When Coin Flips Decide Presidents: Something’s Gone Wrong with Democracy

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I am not going to lie, I have spent a crazy amount of time over the last six months reading politics in preparation for Iowa.  And last night did not disappoint!  In fact, whether you hated or loved the results, you have to admit that Iowa is fascinating.  By law they get to have the very first turn at picking the President, but only because they caucus.  The candidates have to campaign in Iowa in very unique ways.  They have to go door to door like your average county commissioner.  They have to pretend to like ethanol and to talk to Jesus on a regular basis.  They have to open booths at county fairs right next to the free donkey rides and they have to shake hands outside of pizzerias.  It is a lot of fun to watch.

They do this all summer and autumn until it all culminates in one night where hundreds of local communities get together and try to decide which candidate to support.  I loved every minute of following Iowa these last few months, right up through the results last night.

Then I woke up this morning with a nasty hangover whose primary symptom was cynicism.  There was something wrong and fishy about this whole thing and I am not sure I like it.

First of all Iowa’s population is 3 million.  3 million people is actually less than %1 of the US population.  More than that, only a bit more than 300,000 people actually went to the caucuses last night.  That is about 10 percent of Iowa.  So we are letting 1/10th of 1% of our population have an incredible amount of say in how the nomination battles take place.  That makes me a little uncomfortable but I still understand that someone has to go first.  Might as well be Iowa.

But then another story broke.  Hillary only “won” the caucuses because of six coin tosses in six different places.  It seems that the caucus model doesn’t leave room for ties, so the local commissioners had to figure out a way to break it.  And what better than a coin flip?  This wouldn’t have been a story if the election had not been close.  If it had been a landslide, we would all be rolling our eyes at the silly Iowan hicks who flip coins.  But the election was a tie and six coins gave Clinton the “lead.”  So now those coins are headlines as is her incredibly arrogant press release at 3am this morning before the official results were in.

Some are using the coins to critique the caucus system.  Some are using it to critique Iowa’s over inflated importance.  And still others are using it to say something more critical and profound about the state of our democracy.  I am in that last group.

Because this whole thing disturbs me.

The caucuses are not to blame.  They are closer to representing what the founding fathers of the US envisioned.  To them, democracy was not a group of people sitting in private booths pushing out chads and pulling levers, or even worse sitting at home weeks before the election with 8 envelopes that must be folded and “enveloped” just so in order for the vote to count.  (I misfolded mine in 2012 and my presidential vote for “Stephen Colbert” went uncounted.)

No, to the founding fathers democracy was about getting everybody together in a room and forcing them to work together.  This is why we elect our President not through popular vote but through delegates.  The original idea was that communities would gather together and pick someone from their community that they respected and trusted.  That delegate would then go to Washington and meet with the other delegates from around the country.  They would all bicker and argue about who the President should be but then the majority would rally around someone and the delegate would report back to the constituents who the President was.

The hope was that if we chose someone we trusted, we could trust them to pick someone trustworthy to be President.  We hoped trust would trickle up to the high echelons of power.

We are very far removed from that system and I see no hope of going back.  In fact, what disturbs me most about the primary process is that I will not know one thing about my delegate to the national conventions.  There is a high chance this year that both conventions could be “brokered” which means that on the second vote the delegates will not have to vote for who I tell them to vote for.  This means someone I do not know or trust might pick my party’s nominee.  I should spend a lot more time figuring out who that person is than who the candidates are!

If that doesn’t disturb you, then this will.  There is absolutely nothing that guarantees your state delegate to Washington D.C. for the general Presidential election has to vote for who you tell them to vote for.  Every Presidential election has had at least one delegate jump ship and vote for someone different than who their state told them to.  I live in Utah which will almost certainly vote for a Republican President but that doesn’t mean the Utah delegate has to choose the Republican.  They might go Democrat or even abstain from voting.  This happens all the time but so far hasn’t changed the outcome of the election.  The minute it does (and that day is coming) the foundations of our shaky democracy will crumble.  Be that as it may, there is some more info on national delegates here.

