Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Homosexuality: The Christian's Grace/Truth Paradox

There is a wedge that seems to have been driven into Christianity. My aim is to attempt to bridge it.

Let’s face it, there are plenty of doctrinal issues that divide believers. Those questions are important to answer and are worth discussing. I make no buts about that. But they should not keep the gospel from going out. Arguments, especially public ones, turn God’s people against each other and show the world that there is no difference in our lives.

These discussions can be with the firmest convictions and can include the best of intentions. But we have to watch how we go about it.

At this point in my life, probably the majority of Christians I know have some major difference that I disagree with. (And I am talking true Christians, those that are born-again.) If you find this to be a problem, you are probably part of the problem I am speaking of.

Homosexuality is one of the biggest issues in Christendom that is causing this division. Is it moral? How do we go about talking about it? What should our stance be? How do we combat it?

All of these questions have an answer. There are no gray areas.

There are two camps that are mistaken on this issue. One side sees homosexuality as not only sin, but THE sin. There is no other sin that receives as much attention and criticism. The other side is focused so much on God’s love that they refuse to properly acknowledge it as sin.

Homosexuality should receive extra attention because there is a major battle being fought over it in our society. If the liberals have an agenda to push it on us, the Church should have a plan to push back. On the laundry list of these problems, the latest is the Georgia governor vetoing a law to protect religious organizations from being forced to go against their beliefs and participate in gay weddings.

So what’s the game plan?

Well, let’s look at what the game plan should not be.

Our plan should not be to hurl insults. In my time in the pro-life movement, I have had more personal attacks than I could ever recall. There is a reason it is called an ad hominem “fallacy”. It is a weak argument. In fact, it really is not an argument at all. I consider it illegitimate. It only serves to make us look stupid. Personally insulting someone, even if their lifestyle is sinful, serves to only prevent the gospel from going out by making Christianity seem hateful, whether you are or are not.

Our plan should not be to make excuses for the LGBTQ movement. Don’t defend something that shouldn’t be defended. If someone is living a sinful lifestyle, don’t excuse the sin. Homosexuality is sexual sin. We don’t look at an adulterer and back up their sin. We should not do this for homosexuality either.

Our plan should not be to single out homosexuality. Unfortunately, Christian supporters of the LGBTQ movement have dirtied the phrase; nevertheless, it rings true: don’t attack someone because they sin differently than you. This does not mean we shouldn’t call out sin. But it does mean that we should be aware of how we treat it. Even unintentionally, we can target homosexuality and give the impression that it is worse than any other sexual sin. It is more public in our society, but it is not any worse than the lust that is pervasive in Christians by their very sin nature. God hates my lust for women as much as He would hate my lust for a man. Because it is sin. Please, for the love of all that is right in the world, do not think that I excuse homosexuality or transgenderism. I certainly do not. But it is easy to point out a sin that one does not struggle with. But the beam in my eye gives away my sin nature. Remember that we’ve all sinned against the Creator of this universe, so we all are under condemnation apart from Christ. If LGBTQ advocates are fighting for equality, they have equality with straight people in that they are under the wrath of God.

So what should we do, then?

As Christians, it is our duty, as Christ’s ambassadors, to love everyone and to push back against attempts to normalize sin.

The duty to love everyone is to love them as Jesus does. He loves them because they are His creation and He pursues them because He wants to know them. We should love them in that we want a better life for them. The gospel is what brings a better life.

Attempts to normalize the sin around us are hindrances to the gospel. If sin is normalized in society it will become harder for lost people to realize their sin. It’s a simple concept. Don’t let society get away with saying sin is okay. It’s not. It never has been and never will be.

If the homosexual agenda is pushed and we as a society accept it, the plea to repent of sin such as homosexuality will no longer be religious zeal but instead will be construed as hate speech. We have already arrived here.

Hence there is a vital grace/truth balance that must be maintained by Christians living in a society that is intolerant of those truly following the Bible’s teachings.

Salvation involves the mercy of God but also includes the justice of God. The two are inseparable. If God is not just then He will not punish sin, and there will be no need for His mercy. Without His mercy, there is no salvation.
Not hateful, just truthful.

