Browsing articles in "POLITICS"
Nov 21, 2017

Let’s talk religion and politics around the Thanksgiving table

In classic Western movies and children’s games cowboys are the good guys with revolvers in their hands. Indians with bows and arrows are the bad guys who are after your scalp. Thanksgiving is one of the few stories that interrupts that image. Here the natives are good because they help the newcomers. There are other stories where Native Americans have positive images: the love story of Pocahontas or the image of the noble savage who is so civilized and gentle to animals and the natural environment that he becomes a romanticized role model.

One thing that strikes me is that all these stories, positive or negative live off a stark contrast and an oversimplified dualism. Good versus bad, us versus them, white versus colored, civilized versus savage. I would love to think things have changed. But I guess this pattern is too tempting to give up. America continues to be divided between native and immigrant, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, urban and rural, liberal and conservative, turkey or ham on the Thanksgiving table.


The world has always been divided. That is part of human nature. It is the original sin. The emblem of the United Church of Christ recognizes this reality by displaying the globe with lines cutting across the orb. God’s children live divided into different nations and religions. From that divided world rises the cross. It is a symbol that Christ has suffered as one of the least of us, an outcast among outcasts, a Jewish radical crucified by the Roman Empire, a Native American speaking up against occupation, a pilgrim trying to establish a safe haven. The crown on top reminds the church that Christ reigns. That is what the last Sunday of the liturgical year is all about: The reign of Christ. Your nationality, your religion, your education, your wealth, your political leanings, none of that has the final say. None of that is supposed to govern how you live your life, but the person of Jesus Christ. The cross reveals that all the labels that divide us are false idols. This Thanksgiving let us be thankful for diversity and nuanced conversations.

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May 22, 2017

Trump Far Less Religious Than Obama in His Speech to The Muslim World

In 2009 President Obama received mixed reviews for his famous Cairo speech. Now Donald Trump’s Riyadh Speech is in the books. The 45th president seems to care much less about religious matters than his predecessor. Here is a comparison of their word count when it comes to key spiritual issues:

Obama uses religious verbiage almost three times as much as his successor.
What is your take on this? Do the words a president uses matter?

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Dec 20, 2016

Syria then and now

Christmas is a highly political story. Remember what triggered Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem? – The Roman Emperor had ordered a census so that he could tax all his subjects in their hometown. Herod was a satellite king for the Roman Empire. He governed the Roman province called Syria around the time Jesus was born. The gospel of Matthew tells the story that when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Baby Jesus escaped as a refugee to Egypt. As a grownup he was eventually arrested and crucified. The sign on his cross said what the wise man had been proclaiming at his Birth “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”.

The mighty Roman Empire was afraid of a babe in a manger because people saw him as the king. As a consequence oppression only got harsher. Innocent infants were murdered. Today we call these acts terrorism. Terrorists want to spread terror. That is not the bomb or the killing itself but it is that feeling of not being safe in situations where you are actually supposed to be safe. A baby in crib, like Jesus in his manger is supposed to be safe.

Unfortunately terror never stops. Just over the last 48 hours we have seen events that question a decent sense of safety and security. The Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot to death in an art-gallery opening a photo exhibit. 12 people were killed by a truck plowing through the crowds at a Berlin Christmas Market. Places of art and entertainment are supposed to be fun and safe. That is what terror does: Bringing fear to places where it does not belong.

Christmas is a highly political story. There is much to fear in the world. Some things have always been scary. Other terrors are brought upon the innocent on purpose. But the Christmas story also contains the answer to the fear of terror. It is the proclamation of the angel in the Gospel of Luke: “Do not be afraid!” That is not only an emotional comfort like “Don’t feel bad.’ It is a profound call to resist the temptation of being terrorized. Baby Jesus will not die today! Working for peace in Syria still makes sense! Creating community in the city is still a beautiful thing! Do not be afraid!

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Jul 25, 2016

Run for the White House 2016

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Have you seen enough Convention coverage yet? Well, here’s part of a speech that you could have heard today, or was it at last week’s convention?

“Welcome to our convention!
If this party wins the White House come November we will be in good shape. In recent years the other party has hurt hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans by clinging to their ideology.
Can you imagine what America would look like if our party held the presidency? We would be able to set things right so that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness mean something.
Do you remember when the other party was not as nasty in their attacks on us as they are these days? It was a more civil America, where reasoning counted for something. Comprise was not a bad word but the way of getting things done. Now they are so dug into their trenches that you can barely talk to them.
What kind of America do you want? One where our ideals are upheld or one where they have the last word? With one of our own in the White House America has always been better off. The other party has consistently hurt us in the long run. Generations after generations suffer from the hurtful policies they put in place.”

What matters for us as Christians is what policies best reflect kingdom come! If Jesus were to come back today, what kind of America do you want him to find? One where God’s love is lived out or one where political ideologies rule the day? As Christians we cannot be strict followers of one ideology or another. We can only seek the best human equivalent of God’s intention. And parts of that will be found on both sides of the aisle. None of them are a perfect match of heaven. Politics is a human endeavor. As such it is flawed. But it is necessary to seek the best solution. The key is participation in the process.

We can do this! But it takes your vote. Make sure you are registered to vote. Make sure your friends, neighbors and coworkers are registered to vote. If you are not sure you can search for yourself and everybody else in the Fort Bend County Voter Registration Database. If you have a relative or acquaintance who is not listed in that database by October 11, 2016, they won’t be able to vote come November. Now go and do what is most reflective of God’s love to the best of your flawed human knowledge!

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Dec 1, 2015

World AIDS Day


The Rosenberg City Council has invited me to give the invocation for tonight’s meeting. World AIDS Day is held on December first each year. This is a time when we remember people who have died from AIDS-related illnesses and people who are living with HIV; a time to give thanks for the progress that has been made and to reflect on what still needs to be done. It is an opportunity for people around the world to unite to eradicate AIDS and show support for people living with HIV. It is a time to commit anew to ensuring that no one is left behind.