We are a far cry from what the founding fathers envisioned.  Their vision was about people getting together in rooms and choosing trustworthy local leaders to represent them at the state and national levels.  Currently we do the opposite.  We isolate ourselves from our communities and climb into tiny little booths.  When we do so we are quite arrogant, assuming that we think we know everything about the candidates when in fact we know next to nothing other than their appearance and party.  You can’t really know someone until you have met them face to face.  But we assume we are little gods who know everything and we pull our lever of power and then spew vitriol at those who disagree but we do it from behind closed doors.

This is not democracy.  This is arrogance.

What we should be doing is far more humble.  It is gathering together with our neighbors and having honest but confrontational dialog.  We should sit in a room together until we can all agree on a delegate whom we know.  Then we should trust that delegate to make the right decision about who the President should be.

Therefore the reason the coin flips in Iowa bug me so much has nothing to do with the caucus format.  It has everything to do with the reality that the coins were the easy and lazy way out.  Those communities should have lived into the spirit of the Fathers and argued until there was a majority.  That is how democracy is supposed to work and I pray, without much hope, we can get there again.

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Beyond the Talking Points: Why I am Not Writing about Guns

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There have been two devastating public shootings in the last couple of weeks.  This is according to my Facebook and Twitter feeds which are full of information.  .  .except that they aren’t.  The are full of opinionated talking points vaguely rooted in information.  Be that as it may, there are still some people who don’t think social media has enough opinions about guns.  They actually (and I am not making this up) post things like, “Why is nobody talking about the Planned Parenthood shooting?  We seemed all too willing to talk about Starbucks’ red cups.”  Or this gem, “Why aren’t more of my pastor friends posting about San Bernandino?  They were all over the Paris shootings.”

If they were looking for comments, they got their wish because in minutes they had 100 comments both about gun violence and why we are not talking about gun violence.  I am willing to admit that they might have different (and more silent) Facebook friends but trust me, my feed is full enough of the talk of guns and terrorism and violence.

With that said, I am one of the more cautious ones.  I didn’t post anything about Paris or about San Bernandino or about Colorado Springs.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of opinions about all three but I am choosing to remain silent online for a few reasons.

First, the talking points are tired.  We can repeat them all we want but without further information they are useless except for badgering people to believe what you do.

Second, people are not looking for honest dialogue.  They are looking for victims to publicly annihilate.  I want to contribute meaningfully to public debates.  Free speech and public debate are part of what made and still make our country so great.  But many of us aren’t doing either.  We are looking for people to lynch.  And I don’t want to be lynched or really lynch anybody else.

Third, I all ready wrote about gun violence a couple months back and am still a wee bit proud of that post because it did come together well.  You can read it here.

So there you have it.  I don’t want to repeat tired talking points.  I don’t want to be lynched and I have all ready said my piece.

However, if I were to wade back into this debate, here are some things I might do:

One, I would try to wait for hard data.  The right wants to divert our attention to “mental illness” (except ironically, when it isn’t white people doing the shootings.)  The left wants to talk about gun control and background checks almost to an annoying fault.  But I have not seen much hard data or studies about either.  How many of these criminals would have failed a background check?  How many were diagnosed with a mental illness?  What about mental illness?  Why aren’t more of the “mentally ill” shooting people?  The mentally ill I have known would never do that.  .  .I think.  Did Hitler ever actually make the argument that the mentally ill are violent and is that what led to the Nazis killing thousands of them?  What about terrorism?  What happens when a peaceful adherent to a religion becomes “radicalized?”  Does threatening everything they hold dear contribute to that or the opposite?  We seem to think threatening to kill them is a good way for them not to kill us first.  Does that actually work?  We have no honest answers to these questions, no hard data or studies.  Part of that is because this phenomenon of one a week is pretty recent.  So we should let the researchers do their job before screaming at each other.

Two, and actually last, I would want a conversation that would do something other than form a lynch mob.  Yes, I think our politicians have a little bit of power and should be seeking meaningful legislation and the funding of good programs.  Right now I would just settle for a good group of members from both sides of the aisle agreeing to sit in a room without cameras or reporters to hash out some plan that tows a good line between all the talking points.  A man can dream, right?

