Exit 240. The harvest is plentiful.

You may have noticed I made a little change to this site today (or, more precisely, I changed something back to how it used to be).  But more about that later.  And let’s agree not to argue politics on this post, because that isn’t the point I’m trying to make.  Stay with me.

I don’t normally get political on this blog, although I’ve done that a little more than usual lately.  And I’m going to try to be respectful about it… but let’s be honest here.  The political environment in California is getting a bit oppressive.  Some of the actions recently taken or proposed by the California State Legislature, or by various city and county governments, no longer seem to be about financial policy or safety.  Instead, it seems like California’s government wants complete control over every aspect of its citizens’ lives.  (Of course, some of the local ordinances cited here do not affect me… yet.)  They want to control what we eat and drink, who gets how much money and why, how and where we travel, how teachers are allowed to do their jobs, the age at which children are introduced to certain sensitive topics, whom we are allowed to vote for, when we run certain appliances, how much water we are allowed to use, and what religious beliefs certain organizations are allowed to have.  While some of these at least have a point behind them, while possibly misguided, none of them seem to me compatible with the concept of freedom espoused by our Founding Fathers.

This lust for power echoes The Party from Orwell’s 1984 (not to be confused with a similarly named early-90s teen pop group).  While torturing Winston Smith, another character whom I will not name so as to avoid spoilers says, “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake… We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.  Power is not a means; it is an end… The object of power is power.  Now do you begin to understand me?”

So what does this have to do with me?  Fourteen years ago, a lot of people around me were similarly angry about a Republican being in the White House, and much like today, I was feeling (for a variety of reasons) like I did not fit in among the culture around me.  As you probably know, if you have known me for a while, I hit the road in June 2005 and wandered around the country, living out of my car, sleeping in Motel 6s and KOAs and friends’ couches.  I intended to come back to California only to get my stuff.  But after 117 days on the road, and a great experience in and of itself, I returned to where I started (my parents’ house) with more questions than answers.  I spent the holidays with my parents and moved to where I am now in January 2006.  I opted for a shorter move instead, to Sacramento County, which feels to me like California’s Happy Medium.  It was far enough away to make a real fresh start, but still within day trip distance of everything I knew.

Recently, with the contentious political environment of 2019, I’m really beginning to regret not having moved away when I had the chance.  It’s pretty obvious from the above list why I would want to leave.  But I have a lot more to lose now than I did in 2005.  I have a house and a mortgage.  I’m working at a school where I get along with my administration and coworkers, and while most people whose heads are not stuck up their posteriors agree that teachers are underpaid, most of the states that are less controlling than California pay teachers even less.  And I’d probably experience a bit of reverse culture shock in any of those other places; while those ruling California disgust me, I didn’t vote for President Trump either, and most of my hobbies aren’t the kinds of things I’d find in rural areas.

On the way to church Sunday morning, a week ago, I was planning on bringing up my inner turmoil as a prayer request.  Last week we finished a series planned around Easter by talking about the crowds who praised Jesus and then shouted for his crucifixion just five days later.  Jesus came into a world where the religious leaders were corrupt and many of the people around him were lost and confused.  Earlier in Jesus’ life, he makes a statement that shows clearly how he viewed these crowds.  “When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field'” (Matthew 9:36).  Then we had a little discussion on how this same thing plays out in today’s world, how there are many people harassed and helpless who do not know the Gospel and God’s love for them.  That led to a discussion specifically about California and how hostile the culture here can be to Christianity, and how Jesus is calling us to go out there and minister to people and tell them about God’s love through words and actions.

Six days later (last night, as I write this), I was in Davis for the annual alumni night of the Christian student group I was a part of in the late 1990s.  (I’ve written about this event before; in 2016, I was invited to speak.)  One of the people sharing was talking about this organization’s vision to open chapters on thousands of campi where they currently have no presence.  He said that college and university students are searching for meaning in their lives, and he quoted this same verse in the context of students being ripe for the harvest, ready to learn about and experience the love of Jesus.

So… the point I’m making… having heard this twice in less than a week, I’m pretty sure this is God telling me that now is not the right time for me to leave California.

