Trump, Jesus, and Machiavelli

I’ve had my issues with Trump and the inexplicable support he had among Evangelicals, so I won’t dive too much into that right now. However, I did come across this article the other day that I found pretty interesting. It is long, but I think it is worth the read as it delves into some of the moral/political issues of Trump and his weird mix/brand of nationalism, fascism, and religion. Here are a few good quote from it:

When you hear the call for a “strongman” whose chief role is to protect the nation against enemies, do you hear the voice of Jesus or of Machiavelli?

Boyd’s point: that those who take New Testament teachings literally are in no position to lead the political march for nationalistic glory.

Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson wrote two months before the election that seeing fellow evangelists—he named Phoenix Seminary theologian and author Wayne Grudem, among others—“beclown themselves trying to justify support of a man like Trump makes me weep for the shallow faith of a church more wrapped up in its Americanness than its Godliness.”

New York Times reporter quoted one pastor’s resigned plaint: “When you mix politics and religion, you get politics.”

I’ve also had issues with Grudem, so it was interesting to see Georgia’s own Erickson call him out; also  let’s appreciate the word(ish) beclown. Like I said, I’m not going to write more about the issues with Trump, but this articles really gets at the point that he does not really embody any of the values we do as Evangelicals. I remain perplexed at his massive amounts of support, including this coming weekend, from heavyweights in the Christian world. Of course, I have to add my favorite photo of one of his Evangelical supporters (this, if you don’t know, is the son of the man whom founded the Moral Majority, standing with a twice divorced, avaricious man, proudly displaying photos of himself on magazine covers, including playboy. Reference for the Hustler mention)

Image result for trump and falwell pictures

I just cannot see how we can throw such full support behind this man. I remain fully on the side of the #19Percent.

 

Book Review: One Nation Under God

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America – Kevin M. Kruse

My rating – Put it on your list

Level – easy, a little wordy, medium length but reads quickly

Summary
The title might be a bit of a misnomer. People expecting this book to be about whether or not America was founded as a Christian nation should look elsewhere. There a many, many books with this title that more or less discuss that idea or whether we are currently. In many ways, it is a great and accurate title as the insertion of the phrase ‘under God’ is a critical juncture in his story line. For those unaware, it was added in the 50’s, the so-called ‘good ol’ days’.

What the book is about, is how a group of people decided to try and revise history, and shape the future, for their own personal financial gain. Conflating Christianity with the nation is the method they choose. This started maybe further back than people might have thought. If you are like me, you might assume much of the rhetoric started with Reagan. Instead, Kruse traces is back to the 30’s and business responses to New Deal regulation. In fact, he barely discussing Reagan.

The book is broken into three major parts – creation, consecration, and conflict. That is, the ideas and actions behind the national religion push (very conspiratorially written), the achievement of those goals, and the current situation of those goals clashing with modern America.

I guess I should also note that Kruse is a historian. I have no idea his religious preference, if any, and do not think he mentions it in the book. Point being, this is not written from the Christian prospective and though quite fair and accurate, he does seem suspicious of it. However, it certainly isn’t anti-Christian or an attack in any way.

My Thoughts
I hate to admit that I like this book because it confirmed my own beliefs, but it is true. If you are ever involved in anything politically liberal, you will likely hear that Christians have corrupted the Republican party. However, it is the other way around. I’ve always viewed the situation as Reagan’s attempt to tie Evangelicals to the Republican party as a response to and actual Evangelical Christian, and likely the most religious president in American history, Jimmy Carter. If I ever do get a change to pursue a PhD, I’d like to write my dissertation on this topic.

Interestingly, the attempt to put them together is much, much older and was well in place and already successful before Reagan. It was very interesting, yet disturbing, to read the entanglement of business interest, prosperity gospel preachers, and politics. Perhaps the most shocking thing to me was the placement of the 10 Commandments at courthouses. Many people may have though, well, they’ve been there all along, perhaps hundreds of years. No. Almost all of the monuments, the large, stone tablet looking representations were put up in the early 50’s. They were a marketing ploy. Like a Captain American action figure in a happy meal, they were used to promote the movie ‘The Ten Commandments’.

It all comes down to a basic fear felt by many of the Evangelical Left (that is, those who are political liberal, but deeply conservative in Christian belief) – that Christianity, God, and the Bible have all been used by business interest. Greed has lead to obfuscating history and the portrayal of the future as antagonistic to Believers. All so that certain people in companies could have less regulation and taxes.

