How the Left can come back from the dead

It’s been really intriguing to see not only the rise of Trump but the reaction to him – from all sides. Though this may be oversimplifying a bit much, it’s safe to say that in broad strokes the right has accepted the rise of Trump and alt-right populism. That’s probably not a good thing, not least because it erodes the very things conservatism stands for. They did it for a variety of reasons, most of them relating to self-preservation and a lesser-of-two-evils calculation. But that’s a subject for another article.

What has been far more interesting than the mainstream right’s shift from rejecting to largely accepting Trump is the way the left has absolutely lost its mind in rejecting him. Don’t get me wrong – I am no fan of Trump. Despite my misgivings on the man and some of his policies, not to mention his character, it’s been both amusing and horrifying to see the left self-destruct over him. I don’t need to elaborate too much. The recent controversy in Berkeley is the greatest example. In response to some admittedly concerning right-wing speakers, the left has decided to throw “protests” that sometimes turn into flat-out riots. Some were as early as three days after the results.

This alienates the average voter and, in fact, makes Trump and the alt-right look pretty okay by comparison. At least the right isn’t actively breaking windows. In fact, if anything, the left is securing Trump’s re-election.

The part of me that’s probably a little sadistic is okay with this.

The part of me that likes limited governments that exist to protect human rights is freaking out. There are a few reasons why, but the most important is this:

The Left keeps the Right accountable

It does. The right keeps the left accountable, too. The fundamental problem of democracy is that majorities tend to be loud, against their own actual interest, and they get in the way of legitimate progress. Not to mention they also tend to step on a lot of rights of minorities in the process. James Madison argued, way, way back in the 1700’s, that the best way to solve that problem is to extend the republic. By making a republic larger, it’s much harder to form a majority faction, and by extension harder to tread on the rights of minorities.

The left and the right are essentially two sides of the political society vying for the spot as a majority faction. Having to fight for that spot drives them both to the center to pick up the stragglers who either don’t know much about policy (a lot of people) or who don’t easily fit the standard molds of left and right.

By destroying its credibility with average Americans, the left has made itself a laughingstock, not to mention dangerous to the entirety of American free society. This will let the right make a clean sweep for a long time coming. While the left has some hope, much of the things which should be letting them mop the floor with the right in general and Republicans in particular are completely negated by their own actions. It’s not like Trump won by being the best candidate ever. He probably won at least partly because his followers threw less fits.

The left needs to survive. But how? Well…

To survive, the Left must move toward liberty in general (but especially in economics), and should ease up on abortion.

I’m going to take these backwards, with the second point first: Abortion.

This is a huge compromise for many on the left. For the last several decades of American politics, abortion has been a litmus test. Pro-life? Right-wing. Pro-choice? Left-wing. This may sound totally crazy, to suggest that the left would let go of a principle many of them hold strongly. But it’s not that they have to stop caring about ‘reproductive rights’ as they term it. Rather, they should just stop making it the litmus test for being on the left.

The fact of the matter is that most Americans think Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, and that’s not likely to happen any time soon if ever. Fear-mongering by the left and the vilification of pro-lifers alienate a large part of the population. Even though they think that Roe v. Wade shouldn’t be overturned, many Americans still think that abortion is morally wrong. To constantly challenge that drives them to the right in a way that nothing else could. To sum all that up:

Easing up on abortion would be a quick way to win over those voters who are already inclined toward the left without compromising that pro-choice principle.

To move on to the second point, it’s easy to see that a large part of the left’s self-destruction is rooted in the ideology of Marx and others. Most Americans are smart enough to see that both communism and socialism will inevitably end in tyranny. And peddling the lie that ‘democratic socialism’ had any difference from other socialist regimes is simply false. Most socialist dictators came to power through democratic means. It’s also absurd to claim that socialism is fundamentally different and less dangerous than communism (the Leninist sort, not the Rousseau-esque anarcho-communism you see these days).

Ayn Rand, who was often wrong but had lived under a communist regime and knew about how that tended to go, once said it this way:

There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the means of achieving the same ultimate end: communism proposes to enslave men by force, socialism—by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide.

The move by the left toward socialism, in an era when the average person is well aware of the evils of communist and socialist regimes abroad, is political suicide. All regimes move inexorably toward state control, and I’m sure one day America will too. However, I sincerely doubt that it will happen any time soon. I certainly hope not. The American people simply won’t let it.

If the left wants to have any chance at 2024, it needs to get its act together by 2020. That means moving away from socialism and easing up on abortion. 

