Why I’m Never Putting a Joe Biden Flag on My Truck

I was talking to a coworker today.

(OK, well, technically I was arguing with an anonymous Twitter troll—but hey, work is work, right?)

As Patriot45FreedomGuy launched a fierce barrage of 280-character word salad salvos at me about how disgraceful the Democrats are and what a hero Donald Trump is, he declared himself a proud member of the “Silent Majority,” (which was an oxymoronic exercise in irony, since 45’s supporters are both patently insufferable and their guy lost by over 7 million votes, but maybe I’m just getting distracted with semantics here).

As my American eagle avatar-ed friend attempted to give his disgraced orange messiah credit for the rollout of a vaccine that he repeatedly refused to order while in office for a virus he continually denied (a vaccine my new friend vows he will never take), he tried to convince me that President Biden wasn’t fairly elected—and the proof is in the lack of merch.

“Nobody even likes Biden” he assured me. “I still see Trump flags and hats and tattoos everywhere around town, I don’t see Joe Biden’s face anywhere.”

And he’s not going to, but it has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with adulthood. 81 million of us elected a president; we didn’t erect a golden calf.

I voted for Joe Biden because I wanted an intelligent, qualified, compassionate adult making important decisions about complicated issues—not because I lacked a cult leader to define me and give me purpose and fill in the holes in my existence.

I wasn’t desperately seeking an insecure, needy doppelgänger God made in my own image, who I could worship and live vicariously through and find fulfillment in. I just wanted a well-adjusted human who wasn’t going to cavort with delusional pillow makers, tweet midnight racist rants, peddle deadly fake cures, speak in fast food slogans, and plan violent insurrections.

That’s what’s so exciting and refreshing about this moment in America: I know I helped elect a man and a woman in President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who are fully-formed adults who spend their time reading their briefings and digesting complex issues and working their behinds off and making the kinds of difficult decisions qualified people are used to making and don’t run from. They’ve constructed a diverse Administration with bright, experienced people whose disparate complexion represents the vast breadth of this nation—and they’re quietly and diligently getting stuff done.

And I don’t need to love everything they do and I am not required to fall in lock-step with this President and I’m not a mindless sycophant to him. I know his party isn’t here to fall prostrate before him in blind adoration—which is why they wouldn’t throw his Democratic critics into a volcano the way Republicans do people like Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney, and anyone else who dares question the maniacal fits of their outvoted, barely literate deity.

It’s the same reason this nation isn’t covered in Biden swag right now: because politics is not our religion and because we find meaning in our own existence.

I think Biden’s doing an amazing job, but I don’t have a flag with his name on it on the back of my car—because he’s my president not my savior, and because I’m a rational adult human being who doesn’t need a stranger to give me my identity.

No matter what President Biden does, I’ll never be compelled to slap his face on my bumper or on my left pectoral muscle, because there was never a gaping hole in my life that he was ever going to fill. I am not defined by a cult of personality that exists to stroke the ego of a hollow shell of a man, and I don’t need goofy red hats and graven images and asinine truck flags to prove I’m a patriot.

I already showed my love for this country and its people by voting for a mature, stable, and sincere though inherently flawed human being—who doesn’t seek attention like oxygen, doesn’t need my worship in order to survive, and doesn’t complete me.

That’s how I’m making America good again.

 

Check out John’s forthcoming book, ‘If God is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk!’

Evangelicals Don’t Hate Cancel Culture, They Invented it

Every day I see Christians lamenting the “Cancel Culture;” claiming whenever they face accountability for their words or their conduct, or for the policies or politicians they support—that they are being systematically silenced.

This is irony of biblical proportions.

The Evangelical Church in America doesn’t hate cancel culture, it invented it.

Ask LGBTQ human beings, who have been continually bullied into silence by pastors and youth leaders: who are berated and marginalized and excluded from spiritual community if they speak their truest truth or desire to marry the person they love or want to serve in ministry. Ask them how welcome or heard they feel in the Evangelical Church and how much of a presence they have if they want to be both out and included.

Ask women, who in most Conservative denominations are still not allowed to become pastors or to lead Bible Studies in mixed gender classes; who are still theologically treated as less-than and expected to be silent and submissive, relegated to the kitchen and the bedroom. Ask them how their claims of sexual abuse or domestic violence have been received and how much of a voice they have if they question authority or seek opportunity.

Ask people of color, whose most passionate opposition to equality still comes from white Evangelicals; people who daily face discrimination from a religious entity that is steeped in white supremacy and whose cries for justice in the face of unspeakable brutality by law enforcement are greeted with sustained resistance.