This will be hard to swallow for many staunch conservatives. I know, because I used to be one. Then I started to become suspicious that we were being used. Now, I will say, if you are politically conservative, that’s fine, nothing wrong with that. Just don’t claim the Bible is the bases of your economic or tax policy. You’ve been used as a pawn, even voting against your own self interest by people who may not even view God as you do.

However, anyone will to sit, read, and review the facts about politics and religion, this book needs to be on your list. If you are a Christian and political liberal, who has always wondered how it got so off, this book is a must read for historical understanding. If you are a Christian, who maybe doesn’t even have strong political leanings, but were just always curious as to why, in America, the political right and Evangelicals are so intertwined, this book is also a must read. Any Christian with any interest in political at all, should add this to their list of books to read.

I want to wrap up with a quick note about Trump. I’m writing this 4 days before the election, but I don’t think it will be posted until a few weeks after. But, if you’ve looked around and wondered how in the Hell is Trump the supposed representative of the Evangelical vote, this book will help you understand. For one, Trump grew up in the church of one of the biggest, most popular/powerful prosperity gospel preachers. Sadly, this history presented in this book will also explain why so many ‘preachers’ or other ‘Evangelical’ public figures have support the thrice divorced, pro-choice, multi-millionaire. If you’ve read some of these guy’s condemnation of Bill Clinton from the 90’s, but their full throated support for Trump and though, that doesn’t make any sense, then read this book, and it will. We go from claiming that morality matters in the White House, to the weak and somewhat ridiculous claim that we are not electing a ‘pastor-in-chief’ (ridiculous, not because it is wrong, but that apparently only pastors shouldn’t grab random women by the pussy).

I will say, I do hope that the Trump candidacy will disentangle party politics with religion. As I write this, I have a sincere wish that Evangelicals will not vote (majority) for Trump; however, I am not hopeful.

Edit – He won 81% of the Evangelicals, more than Romney or even Bush. 

Evangelicals and President-Elect Trump

I’m not going to provide much in the way of commentary, because I’m just too tired and a little burned out at this point; in fact, I’m going to be extra lazy and just dump raw links. However, I have to note that 81% of White Evangelicals voted for Trump. I was surprised at how high this was. Maybe you are thinking, well, that is just a consistent vote. Two problems with this, first it is actually higher than W received against Kerry or Gore. Second, that were a huge number of Evangelical leaders, pastors, seminary presidents, and public theologians that came out against Trump, so you’d expect the numbers to be lower.

Of course, things are much more complicated than one subgroup vote. I think, and the polls seem to be showing this, that the democrats lost (well, except the popular vote) due to the fact that they focused too much on identity politics and missed the most important part of elections – it’s the economy stupid. I think many Evangelicals voted for power, to stay a controlling force in government, and we sacrificed our moral voice for it. Unfortunately, I think most Evangelicals were simply tricked into becoming single issue voters – something I think is a terrible idea.

Anyway, that’s really all I feel like writing at this point. Grab them by the pussy, here’s your link dump:

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/thabitianyabwile/2016/11/09/4-problems-associated-with-white-evangelical-support-of-donald-trump/#comment-179779

http://religiondispatches.org/white-evangelicals-win-white-house-for-trump-but-lose-big/

http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/november/trump-elected-president-thanks-to-4-in-5-white-evangelicals.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/09/why-christians-should-not-succumb-to-the-apocalyptic-language-of-the-election/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/evangelicals-election_us_5820d931e4b0e80b02cbc86e

http://time.com/4565010/donald-trump-evangelicals-win/?xid=Outbrain_Time_ArticleFooter&iid=obnetwork

http://fortune.com/2016/10/09/evangelical-leaders-back-trump/

 

Should Evangelicals be Single Issue Voters?

On Monday, I posted some thoughts and a great link to an article about why Evangelicals shouldn’t vote for Trump. This is something I am adamant about, and I am not alone. Now, this isn’t to say that Evangelicals can’t vote for Trump – but please, please do not call him the Christian candidate. If you like assault rifles, say that is why you are voting for him. If you are rich and want your taxes cut, say that is why. If you really think he will build an actual wall and believe this matters, vote for him. Just do not make the claim that he is the moral candidate.

All that to say, Mrs. MMT also posted the same article on her Facebook page. The results were, sadly, not all that surprising. Of course, there were some that questioned whether she was a believer or ‘knew the gospel,’ but most basically the questions came down to abortion.

