The Case for Opposing Trump in the 2020 Election

This is a letter to my brothers and sisters in Christ defending why I won’t be voting for Trump this coming November–better, why I will be voting against him with the hope of voting him out of office. Given many of my fellow Christians have strong convictions that they are stuck voting for Trump, allow me to offer some context / clarification / credentials.

I am socially conservative–I gladly identify as pro-life (from conception to natural death), and I am staunchly pro-traditional marriage. I do not believe Christians in good conscience can attend a gay wedding (or one in which a Christian marries an unbeliever…but that’s beyond the scope of this essay).

So, what are my reasons to take a stand against Trump? I can point to two main reasons, both of which have biblical mandate. There are, of course, a host of pragmatic reasons not to vote for Trump–he has proven over the course of four years that he is mentally unstable and unfit to lead America, and he is a catalyst for polarization and fans (or is gasoline to) the flames of division among Americans. I also believe that Trump is a detriment to the conservative cause. That is, a Biden 2020 may help conservatism in the long run–better a chastened, introspective Republican party ready for 2024 than one out of steam and out of favor with the American people. A Biden 2020 sounds better than a Democratic-controlled Senate and presidency for potentially 2024 and 2028.

But I’m neither a prophet nor a political analyst. My main reasons are not pragmatic–they are about much more than the conservative political agenda for America. Instead, my Christian calling compels me to (1) love my neighbors and (2) witness faithfully to a Christ who is not only love itself, but King and Judge.

1. Loving Thy Neighbor

The recent protests sparked off by the killing of George Floyd have refocused the country on a pervasive, chronic, happily-ignored injustice plaguing the United States: the ongoing demeaning and dehumanizing of black lives and bodies. I cannot go into detail to defend this in my essay, but I do commend this monologue (language and graphical advisory!) to invite those who “don’t get it” (but want to) to listen (not even condone–simply listen) to the cries of our fellow Americans. The video above spurred me on to empathize–again, not necessarily condone–and not to assume racism, dehumanization, prejudice, brutality don’t exist simply because this has not been my life story or that police have always treated me fairly and respectfully. I confess that even as I have sought to listen and be a safe space for my black friends to decry racism and share their hurt, I was still all the while happily ignoring their cries and enjoying the status quo, even as the human dignity of fellow image-bearers continue to be questioned and challenged day after day.

In the weeks and months of protests, I kept coming back to this mental crossroads of a decision: do I write off these protestors and looters as extremists, since they are making something a bigger deal than it is–thinking, “let’s just get on with the status quo, with some minor modifications” since America works well enough for meOR do I offer the benefit of the doubt and expend mental and emotional energy to listen, with the assumption that others have genuine and valid grievances, that there may in fact be a systemic or systematic oppression devaluing the lives of African Americans for centuries, in a country whose history is marked by slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynching, and segregation? Now of course, I am not giving blanket approval of or condoning the entire Black Lives Matter movement. After all, no movement is perfect, right, just as no presidential candidate is perfect, as some like to say.

But we must not give in to the knee-jerk temptation to silence and invalidate real concerns simply because our life experiences are different. In fact, it is precisely because our African brothers and sisters experience a different America that they must now defend their shared humanity before the wider world. Until black lives matter, it is patently false that all lives matter.

Trauma as a Helpful Lens

At different times, in different ways, and with varying levels of intensity, black (and minority) Americans have been traumatized by the repeated devaluing of their lives, their bodies–their personhood. If we can grant that slavery and racism leaves behind an enduring legacy of trauma, much like how military personnel who have sought to rejoin civilian life still bear the scars of wartime trauma and experience recurring PTSD, then is it so hard to believe that both the continuing experience of dehumanization/racism and the continuing denying, dismissing, and minimization of the existence of racism continues to traumatize and re-traumatize our black neighbors? Now the existence of trauma does not negate the possibility or hope for long-term healing–but it reminds us that the failure or unwillingness to diagnose trauma for what is will make genuine healing nigh impossible.

