Archives For Barack Obama

Police Shooting Missouri

Over the past week I received not a few emails from the likes of you, dear readers, asking why I had not posted any reflections, missives or rhetorical theo-bombs over the shooting and ensuing violence in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Missouri.

One email asked (with- in my imagination- forked tongue) if I only cared about the poor and dispossessed in Guatemala.

A European subscriber asked if homosexuality was the only current ‘issue’ over which I could muster any passion.

More than several pressed me, wondering if my silence on Ferguson was actually reticence, fear to comment on a story on which my congregation would disagree.

On that point, let me just add here that I serve a largely military community that long ago learned how to integrate its ranks and to do it- comparatively- well, and that the soldiers in my community have sacrificed much so that we could be the kind of nation where OUR POLICE don’t walk the streets dressed like soldiers. 

Allow another aside: Our soldiers sacrifices are for naught if we’ve created a society where our police must walk our streets as soldiers. 

Back to the emailed interrogatories on my radio silence re: Ferguson-

Short Answer: I took a few days off to pass my kids off to their grandparents.

Long Answer: I’m not sure social media contributes anything meaningful to the media feeding frenzy. I don’t trust my own motives in posting, as it will surely just lead to ‘clickable’ post titles and tags. Race relations in America are owed more than 800 word thoughts. I’m not there. I, we, don’t know exactly what happened so better to wait than retract.Write what you know.

But then President Obama et al kept serving up a cliche I do feel warrants a (theological response):

‘Now is the time for calm and peace.’

This in the wake of the nightly looting and violence. In the wake of the shooting (6x) to an unarmed black boy: ‘Now is the time for calm and peace.’

You know our society has jumped the shark when Rand Paul offers the most prophetic word. I hardly condone base, mindless looting, but after living 10 years in DC I know that ‘now is the time for calm and peace’ translates roughly to:

‘Everyone- stop being so angry. Return to your normal lives and wait for change which you will quickly forget until the next Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin.’

‘Now is the time for calm and peace’ means stop agitating in a way that a nearly all-white, militarized police force will be forced to retaliate. Instead, patiently wait for your do-nothing Congress to never deliver any meaningful change and wait for your press to likewise do nothing until the next headline-grabbing story.’

Even if necessary, even if offered by a black President ‘Now is the time for calm and peace’ is a prescription offered by someone who is not ill themselves. It’s the proposal from someone in power.

It’s the suggestion from the status quo to keep everyone’s status, quo.

My real quibble, however, is how President Obama and other pols and pundits mindlessly throw around ‘peace’ as though it’s their word to (mis)use at their pleasure.

Quibble isn’t really the right word.

I’m righteously angry that so many, for whom the status quo serves their status, use OUR word ‘peace’ to maintain the world the way it is- or was 5 minutes ago.

I’m angry because in both Testaments the word ‘‘peace” is shalom. What we hear with the English word ‘peace’ is only a partial definition of ‘shalom.’

It doesn’t mean the absence of violence.

 

Shalom means total well-being. 358x242-ferguson-smoke

Wholeness.

 

Shalom is when/where all things are reconciled.

Set right.

 

Shalom is the final product of God’s very first promise never to abandon God’s creation.

As Brian Zahnd points out, Hebrew-English dictionaries define shalom as the state where ‘nothing is missing and nothing is broken.’

Peace.

Shalom.

It’s the word that motivates the Word that breathes all things into existence.

It’s the word behind the words to the promise to Abraham to (re)bless the whole world.

It’s the word that sums up what God is doing in and through the Word, Jesus Christ.

 

Peace.

Shalom.

It’s the word ministry given to Jesus followers right before the Cross.

And it’s the first word ministry given to them right after Easter.

 

I don’t care how you parse the events in Ferguson over the past week or whose side you take in the altercation that led to the boy’s murder.

It doesn’t matter.

Because calm or not, returning to what was prior IS NOT what the Bible refers to as ‘peace.’

