judicialsupport

Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

Archive for the tag “president”

This evangelical leader gave the most important speech about the religious right in the age of Trump

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in The Week which, I thought, was pretty insightful.  Be edified.
_________

Donald Trump is a master of humiliation. Mostly he humiliates himself, but he has also humiliated countless people and entities over the course of his life and presidential campaign. If you had to draw up a list, near the top would have to be the religious right.

To say that some of the religious right’s top leaders have beclowned themselves by embracing Donald Trump is an understatement. It’s hard to know even where to begin. Donald Trump practices almost every kind of immorality forbidden by the Bible — and brags about it. He claims to be a Christian, but seems to know nothing about Christianity or show any interest in it. He has said several times that he has never asked God for forgiveness for anything, even though asking God for forgiveness is just about the most basic qualifier of a Christian. Oh, and Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president of the United States.

And yet this is the man many on the religious right embrace — even though it has previously denounced political figures as beyond the pale for lesser slights. To say that this is intellectual and moral bankruptcy is an understatement.

Enter Russell Moore. He may not (yet?) be a household name like a Jerry Falwell Jr., but he is an important man in the religious right. He’s the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. In other word, he’s the “Mr. Politics” of the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., one that is evangelical, conservative, and largely based in the Bible Belt. If anything qualifies as a leader of the religious right, this is it.

This week, Moore was invited to give the Erasmus Lecture, a prominent lecture given by the intellectual Christian magazine First Things (a previous honoree was a clergyman named Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, better known today as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). And boy, is it a doozy. Moore basically called out the religious right — and particularly his own section of the religious right, conservative, white evangelical Protestantism — for all the flaws that are so glaring to those outside it.

Moore’s speech begins by recounting a spiritual crisis he underwent as a teenager. He had been brought up as an evangelical in the heart of the Bible Belt. But as he grew older he became disenchanted by the hypocrisy and vacuousness that was already apparent then (as it is apparent, in various forms and guises, in every religious community, as Jesus himself pointed out relentlessly), whether it took the form of “voter guides” that seemed eerily to parrot Republican National Committee talking points, except with Bible proof texts attached, or pastors denouncing adultery from the pulpit while honoring benefactors who were notorious adulterers, or literalistic interpretations of Biblical prophecies, always applied to the political controversies of the day. Providentially, Moore found his way to a deeper, more grounded form of Christianity, instead of drifting away from the faith as so many in a similar situation have. But that experience certainly forms the backdrop of his speech.

Moore then goes on to zing the religious right for its hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy. While disagreeing with them, he respects those Christians who are disgusted by Trump, but will hold their nose and pull the lever for him as the lesser of two evils. But, he goes on to note, many religious right leaders have not made that argument, but instead embraced Donald Trump and found excuses for his pandering to white nationalism or bragging about assaulting women. He points out that the same crowd — indeed, in some cases, the very same people or institutions — was calling for figures like Bill Clinton and Rudy Giuliani to resign over their own infidelities, because a basic moral standard has to be upheld for public figures. They’re the ones who made the argument that political office requires not just having the right positions on issues of public policy, but also meeting a certain threshold of moral character. Yet here we are.

In the most searing line of the speech, Moore concludes: “The religious right turns out to be the people the religious right warned us about.”

He also points out that this sort of behavior is killing the religious right. He didn’t put it that starkly, but it’s pretty clear that everyone outside the echo chamber can see what phonies they are.

But there’s a bigger problem for the religious right, as Moore notes, which is that on most issues, mainstream American society has moved away from conservative Christianity. The old-line religious right could talk of a “Moral Majority” because it was true that on a set of basic moral issues, most Americans, while not Bible-thumping evangelicals or Aquinas-quoting traditional Catholics, were closer to traditional Christian views than to the progressive left. Which, if your basic duty as a religion is to evangelize people, makes it all the more important to (again, saying essentially the same thing as Moore in less guarded language) not look like money-grubbing, power-hungry, hypocritical sycophants and nincompoops.

The religious right now stands bankrupt. The question is, to pursue the bankruptcy metaphor further, is it a chapter 7 bankruptcy or a chapter 11? Do we shut the whole thing down, or is it possible to come out of the other side healthier, after some painful — no doubt very painful — restructuring?

“What’s at stake here is not just credibility, it’s also the question of whether religious conservatives even want a future,” Moore says.

Moore sees rays of hope for the religious right nonetheless. He points out that, contrary to many predictions, the young have not deserted conservative Christianity. Young people are “packing into orthodox and confessional universities and seminaries” and planting churches left and right, Moore notes. And while those young people may care more than their elders about traditionally progressive issues like racial or environmental justice, it is by no means because they have become liberal. In most cases, they are just as conservative, both theologically and morally, as their forebears.

