Reject Voices of Prayer-Shaming: They Don’t Represent Reality

Very soon after the massacre which occurred at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, instead of the usual American response of coming together, offering prayers and empathy and shared grief, we were further shocked by near-immediate “prayer-shaming.”

Prayer-shaming. Would we ever have conceived that such a thing could occur publicly in America? And, why? What is the purpose in the wake of such an evil act when people are hurting? Yet here we are.

The question—and challenge—I would like to offer is this: How will we let the few loud voices affect us? People in the media have the microphone and all the speakers in surround sound. Those on social media have a megaphone. When we’re exposed to the cacophonous racket of the nonstop yammering of it all, it’s impossible for us not to be affected by it.

Am I suggesting we disconnect? No—although a fast from media is sometimes necessary to cleanse us from the ways it pollutes us.

What I think is far more helpful is to evaluate the messages you’re taking in: Do they represent reality, or are they merely perception?

In politics they say perception is reality, but in reality—reality is reality.

So back to the topic at hand: Prayer shaming. The fact of the matter is that, even though it was a rude shock to experience prayer-shaming at all, much less for it to come so callously just after a tragedy, simply because people with some sort of a platform said it, does it make it reality? Or can we reject it along with other nonsensical ideas we’re faced with?

In truth, I can see why they’d think such comments might be acceptable. Much of America seems to have reduced God to no more than their mascot, pulling out the “God card” in times they feel they “ought” to (when they need to appear spiritual), or during Christmas or Easter (although He’s being shoved further and further to the background there as well).

But it’s not always been this way, and it doesn’t need to be this way now. George Washington, for example, said

I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency which was so often manifested during our Revolution—or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them.”

And, for goodness’ sake, it was Mr. Irreligious Founder himself, Benjamin Franklin, who called for prayer at the Constitutional Convention as it deteriorated before his eyes:

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.

Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.

And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth–that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labor in vain that build it.”

I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by-word down to future ages.

I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of the City be requested to officiate in that service.”

All throughout our history as a nation, we have acknowledged God and the necessity of prayer. As individuals, we have regularly called on Him in times of need and times of plenty. Our health as a nation relies on our commitment to God.

So reject those voices who would call you away from God and toward a callousness of soul. That’s not who we are as a people. Snark, cynicism, and just plain nastiness in the media and on social media are pushing us in that direction, but we can choose differently.

We can choose to return to God through prayer. We can choose to let him give us a heart of flesh in exchange for our heart of stone. We can choose to draw near to Him so He can give us the capacity to love our enemies as He commanded us to.

Or, we can continue down the road of hate-filled mocking derision, which we daily glut ourselves on at every turn.

Which path do you choose?

Ryan and Santorum Disagree on Meaning of Democrats’ VA Election Sweep

Nearly every observer has an interpretation of yesterday’s electoral sweep of Virginia by the Democratic Party, the first significant, positive performance the party has displayed since the election of Donald Trump.

President Trump quickly tossed gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie beneath a bus after his loss, which unexpectedly was by 9 points, despite the fact that Trump had tweeted and robo-called in support of Gillespie just before the election. He likes winners, you see, and those who “embrace” him.

 

But Gillespie was not a winner, despite not only Trump’s endorsement, but the Trumpian atmosphere of his campaign, which included strong criticism of his opponent Ralph Northam via ads on the issues of illegal immigration and sanctuary cities, as well as echoes of the president on Confederate monuments and kneeling NFL players.

He wasn’t the only Republican loser on Tuesday; it was a sweep.

Democrats also won at least 14 seats in the state’s House of Delegates and could gain control of the chamber for the first time since 2000, depending on the outcomes of four races that qualify for recount, The Washington Post reported.

Additionally, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio won reelection and Chris Christie, formerly among the most unpopular governors in the country, certainly contributed to his Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno’s loss in her bid to replace him — she was defeated Democrat

So what happened in Virginia? Is this a rejection of Trump, dissatisfaction with the performance of the Republican Congress, or both? (The New Yorker triumphantly finds Trumpism in decline. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum came down on opposite each other in their interpretations of the results.

