Monday, August 14, 2017

Racism and the Alt Right: What's a conservative to do?

I was traveling all weekend and so missed most of the news on what happened in Charlottesville with the Alt-Right protest, the counter protests, and the violence.
Charlottesville, VA
My heart breaks for the victims, my state, and the state of our country, which has created the context for this kind of thing to happen.
In the midst of a tragedy like this, I think it is important to reflect on where we are, what has happened, and what we should do about it.
First, I think most of you who have heard me speak about candidates know that for about 10 years now I have said that the two things that disqualify a candidate from having the possibility of earning my support are their endorsement or participation in two things: 1. abortion 2. racism.
The reason these two things trump all others for me are because they show how someone values people. If you do not value people, even when it is easy to marginalize them, then how can I rely on you to lead the country in a way that is best for the people?
Rosa Parks would not sit at the back of the bus.
Racism is alive in our country and it breaks my heart when I see it; it breaks my heart that so many people face it every day. As a Christian, I believe that it is my duty to show Christ's love to everyone, and to see each person as He sees them: as people made in the image of God. My mom, in particular, is a hero in this regard and has been a tremendous example to me from my earliest memories when I remember her teaching me about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. I can recall her explaining to little Jeremiah the ugly face of racism and how in the 1960s my friend Abigail would have to use a different water fountain than me because she had pretty dark skin and I had pale skin. She taught this to me in the context of history and we both agreed that we hoped it would never have a place in our lives.
However, the sad truth is this, there is a strong, if small, movement in the United States to legitimize racism by capitalizing and on some of the fears created by globalization. This movement must be addressed, responded to, and defeated.
This is something I am committed to doing, and I hope you will join me.
"Colored Water Fountain" 
The question is how. First, I believe that to defeat this surge of hate and bigotry, we need to respond with love. Martin Luther King put it this way: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Second, I believe that we need well-crafted arguments backed by actual facts. No matter how wrong supporters of racism are, we are not doing our best to combat their view if we respond with less than logic and evidence; their ignorance can be mocked, but that doesn’t fix the problem. We need to show through reason and facts that racism and violence are contrary to what makes up a just society. Third, I believe that we need respond to whatever the evil they dish out with an even greater outpouring of good. If they target a particular community with hate, we target the same group with love and compassion. And that love and compassion should speak louder than any violence or hate. If they burn a church, we rebuild it bigger and better.
Martin Luther King Jr. 
Now for the harder question: how should we not respond? We should not in our zeal to defeat racist positions compromise our freedom. One basic thing that Americans hold dear is our love for freedom. The Founding Fathers gave us the First Amendment, filled with excellent examples of the freedom we hold dear. Included in that document is freedom to assemble, to speak, and to write. It isn’t freedom if we only allow freedom to do what we agree with and disallow what we disagree with. In other words, my freedom to speak about my hate of racism isn’t actually freedom if there isn’t also freedom for the racist. The law does not judge whose content is right. Freedom to speak and believe what you believe without the government telling you it is ok, is foundational to all our freedoms.
(Of course, actions and violence can be legally punished, and so the terrorist-style attack in Charlottesville should be punished and prosecuted with the utmost vigor of the law.)
A dark time in our history
What I am concerned about is this: that we no longer understand how to use our system to defeat evil. The law punishes actions. But ideas cannot be defeated with laws. We need to engage, each of us in our own way, to challenge those who promote hate and division in our country and respond by doing the things they hate the most, unifying and loving.
I don’t want to sound like a silly, shallow idealist. I am being pragmatic. Ideas have consequences and I am concerned that many people will embrace counterproductive strategies to “outlaw hate” that will not only erode our freedoms, but also distract us from actually dealing with the real problems in our land.
To kill bad ideas, we need good ideas and good people. Although sometimes over-quoted, I think two famous quotes are particularly appropriate for our situation. Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
So now we need each of us, take responsibility for our actions, and actually face evil and hold ourselves, our friends, and our nation to a higher standard. Take this issue seriously. Go out of your way to challenge hate and to promote love. This is worth feeling awkward for. Don’t give into easy solutions that won’t fix the problem. Doing right often isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean we give up.
Let us not be defined by division or hate, let us instead be defined by unity and love. That is an America worth fighting for.

Written by Jeremiah Lorrig

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Unless Trump Voluntarily Drops, the Republic is Doomed: Here is Why

(NOTE from 8/15/17: I was wrong with my prediction. Several more politically astute friends pointed out flaws in my argument right after I wrote it, and it turns out they were right and I was wrong. That being said, my favorite part of this post is the end note, and I still stand by that.)

Like my hero, Mike Pence, I am a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican; in that order. Because of that prioritization, I am able to write this today:

I am asking Donald J. Trump to withdraw for the sake of our republic. 

