Doubt (and Hip-Hop)

So as a 30-year-old, VERY white, rural-raised and rural-serving pastor, I am finally getting into hip-hop.

Really.  I’ve listened to DAMN. quite a few times, HNDRXX and FUTURE have made it into my rotation, and obviously Coloring Book and Awaken, My Love have been listened more than is rational because I’m a white guy just now getting into hip-hop.

(Note: I believe Awaken, My Love is one of the greatest albums ever released, and it will age like Abbey Road and Kind of Blue.  But again, super-white and super-uncool.)

I found myself listening to Logic’s Everybody and specifically “Confess” with Killer Mike last night and the speech that Killer Mike does at the end of the song stopped me cold.

The whole song is wonderful (if rough and clearly NSFW) but here’s the speech in question.

Lines like this just dig so deep into everything that I am thought in my doubts and my struggles:

But tonight, I am in this church
Asking you to show yourself, to reveal yourself to me
Because I’m tired and I don’t know what else to do
– Killer Mike

Go right to Thomas.  Go right to any prayer that goes unanswered.  Go right to begging God to save the body and life of the people you love most, and God not giving you a “Yes.” to that prayer.  Go right to seeing violence and hatred and the powerful forgetting God and believing in their own divinity while the weak yet faithful are sacrificed and slaughtered.  Go right to see the new nation of South Sudan tear itself apart, like so many other African nations.

Go right to a world covered in darkness after that glorious Easter event, and tell me you don’t want to scream those exact words at God.

Killer Mike captured Job, captured the Samaritan woman at the well, captured Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, captured every pained cry every hospital and hospice everywhere.

If only I could have that much vulnerability in the pulpit.  How much more powerful would our preaching be if those words – universal words of pain and doubt – would not just come from our lips as we deliver God’s Word, but be a norm of our preaching?  How much closer would I be with the people I serve if that sort of vulnerability would so effectively come from my tongue in the pulpit?

So if you out there, do something about this
‘Cause I can’t take it no more
Help me
– Killer Mike

That’s soul-baring prayer.  That’s bringing everything to God, out loud, not hiding behind being proper or PC, but just brining everything to God.

May I be that vulnerable.

Peace,

– Robby

Do Something

I awoke at 6:30.  Yesterday my big toe hurt a little; today it was killing me and, come to find out, I am struggling to walk (and Dr. Google diagnosed me with gout, which is a bit deflating, not going to lie).   The dog was very sluggish this morning, which caused me to worry until she finally decided it was time to wake up and want to go walk right that instant (and don’t forget the toe).  She got a very short walk.

I got to the office and went to update the printer firmware that I’ve been meaning to update for months but kept forgetting to bring a USB cable with me.  I went to the printer, and could not for the life of me remember what I set the administrator pin to.  I spent 20-30 minutes kicking myself, trying to find how to factory reset the printer, and then finally remembering the incredibly simple and easy to remember pin that I set up.

THANKFULLY the firmware update went without a hitch and Google Cloud Print set up super easy.

That gets me to about 20 minutes ago.  I don’t want to do anything.  The office is cold – I really thought we were done with needing the heat last week – and my toe is still killing.  I’m out of filtered water and the tap water is questionable most days.  I think I slept well – Nora was complaining about storms and I’ll tell you, I have no recollection of a storm last night – and I have caffeine in my system, but I feel exhausted and all I want to do is curl back up in bed and try again tomorrow.

I have work to do.  I hadn’t even considered Sunday in a concrete way until right before I typed this sentence.  Computer games and distractions are calling my name, and it would be so easy to succumb to that temptation and get nothing done today.

I was ready to walk out the door and go to lunch WAY early when something just kind of starting gnawing at me:

Do something.

Sometimes we get to the point where there is too much to do and we just don’t know which task to tackle first.  Sometimes there is a LOT of things that are outside of your hands and you are just twiddling your thumbs, waiting for it to others to take action so you know where you stand.  Sometimes you just can’t focus and the office you actually kinda like becomes oppressive and draining.

Sometimes you just want to curl up and give up for no particular reason.

Do something.  Do anything.

