Friday, October 28, 2016


Why do I seem to have such a problem with this election? I think it has to do with professional wrestling.

I better explain.

When I was a lad, pro wrestling was a staple of our Saturday afternoons. Wrestlers would travel to a city, put on their show, and then head off to the next one. In our area, the local channel had a show called "Championship Wrestling," which featured these contests. The wrestlers would be interviewed between matches and promote their next battle to be held at the fairgrounds or gymnasium. Championship Wrestling was "must see TV" for our family over the weekends.

I kind of suspected the made-up nature of the contests (could a human body really get pummeled into near unconsciousness, then get up a minute later and fight some more?), but I didn't really care. As a young comic-book geek, these were real life superheroes battling it out. There were the good guys (faces) and bad guys (heels). The faces would be good sportsmen, fighting hard, but following the rules. The heels, naturally, cheated and were arrogant, mean, and nasty.

A typical scenario was during a tag team match. The good guys being pummelled by the bad guy as he desperately reaches out his arm to tag his partner, who was also reaching out. Just inches away from deliverance, but they can't make contact. But then something happens and the face outside the ring unintentionally commits a minor infraction (it has to be minor, because,as a good guy, he follows the rules). The ref rushes over to him, turning his back to the wrestlers in the ring, and begins lecturing the guy about the rules. Meanwhile, the other heel enters the ring and joins his partner in beating the tar out of the good guy. The face outside the ring desperately tries to explain to the ref what's happening, the crowd is yelling and screaming for the ref to stop the carnage, the announcers are shouting into their microphones atop the card table set up at the side, while the ref continues to chew out the good guy outside the ring.

Oh the humanity!

Face vs. face matches were good to watch. Though no less choreographed, they tended to focus more on technique then annihilation. And after the match, the good guys would shake hands with each other. You could feel the mutual respect oozing out of them as they spoke to the interviewer afterward. Face vs. heel matches, on the other hand, usually ended with the good guy offering a handshake to the bad guy, only to have the bad guy respond with a sucker punch or kick in the stomach.

(Tim, what does this have to do with the election?) Stay with me....

As professional wrestling got bigger and more popular, I noticed things changing. In today's matches, I'm just as likely to see the good guys double team a bad guy as the other way around. There's still the arm straining moment of the tag, but if they can't make contact, and if they can get away with it, the face is more than willing to infract a rule or two to help his partner. Faces are just as rude and arrogant as their heel counterparts, and if I had children as young as I was "in the day," I would be embarrassed to hear the language they use in the pre- and post- match interviews.

Yes, there are still faces and heels, good guys and bad guys. But since their is no real distinction in technique or persona, the only way we know who's who is, Since the face cheats, uses foul language, and does not show respect to his opponents, all that's left is to promote him as a face (which the big pro wrestling organizations do quite well). And in the world of professional wrestling, even that can change, with good guys becoming bad guys and vice verse.

Which brings me to my election point: I honestly cannot tell the face from the heel. Yes, I know that issues are important and there is much at stake, so we should ignore the personality of each candidate and focus on what is truly important. After all, if we elect him or her, then untold disaster will befall us, so isn't it worth putting up with less than graceful conduct in order to ensure a victory?

When I was in my teen years, I gleaned a piece of wisdom from (believe it or not) a comic book. I don't remember the title or issue number, but I remember the dialogue. The young sidekick seemed to support a move against the villain that would have helped the cause, but was rather underhanded. He reasoned, "But if it stops the bad guy, isn't it worth it?" The hero replies, "I believe it's important to win. But we still need to be the good guys when we do it."

Marketing and political campaigns do not persuade me. Promises don't sway me. Lofty vows of grand change if elected or ominous warnings if the other person is elected don't carry any weight with me. As long as the candidates do the same stuff in the same way, I have a problem.

I guess what I'm looking for is a face.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016


In this valiant attempt to bring clarity to the November presidential election, I struggle with a lot of things. I've already shared in a previous post about my overall struggle regarding the real potential to tick everyone off. But the other challenge is that there are so many elements on which to shine a light, which one do I tackle first? Let's go to the tape. . . .

The tape, of course, is the revelation that Donald Trump bragged to (then) entertainment reporter Billy Bush about his ability to "have his way" with women (yes, I'm being diplomatic about something that at best was a rude, crude description and, at worst, an admission of possible assault). The exchange was caught on tape and recently released. Mr. Trump has characterized it as "locker room talk" and apologized. Many GOP lawmakers, evangelical leaders, and a host of others have repudiated the candidate. And, of course, in late breaking news, a few women have said that Mr. Trump's statements were not words only, but actions. To be fair, their accusations have not been substantiated, and Mr. Trump denies them, but they are certainly a cause of concern.