So, buckle in, I’m about to write about something I never wanted to have to do before, but I feel compelled to. Actually, let’s back up a second. Many people have written about being a single-issue voter, Kushiner even arguing that we are all technically single issue voters. So, I want to define what I mean when I say single-issue voter. Burk rightly, I think, points out that single-issue voting doesn’t mean that one point makes someone qualified to be president, it means only that taking a certain position disqualifies you. I think that is an important distinction. Also, I agree that everyone is technically a single-issue voter, so for that sake, let’s say we are only talking about the major ‘wedge’ issues – abortion, gay marriage, gun control, etc.

Abortion is clearly the big one for Evangelicals. As I said, Mrs. MMT found out the hard way, that it is almost the only thing people think about in this election. It is frustrating for a lot of reasons that people go there. First of all, the point of the main article was that Trump is not the option. Mostly, though, as I will explain later, we really shouldn’t be single-issue voters.

Alright, back to abortion. There are a few things to say about it as an issue. First, will a Trump presidency make an impact? Second, what would a Clinton presidency do? Third, how should we think about abortion as Evangelicals? Finally, should we limit pro-life to only abortions?

What would Trump do? My thought is nothing. I feel he will have roughly zero impact on abortion. He has been adamantly pro-choice his whole life. He claims to have changed his mind. I remain skeptical. Even if he has, I expect him to be as about as faithful to his claims as he has been to people named Mrs. Trump (I stole that line, but forget the source). I believe Bush was strong pro-life, and even he was unable to affect anything.

Clinton will do nothing for the legality of abortions. If anything, opportunities for abortion may expand. However, she does want to expand healthcare access. Currently, the US has one of the highest abortion rates in the Western world. Throughout the world, there is a correlation between universal healthcare and lower abortion rates. So it is possible that indirectly, a pro-choice candidate may decrease the abortion rate.

Besides healthcare, it’s also possible that some of her proposed social policies could lower the rate. Programs like expanded child care tax credits, maternity leave, sick leave, raising the minimum wage, and other assistance to the poor. We know that roughly 50% of abortions are by women who make below the poverty line (just over $11K) and another 25% between the poverty line and 200% of the poverty line. So, generally speaking, about 75% of all abortions are by women who make $22K or less. To me, that is a clear indication that poverty impacts women’s decisions.

Now, I have a good friend who I’ve known for almost 30 years, a strong believer who is actually working on his master’s in apologetics (follower of this blog, too), who righty points out that people who get abortions don’t do so because they are poor, but because they are sinful. This is true, abortion is clearly a sin, and it is our own sinful nature that causes us to sin. However, I think we have to go a step further and examine the sin. What is the heart of the sinner, why are they acting the way they do? I do not think that someone wakes up one day and says, “Hey, I’d really like to murder a baby today.”

No, I think they are afraid, maybe they are selfish, maybe they don’t want to lose their job. There is certainly the issue of economic security. Sadly, some people who have been interviewed have stated they were afraid they couldn’t feed their current children if they had another mouth to feed. None of these things excuse what they did. People are still choosing to end a life. But they aren’t ending a life for the sake of ending a life. There are other issues. These other issues are where Christians and public policy can help.

So, that is part of how I think Evangelicals should view the issue. The other part is the reality that the issue is just not going away. Maybe it’s because I’m young(ish) and was born almost a decade after Roe v. Wade, but I view the legal aspect as a battle we’ve already lost. I’ve lived my entire life under the legality of abortion. So, that could be biasing my view. However, we’ve had three republican presidents since 1980, serving a total of 20 years, and none have done anything. As it is, the country is only becoming more socially liberal, and I just don’t see us repealing it. In that case, I believe it is incumbent on us to do everything we can to minimize the number that will occur. Because they will continue, and this is true whether or not they are legal.

Finally, is being anti-abortion all there is to being pro-life? I believe pro-life includes at least two other aspects. First, war. And I believe Clinton is actually more hawkish than Trump, so we’ll call that a draw. Second, the death penalty, since killing people is clearly not pro-life. I’m a small government guy, so it has always baffled me that so many of the libertarians/republicans I know support giving the state the power to kill (and this could be a whole other post).

I suppose you could also make the argument that we could throw gun control in there, too. Many, many, people die every year from ‘accidents’, but much like abortion, I don’t think gun rights are going anywhere, with the possible exception of assault rifles.

So, which one really is the more pro-life candidate when looking more broadly at life? Probably a draw at best, since both candidates certainly have mixed views and records. That leads me to my larger point. I do not think we should be single-issue voters. Is it really wise to ignore so many issues in one person, for a single position the other person holds?

Trump has proposed banning an entire religious group. He has advocated war crimes. He certainly isn’t a family values guy. He either does not believe he has sinned or disagrees with the need to repent. Where do we draw the line?

