Saturday, October 29, 2016

My Journey Through the Third-Party Landscape

Ever since I declared I'm not voting for Hillary or Trump (and apparently sold my soul to the devil in the process), I've had a few people ask me, so just who are you voting for?  I will answer that question at the very end of this post, for those of you who like to jump to the end of the book to see how the story ends.

If you're like me, you probably had no idea just how expansive and fascinating the third-party landscape is in our United States.

For example, did you know outside of the Democratic and Republican parties, there are actually 29 candidates for the 2016 presidency that are on at least one state ballot?  (If you include write-in only candidates that do not have a ballot status, the number jumps to 560!)

Let's break that down further.  There are three candidates that are on 20 or more state ballots:
And there are five candidates that are on between 5 and 20 state ballots:

But the real fun lies with the 21 candidates that are on less than 5 state ballots.  Intriguing options abound, such as independent Joseph "Joe Exotic" Maldonado (pictured here), or good 'ol Dan Vacek, of the Legalize Marijuana Now party.  You have "Princess" Jacob-Fambro, representing the fiery Revolutionary Party.  And we can't forget independent Ryan Scott, who is running his entire campaign via the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. (So far, a grand total of 4 backers have pushed him just barely over his goal of raising $1,100.)

Pacifists can cast their precious vote for Bradford Lyttle, who may get a boost from this weekend's powerful anti-war film, Hacksaw Ridge.  You know, I wanted to poke fun at Lyttle, but after reading about his life, I'm a bit ashamed.  The man is passionate, articulate, educated, and absolutely dedicated to finding peaceful solutions to the world's problems.  He has traveled to hot spots like Moscow and Afghanistan, and written two powerful letters to Obama and Putin,  I wish our leaders were as dedicated to discussing the issues and solving problems.  You may not agree with him, but I think maybe his worldview is closer to Jesus' than we might want to admit.

The Prohibition party is alive and well.  It's two candidates, Jim Hedges (who was a professional tuba player!) and Bill Bayes, run on a platform dedicated to making illegal the production, transportation, and sale of all drugs including alcohol.  On the other hand, they are firm believers in climate change and have pledged their support to any global effort attempting to mitigate its effects. Go figure.

I was also intrigued by the American Solidarity Party.  When I saw "solidarity" I figured it must be some sort of Communist pinko liberal group or something.  Turns out I couldn't be more wrong.  The party strongly espouses a Christian worldview, though this view will differ from that of most "Christians" in the United States.  In other words, the right to life, a traditional view of marriage, and freedom of religion are strong platform values.  But so are more decidedly left-leaning views on the environment, immigration, and healthcare.

(C'mon now, we all know Jesus Christ would not want anything to do with immigrants, only gives lip service to the poor, and has a strong desire to obliterate the beautiful creation he made, right?  Who do these people think they are, trying to be consistent with Jesus' message through their whole platform.  Radicals...)

We could talk about these third parties all day.  If such things interest you, the Politics1 2016 election page is a great place to start.

But what about me?  For this election, it comes down to two choices.

The first is Darrell Castle and Scott Bradley, of the Constitution Party.  Darrell is a born-again Christian, and the party platform reads like true conservative's dream ticket.  As one can imagine from the name, the party takes a very literal view on the Constitution.  In other words, if its not in the Constitution, the federal government shouldn't be doing it (healthcare, federal taxes, the IRS).  Conversely, if it is in there, then there is not much left to discuss (gun control, defense).

It is ironic, then, that many of the party's platforms are often viewed as "radical", such as dismantling the IRS, abandoning the federal income tax system, and returning all federally-owned public land to the states.  We are so used to living under such a massive government nanny, I'm not sure most Americans realize just how out-of-bounds our government has grown.

I like the fact that the Constitution Party has been around for a long time - since 1992. It has had time to hone it's platform and think through the issues.  The party is consistent, and has a very clear view of the values that put the United States on the map.  The strength of the party means there is a cohesive national presence, and Castle/Bradley appear on the ballots in 24 states, including Michigan.

However, I am uncomfortable with the party's total renunciation of the "perceived" threat of man-made climate change, rejection of all amnesty for any immigrants currently living in the United States illegally, and a call for a moratorium on all immigration until immigration law has been reformed.  I'm all for a common-sense approach to immigration, but this stance seems overly harsh.

