The U.S. Needs A Fifth Party

It’s fair to say that the majority of people aren’t thrilled with the current political landscape. You, dear reader, have probably vented some frustrations in the break room, in a Facebook post, or around the dinner table.

This is nothing new.  Even before Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump clinched their respective nominations people had a bad taste in their mouths from politics.

Political polarization has been on the rise for years. (Pew Research Center, 2014) Each party has pushed the other to their respective extremes, preventing cooperation. We see this everyday on the news, but the most serious evidence of this is the government shutdown of 2013. (Politico, 2013) Republicans & Democrats were so polarized that they become impotent. They couldn’t compromise enough to do their jobs and pass a budget.

As if polarization isn’t a big enough problem, add to the mix the disdain of the two party system. Americans are more disillusioned with the two party system than they have ever been. (Gallup, 2015) It seems the vast majority of voters settle for a vote against an opponent they disagree with, rather than for a representative they’re excited about.

So Americans are forced to compromise in electing representatives to the highest offices in the country, simply because they think they only have two options. Neither of which excite the majority of the public.

It should not be this way.

If we compromise our values and beliefs to elect a politician, how can we fault them when they compromise theirs?

We should not settle when it comes to electing our leaders. The stakes are too high. Simply put, we need more options.

The US needs more than two parties.

All signs point to it. The trends above suggest people are ready for it. The idea isn’t really radical at all. The US political system shouldn’t be controlled by two parties when nearly half of its citizens don’t identify with either. (Gallup, 2015)

Luckily, there is another viable option: Gary Johnson of the Libertaian Party. The merits of the Johnson Weld ticket and the Libertarian Party as a whole are too numerous to expound upon here, so I have linked resources for you.

I am thrilled for the Libertarian Party to have a strong presence this year. I will most likely vote Libertarian for my first presidential election. I encourage you to check into Johnson and the Libertarians. They can topple the duopoly in Washington with your vote.

Jill Stein of the Green Party is also making a relatively strong showing in polls. People are beginning to support outsiders in bigger numbers.

These third and fourth options are a wonderful start, but I feel there is more that should be done.

I think many millions of Americans could rest comfortably in the Libertarian party, but I recognize that some wouldn’t. However, there’s no reason voters should align with either Republicans or Democrats if they don’t feel compelled to.

If not Libertarian, Amercians should have the option of Green PartyReform Party,  American Solidarity Party, or Constitution Party candidates.

I’m encouraged by the third and fourth party support, but why not a fith party?

Brazil has 5 parties. Finland has 6 parties. Germany has 6 partiesDenmark has 9 parties.

There’s no reason a developed country as diverse as the United States should be limited to two parties. If you perfectly align with Republicans or Democrats that’s great, but there are millions who do not. Especially this year. 

The US could transform into a multiparty system that’d more accurately represent the spectrum of views held by its citizens.  It’s entirely possible for the parties above and others yet to gain traction to be represented in all levels of government.

This is an awesome idea, but nothing changes if nothing changes. Other parties only rise if you vote for them.

I encourage you check into the Libertarians and other parties this election cycle. Your vote is only as limited as you make it.

Should Businesses Refuse Services To Protest LGBT Legislation?

The issue of transgender bathroom use has been a divisive topic recently. There’s a wealth of commentary on nearly every side of the issue. There are even some sympathetic, nuanced perspectives that I think are profitable.

I don’t have much to add the primary conversation, but one thing that struck me was the protest from businesses and individuals.

Bruce Springsteen, PayPal, Disney, and others have boycotted or threatened action in response to legislation concerning transgender bathroom use and other LGBT issues.

Not surprisingly, there was a public response to those actions. These businesses and individuals were met with praise and criticism alike. Public policy issues like this draw plenty of commentary, but it’s always a mixed bag. My concern is not with the quantity of commentary, but the quality.

There seems to be some inconsistency in the attacks and affirmations.

The same people that currently praise these businesses criticized others standing up for their convictions. Likewise, the same people that currently criticize these businesses praised others for doing the same.

I immediately thought of the Christian baker controversy of last year. These bakers didn’t want to bake a cake for a homosexual marriage, as motivated by their beliefs.