 

The fact of the matter is that the left had a real chance to buckle down and look like the professional in the room. It has not. The left’s total demise would be a disaster for America. I sincerely hope that they start moving toward liberty – for everyone’s sake.

Why Easter Matters

For most people in the world, even most Christians, Easter goes as far as pastel colors and hunting for plastic candy-filled eggs. But Easter is more than that – it is the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We need to know why that matters.

See, the hard truth to swallow is that Christ died as a sacrifice, to appease the wrath of God. Everyone has sinned, everyone has fallen short, and we are measured compared to perfection. Holding anything above Him is sin – video games, pornography, football, or even simply ourselves.

But I can hear you asking, “How could a loving God send anyone to Hell?”

God loves the world, and God is love, but He must have justice. The love of God does not cancel out his justice. Here’s a little easy argument for you:

If God did not confront the sin of every man, then He would be a moral coward. He is not a moral coward – and so He must confront sin. Justice must take place.

A crime against a man is nothing; a crime against God is absolute. The penalty for crime against the ultimate authority is ultimate damnation. Someone had to pay the cost that sin is, to fill the gap. Someone has to pay for the absoluteness of our idolatry.

If that’s where the story ended, then we would all be doomed. But God sent Christ, to substitute for our penalty, and he took our sin upon his shoulders. He endured the cost. He was the perfect sacrifice for sin.

Paul wrote that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (NIV, 2 Corinthians 5:21)

We can’t save ourselves. We are separated from him in every way.

But Christ was sacrificed for us, and to prove that He was God, He came back from the dead.

That’s the evidence of our faith. It’s what we rest on. And it’s what Paul rested on as well. Paul was brilliant, and he had every reason to remain a Jewish Pharisee. In his own words:

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Philippians 3:4-7)

Paul gave up everything to follow the ministry of someone who had publicly died. If he didn’t genuinely believe, that was nuts. It was literally suicidal. But he had seen Christ:

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1 Corinthians 15:6-8)

 

He is risen. Through His sacrifice, sin has been defeated.

It’s what we live for.

Power doesn’t corrupt – you’re corrupt already

It’s so common a phrase as to be received wisdom:

“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

You’ve probably heard this phrase bandied about in political conversations since you knew what politics was. In fact, you’ve probably said it yourself, especially if you’re in the small-government circle. It has the power of a proverb. But it’s not true.

I know, I know. But as James Madison once pointed out when talking about the Constitution and term lengths, proverbs are not always true. In his case, he was contending with the claim that any term over a year long would invite tyranny. In my case, I contend with the popular misquote of Lord Acton.

Lord Acton, who was a 19th-century British Catholic historian and author, was a famous classical liberal whose name has been given to a modern think-tank. He spoke out strongly against the doctrine of papal infallibility during his time, though without effect. It was during his arguments on whether or not historical figures should be held accountable that he wrote this letter. The full quote is actually this:

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. People in power tend to be corrupt. But there’s a cause/effect problem here. Lord Acton is certainly more correct than the misquote, but he makes the same cause/effect mistake. Power, by itself, possesses no moral qualities. It is a tool to be used or not used; the blame is in the user. Therefore, the fact that those in power tend toward corruption so much as to make that trait ubiquitous says more about human nature than it does power itself.

Essentially, I’m saying that power does not corrupt. It reveals corruption.

The fact of the matter is that we can’t necessarily gain, in a single blog post, enough of a true historical account to paint the picture necessary. However, three very different men come to mind when examining this problem: David, King of Israel; Caligula, Emperor of Rome; and George Washington, President of the United States.

David

David’s example is necessary because he is shown blatantly to be a man of integrity. On several occasions, he is the only Israelite with the faith necessary to do what is right. For this he is called a man after God’s own heart. However, in one of the more famous stories of his life (2 Samuel 11-12), he committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered one of his own men to cover it up, and then did not repent until God sent a prophet to convict him. That is a next-level failure of moral quality, and he could not have possibly gotten away with it if not for his position as absolute ruler of Israel.

However, it is clear from a simple reading of 2 Samuel 11 that David did not commit this sin because he was King, but rather was capable of doing so because of his position. This is a necessary distinction. David would not have been capable of this sort of conspiracy if he had wished to, had he remained a shepherd. But, given the absolute power of Kingship, he got away with it – until God stepped in.

The example of David demonstrates how power enables corruption.