That’s part of why this blog is a thing for me.  It’s something real, tangible, helpful to do.  Is it the work I have to accomplish today?  No, no it is not.  Is it going to impress some church looking at my PIF?  Very unlikely.

Is it something that I did, that I accomplished, that I can say to myself that I was capable of working on?  Absolutely, and I can already feel my motivation coming back and getting my mind ready to do the work after lunch.

I don’t know, maybe I’ll post it and take it down tomorrow, but for me, those two words kind of got me out of the rut and back onto the path of accomplishing actual work today.

Do something.

Peace,

– Robby

How Wonderful to be Thomas

Nora and I were talking a week or so ago and she said something that stuck with me.  She definitely isn’t the first to say it, but her earnestness and the emotion behind it just hit me:

How amazing would it have been to be one of the few who saw Jesus after he was raised and to have confirmation that it is all real?

I preached on Doubting Thomas this week* and aside from all the other stuff you can pull from the story, there was something that hit me like a ton of bricks as I was preparing:

How amazing would it have been to be able to stick your fingers in the holes and know, as a matter of proven fact, that Jesus is the Messiah, and that it’s all real?  How wonderful would it be to have confirmation?

We are so ready to start beating up on Thomas because he doubts, but every last one of us – every last one of us – truly wants to be him.  Every believer, at least at some point in their faith journey, wants to have a real and tangible sign that God exists and that we’re worshiping a real thing.  We each have a moment where God isn’t real, where there is no God, where it’s all a lie and we’re just on this Earth walking towards a pointless end.

How wonderful would be it be to have confirmation?  How wonderful to have Jesus say to you, “Stick you finger in my hands.  Stick your hand in my side.”?  How wonderful, when the world has given you nothing but darkness and pain, to gaze upon the risen Savior and know that it is all real?

I realized, as I prepared and preached and I walked the dog this morning, that I want to be Thomas.  My soul wants to be able to doubt and then have Jesus actually stand before me and allow me to investigate his risen body to know that it is actually him, that he was raised from the dead, that it’s all real.

I think we often forget to acknowledge how hard it is to have faith, especially in something unseen.  Thomas doubted and he spent three years living with, ministering with, and learning from Jesus, seeing the miracles and the proof of his divinity.  Thomas doubted when there was no reason for him to doubt (and he was in good company as the other disciples doubted, as well).

Having faith is hard, especially when life is hard and you feel nothing but darkness.  Thomas doubted because he was rightfully afraid and it made no sense.  I doubt because I pray fervently and yet my prayers are often not answered in the way I want, and my life on this Earth is harder when my prayers were to make it easier.*  We each have reason to doubt; it’s human.

How wonderful it would have been to be Thomas, to have our doubts completely wiped away by gazing upon the physically risen savior.

A bit more depressing than I had intended, but a good thought following my sermon yesterday.  I’ll link the YouTube video to the sermon when I get it edited and uploaded.  FINALLY got it edited and uploaded.  “How Wonderful is Faith.”

Peace,

– Robby


* Please read this in the general sense, not the specific sense; life is pretty good right now, and I’m looking forward to an unknown new chapter when that opportunity makes itself known and complete unfolds.

The Internet Must Be Neutral

President Trump has made a major goal to end Net Neutrality.  Not making it up; Sean Spicer said as much.  I will attempt to write this as a pastor, not as someone who was a techie in a past life or a consumer, but as a pastor.  This is a response to something that I find abhorrent, and I have made it a promise to call out those things I find abhorrent no matter the letter behind the name.

The idea of Net Neutrality is simple: every bit of data is equal.  As long as bandwidth exists, no data has priority.  There is a conversation about entertainment and competition in that field, but that is not part of my pastoral view.

I care about information.  I believe that the internet has had the greatest effect on the availability of information of any technology in the history of humanity.  The printing press brought the written word to people; the internet brings all of the written words to everyone.

All information, today, is equal.  No one can pay to make certain information more available than other information, no one can pay to make it arrive faster, no one can pay to give it priority.  Within the constrains of the present technology, all information is neutral.

