On Super Tuesday, Vote Your Hope

My friend Lucas has asked if he could guest post today on the topic of Super Tuesday. As soon as he asked, I said, “who am I to say no?”

Then I couldn’t get that question out of my mind.

Who am I to say no? Would I put up a pro-Trump guest post? Pro-Cruz? It’s a fair question.

I do tend towards political writing, although I usually publish those pieces elsewhere and keep posts here to more family- and faith-oriented topics, but a large part of what I write about is the hard work of learning to understand one another, and treating those with whom we disagree with the same compassion and standards we treat those with whom we do agree. Getting feedback from the choir is lots of fun, but not why one goes into the business. Or shouldn’t be, anyway.

So with that in mind, must the answer to my burning and introspective question be “yes?” I’d love to know your answer (and reasoning), but more importantly, I’d love to hear your voice on what Lucas has to say, whether it’s agreement or otherwise.

And for those who disagree (I have many friends and family who will, as does Lucas!), may grace abound.

Without further ado…

On Super Tuesday, Vote Your Hope
We Need a Better Choice in November

By Lucas Jackson

It’s pretty unlikely that Donald Trump is literally a fascist.

But you don’t have to believe the worst about Trump to recognize that his candidacy has unleashed something dark in our country. Like all demagogues, he’s exploited legitimate grievances. Disastrous trade deals that benefited corporations at the expense of everybody else. A corrupt political system owned by special interests. Politicians who can’t answer simple questions like:

What did you say in your speech to Goldman Sachs?
or
Will you ever lie to the American people?

And like all demagogues, Mr. Trump takes those grievances and spins them to play on the darkness in all of us – racism, prejudice, nationalism, hate.

And he is poised, today, to put a stake through the heart of his GOP opponents and become the most disliked candidate in American history from either party to win the nomination. That is not an opinion, it’s a statistical fact.

The second most disliked candidate in history to win a nomination? Hillary Clinton. Unless she isn’t nominated.

Hillary Clinton is the worst possible candidate to run against Donald Trump. Every one of Trump’s legitimate critiques of the political system hit home with Clinton. Trump is self-funded, Clinton and her Super Pac takes millions from Wall Street. Trump is against terrible “free trade” deals. Clinton has supported them. Trump is even, apparently, against the Iraq war. Clinton voted for it.

But far more than any one issue, Clinton embodies everything that sends so many voters of all parties (including independents) searching for an alternative of some kind. The lack of honesty and trustworthiness. The shifting positions on issues to fit the political mood. The corruption. Many of those voters have fled to Trump. But many have turned away from the siren call of hate and division and instead supported Bernie Sanders, an actual independent who takes no money from special interests, has no Super Pac, is funded by millions of small contributions (the average is, what, 27 bucks? I think we’ve heard that somewhere) and seems to be the rare politician who – agree with him or not – has the courage of his convictions.

With Clinton vs. Trump, the choice is between the same old politics of corruption and greed vs. something even worse.

Democrats scared of losing to Trump might consider supporting the more electable Democrat. And despite multiple polls showing Sanders doing better against Trump than Clinton, the media seems to be convinced that Clinton is more electable. Democrats wary of the rise of Trump may support Clinton out of fear, even if they like Sanders better.

Don’t vote your fear. Vote your hope. Vote your love. Vote your conscience.

The alternative is that come November, we’re left to choose between two troubling candidates – one of them is surrounded by aides who lobbied against the Affordable Care Act, is on record supporting the use of cluster bombs, which mostly kill children, has been involved in coups around the world and promoting perpetual wars of regime change and whose last campaign used racist divisive rhetoric.

The other candidate is Donald Trump.

We can do better.

Disconnected Generations?

My vote this election season will go to Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton.

According to comments made earlier this month by feminist trailblazers Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright, this makes me either a boy-crazy political infidel (Steinem) or someone worthy of a special place in hell (Albright). Judging from the reaction these comments received, I apparently am not the only one who felt angry, bemused, belittled, and befuddled by these statements.

Albright appears to have gotten somewhat of a pass for her oft-repeated statement that there is a “special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.

But Steinem was taken to task on Twitter for her comment, made while speaking to HBO’s Bill Maher earlier this month, “When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’”

Young feminist voters created the hashtag #notherefortheboys to let Steinem know just how far off base her comment was.

