Musings on the Current Presidential Race

If you had asked me four years ago what I thought of the host of The Apprentice becoming a serious U.S. presidential candidate, I would have laughed and said he a racist, misogynist, divisive, unstable megalomaniac that has neither the temperament nor the skills to be taken seriously. Of course, fast forward to now and when one says the same thing, Trump fans accuse you of buying the media lies that the corporations are paying for to slander Trump because he is an outsider. Not sure how the media and corporations would have done that to an opinion of mine that would technically be unchanged for years before he even announced he was running, but whatever. Anyone that knows Trump’s history knows he is neither a Washington outsider nor anti-corporations. He is deeply entangled in both.

Everyone seems to be complaining about media bias. Trump, Sanders, Cruz, Rubio…. Clinton? Has she complained about it yet? I can’t remember. But the funny thing about her is that in the past week I have heard several of her opponents (DEM and GOP) say something about media deception and then follow that with some Clinton issue that they could only know about… from the media. Think about it: email scandal, Benghazi, you name the things dogging her now… the only way we know about these problems is through the media. So the media can accurately report Clinton’s problems, but not the other candidate’s? If the media can’t be trusted, then how do we know any of Clinton’s problems are real? Clinton is currently the only candidate not getting hammered by her opponents for things she said recently or policies she stated since running. That one thing about Sanders standing right behind her 23 years ago is about as bad as it gets… and that is a silly point at best. The attacks on Clinton are all about media-reported issues. That a dangerous place to be. Does anyone know anything about Clinton other than “she’s copying Bernie!!!” and “Benghazi / emails!!!”? That should concern people.

As far as Sanders, the real concern with him is who is voting for him. As in, mostly young rich white males. People of color are voting for Clinton big time. The reaction from the Sanders camp? “They are uninformed! They are buying into media hype!” I have a huge problem with that reaction. People of color voted Obama in as well. This was followed by the McCain and then the Romney supporters claiming “They are uninformed! They are buying into media hype!” Of course, it was racist back then, and its still racist today. Voting for a democratic socialist doesn’t suddenly change that. If the group that voted for Obama was well-informed and levelheaded just four years ago, how are they suddenly not today? People that voted for Obama and claimed one thing about people of color four years ago, but are now claiming the opposite message about the same group of people today, have a lot of explaining to do.

Thankfully, there are some Sanders supporters that are not saying those things. But… they aren’t really doing much to stand up to those who are. Silence is not always a good thing.

Also of concern are the liberals that say “Sanders or third party!” or “Clinton or third party!” Might as well go vote for Trump, because that is what you are doing. This is different from choosing not to vote (which is a choice I still support, because a freedom is not truly free if it is obligatory). Increasing voter turnout has never been found to change the percentages of who votes. “Republicans win in years when voter turnout is low” is an urban legend. What does change elections is when large swaths of voters that typically vote for one party switch votes and go for a third party candidate. They basically shoot their old party in the foot. Of course, that has never really happened for a presidential election, but Sanders and Clinton have enough support to change that this time if the supporters of which ever one loses do go through with the threat to go third party. I will vote for whoever is not Trump or Cruz no matter how much I don’t like them, because those two are miles beyond worse than anyone else left.

What do I have against Cruz? He twists the Constitution to fit his own warped ultra-right wing theology and then claims to be a constitutional scholar. Sorry, I have designed college classes with true constitutional scholars that are also conservative. They would agree with almost nothing Cruz stands for. And don’t get me started on his twisted version of Christianity.

What I personally want to see for the election is Kasich versus Clinton. They are both the most moderate candidate in their parties (but not by much), so if they go head to head the contest will pull them both more towards the moderate middle. This will change the conversation in the country to a message of coming together on middle ground, which will also usher in more moderate candidates in other elections. The overall effect will create more fertile ground for whoever wins out of the two to create the most real change in this country. People of color see that, and that is why they are voting for these two.

