Friday, February 29, 2008


You may not like his politics or agree with his policies, but you can't help but respect such a dedicated servant of our country. If you doubt that he is a war hero, just watch the video.

While his speeches are not as inspiring as Obama's, his life is more inspiring than anyone else running for President.

Watch a short YouTube clip about McCain's life.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

denominational mapping

Have you ever gone to different parts of our country and noticed a change in the predominance of different denominations?

Have you ever noticed that there seems to be a lot of Catholics in the Northeast, Baptists in the South, Lutherans in the Northern-Midwest, and Mormons out West?

Well, that wasn't just your imagination. There seems to be substantial groupings of denominations geographically. I found a link to a map that shows this on my friend Dan's blog. Check it out here.

Where you live in the U.S. does seem to influence your denomination of choice.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

false dichotomy for a christian

I have been blogging recently about my frustration with Jim Wallis, who is a prominent evangelical leader on the political "left." He was interviewed by CNN recently and was discussing the shift that is happening among young evangelicals.

He made the claim that more and more young Christians are moving to the political left because of a change in priorities. He said that this new, young breed of evangelical will likely vote for a Democrat. He said that the reason for the change is that they believe Jesus cares more about the millions that will die due to poverty than He does about gay marriage.

But this is a false dichotomy that is typical of Wallis these days. His assumption is that Jesus cares more about poverty than he does about morality. And that claim is ridiculous. It is as far-fetched as some on the political "right" who claim that Jesus cares more about homosexuality than he does poverty. These sort of false dichotomies miss the point altogether.

Jesus addressed these sort of "either/or" ways of living and called on the Pharisees to adopt a "both/and" mentality instead. He makes his point clear in Matthew 23:23-24:
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

The Pharisees were tithing regularly but ignoring God's commands to love justice and mercy. Jesus didn't say, "Forget tithing; you should really just focus on justice and mercy." No, what Jesus did say was, "You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former."

This means that Jesus doesn't live in the world of "false dichotomies." He doesn't play the "either/or" game. He demands "both/and." Jim Wallis is wrong when he claims that Jesus cares more for poverty than he does issues of morality. Jesus demands that we care for the poor and address moral issues like homosexuality. We don't get the luxury of choosing one or the other.

But Jim Wallis's comment, sadly enough, doesn't surprise me anymore. He has once again chosen to marry his faith to the politics of his party, the very thing he has been so critical of Republicans for doing.

left-handed conspiracy

Have you noticed that both Barack Obama and John McCain are left-handed? So it looks like either way, our next President will be a lefty. And this seems to be the norm for recent Presidents. Is there a conspiracy among "lefties" who have felt 'left' out in the cold all these years? Have all the "lefties" gotten together and rigged recent elections just so they can have one of their own in office?

Here is the history of "lefty" Presidents in the White House:
James A. Garfield - 20th
Herbert Hoover - 31st
Harry S. Truman - 33rd
Gerald Ford - 38th
Ronald Reagan - 40th
George H.W. Bush - 41st
Bill Clinton - 42nd

As a right-handed person, I find this trend disturbing. Among the first 37 Presidents, we had only 3 "lefties." But of the last 6 Presidents, 4 of them were left-handed. The 1980's and 1990's saw only "lefties" govern in the White House. Weird.

This means that from 1974 to 2000 only 4 years were run by a right-handed President. That means for those 26 years, the country was run by a "lefty" President 85% of the time. This recent history along with the fact that the two leading candidates for President in 2008 are also left-handed reveals that something is amiss.

This seems like a left-handed conspiracy if you ask me. ;)

politics via scripture

Have you ever wondered "How would Jesus vote?"

Those on the left assume Jesus would be for them because of issues of poverty, war and healthcare. Those on the right assume Jesus would be for them because of issues of abortion, gay marriage, and general morality. Independents in the center assume Jesus wouldn't vote by party but by issue and would be somewhat critical of the right and left.

Some Christians agree that Jesus would be a prophetic voice to government but would not pick sides. Others believe Jesus would be extremely political with his calls for justice, purity, repentance and mercy.

But if you look through scripture, will you get any help as to what Jesus would be voting for or against? I finally found the conclusive passage of scripture that ends all confusion on the political opinions of God Himself. Here it is:

Ecclesiastes 10:2
The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
but the heart of the fool to the left.

