It’s Good to Give Thanks

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2015 by jcwill5

Sometime today, in the midst of all the busyness and preparations, take some unhurried time to pause and give thanks.

happythanksHere’s Why We Bother to Give Thanks

Human nature is not naturally thankful.

It has a dissatisfied, forgetful, ungrateful propensity that engages in comparing, complaining, and self-pity–which makes us and everyone around us more miserable.

Thanksgiving counteracts this downward nasty drift into ingratitude and soured souls.

Giving thanks is thus a positive source of good.

It’s contagious.  It leads to more giving thanks, and leads others who hear it into giving thanks.

It reminds us of all the good we’ve forgotten that still surrounds us if we chose to see it.

And it reminds us we didn’t deserve any of it.

If we’re sick of all the complaining, don’t just tell people to stop.

Start positively giving thanks in response to complaining.

So let’s try a little exercise today….

First Look at Your Relationships

Give thanks for ten things you appreciate about your spouse, and for ten things you value about your children.

Then say it out loud to them.

Give thanks for ten things your parents did right or for ten life lessons you learned from them.

Write them a note letting them know.

Count up all the friends you’ve ever had in your life, and all the good you’ve known through them.

Call one of them up and make their day.

Think about all the jobs you’ve ever had, and give thanks for all the paychecks you received and the skills you gained and the people you met.

If you tell your boss, you might change him or her in ways you can’t imagine.

Think about your travels and vacations, and give thanks for the natural and cultural wonders you’ve seen.

Think about your education–your teachers, schools, courses of study–and give thanks you are no longer in ignorance and illiteracy.

Nothing would cheer educators up so much than to hear from a blessed, former student.

Now Look Around Your Home

Do you live in a home? Is it heated? Separate rooms for everyone? Running hot and cold water? Electricity?

Is there Food in the frig and in the pantry? Clothes in your closets? Cars in the driveway? Gadgets and devices unheard of in earlier times? Fully furnished and decorated?

That’s right, you’re part of the richest 1% who’ve ever lived on the planet!

Lots of Third-World folks would love to trade places with you, and can only fantasize about the kind of material prosperity you enjoy every single day.

They can’t imagine not wondering where their next meal comes from, or not having to walk miles to the nearest clean, running water or needing to haul it back on foot.

You can’t imagine worrying about these basic survival needs.

Now Look At Your Nation

Do you live under a strong government, providing law and order and keeping chaos mostly at bay?

Are you suffering the ravages of war, or do you live in a land unscathed and free from bombings, shots ringing out, and armed terror gangs?

A huge slice of humanity doesn’t enjoy these blessings.   We Americans do.

Regular elections contested by long-standing political parties in a representative democracy?

A division of powers that keeps power from being concentrated in the hands of a dictator?

A bill of rights that guarantees the freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, of lawful assembly?

Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure?

The right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers?  The right to face your accuser?   Presumed innocent until proven guilty?

Violent crime rates are near 50 YEAR LOWS, our environment has now largely clean, and our lifespans are the highest they’ve ever been- despite what scare-mongering news outlets say.

We Americans are very blessed.

We have so many freedoms we take for granted.

But few people complain more or give thanks less than we do.

It’s so silly of us!

Then there’s our spiritual blessings.

God didn’t owe any sinner anything good.  but everlasting judgment in Hell.

Yet, with the greatest compassion possible, He saw our plight, took pity on us, and personally intervened in human affairs,

He exhausted His wrath upon Himself instead of us at the Cross–freeing us from the sin-death regime we were all under and liberating our souls from the tyranny of sin.

All received as a free gift in simple trust–entrusting our selves to Him and trusting Him to apply all He did on our behalf to us.

Instead of hell, we are given heaven!

Instead of judgment, forgiveness!

Instead of shame, cleansing and honor!

Instead of rejection, adoption as His children!

Instead of death, eternally alive!

Instead of a cesspool of complaining, a fountain of everlasting joy!