#Notherefortheboys clearly demonstrated the disconnect between those who gave birth to the second wave of feminism and those who are riding on it today. Slate magazine writer Christina Cauterucci had this to say about the schism:

These unfortunate statements about young women and the backlashes they triggered reveal a common thread between ageism and sexism, which intersect in ways specific to progressive movements. Some older women are convinced that younger women take for granted the struggles that preceded them and aren’t yet wise enough to lead the movement; some younger women believe that their forbearers are out of touch and old-fashioned, hampered by the racism, heterocentrism, and class divides of feminisms past.

Cauterucci is on to something here.

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What Steinem and Albright Get Wrong About Today’s Feminists

Longtime proponents of women’s rights Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright have experienced some resurgence in the media as of late, but not for defending women’s rights.

Instead, they’ve made headlines for what many are calling anti-feminist views.

Discussing the presidential election in an interview with Bill Maher, Steinem suggested that younger women are voting for Bernie Sanders in an effort to meet boys: “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’”

Albright, however, has made no such apology for her statement at a Hillary Clinton rally, that “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

Young feminist voters, who in the Democratic party largely support Sanders’ presidential bid, took umbrage at these statements, and an obligatory new hashtag, #notherefortheboys, was born. No one can blame this new generation of feminists for their anger. Steinem’s statement insultingly dismissed young women as too boy-crazy, naïve, and incompetent to have any real understanding of the political process, while Albright’s statement, while one she’s been making for years, used here seemed an explicit attempt to guilt women into voting for Clinton.

You can read the rest of this article at Sojourners, by clicking here.

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Why a Pro-Life Christian Supports Bernie Sanders

Today I’m happy to feature fellow political junkie, Lucas Jackson, as a guest blogger. Lucas takes on the oh-so-sensitive issues of both abortion and politics, and makes a strong argument for why he, a pro-life Christian, is voting for a pro-choice candidate, Bernie Sanders. Lucas and I would love to hear your thoughts on this; you can leave your take on the issue in the comment section below. And if you want to contact Lucas personally, you can reach him at jacksonlucas149@gmail.com. Enjoy!

Why a Pro-LIfe Christian Supports Bernie Sanders
By Lucas Jackson

Jesus isn’t running for president.

Neither is Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi. Dietrich Bonhoffer and William Wilberforce also aren’t on the ballot.

No matter who we support he or she will be very flawed.

I’ve watched almost every debate, followed the political cycle religiously and read up on the candidates’ records extensively.

And my takeaway is that the candidate who best embodies my values as a Christian – and it’s honestly not that close – is Bernie Sanders. And while my perspective below is a Christian one, I feel strongly that much of it may resonate with people of other faiths or more secular backgrounds.

Make no mistake – Bernie Sanders’ position on abortion troubles me, and his rhetoric on that issue is largely unhelpful. He calls pro-life Republicans “extremists” and gives no ground to the other side. Marco Rubio showed the type of dialogue the abortion issue in our country so desperately needs at the Republican debate Saturday night, saying that he recognized the right of women to control their own bodies and respected that right but views it as less than the right of an unborn child to life.

But the reality is that the Supreme Court is not going to fundamentally change abortion in America – only a revolution in our political and economic systems will.

Our political system must change because right now it gives us two parties that selectively choose when life matters. We need a realignment that brings together people of conscience on the right and left. But it also must change because it’s corrupt, and our government, like any of us, cannot serve two masters. Abortion will be sacrificed like any other non-financial issue to political expediency when the powers that be (for lack of a better phrase) decree it.

We need an economic revolution that puts the needs of people first and gives women and families the resources they need to both prevent unwanted pregnancy and reduce the economic hardship associated with having a baby and raising a child.

Sanders is not perfect. In most ways he has not yet converted his message of anger at Wall Street and Washington into a hopeful, unifying message of what the future in America can be. He has not elaborated on his foreign policy views nearly enough and stumbled when asked about them in the last debate. As far as my views on gun control are concerned, he’s not as strong as Hillary Clinton.

But Sanders is running a campaign that resonates with my most deeply held Christian values – loving our enemies, serving the least of these, telling the truth, acting with humility. When Jesus overturns the money changers’ tables in the Temple, Sanders says “exactly,” he doesn’t say “yes, but what could they offer me in the way of campaign contributions or speaking fees?” When Jesus says “love your enemies,” Sanders passes up opportunity after opportunity to take advantage of political moments to attack his main rival. He will not run a negative ad. He doesn’t have a Super PAC to run one for him.

