• Character,  Write Your Life With Grace

    “Which Values Will You Vote For?” Christianity in Crisis

    One statement we can all agree on: The presidential election in 2020 is the most important election in modern history. The hurricane surrounding this election is nearing a category four: catastrophic damage to our society. I’m disappointed in all of us, the deep divide we seem adamant to foster. As a lifelong Republican, Conservative, Christian, I am especially disappointed in my own community. What I find particularly upsetting is our fear of honest discourse about President Trump. We are arguing, shaming, labeling, and judging in ways that liken us to the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. We are contentious and reluctant to talk about Trump from a macro perspective; it seems we are willing to ignore his alarming street-fight behavior for our own interests (abortion, capitalism, rights). And by interests, I mean values. That’s the word my community likes to use in piety to explain their unabashed support of a man who is doing far more harm than good.

    I don’t understand this so I started asking questions. Mainly,

    How can we as a party, as Christians, support a man that has such horrible character and is doing so much damage to our democracy on a daily basis?

    I’m not the only one asking this question. Various leaders in the white evangelical circle are tweeting, writing articles, podcasting and broadcasting over the radio about this very question. To my frustration, the answers to the question fall into four polarizing categories:

    1. Complete silence. The church does not want to go there. As if an election isn’t looming.
    2. Brazen support and defense of Trump (as a victim of the left) to the point of idolatry: He was ordained by God to do God’s work; he was appointed by God to fight pedophilia.
    3. A passive aggressive approval for Trump in favor of “values” (“I will plug my nose from the stench of him while I vote for him, because, you know, the babies”).
    4. The question is acknowledged but answered in a way that spiritualizes responsibility: “Jesus is the answer, we all need Jesus. Jesus will fix this mess when people repent.”

    More confusing than the refusal to specifically answer the question is the vitriol against those of us asking the questions. And again, this vitriol comes from the “leaders” within our own community as well as the lay members. If one is questioning support for Trump, then one’s position is deemed a “left-wing socialist, communist, progressive Christian whose liberal theology is not only misguided, dangerous, and disturbing, but following after Satan.” If one IS supporting Trump, they of course are (self-proclaimed), “spirit-filled and listening to God.” No wonder people on the outside want nothing to do with Christianity. If this is what it is, then I don’t either.

    We are a community that is destroying itself from the inside, out; we are bloodied and bruised from attacking and dismissing one another amid the void of guidance and civil debate. I feel profound sadness over this. What values are WE displaying in this mess as we argue this way? And what values are we voting for? Like it or not, we need to engage this issue of voting our values. Therefore, the rest of this post will examine three values: The Sanctity of Life, Socialism vs. Capitalism, and Decency in Regards to Leadership and Character.

    The Sanctity of Life

    The conversation of voting your values usually begins with the sanctity of life, aka, abortion. Merriam Webster defines sanctity this way:

    “Holiness of life and character.”

    This definition does not delineate which stage of life is holy, just that life itself is holy.

    Gotquestions.org explains it this way:

    “The sanctity of life means that humanity is more sacred than the rest of creation. Human life is not holy in the same sense that God is holy. Only God is holy in and of himself. Human life is only holy in the sense of being ‘set apart’ from all other life created by God. Many apply the sanctity of life to issues like abortion and euthanasia, and, while it definitely applies to those issues, it applies to much more. The sanctity of life should motivate us to combat all forms of evil and injustice that are perpetuated against human life. Violence, abuse, oppression, human trafficking, and many other evils are also violations of the sanctity of life.”

    So, while I am pro-life and agree that abortion is an important issue—the baby/fetus is a completely different set of DNA than the woman’s body that is growing inside of, and being supported by, her body, but is inherently #notherbody—this separate set of DNA has somehow become the poster child for the word sanctity.

    I cannot find biblical evidence for this. I do not see a verse that outlines a hierarchy of human life or a scripture that might suggest that the life listed at the top of the pyramid is the most important, with a directive to fight for that one first, and then work your way down to “the least of these.” In fact, I found verses that exhort the exact opposite.