It is also problematic to try to decide which issue is the most important. That is essentially what you are doing by being single issue. Is abortion the most important problem in our country? Can you make a Biblical argument that it should be the one and only qualifier to not vote for someone? I do not think you can. So, for me, I try to look at the multitude of issues, which maybe I’ll write more about later, but I should probably wrap this up, as I do have a few more things to say.

Granted, I do believe this would be a different conversation if abortion were not already legal. I could never, in good conscience, vote for someone advocating changing the law from illegal to legal. Because that can make an impact, that can change things. If you vote for someone who claims they will keep something legal that is already legal, there is no change. But as I said above, this is the world we live in. This law already exists, and it’s highly likely to NOT be going anywhere. As such, we can only try to reduce them.

Some may argue that I am simply accepting the culture, being conformed by the world as it is. I completely disagree. If I were engaging in some loose cultural Christianity, I’d probably just go ahead and support abortion. But I don’t. I’m pro-life. As I said, I think we should do every possible thing we can to prevent as many as possible, so that we can save as many children as possible. I do not see that as a cultural compromise.

However, in some senses, everyone is shaped by culture. As I said above, I do think the battle of legality is over and lost, but the war to save children is not. That’s why I advocate for things such as what is listed above – overcoming evil with good. So, I’m admitting my worldview has been shaped, to an extent, by my life, but I don’t think it’s any different than a previous generation having their views shaped by the moral majority and Christian right, who put tax rates up there on par with abortion in importance.

Let me wrap up by, again, pointing out that I want to be critical of Trump. This is not the same thing, in any way, shape, or form, as supporting abortion. I am pro-life, to the fullest extent. I do not think voting for either Trump or Clinton will have any impact on this. I do think Trump is the more morally repugnant of the two. What about third party? Well, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein both support abortion rights, so those options aren’t particularly attractive. Obviously, I’m not going to just skip voting. So, what does that leave?

I’d love to hear from anyone who has any thoughts on this issue. Please leave your thoughts in the comments or email me. If someone wants to write a longer response to me, I’d be happy to publish it here. It would also be great to hear from anyone who is a single-issue voter (that issue being abortion) and who plans to vote for Trump. I’d be really interested in hearing why you think he is the right/more or Evangelical/Christian choice. I welcome any feedback; however, I reiterate that I am pro-life and in no way support abortion, so if your only response is to tell me abortion is wrong, I am going to drop the ban hammer on you.

Some Election Thoughts

Edit – Russel Moore weighs in with his own thoughts on the affects of Trump, Andy Couch the editorial director for Christianity Today says Evangelicals must speak out about Trump, and Grudem finally pulls his support for Trump. I was critical of him previously when he claim Trump was the moral choice, so I want give him credit for admitting that that was a mistake.

 

I had originally planned to post something else today, but I think that in light of everything surrounding the election, from the newly released video to the debate last night, that I needed to address a few things.

Also, I came across this write up on the case against Trump that is by far and away the best I’ve seen.  It is long and comprehensive and you really should take the time to read it.

Trump poses special issues for Evangelicals this year. Mostly because he is unabashedly not Evangelical. He seems to take the vote for granted, that conservative Christians will just flock to him, and honestly, he has good reason. There is a Pew study out showing that a strong majority of Evangelicals still plan to vote for Trump (this is pre-video release, so it may change). If Trump wins Evangelicals after everything we know about him, we lose any right to ever claim to speak on moral issues.

It’s this support that causes the tension. Is Hilary the paragon of morality? Of course not. I personally believe that in our political system, you cannot make it as far as running for president without being morally corrupt. However, it’s a refrain I hear over and over, especially not with the Trump video. People say, well, Bill obviously didn’t have much respect for women and marriage. Two major problems with this reasoning. First, Bill is not running for president, so it some ways it is irrelevant. Second, and more importantly, he wasn’t the conservative candidate that Christians overwhelmingly supported. He never claimed any sort of religious high ground.

You look at certain people, such as Ralph Reed and Wayne Grudem, who in the late 90’s thought that Bill’s morality and infidelities were issues. So, where are the now? Reed literally works for the Trump campaign.

I get that some people don’t like Hilary, and that’s fine. But there is a huge difference between not voting for her and actively supporting Trump. I feel like I will just keep repeating myself if I keep writing, so I’ll wrap it up. We just cannot afford to have the Evangelical vote go for Trump. We will lose any voice we have left in ethics or morality.

Go read the article I linked above, it really does provide invaluable guidance.