Saturday, November 12, 2016

Sore winners, sore losers

A number of supporters of Donald Trump are noting that many of his opponents, skewing young, have taken to the streets in major cities, some apparently rioting. Such supporters are pooh-poohing the demonstrators, complaining that they’re sore losers and can’t accept that he’s the president-elect.

Why can’t they just grow up? seems to be the refrain.

Frankly, those folks don’t have the authority to tell anyone else to grow up and accept the voters’ verdict. The last two Democratic administrations — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — faced unrelenting opposition from those same folks. And I don’t mean just demonstrations, either.

During the 1992 campaign conservative activists filed suit in Federal Court in Little Rock, Ark., to get Clinton off the ballot. Just after he took office early the next year the bumper sticker “Don’t blame me — I voted for [George H.W.] Bush” began appearing. Not long after that conservative media started running smear campaigns, from “Troopergate” to Vince Foster, and he was finally impeached on frivolous charges in 1999.

As for Obama, GOP congressmen and senators said even before the 2008 general election that they wouldn’t work with anyone who didn’t agree with them. Sen. Mitch McConnell said that they intended to make him into a “one-term president” (which had never been said before). Then you have the “birther” movement, which questioned whether he was even born in this country (and that essentially kicked off Trump’s campaign). Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin even suggested that Obama might or should be impeached.

That being said, people are grieving not just because Hillary Clinton lost — they are really scared, given Trump’s bullying tactics, willingness to abuse women and open disdain for people of color and Muslims, which was part of his appeal. Indeed, that’s part of the reason they voted for Hillary in the first place, and dismissing that possible threat serves only to divide further.

Bottom line, many of the people supporting Trump have been sore losers in the past and are acting like sore winners today. As such, as far as I’m concerned, they shouldn’t tell anyone else how to respond to defeat or victory, as the case may be.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Judgment at the door?

If it’s possible to think like this, the judgment of God against many of His people in America began to accelerate on Tuesday.

That, of course, was Election Day, when Donald J. Trump who, as one writer put it, ran the “most secular campaign” in decades, was elected President of the United States. And, as a shocker to me personally, exit polling indicated that he won 80 percent of the evangelical vote.

Yes, 80 percent for the thrice-married philanderer who, among other things, has never given a credible testimony as to his faith in Jesus Christ, not only made racist remarks and never disavowed white supremacists who endorsed him but had participated in discriminatory business practices, said at a campaign rally that someone needed to be “punched in the face,” ran casinos and virtually bragged about seducing married women.

And why? Solely because he wasn’t Hillary Clinton. In my view, not good enough and probably idolatrous because people ended up trading Biblical principles for political power.

In an arrogant, graceless post, evangelist Franklin Graham wrote, “While the media scratches their heads and [try] to understand how this happened, I believe that God’s hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control of our country.” Implying, of course, that if you voted for Hillary — as many Christians did, believe me — you were part of the problem.

That dog won’t hunt. Not only does Graham ignore the real pain of people who really did feel that Trump, whom he endorsed, was not only a threat for purely political reasons but also that — as I learned yesterday — some women who had survived sexual abuse were in fact triggered by his tendency toward what he dismissed as “locker-room talk.”

Over the past couple of days there has been talk about “unity,” mainly from Trump supporters eager for everyone else to get behind the president-elect. But there can never be such without the acknowledgment of feeling wounded and the healing that needs to take place in the meantime, not to mention the real fear that they won’t be heard. That’s why we saw demonstrations in major cities early Wednesday morning, after the votes were counted.

And if my experience is any indication, this is what many conservatives will never do — they’ve put their lust for power above people.

Do that too often and you become useless to God, Who will never share His glory with anyone else. Such folks tend to put Him in a certain box, assuming that He will work only when they’re in power. And that’s where the judgment comes in.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Could Hillary be 'God's tool?'

One justification for Christians voting for Donald Trump is the hope that, despite his profane lifestyle, God would use him as a tool to bring righteousness to America — based only on his support of the “right” issues. (Pun intended.)

I think that He would have bigger fish to fry than that. And for that reason, it could be that Hillary Clinton might play that role.