What’s more, while American millennials have drifted very far from Christianity in many respects, they are “conservative” in others. The millennial generation is no less pro-life than the previous generation. Importantly, tantalizingly, it is also much more anti-divorce than the previous generation, as being the one that lived through the divorce waves of previous generations.

“The evangelicals who are the center of evangelical vitality are also the least likely to be concerned with politics. Not because they’re liberal, but because they want to keep a priority on the Gospel and the mission that they do not wish to lose,” Moore says. This is a sign of weariness with the excesses of the religious right, but also a sign of hope, if it is not pushed too far in the opposite direction.

There’s another thing that the young generation understands, Moore says. Today, many in the religious right and the Bible Belt understand “evangelical Christianity” to mean white evangelical Christianity. But the future of the church is global. In evangelicalism, as well as Catholicism for that matter, the energy in the church is global. By becoming enmeshed with, if not white identity politics per se, then certainly the white culture of the Bible Belt, the religious right has cut itself off from a key source of vitality within Christianity, and has overlooked — if not been downright hostile to — causes that should matter to Christians like racial justice and reconciliation.

So, there are seeds of hope, perhaps. What’s the way out?

In perhaps the most important phrase of the speech, Moore says: “One of the assumptions of some in the old religious right is that the church is formed well enough theologically and simply needs to be mobilized politically.”

Most Christians simply don’t know what they believe and why, and that is killing Christianity. Jacob Lupfer, a scholar of American Christianity, has noticed that within evangelical Christianity, the pro- versus anti-Trump split has come down along lines that are not so much political, or even theological per se, but confessional. “Generic evangelicals or cultural/nominal Protestants go for Trump. Confessional evangelicals are theologically primed to resist him.” By confessional, he means those believers, churches, and institutions that stress preaching and adhering to specific historic Christian creeds. (This also probably explains why Mormons and Catholics, including conservative Catholics, have also tended to be outliers in their rejection of Trump.)

Moore is not calling for a retreat of Christians from politics. The Christian faith calls on believers to regard themselves as strangers in a strange land, and citizens of Heaven first and Earth second, but that “second” matters. They need to serve their fellow men, including through public service and advocacy. Political organizing is good, Moore exclaims at one point. What’s more, it’s not just that Christians need politics, it’s that America needs conservative Christians. As Trump shows, without conservative Christianity, the right will not simply go away, as some progressives might hope, it will become more like the ethno-nationalistic populist right of Europe, and more Nietzchean, Moore warns, rightly in my view.

But for Christians to stop shaming themselves in the public square, let alone start playing a constructive role, they must first become more grounded in their own faith. Christians are supposed to believe in divine providence, so I can only say: from Moore’s mouth to God’s ears.

By Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry and originally published on October 27, 2016 in The Week and can be found here.

Advertisements

Trump and Hillary, models of fallen human nature

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one Aleteia which, I thought, was pretty insightful.  Be edified.

_____________

Their go-to responses to wrongdoing is deflection and dissimulation rather than repentance

Like many of you I was upset, though unsurprised, by the recently released tape in which Donald Trump brags about sexually assaulting women. However, what scandalized me more was to see how many Christians jumped to defend and downplay Trump’s behavior.

When I expressed dismay on social media about Donald Trump’s behavior, I was accused of being a Hillary supporter and of being indifferent to the pro-life cause. One man called me a “turncoat,” and another person told me I was a “fake nun.” I was told that I needed an exorcism and one man assured me that I would be responsible for Christians being thrown into gulags. And this reaction was tame compared to the response others received.

When Christians look away from any form of evil rather than prophetically calling human nature to a higher ideal we water down the Gospel message. This becomes all the more important in this election because we have two candidates whose behavior often exemplifies precisely what Christians are called to reject. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are mirrors of our own sin and just how far our fallen nature, our culture, and our country can fall. (Please note, I am not presuming to judge our presidential candidates’ moral state before God, who alone knows our conscience, but simply assessing their objective actions).

In the beginning, Adam blamed both Eve and God when he ate the forbidden fruit: “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree” (3:12).

Eve similarly protested: “The snake tricked me, so I ate it” (3:13).

Both our presidential candidates have proven that their go-to response to wrongdoing is deflection and dissimulation rather than repentance. However, Trump and Clinton’s behavior often goes beyond the rationalizations of Adam and Eve and straight to the deliberate deception of the serpent. Hillary Clinton lies in a deliberate way when it seems politically convenient (the email debacle involved lie after calculated lie). Donald Trump’s denials, on the other hand, seem more frequent and instinctual rather than logical. He denies obvious, provable facts on national television without blinking an eye. And his “apologies” inevitably end with excuses and deflections.

When God heard Adam and Eve’s excuses and saw their lack of repentance, he expelled them from the Garden of Eden.

God cautioned Eve of the effects of original sin, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (3:16).

