Archives For Jesus for President

Who I’m Voting For…

Jason Micheli —  November 6, 2012 — 2 Comments

Yeah, sorry for the tease, but I don’t think so.

I posted this last week but the WordPress analytics tell me not enough of you took a gander. So with the polls closing soon here’s some pastoral, Kingdom-focused wisdom from yours truly….

 

Every now and then I flirt with the belief that Christians should opt out of campaigns and elections, let the chads and voting booths, the empty soundbites and inane talking points lie fallow for a season.

It’s not that I don’t think certain issues are important. It’s not that I don’t think Christians should be engaged in the concerns of their given context. It’s that I suspect a mass Christian opt-out on Election Day might be a helpful and cleansing reminder to our politicians that A) the means by which they engage political conversation couldn’t be more divergent from our faith convictions and B) the notion that the teachings of Jesus fit perfectly into either party is what the Church has usually referred to as heresy.

After all, issues and elections may be important, but only Jesus will bring the Kingdom and Jesus’ plan to heal the world is neither the Democratic or Republican platform but the Church. The extent to which that notion scares you or strikes you as naive exposes both Jesus’ unreasonableness and your own lack of faith.

Every election year when well-meaning Christians either ask me voting advice or just post their silliness about ‘voting the bible’ on Facebook, I’m reminded of Martin Luther’s maxim that he’d rather have an effective pagan leader than an incompetent Christian at the reins of government.

When it comes to me, I’ve got conservative Tea Party types convinced I go to sleep at night beneath a portrait of Che, Mao and Jesus arm-in-arm. And I’ve got liberal Democrats who think I’m raging right-to-lifer. There are military folks who think I’m a Mennonite in name only and left-leaning activists who think my reluctance to believe in ‘rights’ language is proof I’m a backwards fascist.

Without trying to sound self-congratulatory, such ambiguity makes me, I think, a Christian. Or at the very least, a pastor.

As examples like Pope Benedict and Archbishop Rowan Williams point out, Christian convictions do not easily lend themselves to party affiliation despite those parties’ drooling eagerness to adopt ‘God language’ into their platforms.

Which is to say, as a follower of Jesus, you shouldn’t really care for whom I vote just as I, frankly, do not care for whom you do.

As Jesus might say, ‘render unto Caesar …’ or maybe he would say…’the law and the prophets do not hang on…’ or maybe he would say…’put away the sword…’ or how about ‘the Kingdom of God is like a tiny-not-as-significant-as-your-paid-advertising-mustard seed…or might he warn ‘you cannot serve God and Mammon…’?

This screed was prompted and brought to you by Jonathan Martin’s Election Day Communion meme:

“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.

If you’re one of those millions out there convinced that if Barack Obama/Mitt Romney gets elected in November all is lost, your way of life is jeopardized, and the future is surely dim then you have what we call a…

 THEOLOGICAL PROBLEM

Need an explanation?

Here’s a great post by Peter Enns:

Before we get going here, let’s be clear on what

I.am.saying.

and what

I.am.not.saying.

This is not a cynical, “I’m above it all,” anti-political rant.

I am not telling you both candidates are the same.

I am not telling you not to vote.

I am not telling you to stop arguing about politics and coming to strong convictions. Have at it.

I am saying that if you get so worked up about it that you become really angry, or you actually “fear for our country,” or are thinking of moving to Greenland or freezing yourself if “that guy” gets elected, you may need to step back and think about what’s happening inside of you.

You can and should be genuinely concerned about health care, our economy, and many other issues–there are issues of justice and compassion.

But, listen for the rhetoric in others and in yourself.

If you fear for your way of life, that if the wrong person gets elected all is lost and you simply don’t have any hope for your future or the future of your children, you have accepted what we like to call in the industry a “rival eschatology.”

I’ve just lost half of you, but hang with me.

All political regimes are utopian. Communist, socialist, fascist, monarchic, and democratic. All of them. They all make promises to be the ones who will deliver the goods. They all promise that, without them, you are lost. They all claim to have “arrived,” to represent the culmination of the human drama, to be the true light, a city on a hill, that which bring you and all humanity true peace and security.

That is what “eschatology” means. It doesn’t mean “end of the world” in some video game apocalyptic scenario.

Eschatology means: “We have brought you to where things are as they should be. You are at the place where you can now–finally–have reason to hope. Trust in us. Fear not.” Eschatology means the pinacle of true humanity, where wrongs are righted, all is at peace, and the human drame comes to its fullest expression.

They all say that.