The Ecumenical Council of Churches provides a beautiful World AIDS Day Liturgy this year. So I will adapt the Prayer of Confession that was originally composed by Rev. J.P. Mokgethi–Heath, Church of Sweden, to fit the occasion at City Hall tonight and offer the following prayer:

God our Creator, we confess that we have not looked upon all whom You have created with the same love and celebration as You have. We have not affirmed all Your people as having equal worth and equal dignity. We have stood by as others have been humiliated and cast out; Creator God, Have Mercy on us.
Jesus our Redeemer, in Your life on earth you lived the inclusivity you preached. You reached to the margins of society and drew all to salvation through Your sacrifice on the cross. We confess that we have not lived your inclusivity. Day by day we encounter people whom You have redeemed and walk past without recognizing the dignity you have bought for them; Redeemer God, Have Mercy on us.
Holy Spirit our Sustainer, You breath life into all around us. Your breath fills us with life and draws us to want to praise You. We confess that our community has not been a welcoming place for all. We have associated with those we feel comfortable with and been apathetic about the countless people who have felt barriers to entry, barriers to full citizenship; Sustainer God, have Mercy on us. Amen.

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Sep 5, 2015

Two things to ponder for Labor Day

Here are two things to ponder this Labor Day Weekend:

1. How come women are still paid less than men?

2. What do labels like “employee” and “employer” mean in the sharing economy?

What are your thoughts?

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Jul 15, 2015

Good Deal


The so-called Iran nuclear deal is a good deal. For years I have retweeted President Netanyahu‘s calls for tougher negotiations. He is still not content but I am. Here is why:

Time: In almost all provisions the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will be in effective for at least ten years. While some critics call that too short let’s be honest: What in life last longer than ten years? Just compare your own life to where you were ten years ago. In my estimation that is a significant amount of time.

Inspections: They will be ubiquitous and very thorough. Hiding a nuclear arms program will no longer be possible.

Sanctions: Lifting sanctions at the front end instead after good behavior is a classic carrot and stick approach: You behave, you can keep your carrots but once you start cheating we will get the stick out again in no time. That builds positive incentives.

Use of force: If all fails the international community now actually has a tool in its hand that allows for military action. Judging from the experience with Iraq and its non-compliance in the years leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom it seems wise to have that stick available. Should inspections not be satisfactory Annex I, para. 78 states:

“If the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities
inconsistent with the JCPOA cannot be verified after the implementation of the
alternative arrangements agreed by Iran and the IAEA, or if the two sides are
unable to reach satisfactory arrangements to verify the absence of undeclared
nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA at the
specified locations within 14 days of the IAEA’s original request for access, Iran,
in consultation with the members of the Joint Commission, would resolve the
IAEA’s concerns through necessary means agreed between Iran and the IAEA. In
the absence of an agreement, the members of the Joint Commission, by consensus
or by a vote of 5 or more of its 8 members, would advise on the necessary means
to resolve the IAEA’s concerns. The process of consultation with, and any action
by, the members of the Joint Commission would not exceed 7 days, and Iran
would implement the necessary means within 3 additional days.”

Politics: Now the real good news is in the composition of the Joint Commission: Outside of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action every step would require the UN security council to come to an agreement that would not be vetoed by China or Russia. According to Annex IV, para. 1.2:

“The Joint Commission is comprised of representatives of Iran and the E3/EU+3
(China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United
States, with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security
Policy), together, the JCPOA participants.”

That means in order to establish non-compliance it only takes an agreement between the EU, France, Germany, UK and US. This majority is what makes me most confident in the JCPOA.

You can find all the documents of the agreement with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and SecurityPolicy.

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Jul 4, 2015

Obergefell v. Hodges

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“Human dignity has long been understood in this country to be innate. When the Framers proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that ‘all men are created equal’ and ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,’ they referred to a vision of mankind in which all humans are created in the image of God and therefore of inherent worth. That vision is the foundation upon which this Nation was built.”
In his dissent to the Supreme Court Decision to establish marriage equality in the entire United States, Justice Thomas quotes the Declaration of Independence. How, from that quote he comes to opposing equality is beyond me and the majority of the people in this country as well as its Supreme Court Justices.

I have made it my habit to read the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July. Usually this old document has something to say that is relevant today:
In 2012 pushing for immigration
In 2014 keeping Texas clean.
In 2015 celebrating marriage equality.

What exactly are those rights again that all men are equally created with?
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness!

Who are those men that were created equally?
“Men” have been substantially redefined since 1776: The term now is understood to mean women and people of color as well.

How does one pursue happiness?
Marriage is one way in which my wife and I pursue happiness. All Americans have had that right since 1776.

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Aug 31, 2012

Republican Convention: my take on select speeches

In Tampa there was one speaker who is truly presidential material. And no: it’s neither the candidate nor the VP pick. Here is my take on a few select speeches

Mia Love: Mormons don’t have to be white men but they do have to be Republicans.

Christ Christie: I should be the next President but Mitt is cool as well.

Paul Ryan: I hate Obamacare.

Condoleeza Rice: Republicans need to become more reasonable when it comes to Foreign Aid.

Ron Paul: The speech that never happened, or:
How Do You Even Make a Four-Minute Ron Paul Tribute Video That Doesn’t Once Reference U.S. Foreign Policy?

Clint Eastwood: Boy, have I gotten old!

Mitt Romney: I can build successful businesses and that’s all it takes to be President.

Only if you made it to the center of my list you could be a future president.
Conclusion: Obama is winning 2012. Rice should be shooting for 2016.

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