Politics

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Zarephath, Meriden, Hartford, and Washington

Election Day is a little over a week away and I am running as a minor prophet, err, I mean a minor party candidate for State Representative in Connecticut. It is not a role I have sought, but one that has sought me.

I have spoken out in the market place before, and my voice has not been heard or has been unheeded. Seeing how the prophets were treated in the past, so I have been all too willing to walk away unheard and unheeded. Yet I have been called a third time to stand, and I know that I must stand to once more proclaim boldly the Word of the Lord.

This election cycle, I have spoken plainly about the lack of civility in our political discourse as the biggest issue we face, here in Connecticut, and in our Nation. My opponent has mocked me, suggesting that I don’t really understand the issues. She seems to think that the budget is the biggest issue. I have responded that unless we can work civilly with one another, there is no hope for addressing our budget. We must address civility if we have any chance of addressing the budget.

Yet as I think back on this, I think there is an even greater issue. The lack of civility is based on a lack of hope, a lack of faith, a lack of love.

We have lost God in our public discourse. It is understandable. Too often, people use their belief in God as a tool, as a weapon, to justify division, to justify hatred of people that God has created that are not like themselves. Too often people have used their belief in God as a means to seek their own will instead of the will of the Lord. Because of this, those of us who worship the true God, the God of love, have too often been silent.

As a result, the people of America have moved from worshiping the God of Abraham, the God of love, to our modern day Baal. What was sought after in the by the Baalites in the Jewish Bible was rain. What is sought after today is prosperity.

Today, we see people worried about prosperity. For most of us, the paycheck leaves less and less disposable income. It becomes harder to pay the bills. More and more people face hunger, the inability to meet their health needs or the educational needs of their children. If only we could return to the prosperity of the post war era, when the economy was booming, it would be better. But that is also the days when women and minorities were treated even less fairly than they are today, which is not to say that women or minorities are getting a fair deal today.

This brings me to the story of Elijah, of the one whose name means “My God is Yahweh”. Elijah boldly criticizes those who worship prosperity instead of the God of Abraham. In 1 Kings 17:7-16, Elijah comes to a widow and asks for food. The widow replies,

“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

This reflects the discourse of the day, back in the time of Elijah, and today. How do we address budget deficits? We make our last meal; that we may eat it and die. So often I have sat in vestry meetings. (For non-Episcopalians, Vestry is the board of the local church). We have looked at the budget, the deficit, the shrinking endowment. We have drafted up new budgets based on the idea of making a meal for ourselves that we may eat it and die.

We have been consumed by fear, by the death of Christendom, of culturally Christianity, a time when everyone went to church, not because they loved God, but because it was what was expected of them. We have seen church budgets cut out of a lack of faith that the Lord will, in fact, provide.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t cut programs that aren’t working, that are no longer relevant. either in our churches or in government. We do need to be good stewards of what God provides. But we do not get out of our predicament by timidly doing less and less. Instead, we need to step out in faith, willing to fail, willing to suffer and die with Christ that we might also see rebirth, resurrection, and live with the risen Lord.

This is my message to the voters in my district, in our state, and in our country. Reject the prophets of fear who seek to preserve their own wealth at the expense of the downcast. Instead, step out in faith to seek a God of Love, a God of Hope. It is the same message I have for local parishes, our diocese, and the church as a whole, and perhaps especially for myself. Do not be timid in seeking and sharing God’s love with those around us as we look at tight or dwindling budgets.

I know that this message is unlikely to get me elected. I understand how proclaiming it may make it harder for me to receive what I most fervently desire, and I believe God desires for me. I don’t do confrontation well, and I worry that in speaking up, I may take on the trials of a minor prophet.

Yet still I believe in a loving and living God, and so I will sit down with Elijah, the widow, and her son. I will eat and wait for the rain to come.

Civic Discourse and the Connecticut Budget

A recent article in the New Haven Register about my campaign for State in Connecticut, Woodbridge resident takes on House Minority Leader Themis Klarides for 3rd time in 114th District, quotes me saying

Hynes said the No. 1 one issue is this: “We have lost civility in our public life. Look what’s going on at the national level. And it’s not just the presidential race. It’s also what’s going on in Congress and in Hartford.’

My opponent is quoted responded

“I wish it were true that civility is the biggest issue. I agree Washington is a mess and with social media being so popular, there is no accountability. In Connecticut, however, we are civil to each other even when we disagree on the issues.”

I wish I could agree with her, but the evidence suggests otherwise. For example, take a look at a recent article in the Connecticut Post from three days earlier, Republicans on deficit: “Something doesn’t smell right.”

