January 27, 2021

Lies, Damn Lies, and …

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “There are lies, there are damn lies, and there is the American political process.”

Jesus said, “Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). How can anyone claiming to follow his teachings possibly support the American political process?

I am convinced, and will remain so until proven otherwise, that there is not a single politician who makes any effort whatsoever to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Help, Lord, because the godly are all gone;
the faithful have completely disappeared
from the human race!
Everyone tells lies to everyone else;
they talk with slick speech and divided hearts.
Let the Lord cut off all slick-talking lips
and every tongue that brags and brags,
that says, “We’re unbeatable with our tongues!
Who could get the best of us with lips like ours?”

– Psalm 12:1-4 (CEB)

Now, lest anyone reprove me for sinking into cynicism, let me tell you that this realization actually sets me free. There’s no more pretending, no more getting my hopes up that someday, somehow, someone will get it right.

If I’m going to “take a stand” as a Christian with regard to political matters, especially on the national level in an election year like this, here is what my stand will be: I do not believe any of the the candidates. Period. 

Truth-telling does not exist in the American political process. Oh, some politicians may represent certain facts a little more accurately than others, but there is not one who tells the truth. There is not one who actually cares enough to effectively educate the public on what really goes on in Washington, how things work, and what the influences are that affect decisions.

Convention weeks are the worst. It’s all hype and bluster, half-truths and downright misrepresentations of the opponent. It’s all about putting oneself in the best light, manipulating feelings, stirring up patriotic impulses, and using propaganda and clever speeches to create brand loyalty. It’s the American advertising game writ large, and damn the truth, we will sell our product.

Here are a couple of recent examples of the dearth of honesty, integrity, and truth-telling.

First, Alice B. Rivlin’s article in the Daily Beast, “The Great Medicare Compromise,” in which she asserts that both parties are fervently engaged in shameful scare-mongering on the subject of Medicare.

If you aren’t already convinced that current politics are dysfunctional, just listen to the campaign rhetoric on Medicare. Democrats accuse Republicans of seeking to “end Medicare as we know it,” while shifting unbearable health-care costs to struggling seniors; Republicans accuse the president of crippling Medicare by transferring huge sums intended for Medicare to pay for Obamacare.

…In fact, neither side wants to destroy Medicare—or even change it very drastically. But each wants to scare seniors away from their opponents—a truly irresponsible tactic that is leading millions of fearful seniors to believe the winner might actually gut their benefits.

Rivlin shows how both sides are invested in not telling the truth about how Medicare actually works, how it is funded, and how all the parties creatively cook the books to come with their own plans to “save” it. Instead, they bombard the public with attacks on their opponents’ plans, knowing full well that neither side has any real answers. It’s not about having better ideas, strategies, and plans and communicating them in such a way that the public can understand and embrace. It is not about governing and serving America. It’s about winning. It’s about wanting to be the party in power that gets to make the decisions.

And then there is Sam Stein’s report, published in The Huffington Post about the Romney campaign’s tendency to play loose with the facts in recent ads.

Mitt Romney’s campaign said on Tuesday that its ads attacking President Obama’s waiver policy on welfare have been its most effective to date. And while the spots have been roundly criticized as lacking any factual basis, the campaign said it didn’t really care.

“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News.

Couldn’t have put it clearer myself, Mr. Newhouse. Like I said, there are lies, damn lies, and the American political process.

And before you get all bent out of shape and think I’m picking on Romney, we can take an example from FactCheck.org about the all the silly smoke being raised by the Obama camp about Romney’s taxes:

The Obama campaign strikes another low blow with a TV spot accusing Mitt Romney of “personally” approving a notoriously abusive tax-avoidance scheme and suggesting he may have paid “zero” tax. That’s badly misleading.

It wasn’t Romney who was avoiding taxes, it was Marriott Corp. And there’s no evidence to support the ad’s speculation that Romney himself paid no income tax, or that he did something illegal.

Let me say it again:  If I’m going to “take a stand” as a Christian with regard to political matters, especially on the national level in an election year like this, here is what my stand will be: I do not believe any of the the candidates. Period. Truth-telling does not exist in the American political process.

Christians have long struggled with understanding their role in the American political process. I’d like to suggest one: the church should be the prophetic voice that presents an alternative vision of society and publicly demands that our politicians tell the truth.

Instead of supporting the present political system by trying to participate in it and change it (and instead finding ourselves inevitably changed), we should start “John the Baptist Societies.”

First, these groups would leave the process and take their stand in the “wilderness,” where they would call the people to repent and put their hope in the coming Kingdom of God. N.T. Wright has argued persuasively that John’s call to repentance was not just about personal sin. It was a political statement in Herod’s day. John was calling Israel to turn from the various political solutions to foreign domination  and political corruption that were being offered and to cry out to God for a new Exodus and return from Exile. Josephus tells us that Herod beheaded John not only because the prophet called him to personal account for his marital infidelities, but because so many people were turning to him that the ruler feared an insurrection. The role of the church is similar. Recognize the absolute bankruptcy of the system, come out from it, and call people to submit to God’s rule.

Second, these groups would serve as prophets to the state, publicly calling every person and party in our political system to tell the truth and deal honestly with the public. The straw that broke the camel’s back for John was when he publicly criticized Herod’s cruelty, deceitfulness, and immorality. He lost his head — are we willing to face that? The prophets in First Testament days likewise called Israel and Judah’s kings to truth and justice. They mostly stood outside the walls of power and spoke the truth, damn the consequences. Christians should be the ultimate fact-checkers, people who insist that our dealings with one another be based on truth. Let your yes be yes and your no be no — everything else is of the devil. Jesus said that, folks.

American Christians, it’s time to face the truth. No one in Washington and no one who wants to be in Washington is telling you the truth. Set yourselves free from bondage to false hope that leads time and again to crushed expectations.

Go to the wilderness and raise your voice.


  1. Wow! Preach it, Chaplain Mike! Preach it!!! Good stuff. GREAT stuff!

    I get so annoyed with my Christian friends who bash Obama and think Romney is the Man, and then get just as annoyed at my liberal friends who think Romney is wicked and want four more years of Obama. Doesn’t anyone realize NO ONE is going to be able to fix our country’s problems if their platform is nothing but fear, lies, and why you shouldn’t vote for the other guy?

    As a believer and follower of Jesus, I’ve struggled with the answer. I like the two ideas you point out here, CM. A bit scary to think about actually doing, but perhaps the best way to get the masses to understand how broken the political system is.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I get so annoyed with my Christian friends who bash Obama and think Romney is the Man…

      Weren’t those the same Christians who before Romney cinched the nomination were making pilgrimage to God’s Anointed POTUS of the week while doing a baby dinosaur impersonation of “NOT THE MORMON! NOT THE MORMON! NOT THE MORMON!”

      And when THE MORMON(TM) wiped out the others in the primaries, suddenly Oceania Has Always Been at Peace with Eurasia.

      • Probably. But let’s not forget the Dems are no less hypocritical when a Republican prez is in power and it’s their turn to do the whole primary thing. The fact is that under the two-party system it will always be the non-incumbents with their myriad of candidates all telling everyone how worthless the other guys and gals are, until suddenly one is deemed the Blessed One and the party comes together to prop up to the masses the one who gets the party’s blessing. So this isn’t unique to Christians nor the Republican party.

      • Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia, comrade. It is Eastasia that enjoys peace with us, and always has.

  2. Light shining in the darkness! Sometimes in the land of gray, it is a joy to see the light clarify the truth! Oh, yes, light and truth and someone is on the wall proclaiming wisdom. Thank you

  3. A. Amos Love says

    Hmmm? Politician? Truth?

    How do you know, (christianize = Discern) when a politician is lying?

    Their lips are moving… 😉

  4. When you say, “leave the process and take their stand in the wilderness,” are you arguing for these societies’ members to stop voting as well? That, after all, is the only method of participation that directly matters.

    This reminds me of the interaction in “The Dark Knight” between Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon. Dent confronts Gordon over his continuing to use flagrantly corrupt cops in his unit, and Gordon responds by saying that’s all he has to draw from. Of course (SPOILER ALERT) in the end those corrupt cops turn against Gordon, so in that respect Dent was proven right. And yet…what alternative did Gordon have?

    • I will vote — holding my nose and praying for discernment as to which set of lies will cause the least harm to people and society.

      • The other Graham says

        That, regrettably, is our choice, and it is also what I will do. This election system is broken, and what it yields is what we have to choose from at the polls. I don’t have a good alternative to suggest. I will vote nonetheless, because to stay home is to make it that much easier for the greater evil (whichever side I may discern it to be) to win.

    • “We’re going to send up to 15 emails until they open them. And if they haven’t opened their email, we’re going to show up at the door and log into their laptop and help them open them”. The Christian leader was discussing an intensive strategy – including robocalls, massive mailings, door hangers, and a mammoth email campaign. One might expect this was an evangelical concerned for his neighbors’ souls, prayerfully contemplating a massive campaign to spread the Gospel. Were these the heartfelt words of someone with a burden on his heart to share the new life in Jesus Christ with the unsaved? Sorry, just Ralph Reed explaining his plans to annoy reticent evangelicals into voting for Mitt Romney.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I think I’d better reset my spam filters. (Just today I started getting URGENT POLITICAL ACTION ALERTS associated with Ron Paul.

  5. Machiavelli rules these days — and not just in politics. The church is sporting its fair share of truth benders and breakers.
    As long as some points are tacked up for the home team, then it’s okay to mislead people in the right direction.
    But then again, don’t we all do it to a certain degree.
    How slanted are my words when relating my side of a conflict?
    How accurate is the word picture I paint of people I don’t like or people I’m mad at?
    How accurate is the word picture I paint of myself when I’m off on an ego trip?
    To what extent am I even capable of seeing beyond my own self image and self interests and facing the truth of myself, others, and situations?
    Am I really any less a liar than the jerks running this country?
    In American politics we’re just seeing that ancient pagan god, Memyselfandi, strutting his stuff on a national stage.

  6. Not just America. All politics are Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The brute fact of the matter is that the global economy is still in a weak state, China is the Big Dog currently and that means Western nations are all falling over themselves to suck up to the Chinese in order to attract investment (my own little green island is no better in this regard) and basically whoever we vote in is going to cut, cut and cut again public expenditure (just right now in the news, the Health Service is faced with imposing €170 million of cost saving before the end of the year, and €700 million for next year’s health budget ).

    Over the range of blogs I read, I see some convinced Romney/Ryan is the only chance to save America from the destruction that the Democrats will wreak, and I see others convinced that Romney/Ryan are the servants of the Devil who will cut the throats of the working class/gay rights/reproductive rights/the environment in order to fatten the bloated capitalists.

    To both sides, I would like to say: (a) Democrats, I thought you should have picked Hillary last time at least as Vice-President and (b) it’s the economy, people, and even if Romney/Ryan win, there are no magic money trees they can shake extra cash out of.

    • Yep. I think the economy in the USA is going to tank either right before the election or right after the inauguration in January. I can’t explain why, just a gut feeling I have.

      I wish one of the candidates would tell the people the truth. WE ARE BROKE. Just like you said, Martha, there are no magic money trees that anyone can shake extra cash out of.

      • That magic tree includes taxing the “rich.” Just ask France how that’s going…the “rich” of the nation are fleeing in order to avoid paying 70%+ in taxes.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          One morning drive-time radio guy couldn’t resist clapping his hands like a small child and squealing with glee over “THE RICH(TM) HAVE TO PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE(TM)!”

          Probably has sugarplums dancing in his head at the thought of himself getting dibs on all the goodies his boss owns. “HE’S RICH!!!!”

          Never stops to consider that every homeless guy on the street would also get dibs on everything he himself owns. “BUT YOU’RE RICH!!!!!!”

          • I don’t know the situation in the U.S.A. but over here in the British Isles there have been some murmurs of late about getting the rich to pay the tax they owe.

            Apparently, there are two methods of not paying tax: tax evasion, which is Bad and Illegal and Immoral, and tax avoidance, which is Legal and Perfectly Fine. I’m fuzzy on the exact difference, but then again, I’m not an accountant/lawyer.

            Revelations that many people have used these schemes to avoid (not evade, remember the distinction!) payting tax annoys people who, on PAYE schemes (taxed on your income at source) can’t make use of legal loopholes to avoid paying their share, so that’s why a popular slogan in every election is “Tax the rich!”

            In Ireland, we have prominent businessmen who lecture the rest of us on patriotism and shouldering the burden of social responsibility, while they have legal domicile and citizenship in, say, Monaco to avoid paying tax at Irish rates.

            I agree that you can’t kill the golden goose, but on the other hand, there are large corporations and wealthy individuals using loopholes to avoid paying a fair share.

          • I seem to remember the closing of tax loopholes during the Reagan administration. Hand-wringing over the end of the three-martini [business] lunch, for instance.

            I guess just as it took Nixon to go to China, and Clinton to sign welfare reform, it’s going to take a Republican to make sure the tax avoidance Martha is talking about gets reeled back in as needed.

          • Tax the rich, feed the poor
            ‘Til there are no rich no more
            Alvin Lee

            Then what?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            What do parasites do when they’ve leeched all their hosts to death?

        • Taxing the rich is more of a 6″ sapling than a tree. Even if you feel the rich should pay mere it will not make much of a dent in paying for the promises made.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Yep. I think the economy in the USA is going to tank either right before the election or right after the inauguration in January.

        “Then they will call for The Strong Man. And The Strong Man will come.”
        — Some halfway-decent Spiritual Warfare novel I read in the Seventies

  7. The idea that Christians have a superior ability to set aside provincial attitudes and tribal allegiances is wrong. We can’t even agree on whether baptism saves or whether Gods grace come through works or faith. Churches not only disagree on what our relationship to God looks like, churches have no agreement about how Christians should live in society. What does submission to Gods rule even look like, assuming we could say we do submit. My church would say set ones sex drive aside and be celibate or marry. The church down the street rejects that entirely and is advertising itself by calling itself the nonhomophobic Lutheran church. That same church also aborts babies in its hospitals when their mothers find them inconvenient.

    The fact is, the church is divided, and the church has always been divided. It’s a human institution, after all. It has never had single, consistent view of what submission to Gods rule looks like. It’s enough to say Christians should make sure their votes and opinions are motivated by love for neighbor and not selfishly motivated, and that should be consistent with how scripture tells us Christian love looks. And that they should be charitable with those they disagree with, especially non Christians.

    Then, vote Gary Johnson, with all the libertarian cynics like me.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I’d like to suggest one: the church should be the prophetic voice that presents an alternative vision of society and publicly demands that our politicians tell the truth.

    That’s gonna get turned into a pile of rocks amid the church’s demands to “Take Back America!(TM)”, God’s Own Party, and the chorus of “RON! PAUL! RON! PAUL! AYN! RAND! AYN! RAND! RON! PAUL! RON! PAUL! RON! PAUL!”.

    Messiah Politics is still in force, and now Evangelicals are on the outs so they’re looking for their own Obama to ride in on horseback and return everything to the Nifty Fifties by decree.

  9. David Cornwell says

    Chaplain Mike, thanks. This is the best treatise on what our stance should be that I’ve read for a long time. I’m saving it to Evernote and will be referring to it again and again. Especially when I feel myself getting caught up in this damaged process.

    I’ve believed that Evil is lodged not only in the hearts of individuals but also in the structures, systems, and principalities of the world. The political season (which now is everlasting) brings out the worst of the lies and manipulations. When the Church finds itself parroting the propaganda of the partisans, then it finds itself in serious danger of losing all credibility.

    Your summary answer to me is this:
    “the church should be the prophetic voice that presents an alternative vision of society and publicly demands that our politicians tell the truth.
    Instead of supporting the present political system by trying to participate in it and change it (and instead finding ourselves inevitably changed), we should start “John the Baptist Societies.”

    Our allegiance isn’t to the State, but to the King and His Kingdom.

    • I like what William Stringfellow said some years ago. “My concern is to understand America biblically. . . not the other way around, not (to put it in an appropriately awkward way) to construe the Bible Americanly.”

      • Randy Thompson says

        Thanks for the William Stringfellow Reference. We could use people like him today.

      • petrushka1611 says

        I buy and resell records for part of my living, and while going through a stack of Southern Gospel albums today, I found one, I think by the Happy Goodmans, called “God Loves American People.” I will be adding that one to my Awful Album Covers collection.

  10. Amen, Mike. Whether it is transparently disingenuous dissembling, pretentiously prevaricative pandering, deliberate deception with a wink and grin, or outright political lies and slander, I feel your cynicism. I generally hate all generalizations (yes, I get it), but I make an exception with politicians–I think they are all, every one of them, totally incapable of extracting themselves from the slough of deception in which they all disgracefully wallow. I cannot in good conscience actually support any candidate, even though I know I will vote for one. I will support a party platform, but even then I do it with a resigned sigh, knowing it is more about platitudes to placate the party faithful than it is about promises to keep.

    I don’t know how serious you were, but I do like the idea of a John the Baptist Society. However, using “Baptist” (or even Baptizer) is just an invitation for all manner of parody, mocking, scorn, and sarcasm. When asked “who are you?” John answered “a voice” of one crying in the wilderness. He saw himself as a Proclaimer. I think a grassroots, faith-shaped movement calling the political process back to truth and civility is a great idea. It just needs an identity that is simple, memorable, and powerful.

  11. Here’s a picky: Tax *avoidance* is not against the law. (My husband works for the IRS, so he’s a good tutor on this subject for me.) It is tax *evasion* that is against the law. From Wikipedia: “Tax avoidance is the legal utilization of the tax regime to one’s own advantage, to reduce the amount of tax that is payable by means that are within the law.”

    Tax *evasion*, on the other hand, is the use of illegal means to avoid paying taxes.

    I think whoever thought up the commercial accusing Romney of “tax avoidance” was counting on Americans not knowing the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion.

    • It is just that kind of double-speak that is pervasive on all sides.

      • and the talk belies the question of whether or not the taxes themselves are fair. ie does it seem reasonable that someone making many millions of dollars a year only pays 13% in taxes, even though legal

        • Does it seem reasonable that someone making many millions of dollars a year only pays 13% in taxes, even though legal?

          Rick, you do realize that 13% of millions is quite substantially more than 30% of $50K? I think the people paying these taxes would be quick to point out that the dollar has an absolute value, and they are paying many, many more dollars in.

        • 13% of a million dollars is $130,000. That’s more than my house cost.

          Punitive taxes on the movers-and-shakers will stop all of the moving and shaking, and people who depend on them for jobs will suffer.

      • Completely disagree with you, CM. Easy example:
        California had ads on the radio not too long ago urging the patriotic public to buy tax-free state bonds.
        If I bought $25 million of bonds with a 4% annualized return, I would get a million dollar annual income, yet pay no income taxes every year.
        So does that make me a hero for investing in the public good, just like my state asked me to?
        Or am I part of the evil 1%, one of the millionaires who pays less in taxes than his secretary?
        There are entire systems of financial aid for the poor, such as tax credit financing of low income housing, that depend on people avoiding taxes.
        Tax avoidance is NOT doublespeak for tax evasion, legally or ethically.

    • Legal, sure. Moral, not so much in many cases. I think part of our task as residents of another kingdom is to call people to a higher standard than the bare minimum of legality under the world’s system.

      • As residents of another kingdom, I don’t think we are required to do all of our charitable giving through taxation. In fact, there could be excellent reasons not to.

  12. I am so tired of the bickering and the fighting here in the US. It has become next to impossible to determine if anyone is telling the truth, whether it be politics, religion, or anything else.

    Everyone in religion believes they are right and can prove it by Scripture. I once asked an online forum about a particular issue that someone else was talking about, and was told, “Ask them to show you book, chapter and verse.” But here’s the thing: THEY DO!!! People DO have “book, chapter and verse” for what they believe. So it’s not that they aren’t using the Bible. They ARE using the Bible!

    I’m especially worried about Medicaid and Medicare because I have a son with autism. We don’t know at this point whether or not he’ll be able to live on his own. (He’s 13.) Medicaid and Medicare are BROKE. I am afraid that when my son needs the resources that Medicaid and Medicare have to offer (incidentally, he is on Medicaid right now), they will not be available because the money has run out.

    In my state, we do have certain waivers that people can qualify for. But more often than not, when the people qualify for the waivers, they have to be put on waiting lists because *the money is not there to fund the waivers*.

    I’ve been in school for the last six years to try and get a job to make enough money to keep my son OFF of Medicaid and Medicare. In doing so, I have run up a tremendous amount of student loan debt. The money that could go to help my son will instead go to pay back my loans. And I don’t know when school will be over for me. I am taking classes in court reporting. My progress depends on how quickly I go through speed tests, and I can’t progress unless I pass certain tests at 95% accuracy. Certification speed in my state is 225 words per minute at 95% accuracy. I am at 120 words per minute right now.

    Yes, I am supposed to “relax and trust God’, but last I checked, God was not raining down money from heaven. I have to earn it, and the only way I know to do it is to go to work. How am I supposed to “balance” making sure my son’s needs are met, my husband’s needs are met, serving God, being involved with other people, and taking care of myself at the same time?

    I have gotten so fed up with politics in the USA that I have seriously looked into leaving the country. But to be honest, I’m not so sure if that’s a good answer.

    The best analogy I can come up with is this: In the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, there’s the scene when George Bailey is trying to keep everyone from taking their shares out of the Building and Loan and going over to Mr. Potter at the bank. He gives this rousing speech where he tells everyone, “We’ve got to stick together! We need to have faith in each other!”

    Someone yells from the crowd: “Can’t feed my kids on faith!”

    That’s when Mary Bailey pulls out their honeymoon money and asks, “How much do you need?”

    I don’t need a George Bailey to exhort me to “have faith”. I need a Mary Bailey who will make sure we have money!

  13. How about the PACT Society: Proclaiming Americans for Civility and Truth–The voices of many crying in the wilderness of American politics. (I’m tempted to add “Repent! and be elected” but I won’t.)

    We build up membership numbers online, then we create a PACT agreement that has broad grassroots support that politicians will have to sign to gain endorsement of the movement.

    The leadership and content would be faith-based, but the appeal would be based on widely-held virtues of honesty and integrity that would encompass but reach beyond just the faith community.

    Just an INTJ thinking out loud.

    • From another INTJ – people will bring their litmus tests – mine is abortion (I’m pro-life) – and you will be back to square one.

  14. I aggree totally with what you are saying. As a social worker I am especially concerned about the poor. I don’t see that any of the parties actually represent the poor. Like one of my friends said recently, the amount of money spent on campaigning on both sides could have fixed the deficit, and the chidlren are still lacking what they need!
    Religion, not faith, in churches, where outward appearances come first, and reigious leaders are worshipped rather than God is also a huge problem. I wholeheartedly support the idea of John the Baptist Societies or propehetical societies. I believe that repentance and accountability to the truth needs to be preached both in regards to the political process and to organized religion as well.

    • David Cornwell says

      The poor are never even mentioned now. People want children to have a “right to life” but that means basically a right to be born. Life means far more than that. Any equality of opportunity is a thing of the past.

      • David, of course the right to life means the right to be born. Of course it does. Look, throughout history “life” for the majority of the human race has meant “root, hog, or die”. You can’t do that much if you’re killed before you are even born.

  15. I’ve been saying cynical stuff about politicians and the two party system for years. These people wholeheartedly believe in “the end justifies the means.” So they’ll lie and spin their way to win “for the good of the country.” Just like the quote Chaplain Mike mentioned above, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” though I’m kind of surprised that any campaign would be quite so bold about it.

    I’ve been personally avoiding political survey phone calls, though I did have to deal with one other day, thinking it was something else (because of the local area code showing on caller ID), I told the woman that I really wasn’t interested in giving my opinion on political issues.

    • I’ll add a quote from Chesterton (from Orthodoxy):

      “If our faith comments on government at all, its comment must be this—that the man should rule who does NOT think that he can rule. Carlyle’s hero may say, “I will be king”; but the Christian saint must say “Nolo episcopari.” If the great paradox of Christianity means anything, it means this— that we must take the crown in our hands, and go hunting in dry places and dark corners of the earth until we find the one man who feels himself unfit to wear it. Carlyle was quite wrong; we have not got to crown the exceptional man who knows he can rule. Rather we must crown the much more exceptional man who knows he can’t.”

  16. There’s a particular post of mine I put in twice, and it’s not showing up. I don’t know if it’s a problem with the website or if I might have accidentally put in forbidden words/phrases.

  17. I confess, partisan though I may be, I have to agree with Chaplain Mike’s assessment. I would like to offer, however, one potential area of distinction between the two parties. CM’s post is specifically about how the two parties both lie about the other side. I have observed–or at least think I’ve observed–a tendency on the part of one of the two parties to lie about its own side. When it comes to the idea of fiscal responsibility, specifically deficit reduction, I cannot escape the feeling that the Republican party says one thing when it is out of power and does another when it is in. It seems (and please correct my mistaken observation) that Republicans are perceived as THE party of deficit-cutters, yet when in power they will cut taxes even if it increases the deficit; and will increase defense spending even if it increases the deficit. I don’t see that kind of self-referential contradiction in other Republican policies or any Democratic ones. But I am admittedly subject to confirmation bias as much as the next guy.

    • sarahmorgan says

      “I cannot escape the feeling that the Republican party says one thing when it is out of power and does another when it is in…..I don’t see that kind of self-referential contradiction in other Republican policies or any Democratic ones…”
      The one that sticks out the most to me is the one about the Democrats saying they’re the party of “peace”, yet Guantanamo Bay is still open (after President Obama campaigned on a promise to close it), and the US is still involved in a war in Afghanistan.

      (btw, please don’t take my comment as an invitation to get into a political argument.)

  18. Thanks, Chaplain Mike. This was really helpful.


    Hold your nose and vote. It’s okay with me. Just remember to post something equally cynical after the Democratic Convention.

    • I guess you doubt that I distrust all sides equally. Not sure how I could have made myself any more clear.

      • You may have intended to say one thing, but the timing speaks louder than words.

        • I can understand why you might jump to that conclusion, but it’s not the case. First, the fact that the GOP convention comes first just means that they were first to trot out their distortions. The Democrats will put on an equally shameful display next week, and if they had come first, I would have been just as fed up. Honestly, I can’t stand to watch either. Second, a main thing that has sent me over the edge this year has been watching the President’s outrageous attack ads on Gov. Romney. A plague on both their houses.

          • That’s the attitude I have this year also.

          • Well, you could have simply flipped the channel over to TLC and watched “honey boo boo” like 3million or so other Americans did. Apparently, TLC had better ratings for it than NBC had for their coverage of the RNC at least one night. Not sure if that’s indicative of the general distaste for political theater, the love of redneck-exploitative reality TV, or simply a sign of the coming apocalypse.

        • Yeah, I thought the timing of the post was interesting, too.

          I am fed up with both sides but the problem is NOT the politicians. It is an uneducated public. Look at all the people that believed a vague “hope and change”.

          We have had 80 or so years of socialistic teaching in schools. People do not understand how a free economy works. Had they understood it, Wall Street would never be selling derivatives. What most folks do not realize is that our large corporations are even socialistic!

          Booker T Washington was a brillilant economist. Ever read his book?

          In my city there is a long waiting list for housing help from the government. There are 20,000 homeless. Now many are living with family, etc. But 4 years ago there were only about 6 thousand homeless on the same roll. Food stamps are up by 40% in 4 years in my city.

          Four years ago, gas in my city fluxuated from 1.80 to 2.50. Now it fluxuates between 3.66 and 4.10.

          Coinicidences? I think not.

          We cannot redistribute what is not there.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Last time I heard anything like this, it was the prologue to a Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory.

          • HUG, Those stats don’t happen in a vaccum. The truth is all the massive bailouts did not work. Few businesses are expanding or hiring because they are holding on to every penny to see what happens and how all this is going to fall out. Especially Obamacare. It is already causing more doctors to refuse medicare patients.

            It is almost impossible to buy a foreclosed home in less than a year here. Why? Because of the bailouts. They can afford to sit on them and there are empty houses everywhere because of it. Policies drive behavior. Economics is as much psychology as numbers.

            This community organizer has been a disaster for America. I actually long for Bill Clinton’s economic policies over this. At least he got it.

            • Bill Clinton is now endorsing “the community organizer” and saying the Republican agenda is what got us into trouble, President Obama has been getting us on the right track, and must be allowed to finish the job.

  19. Sorry. What did I put in there that made the spam filter eat it?

  20. Chaplin M. Sometimes it is better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

  21. Ah yes, back to political themes and time for me to disagree again.

    “First, these groups would leave the process and take their stand in the ‘wilderness,’ where they would call the people to repent and put their hope in the coming Kingdom of God.”
    That sounds EXACTLY like what the Fundamentalists did 100 years ago. And it was those actions that set us on the course where we have a separate Christian subculture in opposition to the secular culture. How did that work out for us?

    “…there is not a single politician who makes any effort whatsoever to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

    I am an involved member of my local political party and I can testify first hand that most people at the local level are good and honest whether religious or non. My cousin is a congressman at the state level and a good friend of mine works in the governor’s office and though there is much more corruption at that level there are still many good and honest people. Projecting out I can imagine that at the Federal level, with the increase in money and power, that the level of corruption rises proportionally. But I still believe that there is a “remnant” there as well.

    How can we be salt and light unless we are involved in the world though not of it?

    • TDP says, “I am an involved member of my local political party and I can testify first hand that most people at the local level are good and honest whether religious or non.”

      That has been my observation, too. I have found most races at the lower, local level to be pretty tame and usually like candidates from any party at that level. It is as the race gets higher (more power, and more money being poured into the campaigns) that candidates seem to change.

    • Final Anonymous says

      Our local government and school board candidates may start with good intentions, but must join the corruption by their next election or be run out of office by the deep pockets.

  22. Andrew Love says

    Mike- please stop attacking every politician and the entire political process. Drifting off into the wilderness might make us feel holier-than-thou but it will create the perfect vacuum to be filled by the “Enemy”. We get the political system we ask for. Jesus commands we tell the truth but also that we judge ourselves first before pointing to the flaws in others. Each of us should be asking; how do we give aid and comfort to a “corruptible” system? And, how can we be witnesses to a better alternative that is not out in exile?

    • We are in exile already. This is what both the Christian right and left fail to see. It is not one party representing truth and the other lies. The system is broken. Truth is dead. The entire process is geared toward gaining and exercising power by whatever means work.

      Now if we can agree on that, we can talk about possible models for God’s people as to how they should live out their faith in exile. Today I suggested one — the voice crying in the wilderness. There are other legitimate approaches in Scripture and history. I’m very open to discussing a variety of alternatives.

      • Correct. The system is totally whacked. Can’t be fixed in our normally perceived ways.

        I would suggest as one small step toward a solution that all campaigning be restricted to speeches and print. Cut out TV entirely.


        • Do people under 50 still watch tv?

          • I am a person over fifty and I stopped watching TV years ago.

            My husband was watching, but when for the umpteenth time he complained to me about men being portrayed as idiots, and for the umpteenth time I said “why do you watch TV at all? I don’t,” he had an epiphany and quit. Gave up cable and got a Netflix subscription. He says he does not miss it.

      • I am surprised by the pushback this post is receiving. I resonate with everything you are saying. Parties and partisans will not call politicians back to civility and truth. The question is, will anybody do it?

        • I agree with Clay. Personally, i didn’t sense any partisanship in CM’s article nor in the dialog here. Just a way for Christians to engage in politics a different way, perhaps a healthier way, and a Jesus-shaped way.

          • Same here. Too many people, I think, have bought into the lie that we are obligated as Americans to choose a side. Heck, we are not even *obligated* to vote (last time I checked, there was no law to that effect). I also think it’s a huge lie that we absolutely have a responsibility to vote. I refuse to be “responsible” for someone I don’t like being voted into office. I’m done playing the game.

          • Rick. I’m not sure what you think I said is what I thought I meant. I just meant that, IMO, the call to civility and truth will have to come from outside the political spectrum. Political parties and partisan political people and organizations simply will not address the problems that CM has identified so well. I think CM is suggesting we need to do more as thoughtful Christian citizens than just to “engage in politics in…a Jesus-shaped way.” What I heard from CM was the suggestion of a proclamational movement, what CM called the JTB Society, that would stand outside the political system in order to speak truth to power. For me, a Jesus-shaped movement like that would mean a faith-shaped message of kingdom proclamation that could appeal to all Americans who value truth and civility, not just the Christian ones. Those are universal, imago dei virtues. That’s all.

      • David Cornwell says

        “The system is broken. Truth is dead. The entire process is geared toward gaining and exercising power by whatever means work.”

        This is true. But this has been historically true for Christians since the beginning. Sometimes the democracy we have moderates it somewhat for the better, but mostly it’s broken and will remain broken. When we fail to speak with a prophetic voice, when we join the system, our allegiance to the Kingdom is always compromised.

        One thing we do have is the ability, and the freedom (so far) to speak out.

    • +1 Aren’t we just as guilty? The politicians are only human beings. Flawed, sinful just like me. They should be our servants but then again – are we behaving as servants in the church? Are Christians praying for our political leaders like them or not? Have we failed in our responsibility to be salt and light thus leaving the politicians to do what the church should be doing? Are we “holding forth the word to a crooked and perverse generation”? Or are we believing that one man or one party should change people’s hearts? Or worse, have we joined the political arena wholeheartedly forgetting that we as the church are to be a unique body? I used to cringe when I would go into my “mega church” and see tables in the welcome area to register people to vote with pamphlets left on our vehicles in the parking lot reminding us of our responsibility to pick “the right ” candidate. I too am tired of going into the voting booth to cast a negative booth. I too wish I could be enthusiastic again about voting FOR someone. But rather than going into the booth holding our nose perhaps we should be praying before it gets to that day for our political leaders remembering that “we the people” have the burden of responsibility on our shoulders. “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

  23. Politician Deathmatch! Put Romney, Ryan, Obama, Biden, McConnell, Boehner, Reid, and Pelosi in the Coliseum with swords, shields, tridents, and nets, and let the winners/survivors rule. If nothing else, it will make the campaign season both entertaining and mercifully short.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      During Indecision 2000, some radio phone-in suggested “We put Bush & Gore in a WWF ring and have them duke it out. Steel Cage Smackdown!”

      • When Australia’s election 2 years ago resulted in a hung parliament (quick political lesson: when all the votes were tallied, neither major party had enough seats to gain office, so they had to negotiate with the minor parties and independents for support) there was a website set up, http://www.doesaustraliahaveagovernmentyet.com which just had the word NO in size 100 font. Over the three weeks it then changed to ALMOST, OH COME ON, and finally YES (it’s still there, in fact).

  24. I am particularly fond of John Lindasy’s suggestion that political commercials be banned from television as we now ban cigarette and liquor commercials. I would gladly testify before the Federal Communications Commission as to the manifold merits of this excellent idea. To those who would oppose my testimony by claiming that such a ban is a clear violation of the First Amendment, I would offer a compromise; Require all political commercials to be preceded by a short statement to the effect that common sense has determined that watching political commercials is hazardous to the intellectual health of the community.

    [Neil Postman, pg. 159 of Amusing Ourselves To Death]

  25. This post reminds me , when evangelical darling Michelle Bachman threw her hat into the ring , I wrote her a letter to encourage her that as Jesus followers our call was to ” let our yes be yes and our no be no ”

    I never received a reply , but the whoppers kept spewing

    Both sides appear to be equally adept deceivers

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      You mean when Michelle Bachman was God’s Anointed POTUS of the Week? (They were coming and going so fast you started wondering if it was God anointing them or Freddie Silverman.)

  26. I totally agree with the Pastor’s comments. Why don’t more Christian pastors speak out when they hear these lies and distortions? I submit it is because they also have come under the influence of moneyed interests. If they were to annoy parishioners who make large contributions to the church, they might see their budgets shrink. Then “off with their heads!” They are no better than our elected representatives who are beholden to their financial backers to finance their next re-election cycle. Sorry to be so cynical…I keep hoping for another John the Baptist to emerge!

  27. Isn’t it kind of alarming that posts like this (and ones about evolution) always get tons of posts, while your previous post, which is much more urgent, gets one? Well, don’t let the numbers fool you, fella. I think all your posts are great, but stuff like the Romans thing are where it’s at. Paul’s letters have always been my least favourite part of the Bible, by a country mile. Love the gospels, love the OT, but Paul’s writing, the very grammar and syntax and style, I always found baffling, frustrating….gave up on Romans a long time ago, but now I plan on taking your posts and trying again….

    • petrushka1611 says

      Whereas I get the epistles (at least I think I do) and the Gospels throw me for a total loop. And other than Hosea, the Prophets are a tangled hinterland of obscure references with a few open spaces of beautiful poetry. Want to trade places for a while? 🙂

      • Sure, sounds good! I feel lucky, my church used to have a junior pastor who was writing his thesis on 2 samuel at the time we were becoming good friends, and he really helped me learn how to how to read the OT…

  28. Just a reminder…

    “John the Baptist Societies” have been around for quite some time. One expression of such is the Catholic Worker Movement begun in the 1930’s by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. The Iona Community and Taize in France are also examples.


  29. Ron Paul has never been accused of dishonesty. Of eccentricity and ineffectiveness, yes–but not dishonesty. This of course does not mean that his sincerely-held, sincerely expressed views are correct in all respects, but his integrity is conceded by people from all sides of the political spectrum.

    • petrushka1611 says


    • I guess you could call it “ineffective” when you are confronted by racist statements in a newsletter that went out IN YOUR NAME and you say “I didn’t know that was in there.” That’s so ineffective as to be indistinguishable from a lack of integrity, in my book. Your name is on it, you own it.

    • I’m on the other side of the world and even I’ve heard all about dishonesty from Ron Paul, just like I’ve heard about dishonesty from Romney, Obama, and all the others.

  30. Randy Thompson says

    I wish more Christians remember Jacques Ellul, the great Christian thinker of a generation (or two) ago. The titles of his three greatest books neatly summarize politics in America now–frighteningly so. His titles:

    “The Technological Society”


    “The Political Illusion”

    I’m seriously considering not voting this year as a statement of Christian conviction. I’ll probably end up holding my nose and voting any way, but I’m really thinking of this. I suspect it will boil down to who scares me most. (Historically, Republicans have done a good job in this area, but they don’t have a monopoly.)

    • I’ve wanted to get hold of Ellul’s stuff for so long, but it seems very hard to track down Have heard great things about his writing.

  31. Didn’t Jesus say that “all men (people) are liars.”

    Bigger government means more liars, on our dime, lying to us.

    Smaller government means less liars.

    I’ll always go with the latter.

    • Steve, Bravo! You get it. Smaller government means less Oligarchy. Since the inception of the dept of education, have our grads become more educated in the scholarly sense? That is one example.

  32. I believe that in the past 40 or so years too many Christians have looked to the political system to create social change. The Messiah was seen by many (most?) Jews as being the savior that would vanquish the Romans. They, like some modern day Christians, believed that if the political system worked in their favor, their problems would be solved. They would be free.

    We still haven’t learned that lesson.

  33. I don’t know that I’d dismiss all politicians as dishonest, but certainly most. Power does corrupt more than most think.

    Great post, and a needed wakeup call I think. For believers there should always be an uncomfortable tension between our faith and the world’s systems of power. But I don’t see a lot of that where I am. I see a lot of evangelicals hopping right on the political wagon without any serious questions. The political flavor of choice where I live happens to be hard right Republican and God help anyone who questions whether that is entirely compatible with the Christian faith. It’s a huge blind spot.

    • John, I just don’t get these sorts of comments. Clinton got 30% of the “evangelical” voting block in a 3 way race. That is significant. I have not bothered to look at the Obama figures. When the fornicator in chief won a second term with another large evangelical block vote, I checked out of frontline politics.

      I am not voting for a pastor in chief but it was almost as if people were celebrating the evil.

      So, to equate evangelicals with Republican party is not as hard and fast as some think because a few voices ahve been loud. It sure has not worked. We now have a Marxist LIberation theology president who was a community organizer. I am still trying to figure that one out.

      I am done with social issues. It is the economy. As JFK said said about the economy, A rising tide lifts all ships.

      • You missed my qualifier: “where I am.” I wasn’t talking about all evangelicals, but I happen to live in a very hard right demographic pocket, and the evangelicals here absolutely track with that.

        You took my post as partisan when it was an observation about my surroundings. I think that’s an indicator of how divided the landscape has become.

      • You don’t have a Marxist Liberation theology president. You don’t have a socialist president. You have a centre-right president in Obama. American politics doesn’t actually have a major left wing party at all.

  34. A great post, CM. I am baffled by Christians who believe that social ills will be changed from without by the law. It didn’t work for Israel, and it won’t work for us. Jesus called us to make Him lord, to follow Him, and to embody the truth of the two great commandments. I will never put my faith in a political party to save this nation.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I am baffled by Christians who believe that social ills will be changed from without by the law. It didn’t work for Israel, and it won’t work for us.

      Is it working for Iran?

  35. God sorts politics out like he sorted out the Tower of Babel.

  36. “American Christians, it’s time to face the truth. No one in Washington and no one who wants to be in Washington is telling you the truth. Set yourselves free from bondage to false hope that leads time and again to crushed expectations.”

    I want this on a t-shirt. A rather large t-shirt, I guess.

  37. Dr Lee Corder says

    Often enjoy your postings and “friends” network that has allowed me encounter other wonderful Jesus followers. But today happened to come across your “rant” regarding political liars and your categorical and all inclusive judgment and condemnation of anyone who “wants to be in Washington”. Frankly, that post struck me as sanctimonious, as a “we are so much more righteious than those terrible people” blog that casts invective and condemnation toward all in political leadership.

    With all due repect, as a friend of a good number of such political leaders here in DC (I meet in small groups with a number of the very people you so freely condemned), I can assure you, the faith and integrity of many of these caring and committed followers of Jesus from both parties, working with great faithfulness to try and make this nation and world a better place, do not deserve your cruel invective.

    As a ordained minister and senior staff with an international movement among young people, I am fond of reminding myself and other religious professionals, that the only leadership Jesus condemned were the self-righteous religious leadership of his day. Your rant and a number of the incredibly disappointing comments that followed once again demonstrate why we religious leadership are the people often most deserving of such rebuke. I point the finger toward myself first and foremost but would hope that you and your fellow responders would step back and consider the expressions of hatred toward those whom God has ordained, as imperfect human beings, who bear the daunting responsibility of civil authority under Jesus’ Lordship. In obedience to Him, they deserve your prayers rather than your condemnations.

    • Point well made, Lee. I accept your testimony that there are many serious and committed people in Washington. Unfortunately, our system no longer allows them to effectively govern.

      I hope you noted that I did not say Christians should give up seeking to have any influence on America’s governing institutions, I said their role should shift from thinking they can change the system from within to a more prophetic role of holding our politicians accountable for truth-telling.

      Unfortunately, as a number of the comments showed, it appears that many in the church have bought into the partisan polarization and can’t see beyond their positions and party loyalty to work together with their “enemies” for the common good. The mere timing of my remarks led many to suppose I was giving stealth support for the president.

      The atmosphere is utterly intolerable from a Christian perspective.

      This is especially true at the presidential and congressional levels. The campaign trail is made up of a steady litany of lies, half-truths, personal attacks and mis-characterizations, and rhetoric without content.

      Like sheep most of us just keep taking it in and taking sides.

      Some little boy must have the courage to say the vast majority of our leaders are buck naked.

      • “Unfortunately, as a number of the comments showed, it appears that many in the church have bought into the partisan polarization and can’t see beyond their positions and party loyalty to work together with their “enemies” for the common good. The mere timing of my remarks led many to suppose I was giving stealth support for the president”

        What sanctimonious drivel. you CHOSE to make this post after the RNC but not wait until after both conventions were done. And you wonder why people questioned? Then you try and make those who questioned the timing out to be into polarization as if you are above it\ al. Not buying today. Typical doublespeak.

        I am not even a republican. I just want some servants who know that more government is not the answer.

    • “I point the finger toward myself first and foremost but would hope that you and your fellow responders would step back and consider the expressions of hatred toward those whom God has ordained, as imperfect human beings, who bear the daunting responsibility of civil authority under Jesus’ Lordship.”

      Not sure you can make the case that God ordained specific people for government. Think you are taking it way out of context. We VOTE for our government “servants”. Or they are supposed to be servants. It used to be a sacrifice to serve in government. Now it is a career and most walk away from it richer. And for those not elected but on gov payroll, they have better pensions and retired health benefits than the average middle manager in corp America.

      Here is one small example of the perks of congress: Their children do not have to pay back student loans. But the masses cannot even bankrupt out a student loan when they are financially devestated. You will own that until you die. But not the same rules for Congress. Oh, and congress exemped themselves from Obamacare. So what do they know that we don’t?

      • Marcus Johnson says

        I don’t think, either, that God “ordained” political leaders; that’s a very dangerous road down which I do not want to travel. However, I think that the leaders in place now are part of the political context in which God can do something great. That does not preclude us from voting people out of office, or from recognizing the inherent hypocrisy in many of their platforms. It does mean, however, that God is in control, regardless of who is in charge of the country.

        FACT CHECK: Actually, the children of congressmen and senators do have to pay back student loans that are in the student’s name (i.e., Subsidized, Unsubsidized, Graduate PLUS loans). Congress members themselves are exempt from paying back loans in their name only (this also includes the Parent PLUS loan, which a parent can take out for the student). It is a moot point, however, since most congresspeople make enough in their annual salary to have a 10 billion dollar EFC, so it’s not like most of their children are starving on college campuses.

  38. What about prayer? It seems to me that we disillusioned Christians could have a huge impact if we prayed for the politicians who most disgusted us.

  39. Marcus Johnson says

    Every time someone tries to drag me into a fear-filled, demagoguery about politics, I always go back to Jesus’ words when he was before Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

    If I’m a true Christ-follower, every approach that I take toward what policy I support or do not support should be underscored with the understanding that 1) no man-made institution, however well intentioned, can ever stand as a sufficient “Christian” institution–especially not America, and 2) God’s ultimate goal to establish his kingdom on earth cannot be hindered by any man-made policy; it’s the equivalent of being an ant in front of a speeding car.

    That being said, however, I think it is necessary to take a stand for justice and to expect fact-based rhetoric from our candidates. The problem doesn’t seem to be that our politicians (on both sides) lie about their platforms; it is that the public has either become so lazy or so inured to a lie-based rhetoric on both sides, that we automatically fall on whatever we hear as the God’s honest truth without asking God for the wisdom and the strength to look for the facts beyond and behind and outside of what we are told. Worse still, we rely on the politics of our friends, or our family, without asking God for the analytical skills needed to develop a political identity that is free to mature in its understanding of current issues, shift loyalties to a candidate with better credentials and ethical principles, and to engage in political discussions without fear-based rhetoric that, if the other side wins, we hasten a national apocalypse of cataclysmic proportions. I used to think that this laziness of thought was only a character trait that leans to the right politically, but it is not; it is a human failing, and before we begin to demand better from our politicians, we have to first demand better from ourselves.

    • Good comment.

      “I used to think that this laziness of thought was only a character trait that leans to the right politically, but it is not;”

      Agreed. I’ve found that left-leaders think they are more progressive in thought and stance, but they are just as lazy as the right. “If an idea is a Republican idea, I must be against it,” even if that concept is good and worthy.

    • Not just our fault citizens positions are set in stone with no effort to determine facts. Our national free press is very much to blame. Money is the bottom line in tv and newspaper coverage; also much easier to print rumors than look for a story. It is a national disgrace.

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