Removing Net Neutrality changes that.  It allows ISPs to provide “Fast Lanes” for those who are willing/able to pay.  Again, not going to talk about entertainment and business, only information.  If a certain news company can pay for the fast lane, and another news company cannot (or will not), then their news and their information is more available.

If this is allowed to happen, money will begin to determine “truth.”  Those who are rich will tell those who are not the information they deem important enough to spend money getting into the “Fast Lane.”  Those with power and resources will be able to effectively restrict information by making it more and more difficult to access unless they approve it by paying to make it more available.

Information must be neutral in terms of availability if the internet is to continue having the great effect on the civilization that is has now.  If information becomes prioritized by money, that effect will slowly die and the internet will not longer be the great thing it is now.

The internet must be neutral.

– Robby

P.S.: I know this does not scratch the surface of competition, monopolizing services, or the politics of regulation vs. deregulation, but, as a pastor, my only concern is that information and truth be completely available and the opportunity to judge all information be given to all people, not just the people who would determine which information gets priority.

Things That Stick With You

So I was all ready to write this very interesting piece of the faith of Judas, and it all hinged on one fact:

Judas was a Zealot.

As I was typing, something was nagging at me about that, that little voice that appeared the day I got bit by misattributing a piece to Martin Luther King, Jr. when only half were his words.  It regularly screams at me that I’m saying something that I believe to be true but can’t actually point to it being true.

So I Googled it.  And come to find out, I can’t find an academic source that says Judas was a Zealot.  I found a few pieces that say his last name (Iscariot) is possibly derived from sicarii, the Latin name for the radical Zealots who murdered their opposition.  Take a look here for a discussion on it.

Monday morning, sitting at my computer, realizing that something was part of my sermon that I don’t actually know to be true, and I preached it as gospel.  It wasn’t important – it was an illustration, and if I had said “he might have been a zealot,” the illustration was fine – but I almost feel sick knowing I made that mistake.

We all have those “facts” that stick with us, even if we have no idea where they came from.  There are people who still believe that we swallow an average of eight spiders a year during their sleep even though it has been proven to be an intentional hoax, a hoax to point out that people will believe anything.  There are people who believe vaccines cause autism and the Earth is flat.

And in this time of advertising masked as real content and fake news created to deceive*, forcing us to hear things that may or may not be true presented as gospel truth, we find ourselves with more of these “facts” that find permanent residence in our minds until we can find conclusive evidence to evict them.

We just need to be careful what we parrot as fact and use to argue our points.  We need to not let pretty infographics and angry memes distract us from research.  We need to be willing to learn and change what we “know” when the truth conflicts with our knowledge.

AND, if Judas was a zealot, he had the strongest faith of the 12.  His understanding was very flawed, but he believed Jesus was the Messiah fully.  Just because the Zealots misunderstood what end the sword salvation was coming from doesn’t mean he didn’t have faith.

Maybe, just maybe, if I can find an academic source to back up the claim, I’ll flush that out a bit more.

Peace,

– Robby


*Yes, I know this isn’t new, but the internet has given it new power.

Breathing (and Practicing What You Preach)

Every year the ecumenical group here hosts a Prayer Breakfast on Holy Wednesday.  My church hosted, I lead the prayer service.  I read a piece from Urban T. Holmes’s Spirituality for Ministry (third and fourth paragraph on this page) and closed our little prayer service with encouraging those gathered to take time to find silence and talk to God during what is one of the busiest weeks of the Christian year.

The challenge was, “Christ went off the pray by himself because he needed to.  You are no better than Christ, you also need to find your time alone with God.”

Good message, I thought.  Everyone needs to breathe during Holy Week and God wants an active relationship with us as much during Holy Week as any other week.

Then I came home.  And the mountain of tasks I had to complete – or could be completing and not putting off – stared at me.  It was Holy Week, I had that magical approval to complete a PIF and make the final strides toward ordination, and because of life and tasks the house was a total disaster.  There were things that needed doing.

Giselle, bless her heart, was having none of it.  It was sunny and beautiful out, she had been cooped up inside so much over the past few months, and she could be outside and not inside, enjoying the sun more than our windows allow.  Typically she isn’t awfully demanding but that day she would not relent.