If you’re a Christian, overflowing thanksgiving is our normal state of heart and mind.

Thanksgiving is what God wants most for us and from us.

It’s the devil that wants people to be miserable, complaining, ungrateful, bitter, etc.

Shall I go on?

Or have I said more than enough to convince you it’s well worth our time to take all the time we need to “count your blessings, name them one by one”?

The Failure-Boasting Line

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2015 by jcwill5

To be a good American is to pursue success and avoid failure.

The Unspoken Success Mandate

feeling-mighty-successfulWe are expected to seek success at all costs.

We are taught to believe that any child could become the President of the United States and “do anything they set their mind on.”

It is therefore our duty to climb, climb, climb up the ladder so we can be bigger, greater, and higher than we were.

It is mandated that we hold onto our high status of achievement, our elevated self, at all costs.

It is mandated that we never go down, grow less, be less famous, or make less money.

And if the worst, a failure, should happen, it is imperative we do everything in our power to escape failure and move up again.

The Success Cult

We applaud winners, follow the successful, and keep our eye on the celebrity.

We disdain losers, ignore failures, and forget the forgotten and the unknown and the obscure.

We reward the climbers, and heap shame on the fallen.

To be a self-made man is one of the highest compliments we can pay.

From the self-reliant pioneer, to the victorious soldier in war, to the ruthless, dominant CEO, to the bragging champion athlete, to the uber-rich, inventive entrepreneur, we worship those “above us”.

If we can’t be one of them, we secretly believe we can be one of them with a little more effort, with a lucky break, with the right connections.

Quit or Try Harder

This strategy either works or it doesn’t.

Then we either carry a resentful envy–the deck is stacked against me, it’s not fair, it’s the system, etc.

This is the “give-up, why try” option.

Or we carry a lustful envy–that’s the kind of recognition I deserve, that’s the kind of wealth I want, that’s the kind of power I need to wield.

This is the “do more, try harder, be better” option.

The Downside

But those who try to fly at the highest altitudes fall the furthest and crash the hardest in life.

We simply can’t handle the heights, with all the pressure to perform and always look good.

The truth is we all have areas of profound, hidden brokenness, soul issues that defy healing, and problems that refuse to get better.

We are insufficient and inadequate, even for ourselves.

So we maintain a facade, put up a front, project an image, and hide our worst secret:  we are failures!

If anyone knew the real us, they’d realize we’re losers and would reject us–however much money or awards or status or celebrity we might have.

And the gap between the public self and the real, hidden self grows, we prop ourselves up with substances, with experiences, or with relationships.

Which deepen our wobble and cause additional, even deeper issues until we lose all control to our addictions.

The Crash

Then it all comes crashing down.

And depression–anger at ourselves for failing our selves–leaps up with a vengeance.

And who will love us then?

Who will pick us up when we have fallen so low?

Who will reach down when we find ourselves in a bottomless pit?

Is there an alternative to the failure-boasting line?  And if so, what is it and how do we get there?

That’s for next time!

Political Bible Abuse

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2015 by jcwill5

twistingIt’s all too easy to twist and spin the Bible to justify:

our policy positions on modern issues.

our favored political/economic system.

our pro- or anti-racial, national, or ethnic agendas.

Yes, it’s easier to abuse it in pride for our causes than it is to come humbly to the Bible.

Than to ask God what our views should be, and what His cause is and die to our own ego causes.

Yes, it’s far easier to use God and the Bible for our own earthly purposes.

Than to seek to better know God Himself so we can live for His eternal purposes and bring joy to His heart.

It doesn’t take much work to be lazy about doing the hard work needed to do justice to what has been written.

And do justice to whether or not it directly applies to us today.

This blog is an attempt to get us all to think, to get more honest, and do a better job of doing justice to the text.