If Sanders and Trump go head to head for the election, it will be a different story: here you would have two people at the polar opposite ends of the spectrum from each other. Their campaigns will further pull people towards those poles, further dividing the nation. More radical people on both ends of the spectrum will be elected in other races as well. No matter which one gets elected, the division their stand-off will cause will create an atmosphere where neither one will be able to accomplish much while in office, meaning less real change. Just look at the last two elections – Obama and McCain/Romney are technically closer to each other than Sanders and Trump, but still far enough apart that their campaign caused major divisions in this country. Obama spent the first half of his presidency attempting to overcome that division, and then the second half doing a fraction of what he could have because the division was still there. It would have been the same for McCain or Romney of they had won. It will be the same, but worse, if Trump and Sanders go head to head.

metamodern-faith-avatarWhat most fans of any candidate most get wrong is thinking that their one candidate can make the changes this country needs. What we really need is a complex scenario of the right people running against each other at the right time starting early enough in the process to create the right atmosphere for real change. But I fear that it is too late on the Republican side to go down that road… no matter how you slice it, Trump does not fit into what this country needs in any way, shape, or form.


Do You Care More About Your Political Views Winning, or the Human Race Winning?

As a moderate, I miss the days when liberals and conservatives were equally clueless. But the right wing insanity regarding the recent issues surrounding gun violence, refugees, Islam, and immigrants has gone to such stupefying levels that I just can’t even deal with all of them with out becoming seriously depressed. An entire political party that no longer cares about reality – just fooling itself into believing it’s fantasies are reality. Its sad, really.

Reason: doesn’t matter
Logic: doesn’t matter
Research: doesn’t matter
What your own scriptures tell you: doesn’t matter
Historical trends: doesn’t matter.

All that matters is sticking it to liberals with idiotic memes. That is pathetic. Grown up people. Our fellow humans are dying and you post a meme that doesn’t even reflect reality – just your political view? Just yesterday, someone on Facebook flat out lied and said guns are illegal in France… just to try and prove me wrong. His actual quote was: “Guns are illegal in France and Mexico.” (they aren’t illegal in Mexico, either, FYI). This “good, Christian person” didn’t care one bit about saying truthful things – just in proving a political point. Let that sink in for a minute.

Look, none of us get out of here alive. But we can make it a good or bad place for each other for the limited time we are here. Do you care more about your political views winning, or the human race winning? You can’t have both. I seriously don’t see anything in the GOP that cares about the human race winning, just a set of political ideologies winning.

And if your first response is “but the liberals….” – I’ll have to deal with Democrats later. Maybe stop your praying to God and start listening to God? A little dose of reality for what God would say to you if you stopped to listen:

The GOP is lying to you.

The media has problems. but the GOP is still lying to you about the media.

Obamacare has problems, but the GOP is still lying to you about Obamacare.

Academia has big problems, but the GOP is still lying to you about academia.

Obama is not the perfect president that liberals make him out to be, but the GOP is still lying to you about Obama.

Islam has its problem, but the GOP is still lying to you about Islam.

Democrats have a lot of problems with their political ideology, but the GOP is still lying to you about the Democrats.

Democratic politicians are also lairs, but the GOP is still lying to you about the Democrat’s lies.

metamodern-faith-avatarYes, that is how bad it has become. You can’t even trust the GOP to correctly expose lies without lying about the lies. Maybe if we had a Republican in the White House right now, it would be the other way around for the Democrats. Who knows? But for now, it’s the GOP that is off the rails, and I don’t even know if they care to get back on.

Duped by Trump

Any student of history will tell you that the media and the politicians have had a long history of trying to control each other. This has usually led to a public show down with the media criticizing politicians and politicians returning the favor. However, I am wondering if that is all changing with the rise of Donald Trump.

Trump is more than a businessman. He is an integral part of the media system as well. From starring in several realty TV shows to sponsoring beauty pageants to appearing in TV commercials and so on, Trump is squarely on the media side of the equation. And if you really examine what he says, it shows. He can’t even keep his story straight over a 10 minute boardroom session on The Apprentice. Media interviews over time shows that his political alliances have shifted from liberal to conservative and back and forth again (basically following where ever the money was at the time). He knows that people won’t really criticize your words if you say enough of the correct buzz terms for one side. If you really listen to what he says on any given political topic today, he just can’t create a consistent stance beyond the top level, bullet point ideas he repeats over and over.

So, ever wondered why people like him so much? I read someone state that he is just telling it like it is. That’s not really true – most of his statements are truly relative – he is just stating one side’s opinion (and the side has changed over the years). Someone else said it is that he is rich, and people know he can’t be bought. Not true either: you can’t be a successful businessman unless you can be bought. How else will you make money? Trump has a long history of going for the money. Yet another person said its because he is dialing into a deep mistrust of Obama.