Caligula

Of the horrifying Roman emperors, Nero tends to get all the credit. Sure, he was even worse than Caligula was. The difference is that while Nero was clearly insane, I’m not certain Caligula was. According to the account of Roman historian Suetonius, Caligula would often quote the line “Let them hate, provided that they fear!” His terrors were deliberate, intended to corral the Senate to support him despite their reservations, out of fear of retribution. He was, of course, assassinated.

However, something interesting is contained in Suetonius’ ancient account of the despot. Rather than blame the position for Caligula’s behavior, Suetonius repeatedly calls Caligula a monster, and implies it is his nature that is corrupt, not the office of Emperor. In fact, he gives examples from Caligula’s childhood to demonstrate how terrible he was, even as a youth.

Caligula’s example demonstrates how corruption is intrinsic. Not once in Suetonius’ work is the power of the Emperor blamed. It is always Caligula himself.

Washington

Unlike the previous two rulers, Washington never had absolute power – but he probably could have, if he had wanted it. In 1783, several of the soldiers under his command, frustrated and mistreated by Congress, decided they would take action. This was called the Newburgh Conspiracy, and it’s possible that even Alexander Hamilton was sympathetic to them. After all, the soldiers had not been properly paid as they were promised, Congress had largely ignored their plight, and in their estimation, Washington would get things done much more efficiently than the slow-moving, often parvenu Congress.

Washington had none of it. As soon as he heard of the conspiracy, he attended the meeting of it. Though many officers were, in essence, calling for a military dictatorship, he gave a short speech calling for patience. It wasn’t so much the speech that moved the officers to back down from their plans for a coup. It was that, to read a letter from Congress afterward, he had to use glasses, saying “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.” This reminder of Washington’s dedication to the country they were essentially seeking to overthrow stopped the conspiracy in its tracks.

Washington demonstrates that a principled person rejects absolute power for himself.

What does this all mean?

What we can learn from these examples, though admittedly incomplete, is that while power does not corrupt, anyone aware of their own intrinsic corruption will reject absolute power. The only way to avoid abusing power is to restrict its access to yourself, because any time one gives in to their own corruption, the severity of the consequences – and how far those desires will go – is determined by how much power they have. Power does not make one evil, but it greatly increases one’s capacity for it.

Even though it is incredibly common to hear, the proverb that power corrupts is empirically untrue. This does not, in any sense, mean we should limit political power any less. We should just understand why that is necessary.

Our responsibility is to use the tool of power wisely. 

Like this? You might also like:

Why he died – Alexander Hamilton

No, that’s not how men should talk

An Open Letter to White People

#Calexit is NOT Libertarian

It’s not often that I wake up, check the news, and feel surprise anymore. I got over that during the Presidential campaign. Now, when President Donald Trump is following through with the things he said he’d do, I’m just trying not to throw things. 

You know what’s worse than Trump himself, though? The reaction of many of his detractors. I’m a fairly vocal critic of some of Trump’s actions. I think what he’s doing is risky, but even so, the reaction of many has been infinitely more dangerous

I’m not kidding. 

You may have heard – if you follow the news, you did hear – about the idea of a “Calexit”, which would mean California’s secession from the United States. There’s a petition going around. According to the LA Times:

“If the measure gets on the ballot and gains approval by a majority of voters, it would repeal clauses in the California Constitution stating that the state is an “inseparable part of the United States” and that the U.S. Constitution is the “supreme law of the land,” according to the title and summary prepared by the state attorney general’s office.”

This is actually the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long time

I’m not kidding. 

The fact that there is actually a movement, with fairly high numbers, that supports this is mind-boggling. I consider myself fairly libertarian in ideology. In general, that means that I favor decentralized power. What that translates to for a lot of people is that libertarians necessarily support secession. That couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Some of us know our history

Those of us who do have read about the Civil War and seen what that actually meant. Most people get the crappy, public-school textbook version, where they might read a couple of primary documents, but not many. One document absolutely essential to understanding the Civil War and why Lincoln did what he did is his Fragment on the Constitution and Union

That document isn’t a speech. It wasn’t polished or practiced, but it wasn’t meant to be. In fact, it was actually more like his own personal notes to himself. It probably wouldn’t be wrong to say he didn’t really mean anyone to ever see it. The Fragment was written before he had even actually taken the Presidency and started to do things. 

In those personal notes, Lincoln used a metaphor for what he thought about the cause of the secession of several states. To Lincoln, the principle of “Liberty to all” is a golden apple, and the Constitution and the Union are a silver picture frame. In other words, the principle of America is the thing of value, and the Constitution and Union draw attention to it and protect that principle. 