Even if Michael Brown had returned home unharmed, ‘peace’ is not what he would’ve enjoyed. Protesters ceasing and desisting and returning to their homes to scratch out meager wages in an unfair, segregated context IS NOT what the Bible refers to as ‘peace.’ Reporters moving on to the next feeding frenzy IS NOT what the Bible refers to as ‘peace.’ Affluent you and me returning to our normally scheduled TV programming, FB likes or Social Media postings IS NOT what the Bible refers to as ‘peace.’

Shalom.

 

Peace, according to God, according to the Easter Jesus, is when a black President can speak out on a racial issue without half the country reflexively chalking it up to being ‘racially motivated.’

Peace, according to Yahweh, is where there is no death row much less one where 9/10 are black and from neighborhoods even worse than Ferguson and sent there by jurors, judges and lawyers who look like me.

Biblical peace is when you ask someone in a city where is the white school and where is the black school and they have no  freaking idea what you’re talking about.

Biblical peace is where we- police and citizens- don’t fear the ‘other’ because we’ve pushed them and ostracized them and segregated them into hopeless neighborhoods, failing schools and dead-end futures.

Peace, Jesus’ kind of peace, is where America can finally repentantly confront that it is a nation whose prosperity was built upon the blood of slaves, a sin whose effects fester even today.

Peace is where we can confess that sin and seek reconciliation all the while without a need to justify ourselves.

There’s a lot more needed to even come close to that word ‘peace’ but I thought that’s a start.

At least, President Obama is right on one part of his sentence. Ever since Easter, ‘now’ IS the time.

 

 

 

 

“On Election Day in 2008, roughly 1 in 100 searches that included “Obama” also included “KKK” or “nigger.”

Our thoughts are often superficial. “Paul Ryan shirtless” is currently Googled 9 times more often than “Paul Ryan budget.” Don’t ask me why, but “Paul Ryan shirtless” is Googled more frequently in blue states than in red. When we search for “Michelle Obama,” we include the word “ugly” three times as often as the word “beautiful.”

Politicians can map the geography of their popularity by looking at what they’re called on Google. “Obama” is Googled more frequently in blue states, but “Barack Hussein Obama” is Googled more often in red states — just as “Willard Mitt Romney” is in the blue states.”

It’s widely known that people tend not to be truthful or forthcoming to pollsters when it comes to sensitive topics like race, religion and sexuality. Especially when your opinions on those topics tend towards the lesser angels of our nature. Turns out we’re less guarded when we’re on the computer, googling and thinking no one is watching us or recording every search term and key stroke. And what we see about ourselves when we don’t think anyone can see isn’t very flattering.

Check out this article in the NY Times about what Google tells us about our elections. Some of the data is amusing. Much of it is ugly and disheartening. What’s interesting is just how reliable Google analytics can be in predicting voting patterns.

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Every election season, pollsters try to figure out the demographic makeup of the electorate in an election that hasn’t happened yet. And every election season, pollsters are greeted with charges that their estimates are wrong. Republicans criticize 2012 polls that assume that African-American turnout will remain at its 2008 level. Democrats criticize 2012 polls that assume African-American turnout will be lower than it was. And that’s just one demographic group.

It’s hard to predict voter turnout because people are reluctant to admit that they will not vote. How reluctant? One recent estimate suggests that as many as two-thirds of people who will end up not voting tell pollsters that they will.

In my work in economics, I use anonymous, aggregate data from millions of Google searches in hundreds of media markets in the United States to measure variables on sensitive topics — racism, drug dealing and child abuse, for example — where people tend to be less forthcoming in surveys (to put it mildly).

My research suggests that by comparing Google search rates for voting information so far this year with search rates on comparable dates from previous elections, we might already be able to get a pretty good idea of the composition of the 2012 electorate.