    Romans 2:11               God does not show favoritism

    James 2:8-9                 …but if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers

    Leviticus 19:33-34      When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born…

    Acts 10:34-35              God shows no partiality

    Proverbs 22:2             Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is maker of all

    James 2:1-4              …have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

    John 13:34                  …love one another as I have loved you…[equally]

    Fighting for the life of the unborn, while ignoring and accepting the de-valuing of life in all other facets of humanity is not only convenient, but sinful. We grab onto the abortion issue because its uncomplicated (“it’s wrong; end of story”). Fighting for justice for people (the babies) in the poor communities once they are born, or helping people (the babies) that suffer abuse or oppression once they are born, or helping people (the babies) who become homeless, or incarcerated, or trafficked, or those that flee countries of abuse and need protection…we are not so interested in THOSE babies who are now adults with messy lives. We apply sanctity, “holiness,” to the humans who have not yet taken a breath, but not to the humans of another ethnicity, of another economic level, of another religion, or of another country. We view them as “them” and not as holy, not as sanctity of life that needs to be protected and respected.

    Christians should fight for all life equally in all stages of life and not put one above the other.

    Socialism vs. Capitalism

    The bible does not specifically support either socialism or capitalism in the sense that the bible is a blueprint in how to establish and run a government. There are plenty of verses to support both positions, but they slant from the perspective of character and learning to live rightly under any system rather than a mandate on government policy.

    Isaiah 1:17, Deuteronomy 24:19-22, Acts 4:32-35, Matthew 22:25-40, Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-28, 2 Corinthians 9:7, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Deuteronomy 24:15, Proverbs 22:22, Deuteronomy 5:19, 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Matthew 25:14-30

    For example, from “How Should a Christian View Socialism:”

    “The command in Deuteronomy 5:19, ’You shall not steal,’ is meaningless without private property…in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,’ suggests that the Bible teaches that individuals are responsible to support themselves…Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:14-30 clearly teaches our responsibility to serve God with our (private) resources.”

    On the other hand, from “What is Christian Socialism:”

    “In the passage from Acts 4:32-35, ‘All the believers were in one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but shared everything they had…there were no needy persons among them…’ The most glaring problem with applying this verse to creating a socialistic society is that this was not a mandate. It was voluntary. In the Old Testament, when Israel was a theocracy, it was still a capitalistic society…[the New Testament, i.e. Jesus,] did not call for a switch to socialism in the government when he arrived; rather there were programs in place to prevent generational poverty and the rich were forbidden to take unfair advantage of the poor.”

    Sojourners reports over 2000 verses in the bible on the topic of poverty, social justice, and equality. There are 59 verses on “one another…love one another, pray for one another, etc.” We are to behave like Jesus, putting our time and effort into each other, especially the marginalized, no matter who or what system is in power. God is much more interested in our character than our comfort and in our faith than in a certain system of government.

    There are two articles that explain this further, complete with verses, that you can read here: “How Should a Christian View Socialism?” and “What is Christian Socialism?” These are balanced articles weighing the differences between capitalism and socialism and purport a biblical view of generosity, taking care of your neighbor, being a good steward of your time, talent, and treasure, and developing your character.

    As far as voting for the system we prefer in the society in which we live, we have the right to pick one, keeping in mind the government’s role is to protect the rights of its people. ALL of them. Every class, every race, every religion, every age. Instead of being concerned with our personal rights, we are to be concerned with justice for ALL. Both capitalism and socialism have pros and cons and each should be addressed.

    As far as the bible is concerned, it doesn’t take an either-or or a neither-nor position. In other words, government systems around the world are not the point of the bible. The bible is concerned with the person of God, the creation, the fall, the redemption, and who God says we are and how we are to live like Jesus in that story, wherever one lives in the world.

