Politics

 

Dec

02

2013

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Freedom of Conscience is a Beautiful Thing

6a00d834515c5469e201901cbc5f12970b-500wiI believe the government should preserve and protect an individual’s freedom of conscience and seek to never violate it.

I love that the U.S. does not force the Amish to pay for social security. We allow these people to continue a way of life separate from the rest of society. I don’t agree with the choices of the Amish, but I want them to be able to live according to the freedom of their conscience.

Conscience is a powerful thing. Who can forget the immortal words of Martin Luther, standing up against an oppressive church tribunal?

“My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me.”

But limitations are slowly encroaching on an individual’s freedom of conscience today in various and complicated ways.

The Right to Refrain

A troubling decision by the Supreme Court in New Mexico last August indicated that an individual’s right of conscience to refrain from participating in a same-sex marriage ceremony must give way to the rights of the couple who asked for their services. “There is a price we all have to pay in our civic life,” said the judge. I disagree. I don’t want anyone to have to pay the price of violating their conscience.

Imagine this scenario. A lesbian couple own a small business that makes signs. One of the Westboro cult members comes in and tells them they will soon be protesting another military funeral. They ask for signs that demean American soldiers, plus a few that say “God hates fags” thrown in for good measure. The lesbian couple refuses. They cannot in good conscience create signs that go against their deeply held convictions.

If this were to happen, I’d side with the lesbian couple. Why? Freedom of conscience is a beautiful thing.

It’s not that the couple would be denying the Westboro folks service simply for being religious. (If they were to ask for a simple sign of “Happy birthday” for a granddaughter, for example, they would do it in a heartbeat.) It’s that the lesbian couple disagrees at a fundamental level with the message being communicated by the signs. I believe they should have the right to refrain.

I hope that same couple would stand up for the rights of the Christian photographer or baker who can’t in good conscience participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony, the photographer who disagrees at a fundamental level with the message that wedding communicates.

The HHS Mandate

It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court does with the recent challenge regarding the HHS Mandate – that for-profit corporations must pay for employees’ birth control.

Should Catholic business owners who do not believe in the morality of birth control be forced to purchase a product they believe to be wrong? I say no. Why? Freedom of conscience is a beautiful thing.

Even though I do not have a moral problem with birth control and my conscience would not be affected, I would not want my Catholic neighbor’s conscience to be violated. I would stand up for freedom of conscience.

Should the owners of Hobby Lobby be forced to pay for their employees’ abortifacient drugs? I say no. Why? Freedom of conscience is a beautiful thing.

But don’t our taxes go to all sorts of things we disagree with? Drone strikes, Planned Parenthood, wasteful spending, etc. Yes, they do. But there is a difference between the government collecting taxes (“Render to Caesar”) and the government forcing a business owner to make a purchase of a product.

The question is not: Will employers pay taxes? The question here is, Will the government force employers to make a purchase of something that goes against their conscience?

Our Neighbor’s Conscience

Freedom of conscience is not inviolable or a trump card in every situation where a dispute arises. Still, one of the ways we navigate the complexity of living in a democratic republic is by limiting the use of governmental force whenever possible. It’s one thing to stand up for your own deep convictions. It’s an even better thing to stand up for the right of someone else’s deeply held convictions.

Freedom of conscience is a beautiful thing.

 
 

Nov

25

2013

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Does Your Facebook Rant “Honor Everyone?”

die-facebookSometimes, evangelical Christians do more harm than good on Facebook.

Under the veil of “taking a stand” for our values, I fear we are letting loose all kinds of dishonoring, uncharitable speech. We need to stop.

The Cause of Frustration

I understand the frustration of conservative Christians who sense that the values we once shared with the dominant culture are slipping away. Things have changed. We’ve gone from being the moral majority to a minority – and sometimes we feel beleaguered. We come across examples of social ostracism or we hear about the legal challenges Christians face when they fail to compromise. It’s frustrating to watch the brokenness of Washington, D.C, as politicians in both parties seem more concerned about their prospects for reelection than the people they represent.