To quote him directly:

The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn, and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple — not the apple for the picture.

For Lincoln, who quite literally went to war over secession, the Union isn’t the most valuable thing – but it is valuable. It protects and draws attention to the principle of Liberty. 

Destroying that frame will leave the principle more vulnerable

The principle of Liberty will always exist, regardless of how many people recognize it. The fact that Calexit exists is a problem. This sort of populism leads to mob rule and, somewhat needless to say, mob rule isn’t good for anyone not in the mob. 

Don’t see Calexit as a serious idea or a Libertarian one. 

That sort of secession is un-American and anti-Liberty

An Open Letter to White People

Hey, guys. It’s me, also a white person. How’s it going?

It’s MLK day, which we all love to celebrate, and all get frustrated if someone claims we don’t like it.

On this day, though, I thought I’d get your attention and explain something my friends of color already know: his work isn’t done.

I know this is true not because of crime rates, murder rates, or the disparity of earning for the races. Even the fact that we know descendants of people with a traumatic experience often have some symptoms of PTSD themselves isn’t the real base of the issue. Those things aren’t good, but they’re a symptom of the problem.

We can talk about those things, but if we don’t understand the root of the problem, we won’t ever fix it. I’ve got an incurable disease, so I know better than most how little good curing symptoms does when there is deep, internal pain. Martin Luther King understood the root of the problem, but since his death, that understanding seems to have been lost.

White Americans need to realize what the real problem is.

The root of the problem is one that goes back and back and back, not even to slavery, but to the idea that allowed slavery. America was founded on freedom and equality, and before the ink of the Declaration was dry, Americans were already rejecting those principles. Chattel slavery, the specific name for the type of slavery common in early America, takes a man and makes him into a beast, lower than a dog, and it elevates the master to absurd degrees of false virtue.

While some Americans understood and acted on the principles of America, of equality, liberty, and of Natural Rights, some were whipping their equals and claiming that it was good for them.

While some Americans were trying their best to abolish slavery, others were claiming a black man could not even be a citizen of the United States by twisting the words of the Declaration to not include them.

While some Americans were ready to fight for the freedom of their black brothers and sisters, others were proudly proclaiming that their Confederacy was founded on slavery.

And even today, while most Americans have never materially felt any sort of ‘white privilege,’ there are still some who disagree with the Founders of our country. There are still some who feel as though people of color are lesser than them. Thankfully, those people are few and far between, but they exist, and they are loud. Their ideas seep into everything, transforming the alt-right into another word for white nationalists.

This is the root of the issue. And if you don’t think Dr. King agreed with me – if you think the Declaration was racist and America was founded on racism – read it from his own most famous speech:

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

What is immediately clear from reading his own words is that Dr. King did not think America was founded on racism. He was not trying to change the American idea. He was challenging Americans to finally live up to it.

I think we still have some work to do.

So, fellow white Americans, how can you actually do something about the way that our friends and neighbors still feel marginalized? It feels impossible, doesn’t it? It feels like we’re already doing everything we can by not being racist in the first place.

The first step is education about America. Teach yourself, teach your kids, how to understand what the Declaration means, and what it means to be an American. Learn about American history and how we’ve always, always failed to live up to our own ideas. Then don’t be discouraged because we’ll probably always fail. The important thing is that we keep trying.

The next step is to actually be a good citizen. This means more than just voting. It means being a real part of the community you’re in. It means if you have a reason to complain about the local government you go do something about it. It means being a help to those less fortunate. This one isn’t racial at all, but once you start becoming a servant leader in your community and become a good citizen, your perspective changes.

The last and hardest step is to treat people as people. This is a dangerous balance. What this doesn’t mean is that you just simply “don’t see color.” The ability to not see color is quite literally what white privilege is. For us, the fact that we aren’t defined by our skin tone internally or externally – people of color in general face both – is our privilege. So recognize the different experiences everyone has, and then treat them respectfully. Don’t pretend you don’t see color, don’t kowtow and act way too nice to your black friends, just be yourself and let them be themselves. 

I’ll be working on these things just as hard as you will be.

I’m going to end with some of Dr. King’s words to think about:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I hope we can make that happen for the next generation, and the next, and the next. It’s what America is about.