If we grant that dehumanization and devaluation of black bodies and lives exists and is felt keenly by many Americans, we should find it harder to stand silently by the wayside while President Trump (and his apologists/supporters) continue to write off and bully Americans for seeking however imperfectly to speak out about the traumas they bear (and have born as a people for centuries). Understood in this light, Trump isn’t simply politically-incorrect or pro-law-and-order, he is an integral participant in the ongoing traumatization and re-traumatization of black Americans (as well as other people of color). His “antics” and “toughness” are not simply character flaws–they silence the voice of traumatized Americans doing their best to verbalize their pain and suffering. How can we ask our black neighbors to heal and toughen up when our President functions as sandpaper over an open sore?

Trump’s apparent willingness to overlook the trauma of black Americans means a vote for him is incompatible with loving one’s neighbor. And this leads me to my second reason–I believe that my neighbors ultimately need Christ and his Gospel, not simply social justice in a free America.

2. I am a citizen first of the Kingdom of God–I am Gospel Christian, not a “Social Gospel” Christian

At the end of the day, my primary allegiance is with Christ my Lord. The main enemy is not the Democratic party, it’s the Devil, Sin, and Death. I am pro-life, but life is more than the chance to live here on earth. It’s a life to be lived with Christ in the new heavens and new earth that will replace this earth that is passing away. What Americans (and all peoples) ultimately need is a life that is found in Christ–one which comes from repentance of sins, forgiveness from God, Spirit-empowered faith in Christ, and new resurrection life.

I love America–I can even say that I’m a “proud” American. I am indebted to and honor the lives that paid to secure my rights and freedoms. However, I must first honor the one who died for my sins. All other allegiances must fall away before my first allegiance to Christ and his Kingdom, one that is expressly not of this world nor tied to the rise or fall of America. But how can I testify to my Gospel priorities in the City of God over the City of Man if I vote for Trump?

Consider how our Savior and King, though he upholds the universe by the power of his mere word, took on lowly human flesh to be crucified willingly by his creatures. Or consider how Paul gladly bore chains to testify to the Gospel. Or consider our many Christian brothers and sisters in Iran, Africa, China (such as Pastor Wang Yi), North Korea, and elsewhere who gladly bear chains or give up their lives, not because they do not value their religious freedoms, but because they value Christ and the Gospel hope for their fellow human beings!

We worship a God who loves his Gospel and the salvation of the lost more than the religious freedoms of his children. Paul gladly bore his chains for the sake of his Gospel ministry:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Philippians 1:12-14 ESV

Paul rejoiced in his sufferings because it made the Gospel known (Colossians 1:24-25). Whether we want to or not, many non-Christians have linked Christ’s name with Trump’s, in large part because of Christian support for him. Whether or not this is fair is besides the point. In the minds of most Americans, Trump is the Church’s choice. This allegiance between Trump and Christ’s body is precisely the stumbling block Paul warned about in 1 Corinthians 9:12, where Paul would gladly give up any right and “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (ESV). Or for the sake of our black sisters and brothers already in Christ, we “decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Romans 14:13 ESV)

Closing Thoughts

It is for specifically Christian reasons that I cannot vote for Trump. I think of Matthew 16:26, where Jesus challenges us, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” To paraphrase our Lord, what will it profit a conservative if he gains America and forfeits his neighbor’s soul? Or what shall a Republican give in return for his Christian witness?

Even if a vote for a 3rd-party candidate or Biden means losing America to Marxism, even if it means we lose Supreme Court decisions (though the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Louisiana’s law shows that a vote for Trump is no guarantee for short-term progress for the pro-life cause), we must vote first as Christians, then as Americans. We need to testify to the watching (and dying!) world that we care not only for America and religious freedom, that we care not only for unborn babies, but that we care as much if not even more for our neighbors. We are called to love our neighbors and pray not only for their material well-being and religious freedoms but even more so for their right standing with an everlasting God, whose Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Easy Sourdough Starter

Front Matter

Where applicable, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Introduction

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the ensuing panic-buying and run on flour and yeast, our family finally thought that making our own sourdough starter made sense. We couldn’t get (unbleached) flour or yeast readily; I always wanted to be a “food artisan”; we were sick of our store-bought whole-wheat bread (especially our toddler); plus a quick google search brought us to http://castlevalleymill.com/, which was great because we wanted to support local businesses and get great ingredients at an affordable cost and delivered–for free, if you buy 3 items and over $30, I think. Yeast was become a precious commodity much like toilet paper. You get the picture. Plus, yeast is free and everywhere, so why not make it work for its rent?