Evangelicals are having to learn how to be a distinct minority – people who must make a case for our values in the public square rather than simply assuming others share our views. We will soon be known for beliefs that are out of step with contemporary society. So be it. The Church has been in this situation many times before.

The question before us is this: Will we be known for honor?

Conduct Yourself with Honor

The Apostle Peter’s letter was written to “exiles,” believers facing persecution far greater than any of us Americans have ever seen. These Christians were living under a tyrannical government far worse than any bureaucrat in a D.C. office. Yet Peter instructed believers to live honorably among others (1 Peter 2:11-17). The “others” refer to those who are not “in Christ.”

The word “conduct” appears thirteen times in the Bible, and eight of those times are in Peter’s letters. It’s safe to say, Peter cared about how our conduct was viewed by outsiders.

Now, the fact that Peter says we should live honorably among others means we must indeed be among the lost. Some evangelicals, weary of partisan bickering and political posturing from their Christian friends, are ready to throw up their hands and avoid political engagement altogether. I understand that sentiment, but failing to be present or involved in any meaningful sense in a democratic republic would be to forfeit the stewardship we’ve been given. There is no retreat here.

The question is not if but how we will be involved. It’s a change of posture, not political persuasion.

I like the way John Piper puts it:

“Being exiles does not mean being cynical. It does not mean being indifferent or uninvolved. The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. And where it can’t, it weeps. And the light of the world does not withdraw, saying “good riddance” to godless darkness. It labors to illuminate. But not dominate.”

Slander Shouldn’t Stick

We also ought to live and speak in such a way that slander is untrue and charges of hypocrisy don’t stick.

When people claim that pro-lifers are only concerned about the unborn, and not little children or hurting mothers, we ought to be able to say, “Not true” and have the care of thousands of Christians behind us to prove it. Our good works ought to silence the ignorance of people who would slander us in foolishness (1 Peter 2:15).

Honor Everyone

But here’s where it gets hard. We are to honor everyone, Peter said. Even the emperor (1 Peter 2:17). Yes, the bloodthirsty, sexual maniac on Caesar’s throne must receive honor from Christians suffering under the thumb of a dictatorship.

Please don’t tell me Obama is worse than Nero.

Paul backs Peter up, telling us to outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10).

The Honor Filter

So, instead of just putting up internet filters so we can control what comes into our computers, perhaps we should put up an “honor filter” that will help us control what goes out of our computers. Consider what questions an “honor filter” we could ask of our Facebook and Twitter statuses.

  • Is my point of view offered with respect to those who disagree?
  • Do I assume the best of those who are my political opponents?
  • Does it look like I am raging against injustice or against people made in God’s image?
  • Am I showing honor when reviled or slandered?

For the Christian, it’s not about winning a culture war. We win through how we engage our neighbors. Our honor should be on full display… even on Facebook.

 
 

Jun

26

2013

Trevin Wax|10:30 am CT

Why Gay Marriage is Good (and Bad) for the Church

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act serves as a boost to ongoing efforts to legalize same-sex marriage across the nation.

Christians believe marriage is defined by God and recognized by government. But many today believe marriage is defined by government and must be recognized by all.

For this reason, I’m not optimistic about the trends concerning marriage and family in the United States. Neither am I sure of what all this means for those who, in good conscience, stand against the tide.

But I am optimistic about the church of Jesus Christ. We’ve been through societal transformations before, and we’re sure to go through them again.

For example, the conversion of Constantine to Christianity in 313 A. D. was certainly good for the church. (We didn’t have to worry about being fed to the lions in the Coliseum anymore.) But many aspects of the church/state marriage turned out to be bad for the church. (True Christianity suffered under the weight of the state’s corrupting power.) Some see the positive aspects of that societal transformation as far outweighing the bad (Peter Leithart, for example), while others see the bad far outweighing the good (Stanley Hauerwas). The truth is, Constantine’s conversion was both good and bad for the church.