Yours truly,

Jacob Nestle

Passion 2016, an existential crisis, and divine intervention

It’s been a year since I went to Passion 2016 and over a year since I found out that I have Crohn’s disease. I was officially diagnosed December 23rd. I don’t remember that Christmas. I do remember posting this on my personal Facebook page (scroll past if you’d rather have no idea what Crohn’s does:

“Well, the doctor is 100% sure, so I’m making an official post about it: I have Crohn’s disease. For those that don’t know and only want the short version, it’s a disease that causes ulcers in the intestines. That means I’m pretty constantly sick.
I’m not going to change any of my plans due to this but I may be a little more slow than I have been (not on here, though; rest assured you’ll see my opinion in your newsfeed as much as ever).
I thought I’d let everybody know on here. There shouldn’t be much change but, for those of you who see me often in person: if I have a pained look on my face it’s probably not your jokes (or it might be, for some of you…)
I figured you guys, especially those of you who tend to read, like, and comment on my stuff more often, deserved to know. Thanks.”

Everything was a blur of pain. Thinking was like trying to walk in a dense forest at midnight wearing sunglasses. That is, I would hit things occasionally, but it was usually the wrong thing. I remember being profoundly angry.

I had already chosen to sign up for the Passion 2016 conference that would fall from the second to the fourth. It’s strange that it was a year ago – it feels like a lifetime, but also yesterday. Despite feeling absolutely horrible I went ahead and made the trip.

In retrospect it seems like an incredibly odd decision. I certainly shouldn’t have been up to it.

At any rate I got there and discovered to my intense frustration that not only could I not even stand up the entire time for worship, I couldn’t stand for more than five minutes at a time. Adding that to my confusion and anger at the situation of having Crohn’s in the first place only made things worse. I was angry, and in my anger, I actually demanded that God show himself and explain why he’d done this to me.

If I’m being honest I was hoping for Morgan Freeman to mysteriously appear, give me a quick object lesson, and then cure me.

Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

What happened instead was that each of the speakers on the third, a year ago today, all spoke about suffering and how it brings us closer to God. That wasn’t the main focus of any of the first speakers, but it kept coming up, and finally I was sitting there as everyone else was worshiping, angry tears on my face, and I said fine. I realized in that moment that I had always been running from God, ignoring what was right in my face.

Anyone who knows me personally would tell you I can come across as supremely self-confident. The ones who don’t like me very much would probably use the word arrogant. Pride has always been my downfall, and my pride made me incapable of having anything approaching a relationship with Christ. I called him Lord but internally I held onto numerous things which kept me from Him.

So, a year after I angrily demanded that God explain himself, I’m actually glad that I have an incurable disease. It’s a constant check on my pride. I didn’t give myself Crohn’s. There’s no way I could cure myself of pride. It was God’s power and strength in my life that called me to something better than physical health. Calling is the right word, but it’s not complete. God didn’t just let me wallow in my own nonsense, He forcefully pulled me out of it, and I am grateful for that. Like Paul on the road to Damascus, I was struck by the power of the Lord.

I can’t do anything but praise Him. Thankfully, I can actually stand up for longer than one song these days.

My journey to where I am today hasn’t been an easy one, but as I start 2017 and look back on 2016’s beginning, I am thankful for the support of friends and family. My parents, especially, were incredible, taking care of me when I was useless, putting up with my angst. Their help was irreplaceable.

 

Have a good 2017, everybody!

There’s no place like home – Back in TN

I’m home again.

I’m typing this at the dented and scratched wooden table that I used to eat at almost every morning, noon, and evening. There are a few new scratches on it thanks to my two year old brother, but when I walked in everything looked about the same.

Everything was the same, but the Nashville airport has new ads, there are new signs for 840 off of I-24, and my little brother is now speaking in short and babbled sentence.

My brothers still argue, but not quite as vociferously as they did when I left. The couches were set up just slightly differently than they were when I left. Anakin, my old mutt, still has as many grey hairs on his snout, but he’s walking ever so much more slowly. Cocoa, the bulldog, still snores. If anything, it’s cleaner.

Walking in the door (on crutches, no less) felt like it had every day before. Everyone still plays card games like they did before, with the same inside jokes.

My brother, who had been before I left talking about starting a small custom pen business, has actually done so. He’s not living off of it, but he’s actually starting to have some real spending cash. He’s going to graduate high school a year early to focus on his business.

Despite the fact that last year it was at a different location and a few less relatives were able to make it, in tone and in fact Thanksgiving was very nearly the same it had been in 2015. What talk of politics there was consisted, primarily, of jokes. Several members of the family could be called conservative, others almost far right, but none are really left. We avoided talk of President-elect Trump. I leaned over to my cousin Kennedy when everyone had gotten their food and I said, softly, “So, who’d everyone vote for?”