Despite the ubiquity of Google searching, and searchers’ demonstrated willingness to share their true feelings and unbridled thoughts on Google, what Americans are typing when they search remains surprisingly underutilized in political analysis. But Google can often offer insights unavailable elsewhere.

Some of what we learn is pretty silly. Every month, about 5,000 people ask Google about Mitt Romney’s underwear choice (devout Mormons wear temple garments). But some of what we learn is disturbing. On Election Day in 2008, roughly 1 in 100 searches that included “Obama” also included “KKK” or “nigger.”

Our thoughts are often superficial. “Paul Ryan shirtless” is currently Googled 9 times more often than “Paul Ryan budget.” Don’t ask me why, but “Paul Ryan shirtless” is Googled more frequently in blue states than in red. When we search for “Michelle Obama,” we include the word “ugly” three times as often as the word “beautiful.”

Politicians can map the geography of their popularity by looking at what they’re called on Google. “Obama” is Googled more frequently in blue states, but “Barack Hussein Obama” is Googled more often in red states — just as “Willard Mitt Romney” is in the blue states.

How frequently people in a state searched for “Obama jokes” almost perfectly predicted the vote share of Mr. Obama’s 2008 opponent, John McCain. “Romney jokes,” which typically focus on his wealth, are popular in Iowa and Ohio, two swing states in which Mr. Romney has struggled to connect with working-class voters. Never mind favorability; maybe what we need is a jokeability index.

Google search data also give some evidence suggesting that last-minute rumors had negative effects in the 2008 election. There were a number of states, like Oklahoma, Tennessee and Kentucky, in which Mr. Obama slightly underperformed in the final polls. Google search data offer one rather interesting correlation: these states had some of the largest search volumes for “Obama Muslim.” And those searches, while not uncommon throughout the summer and early fall, rose substantially in the final days of the campaign, after many of the final polls were conducted.

Comparing the timing of our Google searches to outside events is often intriguing. Searches for “McCain life expectancy” rose to unprecedented levels the day of his controversial choice of the Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. They rose again after Ms. Palin’s poorly received interview with Katie Couric.

Google data may also help us predict the composition of the 2012 electorate. Individuals may systematically deceive pollsters regarding their intentions, but actual voters are far more likely to Google phrases like “how to vote” or “where to vote” before an election.

By the middle of October, taking the frequency with which Google searches include “vote” or “voting” and comparing the number to those from the same days four years earlier strongly predicts where turnout will rise, stay the same or fall. If search rates for voting information were higher in the first half of October 2008 than in the first half of October 2004, voting rates tended to be higher in 2008 than in 2004. It’s true for midterm elections, too. If search rates for voting information were higher in the first half of October 2010 than in the first half of October 2006, voting rates tended to be higher in 2010 than in 2006.

Click to see the rest of the article.

Am I only noticing because the political conventions have followed one after the other this past week? Or am I the only person out there with both Red and Blue friends? Whatever the reason may be, lately I’ve felt besieged by friends’ partisan Facebook posts.

The posts range from cheap shots to substantive arguments to regurgitating talking points to tired cliche and rumors to baseless attacks. The posters range from liberal Democrats to conservative Tea Partiers. According to my ‘friends’ Mitt Romey is a heartless Gilded Age Robber Baron and President Obama is a Maoist bent on our destruction.

It’s ironic that even though I do not have cable (or even watch television) or listen to commercial radio I’m already weary of the campaign attacks.

I suppose this is the first presidential election I’ve experienced as a user of Facebook and social media.

What’s surprising to me is how people will blatantly assault other people with their political views on FB when politics still ranks up there with God and Sex as taboos in face-face conversation. Even more surprising to me- not sure why it surprises me, actually- is that so many FB users either assume everyone else agrees with them or, worse, don’t care if you do or not and, even worse, don’t care if it insults or offends you.

All this just goes to show, I suspect, that FB Friends aren’t necessarily friends. At least friendship still necessitates some measure of civility even in this heated political climate. And civility necessitates you know, actual, listening.