Now let’s turn to our society’s redefinition of marriage. If we truly believe Romans 8:28, that somehow, in some way, God is working all things for the good of those who love Him, then even when the culture swerves in an opposing direction, we ought to expect both benefits and challenges.

Here are some developments we can expect in the days ahead:

1. THE LOSS OF A CULTURE OF MARRIAGE

Riding on a bus last week, I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. He told me he worked for the government, was in his early twenties, and his wife was finishing her last year of college. Right away, I thought to myself: They must be Christians. Further conversation proved my hunch was right. How did I know? Easy. Few people get married when they’re in their early twenties and still in school. Couples either live together or postpone marriage until they’ve settled into a career. A 22-year-old with a ring on his finger might as well have been carrying a Bible.

Not long ago, a friend who lives in D.C. told me that whenever he sees a young father and mother pushing a stroller with a couple of kids, he immediately thinks, They must be Christians. Why? “There just aren’t a lot of intact families in our area. When you see one, you just assume they’re religious.”

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I recognize that traditional family values do not equal biblical Christianity. Plenty of folks from other religions see marriage as the cornerstone of civilization (including Mormons, orthodox Jews and Muslims).

But these two examples give us a window into the future of marriage and family in North America. The picture of a man and woman who wait until their wedding night to consummate their relationship and then remain committed for forty, fifty, even sixty years as they grow in their love for each other and raise their kids and enjoy their grandkids simply isn’t the norm anymore. It’s likely that churches will be one of the few places you’ll find people married more than 60 years.

The arrival of same-sex marriage is just the next train stop on a journey that began with the proliferation of birth control in the 1950′s and 1960′s. When pleasure and reproduction were divorced from a holistic understanding of sex, the idea that sexual expression and childrearing should be reserved for the committed relationship of a husband and wife began to disappear. Add the abortion culture of the 1970′s, the establishment of no-fault divorce, an increase in single moms and deadbeat dads, and the rise of reproductive technologies, and it’s no wonder that people today don’t think of marriage as a central institution for bringing new life into the world but instead as an emotional and sexual union of two partners.

The bad news: When you look at other countries that legalized same-sex marriage decades ago, you notice a dramatic reduction in the number of people getting married. In all likelihood, we will soon resemble our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world: we will stand out for being the very thing that our grandparents would have thought ordinary. One of God’s greatest gifts to us in common grace (the institution of marriage) will be disregarded, leading to a number of societal ills and further breakdown of the family.

The good news: In our churches, we have the opportunity to show the world a better way. To show the world what biblical manhood and womanhood looks like. To show the world the difference between a covenant and a contract. To show the world the difference between commitment based on feeling and a covenant based on faith.

The absence of a marriage culture will make biblical marriage stand out all the more. We’ll be ordinary oddballs. So let’s not waste the opportunity.

2. THREATS TO RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

One of the concerns of the religious community about legalizing same-sex marriage is the potential threat to religious liberty.

The bad news: As the norm of marriage shifts, individual Christians will find themselves in situations where they face penalties for refusing to violate their conscience. We’ve already seen this take place when Christian caterers, for example, feel conflicted about taking part in a same-sex wedding. Threats to religious liberty are not good news for the church, because they cause us to spend time and energy in preserving “space” for us to live according to our religious convictions without fear of reprisal.

The good news: These threats may bring about in the church a much-needed change of mindset. It’s time we recognized we are no longer the “moral majority” and embrace our identity as the “missional minority.”

My friends in Great Britain and Romania tell me it’s a noble task to serve Christ when you are clearly in the minority. Though the challenges often seem insurmountable, God’s people have the opportunity to learn how to love those who oppose us, to serve and suffer under governmental or cultural bigotry, and face hatred with respect and kindness. So let’s recognize our minority status and learn to serve those who we’re called to show God’s love.

3. THE COST OF CONVICTION

When it comes to churches and denominations, we will soon see who is truly tethered to the authority of God’s Word no matter what way the wind is blowing, and who is conforming to the pattern of this world. Churches that embrace the new definition of marriage will show themselves to be in step with contemporary society and radically out of step with the Christian Church for two thousand years.

