Posts tagged ‘Trump’

Is the news stressing you out?

roman-kraft-_Zua2hyvTBk-unsplash.jpg

Credit: Roman Kraft on Unsplash

It’s been a wild week in politics. President Trump has found himself enmeshed in controversy over a phone call he had with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine. In a summary transcript, which was released by the White House last Wednesday, the president speaks briefly to the Ukranian leader about former Vice President Biden, suggesting that he look into an accusation that the vice president impeded a Ukranian investigation into a company on whose board his son sat.

The phone call has ignited a firestorm, with Democrats launching an impeachment inquiry against the president, claiming that his conversation with President Zelensky amounts to a demand for an investigation of a political opponent in exchange for U.S. aid.

It’s been a wild week in politics. But, of course, this past week hasn’t been the only wild week. It seems as if some scandal, controversy, or outrage is continually brewing in the White House, Congress, or Supreme Court.

All this political adversity is affecting some people’s mental health. A study of 800 people conducted by Kevin Smith, a political scientist professor at the University of Nebraska, found that:

Nearly 40% of respondents said that politics was a cause of stress in their lives. About 20% reported losing sleep, feeling fatigued or being depressed owing to politics.

Between 10% and 30% of the respondents said that politics took an emotional toll on them, by causing anger, frustration, hate or guilt, or caused them to make comments they later regretted.

About 20% reported that politics had damaged their friendships. 

The histrionics of politics, it seems, is having an outsized influence on our lives and relationships. But, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s not just the perpetual political panics of the daily news cycle that are affecting us, it’s the place of politics in our hearts.

When politics become primary to us, its influence over us becomes immense. We begin to believe that each political crisis becomes the final political crisis – the one that will undo once and for all our culture and our future. So, we become edgy, angry, and suspicious of anyone who does not share our political sensibilities.

The call of Christianity is to submit to Christ as Lord over all – even over our politics. We do not need to fear the vicissitudes of politics, for no political upheaval is so great that it can pull us out of Christ’s care. This should provide us with a sense of peace, hopefulness, and perspective that reminds us that we should ultimately be more concerned with someone else’s faith than with someone else’s vote. For no matter how we vote now, there is only One to whom we will bow on the Last Day. No matter what is happening in Washington, in Christ, we can find peace.

September 30, 2019 at 5:15 am 1 comment

A Package Bomber and a Synagogue Shooter

It’s been a tragic week in our nation.  And that’s putting it mildly.  Beginning last Monday, a series of packages containing explosive devices began to turn up at homes, at business, and in post offices.  These packages were addressed to Democratic politicians, including the Obamas and the Clintons, as well as to financier George Soros, actor Robert De Niro, and CNN.  Though none of the packages detonated, they were sent by a man who was, to put it mildly, devotedly partisan in his views.  He drove a van covered with bumper stickers showing Democratic politicians in crosshairs.  He also posted violent and threatening rhetoric on social media.

Then, on Saturday, a gunman armed with an AR-15 and three rifles showed up at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.  He shouted, “All Jews must die,” and opened fire.  By the time his shots fell silent, eleven were dead and a number of others were injured.  As investigators looked into this shooter’s past, he too was found to have posted violent and threatening rhetoric on social media.  He was also a member of an egregiously anti-Semitic online community.

It’s no secret that we’re a nation on edge.  A lot of people hate a lot of other people.  This hate, in turn, when coupled with a mental health crisis that seems to be creeping across our society, erupts in violence – just as it did in the case of these two men.

At this moment, when hatred is hot, Christians must be on the frontlines advocating for love.  Our culture is fighting the wrong demons.  Our culture sees demons in politicians and positions it doesn’t like.  It sees demons in religions and races it doesn’t like.  But Scripture is clear.  We are called to fight:

…not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

If we’re fighting other people, we’re doing it wrong.  Our struggle is against the demons the Bible identifies as truly demonic – not against the demons created for us on social media.

In his new book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other – And How To Heal, Senator Ben Sasse offers a convicting analysis of our cultural milieu:

It seems clear that in America today, we’re facing problems that feel too big for us, so we’re lashing out at each other, often over less important matters.  Many of us are using politics as a way to distract ourselves from the nagging sense that something bigger is wrong.  Not many of us would honestly argue that if our “side” just had more political power, we’d be able to fix what ails us.  Fortunately, we can avoid addressing the big problems as long as someone else – some nearer target – is standing in the way of our securing the political power even to try.  It’s easier to shriek at people on the other side of the street.  It’s comforting to be able to pin the problems on the freaks in the pink hats or the weirdos carrying the pro-life signs.

At least our contempt unites us with other Americans who think like we do.

At least we are not like them.

