Overwhelmingly Rejecting Trump is the Top Priority

Donald Trump at the Marriott Marquis, NYC on Sep 07, 2016

Donald Trump at the Marriott Marquis, NYC on Sep 07, 2016 (Source: Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s crucial that Donald Trump be summarily and soundly defeated on November 8. The electorate of the United States must send a clear, unequivocal message to the world, and to our fellow citizens: The ideas, attitudes, and behaviors of Donald J. Trump are no longer acceptable in the twenty-first century. The first step in offering a healthy vision for the future of America is unambiguously and permanently abandoning the failed prejudices of past centuries. In repudiating the candidacy of Donald Trump, we are drawing a clear line in the sand against bigotry, arrogance, and the entitlement of wealth and social privilege.

Here are a few examples of exactly what voters must repudiate on November 8.

Xenophobia

Donald Trump claims that immigrants from Mexico to the U.S. are rapists and drug dealers, despite the fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the people who already live here. Trump also claims that immigrants are stealing jobs, and should not be helped or supported by Republicans because they “will not get any of those votes.” This claim also has no basis in the evidence. In fact, nothing Donald Trump says about immigrants holds up to scrutiny. There is no place in our diverse nation for this kind of xenophobic rhetoric. We are stronger because we welcome all who want to work to build this great nation, and Donald Trump’s claims are a direct attack on the foundation of the American melting pot.

We must make it clear that in the United States, a nation of immigrants, there is no room for xenophobia.

Religious Bigotry

Donald Trump does not limit his proclamations of bigotry to chicanx North Americans. He also feeds into the feverish anti-Muslim lunacy of the far-right. Without a hint of embarrassment, the Trump campaign published on their website a call for a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Most of Trump’s off-the-cuff comments are unintelligible or contradictory, but even his later attempts to “moderate” that stand only reinforce his anti-Muslim views. Trump is even comfortable summarizing what he believes are the consensus beliefs of a billion adherents to a diverse religion, saying, “Islam hates us.” In making these claims, Trump ignores the very research he claims to cite, research that consistently shows high unfavorability ratings for fundamentalist, extremist groups like Daesh in majority-Muslim nations. Here too, Trump’s biased rhetoric of inflammatory ignorance ignores a fundamental premise of our secular nation, one found in the First Amendment, that we shall neither establish priority for one religion nor shall we prevent its free exercise.

We must make it clear that the United States is a secular nation, where people of all faiths are welcome, and where people of all faiths stand shoulder to shoulder as citizens.

Ethnic Bigotry

Unfortunately, Donald Trump is not content to foment the popular racism of the modern era. He is also more than willing to turn back the clock and dredge up the specters of prejudices past. Donald Trump’s long corporate and personal history of racist actions is well-documented. Unsurprisingly, those attitudes have persisted in his campaign, leading to him calling a supporter a “thug” and having him ejected from a rally. Trump has also ventured into criminology, ignoring the actual research on the subject (which correlates poverty to crime), and tweeted smugly that the “overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities is committed by blacks and [H]ispanics.” Behavior like Trump’s, which would be uncomfortable if it were to come from your drunk neighbor at Thanksgiving, is particularly excruciating in contrast to the thoughtful, measured analysis of racism in the U.S. consistently offered by President Obama.

We must make it clear that the hopes of the American Civil Rights movement represents the future of democracy in the United States. The train has left the station, and any American who wants to be part of the future of this country had better get on board.

Gender Inequality

Shockingly, we also have to make it clear that the suffrage movement of a century ago is also a settled issue in modern America. Upon learning that female voters will likely be instrumental in defeating Trump, a number of his supporters to Twitter with a hashtag demanding a repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment. That could be seen as an aberration, if it weren’t for the fact that Donald Trump’s campaign is either silent or hostile to every major, modern issue dealing with the status of women in society. Even when the GOP leadership tries to distance itself from Trump’s boasts of sexual assault, their track record on women’s rights makes it clear that Trump’s failure to support these issues is not an anomaly. The question of women’s equality should have been settled decades ago. The fact that it has not is a national embarrassment.

We must make it clear that, in the United States of America, the rights and privileges of citizenship are not guaranteed to all men, they are guaranteed to all people.