Generally speaking, social liberals called these bakers bigoted, while social conservatives praised their convictions. The roles seem to have been reversed this time. Social conservatives call PayPal and others bullies, while social liberals applaud their actions.

This is an incredibly hypocritical stance on both sides.

If Christian bakers should have the right to refuse service other businesses should too. Similarly, if the Christian bakers are bigots for refusing service then other businesses are too.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

It’s totally unfair to ostracize one business for acting on its convictions while admiring another for doing the exact same thing. Social liberals and social conservatives are both guilty of this.

I suppose you can argue that only businesses with your beliefs and convictions should be able to boycott or refuse services. That’s a biased position, but you can hold it.

You cannot, however, argue that it is a business’s right to do so. If so, then other businesses you don’t agree with have license to protest as well.

Sometimes we might have to grit our teeth through a protest or boycott, even if we don’t agree with the beliefs behind it. Our beliefs may motivate a boycott or protest in the future.

So should businesses refuse services for their beliefs?

That’s a complicated question that I cannot answer for you. However, regardless of your stance on that question, you should be consistent in your answer.

What are you thoughts?

Street Vendor Gospel

I just got back from a family trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a wonderful city and my family and I always have a great time when we go. I highly recommend visiting Vegas if you have the opportunity.

The issue of a Christian family in big, bad Sin City is a different post for a different time. Instead, I’d rather speak to something I remember from my previous visit to Vegas.

Our last trip to Las Vegas was a few years ago. I was around 10 or 11, but I don’t remember much from the trip. However, there is one specific memory that still sticks out from our walk on Fremont Street.

fremont_street
Fremont Street Las Vegas, NV. (vegasexperience.com)

I remember my family and I walking down Fremont Street and
it
was
amazing
.

I was surrounded by vibrant lights and sounds. People speaking different languages were passing me by. Vendors selling everything from phone cases to watches were calling out to me and my family as we walked down the street. It was so exciting. This had to be past 9 p.m., which was super late for me as a 10 year old. I was living it up in the big city.

I soon noticed a man that was a little different from the rest. He was accosting every passerby, but wasn’t getting much of a response from anyone. He wasn’t coarse or rude, just loud and impersonal.

A sign was draped over his shoulders and his megaphone was piercing clearly through the roar of Fremont Street.

This guy’s sign focused more on Hell and eternity, rather than calling out sins, but you get the idea. We’ve all seen these people before. Despite all of his effort, this man didn’t draw anything more than a few disgusted looks and rolled eyes.

Our megaphoned crusader was attempting to tell people about the Gospel.  This 10 year old theological titan (ha.) didn’t hear any gross missteps or errors. None of his views seemed to be way out there…

But the Gospel wasn’t penetrating to a single heart. He was seen and heard by hundreds but didn’t reach anyone. What was the problem?

He was viewed as another vendor on the street. 

This guy with a sign and a megaphone didn’t seem to be making any friends, much less winning lives for Christ.

I felt terrible for this guy. I felt like he had missed something. The way to reach lives for Christ is through relationships, not shouting at them as they pass by. Jesus himself ate, drank, and partied with people so he could talk with them, not at them.

This street vendor presentation of the Gospel was cold and impersonal, which was exactly opposite of the strategy Jesus employed. Jesus met in people’s homes, went to their feasts, and met their children as he was reaching them.

Why though? Jesus already knew their hearts because he was sovereign God. He didn’t have to visit with them, or take the time to build a relationship. But he did. So what does that tell us?

Personal relationships are vital to sharing the Gospel.

If we are aiming to be disciples of Jesus that means interfacing with people the way that he did. Jesus did speak to thousands at a time, but he also took time with individuals.

Jesus built these relationships everywhere he went.  Just think back to a few people he met in his ministry.

Jesus met his first 4 disciples, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John at their workplace (Matt. 4:18-22).

He also went to people’s homes, like he did with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).

Jesus met with people alone, like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-42).

He also met people in crowded places, like the lame man near the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15).

People have to know we truly care for them, or our pleas for salvation will only seem like another sales pitch. We have to learn a heart before winning it to Christ. So the obvious needs to be pointed out.