God’s justice means that sin must be paid for (whether by us or by Christ). There is no doubt in scripture that homosexuality is sin (Genesis 1, Genesis 19, Matthew 19, Romans 1, I Corinthians 6). And God hates ALL sin. We ALL are sinners (Romans 3). Hence there is a problem. God’s justice means that we are destined for His judgment. If you think being “judged” by man is bad, try messing with God.

Since God promises to punish sin (Isaiah 13, Proverbs 11:21), we have to be upfront about sin. Repentance is part of the gospel. Unless people know that they need to repent, they will never experience true salvation. The first step to being born again is knowing that one’s self is sinful, and that God will punish that sin. Since homosexuality is sin, we have to be willing to call it for what it is – but to do so in a loving way.

Until LGBTQ individuals know that their lifestyle is wrong, they will never come to Christ because they will never see their need. If we treat them in a manner that brings shame to the name of Christ, however, they will not want the salvation that we have.

Jesus is the perfect example of how to stay true to God’s Word but to do so in a loving manner. He never condoned the sin of the people that came to Him. He never stood behind them and rationalized their sinful lifestyles. But He did not turn them away. He dealt with plenty of people involved in sexual sin. The Holy Spirit brought them to a place where they recognized the sin in their life, so they came to Jesus. Jesus forgave them. He didn’t single them out or make a public example of them.
Proof that being able to marry simply isn't enough.
Everyone must fall in line and condone evil deeds.
Expect greater persecution in the coming days.

The balance is difficult to keep. One thing about Jesus is this: people still hated Him. The truth will lead to others hating you:

“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” –John 3:19

Those who live in darkness will hate the light. But if we live consistently in our Christian walk, there will be those that step into the light. God still heals the broken, whether the broken were raised in church or are transgendered.

Don’t place a limit on the grace of God by using cruel words against the lost. But don’t cover up the sin, either.

Love them, show them their sin, and present Jesus Christ as the remedy for their sin.

It’s difficult, but I know someone that has walked this road before. He walked it all the way to Calvary, where He took the sin of the whole world on Him.

Yes, He had my sin. He had your sin. He had Bruce Jenner’s sin. Jesus was punished for the sin of the whole world – which means ALL who come to Him will find forgiveness and peace with God.

It’s now our responsibility to share that truth in love.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Church Members Poison Selves "for the Glory of God"

Members of a small Southern Baptist church committed a mass suicide during their Sunday morning service yesterday, confirmed local law enforcement.

The worship leader was in the middle of singing "Forever", a popular song by recording artist Kari Jobe, when he paused to talk to the congregation. This was not unusual, but his message was.

"He just stood there in tears, having a quiet dialogue with the Almighty. Think he was speaking in tongues," said an anonymous parishioner that declined to take part in the suicide. "Finally he looked at the congregation and said, 'Forever He is glorified. If we really believe this, church, then our lives should glorify Him. All that we do. All that we say. Utilizing God's creation - that's what brings Him glory.'"

It was at that point that the worship leader held up a bottle.

"'In here is hemlock juice. Now not many people drink this, so we're going to really bring glory to God by using the creation He's put here.' Then he yells, 'He's worthy!' and took a swig.

"I think some of the church members were a little confused, but most followed suit. Some of them were just hanging on to the Mark 16:18 principle, you know, drinking poison and not dying and what not. Guess they thought it still applied."

The worship leader, though, seemed to know that he was going to expire, yet placed God's glory above his own well-being.

The names of the individuals that died will not be released until after autopsies have been performed and family members are notified.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Beach Reach: How God moved in my Life

My plan coming back from Beach Reach, where campus ministries from around the country go to share the gospel with those at Panama City Beach for spring break, was to write specifically about my experiences there. But in order to fully capture the work that God continued in my life, I think it’s important to start by capturing what He has done throughout this entire spring semester.
I feel like I should be open with my friends about how God is showing Himself and how I need prayer for my shortcomings. And if you don’t know me and are reading this, I’m really glad you are, but your perception of me doesn’t really have any effect on my life. So, basically, I want to draw on the changes in my attitude to bless you all, and maybe even spark something in you.
These things aren’t anything I didn’t already know, for the most part. They’re just things I wasn’t living out, as I frequently have knowledge about Christianity but don’t apply it to my life.