Ryan spoke at a tax reform event held by The Washington Examiner. Responding to the election results in the context of the GOP’s new tax bill, he said the following:

“It doesn’t change my reading of the current moment. It just emphasizes my reading of the current moment which is we have a promise to keep…. We’ve got to get on with keeping our promise, and one of the chief promises we made when we ran for office … in 2016 was that we would do tax reform and tax cuts for families, for people, and so we’ve got to get on with that.”

He went on to say, that “If anything, this just puts more pressure on making sure we follow through…That’s what I take out of it. I adore Ed Gillespie. I feel bad that he lost, but I think it simply means we’ve got to deliver.”

The Republican party is even less popular than Trump himself, as is Congress as a whole. Despite majorities in both houses, the GOP has accomplished almost nothing of its legislative agenda. Most victories for Trump are the fleeting sort executive orders bring. That makes Ryan’s (and Trump’s) interpretation plausible.

Santorum had a different interpretation. Appearing on CNN on a panel analyzing the results, the former Pennsylvania senator blamed Trump’s “Twitter bombs” and “personal attacks”, arguing that “it is hurting him” and the Republican Party. (“Everyone is telling him that.”)  He went on to say that the voters who were turned off by Trump in Virginia, not because they were opposed to his agenda, but because they were opposed to the way he demeans others in public. That doesn’t include his treatment of the media, which Santorum believes goes over very well.

While Santorum acknowledged the lack of legislative accomplishment, he alluded to promises made by Trump in that regard, implying that a lack of leadership on the part of the president was at least in part responsible for Republicans having nothing to show for their nearly ten months of control of the federal government. In other words, the buck stops in the Oval Office.

Ironically, prior to Trump’s election, Santorum sought to appeal to the same working class voters Trump did, adopting unusually protectionist economic positions for a Republican. He validated Trump’s popularity in debates as well. By contrast, Ryan kept his distance from Trump for some time, and even easily fought off a supposedly Trump-like primary challenger, before ultimately embracing the inevitability of the Donald. Now the two appear to have flipped in where their locate the blame and aim their criticisms, and thus how they see Tuesday’s results.

Perhaps the answer simply is that all politics is local. That at least appears to have been the case in New York and New Jersey. Everyone wants to read the tea leaves in Virginia though, hoping to gain some insight into the future of the Trump presidency and Trumpism. Personally, I think it’s doubtful that this one case study can tell us much. What do you think?

Democrats Introduce Gun Control Bill To Boost GOP Popularity

Fresh from their electoral victories on Tuesday, Democrats are about to roll out a bill to aid President Trump’s ebbing fortunes. In a move that is apparently calculated to keep Republicans from becoming too unpopular, Senate Democrats intend to introduce gun control legislation that is similar to bills that Americans have rejected many times previously.

The Washington Examiner reports that, true to form, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calf.) is leading the charge on a bill that would ban more than 200 types of semi-automatic (the trigger must be pulled for every bullet fired) guns and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The bill would also ban devices that increase the rate of fire like the bump stock used by Stephen Paddock in the Las Vegas massacre as well as require background checks for private gun sales and mandate “safe storage” for other guns.

“We’re introducing an updated Assault Weapons Ban for one reason – so that after every mass shooting with a military-style assault weapon, the American people will know that a tool to reduce these massacres is sitting in the Senate, ready for debate and a vote,” Feinstein said in a statement.

With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and a president who is at least nominally pro-gun, Feinstein’s bill has approximately no chance of becoming law. It is far more likely that the bill will instead inspire gun owners to get out the vote to resist Democrats in 2018. Voters who might have stayed home due to their unhappiness with the ineffective Republican administration in Washington will be more likely to go to the polls because at least the Republicans aren’t “gun-grabbers” like Feinstein and the Democrats.

While a recent Politico poll found a slight majority in favor of new gun controls after Las Vegas, almost half of independents say that protecting gun rights is more important than limiting gun ownership. Respondents were equally split on which party better handles the gun issue.

Feinstein’s new “assault weapons” ban follows on the ban instituted by the Clinton Administration in 1994. The ban did not cause a drop in the crime rate and, when it expired 10 years later, there was no corresponding increase in crime. In fact, the definitive study on the gun ban, by Christopher Koper of George Mason University in 2004, found that the ban “had not had a discernible impact on gun crime during the years it was in effect.” So Dianne Feinstein is proposing to revisit an old policy that is ineffective as well as unpopular.