The Overall Problem of Misinterpretation/Misuse of the Bible

One brief illustration highlights our problem in a nutshell:

If it’s not OK to quote Leviticus where it says to put adulterers, homosexuals, etc. to death, why is it OK to quote it when it tells Israelites how to treat foreigners, strangers, etc.?

I’m not saying we can’t go to other places in the Bible to grapple with the issue, but what I am saying is, if we use the second example without also using the first one, the burden is on us to show why not.

My point is we need to do the spade work, need to study the context of these verses–not to explain them away.

But to rightly understand them and, after another level of difficult spade work, rightly apply them to our present situations and times.

Don’t let anyone fool you:  interpreting the Bible rightly is hard, hard work!

The goal is to understand these verses in ways that does full justice to the author’s original meaning and purposes, and which recognizes the difference between then…and now.

Here are some other issues that spell this need out:

1) Jumping From Persons to Governments

Most of the biblical commands cited in the migrant debate pertain to how individuals treat other individuals (personal ethics).

Yet, there is another stream of commands given to Old Testament kings about how to govern God’s people under the Law, and some brief descriptions in the New Testament that tells us how to live under pagan governing authorities.

There is also a stream of commands to church leaders to guard their flocks, be on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing, and not be duped by Satan’s plots to infiltrate, corrupt, confuse, and wreck the church.

Leaders, in other words, have a unique duty to anticipate spiritual threats, mitigate harms, comfort victims, and confront evil workers and diabolical threats against their people.

Nowhere in the New Testament are personal ethical commands directed at the government itself, nor is the Church ever directed to make social change its primary goal.

Instead of seeking the levers of power to impose morality and compassion from above, the Christians had a far more indirect and even subversive role.

Individually and as a community, we’re told to love unloved people and groups without fanfare until a damning contrast between pagan society and the excellencies of knowing Christ was achieved.

Such love made pagans ashamed of their paganism, and eventually brought paganism itself into discredit.

All without lifting a spear, or launching a revolution, or putting anyone into office for 300 years under Rome.

It was done as a suspected, underground religious minority that influenced, penetrated, and shook the majority pagan society to its very core.

How, therefore, is it automatically OK to apply these OT ethical commands given to individuals, or NT commands given to the Church, to what a government should or shouldn’t do?  

How do these commands directly apply to domestic social policies or foreign policy decisions a secular, pluralistic government makes?

2) Jumping from Old Testament to New Testament, from Theocracy to Democracy

In the Old Testament under the Mosaic Covenant, God Himself governed His people Israel through judges, kings, prophets, etc.

His people lived inside a physical border, and were a quite distinct ethnic group living in rigid separation from all surrounding pagan nations.

There was no separation between God, the government, the laws–it was all one and the same.

A theocracy, in other words.

Dissenting from and disobeying His Law was the same thing as rebellion against the government, and therefore resulted in physical punishments.

Ethics were not private ethics, but part and parcel with the binding conditions of the covenant between the Overlord, God, and His subject people.

It was a totally conditional agreement.

If the Israelite people satisfied the conditions of the covenant, they would enjoy the physical and spiritual blessings of the covenant in the land where they lived.

If they disobeyed, they would experience increasing physical calamities, diseases, and even exile from the land.

It all was centered on a physical land–the land of Israel.

And the Israelite people were duty-bound under the Mosaic Covenant to preserve their religious, ethnic, and social distinctiveness against all intrusions from pagan individuals, practices, and ideas.

How is it therefore OK to automatically yank out commands given under the Old Testament Mosaic Covenant from their Old Testament context, and apply them however we wish to modern social issues?

How is it OK to take commands under a theocracy, under the Mosaic Law, and automatically and uncritically apply them to folks in a modern, pluralistic democracy?

How is this kind of practice not an improper use of the Bible that lends itself to abuse?

I raise these issues not to torment anyone, but to challenge the church to do better when it uses God’s Word, to be far more humble about it, and recognize where the Bible is silent.

Otherwise, we end up putting words in God’s mouth He didn’t say, or impose meanings on Him He didn’t mean–and congratulate ourselves on our cleverness.