So outside we went.  She sat in the sun, I sat on a chair, and I just stopped: stopped thinking, stopped doing, stopped talking.  I let the sun hit my face, the warm air calm me, and I just enjoyed the moment, listening for God to tell me something.

God told me nothing other than to rest.  He didn’t have a message for me, a direction for me, or a task for me other than to rest.  As I would feel guilty for not doing anything, I would hear a voice telling me to stop feeling guilty and continue to rest.  My phone went off, I responded, and I felt guilty responding and doing work instead of resting.

God gave me opportunity and means to rest, and I finally took it.

15 News of him spread even more and huge crowds gathered to listen and to be healed from their illnesses.  16 But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer. – Luke 5:15-16 CEB

I’m not better than Jesus, I’m not stronger than Jesus, I need to withdraw and pray, even if it is just right outside the door, looking at the dog sun herself while I just sit still, no noise or distraction.

I hope that you can find your moments to participate in the hermit’s discipline, even if it just moments.

Peace,

– Robby

Fr(act)ured

(Author’s Note: So I firmly believe in the mentality of the devotional series Jason and Tuhina put together, and I wish life and CPE hadn’t derailed my following it on my days off, but as I’m now putting this blog on my PIF, I had to decide if I’m going to keep it up or edit it or just remove it from the blog.

I’m still a little baby, but the whole point of the devotional series was to release all the pain and not hold back.  So, it stays up.  This is just a disclaimer that I drop in F-bomb in the first sentence, and five more in within the piece. – RB)

So I’m a little baby; I’m not actually going to use #FuckThisShit on Twitter because I’m a coward of sorts, but the devotional idea is so potently wonderful that I feel like I need to actually participate fully, which I guess means that I need to be creative.

If you have NO idea what I’m talking about, Jason Chesnut and Tuhina Verma Rasche put together an advent devotional series that encouraged us to just scream #FuckThisShit and actually be in the pain and darkness that we are feeling, both to acknowledge is and say yes, it is real, and also to look forward to Christ the light in the darkness.  Acknowledge and live in the darkness, look towards the light.  The #FuckThisShit devotional series is here and the PG version (same verses, different and PG words) #RendTheHeavens here.

Today’s Prompt: Genesis 9:15b – Fr(act)ured

It took me a second to understand the prompt today.  I read that verse like I have read it so many times before, that God has said he wouldn’t do that again.  We were safe, everything was going to be fine, the rainbow is a sign that God loves us.

I have never read that verse looking from before the flood.  Never have I considered why they got to that point, why God would even be at the point where the rainbow would be necessary.  Never have I thought about the relationship God had with the people of Earth before the flood while reading the verse about God’s promise after the flood.  Never has I thought about just how fractured that relationship needed to be.

As I sat here, I found myself thinking that it should be unfathomable to us that the world would be so broken and our relationship with God so hopeless that God’s only recourse was to destroy it all – going way beyond just “burning bridges” – and try to start over.  It should be completely unfathomable that in a post-Jesus world, that the level of brokenness that lead to the flood was even possible.

It should be unfathomable, but it isn’t.  We have:

  • police violently attacking peaceful protestors that are trying to be the best stewards of the world we live in, and people who claim Christianity and claim to follow God’s law who are driving the violence.
  • a President-elect who just said anyone who burns a flag should lose their citizenship, making the flag more important that the country is represents and the values of free speech that it upholds.
  • Christians who tell segments of the population that their lifestyle is somehow worse than serial-marriages and sexual assault and they are not welcome to live in Christian community unless they meet a standard that makes the community “comfortable”.
  • Christians who believe all Muslims are evil, that they all should be killed (or at least deported), and that any sign that Christianity isn’t given special treatment is seen as persecution.
  • segments of our society that believe being a specific gender makes you a perpetrator.
  • police brutality and anti-police brutality that accomplishes nothing but shed innocent blood.
  • people who call Michelle Obama an ape and un-ironically say they aren’t racist.
  • a city that had a “Stop-and-Frisk” policy that literally stopped and frisked more black men than black men live in the city.
  • half of our country who legitimately believe that the other half is racist, bigoted, and misogynistic.
  • a considerable portion of that half that is racist, bigoted, and misogynistic that has been given voice to spew evil and hatred, calling for open persecution of marginalized and abandoned communities, and has a real expectation that their wishes will be granted.
  • mass violence that grows.
  • great, great division that grows.