The bad news: Being a convictional Christian (especially in matters related to sexuality, morality, and marriage) will likely mean the loss of cultural clout and respectability. We will pay a personal and social cost for our beliefs, and we need to be prepared.

The good news: Sociologist Rodney Stark has shown that one of the most powerful engines of early church growth was the fact that membership cost something. Why is this the case? For one, paying a social cost tends to screen out those who would fain religiosity in order to receive respect from society. Also, knowing you are the minority and may be ostracized for your views increases the level of commitment and participation of those who follow Christ.

Conclusion

The evangelical witness may be leaner in numbers in coming years, but the upside is that the witness may be even more potent. The gospel of God’s love in Christ is no less powerful in 21st century America than in 1st century Rome.

So, let’s love God, love our neighbors (even those with whom we respectfully disagree), and remember the good news that in God’s lawcourt, all who repent and believe in Christ have the verdict of “justified” pronounced over them. And there’s no court on earth that can overturn that.

 
 

Jun

11

2013

Trevin Wax|3:06 am CT

Should Christians Legislate the Meaning of Marriage?

Here’s a roundtable discussion with me, Collin Hansen, and Kevin DeYoung about “legislating morality” and why evangelical Christians support maintaining the traditional understanding of marriage as the law of the land.

Matt Smethurst sums up the discussion here.

Should Christians Try to Legislate Their Morality? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

 
 

Mar

19

2013

Trevin Wax|3:24 am CT

Read the Fine Print Before Supporting “Marriage Equality”

As the Supreme Court considers the merits of adopting or banning same-sex marriage, many politicians are voicing their support for changing the law.

But just as smart shoppers know to look beyond an advertisement to read the fine print, Americans should look beyond the surface issues to the surprising details no one is discussing.

THE ADVERTISEMENT

Here is the way same-sex marriage is “advertised” today:

1. Legalizing same-sex marriage will allow gay and lesbian couples to have the same hospital visitation rights, etc. as other married couples.

2. Legalizing same-sex marriage will put an end to discrimination by affording gay and lesbian couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.

3. Same-sex marriage won’t affect other types of marriages.

What’s the big deal, right?

THE FINE PRINT

Here is the fine print below the advertisement, just a few of the implications of legally redefining marriage.

1. When it comes to the family, there is no qualifiable difference between a mom and a dad.

Supporting same-sex marriage is saying the law of the land should reflect the fact that two dads are just as good for kids as a dad and mom. Gender plays no role in parenting. No civil institution should reinforce the idea that men and women bring different gifts and skills to parenting. No civil institution should uphold the notion that boys and girls benefit from fathers and mothers in different ways.

(Think this is a stretch? Consider the outcry towards outspoken homosexual actor, Rupert Everett, when he publicly agreed with his mother that children need a mom and dad.)

2. Marriage will be based on the intensity of a couple’s emotional bond.

Historically, marriage has been envisioned as a physical and emotional bond designed for procreation and family life. Laws have regulated marriage differently than other friendships and relationships because society has recognized and sought to preserve the notion of an institution that points beyond the partners to the responsibility of raising children.

Supporting same-sex marriage means redefining marriage as something no longer comprehensive (directed toward procreation and family life), but primarily emotional in nature. It’s about the romantic feelings of the partners, not the exclusive fidelity of a man and woman who agree to constitute and nurture a family.

The case can be made that gays and lesbians want permanence as well as emotional union, and the push for same-sex marriage shows they are willing to go to great lengths to manufacture a sort of permanence in order to sustain the emotional bond.

Still, once marriage is totally separated from reproduction, it will likely become as inconsistent as our emotional whims. If marriage is based on something other than complementarity, why should it be exclusive? Why permanent? Why should the government be involved at all?

3. Disagreeing with same-sex marriage is a sign of bigotry and should not be tolerated.

Supporting same-sex marriage is saying the law should enforce a new “norm” on how marriage is defined. The law should lead society to adopt this new norm and question anyone who opposes it.

