The Deal of the Art

Donald Trump has no doubt mastered the art of dealing with an angry Republican base. His campaign and his detractors all agree on this point. The question that has been in my mind for nearly a year now is how in the world that makes him qualified to be President, or garners the support of so many people who have been consistently on the right (conservative) side of politics.

I think I could write a book about my quandary but have chosen to limit my thoughts here. It’s clear at this point that the majority of Trump supporters are never going to be persuaded that he is a bad idea so the point of this blog is actually just self-therapy to let me think out loud about my confusion.

  • The same people who said Bill Clinton was untrustworthy and unfit because he was unfaithful to his wife seem to have no problem with a guy who cheated on then discarded one wife when she got too old for him, and then dumped the other in a financial move intended to save him tens of millions of dollars.
  • Trump argues that he’s a great deal maker. The reality is that the best deals he has made have been his bankruptcies. In his own words “I used the law four times and made a tremendous thing. I’m in business. I did a very good job.” Another time he said “If you owe the bank $100, that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.” Let’s understand what happens in a bankruptcy. You let your mismanagement of resources result in basically stealing what is owed to another person. So rather than pay the bank his $100 million, maybe he pays them $70 million and they call it even. Who pays the other $30 million? You and I do, and other people who are either taxpayers or shareholders of the bank.
  • Often, in exchange for the bankruptcy “restructuring”, the people who are owed money get some kind of asset in return. This is exactly what Trump did – he gave away large percentages of the organizations that filed bankruptcy. Doing this as President would be like handing over much of the country to the people we own $18 trillion. (In one of his bankruptcies he gave away 50% of the organization to reduce the debt.) Who would pay for that Trump “negotiation”? Once again it would not be Trump’s personal fortunes – it would be other people who paid that price. Everyday Americans will bear that burden whether he cuts a deal by actually giving away America or by doing something back door like simply devaluing the currency to make it easier to pay back all this debt.
  • The same people who say President Obama was elected on a slogan (Hope and Change) that was never defined seem fine with supporting a guy who is doing exactly the same thing without ever defining it.
  • The same people who got all over John Kerry for flip flopping on key issues don’t seem to care that Trump has flip flopped on the Iraq war, abortion, drug legalization, tax policy, gun control, universal healthcare, Social Security modernization, how he feels about Hillary Clinton, Syrian refugees, federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and whether he’s even a Republican.
  • It seems like eight years ago most Trump supporters would have said that we should not elect a charismatic candidate that can rally crowds and say things they like to hear without any actual substance behind them. Trump certainly has more life experience than President Obama did as he entered the Presidential race then, but the most common answer for why Trump supporters like him is that he is charismatic and says the things they want to hear.
  • Trump is a regular politician, not some kind of outsider. What was a twice divorced, Christian in name only, rarely even in church guy doing on the campus of Liberty University if not simply pandering like every other politician would do? (BTW – I don’t blame him, I just find it evidence that he’s not as different as he’d like everyone to believe he is.)
  • This might be a pet peeve, but the guy never even finishes a sentence. He starts answering a questions, interrupts himself to say how great his is, then changes the topic. Sounds just like a politician to me.
  • Everything he says is over the top. Everything is great, wonderful, fantastic, better that we every hoped, blah blah blah. It’s so disingenuous. I heard one interview where he was talking about “all the great leaders” who were supporting him. The interviewer asked him to name just one of them and Trump refused. I think he’s basically making things up as he goes.
  • Speaking of making things up as he goes, the guy gives absolutely no specifics on anything. He just says he’s going to make America great again. He says things like “I am going to save Social Security without any cuts. I know where to get the money from. Nobody else does.” It’s okay to change positions on things, but when you have done it as much as Trump I think it’s especially important to lay out an actual plan to demonstrate your commitment to the new position(s).

Thanks for reading. I know I won’t change anyone’s mind but it helped me to remind myself that my hope is in Jesus Christ and not in Washington D.C. I do not believe a Christian can only vote for a Christian, but I do think part of being a good steward of what God has entrusted to us is to ask whether we are voting with a God focus or some other focus. The mission of God is to make Jesus’ name great, not to make America great. We need to work hard to protect ourselves from being pressed into the world’s mold in political life and every other facet of life.

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Fear and Trembling Reviewed

I wanted to like this book because it was recommended by a friend but honestly the whole thing makes no sense whatsoever to anyone but a philosophy major. At first I thought perhaps it was the time, language and culture difference that made the book so hard to understand but it turns out after some research that the author’s contemporaries didn’t like him or the book anymore than I do, and they got it right.  One other reviewer said “from the contents of this work Kierkegaard’s primary audience was obviously ethical philosophers.”  That means there are seven or eight people out there who will like it.

I knew I wouldn’t love the book because I think philosophers, especially Christian philosophers, ought to get their heads out of the clouds, put down their books and actually go love someone. I am not surprised by the fact that I didn’t like it and I’m glad I read the book to get more granularity around what it is I dislike so  much about philosophy.

Here’s an example of the foolishness, and it actually is not as incomprehensible as most of the book. If you understand what he is saying, you will enjoy the book.

“What is education? I should suppose that education was the curriculum one had to run through in order to catch up with oneself, and he who will not pass through this curriculum is helped very little by the fact that he was born in the most enlightened age.”