The following tutorial is a simple one that worked for me–I also will use the Dutch oven method to bake the bread, as I don’t have a steam-injected oven. Also, did you know The Butter Book, from the founders of Chicago’s French Pastry School (never heard of them before, until I got an email about this free trial from a ThermoWorks email) is offering a free 60-day trial if you want more legitimate teaching and videos.

Sourdough Starter

I had taken notes from America’s Test Kitchen on their sourdough recipe. But (1) it was too complicated and (2) I never liked throwing out or discarding edible stuff I paid good money for. So another google search led me to this website: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-your-own-sourdough-starter-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-47337. Now I still had to “discard” some of the starter, so I had to use it to make pancakes, which gave me a sense of accomplishment, but eventually my toddler didn’t love it, so…too bad! You can google that yourself. Point is, no need to throw out the flour if you don’t want. But basically, my summary is as follows:

Items needed

  • Large bowl (glass preferable)
  • Clingwrap or Cheesecloth/Reusable Food Wrap
  • Kitchen scale
  • Flour (preferably whole wheat for complex flavor and nutrition)
  • Water (preferably filtered, to help the wild yeast do its work)
  • Sourdough Journal/Diary (optional)

Steps

  1. Add equal amounts flour and water (usually 4 oz or 100g) into a large bowl
  2. Mix then cover
  3. Repeat by adding the same amount of water or flour each day until mature (doubles in size in 8-12 hours at room temp)
  4. Optional: name starter – you have to feed it, and it’s alive, so why not come up with something endearing

Tips

  • We’ve found that 63°F was okay overnight (our downstairs temp), but our starter, Serena (from “Sour-rena”), enjoyed rooming in our bedroom overnight at a comfortable 67-68°F
  • Need more info? Check the link above, or if I know you and we’re on good terms :P, contact me with questions
  • Also, do what’s easy and works–confession: my starter didn’t get to the point of doubling in size in 8-12 hours
  • After 5 days or so, you can refrigerate and feed roughly weekly – when baking, allow to wake up the night before for best results

Making the Dough

This is best done the night before or at least quite a few hours before you want bread. My recipe uses roughly 700g flour, but this is scalable (using the ratio as a rough guide). 700g flour initially roughly makes a 10″ boule (round bread) that fits well with my 6.5 Qt. Dutch Oven

Items needed

  • (KitchenAid) Stand mixer w/ dough hook (optional)
  • Work surface
  • Bench or dough scraper or spatula (as needed)
  • Additional flour for work surface
  • Starter, (white) (bread) flour, filtered water, salt
  • Honey or sweetener (or additional mix-ins like seeds, nuts, dried fruit) (optional)
    • For honey, I used 2 “globs” or Tbsp – it’s whatever you want, however much you want – molasses, brown sugar, agave, whatever you have on hand
  • Large bowl, cling-wrap, oil (extra virgin olive oil optional)
  • Parchment paper
  • Calculator or pen/paper (optional)

Steps

  1. Prep and measure ingredients using the baker’s ratio as a guideline (but adjust according to dough and ambient humidity): 100:60:2 (flour:water:salt)
    1. Example for ~10″ round bread (700g flour, 420g filtered water, 14g salt):
      1. Roughly 660g flour, 380g filtered water, 80g starter, 14g salt
        1. Weigh starter after mixing it – adjust starter amount as desired
        2. This assumes roughly 50:50 of flour/water in starter
  2. Pour flour, water, starter, and salt into KitchenAid Stand mixer bowl
  3. Attach dough hook and mix on lowest setting (Stir) for 3-5 minutes until incorporated
    1. May need intermittent scraping down – don’t worry, minimal gluten development
  4. Once it is incorporated, mix on medium speed (setting 5, for example) for 12-15 min or more, until you can poke it and it springs back
    1. Add mix-ins and sweetener toward the end of this time once gluten network develops (gluten is the protein that can strengthen the dough and hold the gases from dough fermentation – helps with rise)
  5. Recommended that you continue to knead by hand: flour work surface and knead
    1. You can stretch it out and fold over itself like a fat, sloppy pretzel and knead
    2. When dough is strong, and can be gently pulled until translucent (windowpane test – see this Youtube video as needed)
  6. Form into a ball and place into a large, well-oiled bowl – glass can help you gawk at your beautiful lump of pre-bread, then cover with cloth or clingwrap
  7. Let it double in size at room temperature (or in a warmer place) around 70°F; refrigerate if you wish to let it rise overnight (unless you use a little bit of starter, in which case it might take a long time anyway at room temp)
  8. (If refrigerated, check and potentially take out a few hours before you wish to bake. Be prepared to wait much longer, as this is not commercial yeast, which is okay, because this may taste way better.)
  9. Once doubled in size (or if you press into it, it does not spring back), take out of bowl and beat down again for reshape into a round shape and place on a piece of parchment paper.
  10. Rest it for at least 10-30 minutes (more if still chilled from refrigerator) covered (I just invert the bowl over the dough on parchment paper. Can move on to preheating the oven (below) if desired.
  11. Sprinkle flour on top (purely decorational) if desired.