Ask Colin Kaepernick. Ask kneeling NFL players and outspoken NBA stars, who silently and gently asked America to see the racial disparities and systemic injustices still at work here and to demand the equity and empathy that Jesus preached. Ask them how the Evangelical church has conflated America and Christianity and told them to “shut up and play.”

Ask any actor in Hollywood who speaks out against homophobia or anti-Asian hatred or white supremacy, whose name begins to trend almost immediately as professed Christians rush to eliminate them wholesale because they cannot abide entertainers to also be fully formed human beings.

Ask Muslims, whose religious tradition is so often made synonymous with evil; who are continually used as a catch-all boogeyman for mass shootings and terrorism, whose presence is rarely included in Evangelical demands for “religious liberty.”

The Religious Right and Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham are the original cancellers of culture: of black culture and LGBTQ culture and Jewish culture and Muslim culture and non-American culture. It is their daily bread and butter messaging.

I’ve been a pastor in Christian churches for twenty-five years, and I’ve heard staff meeting discourses and witnessed the church lobby conversations and I’ve had a front row seat to organized social media campaigns designed to shut down criticism and remove diversity when it became too loud or too diverse to feel comfortable.

I can’t tell someone what their theology should bear or how they should express their moral convictions or what is compatible with their faith tradition—but I do think it’s hypocritical for Evangelicals in America to clutch their pearls and play the victim, and to condemn a perceived oppression that they invented, perfected, and continue to traffic in.

Jesus’ message was one of invitation and inclusion; of a table being expanded, of the least receiving love, of the foreigner being welcomed, of the lepers being touched, of the Samaritan being good, of the starving being fed, of the entire world being loved with ferocity. It was also a message that pushed back against cruelty in the name of God.

More and more, what I realize as I place the teachings of this Jesus next to the conduct of so many churches that bear his name, is that the compassionate, generous, open-hearted rabbi who preached the beauty of diversity, shunned political power, and condemned manipulative religious people—would be immediately cancelled by Christians.

 

Conservatives are Not Getting Vaccinated, to Own the Libs

Today, I received a text from our local pharmacy here in North Carolina, asking us to contact two friends or family members and tell them to get vaccinated. 

That this is even necessary, illustrates this nation’s worst present affliction: political tribalism.

In the wake of the single most devastating public health crisis in our lifetimes, one that has killed well over a half a million people here in the United States and forced all of us into more than a year in lockdown—this simply shouldn’t be.

No one should be begging adult human beings who’ve been the loudest for months in demanding that we “reopen America, ” to do the one thing that could allow that to happen safely and quickly.

And the tragedy of all of it, is that were it not for the previous president and his party’s incessant attacks on Science and medicine and empathy since the pandemic began—they would have already been vaccinated. This would simply not be an issue.

This resistance to getting the shots isn’t based on reliable evidence that suggests any medical risk, it is simply the putrid fruit of a political movement that has trafficked in conspiracy from day one of this disaster: with the former president spending months downplaying the virus, debating the death toll, mocking mask-wearers, pushing phony cures, and turning safeguards into a form of anti-American oppression.

In other words, had Donald Trump simply said when this all began: “This is a serious danger. We’re all in it together. This has nothing to do with politics. We all need to mask and distance and wait on a vaccine and get it once it arrives” that’s what Conservatives would have done and we would not be here:

We wouldn’t be pleading with friends and relatives and co-workers to get a vaccine they somehow now seem to fear more than the virus itself.

FoxNews wouldn’t be running continual anti-mask, anti-vaccine programming designed to convince people to avoid sound medical advice and resist healthcare.

We wouldn’t be enduring people who were telling us all last year to take hydroxychloroquine, despite its documented hazards in such usage—now refusing a carefully engineered vaccine made precisely for the purpose of protecting them against this virus.

Tens of millions of Americans would not be opting out of a medical treatment that most of the world is waiting for and millions of people are literally dying without right now.

And we wouldn’t be listening to our parents and aunts and next door neighbors and politicians, talk about some vague hesitancy that they say they can’t explain.

(I can explain it, Conservatives: you’ve been brainwashed. You are afflicted with partisan politics and bad theology, and you are unable to think clearly because of it. You are so intent on validating your vote that you will do anything to feel that way.)

And as grief-worthy as the past year-plus has been, and all the senseless loss and cancelled plans and emotional trauma we’ve experienced, this year is perhaps even more tragic, because the help we all waited for is here, and a huge swath of this nation is refusing it, all to declare their allegiance to a former president and political party who weaponized this pandemic from the moment it began, and inexplicably turned it into a partisan event.