In light of the new definition of marriage enshrined in law, those who believe marriage is for a man and woman, with an eye toward reproduction and the establishment of family, will be marginalized as intolerant and narrow-minded, subject to the same treatment we reserve for racists and bigots.

(You don’t have to be a prophet to see this on the horizon. Examples: here’s a wedding vendor who closed his business; here are the adoption agencies that have shut down rather than violate religious conscience.)

4. Same-sex marriage will be taught as normal in all public schools. What is legalized is normalized.

Shortly after same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts, a second-grade teacher read students “King and King” – a story about a prince who chooses another prince for a husband. Concerned parents spoke out. The courts ruled against them. And why not? “Two husbands” is the law of the land there.

Supporting same-sex marriage means doing away with the idea of having a “norm” that leads to social stability. It is not extending marriage to some people; it is changing the definition of marriage for all people.

5. Legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to the legalization of “marriage” in other cases.

If marriage is a contract based primarily on romantic feelings, why should the state discriminate against brothers and sisters who wish to marry? If a bisexual insists on the need for both a male and a female spouse in order to be satisfied, why should the law discriminate in favor of couples instead of threesomes?

(Think this is far-fetched? Brazil already has a case on the books: a civil union for a trio. The notary cited the changing definition of marriage and family as justification. This columnist from the UK agrees. Why resist?)

Those in favor of same-sex marriage say traditional marriage laws are discriminatory. If we apply the same standard across the board, we must admit same-sex marriage is discriminatory too. Any law that regulates marriage establishes limits. Discussing marriage laws should prompt us to ask the question no one is asking: just what is marriage anyway? 

Conclusion

Considering the current flow of our society, the legalization of same-sex marriage seems inevitable.

Those of us who continue to advocate for the traditional definition of marriage are painted as mean-spirited and regressive. Still, informed citizens ought to consider the implications of overhauling one definition of marriage and replacing it with another.

~~~~~

Recommended Reading: What Is Marriage? by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert George

 
 

Feb

19

2013

Trevin Wax|3:14 am CT

10 Sure Signs We’ve Lost Our Minds

Documenting the bizarre beliefs and inconsistencies that surface in contemporary discourse…

1. We worry about the shallowness and superficiality of online relationships, so we go to FaceBook and Twitter to register our concerns.

2. We are so focused on the newest and latest things that we leave behind the oldest and most foundational things.

3. We’ve turned the virtue of prudence into the vice of prudishness and the vice of impropriety into the virtue of authenticity.

4. We ban soda from schools but make condoms widely available… because corn syrup is a more serious matter for youngsters than sex.

5. We decry the exploitation of women, but cry “censorship” when someone wants decency standards against objectifying women on television.

6. We chide a pregnant mother for smoking because of the harm it does to her child, but we applaud her choice to walk into a clinic and have her baby torn limb by limb and extracted from her uterus.

7. It’s arrogant to buck the current push to redefine marriage, but not arrogant to buck the consensus of virtually every society before us.

8. Citizens who would like to keep the money they earn are “greedy.” Politicians who would take their wealth and give it away are “generous.”

9. We believe in tolerance: everyone can believe whatever they want (as long as they don’t really believe it).

10. We believe every religion should be open and inclusive, but not open and inclusive enough for a Jesus who claims to be Lord of all. 

~~~ Frustrated with our failure to live up to our ideals, we do away with them altogether. And then we feel better for being worse. ~~~

 
 

Dec

06

2012

Trevin Wax|3:38 am CT

Sexual Freedom Always Curtails Other Freedoms

Interact with people in our society about issues related to sex, and you’ll quickly discover how everyone seems to be a libertarian.

The dominant assumption is that religious people shouldn’t voice their opinions. Government should stay out of the bedroom. People ought to be free to engage in sexual relations with whomever they want whenever they want, as long as it’s not considered harmful to anyone. Even Christians who believe certain sexual activities (adultery, sex before marriage, homosexuality) to be morally wrong often grant the assumption that people ought to be free in their sexual decisions.