The pettiness, meanness and avoidance of complexity (who actually believes America’s challenges, problems or successes begin and end when one Presidential Administration begins and another ends?) are all reminders to me that Christians should be cautious about their political loyalties and identification.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Barthian through and through but it’s naive to think either party’s platforms capture the peculiar nature of what it means to follow Jesus- as scripture says: ‘Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ does so in earnest. And it’s dangerous for Christians to forget that our first loyalty is to Christ not to party or, even, to country.

That’s why, I think, civility and truthfulness should always trump partisan point-scoring because as followers of Jesus we care more about people than party, platform or politics.

With that in mind, here’s a good reminder list about Christians and politics from Relevant.

Political discourse is the Las Vegas of Christianity—the environment in which our sin is excused. Hate is winked at, fear is perpetuated and strife is applauded. Go wild, Christ-follower. Your words have no consequences here. Jesus doesn’t live in Vegas.

 

IT’S TIME WE TALK POLITICS IN A WAY THAT MODELS THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS RATHER THAN MOCKS THEM.

 

Not only are believers excused for their political indiscretions, but they are often applauded for committing them. Slander is explained away as righteous anger; winning arguments are esteemed higher than truthful ones (whether or not the “facts” align); and those who stir up dissension are given the pulpit. So I balk when pastors tell me the Church should engage in the political process. Why would we do that? The political process is dirty and broken and far from Jesus. Paranoia and vitriol are hardly attractive accessories for the bride of Christ.

Rather than engage in the political process, Christians have a duty to elevate it. Like any other sin, we are called to stand above the partisan dissension and demonstrate a better way. Should we have an opinion? Yes. Should we care about our country? Yes. Should we vote? Yes. But it’s time we talk politics in a way that models the teachings of Jesus rather than mocks them.

Here are seven things to remember about politics:

1. Both political parties go to church.

There’s a Christian Left and, perhaps even less well-known, there’s a secular Right. Edwina Rogers is a Republican lobbyist and head of the Secular Coalition for America. She’s a Republican, and her entire job is devoted to keeping religion out of the U.S. government. Party lines are drawn in chalk, and they’re not hard to cross. The Church must be engaged in politics, but it must not be defined by the arbitrary lines in politics.

2. Political talk radio and cable “news” only want ratings.

When media personalities tell you they are on a moral crusade, they are lying to you. These personalities get rich by instilling fear and paranoia in their listeners. If we give our favorite political ideologues more time than we give Jesus, we are following the wrong master. There are unbiased, logical and accurate news sources out there. But it’s up to you to be a good steward of information—to fact-check for yourself, take ideology with a grain of salt and make decisions based on facts rather than gossip.

3. Those who argue over politics don’t love their country more than others.

They just love to argue more than others. Strife and quarreling are symptoms of weak faith (Proverbs 10:12; 2 Timothy 2:23-25; James 4:1) and are among the things the Lord “detests.” We need to rise above the vitriol and learn to love our neighbors the way God commanded us. We need to love our atheist neighbor who wants to keep creationism out of schools; our Democrat neighbor who wants to make gay marriage and abortion legal; our Republican neighbor who celebrates death penalty statistics; and yes, even the presidential candidate from the other side.

 

IF YOU’RE MOCKING YOUR GOVERNING LEADERS ON FACEBOOK, THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GRIEVED.

 

4. Thinking your party’s platform is unflawed is a mistake.

The social policies of your party were constructed by imperfect politicians fueled by ambition. It’s nearsighted to canonize them—and it will make you obsolete in a few years. Every four years, the parties adopt a current, updated platform at their respective conventions. And while they stay on general tracks, every four years the platform evolves to meet the needs of a growing, modernized and changing party. The Republican party of today doesn’t look like it did 10 years ago. We need to know when to change our views to meet a changing culture—and when to stand by them.

Here’s the rest.