When we fear, or rage, or are depressed about politics, it means we have invested something of our deep selves into an “eschatology”–into a promise that all will be well, provided you come with us.

Christians can’t go there, because Christianity is an eschatology.

And I’m not talking about going to heaven or escaping the world we live in. Many Christians on both sides of the aisle work hard in the world of politics to bring about justice and with deep conviction (even if Christians disagree strongly on how that should be done). This is good and right.

But Christians should not adopt the rival eschatology that this or any political system or politician is of such fundamental importance that the thought of an election turning sour or the wrong laws being passed mean that all hope is lost.

There is a huge difference between saying, “That person would make a horrible president for the following reasons,” and “If he is elected, I just don’t know what I will do, where I will go–how we can carry on.”

The Christian never says the latter, because, regardless of where things play out politically, we know that no political system can actually deliver the goods, try as they might.

This is what the first Christians were taught about the Roman Empire, which promised its citizens peace, grace, justice, protection from enemies–all of which was called “salvation” (that’s the word that was used at the time). The Gospel offered an “alternate eschatology,” where the goods were delivered, not though the power of the state but through suffering and enthronement of King Jesus.

Hence, the rhetoric of the book of Revelation, the paradox of the slain lamb of God (Jesus) exalted above every earthly power. Hence, St. Paul’s claim that our “citizenship is in heaven”–not “up there somewhere” but the kingdom of God come to earth in the crucified and risen messiah, which is never caught up in political systems, but stands ready to work with them or deeply critique them depending on what is happening at the moment.

This entire line of thought goes back to the Old Testament prophets. They preached, harassed, and annoyed Israel’s leaders not to fear the nations around them, nor to trust that the any of them will make things right and give Israel lasting peace. They were much more critical of  Israel’s own leaders when they set up a “rival eschatology,” by promising to deliver the goods through military strength or savvy political alliances rather than following God’s path. The prophets said, “hope is elsewhere.”

If you are watching political ads, speeches, debates, and you find yourself growing fearful, angry, or depressed (the latter two are often rooted in deep fear), remember that your true trust is elsewhere.

Remember your eschatology.

Here’s the post

Jesus for President

Jason Micheli —  October 3, 2012 — 1 Comment

Tonight, while millions gather around their televisions for the presidential debate, I will be at a church meeting, struggling with several lay leaders to fine-tune (not in vain, I hope) our Sunday coffee fellowship.

That we’ll be immersed in the tedious chores of church life during such a significant national event seems almost a cruel joke to the pastor and political junkie in me. To the Christian in me, though, spending tonight focused on church life, even the mundane parts of it,  seems like the perfect counter witness, a reminder that the Church is neither red nor blue, nor red, white, and blue, but is a transnational People whose primary citizenship is to the Kingdom.

The Church isn’t a people who have political positions. The Church isn’t a people who participate in politics. The Church is meant to be its own politics. An alternative community. The Church is meant, as Israel was called, to be a ‘light to the nations.’

Instead all too often the reality is that we have blue churches that are alternatives to red churches and red churches that are alternatives to blue churches but few churches committed the cruciform way of Jesus as an alternative to every hue of the world’s politics.

As Shane Claiborne puts it in Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals, Christians on both sides of the aisle have so fallen in love with the state, we’re so used to practicing our faith in the world’s most powerful nation, that it’s killed our imagination:

     ‘We in the church are schizophrenic: we want to be good Christians, but deep down we trust that only the  power of the state and its militaries and markets can really make a difference in the world.”

It’s of course true that both political parties have legitimate perspectives on serious issues and that engagement in those issues is an appropriate concern.

But deep down, Claiborne’s right. And, I wonder, if the Church is in decline in America because we don’t really believe in the product we’re selling? Or is it because we believe in America more?

Either way, Claiborne’s right.

We’ve turned Christ’s Kingdom into some pie-in-the-sky-after-we-die realm because we don’t really believe the way of Jesus can transform this world. Or maybe we believe it but, deep down, we know that way comes at too high a cost to the positions we hold dear or the lifestyle we enjoy.

The result is that we can’t imagine what it means to be a People whose very life together points to the only thing that can truly transform the world.

Our reliance on red/blue categories, on market-based solutions, on policies has muted our imagination as Christians.

As evangelical leader, Tony Campolo puts it: “Mixing the church and state is like mixing ice cream with cow s*&$. It may not do much to the manure but it sure messes up the ice cream.’ 

 

And so tonight as millions watch the candidates volley memorized soundbites back and forth, I will be at church waist deep in a conversation about coffee hour, my own small prophetic counter-witness to Christ’s Kingdom.