    The question should never be, “Is this leftist or right-wing, liberal or conservative, socialist or capitalist?” The question should be “Does this action love my neighbor, look out for their interests more than my own, manifest the fruit of the Spirit?” —Dr. Michael Svigel

    The Decency Factor

    This is the part that befuddles me the most. White evangelical support for him is bordering on idolatry. Of all the sermons that are preached about loving one another, this edict seems to be thrown out the window when it comes to Trump. He doesn’t pass the decency test. He’s a bully and a manipulator. He has the worst character we’ve ever seen in an American president. He behaves as close to a tyrant as we’ve ever seen in an American president. The Washington Post has fact checked over 20,000 lies made by the president during his time in office and the tally continues to rise as he becomes more erratic towards election day.

    All of the “good” things a supporter will try and argue for—”Israel, conservative judges, trade deals”—pale in comparison to the damage he is doing to our democracy with his words and behaviors on a daily basis.

    If the conversation didn’t turn contentious while debating sanctity of life or capitalism vs. socialism, it will definitely take a turn for the worse when Trump’s character is mentioned. This is where the claws come out. Trump’s character is a topic that his supporters do not want to discuss as long as he is doing their bidding. His character, and our response to it, is turning this election-season hurricane into catastrophic results to the church (and the country) if we allow this to continue.

    We the Republican party, and most especially we as Christians, are passively accepting vitriol from our candidate that hurts our fellow citizens with racist and demeaning remarks, vitriol that hurts our economy with his continued down-playing of the pandemic, vitriol that hurts our relationships with other countries because he has so many of his own interests going on. We are towing the Republican line for a bully and going over the cliff in the process for the sake of our “values.” If we as a Christian community continue to ignore his words, tweets, and lies, what does that say about OUR Christian character? It certainly makes us complicit in hurting other people. It makes us complicit in racism, sexism, chaos, white nationalism and lies. Where is the sanctity of life in this scenario?

    We cannot separate how a person behaves from the way they govern, as has been suggested. They are one in the same package. It would be like trying to drive a car without an engine. Behavior IS the rubric we use to discern good or bad leadership. Ignoring this only perpetuates the chaos; it makes us complicit in it.

    Which value will you hold most valuable in the voting booth? Will you cling to the babies because its easier? Or will you value the sanctity of ALL life by realizing that our candidate’s words and behavior are dangerous to our democracy and its people on multiple levels. We can’t afford another four years of a man who supports only the people who support him and attacks everyone else. America is supposed to stand for justice for all.  As Christians, we should too.

    Tara Hoke Schiro is a Los Angeles based author, podcaster, blogger, and designer for “Wear Your Character.” All can be found at www.TaraSchiro.com and on Etsy at Wear Your Character

  • Character,  Write Your Life With Grace

    “2020 Vision” O Say Can You See?

