion, there is no sound argument to justify the mistreatment of parents and children to, as Sessions said, send a message that, “If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them. We’ve got to get this message out.”

Some of these pastors have doctorates from noted theological seminaries.  They surely know that this policy blasphemes everything Jesus stood for.  They surely know that the portion of scripture Sessions used from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans is a twisted interpretation taken out of context.  And if they’ve been listening, they must know that this same text was used during the Civil War to justify slavery and during the Civil Rights Movement to rationalize denying the rights of African-Americans.

This morning more than 600 ministers and laity of the United Methodist Church, of which Jeff Sessions is a member, wrote a letter to his church in Mobile, Alabama, and the church he attends in Alexandria, Virginia, filing a formal complaint for his actions.  The complaint says that while many in the administration are causing harm, they feel compelled to challenge his thinking because, “He is ours, and we are his.”

So why are the pastors who most have Donald Trump’s ear failing to do the same?

If you are one of the pastors on Trump’s advisory board, you must know that Christ said this about our responsibility to challenge other Christians’ thinking:

Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive.” (Luke 17: 1-3)

In recent days defenders of the children at the border have interpreted this text as Jesus saying it would be better to have a stone tied around your neck and be drowned than to harm a child.  However, read in context, this passage is an even more serious charge to disciples to challenge the thinking of other disciples who have stumbled and lost their way.

As far as we can tell, none of the advisory board members have rebuked anyone in the Trump administration who has twisted the Word in support of misguided initiatives.  If they cannot speak up to Trump and his disciples when families are being torn apart and children will likely suffer permanent damage, then when?

If you are a member of a church led by one of the pastors on Trump’s advisory board, then you, too, are a disciple who is responsible for calling out your pastors and the Trump administration.

And for those of us who are members of other Christian churches, we are not exempt from Christ’s call.  All of us should be bombarding the advisory board and rebuking the offenders.

We can’t gain access to all of them, but many of them do have a presence on social media.  Here are some of them who have pages on Facebook and Twitter:

Johnnie Moore: https://www.facebook.com/JohnnieMooreLU@JohnnieM

Tim Clinton: https://www.facebook.com/drtimclinton/@DrTimClinton

Robert Jeffress: https://www.facebook.com/drjeffress/@robertjeffress

Darrell Scott: https://www.facebook.com/darrell.scott.399@PastorDScott

Samuel Rodriguez: https://www.facebook.com/pastorsamuelrodriguezjr/@rev_rodriguez

Paula White: https://www.facebook.com/realpaulawhite/@Paula_White

Franklin Graham: https://www.facebook.com/FranklinGraham/@Franklin_Graham

Gloria Copeland: https://www.facebook.com/GloriaCopelandKCM/@CopelandNetwork

I plan to take time today to contact each of these pastors and to respectfully challenge them not to be a millstone around the neck of Christianity.  If you have a presence on social media, I urge you to do the same.  Please take the time to respectfully call on these pastors to do what is right.  Much access has been given to them, and because of that, much is expected of them.

They can do what the average Christian cannot—have a face-to-face conversation with the man in the Oval Office when he stumbles and strays.  If they do not rebuke him now, then when?  What cruelty will it take in the name of Christ for them to live up to the responsibility of their calling?

Right now they seem to be aiding and abetting an administration that has openly said it is trying to put the fear of God into those who might cross the border illegally.

I fear there is little we can do to put the fear of God into the advisory board.  But if they do not join the chorus of Christians and citizens who are decrying the destruction of families, then they must answer to the God they’ve taught their flocks to fear.

Long for Moderate Politicians?

If you’re one of my most liberal friends, you may want to stop reading now because this is one of those posts where even my fellow liberals attack me.  “How can you support moderate politicians?” you ask.  If you read to the end, I can see you in my head, rolling your eyes and opening your mouth to respond before you’ve given yourself even five seconds to think about what I’m saying.  You may even decide not to read any more of my blog posts and wonder how I can continue to call myself a bleeding heart liberal—or even a liberal.

If you’re one of my most conservative friends, you’ll Continue reading Long for Moderate Politicians?

Have you googled “gun control” today?

