Friday, April 28, 2017

No 'buyer's remorse'

Many of my friends on the political left who opposed Donald Trump, given reports swirling about his alleged corruption and ties to the Russian government, were absolutely convinced that, once the truth was revealed, the populace would turn against him and the Republican Party would thus be obliged to abandon him and cooperate with his impeachment.

Yet, recent polls have shown that, were the election held today, after 100 days of his administration he has retained almost all of his support. That is to say, between 96 and 98 percent of those who voted for him in November would do so again.

That may make absolutely no sense until you consider the driving force of many, if not most, conservative (including Christian) voters: Putting someone they don’t like out of power. Never mind that many of his supporters benefit from programs that he intends to cut, such as the Affordable Care Act — indeed, they didn’t realize until he actually made a proposal to dismantle it and substitute something nowhere near as comprehensive that they began to worry.

Indeed, that’s been the goal since the 1980s. For the 1984 presidential election the group Christian Voice put out a “Presidential Biblical Scorecard” that painted Democratic candidate Walter Mondale as a “humanist.” (Not that Ronald Reagan needed its help, the way things turned out.) Distortions and outright lies have been the stock in trade since then, with Bill Clinton in the 1990s; Barack Obama in the 2000s; and, more recently, Hillary Clinton. Some Christians will honestly tell you that they voted for Trump, despite his open rejection of the same Christian principles they live by, merely to keep Hillary out of the White House.

And that speaks to the unwillingness of that side of the political fence to talk to, let alone work with, anyone who disagrees. In that mindset and narrative politics is bloodsport, with every defeat turning into gnashing of teeth and victory resulting in gloating, governance be damned.

I see parallels between the potential impeachment of Trump and the actual impeachment of Bill Clinton, the latter, though victimized by an illegal perjury trap, still staved off being removed from office largely because of popular support. I see the same thing happening with Trump for similar reasons — his people will tell the politicians, “Impeach him and you’re dead.” And they care more than Clinton supporters.

So what happens now? Status quo.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Perhaps not just the 'O'Reilly factor'

In light of the recent firing of Fox News Channel talk-show host Bill O’Reilly amid accusations of sexual harassment and large out-of-court settlements resulting from such, some folks have complained that what they might call “strong conservative voices” are being systematically removed from the airwaves.

I don’t believe that kind of comment has any basis in fact. Indeed, it may not simply be a problem with O’Reilly — recall that longtime chairman Roger Ailes was canned for similar reasons a few months ago, and Sean Hannity, another FNC pundit, had an accusation leveled against him just this week. With all this going around, it seems to be an institutional problem with Fox, which is now costing the network millions.

Why do I suspect this? Well, the book “Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative” by David Brock, formerly a right-wing journalist who probably appeared on the network but who worked for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last year, made several references to “blond pundits” on Fox, several of whom he said “were not above reproach themselves, taking moral offense at adultery” in reference to President Bill Clinton’s tomcatting 20-some years ago.

In other words, you had a lot of pretty female faces on that network feeding that audience with red meat, likely with the intention to grab the attention of male viewers, but who Brock knew had, shall we say, improper relationships in their personal lives.

Does that kind of thing happen at other places? Oh, sure. But make no mistake: Money’s talking here, and when you lose too much of it heads have to roll. I sometimes wonder just how many of those “blond pundits” are being hit on by their bosses or coworkers just because of their beauty — and perhaps some even go along with it to keep their jobs.

We may be seeing even more of this in the future. Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A campaign of resistance?

The pastor of my church has written “A Creed of Resistance,” which we’ve been reciting at the beginning of services. He has never mentioned President Donald Trump in his messages and the creed is itself theologically correct, but I can’t help but think that he’s making a statement. (He does nothing without approval of the board of elders, so he’s not acting as a lone wolf or an autocrat.)

We’re also engaged in an “expanded influence” campaign in which we’re trying to reach primarily other urban neighborhoods for Jesus.

The two may have more connections than is obvious.

Many evangelical churches often try to blend in, be “relevant” or make communicating “values” in the public square their focus. In doing so, however, they make the mistake of forgetting that Christians are a “peculiar people” who live by Kingdom values and should never pay homage to the status quo.

What brings people to faith in the first place is just that difference — I mean, what’s the point in adopting something if you’re not looking to make a change? It’s why the maintenance of “traditional Christian values” often ends up calcifying the true spiritual life.

And that’s the real reason much of evangelicalism’s embrace of Trump is not only problematic but also compromises its stated goals. In other words, rather than bringing people to Jesus it actually drives them away from Him because Trump has simply refused to adhere to any consistent moral standards, let alone Christian ones. That’s one part of the “resistance” in which we may be engaging in.

Some more liberal Christians have suggested that the church needs to act as a latter-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who engaged in active resistance against Adolf Hitler and paid with his life. As things stand now, however, doing so would be a little premature because the situations are quite different, especially since we have nowhere near the consistent nationalism that took place in Nazi Germany.

Besides, the focus of the church should be on maintaining its distinctiveness, never on “resistance” for its own sake. If resistance is part of that, all well and good, but the spiritual goals must be paramount. Always.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Pence's stance should be commended, not condemned

Recently Vice President Mike Pence was criticized for invoking the “Billy Graham rule” — that is, not being seen alone with a lone woman other than his wife in private, which the evangelist established in the 1940s. Now, I understand that his connection to President Donald Trump might make him sound hypocritical because of Trump’s rejection of similar decorum.

But, frankly, I think it’s a good idea, especially for a Christian man. It’s good to see someone take his marriage vows seriously not to give even the appearance of suspicion.

Those of you who remember the TV-evangelist scandals of 1987-88 would do well to remember what might happen when such safeguards weren’t in place. Remember, Jim Bakker ended up having an affair with PTL secretary Jessica Hahn, partially when he felt he was losing his wife Tammy Faye (and they ended up divorcing anyway). Then, Jimmy Swaggart was caught in a hotel room with a prostitute. Both men’s ministries collapsed as a result.

Pence has never been an evangelist to my knowledge, but even in Pence’s case — since he is a public figure — the same situation might apply; after all, he would get that tongues would wag were something appear not quite right. Besides, I’ve seen adultery in leadership of my present and immediate past churches and, especially in the latter, how it hurt the church.

Whatever you think of Pence’s politics, and I’m not crazy about them myself, you have to give him a hand for trying to be above board in his personal life. So please — don’t go off on him for, at least in this case, trying to do what's right.