Or how about this one…

Let us consider a little more closely the distress and dread in the paradox of faith. The tragic hero renounces himself in order to express the universal, the knight of faith renounces the universal in order to become the individual. As has been said, everything depends upon how one is placed. He who believes that it is easy enough to be the individual can always be sure that he is not a knight of faith, for vagabonds and roving geniuses are not men of faith. The knight of faith knows, on the other hand, that it is glorious to belong to the universal. He knows that it is beautiful and salutary to be the individual who translates himself into the universal, who edits as it were a pure and elegant edition of himself, as free from errors as possible and which everyone can read. He knows that it is refreshing to become intelligible to oneself in the universal so that he understands it and so that every individual who understands him understands through him in turn the universal, and both rejoice in the security of the universal. He knows that it is beautiful to be born as the individual who has the universal as his home, his friendly abiding-place, which at once welcomes him with open arms when he would tarry in it. But he knows also that higher than this there winds a solitary path, narrow and steep; he knows that it is terrible to be born outside the universal, to walk without meeting a single traveller. He knows very well where he is and how he is related to men. Humanly speaking, he is crazy and cannot make himself intelligible to anyone. And yet it is the mildest expression, to say that he is crazy. If he is not supposed to be that, then he is a hypocrite, and the higher he climbs on this path, the more dreadful a hypocrite he is.

Occasionally, when reading the book I would just start to think I was understanding what he was saying and then he would confuse me again. I think the point of the book, if there is one, is that people who think walking by faith is somehow inadequate and needs more are wrong because they misunderstand the essence of faith and what it really looks like to live by faith.

At the end of the day, I don’t know any real person who would be helped by reading this book although I’m sure many academics think that opining about how wonderful it is would be a great way to spend an afternoon.

2016 Reading List

Well this is long overdue but I wanted to share some of the books I’ll be reading based on a quick survey of friends, especially friends who are very different from me socially, politically, geographically or in their general personality and backgrounds. I felt like this year ought to be one where I read a little more broadly than I normally do so hopefully you readers will agree that this is not the normal stuff I’d be choosing.

Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – suggested by two very different people so I am eagerly anticipating it although I know nothing about it.

Gaining By Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send by J.D. Greear – more like the kind of thing I would normally pick up but the author has a very different philosophy of ministry than I do so I’m hoping to get stretched and strengthened at the same time.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – A classic I probably was supposed to read in high school or college but never did. I didn’t realize how large it was until Lydia got it for me from the library.

Fear and Trembling by Soren Kirkegaard – Something a friend picked for me precisely because he didn’t think I would like it. I am over half done and happy to report that he was right!

Side by Side by Ed Welch – Author was a seminary prof but his class was on the totally opposite end of the counseling spectrum and he always struck me more as a deep thinker than church body life master so I’m interested to see what he has to say.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – I have wanted to read this since it was published. I don’t read a lot of biography so it will be a change of pace. Several people have told me I won’t be able to put it down, but knowing how much I dislike reading I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

The Smartest Kids in the World and How they Got that Way by Amanda Ripley – Ripley wrote a fascinating book on why some people survive disasters and others don’t that I bought a case of to give out at work and is an extremely talented writer. I vassume from her first book that she is far more secular than me in world view so a book on education will be interesting.

Trinity by Leon Uris – Another big thick book of unknown content and style highly recommended by someone I respect a lot who is coming off a major life adventure himself. I figure if someone who’s just had their horizons broadened recommends it, I ought to take that recommendation seriously.

Fools Talk by Os Guinness – I’ve never read anything by Guinness before but I am consistently reminding myself how much I need to focus on being more winsome in presenting Jesus Christ as the supremely beautiful savior and I’m hoping this helps me.

The Reformers and their Stepchild Verduin – A good friend told me years ago to read the book and he’s never gotten one wrong yet. I’m interested to see how much of the Reformation is really being embraced today.

A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren – Certainly not something I’d normally pick. One of the ironic things to me about watching Bernie Sanders is that he’s actually right about many of the problems but has some kind of disconnect in the solution (IMHO). I’m hoping this will both open my eyes to areas where maybe I am blind and also help me understand people on the left side of the political spectrum a little better.

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado – Max is a popular Christian author who in my opinion is more popular than Christian many times. I hope this will help me understand the “churchianity” subculture a little better.

Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren – Basically the same as the Max Lucado book. I feel like I might be the only person in the western Christian church who hasn’t already read this book. From the snippets that I have read and what I already know about Warren, I’m assuming I’m not going to like it but I think it’s important to see what Christians (broadly defined) are reading.

Nothing Like It In The World by Stephen Ambrose – Who wouldn’t want to read a book about the men who built the transcontinental railroad from 1863 – 1869? I mean, everyone wants to hear stories about the Pony Express but why isn’t there more interest in the people  that ended its short life. Not me! Got this book for 25 cents at the Friends of the Library store here in Carrollton so I’m hoping I at least get my money’s worth from this Band of Brothers author.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo – This was the #1 adult book sold on Amazon.com in 2015  and so it may make some sense to see what it says and to see what it says about our culture that so many copies were sold on this topic.