Washington Post analysis of Google Trends in the wake of mass shootings

Five days have passed since the school shootings in Parkland, Florida—five excruciating days for the families and friends of those killed and injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

As painful has it been for those of us who are touched by the danger only from the safe distance of the news, can you imagine their pain and grief?

According to a Washington Post analysis of Google data, if past attacks by deranged gunmen are any indication, public interest in their grief will have dropped today by about 75% of what it was the day after the tragedy. Politicians know that our memories for mass shootings are short, and they need only weather the first week until we’re no longer focused on gun control.

Of course, not everyone searches the Internet for news, but what we see in our newsfeeds on social media is also an indicator of how long such events stay on the radar screen of most Americans.

I have to admit that I sometimes have to stop watching and thinking about such horrific events, so I click on links less often as the days go on. If I don’t, my dreams are filled with the anxiety of worrying about my own loved ones. Although I retired over a year ago, this weekend I dreamed I tried to hide my students under a table, in a futile modern-day version of duck and cover, as a masked gunman with an assault rifle burst through the door, just as I awoke, my heart racing.

This time, though, watching those courageous young people at MSDHS, I can’t turn away as easily, even for my own peace of mind. In these first few days, their anger has largely silenced politicians who are usually quick to spout the NRA talking points demanded in return for the campaign money they’ve received. There’s something different about this, and we need to seize the day.

Stories speak to us, and I plan to follow those students because they are my hope for the future. I owe it to them to stay engaged.

I owe it to all our young people—to this entire generation of our nation’s children, who are learning a fear that was once limited to children in war-torn nations far away from America’s shores.

Consider this post that appeared in my newsfeed from a friend—a mom who is one of the strongest people I know, a survivor of a cancer that nearly killed her in her twenties before she could even think about having children. She believed in her future, and she worked far harder than most of us do to have a child. In a just world she should never have to worry about this:

So…I just did it. I just asked [my son] if he knew what a lock down drill was. Without much affect, he said, “It’s a drill that we have to hide in the back of the room and stay really quiet. Our teacher has to close all the blinds and lock the doors.” I responded, “Do you know why?” He then said, “Yes, in case a bad guy gets into the building and wants to kill us with a gun. He is more likely to come into our room if he can hear us and so we stay really quiet.” I bit my lip and did my best to not show my own fear. I told him that I’m glad he practices that drill, but I am so sorry that he even has to know that bad people like this exist. He then asked me if I knew if a bad guy was near his school now. I told him that there is no need to worry when there is no fact that anyone like this exists close to our home…but, the main thing is that he practices this drill and is prepared and that everyone in that school loves him and would do anything to protect him—-and that I truly believe.

Or consider this story, not someone I know but one that came to me through the friend of a friend of a friend, as social media posts often do:

My daughter came home from school one day crying that she needed new shoes. I thought that perhaps someone had made fun of her over her shoes, but no. She informed me that she realized during an active shooter drill, that if she’s hiding from the shooter, the lights on her Sketchers will give away her location. My baby is 8 years old and worrying about being shot because of her light up shoes.

Parents all over the country are having conversations they should never have to have—worrying about whether their children will be the next victims sacrificed to the idol of gun rights that demands our nation’s blood sacrifice on a regular basis.

Another friend—also a cancer survivor—had this to say about America’s voracious appetite for guns:

I don’t care about your weapon, and if it brings you joy, then enjoy it at the range or while you shoot animals. What I do care about is getting shot, and about my babies being allowed to live their lives. Military-style weapons should be reserved for the military and law enforcement. Armed societies are not safer societies. If that fact has ever been proven wrong, I’m listening. I’d like to be able to send my kids to school and see a movie with them in a crowded theater without thinking of how I would cover them. Can we start there?

Indeed. Sensible measures have been proposed, but those measures have not been allowed out of committee and have never made it to the floor of Congress for a vote. After the tragedy in Las Vegas, even the NRA came out in support of tightening restrictions on bump stocks, which the shooter used to give his weapon the high capacity of an automatic weapon.

How much have you heard about bump stocks this year?

We live in a world where the survival of a news outlet depends on how many clicks it gets from readers. Even the best news outlets must pay attention to the number of search engine hits they get, the number of times people share links to articles on social media.