1.      My identity is wrapped up in Christ alone.
This particularly has been ongoing throughout the entirety of this semester. Several things have led me deeper into this conclusion.
First was homecoming week. I put a ton of work into homecoming planning for the BCM, starting over winter break and continuing into the first few weeks of the semester. I knew it would take time, but even I underestimated it. This is not to earn pity, it’s just relevant information to this lesson.
Homecoming game

In the midst of putting all of this together, I was also a homecoming court nominee. This was a really cool experience. I said all along, if I could just make it onto homecoming court, I’d be perfectly content. Turns out I did. At the end of the day, I didn’t win homecoming king. I think what made this harder was that a good friend of mine did win homecoming queen, and for some reason that ate at me. I scrutinized myself, as I often do: what did I need to do differently to win? Where was I not good enough? In time, this wore off, but there was a time of some frustration.
Second, the BCM had presidential interviews. I came in with more expectations than I should have. I truly thought I was the best candidate (again, I’m not claiming my thoughts and attitudes have been correct, but through them God has humbled me; hence I want to share them to see where I was and where God has taken me); I had a number of people tell me this as well. I had been somewhat led to believe I was the favorite candidate. It was something I wanted, and I had been involved in brainstorming for the new structure of our leadership team. Roads seemed to be pointing to me.
Turns out, again, I didn’t get what I wanted. I was pretty frustrated, as were a few other candidates that were passed over. Add to it the fact that a support system for us was all but nonexistent, and there was bitterness. This lasted for close to a week, an eternity for someone like me who glazes over disappointments quickly. The reality is that I prayed that (1) God would do what He knew was best for the ministry and (2) that He would put me where I needed to be and where I could best benefit the ministry. For all my limited mind knows, He did just that.
Add to it seeing friends in relationships and some battles with confidence, and I’ve been abased this semester.
I had to bring myself to the clear point of my identity. My identity doesn’t come from accolades, positions, friendships, relationships, appearance, or anything else that the world may place value on. My identity comes through Christ alone.
Beach Reach was the first time that I was entirely at peace with this fact this semester.
You’re a Good, Good Father: it’s who You are.
And I’m loved by You: it’s who I am.
My worth isn’t decided by my accomplishments. Those change, and my value would change with them. My worth isn’t decided by me or any other person. My identity is wrapped up in Christ. The fact that the Creator of the universe is also a personal God who came to Earth to die to cover my failures and regrets so He could personally know me and adopt me into His very family shows me all I need to know about myself. God’s love for me does not change through any and every circumstance, and so my value stays the same. He cares for me, and if nothing else goes right in my life, that is enough. Being loved by God is who I am.

2.      I am not as spiritually mature as I thought I was.
This will probably be the toughest to write about, as I front like I have things together to most people I know.
I came into Beach Reach overconfident. I have done similar outreach work in pro-life ministry for a couple years. Tactically, conversations are fairly similar. It takes some degree of boldness. Pair that with knowledge I have about the Bible and apologetic issues, and I thought I’d be fine.
Then that was put to the test.
We went out for the first time on Sunday night. For your reference, Beach Reach has several ministries that go on to reach people at Panama City Beach. From 9 pm to 2 am (or later), there are three things taking place: van teams, where people can call in and get a safe ride to their next destination and hear the gospel in the process; street teams, where dozens of small groups walk the streets and visit spots in PCB to talk to people about Jesus; and the prayer room, where people can pray for the incoming requests sent in by the other two teams. My first assignment was in vans.
When the first guys got in, I connected well with them. I usually can with strangers. But I had a lot of trouble transitioning the conversation to the gospel. There were several things at work here. One, I truly couldn’t find a good, natural way to bring the conversation to that point. Two, I was afraid it would appear like we were betraying their trust by giving them a ride just to share the gospel with them (when in reality they basically knew that it was our purpose). Finally, I was legitimately timid in sharing my faith. This frustrated me because I’m supposed to be an experienced leader.
"Y'all are the light of the world."
The speaker during the week was phenomenal. A flaw of mine is that my mind tends to wander. Not just during a sermon or prayer, but while I’m having a conversation or doing homework. I struggle to pay attention at times. This was the first time in a while that I was really tuned into a speaker. Not because other preaching I’ve heard is bad; my heart just hasn’t been in the right place. Austin hit the aspect of preaching the gospel hard. And he didn’t pull punches. For three straight nights he shut off the lights during part of his sermon to show us the darkness in which the world is living. Not just during spring break at Panama City Beach. On our campuses. In our communities. In our circles of friends.