But there is no such thing as absolute freedom when it comes to sexuality. The moment we celebrate or endorse certain behaviors, we curtail freedom in other areas. This is the nature of freedom.

Male Friendships

Here is an example.

  • 100 years ago, men were known to be openly affectionate with one another.
  • Men like Teddy Roosevelt wrote letters to other men that expressed great love and tenderness, to the point it makes modern day readers feel uncomfortable.
  • Men took pictures of themselves holding hands and demonstrating physical affection.
  • Abraham Lincoln was open about sharing a bed with Joshua Speed. Though some revisionists have sought to refashion this friendship a homosexual relationship, Lincoln biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin is most certainly right: the fact Lincoln spoke so openly about Speed is a clear sign that his male friendships were just that, friendships.

Today, there is little freedom for men to be physically affectionate toward one another. Writing an affectionate email might be seen as “girly” or “unmanly,” although it’s hard to imagine Teddy Roosevelt as a wimp.

What happened?

The Sexualization of Everything

As society has rushed to embrace homosexual behavior, the normal bonds of friendship between men have been curtailed. When Hollywood produced Brokeback Mountain, a movie that celebrated the relationship of gay cowboys, people began joking about men who go camping together and sleep in pup tents.

Men no longer express affection and friendship in ways they did a generation ago. The increasing acceptance of homosexuality and horror stories about child abusers like Jerry Sandusky  are enough to cause men to think twice before doing anything that could be misconstrued in a sexual manner.

What were once normal expressions of affection and love have been romanticized and sexualized. Our culture is losing the opportunity to have men who resemble Sam and Frodo – lasting friendships forged through trial and suffering, and yet whose affections were not romantic in nature.

The Frightening Future

So what happens next?

Our society’s propensity for sexualizing everything frightens me. What other relationships will get sexualized?

Here’s an example. My four-year-old daughter loves to jump in my arms, kiss me on the cheek, and hold me tightly. She is a physically affectionate little girl, and I hug and kiss her right back. I cherish the moments I have as a dad with a little princess who has no inhibitions of expressing her love to her daddy.

But let’s say society’s path of celebrated sexuality continues to move forward. Let’s say a Lolita type movie were to come out in a few years that celebrates incest. Let’s say the elite in Hollywood praised the movie, scorned those who were morally outraged, and decided to celebrate the sexualization of the father/daughter relationship.

What would eventually happen? Over time, fathers would be less likely to hug and kiss their little girls, to twirl them around like princesses and snuggle with them as they read bedtime stories at night. They’d feel weird about it because the culture has romanticized and sexualized what was once a normal affectionate expression. (I feel sick to my stomach even alluding to such a thing.)

This scenario scares me. But surely it’s not unrealistic. (Want proof? A new movie is out that celebrates an incestuous relationship between a brother and sister.) Our culture’s hyper-sexualization of everything could eventually poison a family’s innocent hugs and kisses.

Once we celebrate all sorts of sexual freedom, we slowly eliminate expressions of normal physical affection between human beings. Everything gets interpreted sexually, and this causes human beings to move farther apart, not closer together. In the name of freedom, we put ourselves in chains.

There is no such thing as absolute sexual freedom. Our society’s choice to celebrate and elevate types of behavior once considered out-of-bounds has ramifications for interpersonal relationships.

 
 

Nov

06

2012

Trevin Wax|11:59 am CT

3 Things the Church Can Learn from Election 2012

It’s a tricky thing to engage in political analysis before the dust has fully settled on a recent election. No doubt pollsters, pundits, and politicians from both sides of the aisle will be examining the 2012 election in the coming weeks and months.

Republican strategists will perform a post-mortem on the Romney campaign and the Senate seats that slipped away. Most will wonder about the failure of Republicans to seize the advantage during an ongoing recession and take the reins away from an unpopular president.