We end up embroiling Him in public controversies that have little, if anything, to do with His hidden Kingdom agenda to make Christ Himself the one and only dividing line and supreme issue of all times and places.

We can do better!

Jesus the Missing Person, Part 2

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2015 by jcwill5

jesus_carton1Jesus is one of those people with a name everybody knows.

But few indeed know the real person, the Man behind a mask that we all too often put over Him.

Not that anyone could know Him totally, or plumb the depths of all He is, or adequately describe Him.

Having already looked at the stunning compassion of Jesus, and the disturbing yet liberating honesty of Jesus, it is time for a few more brush strokes.

Appalling Humility

Jesus, in the well-known incident of washing His disciples’ feet, mystified them.

They were embarrassed that He would do the work of a menial house servant, and lower Himself below them socially, vocationally, and culturally.

What they refused to do as beneath them, He gladly did to make a point they would never forget.

Humility is the highest kind of love–and serving others and giving up our grandiosity, even our own life,  is the epitome of who He is and what He’s all about.

Instead of climbing up the ranks of revered Rabbis, Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners.

He touched unclean lepers and rescued whores about to be stoned to death.

He sent a formerly demon-possessed man to be His messenger, chose a notorious tax collector to be one of His Twelve Disciples, and selected an infamous woman to inform her entire half-breed village that He is their Messiah.

His humility appalled and shocked the pyramid of social climbing, irritated the enforcers of the social code, and overthrew their ideas of what it meant to be good.

Most shockingly, it turned their entire idea of God Himself on its head.

The Highest of the High left the pinnacle of existence to become a human being, to live under His own commands, and to suffer unjustly the worst, most degrading death imaginable–crucifixion–for sinners!

It shocked and offended the entire ancient world.

It turned things upside-down.

Convicting Humility

Jesus had many collisions with egos.

Again and again, when His closest followers tried to elevate themselves, or jockey for the top positions, or argue over who was the greatest, He deflated their egos and called them to humble service.

All around them, people strove to climb higher, and bragged about it when they succeeded.

All around them, people were very conscious about how high or how low they were in class, in breeding, in social status, etc.

Except Jesus.

He toppled pretensions and punctured ego-bubbles.

He modelled a kind of love that transformed the lowly by first meeting them and loving them in their depths.

And it took His Disciples’ breath away.

Attractive Humility

One gets the feeling, years and years later, that the Apostles still adored Jesus.

They loved Him most dearly, never failing to tell others how He disabused them of their loftiness and sent them on a far richer, far greater life of humble lowliness and loving service.

What drew them to Him was Jesus didn’t demand to be the center of attention.

As a Person, one gets the feeling that He entered a room and quietly observed and noticed others.

Kids saw no walls and flocked to Him.

So did sinners.

He invited those weary and heavily-burdened under the crushing Law, amplified under the Pharisees, to come to Him for rest.

He spoke of Himself as gentle and lowly at heart.

A refuge for those at the end of themselves and unable to ever get it right or be good enough.

Invited to Know Him

I don’t know about you, but, in addition to compassion and honesty, it is the humility of Jesus that makes Him fascinating, attractive, and compelling.

He is simply unlike anyone we’ve ever meant, and the Person we need to meet the most.

Take away His humility, and His compassion becomes self-serving and His honesty becomes cruelty.

But make humility one of His most defining qualities, and we can’t help loving Him.

Or telling Him what our problems are.

Or telling others how great He is and how He’s well worth knowing.

If we recovered the missing person, the missing humanity of Jesus, I suspect our churches would be far more spiritually healthy and our witness of Him would be far more compelling.

Like Peter and John, onlookers might even begin to recognize us as “having been with Jesus.”

Wouldn’t that be nice for a change?!

Jesus the Missing Person, Part 1

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2015 by jcwill5

Missing-Persons-Private-InvestigatorIt seems like everyone these days wants to claim Jesus for their own cause.