A-ha. There we have it. People don’t like Obama, Trump doesn’t like Obama, and so people connect with that. The problem is: people’s hatred of Obama is a state of mind bought and paid for by the same people that are putting Trump at the top of the presidential race.

Who are these people? The (right-wing) media. Trump’s own people.

I didn’t vote for Obama. I think there are many things he could have done better on. But the right wing media hatred spearheaded by Fox News is obviously so far over the line that its beyond belief to those that don’t buy it. Obama hates America? He’s a criminal? He’s trying to enslave us all? That’s just extremist talk, with no real proof. Not even close.

I was raised to give credit where credit is due, even to people that I don’t agree with. Obama deserves more credit than the right-wing media gives him.

But those of us that see through this right wing media smoke screen have always wondered: why so extreme? What is the end goal? Blind hatred without a clear end goal is just a waste of money. And the media is not really one to waste money without an end goal.

I think we have  an understanding of that end goal now: Donald Trump. He has been leading the media hatred of Obama for years. And now he is magically in the lead position in the GOP debates? Is anyone else disturbed that Fox News can determine who is in and out of the running with this debate?

metamodern-faith-avatarWhat I think we are seeing is a very well-planned and coordinated plan by the right-wing media to gain more control over the government. They spend years seeding hatred of Obama, slowly whipping it into a blazing (yes, I use that word intentionally there) inferno of blind rage. They find a few people that will do say and do whatever they want (how else can anyone explain The Celebrity Apprentice?). Then push the one that works out the most (Trump) to run. Trump shoots to the top of the polls – front and center at tonight’s debate. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear a bunch of questions tonight tailor-made to make Trump sound good.

I know this all sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory, and I hope that it is. Something isn’t adding up and I can’t just chalk it up to chance. I think America has been duped by the Trump.

America Has Always Gone Against Global and Historical Definitions of Marriage

Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see people distorting reality to support their narrative. You are free to believe what you want when it comes to any issue, regardless of what the rest of the world or history says about an issue. That is the beauty of living in a metamodernist age: you can believe something even if it is counter-intuitive to the dominant cultural narrative.

But at the same time, if you change the narrative of others to make your narrative seem like it is the one, correct, true narrative, you are doing more harm to your cause than good. With the recent Supreme Court marriage equality decisions, one area that concerns me is how conservative Christians are claiming that SCOTUS is trying to change the historical, global, and religious definitions of marriage. The reality is that the historical, global, and religious definitions of marriage are much more diverse than the revisionist idea of a global historical “one man, one woman” idea.

Global and historical definitions of marriage contain a major element of legal polygamy – especially when you want to bring Biblical definitions of marriage into the mix. Additionally, global and historical religious definitions of marriage typically contain a major stream of banning interracial and/or intercultural marriages. The United States redefined global and historical definitions of marriage when we made polygamy illegal in 1862. We also did so multiple points when we made woman equal to men in various marriage issues. And yet again in 1967 when we made interracial marriage legal across the nation.

What is even more ironic is that many conservative political leaders such as Greg Abbot and Ted Cruz are remaining silent about the 1967 Supreme Court decision that made their interracial marriages legal in their home state of Texas, while decrying the 2015 SCOTUS decision that is basically the same kind of decision.

metamodern-faith-avatarThe historical, global, and religious definition of marriage is a complex, often contradictory and paradoxical ideal. The United States has a long history of creating its own definition of marriage (along with many other concepts) based on the underlying ideal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Additionally, the Evangelical church owes the existence of their entire movement to their leaders disagreeing with the historical and global Protestant interpretations of scriptures (and the Protestant church is based on their leaders disagreeing with the historical and global Catholic interpretations of scriptures, and so on back in time).  The idea that there has been a consistent global, historical, or religious way of doing anything is revisionist at best, and dangerous to the true goal of the Church and the United States at its worst.

A Tale of Two Supreme Court Decisions

I try not to make current issues about myself, because they rarely are. As a heterosexual white male, I recognize my privilege and how making issues that touch on race, gender, or sexuality about me is just an extension of my privilege. However, the reaction to the recent supreme court decision legalizing same sex marriages in a way does touch on something that is close to me: my own marriage.

I am not gay or bisexual. However, my wife is half Asian Indian and half white. To most people today, we are not really that much of an “interracial” marriage, and I would tend to agree. But go back in time to 1965, and that would be a different story in our home state of Texas. My wife’s maiden name is very Indian, and mine is very white. Had we tried to get married in 1965, we would have been denied a license based on our last names alone.