The good news is that they are not alone in their power.  I have power and you have power and we can do something too.  I hope that “something” doesn’t start and stop with “buy a gun to put an end to them!” but moves beyond that to adopting the orphans, caring for the oppressed, preaching an end to violence, helping the mentally disabled and doing so much more.

All those things begin with dialog and debate but hopefully our talk leads to action.  After all talk is cheap, but a necessary first step.

But, as I said, I don’t want to be lynched so I am going to ignore the ridiculous talking points and keep posting pictures of my children doing cute things.

Here is one for you now.

 

 

Beyond the Talking Points: The Current Refugee Crisis

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Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to be the judge of a high school debate competition.  Not surprisingly one of the debate topics centered around “the current refugee crisis.”  Unfortunately I only got to listen to one such debate.  Those arguing in favor of accepting refugees did an okay job at listing out several economists, historians and anthropologists who all argue that accepting refugees will most likely improve a country’s living standards over a long term period of time (up to 1oo years!).

Those arguing against it did a fascinating job of listing out everything that is happening today.  They had current and relevant data on the spread of disease, the increase of poverty among nationals and the outbreak of violence.  It was all quite disconcerting and overwhelming, especially when that team pointed out, “All our opponent’s data is about what might possibly happen.  Ours is about what is happening.”

They won the debate.  The reality is that when people cross borders, particularly because of persecution or poverty, they bring a lot of bad stuff with them, not intentionally but it happens.  This team’s crude listing of current statistics did a lot to undo the pie in the sky optimism of those who claim, “yeah but none of that will happen because, you know, love.”  Sadly that seems to be the argument many are making even today.  However, the threats are very real and we would be foolish to deny that.

Yet I remain in absolute favor of open borders worldwide, starting with our own.  I do so not because of a pie in the sky optimism but because I am a biblical Christian.  I am not a fundamentalist one but I still believe the narrative of Scripture should be given absolute primacy in all affairs.

The narrative of Scripture leaves little room for gray when it comes to feeding, clothing and accepting foreigners, even dangerous ones.  God does it and God wants us to do it.

You can look at the prologue to the 10 Commandments where God says, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt.”  This statement, upon which the 10 commandments rest, calls to mind the recent past where the Israelites were strangers in a foreign land.  God not only rescued them but accepted them into God’s presence.  We serve a hospitable God.

You can also look at the entire book of Deuteronomy, most notably passage like chapter 10:18-19 where, “God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”

Then there is chapter 16 where Moses takes great pains to clarify that the benefits of the national festivals extend to the foreigners who reside in their towns.  Then the book ends with Moses pronouncing a curse upon anyone who refuses to grant foreigners justice (see 27:19).

You can also study the minor prophets who pronounce God’s wrath upon Israel over and over again because they did not accept strangers and foreigners (most notably Zephaniah 7:10).

The Psalms too proclaim that our God loves the foreigners and defends their cause.  (See Psalm 94:6 and 146:9)

I wish I had the time to cite another 100 examples but clearly the Old Testament God loves immigrants, rescues immigrants, feeds and clothes them and insists we do the same.

But this isn’t just about Israel and God.  Jesus is the ultimate example of a God who deserted the heavens to welcome wayward sinners into the hospitable presence of God.  Jesus is the ultimate example of a God reaching out to make room in his house for us.  At the same time, Jesus is the ultimate example of one who was crucified for being so hospitable.  And Jesus calls us to take up our crosses and follow him.

Therefore, although I am very much inclined to accept the prognostication of the anthropologists, historians and economists who argue in the long term it will be to our benefit, I still know that in the short term we might get crucified and not just with violence but also with disease.  The danger of hospitality to refugees is very real.  What happened in Paris on Friday was very real.  The threats of disease and violence and increased poverty (at least in the short term) are big problems.  But if we trust and follow the God of Scripture, these are problems to solve, not problems which should cause us to reject God’s commands.