We have a bead-wearing, lefty revolutionary Jesus, and a suit-wearing, flag-waving, corporate Jesus.

A Jesus for the Occupy Movement and one for the Tea Party.

A Jesus for the 3rd World and one for the 1st World, too.

An Afro-Jesus and a Nordic-looking one.

How you noticed how easy it is to parody the other guy’s Jesus, while being blind to the parody of a Jesus in our own image, who’s the servant of all our causes, and who validates all our current beliefs?

What if He was “none of the above” and “much more than we could possibly imagine”?

The Missing Jesus

Sometimes it all comes down to what we’re not saying, what we’re not preaching, and what we’re left out of our beliefs.

And I think that’s been the case in the American church.

We have lots of beliefs about the divinity of Jesus, but we hear little preaching about Jesus as an actual human being with a real personality and a certain kind of heart and mind.

We’ve left a blank the Bible doesn’t leave, and the result is everyone and anyone feels free to fill in the blank.

He’s become a moldable vacuum that we can fill with whatever and whoever we want, and therefore unrecognizable in the Gospels.

Shocking and Surprising

The Gospels give us a Jesus who is the multi-dimensional person and who has a many-sided life and ministry.

He’s an enigmatic personality that does not easy fit into human categories.

He’s full of surprises, and defied all attempts to pigeon-hole Him.

With the broken and the sinful, there’s nobody more compassionate.  And nobody less willing to enable evils or tap-dance around sins.

With the proud and super-religious, there’s nobody more dangerous to have around.  Yet, even there, He wanted them out of love to come home to God.

Surprising Compassion

The first thing that strike me about Jesus is His unsurpassed compassion.

He had a way of drawing to Himself the hurting, the broken, the desperate people who had tried everything and everyone else, and come up empty.

And it wasn’t just the miracles He did, but His touch, His words, His presence, and His agenda to see everyone broken and hurt by sin restored to God.

Unlike the super-religious of His time, who were obsessed with determining who was in or out of Judaism, He saw people as people and utterly cared for them.

The disabled sought Him out, as did moral failures and social outcasts and party-goers and traitors.

And they become lovers of God.

Among His Twelve Disciples, we find Simon the Zealot (an anti-Roman revolutionary) and Levi the Tax Collector (a collaborator with the Romans lining his pockets with extorted taxes).

Somehow that didn’t matter under His reign.

He loved others, really loved them in an unfeigned, undeserved way.

And the result was He was held in awe and reciprocated love by His followers many decades later.

One gets the impression they were still saying, “Wow!”  every time they wrote about Him, recalling His words and deeds during His earthly life.

One also gets the impression they found Him riveting, breath-taking Person, and loved Him beyond everything and everyone else to the end of their lives.

We don’t see much of that these days.

Surprising Truth-Telling

On the other hand, Jesus was nobody’s fool, was no patsy, and saw through the silly games people play when they don’t want to be honest.

Again and again, however uncomfortable, Jesus spoke the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

He risked His safety, risked getting a bad reaction, risked alienating followers and potential allies, by telling people what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear.

We find Him answering dishonest, agenda-carrying questions with searching questions in return.

He never validated evils, or justified wrongs, or committed a single sin.

He wasn’t mean about it or got a thrill out of winning.

Rather, He dealt exclusively in truth and righteousness.

Nobody in the Bible talks as much about Hell as Jesus did.

Nobody spoke more about the coming Judgment Day than Jesus did.

Nobody was more adamant that Him Himself was the sole key to heaven, the Messiah and Heaven-sent King with terrible authority.

And nobody raised a higher standard–not merely external good behavior, but perpetually perfect attitudes and motives are necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven with no exceptions.

We don’t hear much about these subjects these days–too offensive, might drive big donors away.

The Result

Notice how the compassion of Jesus draws us, and the truthfulness of Jesus terrifies us, at the same time.

He rocks us to our very core, and loves us at our very core, over and over and over again.