When given the chance to savage Clinton – already struggling with the issue of trustworthiness – over her State Department emails, Sanders said “enough about the damn emails.” When confronted about his staff accessing Clinton campaign data, Sanders offered an explanation of what happened and noted he’d fired the staffer. When the debate moderator persisted and said “will you apologize?” there was an audible gasp when Sanders turned to Clinton and said, “Yes. I’m sorry.” Politicians just don’t do that.

When Jesus and page after page of scripture calls us to walk humbly before our God, Sanders seems to be the only political candidate in either party whose campaign is based on something other than “look how great I am.” He rarely praises himself. When he talks about his record, it’s usually to defend it or emphasize facts. Compare that to the other candidates in both parties and the contrast is surprisingly shocking. He is campaigning on an idea, not for his own glory. (I personally think Rand Paul in many ways matched Sanders in this respect, but he’s no longer running.)

And my God, he tells the truth. He does seem to avoid exaggerating or twisting facts, but what is really remarkable is that for all the criticism that his health care and anti-poverty proposals are “unicorns and rainbows,” he’s actually got it exactly right – he says clearly that he can’t get these proposals passed under the current Congress, that the only way we are going to fundamentally change our country is if millions of Americans engage in the political process and demand change. He’s right.

I admit, I also agree with a lot of his policies. Wall Street tanked our economy and controls our political system. Our criminal justice system and economy are corrupt and racially unjust. Climate change is real, almost certainly man-made, and serious. And so on.

But what attracts me to him most of all isn’t that I agree with his solutions, it’s that he’s addressing the actual problems in our society. Agree or disagree with his proposals to fix these problems. But what must be recognized is that Bernie Sanders is offering solutions that actually meet those problems head on, rather than solutions that are politically expedient.

I find his message of revolution to be deeply Christian. Jesus’ message was one of radical love. President Jesus would not accept millions of children living in poverty. He would not accept 30 million Americans without health insurance. He wouldn’t accept the greed and corruption on Wall Street and in our political system.

And that’s what’s so important about Sanders – his message isn’t just that we should fight child poverty, it’s that we shouldn’t accept the idea that poor children are a fact of life. In that sense, he’s not just challenging economic policies or political realities, he’s challenging the fundamental assumptions that underline our political system and our society. That’s what’s so radical – and so Christian – about Sanders.

In challenging our political system, he’s begun to recognize that the solution to our problems doesn’t lie solely on his side of the political spectrum. He’s winning independents who are voting in the Democratic primaries. In New Hampshire, where some undecided voters are choosing between Sanders and Trump, he’s recognizing that our disastrous trade policies have devastated working families on the right and left. There’s space there to forge an unlikely coalition, the type a corporate, pro-trade Democrat like Clinton could never forge. And Sanders went to Liberty University and spoke eloquently about the possibility of working together to fight poverty even when there’s disagreement on abortion and gay marriage. It would have been easy for him to reject the invitation from Jerry Falwell Jr. to attend. But he went.

There are other candidates with redeeming qualities. John Kasich has a unifying message in an otherwise angry primary field. Chris Christie deserves enormous credit for talking about how being pro-life means being pro-life for people after they’re born, like the 16-year old drug addict lying on the floor of Juvenile Hall. “I’m pro-life for her,” Christie said.

Ultimately, we need a President who will challenge the idea that childhood poverty is acceptable. Who will unify people across religious and political lines, rather than turn politics into a team sport. Who will govern effectively with the Congress he or she has, but inspire and lead the country to elect the Congress it deserves. Who will stand up and say that the dignity of human life must be protected, all human life, from the womb to the villages of Iraq and Afghanistan to death row to the streets of Chicago. A President who understands that family values include letting women bond with their baby after it’s born rather than sending them back to work three minimum wage jobs within a week or so after giving birth. A President who radically rethinks how we interact with the rest of the world. A President who is actually pro-life and not “pro-birth,” and understands that abortion rates decline when we address poverty, when we take care of mothers and families, when we end the school to prison pipeline that destroys families.

Until that President comes along, the best I can do is Feel the Bern. And there’s no shame in that.

sanders-2016-feel-the-bern

Evolving Faith: An Interview With Sarah Bessey

Today we hear from award-winner blogger and author of Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey. Sarah’s latest book, Out of Sorts, recounts her journey through an evolving faith, ending not with the finality of a concise resolution and tidy list of how-tos, but rather the firmly held belief that while Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, she—and we—should be continuously questioning, changing, and growing in relationship with Christ. Sarah’s raw and honest retelling of her evolving relationship with the Church, with religion, and with Christ serves not as memoir, but rather as Sarah’s encouragement to others to embrace their own meandering paths without fear as they work their way through a hopefully-unending evolution of faith.