That all changed in 1967 when the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. Texas was one of several states forced to follow these laws after the decision. Opposition to this reaction were often based on religious beliefs. For example, Judge Leon M. Bazile wrote about his decision to send a couple that sought interracial marriage to jail by saying:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races show that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Bazile’s ruling was fought all the way to the Supreme Court in 1967. Equality won, and interracial marriage was formally legal in all 50 states (although some states ignored this until 2000). Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote about the court’s unanimous decision:

“Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Fifty years later, several conservative politicians are now trying to say that these kinds of individual decisions can be infringed upon by the State; that State rights out weighs individual rights in cases of individual conscious.

Even more ironically, Texas political leaders like Ted Cruz and Greg Abbot are protesting yesterday’s supreme court decision, despite being in interracial marriages themselves that would have been illegal in their home state of Texas without Supreme Court intervention. And they aren’t only disagreeing with the decision itself, but going so far as to say that the the the Supreme Court is “lawless” and “playing God” in how they made that decision.

Add that to the chorus of disagreement from evangelical Christians, such as John Piper who Tweeted that the U.S. is “institutionalizing suicidal commitments.” In light of the shockingly high suicide rates of those that are LGBTQ when compared to heterosexuals, this statement is without class and completely inappropriate. Can one claim to love God when they are also mocking “the least of these”?

I could go on and on quoting hateful and inappropriate responses from across the Conservative and Evangelical spectrum. Add to that those that refer to Christians such as myself that support marriage equality as “deceived” or flat out “evil.” It doesn’t matter that we came to this conclusion because we love God, respect His Word, and fear misrepresenting Both so much that we spent decades in Bible study, praying, and following the conviction of the Holy Spirit to come to these conclusions. We know the Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew underlying the pertinent scriptures backwards and forwards, as well as being well versed in ancient Jewish, Greek, and Roman cultural attitudes towards sexual issues. But all of that is not enough. We have a different opinion, so we are heretics (or worse).

metamodern-faith-avatarI realize that all of this is really nothing in comparison to the bullying, discrimination, and life-threatening situations that people with real problems face everyday. I’m not complaining about anything, just bringing to light a different facet of the conversation. Those that need to hear it most won’t listen, but “for those with an ear to hear….”

Why The Logic of “More Guns Decreases Crime” Doesn’t Add Up

Let me start off by saying that this is not an anti-gun post. Even though I say that, many people have already decided to hate it based on the title alone. But this post is a look at bad logic, not gun rights.

We have probably all seen a large number of articles, memes, and rants online about how the best way to curb crime is to increase gun ownership.  Usually this is in the form of a statistic that shows how some city, state, or country saw an increase in gun sales at the same time they saw a decrease in crimes committed with guns.

Of course, we all know that correlation does not equal causation, but we also kind of conveniently ignore that basic foundation of logic if the correlation happens to support our side. I do it all the time, and so do most people I know.

But have you ever really stopped to wonder how an increase in gun sales would lead to a decrease in crime? Basically, you have two real scenarios:

  1. Some criminals hear that more guns are being sold and then decide it is too risky to commit more crime.
  2. Criminals run into more people with guns while committing crime, and are either caught, shot, or scared into leaving a life of crime.

The problem is, reality just doesn’t support either scenario. Let’s look at the first one. The problem with this option is that most stories about gun numbers increasing accompany stories about crime dropping. Criminals can’t become scared about a story that hasn’t aired yet. When was the last time you saw a story that was just about the number of guns increasing? I never had, but I am sure there are some. But even when there are, you have to content with the fact that less than 10 percent of Americans watch the evening news. Cable news, internet news, and physical newspapers have slightly higher numbers, but access to those outlets decreases as poverty increases (which is where most violent criminals come from). So how many criminals are actually going to see a one minute story about gun sales increasing in the first place? The statistics would say very few.

So the chance that a criminal hears about increased gun sales is slim. But if they do, then what? Its not like there were no guns before the increase in sales. Yet criminals still committed crimes. “But a study found that criminals are afraid of armed citizens!” Well, no actually – it found they are concerned about running into an armed citizen and took steps to avoid that. But what you rarely read from these stats is if they stopped committing crime based on hearing there are more guns out there. I mean – think about it. A person wants to avoid getting into a conflict with another person that is armed. No. Way. Next you are going to tell me the sky is blue! “But it said they were more afraid of an armed citizen than the police!” You mean they are more afraid of a person with maybe a couple of days of training (with no guidance on emotional control) and no experience in tense situations than they are of a person with months of training and experience in tense situations? No. Way. If you haven’t figured out by now, most of those “studies” on criminals being more afraid of armed citizens are just poorly designed propaganda pieces that really tell us nothing.