Disturber of the peace and ultimate Bringer of real peace at the same time.

What a Person!

Next time I’ll highlight the surprising humility and surprising emotions of Jesus.

It Only Takes One Fool

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2015 by jcwill5

starbucks_red_holiday_cups_2015I don’t know what bothers me more:

The “Internet personality” in AZ who posted that Starbucks’ newly designed red cups without white snowflakes are an attack on Christmas….

Or the media outlets and reactive Christians who devoted so much time yesterday to publicizing and/or denouncing the stupidity.

Hyper-Complaining on Steroids

A single person shoots their mouth off, ginning up a foolish controversy about nothing, and the entire world amplifies, tweets, comments, posts, repeats, responds, and reacts to it.

One fool now has the power to create a lot of necessary trouble, and has a platform to bring out the entire world’s folly.

Isn’t it wonderful?

The Internet and social media didn’t create human folly.

They merely gave us unparalleled tools to self-broadcast our foolish opinions and childish rants, and share them exponentially with others.

Now, instead of slowing down to think and acting to break the chain, an “instant” chain reaction of reactivity and counter-follies mushroom all around the world in seconds.

Isn’t it wonderful?

There’s an Alternative to Folly

I used to tell my kids the following:

Sooner or later, you’re going to work with or work for a fool.   Just don’t be one.

It’s in that spirit I wanted to rehearse, maybe for my own benefit, the following truth:

The Bible teaches that we are all, every last one of us, naturally born fools. (Proverbs 1)

Growing up is no guarantee of growing wise.

Recovery from folly is a life-long, difficult, unfinished work in progress.

And it’s well worth it.

Learning by Listening

The first rule of recovering from folly is this:  shut up, look around, and listen!

As James puts it, “let everyone among you be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

It’s where we become a quiet observer of others, begin to connect the dots between their choices and consequences, and learn from other people’s mistakes.

It’s where we find people who are wiser than we are, and hang out with them.

It’s where we decline invitations to join fools in their follies, and instead pursue wisdom like it’s worth a room full of gold.

Knowing the Difference

The second rule of recovery from folly is this:  learn the difference between how fools live and behave, and how wise people live and behave.

The fool shots his or her mouth off; the wise person considers their words and thinks long before speaking.

The fool reacts and loses their cool all the time; the wise person conceals dishonor and is very difficult to provoke.

The fool believes every rumor, reacts to every irritation, and gossips to all who will listen.

The wise person checks their facts, slows the situation down, and seldom repeats what they hear from secondary sources.

Fools lose their positions because they lack discretion, speak out of turn, and get into avoidable conflicts.

Wise people rise in organizations because they are trustworthy, handle information discreetly, and know how to get along with others.

Fools think they are god and expect the world to revolve around them, do everything they want done, give them everything they demand without work or waiting, and have a tizzy if they don’t get their way.

Wise people know they aren’t god and are far below the infinite, real God who made them.

According to the Bible, wise folks expect the universe to revolve around God.

They know they won’t get everything they want out of this life, let their unmet demands and foolish dreams go, and learn patience, acceptance, resilience, and real joy in the face of eternity.

The Greatest Need of Our Times

Fools get their families, their cities, and their nations into avoidable trouble and tragic ruin.

Wise people heal conflicts, foresee dangers, avoid avoidable troubles, give sound advice, and release goodness into their families, cities, and nations.

And, interestingly, fools entice and provoke others.

The provocation of a folly, according to Proverbs, is one of the most difficult things in life to resist.

We. Just. Want. To. Smack. Them.

But smacking them means that we, too, have descended into folly.

We’ll never stop fools from being foolish.

But we don’t have to give them a platform, give them undeserved attention, get duped by their agendas, or spend much time at all on their ego-generated causes.

In fact, the best course of action is this:

Ignore them and move on.

So, regarding Starbucks and their new cups, I will.