Bread-baking: Dutch-Oven Style

I believe I was introduced to this very helpful baking hack by reading Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef (1997). Basically, steam is good for bread rise and crust development. You can preheat a skillet or baking sheet in your oven under the main rack for where you will bake your bread and then after you bake you can pour in some water, or you can use a dutch oven to create an oven within an oven and trap the steam inside your dough to get that lift and crust development.

Items needed

  • Oven (move oven rack to bottom third)
  • Oven-safe Dutch Oven (I use a 6.5 Qt round oven, but had to replace the lid knob with a metal one)
  • Sharp knife (for scoring bread/making steam vents)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kitchen towel/oven mitts, cooling rack

Steps

  1. Preheat Oven to 420°F (that’s the limit for my parchment paper, but 400-450 is okay, convection preferable)
  2. Score bread with sharp knife for decorative purposes and to help steam escape the bread (and help it rise). Suggested patterns include making a large X in the middle or a pound-sign (#) (hashtag for you younger folk)
  3. Once the oven and dutch oven is preheated, carefully take out hot dutch oven, open lid, plop in the bread with parchment paper (you only get one chance, so don’t miss), shut lid, and return to oven
  4. Bake with lid on for 10-15 min for oven spring/most of the rise.
  5. Take out and remove hot lid carefully and return to oven to bake without lid for browning. You can turn down the oven to 390-400°F if desired
  6. Bake an additional 20-45 minutes or until the top of the bread is browned
    1. You can optionally oil bread with extra virgin olive oil
  7. Remove from oven and set on rack and rest bread for a few hours until cool (very difficult, but this improves texture and taste, according to multiple sources on Google). Then enjoy!

Tips

  • I found convection helps – by moving air around, my home oven would be a bit more consistent, though convection is optional
  • Don’t worry about the bread overbaking. It’s very difficult. Look for good browning. Temperatures don’t have to be exact, but at least 190°F with a thermometer or bread sounds hollow.

Cheat Sheet

Starter

  • Feed each day for at least 5 days in a covered bowl equal amounts (whole-wheat) flour and filtered water (e.g. ~100g or 4oz each) until it doubles in size in 8-12 hours at room temp

Making the Dough

  • Use the general baker’s ratio of 100:60:2 (flour:water:salt)
    • Will need to leave room for starter, but be willing to adjust amounts
  • Mix on low with dough hook until ingredients incorporated (3-5 min), then scrape down, then mix at medium speed (5?) until no longer sticking and dough is done (springy, can stretch until translucent) (12-15 minutes or so?)
    • Toward the end, add some sugar if you like sweetness & flavor & tenderness (who doesn’t)
  • Knead some more by hand (optional)
  • Transfer to (oiled) bowl and cover
  • First Ferment/Rise: Rest until doubled in size – can take a few hours or more – you can refrigerate to extend time (overnight, for example) – I’m told longer rises improve flavor
  • Remove from bowl, beat down, reshape and prep for baking (second ferment/rise)
    • For dutch-oven method, can place on a piece of parchment paper, optionally shaped to the shape of your dutch-oven/bakeware – let rest for at least 10-30 min