What's at stake? 

We all know that a Clinton Presidency likely means a liberal Supreme Court majority, more Benghazi type situations, and more of the same when it comes to the sluggish economy (and that means fewer jobs, especially for young people). 

I firmly believe that someone cannot call themselves conservative and vote for Clinton. I especially believe that someone cannot call themselves pro-life and vote for her. Intentionally advancing her power and tying your name to her, and her disastrous record, her poisonous words, and her stated objectives is a betrayal of every conservative principle that I know —particularly the defense of life.  

Is Trump better? 

That is complex. Is Trump, himself better? No. It is almost impossible to say where he stands on policies because he has taken almost every side on almost every issue. He is also a vulgar man who does not respect human dignity. In short he seems to have no moral core. The moral core is especially relevant when it comes to foreign policy and national defense because that is the area where the president has the most autonomous power. 

But would Trump be a bad president? I have no idea. Domestically, I don’t think he can be worse than Clinton. And unlike Clinton, he would have people around him in power who not only would be able to influence his decisions, but also would have independent authority to advance the ball on important conservative issues. But here is the bottom line: speculating about whether Trump would be a bad president is irrelevant: he cannot win

Trump has failed to unite the Republican Party against Clinton. 

Yesterday we saw the largest number of elected officials in history opposing their party leader. Nixon resigned when only a fraction of the GOP senators opposed him. 

The interesting thing is that while all these people who now oppose Trump uses the language of moral outrage in their denunciations, attacking Trump’s inexcusable statements, if you draw back the curtain you can see several different reasons for the opposition. Some oppose him for electoral reasons (supporting Trump in their districts means certain defeat). Some oppose him because he is going to hurt their power (establishment types who want things done their way). Some oppose him for policy reasons. But some have no reason to oppose him except they truly believe in holding leaders to a higher moral standard. 

And even if you totally disagree with all of the above reasons for these men and women oppose Trump, the fact is that he has failed to unite the party. 

What are the consequences of a divided party? 

Two days ago, it looked like the results of the election would be this: Clinton would be elected President, the Senate would be very close—maybe Democrat controlled, maybe Republican controlled—and the House of Representatives would be a firewall strongly held by the GOP (losing a few seats, but not too much change). However, with the divided party, it is likely that the Democrats will wrest control of both the White House and the Senate—and maybe even the House. 

How would that happen? 

White House: 
Even if only 15% of likely Republican voters don’t vote for Trump, that means that every close state that swings GOP by 7% or less will go for Clinton. For context in the 2012 election 17 states were won by less than that margin. In other words, 15% less voter turnout on one side can mean a landslide victory for the other. Also, note, a flash poll last night by the Politico shows that a majority of Republicans think that Trump should stay. That is not something that should surprise anyone. What is shocking is that 39% think that Trump should end his run for president. So I think my estimate of 15% is reasonable even assuming that most still are willing to vote for the "lesser of two evils." 

Senate and House:
Although this is going to vary by district, let me paint a picture of what Republicans running for office will face if Trump stays on the ballot:

Because of her pro-family stance, a Republican woman who is running for congress will be asked: "Do you support Trump and his statements about women? And how does this line up with your pro-family rhetoric?" She (and every other candidate) will be faced with a choice: 

What do they say? 

Remember that a large segment of Republican voters like Trump and have become his partisans. If our would be congresswomen opposes Trump she risks angering the pro-Trump voters. And even if this only translates to 15% of Republican voters opposing her, that could end her career. If she says that she supports him, then even if only 15% of Republican voters oppose her, that could end her career. 

Now, you might say, “Shouldn’t she put her country before her career?” And that's a fair question. But remember: her failure in her career means success for someone else. Every Republican that loses a House or, especially, a Senate seat, means another Democrat in Congress. And more votes for a Clinton agenda. 

That is disaster. Now, I admit that I’m partisan on this, but please hear me out: 

If we lose the Senate, then we lose the Supreme Court—probably for two decades. That means that Roe v. Wade will not likely be overturned until the basically the same number of unborn die due to abortion again as have already died since the ruling that made abortion legal in the 1970s. That is moral disaster. 

If we lose the House, Paul Ryan will be ousted as Speaker, every attempt to roll back government spending will be nothing more than a wish, and Clinton will get her way on everything. 

Remember, last time Democrats controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House? What happened? Obamacare. 

In short, if Trump doesn’t withdraw, the Republican Party is likely to face the worst electoral and policy disaster since the election of FDR. And we are still smarting from the disaster that came with that. 