That’s what we have (and I could have typed for days).  That’s what we have, and yet somehow I want it to be unfathomable that our relationship with God is so fractured that God just threw his hands up, said “Fuck this shit,” and wiped it all away?

Look around you.  Hopefully you can see love and compassion, but I know that you also see pain, and not pain because life sucks but pain because others have caused it, and caused it because of hatred or, worse yet, greed.  Look at what has happened to your relationships over the past 6 weeks; how fractured have they become?

My response shouldn’t be, “How did it get so bad?”  My response should be, “How have we fractured that relationship – again – knowing what has been given and knowing what can be taken away?”

How the hell are we so fractured when we have Jesus, we have the instruction, we know what the right answer is?  How?

Fuck this shit.  We know the violent and painful end of this, and yet we fracture ourselves and our relationship and our worship of God, anyway.

God, save us.  Save us so burning it all down isn’t the only solution.  Save us, put us back together, help us to act in love, compassion, and unity.

I’m tired, I’m broken, I need Christ.  #FuckThisShit.

– Robby

Why People Voted for Trump

(UPDATE: So as I’m editing old posts while creating the new blog, some posts beg to be deleted but I can’t just bring myself to do it.  The situation with our now President has changed, I have, from the pulpit, called him out for actions I found despicable, and yeah, it’s been a weird few months.  As I’m looking for a position (and eventually will be an installed pastor), I wonder what I should leave up, and what should disappear.

This one stays because I had a friend who was calmed because of this post.  It was a pastoral post, even if it’s a bit harsh and WAY political.  It stays because it did good. – RB)

Okay, I wasn’t going to post about this because no matter what I say on the topic, I’m going to be accused of voting for someone.  I’m not sure who, I’m not sure who is going to accuse me, I’m not sure the ramifications, but I’m tired of people saying 48% of the nation is bigots.

It’s not and you know it.

Let’s get something out of the way.  Bigots were always going to vote for Trump, minority groups for Clinton.  Right or wrong, stupid or not, that’s how it was always going to go.  But that doesn’t include the majority of people.

So how could someone vote for Trump?  Let’s take a walk down the “Lesser of Two Evils” track.

So, you have Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.  You see Trump as a millionaire bigot and Clinton as a millionaire criminal who is above the law.  Neither has your interests on their radar.  Both are going to get us into war.  Nuance – and some fact – is missing from this, but nuance and facts are often missed when selecting a candidate.

So how do they address you?  Clinton acts like you are unimportant, a benign growth on the body of the nation, while Trump at least treats you like the heart and backbone of the country.

So, you have to vote for one of them, one treats you like you are below them and the other like you mean something, who do you vote for?

It’s not bigotry, it’s not racism, it’s not because rural people hate women or Muslims or (insert whatever group they were supposed to have not cared about to vote for Trump); it’s because Trump spoke to rural America while Clinton spoke at rural America.

You want fly-over states to vote for you?  You want Iowa to go back to voting for Democrats?  Treat them like they aren’t a nuisance, and that their feelings and opinions actually matter to you, and then they’ll be way more open to having a conversation about progressiveness.

And about Iowa specifically.  We are a joke until it comes to an election; then we’re 6 electoral votes that are up for grabs.  Maybe we stop treating Iowa like a joke, remember that Iowa was 2nd for marriage equality, and try to actually reach out to farmers and factory workers and rural people instead of treating them like Risk pieces.

Most people will vote for their own needs over someone else’s needs, and unless you voted for the rural person’s needs over your own, you can’t judge them for it.  It’s not bigotry, it’s not evil, it’s self-preservation as far as they can tell.

And it’s not stupidity, either.

That’s it.  I’m posting it, consequences be damned.  Maybe, just maybe, we can try to understand each other – and why we make the decisions we make – a bit more instead of saying 48% of the country voted to restrict your rights and make your life more difficult.  Maybe they did what was best for them, much the same way you did what was best for you.