But really, all scenario #1 really comes down to is assuming that criminals will hear about increased gun sales and then decide to stop committing crime because of that. The chances of that are so random and based on uncontrollable factors like popularity of the media outlet carrying that news, attitudes of criminals towards guns (I did go to a prison once and asked criminals about what they thought about armed citizens and none cared… it was actually an eye-opening experience), possible responses to news, etc. Randomness of that level make a correlation very unlikely, statistically speaking.

The second scenario is probably much more likely. It would make much more sense that criminals would run into more guns as they commit crimes and that ends up forcing them to decrease their activities (or they get shot and the actual number of criminals decreases). The problem is, while gun sales are increasing, the actual number of people that buy a gun for the first time is not keeping pace with the population growth.  What that means is that the percentage of people carrying a gun is decreasing overall, and it is less likely that a criminal will run into an armed citizen.

Currently, somewhere around 24-37% of Americans own a gun (depending on if you count people who say they own a gun or say they live with some that owns a gun; a confusing statistic). However, the percentage of gun owners and households with guns is going down. How is that so, when gun sales are increasing so rapidly? The population increase in the U.S. is between 0.74% and 0.97% depending on which index you look at. This translates to rough 3 million people – a mixture of babies and immigrants. So not a good stat to look at. From what I have found, between 4 and 8 million people turn 18 each year. There are around 2.4 million adult deaths in the U.S. each year. So between 1.6 and 5.6 people could become new gun owners each year. But apparently, less than that are, thus leading to the downward trend in gun ownership percentages.

What this basically means is that criminals are less likely to run into an armed citizen despite the soaring gun sales. Therefore, #2 just isn’t possible with the current stats, leading us back to the unlikely scenario #1 as the best bet.

So, basically you are saying that crime statistics are decreasing on the off-chance that a large number of criminals are seeing a news report on TV and getting scared out of committing at least some of the crime they were going to commit… even though they had still planned that crime before they saw the report when there were already guns out there.

So the logic of “increased gun sales equals decreased crime” just doesn’t add up, at least with the current statistics. As one police officer put it: “of course you see decreased crime where there are more legal guns – we have to patrol twice as much to make sure the hotheads don’t shoot each other more often!”

metamodern-faith-avatarCrime statistics are a complex stat to figure out. Sometimes it is a good thing when they go up – meaning more criminals are getting arrested. Sometimes it means that the police are catching fewer criminals due to being understaffed at a given time. All of this really means that we just need to take a more nuanced look at what is really happening, rather than co-opting random correlations for our own political cause.

God Will Not Be Mocked

You have probably heard this statement (or one like it) end many a religious debate on social media, usually spoken by a conservative evangelical fundamentalist to a liberal or progressive Christian they have been disagreeing with: “God will not be mocked, and those who substitute their own felt desires for God’s unchangeable Truth will not be found guiltless before a holy God.”

Other versions of this statement also include people being accused of being everything from a heretic to a false convert.

The biggest problem with this statement is that is true for both conservatives and liberals. Both sides do not want to mock God by misrepresenting His Words with their felt desires. The difference is not is dedication to Truth or honesty, but in what counts as “felt desires” and what counts as “unchangeable Truth.”

Whether the topic is marriage or Science or modesty or guns or abortion or you name it, both sides are intensely concerned with accurately representing Truth on the matter in a way that does not make a mockery of God. However, both sides have reached different conclusions as to what that accurate representation is.

metamodern-faith-avatarAnd that is the crux of the problem. We are not Truth. God is Truth. Our words are not Truth. His words are Truth. And even when we are quoting the red letters of the Bible, we are often still quoting words that are translated imperfectly from older languages that are sometimes difficult to translate into modern languages. So the next time you pick up the stones of “false convert” or “heretic” or “mocking God” or “giving in to felt desires”…. try to remember God’s position on those that pick up stones to use against others that they don’t agree with. And then take a good dose of humbling reality when realizing that Jesus defended the theologically incorrect person in that story.