What the Feinstein bill may effectively do is remind blue collar voters why they voted for Donald Trump in the First place. The president is not popular and Democrats in Congress have all but shut down the Republican agenda. Nevertheless, a new assault weapons ban is the sort of overreach that can generate enthusiastic resistance for Republicans among gun owners.

Dianne Feinstein, the stereotypical SanFranciso anti-gunner, has provided the NRA with a villain for decades. Now, as Republicans struggle to give their base a reason to vote for them in 2018, it is Feinstein who rides to the rescue with the stereotypical San Francisco solution to any problem involving crime or violence, namely taking guns away from law-abiding citizens.

President Trump should send her a thank you note.

 

Yes. Prayers are Absolutely Enough.

In the wake of the horrific tragedy that took place at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, America has jumped into a now all-too-familiar cycle. You know it as well as I do, Leftists demand gun control, while the Right says that shootings like this are why we need more good people carrying guns. Same song, who knows which verse, could get better, but it’s likely going to get worse.

But this article isn’t about gun control. It’s about the people that were butchered in that little white church, who they were, and who their God is.

Along with all of the other arguments (some valid, many not) being thrown around the internet and bickered over on television and in print, a relatively new line has begun to emerge from the Left.

Adherents to this line openly taunt anyone who says that they are praying for the victims of mass killings. Because this massacre happened in a church, in Texas no less, the mockery has been especially hot this time.

Many are openly ridiculing the victims of the shooting, asking where their God was and why He did nothing to protect them. Sarcastic shots about an “imaginary friend,” and even remarks about the victims having “the prayers shot right out of them,” have not only been rampant, but also celebrated. Many using this line would say that they are advocating for “action” with these remarks, but the vitriolic and hateful tone they are using cannot be ignored.

So where was God when this happened?

He was right there with them.

Just like He is there with the Believers being slaughtered by ISIS and others in the Middle East and Syria. Just like He was there with the Christians who were blown up in Church on Palm Sunday in Egypt. Just like He was there with the members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston when Dylan Roof murdered them. Just like He is there with the Hmong Christians being beheaded in Vietnam. Just like He was there with Christ Followers like Richard Wormbrand who were imprisoned, tortured, and killed by the Communists of the U.S.S.R.. Just like He was there with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the other members of the Confessing Church who were murdered by the Nazis in Germany. Just like He was there with the 1.5 million Armenian Believers who were systematically raped and killed by the Ottoman Turks in 1915. Just like He was there with the Apostles and Church Fathers who were tortured, imprisoned and fed to wild animals in the Roman Empire during the early days of the Church. Just like He was there with Jesus Christ Himself when He was mocked, humiliated, tortured, and murdered on a hill outside Jerusalem.

You see, Christians were killed long before guns were ever invented, and we will be killed long after they are banned. And we understand that. Our God was killed. How could we ever demand to be spared? But that doesn’t mean that He is absent or powerless.

Anyone with a true understanding of the tenets of Christianity knows that our faith is not in a God who promises physical protection, pleasure, or wealth. Our faith is in a God who we know can protect us from harm, but often chooses not to–often for reasons that we don’t understand. Christ’s own death seemed senseless at the time, but ultimately led to his greatest victory over the grave. Who then would we be to demand an immediate answer? Frank Pomeroy, the pastor of that tiny church in Texas, who lost his own daughter along with so many friends, said it best when he was asked why horrific tragedy happened. He simply answered that he doesn’t know why, but that his God does.

Why would anyone place their faith in a God like this? Why would anyone in his or her right mind trust their souls to a God that does not promise protection, prosperity, or often even answers ? Because He offers something so much more priceless: Himself.

He offers us the opportunity to know and to truly be known by our Creator. He offers unconditional love and forgiveness when we are at our absolute worst for no other reason than that He wants to. He offers us eternal adoption as His sons and daughters simply because that is who He created us to be.

As His adopted sons and daughters, we know that our identity is secure in Him. We are the Children of God. We no longer have to run on life’s hamster-wheel of constantly trying to achieve enough, to conquer enough, to amass enough, to experience enough to satisfy our thirsty souls. We are satisfied.

We no longer have to live in fear of the unknown, of failure, of rejection, of death. We are secure.