In close, I remember the early church.  You probably didn’t know that the number one cause of death among early Christians was not martyrdom but disease.  The Roman government had a way of isolating the sick and letting them die in extreme poverty.  This was all so that the healthy didn’t get sick and it worked!  It turns out that the healthy do stay healthy when they don’t go around sick people.  The early Christians didn’t care.

They were so overwhelmed by the picture of a healthy God embracing a sick creation (and getting crucified for it) that they went to the sick, fed them, clothed them, took care of their needs and then all died of the same diseases.  They did this not only willingly but joyously because they believed in The Great Physician who would one day heal them, even from death.

If we aren’t willing to become a bit poorer, a bit sicker, a bit less safe for the benefit of others, even our enemies, I just don’t think we really understand the grace and compassion of a healthy and loving God who was crucified to welcome the very dangerous, very sick and very poor sinners into a holy nation.

At least that’s my two cents.

Some Thoughts about Red Cups and Red Nosed Reindeers

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The Christmas lights are the snow! #mindblown

Personally I am offended.  The Christmas I grew up celebrating was all about snow.  That was the object of worship in Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”.  That was the scene plastered all over every Holiday storefront window.  That was the scenery which Rudolph traversed to save Christmas.  And who can forget
that wonderful snow storm when George Bailey discovered what life would be like without him.  Snow is what Christmas is all about, which is why I have started wishing everyone a “Merry Snowiday” or a “Merry Snowmas” depending on their religious 
preferences.

Nothing says Christmas like snowmen with teeth! This way they can chew the Christmas ham.

So when Starbucks issued a statement saying that their Christmas cups will no longer feature snow, I was offended.  I wasn’t offended for any religious reason.  I’m just mad that nobody called me and asked what I wanted on my Snowmas cup.  After all, besides snow, December (or Snowmember) is all about me.  It is about what I want, what I get, what I give and how often I feel the Snowmas spirit deep down inside my body.  If somebody from the evil Starbucks corporation had called and asked me what to put on snowiday cups, my answer obviously would have been those evil snowmen from Doctor Who.  I watched that episode a week or so ago and it was the last time I felt the Snowmas spirit.  It would appear those lousy liberals at Starbucks don’t think Snowikah should be about me any more.

Before the internet we didn’t know how stupid people were.

Of course, I am not the only one offended this season.  It turns out my entire Facebook feed is offended because someone somewhere is offended at the Starbucks cups.  Yes, this particular crisis is so “meta” that we are offended because others are offended.  And, yeah, this post is even more meta as I am expressing my disapproval of those people who are offended because others are offended.

I am not actually offended, nor do I care about what some crazy guy who wouldn’t even have an audience in the non internet age thinks about Starbucks cups.  And the cups themselves don’t offend me.  Nor am I offended by the millions of people who flocked to Facebook to say, “I’m not them!”

However, I do wonder if there are other, more crucial areas in our life when we over react to overreactions like we all overreacted to this.  I wonder how often we do it in our marriages, our families, our churches, our business places, our politics.  After all, any therapist will tell you that when someone is yelling at you they are not really yelling at you and what they are yelling about isn’t what they are actually angry about.

Instead they are yelling because they feel marginalized, invisible, misheard and they think you, or the entire internet, may be a safe place to become visible again.  If that is the case, then by overreacting to their crazy, you become crazy.  After all, you are the one telling the marginalized person how stupid they are.

So instead I have learned that the solution is to ask great question like, “Why do you think those Starbucks cups set off an angry rant inside of you?”  “What is it about crazy people who don’t like Starbucks that makes you run to the internet to let everyone know how crazy they are?”  “Why does the absence of snow during the holidays leave you miserable inside?” “Should we say Happy Snowmas or Merry Snowidays or just sing ‘Snow, Snow, Snow’ from ‘White Christmas?'”  “Are all snowmen with teeth evil or just some of them?”  “How great was that Doctor Who episode?”

These questions open up dialog which leads to understanding which helps with self awareness.  And our world needs so much more of those things, especially during this glorious Snowmas season.

Happy Snowidays!

A Pastor’s Dilemma: When People Are Wrong on the Internet

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Someone was wrong on the internet this week.

