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Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Above All

I did some sample RCIA teaching last night for some friends. I happened to mention in a humorous way that I still had a favorite Bible verse or theme, if you will, and that that was still OK even though we are Catholic. My theme verse is Romans 5:8: "But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." The way this is worded in the main teaches me that Christ didn't wait around for us to clean ourselves up, or to be religiously acceptable, or appear to have it all together. Rather, he saw us in our very worst moments, and said, "I will die for that person." It's quite dense theologically, the entire chapter, but it is a meditation on the willingness of Christ to do his redeeming work in the face of the worst we could do to him, and the worst we can do to each other, and to ourselves.

In any case, a lot of good Christian people get around to knocking popular worship songs for being too individualistic, or too much "Jesus is my boyfriend" in their orientation. I need to push back against that a little bit, because if receiving Jesus is not personal and individual, then Jesus will never be received. Moreover, it is a plain fact of the revealed truth that Jesus died for us personally. One worship song, "Above All," puts it this way:

Crucified, laid behind a stone
You lived to die, rejected and alone
Like a rose, trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all

--
If I am not mistaken, Isaiah 52:10 says in some version, "he shall see his offspring; they shall prolong his days." Let me connect it to those momentous verses in Hebrews 12: "the joy set before him" is us. St. Paul says in paraphrase somewhere, "I no longer live for myself, but for Christ, who loved me, and gave himself for me." And in Romans, St. Paul says, "He who did not spare His own Son, will he not also graciously give us all things?" Many other examples can be found. The point is, if we denigrate the Lord's desire for each one of us, in service to some other cause, perhaps combating the excessive individualism of some elements of religion in America today, we miss what God has himself said.

Frankly, some of us are so desperate to hate ourselves as some sort of pious exercise, that we'll ignore large portions of Scripture in order to succeed. It was love that drove Jesus to the cross, not mere toleration. Maybe we can't recognize love, or accept it, because we haven't received enough of it. I don't know. In any case, I'm here to help.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Presidential Election Update

In simple terms, Biden is winning. The swing states favored any Democrat not named Hillary Clinton anyway, and Biden has a personal demographic ability to play on the newly-minted Trump turf of PA, WI, and MI. Again, Trump barely won these, up against the most unpopular candidate in US history. Unless Team Trump has a parade of surprises planned until election day, I don't see anything to dent Biden's baseline favorability. You'll notice Biden is near 48 percent in the poll average; that's where a sitting president ought to be.

On the other hand, Trump kind of sneaks up. If Team Biden got complacent, they might lose a tight race. But my gut feeling is, they aren't the complacent types. Biden has been overlooked many times; he knows the Trump move. I'm sure many people expected Biden to accept his laurels as Obama's VP, and go away. But he's done his bit for the party; he's done stepping aside.

The political scientist Rachel Bitecofer has gained more attention with her theory that the persuadable swing voter doesn't exist. The theory goes that elections turn on which aligned "independents" actually show up. She says that Democrat-aligned ones are going to show up, and I agree. In the Democratic primary, there was turnout very near 2008 levels. That was an easy Democratic win, you'll recall.

In the interest of humility, I remind you that I've been wrong twice in a row. I underestimated the power of incumbency to help Obama against Romney, and I overestimated Clinton's ability to turn out and hold Democrats. Here's why I'm right this time. First, no one takes Democrats from Joe Biden; second, Trump won 46 percent of the vote last time. If he does that again, he loses; and third, there is no reason to suppose Biden is polling better than voters he'll actually win. It should be easy; it could be a landslide. I guess we'll see!