So, for the sake of the Republic, I am asking Donald J. Trump to please end his run for President and work to unite the party to stop Clinton and the march of politics as usual in Washington DC. The Republic can't afford another era of disastrous Democratic policies.   

Article by Jeremiah Lorrig and first published on Looking for Overland

End Note: 

This all being said: If you think that a Trump or Hillary presidency is the end of the world or country, you have no faith in our country.

America has withstood civil war, divisions over racism, economic depression, two world wars, famine, plague, horrible leaders, flagrant corruption, and rampant hedonism. Christians have weathered much worse at the hands of pagans bent on wiping us out and our own fellow believers trying to force good theology by executions and torture.

Perspective is key. If you have no faith in your country (I still do), have faith in the God who created something from nothing. He will pull you through this.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Good Spy

I had never heard of Robert Ames until I received this book as a Christmas present. Yet in The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, Kai Bird tells the remarkable story of a remarkable man, made all the more so by his down-to-earth ordinariness.

Bob Ames joined the Army in 1956 after graduating from college. Four years later he was recruited by the CIA, where he worked until he was killed in the Beirut embassy bombing on April 18, 1983. His specialty was the Middle East. Put another way, Ames joined the CIA when Eisenhower was president and served the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations. And in The Good Spy, Bird elegantly captures the complexities of this highly turbulent area, and our foreign policy, in an understandable fashion.

In a moment of realization that the world is smaller than we think, Bob Ames was killed in Beirut, the same city where Kim Philby was confronted. In an even weirder twist, Bob owned a trunk that had formerly belonged to Kim's father. Yes, the world of espionage is small, and even people who belong to different eras are connected.

What Ames excelled at, and what made him such an effective spy, was his ability to make friends and understand people and cultures. Contrary to the image of the spy as a quasi-military agent, Ames used his espionage and intelligence work to promote and further peace. His detailed intelligence work, and ability to create back-channel communications to people that the US government could not publicly admit it was talking to, helped to diffuse or contain situations before they escalated to military engagements.

Peace in the Middle East may be elusive, but so far, at least for the United States, Israel/Palestine has not become another Vietnam due in part to the work of Ames and people like him. It's easy to look at conflict zones and wish they were better; more difficult, yet just as important, is realizing that they could be much worse. The Good Spy demonstrates how certain ordinary people, often acting invisibly, can bring a sense of calm to tumultuous times. Robert Ames was such a person, and his murder in 1983 was a blow to both our foreign policy and peace.

Click here for more book reviews.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Did Republicans Lose the Culture War?

Several months ago the Politico published an article called: How Republicans Lost the Culture War. I have been thinking about it and although I think the author is very right that the “Culture War” is a loss and has been doomed for at least 5 years, I do, however, think he overstates his case. I know my thoughts might be controversial, and I would be happy to dialogue in the comments, just keep it civil. 

So here are my thoughts on the "Culture War" and what the future looks like from here: 

For the last three or so decades many in the Republican base have been motivated by what has been called the "Culture War." They have trained foot soldiers to engage the enemy, they have mobilized voters on key issues, and they have rallied their troops time and time again to "defeat evil." But despite all that, the culture war has been lost. Politico is just one example of a post-mortem of the war. Long standing warriors have told me that they are tired of it; millennials are refusing to fight; and we are constantly being told that history is against us.

But there is more to it than that.

The loss of the “culture war” doesn’t equal loss on issues like abortion. The pro-life position, even with the culture war faux pas, is gaining ground. Legislators and political activists are fumbling the ball, but the hearts and minds are moving our way.

Republicans are desperately trying to figure out birth control because Santorum walked it out in front of people and believes it is all wrong and Romney didn’t know what to say because he is a bit of a squish on the topic, but that doesn’t mean the GOP is going to lose on the issue of making everyone pay for abortions.

The Politico author appeals to the “march of history” to show that the GOP is doomed on social issues. The fact is that only works if you accept the progressive approach to history where everything is marching slowly toward their socialist utopia. But they don’t know history. The fact is that slavery, racism, acceptance of various sexual practices, and even abortion have come in and out of style (and law) over the centuries. Just because a “culture war” is lost, doesn’t mean that political choices are set in stone.

The reason I believe the “culture war” is lost is not because of unartful politics, it is lost because the “foot soldiers” think it is stupid. Most rank and file conservatives (especially conservative Christians) think that politics is the wrong way to change hearts and minds. Many, like me, reject the idea that they are supposed to be soldiers in a “culture war” and would rather focus on helping real, purhaps lost, people.

Young people today are more likely to want to volunteer at a pregnancy resource center than protest at an abortion clinic. Young people are more likely to try to show the unconditional love of Jesus with gay friends than try to outlaw their lifestyle. Young people have told me that they don’t want to be bullets in a “culture war.” They would rather lose the “war” than lose sight of their real goals, caring for people and sharing unconditional love.