Environmental Devastation

Then there’s the topic of the environment. Donald Trump has a long history of ignoring the destructive environmental consequences of his actions. Consequently, it is no surprise that he wants to cut or eliminate the EPA. Nor is it a surprise that he thinks climate change is hoax, which would make him unique among the heads of state for the 195 nations recognized by the U.S. State Department. Contrary to Trump’s cavalier and dismissive statements, the threats of mass extinction and climate change are perhaps the single greatest threats facing humanity for this and future generations. Even the conservative leaders in other Western nations recognize this. Producing political leaders who deny the scientific consensus in this way makes us look as if our government is shamelessly in the thrall of wealthy business interests. Disingenuously parroting baseless propaganda for selfish gains has no place in twenty-first century America.

We must make it clear that the citizens of the United States will work to fight environmental threats with the same drive, commitment, and sacrifice that we used to save the world from the threat of the Axis powers in the 1940’s.

Chicanery

In repudiating Donald Trump, we are not just repudiating his ideas and platform, we are also repudiating his character, or his apparent complete lack thereof. While Trump claims to be a successful businessman, the record of his “business” career shows a string of broken contracts and unpaid bills. In fact, old habits die hard, as indicated by the Trump campaign’s apparent unpaid debt to a polling firm. None of this should be terribly surprising, since it is increasingly clear that Donald Trump, whose actual net worth is unclear, was completely comfortable making money from blatant fraud. We do not need to return to the days of the Teapot Dome scandal, a national disgrace that would almost certainly pale in comparison to a Trump presidency, especially since the candidate apparently does not even understand what a blind trust is.

We must make it clear that the United States does not venerate “businessmen” for their “success” at betraying the workers who built their fortunes, or at conning the desperate out of their hard-earned money.

Ignorance and Incompetence

Perhaps most embarrassingly, despite these practices, Donald Trump has actually significantly underperformed for someone who started with such a large nest egg. That is, however, less unexpected considering the multiple, long lists of astonishingly stupid things he has said. Sadly, Donald Trump’s entire platform consists of ill-informed, poorly-conceived, and often plainly absurd ideas – all of which demonstrate his complete inability to engage in serious, informed policy discussions. The idea behind a democratically-elected leader in a republic is that we choose someone who represents us at our best, not at our most base, ignorant, and ill-informed.

We must make it clear that the United States deserves its place at the head of the world’s table, and to do so we must clearly reject simplistic, childish solutions based on empty rhetoric and unsophisticated ignorance.

Misogyny and Abuse

Finally, in looking at the character of Donald Trump, it is inevitable that we examine the way he represents the worst caricature of white, male privilege and sexual entitlement, to a degree that would make the characters on Mad Men cringe. The most egregious example is undoubtedly Donald Trump’s claim that his celebrity allows him the freedom to sexually assault women without consequences. While Trump tried to dismiss this as “locker room talk,” women immediately recognized it as embodying the violent, predatory nature of sexual entitlement that has deep roots in male privilege, especially among the politically and professionally powerful men of Trump’s social tier. In addition to Trump’s own claims, the women around him are stepping forward to share their allegations that Trump sexually assaulted them, and barged in to ogle their naked, teenage bodies. Beyond that, we have Trump’s massive catalog of offensive, demeaning, and insulting statements about women. It is as if the GOP has decided to run as their standard bearer the platonic ideal of all of the worst stereotypes of the leering, groping, patronizing boss. Men like that have held power for far too long, and it is time to bring their reign to a close.

We must make it clear that the United States embodies a twenty-first century paradigm of leadership that is rooted in respect and inclusiveness, and that we reject the patriarchal traditions used to abuse women and diminish their power.

Conclusion

There is no need to use exaggeration, parody, or hyperbole to describe the ethos of the Trump campaign. In fact, none of those tools could approach the reality of Trump’s own words and actions. Sadly, the xenophobia, bigotry, recklessness, ignorance, chicanery, and explicit misogyny that define both Trump’s platform and his brand are deeply rooted in the shameful recesses of America’s past, the very past to which Trump has offered to return the nation by making America great “again.” This election will decide whether or not those “values” continue to define the politics of power in the United States. The alternative is for voters to step forward and send a clear, final message that those days are gone, that the America of the future is a place of inclusiveness, diversity, equality, thoughtfulness, accountability, and vision.