Despite the risks of weighing in too early, I thought it would be worth pointing out a few things the evangelical church could learn from the losses of the Republican Party this year. Let me be clear at the outset that I am not equating the two. A political party only has life as long as people find it valuable. The church is guaranteed a future because of Christ’s promise as Master Builder.

Still, there are a number of lessons that evangelicals can learn from failed strategies in the political arena. Here are a few I jotted down while watching the election returns.

1. We cannot afford to ignore changing demographics.

Much of the chatter on election night centered on the increasing racial and ethnic diversity in a number of states traditionally viewed as “safe” for Republicans. The story was similar in Colorado, Florida, and Ohio.

The days when the “male white voter” dominated elections are over, which explains why Romney was able to maintain a substantial lead among white men and still lose the election. When your target is a shrinking number of people and your strategy is to keep them on board by alienating the rising urban ethnic groups (by, let’s say, failing to come up with a sensible immigration plan), it’s no wonder you lose elections.

Surveying the crowd at Romney’s headquarters, I saw a sea of white. Obama’s gathering was a microcosm of the diverse country we live in.

How does this translate to the church? Simple. If you are seeking to be a missionary presence in your community, you can’t ignore demographics.

For example, if your church is an upper-class, predominantly white congregation in a city that is no longer upper-class or predominantly white, then you’ve got a problem. And unfortunately, this problem exists all over the country.

When the community changes colors, churches tend to go into auto-pilot mode with the silent expectation that outsiders should conform to the church’s culture. In the end, we don’t model the coming kingdom or the current community. We develop a “fortress mentality” where a way of life is maintained instead of a “missional mentality” where missionary strategies are employed, strategies that actively seek to reflect the diversity in the community by reaching the lost outside their doors.

2. We can’t ignore facts that make us uncomfortable.

It was interesting to watch how many conservative pundits and politicians were convinced up to the end that Romney would win by a landslide. The talking heads on television were divided down partisan lines, with Republicans predicting Romney would either squeak by or win big and Democrats assuring everyone that Obama would survive. The polls were analyzed, reinterpreted, and refashioned in order to give hope to both campaigns.

Churches can sometimes make the same mistake. We see incremental growth here and there, so we choose to look at the results that encourage us. We avoid the truth that may confront us and make us uncomfortable. To maintain a positive vibe in the congregation, we celebrate small victories and overestimate their importance while at the same time ignoring reality when it presses us to reevaluate our methods or ideas.

A good leader will paint a picture of reality, however disconcerting it may be. It’s only when we see where we truly are that we get motivated with a sense of urgency to complete the tasks God has given us.

3. Political campaigns remind us of the kingdom whose foundation cannot be shaken.

Wins and losses in the political realm each have their lessons. When your preferred candidate wins, it’s easy to pin great hopes on their campaign, to overlook flaws and excuse wrong behavior. When your preferred candidate loses, it’s tempting to wonder if political involvement really matters.

The Christian gets the opportunity every election season to keep things in perspective. Through wins, we temper our expectations regarding the change that any one man can affect, no matter how promising. Through losses, we continue to maintain a faithful presence in obedience to the King who is not up for reelection.

So why get involved in politics anyway? Because elections matter. Ideas have consequences. We are called to live justly and humbly for the glory of God and the good of our neighbors.

But the changing tides of political and public opinion remind us of the steadfast, unmovable kingdom we belong to. We engage, not because it’s popular or because we absolutely must win, but because we are God’s kingdom people, living on earth as citizens of heaven.

 
 

Nov

06

2012

Trevin Wax|3:39 am CT

5 Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln

When I discovered a new movie on the life of Lincoln was in the works, I was curious to learn more about Lincoln’s administration and his political career. The forthcoming movie is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s popular book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, a masterful telling of Lincoln’s story that follows the lives of each of his cabinet members.

Here are a few leadership lessons from the life of Lincoln as described in the book.

Lesson #1: Know When to Act and When to Wait.

Lincoln knew when to speak and when to remain silent. He knew when to act and when to wait.