She gave me a half-joking death glare. “Don’t you dare.”

After the meal everyone was tired and rather than sleeping the older members of the family coerced and cajoled my cousins into putting on something of a musical show, since they both and my brother are musically inclined. Their voices and the sound of a guitar were more mature than before but the scene could have been set at any point in the last four years or so.

Carpe Cafe has the same atmosphere, the same young musicians, but the art on the walls has changed. Heck, one of my friends grew a beard when I was gone. (In case you’re curious: Yes, it looks awesome. Huge fan of beards.)

It’s been three months since I’ve been home. I’ve changed, and it has too, almost imperceptibly.

One thing stays the same, though:

There’s no place like home.

Why this election actually doesn’t scare me

It’s the Sunday before Election Day.

Barring some freak occurrence – for example, Johnson winning New Mexico and McMullin winning Utah, blocking either main party candidate from winning the Electoral College – either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be the President-elect of the United States this Wednesday morning.

This election has cost billions of dollars. That’s crazy by itself. The mudslinging on both sides has gotten ridiculous. I won’t lie to you – this hysteria has gotten to me too at times. Blame it on my age, but that’s not a suitable excuse. I’ve been doing some navel-gazing over the last day or so, and I can’t say my own conduct in this election has always been polite or respectful of everyone. I’ve stooped to the level of people I am disgusted by. I can’t stand that this is where we are as a country. I’m appalled that’s where I’ve been as an individual.

While the Electoral College is tightening up, it still favors Hillary. I don’t know whether to be relieved or bothered by that. I agree with the Electoral College in principle; I’m very glad that the President isn’t actually chosen by everybody. That would be unequivocally a horrible idea. Literally everything I’ve learned here at Ashland has, more and more convincingly, drawn me to the conclusion that (plot twist!) people aren’t generally good decision-makers in large groups.

Be that as it may, the EC could go either way, just because traditional battleground states – like Florida and Ohio, for example – tend to be more in the Donald’s corner. So be it.

It really doesn’t matter who wins, because I’m not really scared either way. Here’s why:

We still have checks and balances.

The more crazy stuff happens here the more grateful I am for the Constitution. Luckily, it shouldn’t matter who wins, because either way Congress and the Supreme Court will seek to block any intrusion on their own power. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

That’s how it will work, at least mostly. The President has a lot of power, but he’s not a dictator. No matter who comes out on top Tuesday, there’ll be a lot of different politicians vying for their own influence. Believe it or not, Congress still has the most direct power of all the branches, because it still makes the laws. I can’t imagine Congress going all the way Democrat, which Hillary would need to gain total control, and even a majority-Republican Congress may have a hard time dealing with a Trump administration, given how many bridges he’s burned with their leadership.

The Supreme Court, too, is unlikely to roll over for either of the two main-party candidates. FDR had to wage a small war on the Supreme Court to get his way back in the 1940s, and either Trump or Hillary will require the same extensive influence to do anything that gets us in too much trouble. More importantly, neither will probably have the influence in Congress to shoot through a Constitutional Amendment over the heads of the Court, anyway. Besides,

The People won’t put up with any shenanigans

I’m not one of those people who feels like we should all buy an AR-15. What I am, though, is one of those people who feels like there enough of the other set to put a stop to either main-party candidate doing anything too crazy.

Either Trump or Hillary would have to perform miracles to win re-election against a serious, articulate contender. Unless the economy is amazing and civil unrest ends in four years (which I doubt would happen even under an excellent President), it won’t happen on their own merits. Even most of the people voting for one of the main-party candidates are only doing so because they think their choice is the only way to block the other one!

Well, I’m quite certain that on the one hand there are enough ‘rednecks’ (which I don’t say in any way derogatorily) to raise a fuss over whatever Hillary might do and enough liberal activists to block Trump from anything he would do.

The American people have a knack for cancelling the crazy plans of tyrants. Go figure.

But most importantly,

God’s got this

It sounds cliche, but it’s never more important than now to remember who’s actually in control of the universe. Even if the next POTUS turns out to be even crazier than his or her detractors think they’ll be, God’s in control.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that everything will be fine and dandy for everyone. I don’t need to go into the possible extremes Trump or Hillary might go to. If you’ve paid any attention to election news, you’ve seen fear-mongering on both sides.

I think that, at least for my fellow Christians, there shouldn’t be fear. Believe me, either one will do damage to Christianity’s status in America and, by extension, the world. It’ll happen in different ways, but still.