Since most people don't often read Ecclesiastes and probably passover this passage without a second thought, I wanted to bring it to light. So if you are confused about voting, let this be your guiding scripture passage. The wise are inclined to the "right" but only fools vote to the "left."

Monday, February 25, 2008

tearing down the President

So many young Christians in my generation are ok with slamming President Bush at every turn. Yet, in the same breath they claim they are all about political unity and crossing party lines. Apparently not.

These young voters have followed in their parents footsteps. They watched as their conservative parents made personal attacks against Bill Clinton. And they now do the same against President Bush. Rather than making intelligent distinctions in "policy" disagreements with this administration, they lower themselves to personal attacks that don't help anything.

And let's not forget that Bush is a confessed Christian. So when young Christians spit their venomous words in his direction, they are doing so against a "brother in Christ." Any informed Christian would know that Scripture is clear about how we should treat each other in the body of Christ. If you still think it is ok to personally attack Bush, then you should spend more time reading your New Testament and less time reading blogs.

Many people in my generation think it's ok to slam Presidents because they see everyone around them do it. The media has traditionally had a field day with every second term President. And what is worse is that Christian leaders join the crowd. James Dobson, Christian leader on the right, loved attacking President Clinton. And now, Jim Wallis, Christian leader on the left, is reveling in attacking President Bush. When will Christian leaders, on both the right and the left, stop demonizing the current President, regardless of his/her party affiliation?

Maybe we all need to spend some time meditating on why Paul would write Romans 13:1-7 about Caesars who weren't even elected democratically. How much more should we honor, respect and submit to those whom our country votes into office?

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

We also might want to take note of Paul's advice to Titus and make Titus 3:1-2 a theme verse for our lives:
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

"conservative" is not a four letter word

Growing up in the church in the 80's and 90's, I experienced firsthand the rise of conservative evangelicalism. I was steeped in the tradition that took control of the right wing of the Republican party. If you couldn't win the vote of the "religious right" then you couldn't win the election as a Republican candidate.

But my generation of Christians has seen the backlash against that kind of marriage between the Church and the Republican party. And in reaction to that, many of my Christian peers are defecting to the Democrats. But what has been interesting is to watch my generation do the same thing that the last generation did.

The more I hang out with Christian twenty-somethings, the more I am realizing that many have gone to the extreme. Just like the generation before us was told, "You can't be a Democrat and a Christian at the same time," my generation is getting a similar message. Only this time around, many of my friends believe that, "You can't be a real Christian and a Republican at the same time." It's interesting to watch.

Christians who are young, especially those who have an "activist" mentality, have moved strongly to the "left" politically. In many instances they have lost all perspective. They talk about the "religious right" as if they are the anti-christ and hate the connection between the word "Christian" and the word "conservative."

Yet, at the same time, they are all too comfortable wedding the political views of the "left" with their identity as a Christian. To them the word "conservative" is a four letter word. They cringe when they hear it and wish that most conservatives would jump off a cliff.

I believe this sort of over-reaction is probably typical of young people who still have some growing up to do. But to me, it is also dangerous and hypocritical.

One of the most frustrating people in this crowd is Jim Wallis. If you don't know who Jim Wallis is, here is an analogy: Jim Wallis is to the Christian left as James Dobson is to the Christian right. He is their political voice and their spiritual advisor.

And I used to really like and admire Jim. He used to really live out the truth that Jesus is neither "right" nor "left." He used to write about unifying the parties under the principles of the Kingdom of God. But that has changed.

These days most of what I hear from Jim Wallis is his disdain for Bush. He sounds more like a liberal radio talk show host than he does a "Christian leader." Far from unifying the right and left, Jim has firmly staked his territory far to the left of the political center. And it is really disappointing to watch.

And what is more disappointing is that many in my generation are following his slide to the political left. Rather than being a centrist, he has turned more and more "blue" in his criticism and activism. And so those in my generation who follow him blindly, have also turned more and more "blue."

In the 90's, many of us who grew up in the church were taught that "liberal" was a four letter word. Now, the tables have turned. Many young Christians are being taught by "Christian leaders" on the left that "conservative" is a four letter word. It's sad to watch my generation blindly follow leaders who are neither "fair" nor "balanced" in their political perspective. But what is bound to happen yet again is another reaction in the other direction. And then we will be right back where we started from.