Three trains of thought come to mind:

We can't easily dismiss the claims against Donald Trump
So why did this 11 year old tape take so long to surface and why did these women wait until now to reveal Mr. Trump's treatment of them? First of all, regarding the women, it is not uncommon for a victim to remain silent. Some of it is born out of fear, some of it is embarrassment, some of it is a certain amount of self-doubt (did I somehow encourage this? was it my fault?). I would hope we've come far enough of our understanding sexual assault that we not dismiss these accusers out of hand. And I have to admit (with my limited knowledge), nothing the women have said so far sounds in-credible. It all sounds very consistent with Donald Trump's public personality and, yes, with his "locker room talk."

Which leads us back to the tape. What was on the tape was disgusting. Deplorable. Degrading. We can dismiss it as "locker room talk," but let's face it: the behavior it describes and even the language that is used is unacceptable.  But some of my conservative, Christian friends have said, "it's not that big a deal. Why are we condemning him for something he did  eleven years ago? He has apologized, so we should forgive him and move on."

Yes, I agree whole heartily we should forgive Donald Trump. But "moving on" might be a little more complicated. I can forgive the drug addict who steals my electronics to feed his habit. But I won't leave him unsupervised in my house. I will look for signs of continued drug use. I will love him and encourage him and rejoice in his victories. But unconditional forgiveness is not blindness. Or naivety. Yes, I forgive Donald Trump. But it took him eleven years to "confess" his sin (and only because the tape surfaced) and there have been no indications that he is a different man than before. Maybe he is. But we only have his public personality to evaluate and they suggest (not prove) he may have the same attitudes toward women as he had eleven years ago. Moving on is not so simple.

This could be a set up
But let's take a look at the other side of the coin. Aside from his "locker room" tape, there is no solid evidence to substantiate the claims of Mr. Trump's accusers. And while I prefer to give victims the benefit of the doubt, yes, some women do lie. We cannot blindly reject the idea that this could very well be a set up. NBC has had the "locker room" tape for eleven years, but during the entire run of the hit series The Apprentice, it never saw the proverbial light of day. While there are certainly legitimate reasons why the alleged victims may not have spoken out for eleven years, the fact is, they are only speaking out now, during a critical election season. The timing is more than convenient. Saturday Night Live brilliantly nailed this in a sketch portraying the Clinton campaign celebrating, with Hillary Clinton unable to contain her delight over this damaging revelation.  So there exists at least the possibility that these allegations are unfounded. Until more substantial proof surfaces, the question will remain unanswered.

What all this says about media and society
However, another troubling part of this whole thing  is the sudden focus on morality in our society.  Hey, I'm a stuck-in-the-mud, old fashioned values, Bible-believing Christian, but I get a little distressed when I hear representatives of the liberal left pontificate about the terribleness of Donald Trump's tape. Whenever Christians speak out against sexual situations or obscenity on television or movies, they are widely condemned as prudes, Puritans, or Pollyannas who want to destroy our civilization by imposing their narrow view of what is right or wrong in society. Meanwhile, we are treated to all types of  depictions of immorality, a great deal of which involves the degradation of women. It seems more than a little, I don't know, uhhh--hypocritical?

And then there are the athletes and celebrities who make fun of Donald Trump by saying that he's probably never been in a locker room, because men don't really talk that way in locker rooms. I beg to differ. The expression "locker room talk" existed before Donald Trump's apology and has always meant the kind of crude, bragging conversations that usually center on women. In some cases, it's little more than tall tales, but regardless, some men really do talk that way.  Let's tone down the feigned shock. If every newscaster or celebrity had tapes of their off-camera words and deeds, it would be quite a revelation to a lot of admirers.

And yes, NBC fired Billy Bush for his role in the "locker room" tape, but I noticed it did not prevent them from putting him on the Today Show in the first place. Only when they were stuck between exposing the "terrible immorality" of Donald Trump and showing their own media personality involved in the same thing did they take action. What else could they do?

Suddenly, prominent people who have never regarded the Bible as anything special are pulling out quotes to inform us all what "good Christians" should think about all this. While I'm glad to see anyone reading the Bible for guidance, I fear that many of these folks don't really give a flying care about what the Bible says; rather, their main goal is to maybe point out what they perceive as hypocrisy among Trump supporters. Where is the tolerance? Where is the very Biblical and Christian virtue of forgiveness? And that is an ongoing irritation, not only in this campaign, but in society overall: people who don't believe the Bible trying to convince the faithful about what the Bible says. Just something to think about.

Please do not take my comments as a rejection or endorsement of either candidate. Like many Americans, I'm struggling with this election. These posts represent what one of my teachers called, "thinking through my keyboard." I welcome your comments, but name calling, foul language, or general mean-spiritedness will not be allowed. Good points made logically and consistently (with maybe a dash of humor) goes a long way, even if you disagree.