But it’ll be okay.

He’s got this. He’s got us. And it’s all for His glory – no matter how bad it gets.

 

I’m not worried.

No, that’s not how men should talk

Donald Trump has gotten this far by always being controversial. He’s running on earned media and name recognition, not to mention the fact that his opponent, too, is clearly problematic.

But that’s not what got him in trouble this time. This time it was something he said years ago, while not running for office, and having just married his current wife Melania. Here’s a transcript of the tape that the New York Times put together. I won’t repeat the things he actually said, but to be clear, he was talking about what is essentially potential sexual assault. You would expect such a thing to be a problem for moral, Christian voters.

Apparently not.

I’m not surprised by the comments. What I am surprised at is the number of normally good people who are actually defending his comments. Let’s look at the three most common (all actively horrible, but one much worse than the rest) arguments in defense of Trump’s remarks:

3. Deflection

This one is pretty simple. Instead of focusing on what Trump did, deflect to what Hillary did and might have done. Deflect to Bill’s sexual misconduct. Act like somehow the faults of his opponent make Trump okay.

Morality in politics is not a zero-sum game. One person being worse does not make another better. This is common in the sort of odd, dichotomous politics that we’ve saddled ourselves with in America. Madison wrote that “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires,” and he was certainly right. In a weird way, you can blame modern partisan politics on the fact that we do, actually, have liberty.

That doesn’t make it right. One thing you certainly can’t blame on liberty is moral bankruptcy. Pointing out Hillary’s flaws doesn’t get rid of Trump’s.

2. The 50 Shades jab

“If women hate what Donald Trump said, who bought 80 million copies of 50 Shades of Grey?”

Such are the memes.

As per the usual, a meme is not a good argument. This one, as with many, is a fundamental misunderstanding of the point. I’m no fan of 50 Shades. It’s pretty bad in my opinion, but at least there’s generally the assumption of consent, and even if there wasn’t, it’s all fictional – which Trump’s comments, obviously, are not.

Nobody is mad because Trump has had sex. They’re mad because, if what he said in the tape is true, he used his influence as a ‘star’ to get away with what was, functionally, harassment.

While married. Basically, Trump bragged about committing adultery. Stay classy, Donald.

1. The “Locker Room” Argument

“Well, he’s a man. That was locker room talk! I’ve heard much worse before. From women too!”

No. Stop.

Now, that’s the actual gist of the argument. What some Trump defenders actually say includes things like “Hate to say it but men are supposed to be men more so around other men.”

That’s a Trump supporter’s own words, taken directly from a comment on my Facebook. I was flabbergasted. This was a Christian man defending claims of sexual assault, outside of wedlock, and his argument was that “that’s just how men are.” Heartbreaking.

It breaks my heart to see, so plainly displayed, the downfall of masculinity in American culture. Publications like the Atlantic and the New York Times – both of which, of course, have publicly endorsed Hillary – leapt to point out the hyper-masculinity of Donald Trump in the past. If anything, this is terrifying proof of their hypothesis that Trump is a caricature of American masculinity.

I’m going to talk to my men, especially the Christians, here for a second. Guys, when we drop the ball, masculinity is defined by emotional, moral, and spiritual lightweights. When we permit such behavior it becomes normal. If we leave it alone and pretend like there’s nothing wrong with it because ‘boys will be boys’ then those boys grow into men who commit unwitting sexual assault, lie and say they did, teach their boys that it’s okay, or all three.

I wasn’t surprised or hurt by the comments. Trump is scum; I already suspected that. What hurt me was the reaction of the women who found out. They weren’t surprised either, but for a totally different reason. To quote someone very close to me, “that’s just how men talk to each other about women.”

The fact that such is the assumption (and that she’s probably right, though I haven’t been present for it) is heartbreaking. It should not be that way. I am sick of this. I have had enough of this trumped-up machismo standing in for real masculinity. Genuine masculinity – Biblical masculinity – serves. It protects and cares and loves. Trump’s brand of masculinity does none of those things.

 

If masculinity is to be saved in the United States, men need to step up and lead by serving, loving, and protecting. We need to publicly and loudly make clear that the attitude of men like Donald Trump (and, of course, Bill Clinton) is unacceptable. The problem won’t be solved any time soon, but we need to first acknowledge that there is a problem, speak out, and then teach our sons to be real men. That’s all we can do.