I’m not telling anyone what to feel.  I’m not addressing the fear that many people have.  I’m not pretending to know what is going on in the hearts and minds of the marginalized in our country.  And I’m not saying this is how people should have voted – I’m very much in favor of voting to protect the marginalized and believe they are the groups we should consider first.  What I am trying to do is explain why a rational, loving, unbigoted person might vote contrary to you.

And hopefully, we can act like a united people eventually.

Please, can we stop hurting each other and yelling at each other?  It is doing no good.

– Robby

The Problem of Pastors and Politics

I was having a conversation today…and yesterday…and Sunday about how it has been so very, very hard to keep my damn mouth shut about the political game.  I’ve slipped a few times – more this week than in all previous elections combined – but I am doing my absolute best to not tell people to vote in any way or imply that any candidate is not a Christian candidate.

I’ve wanted to.  My God, I’ve wanted to.  But I have been keeping my mouth shut.  Mostly.

I know I’m not alone, but I can’t help but notice that I have quite a few pastor friends who are quite vocal this election, and I get it.  I really do, I really, really do.  But I find myself at a crossroads.

I am a pastor(ish), and even when I am not in my pulpit, I may as well be because people are going to hear it as the pastor giving his pastoral advice.  I may not be presenting the Word of God in every moment (ESPECIALLY WHILE WATCHING DEBATES) but I am a pastor in every moment, and the words of my mouth are the words of a pastor no matter if I am commenting on the qualities of a specific sandwich at Chick-fil-A* or talking about the qualities of a specific candidate.  In every moment, my voice is the voice of a pastor.

Now if I say that a chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A* was tasty but the breading was a bit soggy, I have expert status because I eat a lot but not because I’m a pastor.  I’m just a sad, sad man at that point.  But if I say that one candidate is better than another, my being a pastor gives a level of expertise as a theologian and professional minister.  If I say a particular candidate is not a Christian and demonize them, then I have declared – even unintentionally – that the correct Christian choice is to vote against them.  If I say that the country is doomed if a particular candidate is elected, I say that using the authority I have as a pastor.

Maybe that’s how you think pastors should work, and I won’t be able to convince anyone otherwise, but consider the situation I find myself specifically and tell me how I am supposed to be political and not do a disservice to the Christians I serve, because all of them are baptized, confessing, and worshiping Christians just like me, flaws and all.

I have a staunch Trump supporter, a few that will vote Republican, a strong Clinton supporter or two, a few that will vote for Hillary, and a pile that seriously think the only answer – the absolute only answer – is for neither to be on the ballot and so they feel so helpless and hopeless.

Now let’s say that I demonize Trump and support Hillary.  The Hillary supports just feel supported, the Trump supporters no longer feel like they are welcome Christians, and those frustrated in the middle point to things that she has said that clearly go against my preaching and ask how I can support her.  Most people (or at least half) were just told – albeit possibly unintentionally – that voting for the candidate of their choosing is a sin and that they should feel ashamed.

Now reverse it.  Different people, same result.  I literally told half or more of the people in my congregation that they are sinful for disagreeing with me.

Maybe you don’t see it as forcefully as I do.  Maybe you see yourself as speaking in a voice that isn’t your pastor voice.  Maybe you believe that absolutely no real Christian could support a particular candidate – and that your view is absolutely correct.

But I do.  And before I get an onslaught of things that are wrong with both candidates, I’m watching the same news, reading the same blogs, and having the same thoughts as everyone else.  I can see – clearly – what is going on.  I don’t need you to tell me why you hate/love a particular candidate.  I am not blind or dumb.

I just don’t think it’s responsible for us to be so publicly demonizing and deifying candidates and tell those who we serve who disagree with us – that those that serve right along with us – that we hold the only possible Christian option and dissent is unacceptable.

Now jokes about voting for Mr. Potato Head and Aaron Rodgers (whom I hate with the fire of a billion suns) and expressing your frustration with how the election is shaking out is an entirely different matter.  That’s called being human, and my success as a pastor is about 75% due to my being willing to be a human.  But when you discussion of political situations turns to “Absolutely not her/him”, you tell those who disagree with you that they cannot have their position and still be Christians.