Senator Sasse speaks specifically to our political climate, but his words can be applied to our broader cultural problems as well.  There is an attitude prevalent among many that does not want to solve problems.  Instead, it only wants to grab power.  There is an attitude prevalent among many that does not seek understanding.  Instead, it only traffics in character assassination.  And the results, even if they are, thankfully, generally not violent, are certainly not good.  People begin to trade transcendent commitments for tribal grievances.  They stop looking at others as people who are precious by virtue of being created in God’s image and instead see them as enemies needing to be eradicated.  They make demons out of mortals.

The Psalmist describes God’s patience with the Israelites of old like this:

He was merciful; He forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time He restrained His anger and did not stir up His full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return. (Psalm 78:38-39)

God was patient with and merciful to the Israelites because He remembered who the Israelites were – mere, fragile mortals.  Their lives were so short and fragile that they were like passing breezes.  God is patient with and merciful to us because He remembers who we are – mere, fragile mortals.  Our lives are so short and fragile that we are like passing breezes.  Perhaps we should see each other like God sees us.  Perhaps we should restrain our anger and wrath like God does for us.  I hope this past week has taught us at least that much.

Life’s too short to hate.

October 29, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Children, Immigration, and Federal Law

This past week, the heated debate over immigration boiled over.  Last April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a zero-tolerance stance toward illegal immigration, which he described as a “goal to prosecute every case that is brought to us.”  When a family crossed the border unlawfully, the parents would be criminally prosecuted while the children would be sent to shelters in accordance with the 1997 Flores Settlement, which stipulated that children in such situations be placed “in the least restrictive setting appropriate to the minor’s age and special needs.”

In the past, the federal government prioritized the prosecution and deportation of what it deemed to be dangerous migrants while releasing what it perceived to be more benign families of migrants.  Family separations still happened, but with the attorney general’s new zero-tolerance stance, these separations spiked, and controversy erupted.

Sadly, but also unsurprisingly, this controversy was quickly exploited for political gain.  Some of those who oppose the current presidential administration compared the zero-tolerance practice to what happened in Nazi concentration camps.  Some others who support the zero-tolerance practice have responded flippantly and grotesquely to heartbreaking stories of children being separated from their parents.

The attorney general defended his zero-tolerance practice, in part, by referencing a Bible passage from Romans 13.  Mr. Sessions said at a press conference:

I would cite you to the apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.  Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.

Whatever one may think of the current state of U.S. border enforcement, this is some theologizing that needs a bit of clarifying.

Romans 13 is part of a broader section that describes how Christians ought to live as both citizens of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man.  As citizens of the kingdom of God, living in a fallen world where we will often be wronged, we ought to:

…not repay anyone evil for evil … Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17, 19-21)

As Christians, we ought to respond to the great evil in this world with that which is righteous and, specifically, with that which is merciful.  Instead of repaying wickedness with wrath, we ought to repay wickedness with tenderness.

But how, then, are evildoers to be punished?  Mercy, after all, may be righteous, but wickedness must still be stopped!  And often, stopping wickedness includes rendering judgment.  This is where we can be grateful that we are also part of the kingdom of man, where God has ordained that the government:

…is God’s servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.  They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  (Romans 13:4

Before Christ returns on the Last Day with His final and perfect judgment that will wipe out evil once and for all, God has ordained that governmental authorities render preliminary judgments that suppress evil.  For this we can and should be thankful.  And because of this, we should respect our governmental authorities, as Paul directs:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1)

In this much, the attorney general was right.  We are to obey the laws of our nation, many of which, including our immigration laws, are in place for the sake of good order.  What must not be lost in any analysis of Romans 13, however, is that this chapter emphasizes not only the importance of people duly subjecting themselves to the authority of the government, but the importance of the government seeking what is good and right in its formulation and implementation of legislation.  Laws are not good simply because they are crafted and drafted by a government.  Laws are good insofar as they comport with and do not defy the higher law of the Lord.

Governmental authorities must recognize and remember that they are not lords over people, but, in our system of government, servants of the people and, biblically and ultimately, servants of God.  The gift of power from God to certain authorities must never become an excuse for the misuse and abuse of power by these same authorities.  The government’s power must always be arbitrated and tempered by the government’s status as God’s servant.

As God’s servant, then, the government must seek not only to exercise power, but to exercise power well. How can our government exercise its power well to protect its citizens against nefarious actors like drug lords who breach our borders?  How can our government exercise its power well to respect the dignity and humanity of children who wind up, through no fault of their own, on the wrong side of the law?

Contrary to much of the quixotic political grandstanding that has surrounded our immigration debates, these are complex questions.  But they are also necessary questions that deserve our thoughtful answers.

Many in our government are struggling to craft some piece of legislation that will allow the flood of immigrant families who are lumbering their way across our borders to stay together.  On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order that supports the idea that migrant parents should be able to remain with their children while they are detained.  These politicians need our prayers, deserve our sober thoughtfulness, and, when required, should take seriously our appropriate and measured calls to accountability and change.  This debate may be hot at the moment, but it would be even better if it became enlightening and productive for the long haul.

Let us pray that it will.

June 25, 2018 at 5:15 am 1 comment


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