Archives For America

Prestonwood Baptist Church rolls out the red carpet, er, giant American flag for Republican Candidates

Prestonwood Baptist Church rolls out the red carpet, er, giant American flag for Republican Candidates

There’s a billboard near downtown Kansas City. I pass it on a regular basis.

It says “Until Jesus Runs This Town.”

I have to admit, I never read the fine print to see what group is behind the sign, partly because it’s on the highway, and partly because I’m laughing to myself because I always imagine the sign saying, “Until Jesus Ruins This Town.”

Terrible, I know.

A few days ago, several Republican presidential candidates met in Texas, courting the “evangelical” vote. I didn’t follow what was said down there, but I can imagine. Candidates make soundbites, where they affirm how important the evangelical vote is, and Christians show up for the pandering.

Yeah, if there’s one thing as American as baseball and apple pie, it’s political pandering. We love ourselves some pandering.

It’s a perennial theme in American politics, especially when we mix religion and politics. It’s the idea of “taking back America,” of reclaiming America, of placing Jesus in his rightful place atop our governments.

And I wonder, as we wade through what is going to be a very long election cycle, if we even know what we are talking about when we say we want to “take back America.”

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I’m not a Catholic.papa

I’ve never had a particular interest in becoming a Catholic. But last week, I followed Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. with much interest, as I am sure many of my fellow Protestants did.

Francis represents something new and novel for people my age. See, for much of my life, John Paul II was the pope, but by the time we came of age to know anything about the world, he was pretty old and frail. To look at old photographs when he was young and vibrant, commanding crowds of thousands is almost surreal. Like Billy Graham in a robe.

And then there was Benedict for a few years, and nothing against him, but this is the first time in many of our lifetimes that we know a pope that is out and about in the world. Like it or not, he goes where he wishes and comments on issues that are relevant to every human being on earth.

And so, as I followed the Pope’s visit, I also kept up with what people were saying about the Pope’s visit.

People who call themselves Christians.

People who claim to stand up for morals and righteousness.

And I found myself shocked, though perhaps I should be past shock by my age. But there is a whole world of so-called Christians who I have absolutely nothing in common with.

All it took was a visit from the Pope to reveal it.

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I have a question for you.

Do we want to change?

Not just change the rules or change the system, but change ourselves as a people.

I ask this because last week, we had an event happen that, let’s admit, we are all used to happening.

Another shooter. Another gun. Another campus.

You and I sit at home and say, “How sad.”

But we also think to ourselves, “It could never happen here.

I fully admit that’s what I think. And so, we allow another event to slip through our fingers without anything being done about it.

The fact is that you and I and every other human being on Earth does not like change. We are creatures of habit and inertia. We like our mess just the way it is, thank you very much. And usually on a micro level, it takes a significant event to make us clean up our mess. We have to have a medical emergency, or the threat of divorce or some other “wake up call” that motivates us to actually do hard things.

The other fact of human nature is that we worry about “number one” first. We may give enough time or money to feel “generous” or “moral,” but we protect our nests and our own baby birds above all else. And so when a problem is “out there,” we let it lie outside and don’t make it our responsibility.

There is no single person in America, not even the President, who can change the nature of our society. No single person can stop shooters from shooting up campuses. There is also no single solution that will stop the problem. Taking guns away won’t do it. National mental health screenings won’t. Better security, or anything else we could dream up won’t fix anything.

The solution is much more complicated than any of those things. It may or may not involve any of the above.

But it also involves each of us. 

You and I don’t have the ability to change our society. But we have some little corner of the world that we watch over. We have some circle of influence. And we have the ability to make that circle more a more peaceful place, more loving, more kind, more generous.


We don’t have an epidemic of “crazy people with guns.” We have an epidemic of disenfranchised, isolated people.

We all have the ability and the responsibility to see those people.

The world does not change unless each of us moves to change it.

You can tell a lot about people by what they are afraid of.

The god of safety demands a child sacrifice. Following the ritual, worshippers will be assured that they have been absolved of all danger and are safe again.

The god of safety demands a child sacrifice. Following the ritual, worshippers will be assured that they have been absolved of all danger and are safe again.

I was under the impression that we lived in a relatively safe place and time. We have spent billions of dollars on making our country secure, making our travel secure, sanitizing and double-locking every aspect of our lives that we can.

And yet, we are still afraid.

I’ve been following the story, as I’m sure you have, of Ahmed Mohamed, the teenager whose clock was mistaken for a bomb at his school.

I don’t really care to write about the positive attention he’s received since then, although people have been surprisingly divided by it. Bill Callen from Top Right News tried to point out all the white kids who get suspended “for no reason,” like the second grader with ADHD who chewed his pop tart into the shape of a gun. “Where is his invitation to the White House?” he asks, incredulous.

Well, that kid didn’t invent something. He was still a privileged, bratty kid causing a disruption at school. So even if a suspension was overkill, that comparison fails pretty hard.

No, what I am more interested in is why the device caused such an uproar in the first place, and what it says about us as a society.

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What do you do with this many refugees?

Apparently, we already have enough immigrants, so sorry.

Apparently, we already have enough immigrants, so sorry.

Anyone who is even remotely aware of global events, of course knows about the refugee crisis in Syria. More displaced people pouring out of their homeland than at any time since WWII.

The world has an opportunity to respond. But it’s going to cost a lot. And so, here you and I are, far removed from the problem, while our government and our churches try to figure out what we are going to do about this.

It has been interesting, and a little disheartening to listen in on the discussions happening, from radio microphones to pulpits to people I have encountered, about what we as a society should be doing in the midst of a crisis like this. I have heard a lot of points that are made to try to deflect the need to respond.

You know, the way we respond to people in need says a lot about our hearts.

The reasons that keep us from responding might say even more.

These are some of my favorite ways Americans are deflecting the need to respond to Syrian refugees.

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With Kim Davis being jailed and released for contempt of court, my social media feed has been filled with affirmations of support.

"Persecution" in America, exhibit A.

“Persecution” in America, exhibit A.

#PrayforKimDavis, they say.

#StandWithKim, they urge.

Kim is being persecuted, they say, trampled on by the government, having her First Amendment rights taken away.

Of course, she is the Kentucky court clerk who has been refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Bloggers and presidential hopefuls have chimed in, urging Christians to stand behind Kim. Mike Huckabee has said that “God intervened,” to get Kim released from jail. But I don’t believe I will be standing with Kim.

Kim Davis won’t be in my prayers tonight.

Because Kim Davis is not being persecuted.

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