That article quotes my opponent saying

“We’re seeing a a [SIC] pattern of not being truthful,” Klarides told reporters in the Capitol complex. “Something doesn’t smell right here.”

The article goes on to quote a member of the Malloy administration saying

In reaction, Chris McClure, spokesman for Malloy, said the Republicans were hyperbolic and displayed “alarming ignorance” on the state budget.

“While we appreciate Sen. Fasano and Rep. Klarides’ attempts to make news and alter the political landscape for their Trump-immolated party, the truth is that writing, passing, and keeping a budget balanced throughout the year requires a lot of hard work and hard decisions,” McClure said.

The article received various comments like

It sounds like they need reliable bookkeepers and for Malloy and Merrill to get out. In fact all of them Nappier especially. These people can't add or subtract. We're being overtaxed every way you turn and they can't get their s**t together

This is not what I consider being civil to one another.

The article about my race quotes my opponent saying

Klarides, R-Derby, calls Hynes “a very nice man” while adding, “Unfortunately, he’s not really aware of the issues in the state of Connecticut.”

The article also quotes my opponents response to my criticism of the Republican part in Connecticut being too cozy with big business saying

Klarides called that statement “ignorant.”

While I disagree with my opponent on many issues, I would not call her, or any of the Republicans I disagree with “ignorant”.

So, why do I believe the lack of civility is the most important issue in politics, both nationally and locally today? Don’t I think things like taxes, the budget, fair wages, access to affordable health care, issues with our education system or our transportation system are more important?

All of these issues are very important. We need to work hard together to find new ways to address these issues. Calling people liars, ignorant, or unpatriotic doesn’t help us work hard together to find new ways to address our common issues. It makes it harder.

It leads us to supporting candidates because they are in the same party as we are. The Connecticut Post article, Repulsed by video, GOP’s top female office holder in Conn. re-evaluates Trump support, quotes my opponent talking about Trump’s sexual assault comments saying,

“This is disgusting,” Klarides said. “This would be embarrassing for a frat boy, let alone a grown man.”

Later, the article says

“When Donald does and says things, he must own them and anybody who supports him must own them,” Klarides said.

So, does my opponent own Trumps comments about women, immigrants, or refugees? The article about my race says

Asked again if she will vote for Trump, Klarides said, “I’m still evaluating. I’m certainly leaning in that direction.”

Going back to my opponent’s comment about my thoughts being “ignorant”, the article says

Klarides and Hynes look at the tax issue through different lenses. Hynes is concerned about the popular attitude “What’s in it for me?”
Hynes added: “People say, ‘Lower the taxes for me.’ They forget about people who are hurt when you do that.”
He also charged Klarides and other state Republicans are “trying to help large businesses at the expense of workers.”
Klarides called that statement “ignorant.”

What didn’t make it into the article from my discussion with the report was the context of my comments about people being concerned about what’s in it for them.

When I spoke with the reporter, I referenced to the quote from President Kennedy’s inaugural address,
“my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

I believe we must return to this mindset. I don’t believe quoting this and seeking a return to civility in politics is ignorant. I believe it is what must be done to address many large issues in our state.

I do not believe my opponent is a liar, is ignorant, or is “not really aware of the issues in the state of Connecticut”. Instead, I believe we have fundamentally different views about how to address the state budget and the struggles that all people across our state face on a daily basis.

I urge you to look beyond the rhetoric and question what the real issues and the real solutions are.

Principles Above Party Loyalty

This morning, I saw a Facebook post, that said

Shame on Republicans, especially elected Republicans who call Trump deplorable and would not vote for him. …. Republicans hope to gain the House in Connecticut but how can they when they criticize one another, losing the coattail effect. Wake up people!!!!!

When challenged on his statement, he responded

he [Trump] is the nominee. I still respect Ronald Reagan's philosophy never to speak ill of another Republican. So, I keep quiet but when leaders of our party start speaking ill about other republicans I get upset. Candidates need the coattail, they do.

This led to a long discussion in the comments about whether the vote is about the party or the candidate. I added my comments

I think this is a really important discussion. Some people believe that party loyalty is more important than principles. Others do not. As more and more voters register as unaffiliated, the idea that party is more important than principles is likely to alienate more and more voters.

Me? I place my principles, my religious beliefs, and what I believe is best for our country far above party politics, and I pray that more Americans will do the same. I cannot, in good conscience, vote for Donald Trump or anyone that supports him.

To the Voters in the 114th Assembly District in Connecticut

As I hope you all know, I have accepted the Working Family Party nomination for State Representative in the 114th Assembly District. Because of other commitments, I did not feel I had the time to run the sort of campaign I would want to run as the Democratic nominee, but when asked in September if I would be willing to run a much smaller and simpler campaign on the Working Family Line, I agreed.