As much as I disagree with much of the “California values” that those in power continue to cite as justification for their policies, God has a purpose for me here in California.  California is my home.  It’s a beautiful state as far as the natural world is concerned.  And it’s a part of who I am.

So, in light of all that, I’m changing the logo for this site from the US highway sign back to the California highway sign I used previously.  The change initially was borne of anger toward California politics, but it’s time to put that aside.  God has me here for a reason.  Jesus never came to institute a political system.  And as for my tax dollars going to support things I’m morally opposed to, Jesus also said in response to a question about taxes to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21).  So there are more important things I should be looking at, and first and foremost among them would be all the lost souls around me searching for meaning, like sheep without a shepherd.  Here I am.  Send me (Isaiah 6:8).

Exit 116. People stood by apathetically and did nothing.

It’s that time again here in the USA… the time when everyone is talking about the upcoming Presidential election.  And, as is the case pretty much every year, there are those people out there talking about how they don’t like any of the candidates, but the system is flawed because you have to vote for one of them, and voting for a third party candidate is throwing your vote away and/or helping the candidate you don’t like to win.  This year, this conversation is coming up more often than ever, because of the staggering unpopularity of both major party candidates.

Some disclaimers first: What I’m writing here assumes that elections are not rigged.  I’m sure that some are, but I want to believe that this is a vast minority of cases.  Also, I recognize that at the time that the USA was founded, the definition of “people,” in the sense of who was eligible to vote and make decisions about government, was much less inclusive than it is today.  That is not particularly relevant to the discussion about what is happening now, though.  Finally, I apologize to my readers outside of the USA, because this discussion may not apply to your systems of government.

There are valid complaints in this line of discussion.  But there is something else that many of us seem to have forgotten (as I have written about before): Our government exists only by the consent of the governed.  If the system is flawed, that is because people put that flawed system in place, or, more likely, people stood by apathetically and did nothing while those who stood to benefit from the flawed system put it in place.

Every single elected official in this country was put in power by voters.  And every single elected official is held accountable for their actions when they come up for reelection.  The main reason that so many of those incompetent NTACs keep getting reelected is because their constituents find the status quo less detestable than the alternative.

I think what bothers me the most about this kind of discussion is the line of thinking that a third party candidate cannot win.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  No one votes for third-party candidates because they believe that they cannot win, and they cannot win because no one votes for them.  Third-party candidates have won states in the past, often when they hold a particularly strong following in one region of the country, which usually occurs because of one specific issue.  (This happened most recently in 1968; sadly, the issue in question was racial segregation.)  The third-party candidate came in second in 1912, and some consider Abraham Lincoln a third-party candidate when he won in 1860, because the Republican Party had not yet been established as the second national party after the breakup of the Whigs.  Some say that third-party candidates never get votes because the mainstream media never pays attention to them.  But this is a time period when the mainstream media is less relevant than it has been in years.  If some no-name lady in a Chewbacca mask, hundreds of foul-mouthed douchebags and douchebaguettes, and dozens of funny-looking cats can all get millions of followers on the Internet, then surely political candidates out of the mainstream can do the same.  The reason it doesn’t happen all comes down to what I said earlier: too many people don’t care.

If a third-party candidate does win states in an election where the two major party candidates are running close (which has the potential to happen this year), this opens the possibility that no candidate will win a majority of the electoral vote, invoking the Twelfth Amendment and sending the election to the House of Representatives, where each state’s representatives will get one collective vote per state, from among the top three candidates.  This is not an archaic vestige of the past; it was designed on purpose, so that compromises and negotiations could happen among the elected representatives.  Each state is different, geographically and culturally, and each state should be different.  The Electoral College and the Twelfth Amendment were designed purposefully as part of this feature of our nation.  This kind of compromise, integral to our nation’s history, is sorely lacking in today’s political climate; once again, the reason for that is that the politicians who refuse to compromise keep getting reelected by people who don’t care, who see ability to compromise as a weakness.

I may be sounding like an idealist here.  But I still believe in the ideals of our nation’s government, and I hope that more people will learn about these ideals so that they will too.