Both Biden and Trump Just Reinforced Why We Can’t Have Old, White Men in the Oval Office Anymore

shutterstock_233563201jpgSay it ain’t so, Joe…

Joe Biden has been, and continues to be, my favorite.

“Favorite what,” you ask?

Favorite most everything. Almost all of the things.  Favorite comb-over, favorite smile, favorite wink, favorite glad handing, favorite meme generator, favorite politician, favorite arm-chair theologian about life and death, favorite Catholic, favorite Delawarean (an admittedly small category).

But this most recent blustery mix of machismo and stereotypical masculinity was met by my mix of eye-rolling and head shaking.  And they both went back and forth, with Trump’s favorite weapon, Twitter, locked and loaded.

Yes, old white men, we get you…you’re going to beat each other up.  It’s how you solve problems.  And we’re oh, so impressed. And, sure, Biden was talking about taking Trump to physical task in defense of women…or so he said…but the appeal to violence, no matter how on the face noble, is simply, and unquestionably, ridiculous in this hypothetical world that these talking suits live in.

Our addiction…no…our incessant NEED for violence, our cheering on of violent rhetoric and schoolyard chest puffing is just. so. exhausting.

And as a parents raising boys, I am just. so. frustrated.  Because this is the stupidest example of “My dad could beat up your dad” kind of back and forth, except these guys are supposed to be adults.

Supposed to be.

Violence and bluster will only remain the answer to all of our problems as long as we put people in power who see it as the answer to all of the problems.

And for me, as a theologian, this whole line of thought is especially prescient because we’re heading into Good Friday where Christians will hear how the only thing Jesus “takes behind the woodshed to give a butt whooping to” is violence and death, the very thing both of these men are appealing to for power.

The disciples surely would have followed Jesus’ lead in the Garden if he had started fighting back.  They were ready for it; Peter had his sword.

What they weren’t ready for was the idea, the wisdom, that that kind of response doesn’t work in the world of the Kingdom of God.

And, as one who will one day be an old(er) white man, I have to say that unless we change our trajectory, nothing else will change, and so it has to start with me and my boys and how we raise them and how we talk about violence and death.

And how we vote.

I’m not an advocate for being doormat; by no means.  But I am an advocate for getting rid of these machismo, idiotic, schoolyard braggadocious nonsense.  No one takes it seriously, anyway.  And the people who do take it seriously aren’t worth taking seriously.

And for everyone finishing this little article thinking, “But white men aren’t the only violent people in the world…and why does he bring race into it?” I say that I hear you, and some of what you say is true.  When thinking of non-violent older, white men two of my theological crushes, Richard Rohr and Parker Palmer, come to mind.

All cultures can be violent; surely.  But not all cultures are the dominant power.

And this white, male culture is, at least here in the states, and it needs to take a break.

Let’s give it a break.  It keeps reinforcing how inadequate it is to lead in these present times.  How much more proof do we need?

My Pastoral Note on Las Vegas

<This went out today.  I’ve made no secret that I have no love for guns. That conviction is ever-growing.  Christians need to consider that perhaps, *perhaps,* faith in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, might call our desire to own hand guns and assault rifles into question…>


imagesAnother act of domestic terrorism has filled the news, filled our heads, and at this writing, hundreds of people who were enjoying life just hours ago are now filling the hospitals and, tragically, over 50 are already confirmed dead.

Our addiction to violence is a disease, and it is a sin.

I refused to tune into the news channels this morning, fearing that the children that live in my house might see the world they’re inheriting.  They’re too young not to know how to be brave in the face of such madness.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m too young.

St. Peter, in one of the moments when he spoke out of love and not fear, responded to Jesus in a time of perplexity, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of abundant life.” (John 6:68)

We don’t go to guns.  We don’t go to violence.  We don’t go to partisan bickering which all just becomes a distraction.  The war of words rages while people die.  Trite moralisms and vapid optimism will not do any of us any good today.  And, when we go to Jesus, he doesn’t offer that.  He offers true solace, he offers us the chance to confess, to forgive, to breathe, to mourn, and to re-center ourselves in peace rather than fear.

But, we must remember that, if we go to Jesus, if we seek refuge under those wings, Jesus will send us back out, too.  It is not enough to pray for the victims of mass shootings, we must pray with our shoes on, prepared to work for justice and an end to this kind of violence, as Jesus calls us to in our baptism.

Walter Brueggemann, a prophet in our own time, has a book of prayers (Prayers for a Privileged People [Abingdon Press: Nashville, 2008]) that I find myself thumbing through when these mass shootings happen.

And, let me be honest: I have looked at it too much in my almost 10 years of ministry.

His prayer/poem “God’s Gift in the Midst of Violence” is one I offer to you here today.  But pray it with your shoes on.