One of his hardest hitting points was why we were down there in the first place.
“If you’re stepping over the dead at your university to come down to reach the dead at Panama City Beach, what makes you think you’ll do it here if you’re not even doing it there?”
Proclaiming the gospel isn’t something we set aside a week for. It’s a lifestyle, or at least it should be. I was talking to another BCM person on the beach, and we were thinking of how many people with whom we’ve actually shared the gospel. Two. That’s all I could think of that have consistently heard the gospel from me. There have been a few random people I’ve told once, but that’s it. Two people. I know a lot more than two people. I occasionally tell someone the gospel, and think I’m good. I can reference something in case it comes up in conversation. Sure, people know I’m a Christian, and that I’m involved in a campus ministry, but that doesn’t tell them the gospel, and I need to stop acting like it does. WE need to stop acting like it does. If I’m afraid to share it here, it’s no small wonder that I started off the same way down there.
The good news is, Austin also turned on a single lightbulb to illustrate how brightly it shines in a dark room. And things did get better.
Prayer is another huge struggle for me. It’s an occasional thing for some specific need. It’s a quick thing before I read my Bible. Worst of all, it’s usually a thrown together string of words that are so automatic in my head from years of Christian learning that I don’t even think about them.
It’s not a daily thing. It’s not a sacrificial thing. It’s not a set aside time. I was stretched greatly in this area as well, as I did things I wasn’t comfortable with coming into the trip.
My, how I realized how spiritually immature I am. I needed to be slapped in the face. I was even fooling myself.
So how did this change?

3.      The Holy Spirit can lead in ways we can’t comprehend.
I’ve never had a good understanding of the Spirit’s leading. I was raised to be very cautious of this, and with good reason; there are many people who believe they are in the Spirit but in reality are being led by their own whims with things their minds conjure up. My problem is that I let this caution turn to scrutiny. When I heard someone talk about the Spirit guiding them to some random place, I scoffed.
Bring my softening attitude to Wednesday night of Beach Reach. I had struggled thus far and was praying for a team assignment that would show me the proper way to handle myself out there. God delivered me to an old friend.