Because of this satisfaction, because of this security in Him, we are confident that regardless of the political climate, regardless of the Media, or the Government, or anyone else’s perception of us or our God, we are the Church. And as the Church, we know that the very gates of Hell will never prevail against us. For us, prayer is, was, and always will be, enough.

 

 

Hot Takes On A Cold GOP Night

There is a very human tendency to ascribe significance to events in such as way as they can be used to predict the future.  Psychologically, I think this phenomenon is closely related to why people see the image of the Mona Lisa in a piece of toast, or the shape of a ducky or a horsey in clouds floating across the sky.  Since we’re always trying to impose a sense of order on the chaotic universe around us, we seek out patterns to try and make sense of it all.  Not only does this offer a sense of comfort, it also gives us a feeling of control:  if X happens, then Y is sure to follow.

It’s therefore no surprise that politicians and pundits alike are making all kinds of hay about the results of the Virginia and New Jersey elections yesterday.  In all fairness, there’s no other way you can spin it—the Democrats had a great night, and the GOP pretty much sucked wind.  Polling had Ed Gillespie running neck-and-neck with Ralph Northam, but in the end Northam blew him out with a comfortable margin.  In the Garden State, meanwhile, Phil Murphy utterly trounced Kim Guadagno, who had served as lieutenant governor to the notorious beachcomber Chris Christie.  Dems also racked up huge numbers in the Virginia legislature, erasing the Republican majority there in one fell swoop.  Naturally, this has all the talking heads asking what it all means for 2018, when control of Congress will be up for grabs in the first midterm election since Donald Trump won the presidency.

For what it’s worth, I summed it up in a single tweet:

As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

THE DEMOCRATS

Give them credit, they were able to gin up and harness a mother lode of angst against Donald Trump, and then use it to drive voter turnout.  The enthusiasm gap between them and the GOP was indeed palpable, and as any seasoned politico will tell you, that’s where the battle is won and lost.  The Democrat rank and file saw themselves on a mission to save the country from Trumpzilla, whereas Republican voters largely yawned.  If they can keep the momentum they started going, the GOP just might have some big trouble ahead next year.

But let’s also look at the landscape.  New Jersey was a lost cause from the start, after Chris Christie throughly destroyed the GOP brand there.  The man who once thought he could be president rendered himself so toxic that he now couldn’t even get a Reform Party nod to run as dog catcher in Trenton.  Anyone connected to him was a long shot to begin with, especially in a state where Democrats enjoy a 2-1 advantage over Republicans.  Guadagno’s loss there was a foregone conclusion, so it doesn’t signify much of anything.

As to Virginia, the political terrain there was also tough for Gillespie.  He had already lost a Senate bid there before, and political comebacks are tough no matter how you slice them.  There are also a great number of people in Northern Virginia who make their living off the federal government—which doesn’t exactly make them friendly to Republicans.  Add to that the tens of thousands of felons that outgoing governor and Terry McAuliffe put back on the voter rolls, and what you have is a basically blue state getting even bluer.  That trend started before Trump entered the picture—although having him as president has probably accelerated the change.

In other words, what happened in Virginia does mean something.  But it doesn’t mean everything, in spite of what the Democrats would have you believe.

THE REPUBLICANS

There isn’t much positive to say about the GOP here.  While it’s true that Donald Trump has been a polarizing figure, he’s not the only one responsible for the drubbing that happened on Tuesday night.  The GOP itself has sunk to levels of disapproval that would make Kevin Spacey wince—except they can’t make a dash into rehab to pretend that they’re working on their problems.

How did this happen?  Simple.  Voters gave them the House, then the Senate, and then the White House in the hopes that the GOP would actually fulfill its promises it had been making for seven years to roll back the Obama agenda.  Instead, they got plenty of nuthin’ as the GOP Senate failed to deliver.  Balking on Obamacare was the last straw, which led voters to ask why they should bother giving Republicans a majority when they refused to do anything with it.

On the other hand, at least the GOP now has a clear message from its base:  get to work or be out of a job.  There’s still a full year before the 2018 midterms—lots of time to develop a clear agenda and then push it through.  Tax reform is already in the works, so they can start there.  Then they can actually show that they’re serious about meaningful immigration reform with national e-Verify and funding the border wall.  Get some of the Big Ticket items under their belts and demonstrate that Republicans are ready to seize the opportunity that the voters have given them and effect some real change.