    The impact we have on one another sets the course for both of us. 
    We rise or fall to the rhythm of our love, or to the cadence of our hate. 
    Both are contagious. 
    Both have the power to set the world on fire. 
    One burns for restoration, for unity. The other burns into destruction from fear and shame. 
    The legacy we leave isn’t singular. 
    It doesn’t stop at the words recited in our eulogy 
    or with assets left to kin. 
    Our personal legacy participates in the plural of We the People.
    The climate is changing, no its not. It’s true. We see it. 
    Does God really exist?
    Rioters looting, people dividing, everyone blaming, churches breaking.
    We are the people. We are the problem. We can be the solution. 
    God save us from our sin.
    Peter, do you love me more than these? Yes, Then feed my lambs.
    The words do not come. Maybe it’s appropriate. The dullness.
    Much has been said, left un-said, 
    In anger. In fear. In exasperation. In sadness.
    We talk but don’t listen. We covet knowledge but not wisdom.
    Silence perpetuates injustice. Lies ignite chaos. 
    Favoritism fuels oppression. Apathy leads to ignorance.
    We cannot turn our gaze and expect to see straight.
    We cannot: close our eyes, wait til it’s over, 
    let other people decide, let them figure it out.
    The climate is changing, no its not. It’s true. We see it. 
    Science doesn’t really know.
    Fires burning, waves crashing, wind destroying, earth quaking.
    We are the people. We are the problem. We can be the solution. 
    God save us from our sin.
    Peter, do you love me more than these? Yes. Then, tend my sheep.
    Virus killing people, turning off the lights.
    Make us all mad cuz its real. It’s a hoax. 
    It’s like the flu. 
    He didn’t say that. That’s a lie, out of context.
    Farmers losing crops, China has our meds, immigrants are stuck, 
    let’s have a party.
    Wear the mask, don’t wear the mask. It helps. It doesn’t help.
    Fake news, conspiracy, it’s all overblown. Wave the flag. Buy your guns.
    John Woodward has the tapes.
    The climate is changing, no its not. It’s true. We see it. 
    It’s right against left. 
    Buildings burning, people shooting, words destroying, nations quaking.
    We are the people. We are the problem. We can be the solution. 
    God save us from our sin.
    Peter, do you love me more than these? Yes. Then, feed my sheep.
    Where are the leaders who lead? Raise your hand! Stand up!
    Wash feet like Jesus. Turn the tables like Jesus.
    Reforming police isn’t wacky, loving black isn’t Marxist, 
    helping people isn’t communist.
    Save the babies, save the living, kids in cages at the borders, 
    the refugees’ uterus’s in Georgia.
    Feed the people in the streets, help the addict, love the enemy. 
    Don’t disrespect the flag. Play ball. 
    Take a knee, pump your fist, cross your heart, hope not to die. 
    Carol dancing, people cheering, Eye of the Tiger.
    The climate can change. No, it can’t. Yes, it can.
    It’s good versus evil. I know who wins.
    Hearts burning, love crashing, good destroying, earth rejoicing.
    We are the people. We are the problem. We can be the solution. 
    God save us from our sin.
    Peter, do you love me more than these? Yes. Then, follow me.
  • Character,  Write Your Life With Grace

    “You Did Not Just Say That!” Do the means justify the end?

    I’ve had some interesting conversations the last several days about the political article I posted on Facebook. First, let me apologize for posting that article. When I saw the news, I was triggered with disgust and anger. I did not pause; I did not wait. I very quickly reacted and re-posted the article. That was wrong and I apologize. However, the conversation that ensued was enlightening and for that I am grateful. At times it was heated. I’m okay with that. I can take the heat. I do not mind confrontation if it’s in the spirit of learning. The conversation moved from the comments on the post to private messages, both in support of and rebuke of my comments to the respondents, and then to a phone call from a well-meaning friend who echoed the sentiments of a few commenters that my theology is not only misguided but “disturbing.” I repeat. I am grateful for these conversations because it gives me the opportunity to learn and grow. But do the means justify the end? Is it okay that I slung an arrow with an article in order to get to a well-intentioned conversation?

    The three people that follow my social media postings religiously, waiting with baited breath to read every word of everything I post, know that I’ve been posting about character for the better part of two years, so it stands to reason that my focus on Trump and the Republican party is around character. I am a Republican so I would like to talk about the character of my party and why we are adamant to excuse such controversial behavior from our leader. My three people know that I frame most of what I write with the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). I frequently talk about opposites, that a character trait only has value in an opposite situation. The 2020 shitshow is the ultimate opposite situation.

    My three readers can tell you that I do not tout this list of character traits as a bunch of foo-foo kumbaya. Love doesn’t just give hugs; it also sets boundaries and fights for justice. Kindness doesn’t just pay for the coffee for the nice person behind you; it is a gentle and loving spirit when the climate is disdainful. The political article I posted on my Facebook did not produce kindness. It produced anger, arguing, fiery arrows of propaganda, confusion, and distrust. It did, however, produce valuable insight. Does that make it okay?