In addition, I'm not sure Castle has the experience.  He has had a full and storied life.  He has been involved in politics and law for a very long time.  And he has served inside the Constitution Party for many years as well.  But he really hasn't held any public office of note, serving only in various party chairman roles, and also as the 2008 party VP candidate.  The lack of experience concerns me.

So who's left?  Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn.  McMullin/Finn are running as independents out of Utah.  My wife pointed me to McMullin a couple weeks ago, and it has been fascinating watching his clout grow so quickly in such a short time since he announced his candidacy on August 16.

Evan is a Mormon, and has become something of a rock star in Utah.  His no-nonsense view of our political landscape, combined with an easy-going and non-divisive demeanor, make the conservative McMullin/Finn ticket very appealing indeed.  If you've not heard of McMullin before, this ABC News story is a great intro.

As independents, McMullin and Finn do not have a party platform to lean on.  However, they have developed a very comprehensive, conservative-based viewpoint on all the major issues facing our country today.  One thing I appreciate about their platform is that it encompasses what in the past has been called "compassionate conservatism".  Acknowledging that we have a responsibility to those in need, and those who desire to call this great country home.

For instance here is what McMullin said about the refugee crisis:  "So, I think there’s a lot of hysteria, unjustified hysteria around the refugee situation. And I think we need to be more careful, and thoughtful, and accurate with the way we talk about that issue, because it has implications for a variety of other interests that we have overseas."

He has a bit more experience than Castle working inside our actual government, but not by much.  As a CIA operative, he drove intelligence and counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.  Evan was a senior advisor to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (no doubt due to his extensive "boots on the ground" experience in the world's most volatile hotspots), and has also served as the chief policy director of the House Republican Conference.

After all this research, I am going to cast my vote for Evan McMullin.  Evan is only on the ballot in 11 states.  Michigan is not one of them, so the write-in route will have to do.  Note: If you are going to write-in Evan, make sure you spell his name right, or it won't count.  Not only that, but you also need to write-in "Nathan Johnson" as the vice presidential candidate.  Why not Mindy Finn?  Read this How to Vote for Evan page to understand.  Best to bring a little card into the booth with you, just to make sure.

As McMullin's website says: This election is about more than the White House. It’s about the character of our nation.

God bless.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

God is freaking out!

A couple weeks ago I posted a blog entry outlining why I felt Christians should not vote for Donald Trump.  The resulting commentary was very educational.  For instance, here are a few things I learned about me:
  • I am a coward
  • Some people are ashamed of me
  • I'm not really a pastor
  • I'm very judgmental, and not forgiving
  • I am gullible
  • I don't care about my children
  • I am responsible for helping kill America
But the most important thing I learned is that God must be freaking out.  Apparently, voting third-party is the same thing as voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton, and if she wins, the apocalypse will be upon us, and God is powerless to stop it.  So God needs me to plug my nose, ignore my conscience, and vote for Trump in order to save our future from the possibility of a liberal Supreme Court.  Or a woman president.  Or something.

And that is what I just do not understand.  This pervasive and overwhelming feeling of fear and desperation emanating from from all corners of Christianity.  Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  Instead of grasping this truth, we are desperate to once again feel the shallow security of a government that was in bed with the church, and completely incapable of trusting our all-powerful God when it's not.  Of course we keep saying "God is in control."  But are we acting like it?

One influential minister claims that if Hillary is elected "the church in America will be severely crippled."  Really?  Hillary Clinton has the power to cripple the church of Jesus Christ?  Think about that for a moment.   How sad to have such an incredibly low view of the church, and the power that sustains it.  And this is why I dismiss such claims from those who would so quickly sow discontent and fear amongst the believers.

Before Jesus was crucified, he was grilled by Pontius Pilate, the Roman principal governor over Judea at the time.  Pilate kept pushing Jesus, trying to pin him down.  Was he a troublemaker?  A criminal?  A king?  Jesus told him, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

It is not my job to save this country.  It is not my job to make America "Christian" again, or great again, or whatever.  It is my job to love God with my whole heart, and to love my neighbor as myself.  As one blogger said, "[The apostle] Paul didn’t tell the government to overcome evil with good. He told us to."

Do I love this country?  Of course I do.  Do I want to see it succumb to liberal poppycock?  Not at all.  Do I want the travesty of Roe vs. Wade to continue?  God forbid.  And I will vote accordingly.  Because I do not buy the line that a vote for Trump is the vote for life.  As one blogger stated so lucidly, "Trump is a walking-anecdote for the various cultural ideologies and trajectories that the pro-life movement opposes. Specifically, by voting for Trump, they endorse someone who in his personal life has not merely lived in, but *reveled* in the moral atmosphere and commitments that stand beneath our abortion culture."