But Hillary doesn’t support a ban on abortion or religious freedom, you might say. How can that be the case?

Work with me here …

Since 1992 we’ve seen a lot of ugliness in the Christian community, especially toward the Clintons, for Bill’s getting elected in the first place. We’ve not only believed but in many cases spread the lies about their alleged corruption, for which there’s no real proof. And no, the media aren’t hiding anything.

The first thing we need to understand is that God cannot work through dirty hearts more interested in mischief than justice. That might be why the attacks on the Clintons are having precious little effect — at least, not enough to keep her out of the White House as things stand now, and with the election less than a week away I see no way that she’ll lose.

So some repentance might be in order.

Second, we forget or don’t even consider that change comes not from the top down but from the bottom up. The “religious right” didn’t understand that, which is why, despite its appeals to politicians, it has had little effect and even began collapsing once Bill left — because it was always an opposition movement and never held the people it supported to the same standard. That’s why its support of Trump is problematic.

What Hillary might end up doing is showing the world our hypocrisy — and, were we to acknowledge it, it might make us stronger. If that happens, spiritual renewal might be just around the corner.

But not until then.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

President Hillary Clinton: What to expect in January

“I will look at it.”

That was Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s response at last night’s debate in Las Vegas when he was asked point-blank if he would accept the results of the upcoming election, in which he’s heavily favored to lose to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as things stand now.

Of course, Clinton was aghast, as were many others — and should have been.

But that comment by Trump, as mean-spirited, ominous and arrogant as it sounded, never really was about Trump himself. In fact, it didn’t even start with him, really — as she herself should understand from personal experience.

Many of her enemies, most supporting Trump today, simply will not accept anything less than total victory — or, perhaps more accurately, the total humiliation of a political opponent. And it’s been that way for a generation now.

In the 1980s, the first time I recall “negative advertising” being done to any great extent, primarily on Democratic candidates, it resulted in the first “Republican Revolution,” with Ronald Reagan at the top of the ticket. I suspect that it swelled the heads of the folks who supported him back then.

But I wondered: What if the Democrats got themselves a Reagan?

We found out in 1992: His name was Bill Clinton. And the conservatives, perhaps not surprisingly, freaked out.

When he ran for president 24 years ago, they did more than simply oppose his candidacy, which wouldn’t have been a problem. Indeed, in July conservative activists went so far as to file suit in Federal court in Little Rock, Ark. to have his name removed from the ballot. (That was denied.) The mud started to fly then in the hope that something would stick and he would be removed.

When nothing happened and Clinton suckered Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich into forcing two government shutdowns in 1995 that all but ensured his reelection the next year, lobbyist Grover Norquist, on election night, vowed to have him taken out. The situation with Monica Lewinsky, which happened that night, came to light the next year and a number of people set up a perjury trap which led to his impeachment — and acquittal. (Clinton ended up leaving office with the highest approval rating among modern presidents, though Obama right now is hot on his heels.)

Basically, despite their protestations to the contrary, the Clintons’ enemies don’t care about the law, the Constitution or due process — they simply want their way and will stop at absolutely nothing to get it. It’s one reason Trump is so popular — they seem him as a dictator who will cause immediate change in their direction.

That’s why, even if Hillary wins as expected, you shouldn’t expect her critics to back down — it wouldn’t surprise me if on Jan. 21, 2017 someone in Congress will raise the specter of impeachment. Are they that low?   
Yes, they’re that low.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The idolatry of abortion 'theology'

It’s come down to this …

More than a few evangelical Christians are now supporting Donald Trump for president after keeping him at arm’s length through most of the campaign. Reason? In the faint hope that, if elected, he would nominate Supreme Court justices that would overturn Roe v. Wade. After all, that’s what he’s promised.

As if any politician, especially someone like Trump whose word is as worthless as any of them but beholden to no one, is poised to deliver on that.

And part of that is the long-held belief that God will judge this country harshly were abortion to remain legal. I’m not convinced of that.

Don’t get me wrong — I do oppose abortion but did so before I became a Christian, so I don’t necessarily see it as an issue of theology.