As terrible as Donald Trump is, this election is about more than just his candidacy. It is about defining the identity of the American people for the next generation. Trump’s shocking candor has left no ambiguity in the choice. Do we collapse back into the worst elements of our past, or do we unite and move forward? That is the choice that matters most on November 8.

Share This:Print this pageEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

The GOP is Not the Conservative Party

Oath of the Horatii - Jacque-Louis David (1784) (Wikimedia)

Oath of the Horatii – Jacque-Louis David (1784) (Wikimedia)

As Donald Trump’s campaign of racism, ignorance, and misogyny collapses around him, some members of the Republican Party are now, finally, trying to distance themselves from his candidacy. Their ongoing argument, especially after Trump’s spectacular defeat in November, will be that the Trump candidacy was an aberration, and that his views did not reflect the actual, “conservative,” values of the Grand Old Party. This will only be partially true. The fact is, Trump’s vainglorious lies and pleas to radical bigotry are not “conservative” values, but they are completely in line with the longstanding Republican practice of selling self-serving rhetoric to the American people under the guise of “conservatism.” In so doing, Republicans have shifted the debate away from meaningful discussions based on both facts and civic virtues, and toward a false dichotomy between their self-interest and the hypothetical liberalism that opposes it.

Defining Real Conservatism

Real conservatism is about preserving the hard-won, received wisdom of our ancestors rather than simply embracing something because it is novel. To be conservative is to value tradition, and to care more about the substance of an idea rather than whether or not it is au courant. To be conservative is to tread lightly in the presence of elders, or others deserving respect, because their struggles have earned them that courtesy. To be conservative is to cherish, preserve, and pass on the concepts, behaviors, and rituals that elevate us above our baser instincts and bring out what is best in ourselves: as individuals, as a community, and as a nation.

I have lived and worked in a number of settings that value actual, conservative values like honor and tradition. I graduated from the U.S. Army Airborne School in 1992, and in 1994 was the top graduate from my PLDC class, making Sergeant in under three years. Although it is not how I earn my income, I am a seminary graduate and a member of the clergy, and my post-seminary, graduate work focused on preserving the historic liturgies of the Church. I am currently a police firearms instructor whose work focuses on counter-terrorism and public safety. I am, by many definitions of the word, a “conservative,” but I vote straight down-ballot Democratic because the modern Republican Party shares none of my conservative values.

Republican Misappropriation of the Term

Instead, the GOP has come to shield two completely unacceptable behaviors behind the conveniently benign label of “conservative.” The first is defending bigotry and oppression under the guise of “religious” values, in other words equating “fundamentalist” with “conservative.” The second is lying – about science, about the Constitution, about the consequences and motivations of legislation – in the interest of protecting either wealth or power. There is nothing “conservative” about either category of action, and disingenuously labeling those actions as such does a great disservice to the spectrum of political discourse in this country, a conversation that is almost always framed as a dichotomy between “conservative” and “liberal.”

As a result of that framing, and of the misappropriation of the “conservative” label, actual conservative and liberal views get lumped together in the convenient binaries of political journalism as “liberal,” because the “conservative” position is already staked out. This means that there is no viable debate between conservative and liberal arguments, but rather simply between the Republican position and “everything else.” These Republican positions, as noted above, fall into one of two distinctly non-conservative categories: fundamentalism or self-service.

Equating Fundamentalism with Conservatism

Let’s begin with the issue of Christian fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is a modern movement that grew out of the resistance of some early twentieth-century Christian groups to the ways in which science undermined their superstitious understanding of faith. By the end of the twentieth century, whether in Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, fundamentalism had become primarily a tool by which those whose personal or political power is threatened by the modern world – generally men with little or no education – clung to that power by hiding their racism, bigotry, and misogyny behind religious rhetoric. Two clear examples of this are: the fundamentalist Christian opposition to the American Civil Rights Movement (until it became politically untenable); and, the oppression of women and suppression of free speech that resulted in Iran after the takeover of their government by fundamentalist theocrats, something many modern Iranians continue to oppose.