Matt Wallin had an incredible impact on my spiritual life during my first two years in college. My freshman year, I lived in the same residence hall as him and had many conversations and learned an incredible amount. I spent many Wednesday nights with him ministering to the homeless in Cincinnati. A few of us joke about how often he is mentioned around the BCM, to where I’ve almost forgotten how much he has helped shape my spiritual growth.
As God would have it, our campus minister invited the Virginia Tech BCM to stay with our group. Matt’s on staff there as an intern. This group was a great asset and I loved the opportunity to work and live with them for a week.
That Wednesday, I was put with Matt on the streets. We went out of the drop-off spot and sat down by a retaining pond. There, Matt told us to pray and listen to God for His direction on where we should go or who we should talk to. After a while, one of the girls said she felt we should wait. So we did. She ended up answering a text from someone who needed a van ride. Our waiting caused her to take notice of that need. So we prayed and listened again. For some strange reason, I took notice of a concrete drain sticking up out of the pond that would drain water if it got too high. I was trying my best to make sure my thoughts were guided by God and not just allowed to run free, as they often do. So I began to think about floods. What do they do? What emotions do they provoke? I wasn’t sure what it meant, so I filed it away as we walked on. We literally prayed every time we came to a place with multiple directions to choose from. We soon came to one, and we began to pray again. I looked one direction. Then I looked the other direction. There, down the road, I saw the Ripley’s Believe it or Not building. It is built to look like a sinking ship. Floods! We went that way.
We continued this for a while, as I listened to Matt’s past experiences in being Spirit-led. One year, a team member felt as they should talk to someone with Vans shoes on. After walking a while, they stopped again to pray for direction. Another felt they should go somewhere with liquor, which isn’t a long walk in PCB. They came to a Kroger Liquor store and went in. There they found a man wearing Vans shoes.
Another happened that week, when a team member felt they should go to a pizza place of which they knew. A different group member thought they should talk to someone who was alone. When they got there, there was no one alone. But as one of them ordered a slice of pizza, someone showed up. Alone.
We were led to the same place because we were headed that direction and Matt had a desire for pizza. A different group was there already, and one of their members began talking to a man sitting alone. Matt joined her, and they talked for an hour or more. Towards the end of that conversation, a Virginia Tech girl and I walked to an ice cream place in the same building. When I came out, she had sat down at a table with two college-age guys. I initially thought, by their demeanor, that they were Beach Reachers. It turned out they weren’t, but were knowledgeable about the Bible. We were able to question them about biblical salvation and in time were able to confirm that they were Christians.
Club LaVela, one of the biggest clubs in Panama City Beach
Obviously, I did this with my group the next night. We were led a certain direction and came across a group of guys. I began talking to them and asked how their week had been (this was our last night on the street). We learned they were trying to get to a club. I called into the van hotline, which was extremely busy, thankfully. They eventually caught a party bus as I still was on hold. But one of the guys, a Canadian named Barrett, told a member that he had a Christian background but was questioning God’s existence, as is a healthy thing to question. One of our team members had been through the same thing and was able to give him Answers in Genesis as a resource.
Oh, and I've seen many searching for answers far and wide.
But I know we're all searching
For answers only you provide.
In reality, every person down at PCB to party has contemplated eternity. They’ve thought about God and religion. It’s impossible to not have some sort of contact with Christianity in America, even if someone doesn’t know the full gospel. They all contemplate at one point, and even while down there for a totally different reason, they too are searching for answers. They may be looking to the wrong things, but they are searching. We are placed down there to lead them to truth, and we are placed where we are now for the same purpose.
Later that night, we headed another way and came across a Sonic. There sat three men who were coming back from a bluegrass gig. I talked to them for a while but never steered the conversation towards the gospel. While it wasn’t easy, I know I could have done more. I vowed not to let anyone else go that night without sharing the gospel with them.
We sat there at Sonic and prayed for direction. For some reason, I was feeling led to head towards a Holiday Inn Resort down the road. On our way, we had our best and final conversation of the night.
Josh was sitting alone by a building, trying to light a cigarette. We walked over to him and started a conversation. It didn’t take long to learn that he was down in Florida running from a lot of problems in Dallas. He had two warrants out for him, was being sued, had piling medical bills, suffered three mini heart attacks in his two weeks down there, attempted suicide, and had a lot to face should he go back. But in Panama City Beach, he was alone, away from everyone he knew. As he continued to open up, we were able to open up to him. I was able to relate through my family’s struggle with medical bills and my close friend who almost committed suicide. I was able to tell him that he has worth in God’s eyes and that God is pursuing him and wants to know him. This was evident to him, as earlier in the week he’d already talked to several other teams both on the street and at our pancake breakfasts in the mornings. He said the only people who cared to approach him were Christians. Amazingly, Sarah in my group had seen Josh’s name come up before on the prayer board and was able to tell him that he had been prayed for all week. Josh has a church background but is not a believer. He’s working through a lot in his mind currently. We prayed for him and I got his phone number to keep in touch. Pray that he makes the right decisions, is kept safe, and is brought to a point that he repents and puts faith in Christ.