When will we learn that supporting one political view doesn't mean that we have to tear apart those who disagree with us across the aisle?

Monday, February 18, 2008

why does humanity go to war

Why does war break-out? What happens that causes one group of people to be willing to fight and kill another group? As I reflected on this question, I think that it comes down to one word: identity. I don't mean to simplify a complex issue like war, but it all seems to come back to identity.

Deep inside the human heart is the need to "identify" with a group. We start out this way gaining a sense of identity from our family, town, friends, culture and nation. All of these different forms of "groups" give us a sense of "who we are" and help us feel like we "belong." Humanity desperately needs external sources for understanding the "self." We are not sufficient enough to somehow "create" an identity out of nothing. Like a boat adrift at sea, we desperately need external markers and cues to tell us where to go and who to be.

This strong pull called "identity" is what keeps groups together. But when a group feels threatened by another group, those who "identify" with that group are ready to protect it. The reason is that if the group collapses or is taken over, then each member's identity is threatened. Group members go to war against other groups, not just because their group is in danger, but because, at some level, they feel their own identity in danger.

This is why city kids who grow up with out a "family identity" search for it in gangs. It's also why gang violence is so fierce. It's why we sing songs about America and pledge our allegiance to the flag. There is no way to deny group identity and its power.

We see African nations fractured by civil unrest and civil war because people's true group identity in Africa is tribal not national. National unity is a difficult task on a continent where people have extremely strong ties to their tribal roots.

The need for identity trumps most other needs that we have as humans. We need to know who we are, where we come from and to whom we belong. And while "identity" is the driving force behind war, it is only that way because we humans identify with the wrong things.

This is what is so beautiful about Jesus. This is the whole vision of the Kingdom of God. When we identify ourselves primarily with Christ, this issue of war changes. Finding our primary identity in Christ gives us all that we need. We learn who we truly are. We learn that we belong to the family of God. We gain an identity that fills us and completes us. But it doesn't end there.

Finding our primary identity in Christ also brings peace to the earth. When I identify myself with Christ, I chose to follow someone who loved his enemies. Rather than telling his "group," the church, to defend the group at all costs, Christ does just the opposite. When the Kingdom of God is attacked, Jesus calls on us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us and turn the other cheek.

So while “identity” is the driving force behind war, “identity in Christ” is the driving force behind peace.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

where Conan got his name

I think I found out where Conan O'Brien got his name. And, no, I don't think it was from Conan the Barbarian. Did you know that Conan is actually a biblical name? But if you weren't reading carefully, you would miss it.

Hezekiah was one of the last faithful kings of Judah. His predecessor ruined the kingdom and worshiped other gods. But when Hezekiah came to power, he led the people in a massive reform. They smashed down the altars to the foreign gods and they cut down the Asherah poles.

Then Hezekiah went about re-establishing proper worship by the priests in the Temple. 2 Chronicles 31 tells us about the spiritual renewal led by the king. The people of Judah brought to the Temple all kinds of grain, wine, and oil as well as their flocks and herds for the sacrificial offerings.

Once all the people brought in all the materials needed for the offerings, they had so much left over that they had to put it in storehouses. Hezekiah put a Levite and his brother in charge of the storehouses. The name of the Levite in charge was "Conaniah". I am serious. I am not making this up. Check it out.

Hezekiah gave orders to prepare storerooms in the temple of the LORD, and this was done. Then they faithfully brought in the contributions, tithes and dedicated gifts. Conaniah, a Levite, was in charge of these things, and his brother Shimei was next in rank. (2 Chronicles 31:11-12)

I am convinced that when Conan's Irish-Catholic mother looked down at her translucent-skinned, red-haired, string-bean of a son, she was reminded of the Levite who Hezekiah put in charge of the storehouses. And so she took his name and shortened it to Conan. That's my story and I am sticking to it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

how the Republicans will win in November

Here are some tips for the Republicans that will enable them to win in November:

1. Turn off your radios - the hardline conservative talk radio personalities are outdated and will sink the future of the Republican party if you listen to them

2. Consolidate power - Huckabee and Romney need to come out strong in support for McCain

3. Get out the vote - make sure you and your neighbors get excited about going to the polls in November

4. Donate money to the Clinton campaign - McCain will beat Clinton in November but doesn't have a shot against Obama. If you want to win in the White House, Republicans need to help Clinton get the Democratic nomination.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

trinity of funny

Three of the greatest comic minds have finally come together. They are the father, son and holy spirit of late night comedy talk shows. Check out the fake feud between Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart and Sephen Colbert over who gave Huckabee his big start. These three guys are the funniest guys on TV. It's so great seeing them team up for this comic bit.