1) You write that when you were in your twenties, you stopped being a Christian because you didn’t want to be associated with the Church. It seemed to you that in the Church, one could be a Christian without being a disciple of Christ. How do we put Jesus back into Christianity? Into the Church?

For me, everything was reoriented on Jesus and that changed everything. I think for too long we’ve made Jesus just one character or episode in the Bible. If we want to see God, we look to Jesus. In Hebrews 1:3, the writer says that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. So I think that if we could recapture that centrality of Christ in our churches through our teaching, our worship, our way of life, well then, what would change? For me, a lot of things changed. My opinions, my preferences, my work, my purpose, my reading of Scripture, my place in community, and so on. We aren’t bringing Jesus into our lives: he’s welcoming us into his life. Years later, I still feel like the only place that makes sense is in his presence, the only place I want to be is in the dust of his feet.

2) You once again consider yourself a Christian, and presumably a disciple of Christ. To that end, how do Jesus’ teachings impact your day-to-day life? Is there a particular area of discipleship you struggle with more than others?

You can read the rest of my interview with Sarah at Red Letter Christians.

Guest Post: It Is Not Impossible!

A church friend of mine, Bill Mitchell, had some thoughts about Santa, God, and Christmas that he wanted to share with others in these days leading to the celebration of Christ’s birth. So today I’m sharing his words here. I’m sure he’d love to hear your thoughts; I encourage you to post a comment letting Bill know what you think about his reflection!

I was thinking about the idea of Santa Claus. I was thinking about how children, as they come of age, come to the realization that it is impossible for one person, in one night, to visit every single household in the world and leave a gift for all of the children and adults at every one.

When a child begins to think about the impossibility of all this in the real world, and in real time, then it is time for that child to know that there is no Santa Claus. Santa Claus is a myth, a story made up to enhance and enchant the Christmas season, a way to establish pleasant and anticipatory memories. This is great! But there is much more. The lesson of Christmas that we pass on to our children, as they pass from the mystical world of children to the belief world of adulthood, is tied to our belief and the future of the Christian Faith. Will they view Christmas as a hedonistic orgy of excess or the celebration of Gods’ gift to the world?

I am sure that many others have seen and/or written about the similarities of the Santa Claus myth and the birth of Jesus. When we make the transition from childhood mysticism to spiritual awakening, in a way that transforms the mystical myth of Santa Clause into a belief that there is a God, we will have fulfilled a generations old tradition of helping our youth become loving, caring and compassionate adults. This is our responsibility as parents, as grandparents and us all. It is our responsibility as Christians. We must pass on, to the next generation, our Christian values and ethics and our belief that spiritual seeking is a rewarding and important part of life. This is what makes God real.

Here are some similarities between the Santa Claus myth and Christian spiritual belief:

1.) Myth: Santa visits every household on earth on Christmas Eve.

Belief: God can be with us all everywhere and all of the time.

2.) Myth: Santa leaves a gift for each person at each house on Christmas Eve.

Belief: God’s gifts of hope and love, through a child, are given to us all.

3.) Myth: Santa wears a suit of pure white and deep red.

Belief: Jesus represents the white light of God and the red blood of humanity.

4.) Myth: Santa drives a sleigh that is propelled by reindeer.

Belief: Gods’ love, is delivered through Jesus and His deciples, us.

5.) Myth: Santa’s’ gifts are made by elves.

Belief: We, the elves, make Gods’ gifts of hope and love for all.

6.) Myth: Santa lives in a pristine polar environment that is pure and unspoiled.

Belief: It is our responsibility to be at peace with the creation.

7.) Myth: Santa expects us to be good and behave well throughout the year.

Belief: God expects us to do good and behave well throughout the year.

In the context of contemporary Christian spiritual foundations, the leap, from a belief in Santa Claus to a belief in a God, is an easy bridge to cross.

We have Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, Gods’ gift to us, which is now called, euphemistically, the holiday season. But, this ‘holy day’ season means or should mean much more to Christians. For Christians, Christmas is a solemn and joyous celebratory ritual. It gives us the marvelous opportunity to tell a story about our belief in God. Through this story, we can make the connection for the next generation, and intellectually engage our children, and convey to them our values as Christians. This is the true gift of Christmas. Spiritual awakening is a very precious and valuable gift. When people pursue spirituality and faith we accomplish the good that comes from this undertaking.

