Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Still 1992, no matter what anyone says

Yesterday marked the voting of the Electoral College, which officially gave Donald Trump the presidency. A number of Trump supporters, noting the outright opposition to his candidacy, have basically told people, essentially, to shut up and get behind the new president because the election is over. They’re not quite right about that.

Actually, it hasn’t been over for some time. Since 1992, to be exact.

Why then? It was Bill Clinton’s first run at the presidency, and no one should forget just how much viciousness the below-the-belt opposition to his candidacy generated. It wasn’t really about policies as such, as Clinton always was, and proved to be, far more moderate than he was painted. Never mind; his enemies just wanted a target to defeat and saw him, correctly in my view, as a singular threat to their desire for power.

What people don’t understand is that when it comes to politics we’ve been in a perpetual state of war since the late 1970s, and that war was started by then-Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich, who perfected the art of irritation and was instrumental in causing the division we see today. (I saw some kind of poetic justice in Gingrich's leaving Congress after he failed to add to the GOP margin there in 1998 by trying to tie Democratic candidates to Clinton's impeachment.)

Anyway, a lot of people were aghast at many of the statements Trump made and wonder just how he became so popular. But if you understand that a lot of people wanted a total jerk who refused to compromise, the answer was obvious. They simply wanted their way, even at the expense of proper governance.

While it's certainly tempting to blame both sides for this equally, it simply wouldn't be accurate. The conservatives began their assault on the "left" decades ago; only over the last decade has the true left emerged and begun to fight but still isn't as large, organized or influential as the right. I’ve noticed that, among the numerous calls for “civility” in public discourse, none of them come from the partisans.

And this is precisely why there never will be healing in this country, at least in my lifetime. These days the two sides are too hardened in their positions to reach out to the other and work together. Trump got elected by not even hinting at doing so and suggesting that only he could cause change ("I alone can fix it").

So, with apologies to Prince, let's get ready to "party" like it's 1992. Because, in many ways, we're still there.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Spiritual compromise by supporting Donald Trump

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency last month — well, perhaps more accurately, the 81 percent of white evangelicals according to exit polls who supported him — will resort in more than just disappointment with a candidate who has basically thumbed his nose at Christian conventions when he doesn’t fulfill the vague promises he made that got them to support him.

I’m convinced that much of evangelicalism as we know it today has as a result signed its own death warrant.

Reason? Essentially, they sold out God for the promise of cultural and political power. In practice, they were guilty of idolatry, which particularly ticks Him off.

Consider that Trump has engaged in shady business practices, abused women, ran around on two wives and had been cited for racial discrimination, things that had a Democrat done them Christians would have spoken out loudly and often. But, in this case, we either saw silence or heard such excuses as “we need to shake up the system” and just because he “converted” to an anti-abortion position during the campaign and said to evangelicals, “I will protect you!”

That, especially, is galling. (As if just one person had the power to “protect Christians.”) Somehow, I don’t think that “religious freedom” (read: privilege) is a core Biblical value.

I could respect people who really believed that Trump was the best candidate and voted for him on those terms, and I could even do so for people who “held their noses” as they did. But to believe that he was “called of God” solely because they wanted to put Him in an ideological box of their making demonstrated to me just how deluded some Christians are.

Yes, I said it — deluded.

R. Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, had it right when he said, “If I were to support, much less endorse, Donald Trump for president, I would actually have to go back and apologize to former President Bill Clinton,” who did apologize for his transgressions but was rejected by some of these same people for being a Democrat. In other words, they had bigger fish to fry.

Too bad. Because they’ve lost the moral high ground.

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.