Check it out here.

take some responsibility

I see it often in my own generation. It's the inability to take responsibility for one's actions. We, as a generation of people, play the victim. We pretend like "life happened to us" all the time. We refuse to believe the truth that, most of the time, our decisions have created the life in which we live. We do what we want to do. We essentially are who we have set out to be.

But we, Americans particularly, want to blame other people, other systems and other circumstances as the chief cause of the problems in our lives. We are like the Greeks who were always simultaneously blaming and yet trying to appease the "fates." It's the product of a deterministic world-view that has been wed to an extreme case of self-obsession. This is the ugly step-child which has become so pervasive in our American culture.

Some examples of this have come up during this election cycle. We Americans are some of the fattest, most unhealthy people on the planet. So rather than getting healthy, we blame the government for not giving us healthcare.

We Americans spend every dime we have on stupid, materialistic stuff. We bury ourselves in credit card debt and buy homes that are way out of our price range. Then when we default on our loans, we blame the mortgage industry for all the foreclosures. And what is our government's solution to the problem? They pass a bill to give us more money. And what do they want us to do with it to stimulate the economy? Should we save it? Should we pay off bills? "No," the government says. They want us to jump start the economy by spending it.

So we get ourselves into all kinds of problems. Then we want someone to come and bail us out. And elections are perfect for this. Now all a candidate has to do is remind the American people that THEY ARE THE VICTIM. And as soon as the candidates do that, they are in. We all want to vote for someone who says, "It's not your fault that you are in the mess you are in." And then says, "Not only is it not your fault, but if you vote for me, I will fix it for you."

When will people tell the truth? When will someone stand up and say, "Most people are getting their houses foreclosed on them because they bought a house that was too big and way too expensive for their paycheck. Yes, chances are, it is your fault." Man, the truth hurts sometimes. No one likes to hear it and even less people really believe it.

When will someone stand up and say that healthcare costs would drop substantially if America lost about 50 lbs a person. No, let's not be so bold as to tell people the truth. Let's blame it on someone else.

When will someone say that many kids get into crime, drop out of school, and never get a decent job because they didn't have parents that did their job. No, it's easier to blame the schools, the teachers, and the system. It's harder to admit that if less girls got pregnant out of wedlock and more kids actually had two parents who gave a damn, then we wouldn't see so many of our cities going to to hell in a handbasket.

Or how about natural disasters? I would love to hear the statistic on how many New Orleans folks who lived in a flood plain had flood insurance. Ok, coastal dwelling Americans, listen up. This isn't rocket science. If you live in a flood plain, either move or get flood insurance. If you don't and a big hurricane comes and floods your home, don't cry to the government about how unfair your life is.

It's about living a responsible life. It's about taking responsibility for who you are and what you do. I am not saying that our health care system is perfect. It's not. I'm not saying some schools couldn't do better. They could and should. I am not saying that we shouldn't help those who have been hit by a natural disaster. We should and we do. But we Americans need to get a grip. Government handouts are not going to fix things. We can't keep knocking on "big brother's" door expecting him to fix all our problems.

Most of us need a dose of reality. We need to own up to the fact that we are living in a life WE HAVE CHOSEN. In one way or another, most of us have made the decisions which have put us in the situation we are now in. There are true victims out there. But most of us are not them. Most of us are sleeping in the bed that we have made. Most of the real victims of this world don't even live in America. Going overseas makes it obvious, even to the most self-absorbed American, what a real victim of life looks like.

Monday, February 11, 2008

political attack ads

The art of the political attack ad has been called into question this election cycle. On the left, the best attackers used to be the Clintons. They followed the James Carville strategy of "Attack, attack, attack." On the right, the best attackers used to be the conservative radio hosts. And apparently, especially in the 90's, that strategy worked. It helped the Clintons get the White House and it helped the Republicans takeover Congress. But something new has come on the scene this year.

The Clintons tried that same strategy again this year. This time, however, they turned their attack dogs on their own party. They released the biggest attack dog, Bill Clinton, against their strongest competitor, Barack Obama. And for a short time, it was working. Obama was knocked back on his heals. But a big oversight was made.