Baking the Bread

  • Preheat oven and Dutch Oven to 420°F (convection optional, max to 450°F depending on parchment paper limit – anywhere from 400-450°F is fine too)
  • With a sharp knife, cut steam slits on bread for decorative and steam-release purposes (will aid rise)
    • You can use an X or a #
  • Carefully remove hot dutch oven, open lid, plop in bread, carefully place hot lid back on
  • Place in oven and bake for 10-15 min (thanks to a preheated dutch oven, minimal thermal fluctuations
  • Remove lid for bread browning, return to oven and bake until bread sufficiently browned
    • Can turn down oven to 390-400°F if desired
    • An additional 20-40 min (rough estimate – don’t worry, it’s hard to overbake bread)
  • Let cool for a few hours for best flavor and texture development (yes, it’s hard!)

Resources

Excerpts from Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage”

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of GodThe Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Timothy J. Keller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This post is simply for me to reference these quotations, which Keller communicates well things I am wholeheartedly affirm, and instead of typing them down on Zotero or LibreOffice or Google Docs, I can quickly reference them via this blog.

Also, I believe this book can be especially helpful for those who do not understand why marriage can be a legitimate pursuit or who are at best ambivalent about the (potential) goodness of marriage. It is also potentially most helpful for those who are engaged and/or married and want a resource to help in seasons of disillusionment.

But when the Bible speaks of love, it measures it primarily not by how much you want to receive but how much you are willing to give yourself to someone. … In so many cases, when one person says to another, “I love you, but let’s not ruin it by getting married,” that person really means “I don’t love you enough to close off all my options. I don’t love you enough to give myself to you that thoroughly.” To say, “I don’t need a piece of paper to love you” is basically to say, “My love for you has not reached the marriage level.” (78)

And

The only way for you be truly free is to link your feeling to an obligation. Only if you commit yourself to loving in action, day in and day out, even when feelings and circumstances are in flux, can you truly be a free individual and not a pawn of outside forces. Also, only if you maintain you’re love for someone when it is not thrilling can you be said to be actually loving a person. The aesthete does not really love the person; he or she loves the feelings, thrills, ego rush, and experiences that the other person brings. The proof of that is that when those things are gone, the aesthete has no binding care or concern for the other. (97)

View all my reviews

Watching Hulu/HAL on Iceweasel in Debian

Do you want to watch Hulu in Debian with Iceweasel/Firefox without having to go to Windows or Ubuntu? Of course, Adobe Flash is bad, and so is DRM. But if you’re going to watch it, isn’t it better to do it in Debian than having to restart your computer (or run a Virtualbox)?

There is a way to build the HAL package from Ubuntu’s PPA from source. I forget where I read it in Debian Forums, so I can’t give the shoutout, but I found this helpful website on how to build from the source package from a Ubuntu PPA. Here are my .deb files for Debian 64-bit. In the following, I will use Ubuntu 14.04 Utopic HAL PPA on Launchpad, as that is LTS, I believe. Continue reading

BibleWorks 8 in WINE in Debian Stretch

Yes, it worked. Here are a few tips for any other people trying to get WINE to work. (Did not need WINE-development, though maybe it is better to install the libraries therein.)

You will need to add dpkg 32 bit architecture …

Then just from Terminal run “wine setup.exe” to begin setup.

One may need to install the mono runtime, though this may have been unnecessary –> use the prompt to download the MSC and move it to /usr/share/wine/mono/.

Things worked for me, but then since BibleWorks used Arial font, and it was not installed, my English font was weird. You can then change it to a font that is installed, such as EZRA SIL SR, but it still looks weird. Instead, I copied a font (Arimo from Google Typecatcher) into the /usr/share/wine/wine/fonts/ folder. And then set that up. I doubt this will help, but I also renamed the Arimo.ttf file to Arial, just in case. But I think this step is unnecessary.

This was because my Virtualbox with XP was acting funny (as in BSOD!)

My Review of Burk & Lambert’s “Transforming Homosexuality”

Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and ChangeTransforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change by Denny Burk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was given an advanced copy (without page numbers) of this book in exchange for an honest and voluntary review on Goodreads. “Footnote” citations do not explicitly include chapter number; in actually, they are endnotes, which was somewhat aggravating, if understandable, for me. Also, I have put in boldface where I mention each chapter. Quotations are to be understood to belong to their respective chapters, unless otherwise explicitly cited. Continue reading