Politics and Public Life

A Voter’s Guide: 5 Criteria for Evaluating the 2016 Presidential Candidates

Nothing could have prepared us for the 2016 election cycle. The major parties, presidential candidates, and television networks set low standards from the beginning and then consistently failed to achieve them. In fact, polls show that most Americans consider both major party nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, unacceptable. Some Americans have decided to hold [ Read More ]

2 Planks Necessary in a Platform for Future Evangelical Political Witness

It is no secret that something is deeply wrong with American politics and public life. We are alarmed by the unrest and violence that surrounds us. We are disturbed by the toxic nature of public conversation about matters that are important to our common life together.

We sense that we are being hoodwinked by the people we elected to office. Politicians often say one thing to get elected and do another thing once they enter office (I think it was William Buckley who once said that a politician is a person of his most recent word). More significantly, they lie to us on matters of the greatest significance (as the great political philosopher Dennis Miller once said, “Washington, DC is to lying what Wisconsin is to cheese).

We sense that our past political witness has, in some ways, failed.

In addition to these sorts of concerns held by many or most Americans, conservative evangelicals are disillusioned with the fact that the past few decades’ worth of political activism seem not to have paid off. Worse, it seems to have backfired.
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Should Evangelicals Be Pessimistic about American Politics and Public Life?

Concerning the past ten years in American politics and public life, one thing is for sure: many conservative evangelicals feel like the cultural ground beneath us has shifted to rapidly and so decisively that we many never regain our footing.

We have lost ground democratically. We realize in very tangible ways that many and maybe most Americans differ significantly with our vision of the good life. They differ from us in our view of the origin and destiny of the universe, the nature and purpose of human life in this world. They reject our view of the givenness of gender and the purpose of sexuality, and of the value of human life in the womb. They are skeptical about the value and public significance of a robust view of religious liberty. And much more. So we find it difficult to believe that we can restore a Judeo-Christian vision of the good life through democratic means.

But it gets worse.
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The Reluctant Fundamentalist

With the rise of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and with the increase in terror attacks on the United States and its European allies, Americans are still sorting out why it is that people would hate “us” that much. The answer to this question is complex and multi-faceted, and varies from “hater” to “hater.” But the complexity of the motivations should not keep us from trying to gain some understanding—however limited—of the situation.

One attempt to shed light on the situation is a slim little novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, published a few years ago by Mohsin Hamid. Because it is written by a Pakistani who was educated in the United States, and because it is a well-written and brief work of fiction, I recommend The Reluctant Fundamentalist as a way of gaining insight into some people’s perception of the United States.
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2016 Election Cycle: Why Should Evangelicals Even Care Anymore?

Last week FBI director James Comey announced the bureau would not recommend criminal charges in Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information. He charged her with being “extremely careless” but stopped short of seeking an indictment.

No indictment, after the FBI discovered Clinton had used her private server repeatedly to discuss classified national security issues. No indictment, after the FBI proved Clinton had done the very things she so emphatically denied ever having done. After she called the investigation a right-wing conspiracy and a witch hunt. Hillary Clinton is the former Secretary of State. How can she get away with breaking the law, endangering national security, and telling pants-on-fire lies to the American people?

It appears that the American system is rigged. That our country’s laws are only for the “little people,” but not for blue-blood political royalty. So why should everyday Americans bother to be involved in the political process, if it’s so obviously corrupt? Why should we even care anymore? [ Read More ]

Black and Tired, Blue in the Face: An Evangelical Response to the Shootings

It seems like our country is burning down right in front of our faces. If not burning down, it is at least deeply divided and dripping with blood.

In the aftermath of this week’s breaking news about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile—black men being shot to death by white police officers—many black Americans are not only frustrated and angry but also afraid. They are afraid that “justice and equality for all” doesn’t apply to their sons. They are afraid to let their sons go outside at night for fear that a routine traffic stop could spell the end of their life. They are emotionally exhausted. They are black and tired.

At the same time, in the wake of other breaking news about five Dallas police officers killed in the line of duty—white officers shot to death by a black sniper—many law enforcement personnel are not only afraid, but angry. They are frustrated and hurt that some of the very citizens they seek to protect now treat them with suspicion or resentment. Law enforcement officers have to make split-second decisions and they do their best, they say, but it doesn’t always go as planned. If they’ve said it once, they’ve said it a hundred times. They are blue in the face. [ Read More ]

Evangelicals, Here’s Why the Clinton Email Scandal Still Matters (Even after The F.B.I. Closed its Case)

On Tuesday, James B. Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that the bureau would not recommend criminal charges in Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information. He charged her with being “extremely careless” but stopped short of seeking an indictment for gross negligence. During the early months of the FBI’s investigation, she emphatically [ Read More ]