This is the Good that Santa requires and that God expects of us.

It Is Not Impossible!!

Loving Hard: In Memory of Gideon Bruce

In many ways it made perfect sense that I would call her at 7:30am, blurry eyed and frogged-voiced, having just rolled out of bed, bone-weary. It was the day after Christmas. All six of us were sick—whooping cough, we’d later find—and exhausted from both the fun and the coughing.

After I received her text—stilted, formal, apologetic for its intrusion—I called every hospital in the area, finally finding her where two of my own four were born.

Her husband answered, his voice making clear his surprise. After all, who calls the hospital phone these days? But I didn’t want to call her cell. At least I was awake enough to think of that.

“She’s with a nurse right now. She’ll call you back.”

Of course, she didn’t. And who can blame her.

She’d been at my house just four days prior, shuffling from one foot to the other the way pregnant women do. Her daughter ate a cupcake. They left within moments—I’m sure she was tired.

He was born a trimester too early, weighing barely one pound. Placental failure. Not insufficiency, but failure. I cried all day.

One hundred and ten days later—on her birthday, no less—he came home. Still tiny, still feeding through a tube, still too cold for his own good.

I finally met him at five and a half months, found him not yet the weight of my second the day he was born.

“Are you kidding, he’s huge!” His mother protested.

I was embarrassed at my gaffe.

“Yes, yes! He is. Of course.”

He was beautiful. I held him as long as I could, only putting him down when I ate my burger. So warm… he had finally learned the trick of self-regulating his temperature and he performed it masterfully.

He was beautiful.

A mere three weeks later, I cried again. This time the news came by mass email, one I read at least three times before feeling it settle, hard, between the shoulder blades, the eyes, the heart: “Almost zero chance of normalcy… Leave us alone. We’ll let you know. We don’t need anything. Just… let us be.”

“Should I come home?” A text from my husband.

“No. It’s fine. I’m praying.”

I’m praying.

I prayed to God, to Google, searching every avenue for an answer, but finding none.

I emailed a client—world-renowned pediatrician, a fellow congregant at my church. He would know.

“This will be difficult. No matter what, this will be difficult.”

The next day a follow up: “Be patient and hope that some sort of answer will come in the years that follow.”

And the next day: “Do they go to our church?”

No.

When I lost my son, eight months old, flaming hair, world’s most gummy smile, I thought those answers would never come. No years would follow—the earth stilled, and with it, my heart.

I know her days are frozen—she’s said as much. Each day she lifts him, tries to gauge if he’s gained an ounce. Half-an-ounce. A stack of envelopes in one hand, a baby in the other. How do they compare? Which fatigues her muscles more?

She looks at his head. Measures it’s circumference. Eyes it against her daughter’s .50 cent bouncy ball—the kind on end caps at grocery stores, drawing the sticky eyes of children, begging meter money from purse bottoms. She’s refined the skill—can tell you the weight and width of a fly these days. She and her husband take bets; they’re experts now.

I pray.

Google frustrates me with its ambivalence, God tries my patience. I keep living. Cooking, cleaning, writing. My daughter hits her first single. My oldest lands an internship and the youngest just won’t quit climbing the stove. We are living.

She’s living too. Living in fear, in doubt, in the hollow place between inhale and exhale. She watches him breathe. Smooth, warm, the way he should. Air fills small lungs, routes oxygen to all the necessary places. Escapes in sighs so sweet a flower bears its name.

But his name is not sweet. His name is that of a warrior who dared ask God for more. More miracles, God, and I will do your bidding. Do not be angry, God, but I simply must have more. God relented and the trumpets blew and the idols fell. And when that warrior died, years later, the alters were resurrected and the false Gods rose.

Let him live, God.

Full and healthy, conqueror of enemies. Bearer of swords and trumpets and weighty things of glory. An unlikely warrior, God. Let him live.

**********

I wrote this prayer in July of 2014. Four months later, on November 28, 2014, Gideon passed from this world and into the next. He was not quite one year old.

Today, on this one-year-anniversary, my household is where it should be: in a time of board games and late nights, of midnight pie with cream, and just one more game of pool before heading off to bed. We’re enjoying the smell of simmering soup while the just-put-up tree glitters with fresh-bought lights and tip-top star, and the littles dance to a singing snowman we plot to sneak away as soon as their heads are turned.

We are living life as it should be lived. As Gideon’s mom would say, we are loving hard.

I can think of no greater tribute to a boy so loved and missed.