Otherwise, jilted voters will treat them like jilted lovers always do—and it will get ugly.

Democrat Victories Should Be Wake Up Call To GOP

Despite the trope that “all politics is local,” it is difficult to see last night’s election results as anything but a rebuke to President Trump and the Republican Party. Exit polls indicated that resistance to President Trump was a large factor in the Democrat landslide.

Politico reports that half of Virginia voters said that their vote was about Trump. Thirty-four percent of Virginia voters said they were voting to oppose Trump while 17 percent were voting to support the president.

Forty-seven percent of Virginia voters strongly disapproved of President Trump and Democrat Ralph Northam won 95 percent of those voters. Starting with a disadvantage of almost half of the electorate meant that Republican Ed Gillespie needed almost unanimous support among other groups. He did not find it, however, losing 53-45 percent.

In New Jersey, where the outgoing governor is the unpopular Republican Chris Christie, 28 percent of voters said that their vote was against the president, whose approval rating in the state is at 36 percent. Only 11 percent were voting in support of Donald Trump. Democrat Phil Murphy carried the governor’s race over Republican Kim Guadagno by 55-42 percent.

Politico notes that Gillespie and Guadagno both won the segment of the electorate that said that President Trump was not a factor. However, the margins (15 points for Gillespie and six points for Guadagno) were not enough to overcome the strong anti-Trump bloc.

To cap off the Democrat victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race, the party also picked up at least 13 seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates. The landslide is the largest in more than 100 years and includes a trans woman (i.e. a man) and a former newscaster whose girlfriend was murdered on live television in 2015.

New Jersey is deep blue and Virginia is bluish purple these days, so Republicans may try to write off these losses to traditional voting patterns. That does not explain the loss of two seats in Georgia’s state House of Representatives, however. The two seats were in districts near Athens and have historically been solidly Republican.

The biggest takeaway from the elections is that President Trump has no coattails. Trump won because of Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity and lacks a mandate for his agenda. After starting with a popular vote defeat, Trump’s behavior while in office has caused support for his presidency and the Republican Party to erode.

Republican candidates in 2018 are between a rock and a hard place. Trump’s strong support in the GOP makes it difficult to distance themselves from the unpopular president. On the other hand, if they don’t move away from Trump, they face the possibility of losses in the general election.

 

 

Elections have become reactionary and Trump and the GOP are in charge

Elections have become reactionary. In 2008, Barack Obama was elected in part because of the unpopularity of President George W. Bush, on-going wars, and a financial collapse. After two years of policies from a super majority Democratic Congress, voters rallied with the Tea Party and elected a Republican House of Representatives. Eventually, the Republicans won the U.S. Senate and running against a do-nothing corrupt Washington, Donald Trump rallied to beat one of the least popular (insider) candidates in modern political history. Now, a year later, Trump has an approval rating lower than any President in history. With that, Democrats absolutely crushed Republicans in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, and parts of Georgia.

So what does that mean for 2018? A lot can happen in a year, but as of right now, under President Trump and a Republican Congress, little has been accomplished. Trumpism has never been popular and only seemed so because Hillary Clinton was on the ballot in 2016. Democrats are fired up because of the narcissistic President and Republicans continue to be in a no-win situation. As Erick stated this morning, support Trump and you isolate moderates and independents, part from the President and a third of the Republican base disappears. Neither party is popular, but the referendum in 2018 will be against the GOP. Make no mistake, Republicans only gained control because they were the only other choice available when Democrats lost over 1,000 seats under President Obama. Now, under President Trump, people still do not like the status quo and Republicans are in charge.

Additionally, the future remains bleak for the GOP. In the era of Trump, younger voters continue to move toward the Democrats. Look at the stat last night in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The one constant is that time keeps moving forward. Whether it is in 2020 or 2024, eventually Donald Trump will no longer be President. As Brit Hume said last night, Trump is going to be about Trump. He will quickly throw the GOP under the bus if that serves him best. The problem for the GOP is deeper. Republicans can say pay no attention to the President’s rhetoric or tweets, but behind their own curtain, nothing is there. Unless they start showing how their policies will make “America Great Again” they will continue to be a party of the President. Since they bought Trump and Trumpism despite the warnings from many true conseratives, the price for the debt he is causing will be severe and painful.