I have run against State Rep. Themis Klarides twice before. Generally speaking, she isn’t as bad on the issues as many of her Republican colleagues and in the past, I have hesitated to criticize her, preferring to run a positive campaign about the issues. I am running because I believe voters deserve a choice. I am running because I believe we need to raise the level of discourse in politics.

Yet with the news over the past twenty four hours, I have come to the conclusion that in order to raise the political discourse in politics we must denounce the words of the Republican Party standard bearer. The time has come to speak up about one of Rep. Klarides’ greatest failings. She puts partisan politics over principles.

Rep. Klarides was a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention. Unlike true party leaders, she has not yet spoken out against Donald Trump’s highly offensive remarks. I ask all of you call on Rep. Klarides to denounce Donald Trump’s rhetoric of misogyny and racism. I ask all of you to speak with your friends and neighbors to let them know that they have a choice in November.

There should not be room in our political discourse for the rhetoric that Donald Trump has been espousing. Please speak up today.

Update: After I wrote this and shared it with friends, the Hartford Courant has run this article 'Deplorable': Trump Remarks Rattle State Republicans

Rep. Themis Klarides, the top Republican woman in elected office in Connecticut, called recently unearthed comments by her party's presidential nominee, Donald Trump, about groping women "deplorable and disgusting."

Klarides, the minority leader of the state House of Representatives, said Trump's vulgar 2005 remarks have caused her to reevaluate her support for him. "I don't see how I could vote for him," said the lawmaker from Derby.

I am glad to hear Rep. Klarides speaking out.

The Redemption of Donald Trump

Last night, the Churches Making Movies Christian Film Festival showed a preview of the movie, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. Generally, I’m not a fan of movies that have a blatant message. I prefer movies that tell us about God’s grace in a more nuanced way, like Babette's Feast. Yet “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” stars one of my teen daughter’s favorite actors, Brett Dalton, best known for his role as Grant Ward in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so we seriously considered whether or not to try to make it to the preview.

IMDB describes the movie this way:

Gavin Stone, a washed-up former child star, is forced to do community service at a local megachurch and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play, only to discover that the most important role of his life is far from Hollywood.

This came to mind as I read about ”Donald Trump’s Apology That Wasn’t” this morning for lewd comments he made back in 2005. As a Christian, I feel called to pray for my enemies, to pray for those I strongly disagree with, to pray for the leaders of our nation, including those seeking political office. I have been praying for Donald Trump. I have been praying for his supporters, and I believe that we may be approaching an important moment of redemption.

Last year, CNN and others ran stories about when Trump talked about his faith. Trump believes in God, but hasn't sought forgiveness. Conservative evangelical writers have struggled with how to approach Trump because they recognize that crucial, and I’m using that word in its full meaning, to their belief is the need to acknowledge our faults and ask forgiveness.

Last night, Donald Trump asked forgiveness. He acknowledged that despite his dislike of ‘political correctness’ and what might be acceptable banter by the boys on the bus, treating women as objects to be used to satisfy physical desires really isn’t socially acceptable. In my mind, this is huge. While I hope all of us know this, deep down in our hearts, it is contrary to the messages of a consumer culture and the rape culture that it enables.

In the New York Times article, Trump goes on to say, “I’ve traveled the country talking about change for America, but my travels have also changed me.” This is also an important challenge to the dominant political narratives. We look for candidates that present themselves as perfect, as immutable. A candidate who flip-flops is not viewed as desirable. I believe we need leaders that can change, that can evolve on important issues.

I am in the middle of my third campaign for State Representative in Connecticut. This cycle I’m running a very low key campaign, but I know how grueling campaigns can be. I’m also seeking ordination as a priest in the Episcopal Church. I am learning a lot about the importance of personal growth in every stage of our journeys.

I would not have voted for Donald Trump before this current news cycle, and the events of the past day have done nothing to change that. However, I think there is a very important message to all of us in what has happened: The epitome of callous men has admitted that treating women as objects for personal satisfaction is not right. He has admitted that beneath all the bluster, even he recognizes and admits his own short comings. So, I continue to pray for him. I continue to pray for people that follow him, that this message may sink in and may help bring about the redemption of Donald Trump and his supporters.

To return to Gavin Stone, I pray that the narrative of Trump’s campaign may become something greater, something like:

Donald Trump, a washed-up former reality TV star, seeks political office and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of President of the United States, only to discover that the most important role of his life is far from Washington.

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