In the end, the “culture war” is a failed project, but not because it was defeated politically, but because it was abandoned by those expected to fight it. Those who still are trying to keep it alive are out of touch.

Does the loss of the "culture war" mean that Christians, conservatives, and Republicans (three groups that I associate myself with), are giving up on making a difference in the culture? No, it just means that the culture isn't a battleground, it is a place where we must be salt and light, where truth must be spoken in love, and where hurting people are desperately in need of hope.

How do we translate this new phenomenon into a new political world? How do we end abortion in America and save lives? Conservative stalwart Morton Blackwell has said countless times,
"people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." I think that applies to good laws. They wont be changed until people see that we care.

I believe that abortion will be abolished in my lifetime, but it wont be because we hate abortion doctors. It will be because people see that we love people and that includes both the baby waiting to be born and the mom struggling with life.

For a Christian, if there is a conflict, it is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities, beyond this world. But what is hanging in the balance? Nothing less than the lives of those who need true, unconditional, empowering love. Seeing those lives changed by love is worth losing a dozen culture wars.

Post by Jeremiah Lorrig

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Spy Among Friends

For some time Ben Macintyre has been one of my favorite history authors. With books such as Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal (excerpt here), Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory, and Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies (review here, excerpt here), he has written several books now on the absurdity that took place during WWII British spycraft.

His most recent book takes a step forward in history. In A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, Macintyre moves on to the Cold War. As highlighted in the previous books, British counterintelligence was so strong that they were able to capture every last German spy in the country. Yet during this same period, it was a virtual sieve for the Soviets.

Many of the British intelligence officers were in the pay of the Soviet Union both during and after the war. Most famous among them was Kim Philby, the agent who for a time served as the head of the division responsible for spying on the Soviet Union.

For decades, Philby lived a double life, deceiving even his closest friends, most notably MI6's Nicholas Elliot and the CIA's James J. Angleton. And that is the angle that Macintyre takes in this book: how Philby deceived his friends and, even more broadly, how the good old boys friend network within MI6 shielded him from suspicion.

These British operatives all grew up together. They went to school together. They knew each other's parents. They were all good British stock. Many were fools, most were alcoholics. But they were fellow aristocrats, and because of this, their trust for each other, and their continued employment, was based on cultural elements deeper than job performance. It was simply unthinkable that one of them could be a spy, so for a long time it was unthought regardless of the evidence. The very people Philby was deceiving provided his strongest shield.

This is what makes this book so different from the other three Macintyre has written about the British intelligence agencies. In Zigzag, Mincemeat, and Double Cross, the British are the sharp and intelligent heroes hilariously exploiting the cracks in the strict yet bumbling German hierarchical system where no one wants to be the bearer of bad news. Those stories are great fun, where the British keep pulling off greater and greater capers and the Germans keep falling for them.

A Spy Among Friends inverts that narrative. Here is an agency so welded to its aristocratic classism that it cannot see its own weaknesses. And although his writing is once again excellent, this book has a decidedly different tone. In contrast to the prior comedies, this story is a drawn out tragedy as again and again Philby escapes detection. Where the prior books exposed British culture's superiority to the German system, this one zeroes in on its weaknesses. One could almost say that the common theme through all these books is never underestimate the power of office culture. The very same loose camaraderie that helped win WWII proved to hamstring the agency during the Cold War. And that is what made Philby's betrayal so great--more than being a spy, he had been a friend.

Click here for more book reviews.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Best George Washington Quotes

George Washington by Gilbert Stuart
Today is Presidents Day and therefore George Washington's birthday. In honor of the day, I have compiled my favorite quotes attributed to America's first president. I hope you can appreciate the wisdom here and are inspired by this great man.


“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” ― George Washington

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. - George Washington

True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity, before it is entitled to the appellation. - George Washington

Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse. - George Washington

I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent. - George Washington

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze
“To encourage literature and the arts is a duty which every good citizen owes to his country.” ― George Washington

“Real men despise battle, but will never run from it.” ― George Washington

“Be not glad at the misfortune of another, though he may be your enemy.” ― George Washington

George Washington by Robert Field
“The hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember officers and Soldiers, that you are free men, fighting for the blessings of Liberty -- that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men.” ― George Washington

“I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.” ― George Washington

“LIBERTY, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.” ― George Washington

Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light. - George Washington

It may be laid down as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every Citizen who enjoys the protection of a Free Government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defense of it. - George Washington

While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to him only in this case they are answerable. - George Washington

Signing of the Constitution by Howard Chandler Christy
Post by Jeremiah Lorrig
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