In such a world, what can we do? Here are a few ideas:

  • Use the search feature on your favorite credible source at least once a day to find a new article on key words like “gun control,” “gun legislation,” or one of the sites of these tragedies, like “Sandy Hook Elementary” or “Las Vegas shootings.”
  • If you can’t bring yourself to hear another story, remember that you don’t even have to read the article. Clicking on it to open it will make it appear as part of the Google Trends.
  • Subscribe to the digital version of the national newspaper you find most credible, preferably one that has a long track record of being credible.
  • Do your best to encourage high school seniors who are disgusted by the inaction of adults to register to vote before the mid-term elections. Here’s a link to my recent blog post to help you with that.
  • If you’re on Twitter, tweet your encouragement to the young people at MSDHS who are marshaling support for this cause: @davidhogg111, @cameron_kasky, @Emma4Change, and @delaneytarr.
  • Think about attending an event in your city for the March for Our Lives, currently being organized by the survivors in Parkland and other students around the country.

We have two days to break the trend that has happened within a week of every mass shooting in recent years. If you’ve read this far, consider going back and clicking on every link in this blog post.

Remember the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook Elementary, the Navy Yard, the Pulse nightclub, San Bernardino Inland Regional Center, Sutherlands First Baptist Church, Charleston Emanuel AME Church, and Columbine High School.

With only a few clicks from each of us, we can help ensure America won’t forget these senseless deaths. And perhaps we’ll even be protecting our own children and grandchildren from the next deranged person before he can get his hands on a high capacity gun.

Letter to High School Seniors on Gun Control

Dear High School Seniors:

Census.gov’s report on voting by age from 1980 to 2016

Do you want to see an end to school shootings?

If so, are you eligible to vote? If you are eligible, have you registered to vote?

If you’ve ever felt frightened or sad or angry in the wake of tragedies like the mass shooting yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, please know that you have tremendous power right at your fingertips.

If every high school senior in America who feels as you do goes into a voting booth during the 2018 mid-term elections and pulls the lever for a candidate who advocates for sensible gun control laws, you can fight this insanity. Continue reading Letter to High School Seniors on Gun Control

Protections for Dreamers?

A January 2018 Pew Research survey shows that a majority of Americans support protections for Dreamers.

I’m a liberal Democrat and a progressive Christian. Predictably, I support gay marriage, gun control, government assistance for the poor, and the protection of the promise we made to Dreamers. I enjoy sharing a meal and discussing politics and religion with those who share my views.

I have a few friends and a number of relatives who are conservative Republicans and evangelical Christians. Predictably, they support traditional marriage, gun-owners’ rights, and a work requirement for the poor who receive government assistance. Many of them do, however, support protections for Dreamers. I occasionally share a meal with these friends and relatives, but we studiously avoid discussing politics and religion and focus on what connects us.

We are most comfortable with like-minded people, and that works for most of us in our social lives.

But political purism in the public arena endangers our democracy. Continue reading Protections for Dreamers?

Want Unbiased News?

NAMLE’s parent guide to media literacy offers great questions we should all ask.

Want unbiased news? If so, you’re in good company. According to a Pew Research survey released in January, 78% of Americans believe it is never acceptable for news media to favor a political party in reporting current events.

Why is it, then, that so many of us get our news from biased sites that align with our views?

In the same survey, when asked how much they trust media reports on political issues, only 47% of Americans responded that media’s coverage is fair and balanced. Given the current political climate, this should surprise no one.

What is surprising about this study, though, is this finding:

On the question of whether their news media cover political issues fairly, for example, partisan differences appear in 20 of the 38 countries surveyed. In five countries, the gap is at least 20 percentage points, with the largest by far in the U.S. at 34 percentage points….

The U.S. is also one of only a few countries where governing party supporters are less satisfied with their news media than are nonsupporters.

Interestingly, the survey also revealed that those who are less educated want unbiased news just as much as those who are more educated. [See this chart.] This may come as a surprise to my liberal friends who are quick to label those who support the Trump administration as ignorant and uneducated. But only 21% of Republican Party supporters—no matter their level of education—are satisfied with media coverage. And even among Democratic Party supporters, only slightly more than half are satisfied.