All of this, make note, because we allowed the Holy Spirit to lead us where He’d have us to go.
‘Cause you are perfect in all of your ways.
You are perfect in all of your ways.
You are perfect in all of your ways to us.
On the last night, Austin spoke about the Holy Spirit. He brought out the different translations of the Greek word in the Bible. Besides “Spirit”, “breath” and “wind” are also used. Through the illustration of breath, Austin questioned if we did indeed have the Holy Spirit in us. Throughout the week he continually pressed that our being on a mission trip did not automatically qualify us as Christians. This was important because there was a girl in our NKU group that realized this and was saved there along with the 33 others our teams were able to bring to Christ. While the strict alcohol laws drastically decreased the number of spring breakers in the city, it did not hinder God’s work both in the lives of those down to party and those down to minister.
Austin used a boat metaphor to describe why we might not be being led by the “wind”. First, our sails might not be up – we might not be praying. Second, we might be docked – we might not be allowing ourselves to be led. Third, we might be hung up on rocks – there might be something such as selfish motivations or secret sin that is keeping us from moving. As I mulled this over, I knew I’d sound cliché, but every one of these points described me to some extent. It was again a reality check into how little I utilized the Holy Spirit God has given me.
In fact, the Spirit led me to even get to this point. Spring break of my freshman and sophomore years was spent on Created Equal’s Justice Ride, taking the truth about abortion to campuses in Florida. This is very important work I’ve devoted a lot of time to during college. But I gave Beach Reach fair consideration, and after talking with a few trusted people, opted to change things up this year. I missed the Justice Ride, but I made the right decision.
Beach Reach has definitely stretched me. The way we did prayer involved praying aloud with everyone else praying simultaneously. I had to focus to keep my conversation with God alone, as so often I think about what I can say for others. Same with worship. Our worship is to glorify God alone, yet it’s so easy to be concerned with the perceptions of others around me. I’ve been pushed to be forward with the gospel not just there, but here.
As you call me deeper still,
As you call me deeper still,
As you call me deeper still
Into love, love, love.
Too often, we come back from a trip and never continue the change that happened there. Already I’ve been tempted, which is to be expected. I don’t want us as a ministry to stop that progress. We have a huge opportunity to make an impact where we are, and I don’t want to waste that time living in fear and sin. There is too much at stake.
It’s been awesome seeing the growth in my life and so many lives around me. Listening to some of the others in the BCM speak on their plans coming back is incredible. The fire isn’t going to feed itself; this we must realize. But if we’re really in tune to God’s heart, there is no limit to the potential because there is no limit to how God can work.
Sunrise on the last morning

As I spent the rest of our final night in prayer, this song came on a couple times in the background. The first time, I lifted it up as a prayer to God. Earnest, heartfelt prayer with no regard for what was going on around me. The second time, I cried as I relayed these stories to Andrew from my BCM:
Oh, I've heard a thousand stories of what they think You're like.
But I've heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night.
And You tell me that You're pleased
And that I'm never alone.

You're a Good, Good Father:
It's who You are. It's who You are. It's who You are.
And I'm loved by You:
It's who I am. It's who I am. It's who I am.

Oh, and I've seen many searching for answers far and wide.
But I know we're all searching
For answers only You provide.
‘Cause You know just what we need
Before we say a word.

You're a Good, Good Father:
It's who You are. It's who You are. It's who You are.
And I'm loved by You:
It's who I am. It's who I am. It's who I am.

‘Cause you are perfect in all of your ways.
You are perfect in all of your ways.
You are perfect in all of your ways to us.

You are perfect in all of your ways.
You are perfect in all of your ways.
You are perfect in all of your ways to us.

Oh, it's love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak.
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think.

As You call me deeper still,
As You call me deeper still,
As You call me deeper still,
Into love, love, love.

You're a Good, Good Father:
It's who You are. It's who You are. It's who You are.
And I'm loved by You:
It's who I am. It's who I am. It's who I am.

You're a Good, Good Father:
(You are perfect in all of Your ways.)
It's who You are. It's who You are. It's who You are.
And I'm loved by You:
(You are perfect in all of Your ways.)
It's who I am. It's who I am. It's who I am.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Most Dangerous Thing About Donald Trump

A year from now, this post might be illegal.

I don’t hide my disdain for Donald Trump, but there’s one thing that concerns me more than any other policy. Okay, policy might be generous. The man has no plans or ideas to actually pull off most of the stuff he’s promising. He actually expects a foreign, sovereign government to pay for a wall they don’t want and can’t afford? How is that supposed to happen?