The Top 5 Reasons Why Fall Retreat Was Awesome

I did that this past weekend. Sort of. I went to the fall retreat for the Well, AU’s college ministry. I originally wasn’t going to go because I had a rugby game on Saturday, but I found out that one of the other rugby players was going on the retreat and would be doing both, so I figured heck, why not? He and I went to practice Friday, drove out to the retreat that night, got back to AU that morning in time to get killed in the rugby game (we both did pretty well, actually–he scored more points than the rest of the team combined) and then drove back to the retreat with more than enough time for Saturday night worship.

It was a great experience. So without further ado, here are the top 5 reasons I think every Christian at AU should attend Fall Retreat:


5. Relationship Building

When I first came here I had a bit of a leg up, so to speak, over most people. As part of the Ashbrook program I came here earlier, met a lot of generally like-minded people, and was able to make friends pretty fast.

Even so, it was pretty important to me that I make some other friends outside of Ashbrook. Don’t get me wrong, Ashbrook is great, but I’ve never done well as part of a clique. I need to diversify my friendships, so to speak. Getting to know a lot of different types of people is good.

Even though I did miss a decent chunk of Saturday, Fall Retreat helped with that. We split into small groups. I met people I might not have ever known otherwise. I strengthened my friendships with people I knew only slightly till then.

4. Sweet Bonfires

These next couple are a bit less serious. I’m not kidding when I say that our bonfire was lit (pun…yeah, sorry) on Saturday night. It might have been too wet to light one on Friday night, but we made up for it Saturday. There were s’mores. There was apple cider. It was awesome.

One of the guys told one of the longest and most in-depth jokes I think I’ve ever heard. The punchline had everyone groaning (but laughing, of course), and it was a good time.

There were also good conversations. Tying into the last point, I was able to talk to some pretty cool people around the bonfire and had a great time. Plus my clothes didn’t even end up smelling like smoke! It was all-around a good time.

3. Blazedale Ball

I should probably preface this one by explaining that, in the rugby game before last, I hurt my knee. It’s nothing major, but I’ve been wearing a brace during practices, and I wore it in the last game. It just hurts if I strain it too much or, you know, run.

So, that being said, it may seem unwise to play a game that requires a lot of physical exertion–running–right after a rugby game. But I did. Who needs knees anyway?

Blazedale Ball is a game that’s a sort of mix between flag football and capture the flag. It’s hard to explain, harder to get the hang of, and way more tiring than rugby–but it’s crazy fun. There are several teams, each have a football in their zone, and the goal is to get all of the footballs into your own zone. It sounds simple, but when you add on the other rules, it gets complicated very quickly. It’s tons of fun.

2. Getting Away

Ashland isn’t exactly a huge city; that being said, there are a lot of fun things to do here. Nonetheless, it’s good to have a change of scenery.

Not only that, I’m a pretty outdoors-oriented person. I like to hike, climb, run, et cetera. I get tired of the same scenery all the time. It was great to go just about thirty minutes away and yet still be able to feel like I was totally removed.

It helped, too, to not have to think about homework or other school-oriented things. Studying is life, y’all, but I would like to not really have to do it all of the time, yeah? Yeah. The Fall Retreat fell, timing-wise, just perfectly to give me a chance to detox. I like my classes, my dorm room, my Ashbrook friends, but it was great to have some time away from it all.

1. Uninhibited Worship

Everything else on this list is pretty cool. It’s also trivial compared to this one. Tied closely to my last point, the central reason for going to Fall Retreat was the ability to actually rid myself of distractions and just worship wholeheartedly. It’s so easy to be distracted by the mundane and everyday. Sometimes that all needs to be put aside. Time for just God is necessary to our faith.

It’s so hard to explain what happens when you’re able to immerse yourself in worship. I’m not just necessarily talking about singing a song and listening to a contemporary band. Corporate worship is incredible, and I’m by no means dissing it, but worship is more than that. Worship is the love you feel for God. It’s any expression of that love.

To non-Christians, it seems crazy, but if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know what I’m talking about. You worship when you look up at the sky and thank God for your mere existence, when you sit on the forest floor and recognize the immense complexity of Creation, and when you put an arm around a fellow child of God and pray for them and with them.

It’s this kind of total worship without systemic distractions that stuff like Fall Retreat enables.


I’m so thankful I was able to attend Fall Retreat. If you’re on the fence next year, don’t be. It’s not expensive, and if you can’t even foot the super-low cost, there are people who will pay for you. I’ll be going back next year if it’s at all possible. I hope I see you there.

 

This article also appeared on the Odyssey.