While this strategy has worked beautifully for the Clintons when they were attacking the Republicans, they didn't calculate what these attacks would do to their own party. Ultimately, it backfired. Ever since the height of the attacks, just before the South Carolina primary, Barack has been had more momentum than Hillary.

The same phenomenon has happened to the Republicans as well. The one who had the most attack ads, Romney, is no longer in the race. The only two Republicans left have both run a "clean" campaign.

This spells disaster for the Clintons. While their attack machine may serve them well in the national election, it might be the thing that sinks them in the primaries. Obama's positive, clean campaign looks like it will conquer the "Goliath" that is the Clintons. It's as if the only way the Clintons have ever won is with dirty politics. Take that away from them and they flounder.

But I am still waiting to see what happens in the national election. Both Republicans and Democrats have learned that when you are running against your own party in primary elections, attack ads are a bad strategy. It is only a bad strategy because the people of America have decided this year not to buy into that kind of negative politics. But will it continue when it comes to running against the other party?

Will Obama or McCain be as nice and clean when they are running against people on the other side of the aisle? When the activist liberals of the Democratic party are pressuring Obama to run attack ads against McCain, will he resist? When the hardline conservatives demand that McCain slander Obama in order to get their vote, will he give in? It remains to be seen if the "clean campaign" strategy will survive beyond the primaries. I hope it does. America needs this new political strategy to be the strategy of the future. We can't afford to return to the Rush Limbaugh-James Carville strategy of political attack.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Woe to you, Baltimore, you whitewashed tomb!

Driving down 95 gives you a good view of the city from the south. The road elevates just enough for you to have a glimpse of the city-scape. Sometimes the view is deceiving. The skyline looks so peaceful and calm. Yet, the evening news reminds us that our city is anything but peaceful.

I often pray for the city right as I pass the spot in front of the Fort McHenry Tunnel. Today I wondered to myself what Jesus would be thinking if he were in the car seat next to me. If he were to see that beautiful skyline and think about the violence that exists within the city, I wonder what he would say. It might be something similar to what he said at the end of Matthew 23 about the city in which he was executed.

"O Baltimore, Baltimore, you who kill police officers and bribe politicians, how often I have longed to bring your children together and protect them from your violence. But you were not willing. Look, your streets and row-homes are left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until every knee bows and every tongue confesses that I am Lord." Jesus

Thursday, February 07, 2008

modern day prophet

As I read the Old Testament, I notice what characters the prophets were. They were the outsiders who were always calling into question the establishment. They were the ones who bucked against the traditional religious leaders of their day. They were constantly challenging the prophets and priests of Baal who were blind to the covenant of Yahweh. They were a constant irritant and thorn in the side of the kings and political leaders of Israel and Judah.

But they weren't just against false prophets, wayward priests, and kings who had gone astray. They were for the widows and the orphans of the land. They were often the only voice for the poor and those who have been treated unjustly. They were for justice in the courts. They wanted their nation to turn and repent so that refreshing from the Lord could once again rain down on them.

Who in our culture is well known as an irritant to our government leaders? Who is known for speaking out against injustices and speaking for the poor? Who is it that the conservative religious establishment can't stand? Who isn't afraid to challenge people much more powerful than he is? Who has a devout private faith from which he derives his conviction?

I think most people would be surprised to know that the closest that we might have to a modern day prophet is Michael Moore. As a conservative, it is annoying to even consider that thought. I would rather not give him the honor of a prophet. But the more I learn about the contrast that the Old Testament prophets brought to their time and culture, the more I realized that they were much like Michael Moore is today.

He irritates most people. He constantly sticks up for the outsider, the underdog, and the poor. He manages to piss off both the Right and the Left. He uses his modern day megaphone (documentary films) to call government, business and our culture on the carpet. I don't agree with most of what he says. But then again, most people didn't agree with the O.T. prophets either. The people who least agreed with the prophets were the religious leaders and the political leaders of the day. This seems to be the case with Michael Moore as well.

I think it would surprise many that his convictions on issues come from a place of morality. He is a devout Catholic who attends Mass every week. He is steeped in the Irish Catholic tradition that taught him to care for the poor, fight for the needy and advocate for peace in the face of war. You may not like his films and you may not agree with his politics. But it is challenging to me to know that his passion has a source that is familiar to me. His passion comes from what he sees in the life of Christ. He takes Jesus' words about the "least of these" seriously.