Every single article or posting that attempts to devalue a third-party vote usually spends an inordinate amount of time first explaining why Hillary is not fit for holding office.  This is unnecessary.  We understand that HRC and her platform is antithetical to traditional Christian faith, that she is a criminal, and that she and her hypocritical followers are unable to draw the obvious connection between the treatment poor black men receive in our criminal justice system, and the disparately favorable status enjoyed by Hillary Rodham Clinton - a poster child for the powerful rich, white elite of this country.  I get it.  I really do!  :)   This is why I am not voting for her.

But it is also for the very same reason that I cannot vote for Donald Trump.  I feel in my heart I would be a hypocrite if I did.  I cannot vote for the lesser of two evils, as I am still voting for evil.  As one third-party candidate said, if we do not have a principled electorate, how can we have expect a principled president?

I've had a number of people ask me who I am voting for.  Next week I'll outline a few viable candidates, and who I am leaning toward.

God bless.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Trump is a pervert and Christians have no business voting for him

The end is almost complete.  Most great institutions often crumble from within, and that is exactly what we are seeing with American evangelicalism.  For so many years we evangelicals have warned about the evils pressing in from all sides.  Hollywood is eroding our Christian heritage!  Planned Parenthood is the devil incarnate!  Liberal judges will take away all our religious liberty!  But apparently, while we were all out hunting dangerous wild animals, we've let the foxes guard the hen house.

How can so many of our Christian and evangelical leaders continue to be avid and vocal supporters of Donald Trump?  I am confused by their justifications, disgusted with their excuses, and baffled by their rationalizations of supporting a man who is racist, lecherous, misogynistic, disgusting, petty, and crude.  He is a liar.  He is arrogant. He is a cheater.

But most of all, Trump is a pervert.  I can use no other word to describe a man who revels in his sexual conquests, cheats on his multiple wives, objectifies women's physical attributes, jokes about sexual assault, and frames his relationship with his own daughter in sexual terms.  I haven't listened to all the recent tapes, I only know the snippets that I have read in the news.  But that is enough.  More than enough.  You don't need to take the lid off the garbage to know it stinks inside.

But none of that seems to matter.  And that is deeply disappointing.  Oh sure, we give appropriate lip service. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a member of Trump's Evangelical Executive Advisory Board (really?), said the comments were "lewd, offensive, and indefensible."  But of course, he's still voting for Trump.  I guess they are a little bit defensible after all, eh Mr. Jeffress?  Tell me, what happened to traditional family values?

Many of the Christian leaders who are supporting Trump were scathing critics of Bill Clinton's moral failures.  In September of 1989, James Dobson wrote, "What has alarmed me throughout this episode has been the willingness of my fellow citizens to rationalize the President’s behavior even after they suspected, and later knew, that he was lying.  That disregard for morality is profoundly disturbing to me.  What are they learning from Mr. Clinton? What have we taught our boys about respecting women? What have our little girls learned about men?"  Amazing.  The irony would be laughable, if it wasn't so pathetically sad.

Where are the men of our faith?  Where are the men who will stand up and say, this is wrong?  Excuse me, but you don't "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" sexual harassment.  You just don't.  So I have to question the integrity and sincerity of any man who continues with the facade that this is somehow OK, and Trump is the only choice for the discerning Christian.

Hugely popular evangelist Beth Moore recently tweeted:

So, do the one-in-six women who have been sexually assaulted even matter in all this?  Or are they simply necessary collateral in our hell-bent desire to keep Hillary out of the White House?

Let's be clear.  This is not about Hillary Clinton.  This is not about potential Supreme Court nominations. This is about refusal to be the gatekeepers of truth and integrity, as we are called to be. Is God not in control?  Is He not sovereign?  Do you really think he is up there pacing back and forth with a furrowed brow, wringing his hands in fear of a Hillary Clinton presidency?

Remember, Christian leader, it is not your job to keep American a "Christian" nation.  It is your job to protect the holy church.  It is your job to infuse the darkness with your light. It is your job to be an example of what it means to be a Godly man.  It is your job to provide an environment where Christian women are empowered to live out their God-given identity in Christ, not left feeling ignored, hurt, and second-class.  How dare you not take that seriously.