Fixing Debate-less Debates

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2015 by jcwill5

There are Presidential debates, and then there are non-debates disguised as debates.

We’ve had the latter from our two main political parties so far.

Running the Gamut

On the Republican side, we’ve had the Donald Trump show and all the pseudo-buzz and manufactured controversies he creates by saying outrageous things.

And, on the Democratic side, we were treated to a strange, kid-gloves approach by the candidates with each other and the moderators to the candidates.

While the Republicans, at least, were required to answer tough questions by their moderators in the first debate, they were subjected to biased, loaded, or leading questions in the second debate designed more discredit them than discover what they actually thought.

Which then created the “anti-media” issue dominating the follow-up from that particular debate.

My point is we, the voters, have been ill served by what’s been served up to us so far.

Could you or I do any better?  Probably not.

But it’s fun to fantasize a little.  Indulge me…

Suggestion #1:   Each Side’s Ordinary Voters Ask the Other Side’s Candidates

What if a group of each party’s “ordinary voters”, regular people with non-political jobs who are the most skeptical of the other side, came up with a list of 5 honest questions based on their most genuine concerns?

And what if moderators were empowered to ask candidates either, “You didn’t answer this question, would you like to try again?” or to ask one standard follow-up question,  “Could you provide some specific details about how you’d actually make this happen?”

In other words, non-answer answers and sound bites would be called out, with second chances to give real, substantive answers to address the other side’s real fears, which are usually shared by the folks in the middle of the political spectrum.

The key quality on display here is statesmanship, the ability to work with people who disagree with you and forge a coalitions to address real, long-term problems facing our nation right now.

If you can’t forge working coalitions and keep them united to get things done, why should you lead the USA?

Suggestion #2:  Each Side’s Core Activists Ask Their Own Side’s Candidates

What if we held debates in front of audiences of their own rabid partisans and ideologically driven activists?

Democrats before the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements, and Republicans before the Tea Party folks.

And what if moderators had only one job:  to restate rambles or rants from the audience as pointed questions, and direct them to all the candidates.

This suggestion would reveal each candidates views when asked tough questions by skeptics within their own party and by activists who are prone to extremism.

It would expose their pandering, flipping views- where they tell hard core people what they want to hear so they’ll go away and leave you alone after voting for you.

It would also expose each side’s activists, making them reveal their hidden agendas and ultimate goals with the normal media filters–which is why both political parties frustrate their activists so much and why activists are dangers to their own parties.

The key quality on display here is courageous honesty, the ability to tell your own supporters they are not being realistic and convince them to accept what is possible instead of demanding what is ideal.

If you can’t lead your own party, why should you lead the USA?

Suggestion #3:  Have an Audience of Independents Watch These First Two Debates, Then Ask Follow-Up Questions

The audience of this third debate would be moderates and registered independents, who first must sit through watching the prior two debates on the same day of the third debate so it’s fresh and real to them.

They would write down their notes and questions all day, and then have a chance that same evening to ask these follow-up questions of one or the other party’s candidates.

Again, the moderators only job would be to rephrase questions to make them clearer, call candidates out on non-answer answers, and insure that each candidate gets the chance to fully answer it.

We can expect candidates to be asked, “How are you going to handle the jerks in your own party after you are elected?”

We can also expect, “How are you planning to work constructively with the opposing side in light of our system of divided government?”

We can also expect, “Where are you going to get the money to pay for all these promises?” and “How are you going to lead your side to pay down the huge and growing national debt?”

Swing voters tend to be concerned with fiscal prudence and have little patience with ideological hobby horses, so it would be an interesting debate.

Which is why, realism, the third quality needed so badly, would be on display.

If you can’t be honest with yourself or anyone else, why should you lead the USA?

One Can Hope

We’re probably not going to get this kind of substantive, revealing debates, but it’s at least fun to dream a little.

Who knows, maybe some media hack or party functionary will read this cry for more and say, “We should do this….I’ll speak to my boss about it…”?


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