Donald Trump’s life exemplifies this domination, abuse of power, and objectification of women that God warned Eve would happen. Trump has left his wives not once but twice. He’s boasted about his adulterous affairs. He has made multiple comments sexualizing underage girls, including his own daughter. And throughout his entire campaign, when the stakes are highest, Trump seems unable to avoid ridiculing, bullying, and making sexist comments about women. Donald Trump’s ongoing behavior concretely illustrates the way some fallen men treat women.

In the same way, Hillary Clinton exemplifies the fallen woman in her rejection of the feminine genius. As Hillary herself admits, she comes across as cold rather than warm and empathetic. This, no doubt, is related to her attempt to make it in a man’s world. But walling oneself off comes at a cost to both feminine authenticity and one’s moral worldview. Her turning away from the feminine genius further expresses itself in her unreserved support for abortion (a convenient solution for men who live a lifestyle similar to Donald Trump). Hillary also denigrates the feminine vocation to motherhood (which is not just biological) when she argues that babies can be aborted up to minutes before they are delivered. And she excuses fallen masculinity when she lauds the women who accuse Donald Trump of sexual assault while attacking the women who accused her husband.

When Adam and Eve sinned for the first time, their behavior immediately became selfish because their lives ceased to be centered on God.

Hillary and Trump typify behavior that seems centered on the wrong things, especially when it comes to money and power. For example, both run “charity” foundations that seem to do little more than serve their own respective interests. Trump has used his foundation to bribe public officials and to buy a huge 6-foot tall portrait of himself. In fact, Trump did not give a penny of his own money away through the foundation over a five-year period. Likewise, when Hillary was Secretary of State, Bill Clinton’s speaking fees doubled and in some cases tripled, causing many to suspect quid pro quo. Of the 154 people who met with Hillary when she was Secretary of State, at least 85 donated to the Clinton Foundation. It is against the law for foreigners to donate to political campaigns in the United States, yet Hillary accepted foreign donations for the Clinton Foundation from multiple foreign countries, including Saudi Arabia.  Just as troubling, are the leaked emails from the Clinton campaign mocking Catholics.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s questionable behavior and ethics is painfully evident. They both should have been unequivocally rejected as presidential candidates. Tragically, our country is so divided that we cannot unite behind even this obvious fact. Instead, people continue to cling to candidates who represent a ghost of their worldviews. Some people excuse or ignore their preferred candidate’s serious faults, and selectively become enraged when the other candidate does wrong.

But Christians are called to another kind of behavior. We are called to step outside of political situations and to view them within the trajectory of salvation history. We are called to be prophets, to name evil when we see it, and not just when it is the evil of the party opposite to the one we endorse. Unfortunately, like Adam and Eve, many of us instead defend and deflect for our respective candidate. We are fallen human beings and it is easy to lose hope in the radical message of the Gospel. We forget that human nature is called to something more through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. We have lowered the bar so low only a snake can slither through.

When this election is over, no matter who becomes president, we will enter an era of great difficulty for our country. My hope is that Christians will spend more time praying for our new president’s conversion than criticizing him or her. And I hope we will have learned the following lessons: We will never find salvation in a political party and we should be apologists and uncritical cheerleaders for no one but Jesus Christ.

By Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble and originally published on October 18, 2016 and can be seen here.

‘Christian America’: Corporate invention or founding fathers’ vision?

This is from jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com which you can find here:

“Recent surveys have indicated that many, if not most, Americans believe the founding fathers wanted this nation to be officially Christian. But a new book by Princeton historian Kevin Kruse slices and dices this notion with razor-sharp facts and anecdotes. In “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America,” he shows how corporations such as General Motors and Hilton Hotels partnered with clergymen and politicians to conflate patriotism and pietism. Here he tells how our nation’s Ten Commandments monuments were originally movie marketing props and how evangelist Billy Graham participated in America’s shifting mindset.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

What Jesus’ encounters with women teach us about God, life, and gender

This is from jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com which you can find here:

“Theologian Stanley Grenz once observed, “[Jesus] treated every woman he met as a person in her own right.” According to a new book, The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing of Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels by Frank Viola and Mary Demuth, Jesus’ encounters with women tell us more than we might assume. Here I dialogue with co-author Mary Demuth, a prolific author and blogger, about what these tales teach us about God, life, and gender.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Which U.S. Presidents Were the Most Religious?

This is from jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com which you can find here:

“Consistency is something of an American tradition–at least as far as our presidents are concerned.

Forty-three individuals have served as Commander-in-Chief (Grover Cleveland held two non-consecutive terms). Based on birth and residence, they hail from only 18 of the 50 states. All have been male and, with the exception of Barack Obama, all have been white. And almost all claimed to be Protestant Christians. Only three were religiously unaffiliated–Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Johnson–though these men were spiritual in their own right.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Post Navigation