Peace today.

P.S. One immediate thing that you can do is donate blood at your local Red Cross.  Click that link to find where your nearest donation center is. Blood donations will be needed!


God’s Gift in the Midst of Violence

The world trembles out of control.

The violence builds,

                Some by terrorism,

                Some by state greed,

                                Dressed up as policy,

                                Violence on every side.

You, in the midst of the out-of-control violence.

                We confess you as steadfast, loyal, reliable,

                But we wonder if you yourself are engaged

                                In brutality

                We confess you to be governor and ruler,

                But we wonder if you manage.

We in the midst of out-of-control violence,

                We in great faith

                We in deep vocational call

                We in our several anxieties.

We—alongside you—in the trembling.

This day we pray for freedom to move

                Beyond fear to caring,

                Beyond self to neighbor,

                Beyond protection to growth.

That we may be a sign of steadfastness,

                That anxiety may not win the day.

You are the one who said, “Do not be anxious.”

And now we submit to you.

Syria and Catch-22’s

The politician in me is worried aboubombs1t the United States (and the UN’s) response to Syria’s (alleged) use of chemical weapons.

We target military sites…or so we say.  We try to do “surgical strikes.”

But I’m a pacifist; these things scare me.

The Christian in me isn’t worried, though.  The Christian in me, the person of faith in me, is absolutely terrified.

I’m terrified at the video on CNN of the child being doused in water to wash off the chemical agents as he convulses (even if this video is not authentic to the current situation…although it appears it is…it is absolutely horrifying).

I’m terrified that many times we target “military sites” and hit schools and children and people doing business.

I’m terrified that a “surgical strike” actually means we’re just cutting out another slice of our humanity in a failed attempt to show power.

I’m afraid that non-intervention will just result in having to ignore continuing genocide while we sing Christmas carols again this year.

I’m afraid that non-intervention will be a stain upon our moral conscience.

I’m afraid that intervention will be a stain upon our future as the wrong people get the wrong weapons that we manufacture, which means that the wrong people will get paid to continue building weapons with no other purpose than to kill other people, which means that the war machine monster gets fed instead of starved, which means…

Death. A lot of death.

I come from a faith tradition that lifts up a “two kingdoms” doctrine when it comes to the world.  Essentially it asserts that the world is ruled by God, and the world is split into two kingdoms.  The spiritual kingdom of God is ruled by grace, while the kingdom of humanity is ruled by rightly ordered governments and principalities (an extension of God’s Law)*, and we live in both simultaneously.  First of all, I’d argue that Martin Luther never fleshed out this so-called doctrine, and that attempts to do so by scholars are largely just defenses for their own political ideals.  In short: I don’t buy it.  It makes me a bad Lutheran, I guess.  But I think it makes me a good Christian, even if I am so reluctantly.

Secondly, if you show me a rightly ordered government I’ll ride my unicorn over the moon.

I think people of my generation (I’m on the millennial bubble with a cursed 1980 birth year) look back at World War II and largely figure it was “just war.”  But when I listened to (the one time) my grandfather talk about flying over occupied China and being absolutely piss-pants scared about what he was doing and how he was doing it, I’m not sure I even know what “just war” means no matter what metric you put in front of me.

I know people shouldn’t be slaughtered.  I also know people shouldn’t fly planes built to kill other people.

I’m terrified because I care about life, and this is a catch-22.

And a church that is radical enough to understand that only God can redeem in any sort of lasting way is a church where our soldiers and our conscientious objectors are both honored and prayed for, and where our loudest shout as people who claim to be of God is one for the catch-22 nature of this whole damned business.

If life is sacred, that means all life.

And I’m typing this as I hold my son, and I see my son in that little boy being doused in a futile attempt to save his life. And I know he’ll die. And I know we can’t allow these things to go on, and yet I also know that fighting violence with violence only perpetuates violence.

And so…yeah, there we are.

And I am wondering what the church will say about this.  Drumbeats for war are antithetical to the message of Jesus.  Watching innocents (or even the guilty, I would argue) be poisoned and killed without some sort of action is antithetical to the message of Jesus, too.

But real sacrifice for the other…the heart of the message of Jesus…who is really willing to do that?

I just wanted to be honest here. This is what this reluctant Christian is meditating on today.  And I know we will, and should, do something.

I just want to lament about that “something”, whatever it ends up being, and stand with Rachel as she weeps for her children.  And your children.  And my children.  And Syrian children.

All of us.


*Many thanks to Pr. Mark Williamson in encouraging me to better define and make more distinct the modern formulation of this “doctrine.”  While I don’t agree that it is a doctrine, I shouldn’t cut it short in deference to brevity.