I’ll admit I hate elections, and I want my Twitter feed to go back to beer, jokes, bourbon, jokes, and occasionally a profound statement, but the rhetoric is out of hand, even if I agree with 99% of it.  We’re pastors, we have a different standard and a different calling and we should respect that even when it pains us.  We serve our congregations (or different ministries), not the political process of our country.  Think about the people you serve and if what you are saying will make them less served by you.

Rant over.  Contemplating turning the heater on in my office.

– Robby

*I hadn’t had Chick-fil-A in years and then one opened in Dubuque and I was on the road a lot and found myself having to choose take-out and now I’ve had enough Chick-fil-A for a year…

How to Choose a President

So I watched every second of the debate last night.  It was a huge mistake on my part, not likely to be made again.  But it got me thinking, how do we actually decide who it is that we have leading the executive branch of our federal government?  What is the thought process that we go through to actually make the decision?

I am not endorsing or detracting from any candidate officially (though I really, really want to…) but I think it is more than fair to give ideas on how one might decide who to vote for.  A set of questions, in a specific order, that gives you an idea of how to choose a candidate.

Remember, these are in a specific order.  Start with the first question and move down.

1. Is this candidate qualified to actually fill the role of President?

If I sent an application to an engineering firm, it would rightfully be tossed out.  Do you know why?  Because I am incapable of completing the tasks of the job I am applying for.  It doesn’t matter if I have the same design philosophy of the company, it doesn’t matter if I’m a really cool dude, it doesn’t matter if I’m fresh blood while another candidate is old hat, if I cannot complete the tasks required of me, I should not be hired.

I think all the vast majority of people – include Christians – get so caught up in the political game and black-and-white nature of partisan politics that this very simple question gets ignored.  It needs to be first on the list, period.  You don’t hire pastors as security guards – usually – and we shouldn’t hire people who can’t actually complete the tasks of President to be President.

(Sidebar: I hate capitalizing President…)

2a. (Specifically for Christians, but also applicable to others) Will this candidate embody the Greatest Commandments?
2b. (For everyone) Does this candidates actual political positions align with my moral convictions?

I tried to come up with something more instructive here, but I couldn’t.  Look at the political positions the candidate purport, look at how they speak and act, and then decide if you can give them the yes on these questions.

There is an argument that these questions (especially for Christians) should come first, but the best morality and the best politics and the best person means absolutely nothing if you can’t put those things into action.  The reality is that if someone cannot actually do the job, it does not matter how awesome they are.  There is a reason I’m not, nor will I ever be, a baseball pitcher or starting NFL quarterback.  I’m pretty awesome, but I can’t do that.

3. Is this person the best candidate for everyone who isn’t me?

I am a white male, protestant, religious, moderate, working class (and slowly clawing my way up), beer drinker, bourbon drinker, short, over-weight, non-pot smoking, writer, pastor.  And I could focus that microscope even further.  Who is best for me may not be best for my wife, or the church secretary, or the family that just moved in down the street, or the banker, or the homeless guy I gave money to that one time, or the pan-handler I gave money to that one time.

When we choose someone who is best for us, we are choosing on a very narrow microcosm to benefit with our choice.  If we decide to be a bit less egocentric in our decision-making, then we actually consider a much broader set of benefits and actually, you know, attempt to improve the world, not just our personal microcosm.

And really, everyone else being better off makes you better off, just saying.

4. Is this person the best candidate for me?

If you actually get this far, then you can actually be selfish.  If you are fortunate enough to get through all of the questions with two (or more?) candidates who can actually do the job, embody your moral convictions, and are good for everyone, then you can selfishly choose a candidate who will pass laws that will make your microscopic microcosm of the world better specifically for you.

That’s the end.  Hopefully this was unbiased enough to not actually endorse/detract from anyone specific, but I can’t guarantee that.  This is the first election where I very much wanted to just start screaming publicly about political matters, but it isn’t my place and certainly my pulpit will not be sullied by partisan politics.

– Robby