In reading the book, I found myself on occasion wanting Lincoln to hurry up and make a decision, only to later discover that making his views public too soon would have sabotaged his chances for seeing lasting change. Whether he was hiring or firing, giving speeches or staying silent, he had an uncanny ability to gauge public opinion. He usually waited for the public to catch up with him before making pronouncements.

At the same time, Lincoln wasn’t afraid to lead. When he knew his actions would likely sway more people to his point of view, he got out in front of them and acted. But he only did so when he was sure he wouldn’t lose the people lagging behind. He was keenly aware of what Malcolm Gladwell called “the tipping point.”

Lesson #2: Don’t Take Things Personally.

Lincoln was hard to offend even when offense was warranted. For example, consider the brashness of General McClellan, who once kept Lincoln and secretary of state William Seward waiting in his parlor until he decided he wasn’t up for visitors and went to bed. As the reader, I wanted to climb into the pages and get in McClellan’s face to yell, “This is the president of the United States!”

Likewise, when cabinet member Salmon Chase undermined Lincoln and sought in vain to replace him on the Republican ticket in 1864, Lincoln shrugged off Chase’s ambitions, saying, “He has the White House fever.” Not only did he choose not to begrudge Chase’s antics, Lincoln later recommended him for the Supreme Court as Chief Justice.

And who can forget William Seward’s arrogant snubbing of his future boss? Seward received more than forgiveness; he received a lifelong friendship.

Though others were astonished at Lincoln’s forgiving spirit, Lincoln knew his responsibilities were too important to let personal squabbles keep him from the task at hand. By not seeking to establish his honor, Lincoln became all the more honorable.

Lesson #3: Be Strategic in Your Diversions.

Some cabinet members muttered about Lincoln’s frequent attendance at the theatre. The times were too serious for such trivial pursuits, they thought.

But Lincoln chose to be refreshed precisely because the times were serious. Compare pictures of Lincoln during the first year of his presidency compared to the last. It’s obvious the horror of war and the personal loss of a child weighed heavily on him.

To maintain his vibrant spirit, Lincoln planned a daily carriage ride every afternoon with his wife – a few precious moments to unwind and hear of other things. He frequented the theatre, where he would lose himself in the humorous plays and musicals of the day. It was because Lincoln took his job so seriously that he looked for ways to relieve the pressure of his office.

Lesson #4: Tell a Story and Paint a Picture.

Lincoln’s oratorical skills are legendary, but not everyone in his day was impressed. Many thought he was a hick, a country “railsplitter” from Illinois who wouldn’t amount to much as president.

But Lincoln knew the power of a story. That’s why his speeches are full of analogies, pictures, and anecdotes. Being a “commoner” was a badge of honor that helped him communicate to the men who gave their lives on the battlefield, the families who buried their young, and the slaves who desired their freedom.

Lincoln had plenty of practice in story-telling. His humor is well-documented by his contemporaries. He kept his kids up at night with tales of adventure. Though pictures often show him looking dour and depressed, the real Lincoln was a jovial man who knew the power of a story.

Lesson #5: Do the Right Thing Even When It is Costly.

There are times when Lincoln was under enormous pressure to fire members of his cabinet, to make changes in personnel, or to hold back on issues related to emancipation. Lincoln could have succumbed easily to outside pressure. Quick decisions might have given him immediate popularity.

But Lincoln understood the fickle nature of politics and refused to bow to the heat of the moment. He decided to do the right thing and accept the fallout. He took responsibility for his administration’s mistakes even when his subordinates were at fault. At personal cost to himself, Lincoln chose the high road, sometimes paying for it in initial political strategy, only to find respect from his countrymen increasing over time.

Conclusion

Lincoln was a great president because he was a great man. Team of Rivals shines light on the wisdom of his strategies and decisions.

 
 

Oct

26

2012

Trevin Wax|3:05 am CT

What Happens if the Electoral College is Tied?

Could there be a tie in the electoral college on November 6? Yep.

So what happens if there is a tie? This video explains how we would proceed, including the Secretary of State acting as president until we get our act together. :)