I will let you have a couple moments to calm down from that shocking realization before I tell you who it was.  .  .

It was a wonderful human being with a heart of gold.   They were perusing their feed when they read something they found fascinating.  The title probably made them laugh and they thought they could brighten your day by sharing it.  They were probably in a hurry, having more important things to do than obsess over the facticity of Facebook memes.  So in a moment of weakness they forgot to run the article’s title through Google or Snopes before posting it and now it is out there for everyone to see.

And you judged them!  Or chances are you did.  After all, I did.  I read their dumb meme while thinking to myself, “I don’t see anyway on earth that that could be true.”  Because I apparently have nothing better to do with my time than obsess over the facticity of Facebook memes, I took a minute or two or thirty to read the incredibly lengthy Snopes explanation of why this meme is mostly false.

After that I went back to Facebook, with the copied Snopes URL in hand (or in the cloud) ready to prove my superiority over that kindly but naive person who still has not learned to use the internet.

They won in the end on account of being a decent human being, albeit a less informed one.

None of that really happened to me this week but I have done it in days past and I see people doing it all the time.

And yes, we should be careful about what we retweet, repost or rehash for each other.  A lie is a lie no matter what media we share it with.  Yet at the end of the day there are greater sins than being wrong on the internet.  Take for example, the sin of judging people who are wrong on the internet.

In fact the other day I was reading over that Matthew 7 passage about not judging people.  I found that after Jesus’ rather blunt command, (Judge not!) he has a lot of fun with a plank of wood and a speck of sawdust.  I am not quite sure what Jesus would have classified as “plank” and “sawdust” but I am pretty sure being wrong on the internet has more in common with the latter.

Therefore I am trying to get God to heal me of my incessant need to prove my Snopes surfing abilities to all those who are wrong on God’s good internet.

Here are some guidelines that might help us all out with that:

  1. Don’t correct people’s spelling or grammar.  God did not invent the rules of language.  They are not legalistic markers of holiness that when violated give Satan keys to your kingdom.  They are just some silly but important rules we made up in order to communicate well with each other.
  2. Ask yourself if there is a legitimate debate to be had or just points to be scored for your pre-chosen side.  This especially comes into play in political debates.  Most of us are fact checking each other in order to prove our “side” was right all along.  Instead we should be seriously tackling and debating the underlying issues.  Yes, agreement on correct data is important for serious debate.  However, if I am willing to correct your data but not willing to let mine be corrected, than that is sheer arrogance.
  3. Be gentle and private.  If you feel you must really fact check someone, send them a private message.  Or better yet, bring it up with them in a one on one meeting (if people still do those).  It is much better to be rebuked privately than publicly.
  4. Don’t fight invincible ignorance.  In Matthew 7, Jesus adds,  “Don’t give to dogs what is sacred.  Don’t throw pearls to pigs.”  The traditional interpretation of this passage is don’t waste your time and energy arguing or judging those for whom it will do no good.  I am not entirely sure I like that interpretation but I do like another oft quoted maxim.  “Don’t argue with a 3 year old.  In no time at all those watching will not be able to tell the difference.”  Or even better, “Don’t argue with an idiot.  They will drag you down to their level and beat you with their experience.”  No matter how I put it, there is much wisdom in choosing your battles and your opponents very carefully.

In closing. please use discretion and kindness when engaging your fellow internet travelers.

And remember another favorite cliche of mine, “You don’t have to show up to every fight you are invited too.”

Rethinking my Re-thoughts on God and Football

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Praise Football from whom all blessings flow! Praise touchdowns for his highness below! Okay I will stop.

I am not going to lie.  I wholeheartedly believe that Christianity’s idolization of American Football has become.  .  .well, idolatrous.  Also, I am not going to lie.  I like football.  It is a really fun game to both play and watch.  I will even go further to argue that we owe our professional entertainers (from actors to musicians to sports players) a livable wage, maybe not a wage that exceeds that of most countries, but a wage nonetheless.

Putting all that aside, I get really nervous when people start talking about God helping football players win, especially the ones who make great public spectacles of religiosity like praying after every touchdown and talking about God during press conferences.  That just seems to go against the grain of Matthew 6 a bit much.