Strategies aimed at reaching everybody are sometimes great ways to reach nobody.

Huge campaigns and movements are definitely powerful tools, but arguably the best way for real, lasting growth of the Church is through personal relationships. The first century Church exploded because of their intentionality in relationships.

How does that look for us in 2015, though?

Take someone to lunch. Invite them to your home. Go with them to the doctor. Join them in their hobbies. Grab coffee before work. Take them to a movie. Go to their child’s ballgame. Spending quality time with someone nurtures a relationship that can easily turn into a witness of its own.

We are called to love people, and to love them well. Our message of love and acceptance has so much more authority when people experience it first hand in the way we treat them.

So I want to encourage you, Church. Intentionally build relationships with your eyes looking towards eternity. Love people in the way Christ did—personally. Beware of the Street Vendor Gospel. It can easily come across as casting stones, rather than sowing seeds.

 

Happy Birthday Abe: My 5 Favorite Abraham Lincoln Quotes

February 12th is President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

Lincoln was a bold president that exemplified leadership in adversity. His management during the Civil War was pivotal in restoring the United States. He faced opposition not only from the South, but from leaders within his own party. He failed in politics many times before his presidency, but held office in a turbulent time to become one of the greatest presidents in United States history.

The troubles he faced bred wisdom, and he shared that wisdom with the world. Here are just a few of my favorite quotes from Lincoln:

1. “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”

2. “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

3. “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

4. “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”

5. “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

These are profound words that are still applicable today. Take them to heart, and have a wonderful day!

Thanks for reading!

The Esqualine Gate (1/15/13)

WONDERFUL post on crucifixion and taking up our own cross. Check out Two Rivers if you haven’t before!

THE RIVER WALK

The Esqualine Gate

If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39)

Read: Genesis 31:17-32:12, Matthew 10:24-11:6, Psalm 13:1-6, Proverbs 3:16-18

Relate: The Esqualine Gate was the gateway between the City of Rome and the Emperor’s gardens. Some of the most luxurious parts of the city, like Nero’s golden house and the bath houses of Titus and Trajan, were located near the gate. Just outside the gate sat the Gardens of Maecenas atop the Esqualine Hill. These were the property of the Emperor and only those he favored were allowed to visit them. But it wasn’t the bathhouses, the Golden house, or even the gardens that the Esqualine Gate was famous for. This gate was the place of the…

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A Thought on Christians at College

The following is from my Facebook post from my first week of college. I shared it here because it’s just as relevant as it was my first week at college. This is something I have to constantly remind myself of. I hope you enjoy:

I’ve lived at college for right at a week now and have already overheard horror stories of overbearing, condescending Christians. “They think they can damn everyone with a different lifestyle straight to hell.” (That’s an actual quote) 

Let that NOT be said of us, myself definitely included. I’m called to love God first, then my neighbor next. (Mark 12:30&31) How can I lead them to the love of Christ when I become the mascot for hate?

Jesus never stood at a synagogue and wagged his finger at those who weren’t there.

Jesus met people where they were.He met people over food & drink, over a healed loved one, over a loving conversation. He did so with a heart of love, as I am called to: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12 ESV)

Jesus also approached these people differently to reach them. He spoke to Pharisees about the Mosaic Law and their corruption of it. But when talking in large crowds he used parables of common objects like salt, light, sheep, rebellious sons, seeds, beggars, virgins, and Samaritans because everyone understood those images.

Paul modeled this perfectly, he talks to Jews about the law because it reaches them. But when speaking to Gentiles the law is useless. He understands and relates to others to lead them to Christ:                                                                                                                                                               “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-23 ESV) 

Paul met people where they were, and I have to as well.

Jesus understood and related to people, that’s why his message was delivered with such sincerity and power. That’s why it was effective. I must learn a heart before I can help lead it closer to Christ.

So let me NEVER compromise or change the Gospel, but let me change how I deliver it. I should NEVER be brash, coarse, argumentative, pious, hateful, or condescending. I SHOULD be loving, understand, patient and Christ-like.

I challenge you to do the same.