It makes sense to tie American and Iranian fundamentalism together because fundamentalism in a monotheistic religion typically has more in common with other forms of monotheistic fundamentalism than it does with ideas from its own religious tradition. This is to say, fundamentalist Christianity has more in common with fundamentalist Islam or fundamentalist Judaism than it does with traditional Christianity. The reason for this is that fundamentalism doesn’t grow organically out of the historic beliefs of the tradition, it grows out of a desire to gain or retain power, and to justify that power with religious rhetoric.

Conservative Christianity

Actual, conservative Christianity is concerned with preserving the teachings of Jesus as recorded in Scripture and as practiced in the early Church. This should be self-evident, since – to be “conservative” – the goal should be to conserve the full breadth of the earliest records we have of what it means to be a Christian. In practice, though, this leads to such radically difficult and counter-cultural behaviors that anyone who truly seeks to live this way stands out for how bizarre they are. A conservative Christian:

That’s what conservative Christianity looks like. Anything less is just culturally-conformist Christianity. Personally, I’m so far removed from that it seems like hubris to even call myself a Christian, but my one saving grace is knowing how far removed most of us are from such a high standard. Additionally, not all of the practices of the Early Church (most notably, slavery) are ones I would endorse. Others are so difficult that the few who manage to implement them consistently are called “saints.” Nonetheless, what the media and the GOP consider “conservative” Christianity ignores this theological reality and replaces it with a cobbled-together collection of ideas that reinforce a white, straight, male narrative that the world was better when they were in charge.

Republican Christianity

The GOP form of “conservative” Christianity claims to be counter-cultural because it counters certain social values of cosmopolitan, urban, American culture, but actual, conservative Christianity is genuinely counter-cultural – not just in New York City, but in Kansas City as well. The priorities of real, conservative Christianity are so radically different from everyone else’s that those who practice them lead lives of extreme poverty and asceticism in their desire to fully live out the clear mandates of Scripture. They fit in nowhere, because they are not of this world.

In those instances where Republicans concede that the biblical writers genuinely meant what they said on these issues, they make the disingenuous claim that Christians aren’t expected to use the tools of the state to compel the redistribution of wealth that defines Christian piety. Yet, on the very small number of issues that define “conservative” Christianity for fundamentalists and for the Republican Party – limiting women’s reproductive freedom (while ignoring the needs of those women and their existing children), LGBT rights, teaching an unscholarly approach to Scripture and myth alongside science, insisting on sexual abstinence, and controlling, in particular, female sexuality and appearance – the GOP has built its modern brand demanding that the government compel compliance with their extremely limited understanding of “conservative” Christianity. This is not because of any theological conviction on their part. Requiring political action and authority is essential to their message, because the goal is to use religious rhetoric to acquire political power.

Consequently, those who claim that fundamentalists and Republicans are preserving “conservative,” “Christian” values are committing blatant hypocrisy, both in ignoring the vast majority of Christian teachings and in building a political platform based on the government compelling compliance with their limited, sophomoric pietism. They are not “conserving” anything but a desire to impose their will, in a biblically and theologically inconsistent way, for a limited range of issues. Calling these views “conservative” does a disservice to actual conservatives, and gives these bigotries far more credibility than they deserve.

Protecting Self-Interest and Calling it “Conservatism”

This is even more blatantly true for the second category of shameful behavior that Republicans now cloak under the “conservative” label: telling lies to protect a vested interest of money, power, or both. In every instance where this happens, Republicans betray an actual conservative value while pushing forward an agenda that – while hiding behind the language of conservatism – is really just shameless egocentrism and self-preservation. Here are a few examples.

Traditionally, as Americans we believe in honoring and protecting the people who work the land, through their own sweat and muscle. Farmers built the backbone of our nation, and carved out the frontier that made our unprecedented growth and prosperity possible. Defending big corporations like Monsanto when they try to crush small farmers, especially when they try to destroy established farming practices that go back thousands of years, is not “conservative.”

Traditionally, as Americans, we value those who’ve worked their whole lives in hard jobs, not just the bosses who made millions off of them. We recognize the dignity of hard, back-breaking work, and we honor the debt we owe to those who do the jobs we cannot or will not do. Denying healthcare and pensions to coal miners is not “conservative,” especially if you shill to those same miners as a defender of the jobs created by the coal mining industry.