But that isn’t my biggest concern. Nor is his desire to prevent a private company from investing in Mexico, which includes breaking the North American Free Trade Agreement. It’s not even his refusal to condemn the KKK’s beliefs, or him retweeting from the account “@WhiteGenocideTM”.

This particular plan makes all of his childish tactics, shameless berating of fellow candidates, consideration to run third party should he lose the nomination, unfathomable ego, and pouting every time he is criticized look pretty good. Suggestions that a debate moderator was on her period even as late as 2012 when he congratulated his “friend [Barack Obama]”, where he admitted to voting for the current debacle of an administration – certainly have their places for discussion. His donations to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns in the past, the very candidate he could run against, demands answers.
because she asked tough questions is overshadowed. The worst parts of his shady past, mired in racism, bankruptcy, adultery, casinos, and support of liberal candidates and their policies –

But it keeps getting worse.

This danger has been acknowledged by his delusional supporters as something good and necessary. A few weeks ago, Trump declared that he was going to “open up” libel laws to punish those that write “negative” or “false” stories about him. He says his critics “will have problems.”

Libel laws already allow anyone that is not a celebrity to win a case, but “the person must prove that the statement was false, caused harm, and was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement.” For celebrities, the bar is higher: “the person must prove the first three steps and that the statement was made with the intent to do harm or with reckless disregard for the truth.” (Basic definition from Wikipedia.) So winning a libel case requires specific evidence.

The issue with Trump is that there is so much dirt on him, most of the negative things published about him are true. Remember also that he will literally call everything that is negative “false”, making others out to be liars when he is in fact the one lying. If you’ve watched any Republican debate, you’ve probably figured this out.

So clearly we’re not talking about the proper usage of libel laws. We’re talking about something much deeper than that. Trump is making an authoritarian claim. He wants to silence his critics. This shouldn’t be too big a surprise about someone that takes inspiration in Benito Mussolini, the brutal Italian dictator belonging to the National Fascist Party and ally of Nazi Germany.

In this case, the implications go much deeper than party lines. (Anyone believing that I simply vote Republican no matter what has misjudged me, which happens frequently.) I am certainly not cool enough to call myself independent and rebel against the established political system. “Well I’m just independent because, like, both parties have problems, man, and I’ll probably just, like, write in a candidate I like.” Normally I'd support the Republican candidate because, even with their flaws, they tend to be better candidates than Democrats. Nonetheless, we do have to think through candidates on an individual basis, not a party one.

Trump has given us a warning from his own mouth. It makes sense that someone who reacts so poorly to criticism will do all he can to stop it if he has the power. Trump lashes out with such irrationality, yet when the tables are turned he cries foul and retreats behind the ignorant rantings of his supporters. He has now vowed to punish those that criticize him as president.

In other words, we’re in trouble.

Piece it together. Trump considers any criticism as false. He wants to punish those that speak negatively. What we are talking about is a redefinition of the laws regarding the criticism of our government, a most basic right that our nation was built on. Trump, in his endeavor to “Make America Great Again”, is promising to do all in his power to destroy a fundamental right of America since her very beginning. Yet his supporters see that as a positive thing.

Whether the media praises or bashes an administration, I’d hope we agree that they should have the right to do so. I also have the right to call them on bad reporting. But it is never the government’s position to step in and silence their criticism. That’s what happens in totalitarian governments. Mussolini. Hitler. Stalin. Zedong. Castro.

Is that really what we want? In studying history, we wonder how blind these countries must have been to allow such characters to take away their rights. Hitler did it by coercion, not force. Now, we see the same thing happening. The sheep can’t wait to file into the slaughter house.

So no, I will not vote for Trump if he gets the nomination. That’s not a vote for Clinton or Sanders. It’s a recognition of the problems any one of them could cause. Eventually the Republican Party must wake up and stand true to the principles it began with, or must fade away like the Wig Party and make way for a new one. Those years won’t be easy, but it’s better than the alternative. My conservative principles don’t change when the Republican Party changes.

I hope I’m wrong. But listen to Donald Trump speak, and decide for yourself.

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