Also, I have read other parts of Scripture, passages like, Psalm 146:7, “God upholds the cause of the oppressed” and others like it that seem to suggest that God is more concerned with things like looking out for the poor and the oppressed than with helping independently wealthy athletes score more touchdowns to get more money to cause more concussive brain injuries.  It makes me even more nervous when these athletes go home and beat up their spouses and children. (source although to be fair, countersource)

The things God seems to be engaged in doing.

I am quite passionate about this, as you can probably tell, so much so that I have blogged about it before.

However, something happened over the last couple weeks that has caused me to rethink my thoughts about God and football.  Simply put, I read Luke 6 again.

Verse 35 has always stood out to me, especially the last phrase which states quite clearly, “[God] is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

This is what God is supposed to do to wicked people!

The God I grew up worshiping was not kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  In fact, being ungrateful was a great way to get God mad at you.  Being all out wicked (a word we reserve for the worst of the worse) was the best way to get God to pummel you into a fiery eternity.  As for entire nations of wicked people.  .  .well God would certainly disband them quite soon, even though it took God about a 1,000 years to disband Rome after the very wicked Pax Romana. But who has time for the study of history when you are trying to convince your compatriots to not be evil nor get destroyed?

Someone stop Jesus from talking on mountains. He starts to say some pretty bizarre things when he does!

And yet right there, coming from the mouth of Jesus no less, we find out that God is not actively decimating the wicked.  Instead God is showing kindness to them.  I love that Jesus used the word “kind” here instead of something more generic like, “love.”  If it were “love” we could hide behind sentimentality, saying such ridiculous things like, “God loves them but still will destroy them, but you know, out of love.”

That is not what kindness means.  Kindness means God is actively doing gracious and kind things to wicked people.  This isn’t a lone verse.  There are echoes of this in other parts of the Bible.  You can look at Mathew 5:45 watered down version where Jesus says that God sends both the sun and the rain on good and wicked people alike.  You can also look to particular narratives like God’s deaalings with Jacob in Genesis.

Concerning football this might mean that once in awhile God takes a break from upholding the cause of the oppressed to help a wicked person score a touchdown.  It might also mean no matter of prayer and religious grandstanding is going to help you win that football game.  In the end God might just offer a miraculous hail-mary catch to the “wicked” team because God decided to have some fun with our silly sports that day.

Of course, one can surmise that this would have something to do with prevenient grace.  Prevenient grace is this idea (on which I base my blog) that God’s gracious provision goes before us and meets us in our wicked states to invite us into a relationship with God.

This might mean there is no problem in telling that wicked, concussed, wife abuser of a football player that God did help him win.  Now in order to respond graciously to God’s grace, he should leave his violent sport and lifestyle, give all his money to the poor, seek forgiveness from those he has harmed and offer himself as a living sacrifice to God’s mission of helping oppressed people.

Oooooh, concussive brain injuries, yum!

Or maybe this has nothing to do with prevenient grace and God just enjoys blessing the wicked because that is who God is by nature.

Or maybe I was right at the very beginning of all this, that God really doesn’t want anything to do with American Football, no matter how many football players offer shallow prayers after touchdown drives and “give the God the glory” during press conferences.

If that last scenario is the case, then I guess I will conclude with The Hunger Games’ popular mantra, “May the odds [of your favorite team] be ever in [their] favor” because God probably isn’t.

What Bernie Sanders Should Have Said About Abortion

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I am fully aware that this is a risky blog post.  In no other area are social conservatives and progressives so much divided as in the debate about abortion.  Both sides have fully made up their minds and whenever abortion comes up they talk over and under and around each other, repeating the now very old talking points that score points with their bases while alienating any who are still undecided.

With that said, the political scientist in me absolutely loved Bernie Sander’s address to Liberty University’s chapel on Monday.  I love that they invited him to speak and I love that he accepted the invitation because, as he put it, “I believe it is vitally important for those of us who hold different views to be able to engage in civil discourse.”