No doubt, Michael Moore has issues. We all do. And prophets tend to have more than most. While reading through the Old Testament, one will clearly see the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies common only to prophets. They often used exaggerated language. They sometimes ate weird things and performed strange acts. Prophets were not mainstream people. They were never meant to be. They were there to act as a thorn to prick the conscience of the people. And right now in our culture, there may be no more irritating thorn than Michael Moore.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

rebellious republicans

The Republican race for the presidential nomination has been interesting. Many Republicans seem to be casting a vote "against" rather than "for" one of the candidates. For instance, many conservatives are rebelling against the idea that McCain is the front-runner. They make idle threats about voting for the democrats in the national election if McCain wins the nomination. He's just not hardline enough for them.

Others seem to be rebelling against Romney. McCain voters would rather have Huckabee win than Romney as proven in the West Virginia tag-team voting strategy. It is especially interesting to me that, as the post-Super Tuesday dust settles, Huckabee won 5 states and Romney has only won 7. This despite the fact a that Romney has raised over 88 million dollars while Huckabee has raised just over 8 million. Just more evidence that money can't buy an election.

*As a side note, while we are on the topic of campaign fundraising, CNN reports that as of February 1, all of the presidential candidates have raised a combined total of almost 570 million dollars. With all of these stump speeches about the economy, taxes, poverty and deficit spending, I wonder if there is a better way this 570 million could be spent. Just a thought. It seems hypocritical for Americans to ask the government to bail us out of a slow economy all the while we spend 570 million dollars trying to get our favorite presidential race horse to the finish line.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

a lesson in speech giving

Whatever your political views are, there is no denying that Barack Obama is inspiring. His speeches remind me of the famous speeches that I grew up reading about in History class. His speeches have the ring of past presidents like Jefferson, Lincoln, and JFK. But they have the power of some of the speeches of MLK.

If you are over 40 years old, it is likely that you are not that excited about Barack Obama. But if you are under the age of 40, chances are that his speeches give you goose bumps.

YouTube has one of his speeches put to music. It's telling that his speech can be put into lyrics so easily. The cadence and rhythm of his delivery make his speeches almost song-like in their appeal to the ear.

Check it out here.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

mutually exclusive politics

We live in a culture which believes many things are "mutually exclusive." But can't we challenge many of our mutually exclusive assumptions? Can someone be a Republican and also believe in gun control? Can someone be a Democrat and also be pro-life?

We often pigeon-hole people into one camp or another. Missy experiences this all the time. When people hear that she is from Texas, they assume all kinds of things about her. They assume she wears cowboy hats, owns a shotgun, rides a horse and always votes Republican. But when people don't know she is from Texas and find out that she is a teacher living in Maryland, the assumption is that she is a Democrat.

We see this phenomenon playing out in the presidential race. Right now each political party needs to be far enough to their side of the aisle to get the nomination but not so far that they alienate the rest of the country in the general election. Obama and McCain seem to be doing the best job at winning over their party and yet still leaning toward the middle in preparation for the general election. Clinton and Romney are so far in their own party's corner that if they win the nomination they will probably bring quite a bit of division this Fall.

But my guess is that most of the country wants a presidential candidate who doesn't see their party's views and the other party's views as always mutually exclusive. Gun control should make sense for both a Republican and a Democrat. Fighting terrorism around the world should make sense for both parties. Keeping taxes low for the middle and lower classes should be a desire of both the left and the right. Getting our country off of our dependence on oil should be a priority for both sides of the aisle, if not for the environment then for national security. Reducing the number of abortions in our country should be important for both red and blue states.

I want a President who doesn't have to toe the party line. I want a Democrat in office who will strengthen our military instead of weaken it. I want a Republican in office who will get guns off the streets instead of receiving lobbyist money from the NRA. I want a Democrat who will care about the lives of the unborn or a Republican who will help Americans get affordable health care. For Democrats to duke it out over who is more liberal or Republicans to duke it out over who is more conservative misses the point. Most of America does not want someone far off to the left or far off to the right. We want someone who doesn't buy into the "mutually exclusive" labels and instead sides with the best idea because it's the best idea.