In fact, recently I read that abortion became embedded in Christian political thought only in the late 1970s, when the “religious right” became ascendant but needed an issue to rally around for the sake of outrage (not to mention money). When the SCOTUS ruling went down it was pretty much ignored by evangelicals, partly because abortion was seen as a “Catholic” issue.

But even when Catholics opposed abortion, and often they still do, it was always as part of a greater “pro-life” ethos.

If there is a theological issue here, it’s idolatry in the belief that merely ending abortion is required to stave off “judgment.” And if for some reason were abortion to become illegal again, what then? Things simply won’t change very much, if at all, and we would need yet another target to keep the game going.

And if there is to be a judgment, it will start in the church for its lack of fidelity to God and His Kingdom rule. Which tells me that abortion has nothing to do with it.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Dissing Justice Thomas?

Writing for The Hill, Mark Paoletta, who worked in the administration of George H.W. Bush, recently complained that the recently-opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened last month, gave short shrift to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas because he’s a conservative. “This is a shocking slight that the museum must redress,” he wrote.

Oh, really?

With all due respect to Paoletta, he ought to understand just why Thomas is rejected by most — and we’re talking upwards of 90 percent — of black America and that giving him a more prominent role in the museum would likely cause protests in its own right.

According to David Brock, in that day a right-wing journalist who said he helped propagandize to get Thomas on the court, the conservative movement that increasingly ran the Republican Party wanted to get a “black Bork,” a reference to the law professor Robert Bork who was rejected by the Senate for, essentially, being a judicial activist, there after the retirement of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the court. Pardon me for being a bit cynical, but I think the conservatives were hoping that the black community would embrace Thomas for being “one of them” while maintaining conservative bona fides.

That had no chance of happening because the conservative movement that Thomas espouses from the bench today has always directly opposed the African-American struggle for progress. Trouble is, the movement doesn’t even relate to people who don’t agree with it, so it’s in no position to tell anyone who blacks should honor as their heroes. In other words, they don’t want or intend to be dictated to.

And that refusal to consider other points of view is what’s causing the racial division we see in this country even now.

Basically, Thomas is on the court because, and only because, he’s a conservative; his color and heritage are of no import in this case. But the second person to get to such a level will never have the impact of the first anyway, so I don’t understand the cheerleading.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

'Somebody spectacular'

I often wondered what supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump saw in him. It can’t be his positions, which change like the wind. It can’t be his business sense, since that too is dubious. It can’t be his moral stances, since by anyone’s standard they’re not consistent.

But last week, the New York Times published an op-ed piece during which one woman in Kentucky said, “We need somebody spectacular.”

That made sense to me.

Basically, I see it as a codependent woman falling in love with the proverbial “bad boy” and, when he acts up, justifying his behavior. Folks haven’t addressed his racist and sexist comments, which at this point are legion. Disdainful of compromise and with no concrete plan to cause change, he’s relied on sheer emotion to win fans (I mean, voters). They don’t even listen those who have courageously denounced him for his divisiveness, insisting that they represent, in essence, just “some establishment that doesn’t want anyone else in its club.”

But as we all know — and, having been in-and-out of 12-step recovery programs since 1983, I see this — “bad boys” make terrible husbands due to their unreliability and lack of centering. Being “sexy” doesn’t have anything with ability.

And people need to understand that political change in this country is always incremental. Retail politics isn’t stimulating; it takes work and commitment. Frankly, the staying power of Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side surprised me, but in endorsing Hillary Clinton he said that the political revolution which he embodied would, and should, continue after him. (And President Obama seemed to concur, saying, “I’m 'feeling the Bern'.”)

Moreover, I take note of the number of editorial pages of newspapers that haven’t in my lifetime, if ever, endorsed a Democrat for president; the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Arizona Republic and Cincinnati Enquirer have all recommended that their respective readership vote for Hillary Clinton. They’ve done the homework, scrutinized positions and considered temperament overall and believe that Trump is too dangerous.

That to me represents wisdom based on knowledge and experience, not a desire for “remaining in the club.”

You can make a big splash on the political scene but, like a marriage, being an effective leader takes work behind the scenes. I don’t think many of Trump’s followers get that.