    I wrote previously about “Conversations That Divide.” In that post I lamented that I wish we could get to the place of realness in what we are doing. That we would be brave enough to list the pros and cons of ourselves, of others, of our products, of our arguments, of each side of the debate. When we are not brave enough to do that, when all we can talk about is either the pros or the cons, we lose credibility. Side A touts side A’s positives and side B’s negatives. Side B touts side B’s positives and side A’s negatives. Neither are willing to entertain their own negatives or the other’s positives. This is not helpful. In fact, it is damaging. It perpetuates chaos, confusion, anger, fear, and oppression. None of which are listed in the above list of the Fruit of the Spirit which Christians are called to produce in our every interaction.

    There is an underlying code in certain sectors of Christianity that says you’re not really a Christian if you are a Democrat or if you vote for a Democrat. This presents a problem. What if you don’t like or agree with the Republican candidate? There’s no room for disagreement without shame. This is oppressive. God is neither Democrat or Republican. In the words of Dr. Michael J. Svigel, “The question should never be, ‘Is this action leftist or right-wing…liberal or conservative…socialist or capitalist?’ The question should be, ‘Does this action love my neighbor…look out for their interest more than my own…manifest the Fruit of the Spirit?’”

    Manifesting the Fruit of the Spirit is not a weakness or a passive stance. It actually takes strength to act with wisdom and discernment in a tough situation.

    And that brings me back to the conundrum of Trump. Try as I might, I cannot find a Trump supporter who is willing to have an honest conversation about his character. Every question I ask about Trump’s words and behavior is met with defensiveness. “He didn’t say that…his words were taken out of context…that’s a lie…the left is twisting everything…you’re watching too much mainstream media…your theology is misguided and disturbing…take the plank out of your own eye…what about Biden and the Democrats?…I’m voting for the babies…don’t look at the way he acts, only look at how he governs.” Huh? Aren’t they one in the same? How do we separate a person’s behavior from the way he governs?

    Not one response from one supporter, so far, has been brave enough to answer my questions about Trump’s lies and disparaging and manipulative words with any kind of humility: ‘Yes, his words are wrong. That was a terrible thing to say. It hurt a lot of people. I don’t subscribe to that type of thinking but I’m willing to ignore his narcissistic behavior because of what he can do for me.” Why is it important to be honest in this way?

    First, when we deny a leader’s behavior because he’s giving us something we want, it means we are passively accepting everything we are against: inequality, racism, chaos, lies, manipulation. We are agreeing that it doesn’t matter how he behaves toward other people, as long as he is for our group and votes for what our group wants. This type of thinking flies in the face of everything the bible teaches about leadership. To be clear, government should take care of the citizens, not act as our God. But when the leader shames half the people, and we as Christians accept this, then we are ignoring the very core of the teachings of Jesus. This sheds a terrible light on Christians when we align ourselves with a man who causes a lot of damage. Do the means justify the end?

    Second, when we deny each other’s feelings in our conversations, and then go so far as to say they are wrong for having them without first listening or understanding, or when we hide behind, double-down on, dig our heels into our own perceived positives while throwing darts to deflect our negatives, this shuts down all future teamwork. Trust cannot be built. Problems do not get properly addressed or solved. Relationships fizzle. The structure falls apart. This is Leadership 101. Can you imagine behaving this way in a marriage?

    It’s okay to ask questions. Especially about how to apply our religious beliefs to our vote for President. It’s okay to disagree. It’s okay to decide to not follow the crowd. The political article I posted was the wrong way to get the conversation started. I will grant you that. I don’t know if that mean justifies this end. Note to self to not do that again. In my heart of hearts, my true desire is to create a place of safety and trust for us to BE REAL, to ask real questions, chew on hard topics, and to receive honest and humble answers in order to get to a place of decency in rhetoric and debate. This takes transparency, vulnerability, humility, grace, and a little bit of character.

    Can we do this without eating each other alive?

    Tara Hoke Schiro is a Los Angeles based author, podcaster, blogger, and designer for “Wear Your Character.” All can be found at www.TaraSchiro.com and on Etsy at Wear Your Character