And for the most part, that is what happened at Liberty University last Monday, though Sanders certainly still spoke very forcefully about this own moral/ethical views.  He was the most at his game when he spoke about how we treat our children who are living in poverty.  In fact, he put it most poignantly and poetically when he asked, “Are you content? Do you think it’s moral when 20 percent of the children in this country [are] living in poverty?”

He goes on to describe how our economic system ravages our most vulnerable children in order to show favor to the “billionaire class.”  It was the best part of the speech.

As was fully expected during the brief Q&A, abortion came up.  The question, stated by Liberty University’s Vice President, went like this, “You have talked about how it is immoral to protect the billionaire class at the expense of our most vulnerable children.  A majority of Christians would agree with you but would also go further and say that children in the womb need our protection even more.  How do you reconcile the two?” (39:20 in the clip below)  The Vice President also noted that it was the most popular and most asked question, which was substantiated by an almost standing ovation as the question was asked.

Despite how obvious the question is, it is still a very brilliant and fair one.  Sander’s answer was no less obvious but far less clever.  He reiterated the standard talking points of pro-choice types, muttering something about how the government shouldn’t be telling every single woman how to make health choices about her body.  His official answer was something like, “I understand the very painful and very difficult choice that women have to make and don’t want the government telling them what they have to do.” (40:30 below)

That is a fair answer but a tired one and one that doesn’t quite understand the underlying pathos of the pro-life movement, whose reasoning is more along the lines, “God all ready told them what to do and it is just the government’s job to enforce God’s decision.”  But I do not expect a Jewish Progressive to fully realize or answer that line of thinking.

Putting that aside, this whole interchange (or lack thereof) felt tired and it annoyed me a little, more so as I thought about it this week.  I understand the debate about abortion is now 40-50 years old and it barely registers as a talking point any more except in early voting conservative states and the deep south Bible belt.

Yet there is still progress to be made here for children, the unborn and their mothers who are in those difficult days making those difficult decisions.

For one there is still the underlying hypocrisy on both sides of the debate.  It is a hypocrisy a now retired college professor of mine summed up perfectly when he said, “Democrats don’t seem to care about a child before it is born.  Republicans don’t seem to care about a child after it is born.”  It is a scathing reality underlying this whole debate and there is a fair amount of propaganda pointing at it on both sides but the propaganda never goes so far as to answering that hypocrisy with honesty.

So without digging my grave any deeper, I admit that I wish Sanders would have risen to the challenge and addressed his own hypocrisy and the opposing hypocrisy of the evangelicals.  I wish there was room on both sides to admit we are all being hypocrites.

Therefore, I would like to step into Sanders’ shoes and offer my own answer to the hypocrisy question.

Here is what I might have said, “Yes, the unborn children in this country are very vulnerable.  The recent headlines about Planned Parenthood have made that abundantly clear.  Yes, I care about the mothers in unfortunate situations who are having to make the very difficult decisions during these unexpected or unwanted pregnancies and I question how effective the government can really be in helping them make the most informed and compassionate decision.

However, I also fully acknowledge that a child’s vulnerability does not end at birth!  The most important and crucial development happens in the first 4 years of a child’s life.  We have an economic system that heaps abuse and insults on these children, especially if those children are born with the wrong skin color, in the wrong country or to low income families in low income neighborhoods.  They are not getting the nutrients they need.  They are not getting the exercise they need.  They are not getting the love and support from parents and grandparents they need (which is why family values are still extremely important).  We must do more for children both born and unborn!  We must do it consistently and compassionately all throughout their childhoods and even into adulthood, not just stopping at birth or a few weeks after.”

Such an answer would have at least acknowledged the hypocrisy and allowed for a greater discussion that might just expose how limited our care and concern for the “vulnerable” really is.  Or maybe I am just daydreaming carelessly about a world where we can actually talk to each other, not around each other.

I will let you decide.  Be that is it may, the full speech with Q&A is below.

Also here is a link to Rachel Held Evans’ 2 year old post about abortion that is one of the best I have ever read.

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/why-progressive-christians-should-care-about-abortion-gosnell