And so, the herd immunity they all spent months pining for, will likely not be possibly, precisely because they are taking a stand against Science and facts and Democrats. They are quite literally making “owning the Libs,” a hill they are willing to die on—or kill lots of other people on.

A friend of mine shared her exasperation with her Trump-supporting family members, saying, “I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried showing them the vaccine development process, I’ve tired giving them the Science. I’ve tried guilt and pleading and appeals to the compassion of Jesus, but nothing works. They simply will not be vaccinated because they’ve come to feel that getting it would be a defeat.”

And that’s the sad truth here: the refusal of tens of millions of professed adults to be vaccinated despite the unthinkable death we’ve witnessed, is a symptom of a political movement that was so bereft of ideas, it needed to turn a pandemic into a war against their opponents. In doing so, they made opposing the vaccine a political stance that is simply wasting lives and delaying progress and exacerbating suffering.

If only we could figure out how to give people immunity from ignorance and to boost their empathy…

When Republicans Say “Woke,” They Really Mean “Human.”

The politics of fear is nothing new.
We’ve seen it throughout history.
It’s a well-worn playbook.
When you lack actual ideas, you need an enemy.
When you have nothing redemptive to offer, you have to create a monster to push back against.
When you are devoid of decency, you need to vilify it and somehow turn that decency into a threat.
That’s what we’re seeing right now in America.

Turn on any Fox News show monologue, read any Right-wing hack news outlet, visit any MAGA influencer’s TikTok page, or sample any Republican politician’s social media account and you’ll find their latest ubiquitous boogeyman: the “Woke Mob.”

They shoehorn the words into every televised conversation, every incendiary think piece, every pearl-clutching press conference—usually tethered to other recently-wielded phrases like “the Radical Left” and “cancel culture.” These repetitive, nonsensical word salads are designed to terrify their constituents, leverage fear in the easy-manipulated, and to misdirect them from the reality that they have no actual platform, outside of the opposition to progress, the resistance to diversity, the aversion to equity, and the evasion of justice.

“Woke” is versatile Conservative catch-all epithet:

“Woke” is Republican-speak for those of us who believe every America adult should have a voice in the electoral process of this nation,
for people who don’t believe a human being’s body, gender identity, or sexual orientation are anyone else’s business,
for we who are sickened at the violence against the Asian community: the direct result of the irresponsible rhetoric of a Republican president,
for Americans who are disgusted that a cancer diagnosis now often necessitates a gofundme page, because we are making illness a financial death sentence,
for people who will not abide the assassination of unarmed people of color by members of a police force infected with white supremacy,
for those who grieve the way this nation is ravaged by preventable gun violence because those who profit from it have such a stranglehold on our lawmakers—
for those of us who exhibit the slightest empathy whatsoever toward migrant families or the working poor or people of color, when we see how hostile our nation has been to them and how oppressive it still is.

It’s woke to want fair elections.
It’s woke to be anti-racist.
It’s woke to be anti-fascist.
It’s woke to trust Science.
It’s woke to wear a mask in a pandemic.
It’s woke to be the parent of a bullied child.
It’s woke to want to be addressed with the gender you identify with.
It’s woke to want a less-polluted community.

Anything that brings equity gets this label from the Right because inequity is its only goal.

It turns out that “Woke” is Republican-speak for anyone who gives a damn about other human beings or the planet. It is a dog-whistle slur against expressions of humanity that seek to make a vulnerable community less vulnerable, or to spread resources, opportunity, power, and a voice to more people.

Republicans traffic in words like “woke” because those words require no quantifiable data, no measure objective reality, no definable parameters for their base. They are simply magical incantations that conjure up terror in the minds of a generation of uninformed white people who have lost the ability to think critically and who desperately need someone to ratify their prejudices and give credence to their blind hatred of difference.

Watching Conservative America’s histrionics about the Woke Mob’s swiftly-encroaching threat, I am greatly encouraged because I see how terrified they are. It tells me that they sense the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice, they see the progress on the horizon of history, they feel the demographics here moving toward a place where they will soon be the minority.

Yes, the Woke Mob is coming for them: the disparate, sprawling army of fiercely devoted human beings who know that diversity makes us better, that compassion is the better path, that more voices make a sweeter sound.

And the bigots and the hate-preachers and the supremacists are right to be afraid of us because we in our “wokeness” are going to make sure that they do not have the final word here.

To Republicans, to be woke is to be deeply human, and that humanity will be the foe they cannot defeat.