The results of this survey seem to suggest that, in the absence of an easy way to detect bias in our news coverage, we tend to assume that the biases that align with our own are more objective. As the political divide widens, the danger to our democracy if we continue down this path cannot be understated.

For objective journalism outlets to thrive, they must have readers and viewers. The more consumers flock to media outlets that cater to their views and confirm their biases, the greater the danger becomes that the most objective sources of our news will flail and fold. And the more we read only sources that confirm our views, the more insular and less informed we become.

What can we do about this? As I’ve said before in this blog, as teachers we must do a better job of helping our students recognize media bias. Those teachers who foist their own views on students do more harm than good. We must teach our students to question the arguments they like just as vigorously as those they dislike. We must teach them to seek out the original sources of their news rather than relying on sound-bites or click-bait. We must teach them to distinguish fact from opinion.

And what about those of us who have long since finished our educations? We don’t always do these things either. As individuals we must challenge ourselves to go to the most objective sites first, and we must reward those sites with our loyalty and support. Periodically, we should read or view a source that challenges our own thinking.

Digital and media literacy sites for teachers have some excellent suggestions for students that adults might also find valuable. Here are just two that I’ve found helpful:

  • ISTE’s Top 10 sites to help students check their facts. At the top of their list is AllSides, a site that offers views from the left, right, and center in three adjacent columns that allows readers to compare coverage.
  • The National Association for Media Literacy Education offers a guide in three languages for parents to help their children question what they see in media. We adults would do well to ask these questions ourselves.

We can’t afford to procrastinate or to dig in our heels and entrench ourselves any more deeply on opposite sides. I had conversations recently with two friends, one a liberal and one a conservative. Both admitted to me that they had almost no close friends who didn’t share their political views. That is just as dangerous as having no friends of other races. I have other friends who tell me they hate holiday dinners because they can’t have a civil conversation about politics even with family members they love.

We must find ways to bridge this divide, just as we want our lawmakers to do. And if we can’t do it face-to-face, we can at least start by changing our habits in the media we consume.

What can you commit to do?

Pastors in “Shithole” with Trump?

Is there anything worse than Trump’s latest atrocity, asking, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” and then seemingly denying that he said it.

It’s deplorable, but no worse, that Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-GA) say they don’t recall that specific comment, which no thinking person would find believable. At least, though, Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) did the right thing and confirmed that the media reports are accurate. And, of course, democratic senators also confirmed the reports.

What is appalling, though, and infinitely worse than Trump’s behavior, is that evangelicals serving on Trump’s advisory committee repeatedly refuse to condemn him and call him to account for words and actions that are wholly un-Christlike, if not downright evil. Continue reading Pastors in “Shithole” with Trump?

Balance of Power?

Three branches of government? Balance of power? Each branch with its own distinct role in preserving our democracy?

Every school child in America learns that the United States Constitution established three branches of government: “legislative Powers” in Article I, “executive Power” in Article II, and “judicial Power” in Article III. Continue reading Balance of Power?

The Emperor’s Parade on Gun Violence

Even when we see the carnage in Las Vegas of 58 victims dead and 527 injured—in yet another “deadliest shooting in U.S. history”—our leaders fail to believe their eyes when they see gun violence. In a prepared statement, Trump studiously avoided acknowledging the truth of the divisions in our country, insisting that, “In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one—and it always has.”

Each time I hear him deny another reality of the division in our country, I wonder whether Donald Trump ever asks himself the age-old question the Emperor asks himself in Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes”: “I can see nothing! This is indeed a terrible affair! Am I a simpleton, or am I unfit to be an Emperor? That would be the worst thing that could happen.”

Each time I hear voices suggest that Donald Trump is unfit for his office, I wonder if we’re becoming a modern day version of a very old story. Continue reading The Emperor’s Parade on Gun Violence

(Un)Christian Blame for the Poor

Quote on FDR’s Memorial: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Quoting the Bible out of context as the authoritative Word of God is a uniquely American phenomena—one that is, sadly, becoming the primary tool of Christians who want to ignore their responsibility to the nation’s poor. Continue reading (Un)Christian Blame for the Poor