And remember: no matter what happens in November, Jesus is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016


I did not want to chime in to the rumblings of the 2016 Presidential race.  For one thing, I have some very well defined convictions about politics and Presidents in general that would most certainly irk people on both sides of the political spectrum. For another thing, this contest in particular is so explosive that I feel like anything I say will provoke the ire of the devoted of both parties. And finally, I make it personal mission to avoid irritating people, even if I profoundly disagree with them. I would prefer to engage in intelligent dialogue with someone who disagrees with me and depart as friends than have someone call me names, then stomp off.

So there you have it: irksomeness, ire, and irritation. You've been warned. I think this will take a few posts, since I don't want to overwhelm you with everything at once.  And now is probably a good time to remind you that the opinions are mine alone and do not always reflect the views of my church, its leadership, its staff, my friends, family, the dog, my daughter's cats (who live with us and about whom I am tempted to fire off a blog or two), or any political party. I'd also like to remind you that your comments are welcome, but rudeness, crudeness, foul language, name calling, etc. might get you deleted. My blog, my rules.

And now that we have the disclaimers out of the way. . .

I've been asked how a "good Christian" could possibly support Donald Trump. The question has been asked by liberals, conservatives, non-Christians, and atheists. It's a frequent subject on social media, with some writers going so far as to indict the whole of evangelicalism and even Christianity as a whole. The outrage over the so-called "religious right's" backing of Mr. Trump was happening long before the revelation this week of a crude recording, but it certainly intensified with the tape. "How can you, a 'good Christian,' possibly vote for this man?" the pundits cried.

In an upcoming blog, I will address the recording and what it says about our society, but for now, let me establish that I have not thrown my support to Mr. Trump. People ask me who I'm voting for and I just shrug and say, "I honestly don't know." I think framing the debate in terms of what a "good Christian" should do or think is misleading. Saying someone should reject Donald Trump because a "good Christian" would reject him carries about as much weight as saying a "good Christian" should reject Hillary Clinton. I've heard both. And, to be blunt, it's just so much noise.

Donald Trump speaks to many issues with which I agree. Secretary Clinton speaks to many issues with which I disagree. Oh that the choice would be that simple. Mr. Trump verbally expresses his support for my faith, while Mrs. Clinton has verbally denigrated the things in which I believe. I wish the decision rested solely between the candidate who says, "I'm for you, Bible-believing Christian," and the candidate who says, "I'm against you." Simple. Easy peasy.

Except, from what I've observed, Mr. Trump is the kind of person my dad warned me about. My dad and I did not see eye to eye on Christianity and he was pretty sure that this young teenager was turning into a wild-eyed fanatic. And he would warn me about how I'd be walking in a strange area and somebody would come up to me and start talking about the Bible or Jesus and, like a man in a trance, I would follow him, whereupon I would be robbed, beaten up, or worse. My dad's opinion of my naivety notwithstanding, I got the point. People will say or do almost anything to ingratiate themselves. I've seen candidates for local offices suddenly become active church members, only to vanish after the election. I've been invited to pray at secular gatherings, just because the host wanted "the Big Guy upstairs" to smile down on the proceedings (which often involved alcohol).

The tipping point to me was the speech at Liberty University, when Mr. Trump referred to "Two Corinthians." Yeah, it's a minor point. And yes, I've heard some preachers use that terminology. It's not like the original Greek designates the correct usage of the name of a book. It's not really that big a deal. Except, well, it was a large, evangelical student body. Most Bible-believing Christians would use the designation, "Second Corinthians." Unless they were not that familiar with the Book they were quoting or the audience to whom they were speaking. At that moment, I felt like Mr. Trump had asked someone on his staff to find a Bible verse he could use for his speech. But contrary to my dad's assessment of my ability to spot a con artist, I felt like he was trying to win me over. It didn't work. And adding that to the rest that was said and the rest that would be said, I have to say I cannot whole-heartedly support Donald Trump.

But that doesn't mean I'm voting for Hillary Clinton either. I don't have time to list everything, but her social/political stands alone often run contrary to my own beliefs. Nor is she attempting to spin those positions to assuage my concerns. With Mrs. Clinton, I feel as though I am a non-entity, a throw back to the dark ages. Bible-believing Christians will be tolerated, unless they get in the way. I have a problem throwing my hat in the ring with someone who, to put it simply, is against most of my convictions.

So what's a "good Christian" supposed to do? I don't know if "good Christian" always applies to me, or even if it should apply to me at all. While I am not ambivalent about the Bible and the Christian faith. I'm not as certain on the instersection of faith and politics. Yeah, if they violate the Scripture, it's easy, but if both go against it, then what? Hopefully, I'll be addressing some of these questions in future posts.

And one final word: no matter what happens in November, Jesus is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords.