The Virginia Democrat’s Conundrum

8 02 2019
Governor Northam, you need to resign!  And I hate saying that, because I like you.  I voted for you.  I canvassed and worked the polls for you.  I’m extremely grateful for the good you have done after just one year in office.  And, I believe you to be a good man.  
But you still need to resign.  And so do you Attorney General Herring.  It’s the ‘right thing’ for both of you to do.  You need to set an example, relinquish your privilege, and take a stand for an issue that you both claim to be extremely important.  
All the talk about Virginia’s “racist past” is a fallacy: not because Virginia does not have racist roots, but because the fruit of our racism is not confined to the past!  It still exists today!  And it is time for White people in positions of power to acknowledge this, and to model what it means to surrender our privilege.  
Part of the reason you both are where you are today is because of your Whiteness.  And that doesn’t mean you don’t have other gifts – gifts worthy of the titles that have been granted to you.  It simply means that in Virginia, for 400 years, the color of one’s skin has determined their caste.  And you guys are two of the lucky ones!  You’re White!  Acknowledging that, and truly being an ally with people of color, demands that whenever possible, you give up your privilege.  And know that’s hard, because the greater our privilege the more difficult to give it up.  But it’s the right thing to do!  
You’re also human – which means that you’re not perfect, and that like the rest of us, your past is full of errors in judgement and youthful indiscretions.  (My own indiscretions – “pieing” Georgetown University students, and adding a “President’s Office Building” sign to my dorm room decor – don’t seem to fall in the same category as “Blackface”, but that’s another matter!)  So I get your humanity, and I’m willing to forgive you for sins acknowledged and confessed.  However forgiveness does not mean that you do not bear responsibility for and the consequences of your actions. Further, when confessions come because one has been been ‘caught’, those confessions appear rather insincere and disingenuous.  They appear to be born more in a concern for one’s political future, than in a genuine spirit of repentance.  And to be honest, at this point in time, it is your political future that appear to be your greatest concern.  Which is why you need to resign.
But here’s the conundrum!  You’re not the only ones.  Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, you need to resign as well.  Racism is not the only sin that plagues our state and our nation: sexism haunts us as well.  And paternalism, gender bias, misogyny, and sexual misconduct also have consequences.  Sadly, President Trump and Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh have given us two of the worst and most offensive examples of how we are to deal with this evil.  One expected Americans to simply overlook the indiscretions and move beyond them – which too many Americans did!  And the other simply denied the sin and gaslighted many into believing that what we all knew to be true . . . was not!  So we need a better example.
Which is why, Justin, you too need to do the right thing and resign.  And therein lies the problem for Virginia Democrats.  The resignation of these three men means that the Speaker of the VA House of Delegates, Kirk Cox, a Republican, will become our next governor.  And while I don’t know anything about Speaker Cox, I would prefer to have a Democrat in Richmond’s Executive Mansion.  
But here’s why this is all ok.  1) Virginians will honor and respect the integrity of the examples set by Virginia Democrats. 2) When the 2021 elections roll around, Virginians will continue to reject the racism and misogyny of Donald Trump’s and Cory Stewart’s Republican Party, and the state will further deepen its blueish hue!  And 3) long-term, the values of the Democratic Party – liberty and justice for all: Red and Yellow, Black and White; Men AND women – will be advanced, and we will be known for who we really are: a party that rejects racism and stands with people of color, and that condemns sexual abuse and listens to the voices of the “Me too” movement.  
Sorry guys.  I like all three of you.  But that’s irrelevant!  The right thing for all of you to do is to resign.  And the sooner, the better!    

When Hollywood ‘out-churches’ the Church

5 02 2019

hollywoodWhen Hollywood takes up the causes of Jesus, I get excited!  Movies like “Chariots of Fire”, “The Last Temptation of Christ”, “The Shack”, and “Same Kind of Different as Me” – while not necessarily among my favorites – encourage people to think about that which is eternal.  And I like that!  They force people to deal with issues surrounding faith, God, and the Church, and there is no sweeter fruit to be found on the tree of evangelistic fervor!

Hollywood has always loved a good story, and Scripture is full of them.  So it’s not surprising that movies like “The Ten Commandments”, “The Robe”, or “The Passion of the Christ” were successful box office hits!  People of faith also have good stories to tell, which is why movies like “The Mission” and “Romero” were embraced by Hollywood.  More recently, “Philomena”, “Spotlight”, and this year’s Oscar nominated “First Reformed”, have all been centered around the lives of people intimately involved with the Church; and while not necessarily block-busters, they held their own during their respective awards seasons.

But while movies pointing people to God and faith are nothing new, in recent years it seems as though Hollywood is doing a far better job of articulating the Gospel than the Church.  And that should be extremely troubling to anyone who is part of any faith community!  On the one hand, we can be delighted to see Hollywood tackling some of the important theological issues of our day, but when they start doing a better job of promoting the love and justice of Jesus than the Church, Church-people should be concerned!

Obviously, we in the faith community do not have sole responsibility for preaching the Gospel — anyone and everyone can and should be doing that.  And considering the days in which we are living, the more the better!  But when people and groups outside of the Church begin doing that better than the Church itself . . . well something is just wrong!  And lately, this appears to be what is happening.

There is no better example of this than Hollywood’s attempt to deal with America’s “original sin”: racism.  Movies like “CRASH”, “The Help”, “12 Years a Slave”, “Hidden Figures”, and “Get Out”– along with three of this year’s Academy recognized films: “Black Panther”, “BlacKkKlansman”, and “The Green Book” — all attempt to challenge the color bias of our nation.  And they do so by telling powerfully moving stories about people most affected by our racist systems and structures!

So while 11:00-12:00 on Sunday morning continues to be one of the most segregated hours in American life, and while White evangelicals continue to support racist leaders and politicians, questioning “why everything always seems to be about race”, Hollywood is offering us movies that put up on the big screen the evils of America’s inherent racism and our masked caste-system.  And they are doing this both in spite of White fragility, and regardless of the prejudice that is coming from the White House and so many in this President’s party!

And it doesn’t stop there!  One of, if not, THE most divisive subjects facing the Church in the last decade has been gay ordination and marriage; and movies like “Milk”, “Moonlight”, and “Call Me By Your Name” have all sought to move our culture away from it’s homophobic past.  “The Cider House Rules” tackled the complexity of the abortion debate.  “Deadman Walking” was all about capital punishment and the power of repentance, confession, and forgiveness.  And last year’s “Battle of the Sexes” and this year’s “The Wife” both work hard to challenge gender roles and stereotypes.

So while the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson continue to prey upon the uneducated and uninformed, spouting a Christianity rooted in fear and denial, we can thank those inside Hollywood, like Lady Gaga, for reminding Vice-President and Karen Pence of the love that is at the heart of the Gospel message.  We can thank Ellen Degeneres for reminding us every day to be kind to one another.  And we can thank Stephen Colbert, a devout Roman Catholic, for saying that “if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

Once again this year, many of the Academy Award nominated films are doing a far better job proclaiming the Gospel than much of American Christendom.  And that reality leaves me both encouraged and discouraged.  Naturally I’m delighted the Gospel is being proclaimed.  But I’m saddened that Hollywood is doing a better job than the Church.  For if this trend continues, we in the Church just may become more irrelevant than we already are.

Scriptural Gymnastics

22 01 2019

1609788_441480776029221_1016595601943781699_nIt happens all the time!  Well-meaning people take stances on a variety of issues, and then in an attempt to appear Biblically literate, they point to a Scripture passage to support their position.

So . . . the Bible says “before I formed you in the womb I knew you” which means that abortion is sin.  The Bible says that “a man who lies with a man as with woman is an abomination” which means that homosexual marriage is sin.  The Bible says “slaves are to be subject to their masters,” which for a long time meant that White people could actually own Black people.  And the Bible says that “a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the Church” which means that a married woman needs . . . a second head!?

For generations, Scripture has been used to justify all kinds of societal and cultural practices, many of which have done little more than hold certain people groups down, exclude those who are not ‘like us’, and attempt to control those whose beliefs and doubts call into question decisions that the majority considers to be settled.  Bible verses are torn out of context and inappropriately used to prove a point.  And I know this, because I’ve been there!

Fortunately, time has passed; and while there are no doubt occasions when I fall back into the trap of ‘proof texting’, more often than not I have learned to look beyond the Bible to explain and justify ways of thinking and believing.

So . . . I’ve learned that the majority of embryos formed in their mother’s womb are spontaneously aborted and never grow to become a child; which means either that life isn’t all that sacred, or that woman have the right to control their own  bodies and that sometimes abortion is a valid option.  I’ve learned that the passages in the Bible that appear to condemn homosexuality are often dealing with pederasty and the abuse of younger boys by older men, and actually have little if anything to do with the kind of committed, same-gender relationships that most have come to accept today.  I’ve learned the obvious: that colorism has no place in a faith community that teaches it’s children “Red and Yellow, Black and White . . . all are precious in God’s sight”; and so confronting white privilege is one of the 21st century Church’s greatest greatest challenges.  And when it comes to women, I’ve discovered that no one had greater respect for and trust in women than Jesus; and in him, there is no male or female!

As hard as it may be to admit, Scripture can be used to justify almost any position, on almost any issue. The Bible has been translated from its original languages and then retranslated, twisted and turned, interpreted and reinterpreted, all until it is molded and shaped to fit whatever we think and/or believe.  And any interpretation that dares to violate our textual gymnastics is considered to be nothing less than heresy.

Which is why I’m giving up trying to use the Bible – a unique, but nevertheless human document – to support all of my beliefs.  Because in the end, the Bible was written by men, who were born into and lived in a dualistic, and color and gender biased world, where sexual mores and behaviors were ill-understood, and where science and mystery tripped over one another all the time. As a result, sometimes Scripture just got things wrong!

Yes, you read that correctly: sometimes the Bible is just wrong.

Now I know – that is a slippery slope for many people.  But ya’ know what? Jesus lived on slippery slopes!  And our doing the same – while hard, and dangerous, and sometimes extremely awkward and uncomfortable – is precisely where we too are called to live.

In one of Richard Rohr’s recent “Daily Meditations” he boldly reminds us that Jesus openly disagreed with the Scriptures, consistently flouted Scripture’s sacred taboos, minimized and at times even replaced Scriptural commands, freely reinterpreted Scriptural law, and most memorably, reduced the Bible’s 613 commands down to two: love God and love neighbor.  Jesus knew that sometimes, perhaps more often than we would like, the Bible simply fails to address each and every issue with which we all struggle.  And even when it does, there are times when it doesn’t offer very sound advice.  So can we please just admit that?  Can we freely acknowledge that sometimes Scripture messes us up?

I know there is a pretty good chance that this realization may make our lives more difficult, because learning the discernment process is not an exact science.  But it is precisely in the midst of this tension that we find the holy?  It is right smack in the middle of our attempts to discern whatever is before us that we learn, with Jacob, this profound truth: it is in our wrestling with God, that we are afforded the opportunity to look into the face God!

No! The Bible doesn’t take a position on private, public, or charter schools. It doesn’t address prayer in those schools, or whether or not the teachers in those schools should be armed with guns.  The Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not it’s appropriate to take a knee during the playing of our National Anthem, or when Christ-followers have the freedom NOT to be obedient to their governing authorities. The Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not Christians should marry Muslims, have premarital sex, or divorce an abusive husband.  And even when we think it does speak to these, or countless other issues that are just as difficult, it sometimes offers answers with which Jesus disagrees or history and science have revealed to be inaccurate or unjust!

We’re not going to stone our disobedient children, and we’re not going to tell slaves to be subject to their masters.  We’re not going to tell men to get married if they can’t control their passions, and we’re not going to tell women to be silent in the Church.  And equally offensive, we’re not going to try and explain away these Biblical commands by saying that they’re simply misunderstood because of the cultural differences between then and now!

What we ARE going to say . . . what we need to learn we have PERMISSION to say . . . is that sometimes the Bible just gets it wrong!  So let’s skip the Scriptural gymnastics; and instead, hold very loosely to all the positions upon which we are seeking to build our lives.  Let’s be willing to grow and change, and let’s give others permission to do the same.  Because the world would actually be a much kinder, gentler, and more Christ-like place if we simply remembered those two commands of Jesus: to love God, and to love one another. For in the end, isn’t that really what the Bible is all about anyway?

Another ‘Modest Proposal’ – Build the Wall!

8 01 2019

swiftBecause mine is a faith that is all about change and development, let me here and now confess to the transformation of my thinking with regard to the truly American desire to build a wall along our southern boarder; and in the spirit of Jonathan Swift, to offer our divided government a twenty-first century “Modest Proposal.”

Where Swift, in 1729, satirically suggested that “the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies”; so do I, here and now, propose that America, similarly threatened by “immigrants and their children who are becoming a burden” to our country, build a wall in order to keep out all who would try to enter illegally.  This proposition is born in a desire to reduce crime, to increase the number of jobs available to Americans, and in no small way to maintain the type of society that for 243 years has served to make America great!

Although the CATO Institute, one of America’s top-ten “think tanks”, reported in 2018 that that both undocumented and legal immigrants commit far less crime that native born American citizens, why would anyone believe an organization that has the word “think” in its description? We are all familiar with the comment made by Iowa Representative Steve King back in 2005, that “since 9/11 more than 63,000 violent crimes had been committed by illegals aliens.”  The statistic has been proven false over and over again, and King is known to be the one member of Congress who consistently makes false, racist and xenophobic comments; but why be troubled by the facts . . . especially when we can politicize the tragic killings of Brandon Mendoza and Mollie Tibbetts by illegals. The image of a wall ‘protecting’ American boarders and keeping unwanted criminals out, gives us a sense of security and makes us all feel safe.  And who doesn’t make important decisions solely on the basis one one’s . . . feelings?  So let’s build the wall: an attractive barrier, made of either concrete, or steel beams if that is more appealing to the majority of Americans.  However let’s build these barriers not just along our southern boarder with Mexico, but in other places as well.

What I call “The Great Wall of the South” is merely Part 1 of my “Modest Proposal”!  Part 2 involves building a second wall around the state of Florida: a state with one of the highest percentages of undocumented workers in the country, AND a state with one of the highest number of citizens over the age of 65.  The goal here is to prevent any new illegals from moving to the Sunshine State, and hopefully to encourage illegals already there to leave!

Now this will undoubtedly force residents of the state to begin to better care for one another, but that is the job of the church and other social services organizations.  The government’s job is to protect and secure American territory and that is what this wall is designed to accomplish.  Fewer immigrant workers may mean that there will be fewer people to care for residents of nursing homes and retirement facilities, to cut grass and meet the landscaping needs of residents, and to work in the states two most important industries, namely agriculture and tourism.  However accommodations will be made Grandma’s inability to pick oranges as quickly as younger workers, and Grandpa’s need for riding lawn mowers to cut grass.  It is essential that we never incentivize illegal entry with jobs — regardless of the fact that they are jobs Americans appear to believe are beneath them.  Eventually, due to excessive immigrant populations, similar state fencing will also be placed around the states of California and New York; and fencing around the state of Texas should also follow,  for countless other reasons not addressed in this proposal!

Part 3 of my “Modest Proposal” involves Floating Water Fences, or FWFs; and will be placed around the Ports of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  This fencing will be made of coals panels, at least 35 feet high, and made of coal from West Virginia’s reopened coal mines.  Netting attached to the bottom of the panels shall prevent penetration of anything under the surface of the water, and the coal panels shall prevent penetration from anything above the surface of the water.  The FWFs in Los Angeles and New York will prevent any further immigration from points south of the United States of America, and Chicago’s FWF shall prevent entry from any immigrants coming from our socialist, Trudeau-loving neighbors to the north.

Finally, Part 4 of this proposal involves asking the CATO Institute to determine the exact percentage of illegals committing any kind of crime in this country, and then building walls around any American city that has that very same percentage of . . . yes . . . white males!  (This has nothing at all to do with illegal immigration but rather is all about keeping America safe again!)  Since the vast majority of mass shootings in this country are carried out by Caucasian men, keeping our nation safe should involved walling them into the cities where they congregate, and no longer allowing them to freely move around the country where they might force their dis-ease upon an innocent population.  Granted, this may adversely affect those few non-violent men that exist in these cities, as well as other non-White-male residents; but we also need to put safety and security first, always before freedom and liberty!

I conclude by declaring that I am well aware that ‘walls turned sideways become bridges.’  But American is our home.  And homes require walls, not bridges!  I am also well aware that ‘this nation was built by immigrants,’ but those immigrants were from places like Ireland, Italy, Germany, and Denmark: and they were people who looked like us, worshipped like us, thought like us, and dressed like us.  Such people will still be permitted to to come to our shores, for who would NOT want to leave the mere ‘happy’ places of Europe, for a country where 20-year-olds are burdened by student loan debt and 70-year-olds are burdened by the cost of prescription drugs and health care?  But all other immigrants will be denied entry!

Most importantly, I am also well aware that to some, the building of walls may not be very Christ-like.  But Jesus told us to respect our government, and to honor our leaders.  And if we fail to adequately guard and protect the boarders of this Christian nation for which so many have given their very lives, we may not have a nation to guard and protect very much longer.  Which is why walls are the only way for us to to move forward.

Therefore, be it resolved that on this day, January 8, 2019, as our nation prepares to hear the wise and thoughtful words of a beloved president, let’s stand together as a purple country, and accept this twenty-first century “Modest Proposal.”

Build the wall!

Build lots of walls!

For this is what will make America great again!

Holy faces make holy places

16 11 2018

I love the beach!  And anyone who knows me well, knows that.  My family and I have been visiting the Outer Banks since 1993, and at times it seems as though I have more memories of North Carolina’s barrier islands that there is sand on their beaches.

But I also like the mountains.  I have wonderful memories of camping in the Poconos in Eastern Pennsylvania, and of retreats in the hills of Montreat, North Carolina.  I similarly love the rolling plains of Denmark, as well as the tropical landscapes of Jamaica.  All of these places have afforded me rich opportunities to move deeper in my walk with God, and I am not being overly generous when I refer to them as holy places for me.

However as beautiful as those landscapes were, the sense of holiness I found there was likely less about the location, and more about the people with whom I visited these memorable spots. When I’m at the beach I’m with my family, who always give my days joy and my life meaning. When I was camping in the Poconos I was with my wife, who 33 years ago was just beginning to teach me about love and marriage. And when I was on retreat in Montreat I was with colleagues, friends, and sometimes complete strangers, and all of them taught me volumes about relationships, faith, and ministry. My time in Denmark brought me into contact with people who taught me about trusting God; and mission trips to Jamaica grew within me an appreciation for the plight of the poor and the needs of the oppressed. But of all the people who have touched my life over the years, few can measure up to a saint who still lives in York, PA.

Her name is Kathy Levey, and I hope this blog somehow makes it into her hands.  Kathy was on the search committee that called me to serve as the Associate Pastor for Youth and Family Ministries at First Presbyterian Church of York, and she was the face of God to me and my family for the 6 years that we were there.  She helped my wife and me to find our way in a community that has more than a few provincial tendencies; and to make a home in a church that was overwhelmingly large, and thus by nature somewhat impersonal.  She was a sounding board as I began to develop a ministry of my own, in the shadows of one who had been dearly loved and who broke many hearts when he left; and she was a counselor when my wife discovered that she had somehow gotten pregnant, in spite of our convictions that we were going to wait ‘at least five years.’  Kathy babysat at the drop of a hat, just so my wife and I could keep date nights and enjoy dinner and a movie; and with her husband Stu, had us over for holiday dinners when we had no family around and were all alone.

When I left York in the summer of 1992 to begin serving as the Senior Pastor of the largest Church in the Presbytery of Lake Erie, at the tender age of 31, Kathy gave me a plaque that you can still find in my office today. It reads, “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”  And while my interpretation of the message is vastly different today than it was 26 years ago, the words are no less meaningful.

It is truly the grace of God that has kept me well throughout my life; and when I look at what I consider to be my life’s most holy places, I am quick to discover that what made them holy in the past, and what continues to make them holy today, is and are the people around me in those spaces . . . people like Kathy Levey.  This Thanksgiving, it is those people for whom I am especially grateful: high School teachers who molded and shaped my mind and soul; an amazing group of college friends from McDowell Hall, and my ‘brothers’ from AEPi; Godly women and men with whom I walked through seminary, especially the guys on the second floor of Hodge Hall; amazing youth groups at First Presbyterian Church of York, PA; the staffs of all four Churches I’ve served, particularly the secretaries and office administrators with whom I often worked most closely, and especially the pioneers from Stone House; all the small groups that my wife and I have been privileged to be part of over the years; and today; and my amazing colleagues in National Capital Presbytery.

This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for the grace that God has showered upon my life in all the places I’ve been led over the years, places made holy by those who inhabited them with me.  Thank you for YOUR holy face, and for the gift of countless holy spaces!  Happy Thanksgiving!

A blue Wednesday – in more ways than one!

7 11 2018

skies It’s Wednesday morning, the 7th of  November 2018, the day after the 2018 elections; and the sun is shining and the skies are blue.  The winners of yesterday’s contests are likely still celebrating, and the losers are likely asking ‘what’s next’?  Reporters are trying to interpret the results, journalists are attempting to ‘read the teabags’, and FOX continues to do what they always do — stoke the fires of outrage with half-truths and conspiracy theories.  Thus far, President Trump has been silent, but the words of the President matter little anymore.

For many people like me, today is a blue day.  I’m certainly grateful for the gains made by opponents of the Trump of Administration in the House of Representatives, but I’m not the least bit interested in gloating.  The ‘blue wave’ was more like an ‘indigo ripple’, and I don’t expect much of the divisive animosity or acrimonious incivility to disappear anytime soon.  Never the less, the first steps have been taken, and I’m grateful that our system of checks and balances is beginning to be restored.

But today is blue for another reason — and my heart remains extremely heavy.  It’s a blue Wednesday morning because the reality of this country’s polarized electorate is not going away.  If anything, it appears to be deepening, with the rifts causing a divide that will likely never be repaired.   Some may have seen this two years ago, with the election of Donald Trump; but I refused to acknowledge it back then.  I thought it was simply a phase; a small step backwards after having taken three steps forward.  I thought that if people just saw the ineptness of the current President – his hostile and rude way of doing ‘business’, and his selfish and unGodly way of leading out country – that everyone would get on board and that change would come.

But the results of  yesterday’s elections reveal that is simply not going to happen – at least not anytime soon.  Voices like mine appear too partisan, party politics remain too strong, the Christian base of the GOP remains too misled, and too many Trumpers remain too uninformed.  And while some of that may be hard to hear, truth cannot be denied.

So I’m blue today.  I realized this morning that perhaps for the very first time I’m getting a tiny taste of what my Black sisters and brothers have been feeling for years: anger over White peoples’ racism, rage over good peoples’ silence in the face of injustice, disbelief over a nation’s flawed reasoning, and confusion over a way of being Christian that is anything but.  I feel as though I’m standing on a cliff of hopelessness, ready to either fall . . . or jump!

As I look out my office window, the ‘big picture’ offers me a view that includes a bright blue sky.  But this morning, for my own sanity, I’m going to narrow my vision, and just focus on the beauty of the fall leaves that adorn the tree in the foreground.  On days like this, we need to focus on the little things: the tiny gains, the laughter amidst the tears, the Light in the darkness, the small joys that come in the morning.  Those are the only remedies for hopelessness, and the only things that can keep us going.

So wherever you are today: take heart, be at peace, and stay strong.  By all means keep resisting, for silence truly is consent.  But do not allow the blueness of the day to overwhelm you.  Do not allow it to either make haughty your soul or make damp your spirit.  There is still work to be done . . . hard, prophetic, reconciling, and transforming work.  Such is the work of ‘blue’ people.  It’s the work to which we have been called, and the work to which we have given our lives.  And we cannot afford to lose focus.

This Wednesday morning, the 7th of November 2018, the day after the elections, let’s feel whatever it is we need to feel, and then let’s take a deep breath and keep going.

The ‘no’ in normal!

3 11 2018

Not-NormalWhether one is a supporter of Donald Trump or not, the results of the 2016 election were a shock to almost everyone!  Few people thought he could defeat . . . anyone; and yet he did!  And he did it in spite of the fact that most Americans knew he was not a very moral or ethical human being.  The majority of people living in this country knew then what the entire world knows now: and that is that Donald Trump is inarticulate and uninformed. As we have heard from people on both sides of the aisle, he lacks the temperament required to be President of the United States. He uses language that is racist, misogynistic, derogatory, and inflammatory.  He calls people names like a third grader.  He is as narcissistic as an infant.  And he lies . . . all the time!  Donald Trump is simply not presidential; and if we’re honest with ourselves, we all know that!

But for the past two years, many people have come to accept the direction in which he has taken the Republican party.  They have accommodated the leader that the GOP base has coronated ‘king’, and whether for political or personal gain, the vast majority have either decided to get behind the President or to simply close their eyes and endure the unorthodox ways in which he seeking to lead our nation.  And sadly, far too many of these people have sought to console the rest of us by saying that we really don’t need to worry, because the political situation in which we find ourselves today is . . . yes! . . . normal.

As the story of Alexander Hamilton continues to entertain people around the country, we’ve been told to be thankful that at least political enemies are not having duels anymore!  We’ve been told that Donald Trump’s sexual affairs are really no different than those of either FDR or JFK; and that his lying about them is no different than Bill Clinton’s. We’ve been told that his self-serving and ‘crooked’ financial dealings are no worse than those of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. We’ve been told that the left’s outrage over the actions of the Trump administration is no different than the right’s outrage over many of the actions of the Obama administration; and that if we’d just learn to listen to, and talk with, the ‘other’ side, we’d understand! And we’ve been told that people’s incivility around political conversations has been a national reality for generations: since our founding, this country has always been divided, and the polarization we’re experiencing today is nothing new, but simply the result of having a two-party system!

But friends, nothing about Donald Trump, the current state of the Republican Party, or American politics in 2018 is normal.  In fact, it’s all very abnormal.  And with the 2018 elections before us, it is time for the country to boldly and decisively say “No” to his brand of politics.

The one truth that President Trump does routinely proclaim, is that no president in American history has been criticized by the press as harshly as he has. And on that, he is correct. But never before in our history has America had a president so untruthful; a president with so many conflicts of interest, both at home and abroad; a president with a past so fraught with behavior so lacking in integrity.  Never before has the ‘mob’ mentality – a violent way of thinking and behaving, that dominates circles on the right, and not the left – been condoned, encouraged, and embraced by the President of the United States.

So thank God for the press; because even some of this President’s closet advisers fail to speak truth, and continue to spout misleading spin born in ‘alternative’ facts and absurd conspiracy theories. Without the press, we’d be left with nothing more than the partisan entertainment found on FOX.

Trump’s blatant and unapologetic commitment to behaving in ways that cause injury and harm to our immigrant and transgender siblings needs to be stopped. And his colorist and sexist rants and tweets need to end. No president in the last 100 years has dared to assert that White Supremacists could be “good people”, and no president in my lifetime has ever called for his opponents to be locked up and his critics to be shut up. No! This is NOT normal. And next Tuesday, America can take the first step in making it all stop. We can elect a Congress that will begin to hold this President and his Administration accountable. And we can disempower the voices of those Americans whose values fail to accurately represent America.

No! This is not normal. And it’s time for a change.

Until this weekend, it had been well over a year since I last watched an episode of “House of Cards.” But after the first episode of the final season, I’ve been reminded of the theatrical evil of the Underwood Administration. When the series began, its entertainment value was born in what many viewers thought to be the actors’ compelling, but unrealistic behavior. However today, five years after its premier, and two years into the Trump administration, much of the series’ entertainment value has been lost . . . at least for me. Today, the lying, the deceiving, the blatant evil is simply all too real . . . too normal. America actually HAS a president who embraces the attitudes of the power-hungry Frank Underwood. And it’s frightening to experience.

So Americans – REAL Americans, Americans who truly love this country – have no choice but stand up on Tuesday and say no. Democrats AND Republicans who care about this nation, must go to the polls and reject the Trump agenda by saying no. This is NOT normal. And we cannot be gaslit into believing that it is. So vote! And together, let’s make today’s normal, abnormal again!