Traditionally, as Americans, we cherish the lush abundance of our natural resources. Poisoning the air and water, through processes like fracking, for short-term gain is not “conservative,” especially when you trample the rights of local communities to protect those resources. Denying the rights of our citizens to act through local government to protect the land that is our birthright is not a “conservative” act. Likewise, choosing profit over protecting our citizens’ health and the viability of our ecosystem conserves nothing, and destroys what we hold most dear.

Traditionally, as Americans, we privilege innovation and problem solving. The freedom that defines our nation has allowed our scientists to pursue truth, unfettered by political expediency or consequences. Silencing those scientists because their overwhelming consensus – that industrialization without strong environmental regulation is destroying the planet – hurts the bottom line of the wealthy is not “conservative.” There is also nothing “conservative” about the intentional, politicized scientific ignorance consistently displayed by the GOP, especially its members of Congress. Protecting the truth is a conservative value, no matter how high the price.

Traditionally, as Americans, we hold the right to vote as a sacred trust. Denying citizens that right through plainly partisan voter ID laws, limiting early voting, and inhibiting the votes of college students, all despite virtually no evidence of voter fraud in this country, is not “conservative” behavior. In fact, anything short of ensuring that every citizen has an easy and unimpeded access to voting, is hostile to the conservative, American value of preserving the constitutional rights of our citizens.

Traditionally, as Americans, we honor those who serve and sacrifice in the uniforms of the armed forces and of public safety. Refusing to: meet their needs, fund their physical and mental healthcare, assist them in re-entering the civilian work force, and protect them from the brutal health consequences of their heroism – that’s not “conservative.” In fact, it betrays every conservative value that defines us as a nation.

Choosing the wealth of the few over the freedom of all of our citizens whose work makes this country great, choosing short-term wealth over the long-term good of the country, ignoring facts and telling lies because they’re bad for business, denying civil rights because they are politically inconvenient, and refusing to care for our warfighters and first responders – these are the “values” that the GOP consistently defends and promulgates. Not a single one of them is “conservative,” yet the media’s acquiescence to the Republican insistence on that vocabulary and narrative creates a dichotomy where anyone who opposes this shameful agenda is, implicitly, a “liberal,” thus allowing the Republican agenda to proceed unhindered.

Concluding Thoughts

This pattern neither began nor ends with Donald Trump, but his campaign has taken full advantage of it. Decades of meaningless misappropriation of the “conservative” moniker has allowed countless Republicans to push an agenda that has consistently undermined the foundations of our country, while gleefully claiming that they are actually championing “conservative” causes. Trump is no different, he’s just more transparently fatuous than most Republicans, so his hypocrisy and doublespeak is easier to spot.

Once Trump disappears from the national stage, and the Republicans attempt to rebuild their party from the wreckage he leaves behind, it is important that the media and the general public refuse to allow the GOP to reclaim the “conservative” label that they and their party have hijacked and brutally abused. When Republican politicians argue for a fundamentalist position, it should be labelled as such: “Fundamentalist Christians assert that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity, while the majority of mainline Protestant denominations in the US disagree, although conservatives and liberals within those denominations continue to differ on what constitutes a Christian sexual ethic.” When Republican politicians argue for a position that is patently self-serving and not rooted in fact, the narrative should be: “On climate change, those who profit from or are funded by the fossil fuel industry deny its reality, whereas conservatives are looking for ways to create new jobs through the industries supporting environmental protection, and liberal activists want to stop the destruction of the environment, regardless of the cost.”

We need to hear conservative and liberal voices in our political dialogue. The modern Republican Party has consistently demonstrated that it is neither, but is instead a curious blend of the desperate bigotries of fundamentalism with the self-serving deceptions of the wealthy and powerful. Their use of the “conservative” label for their destructive agenda is an outright lie, one that threatens the freedoms, resources, and values that make the United States of America uniquely great. And the truth is, America has been and remains, great.

We don’t need to reclaim the nation’s greatness, we need to reclaim “conservative” ideology and language, and make them great again. It is imperative that we find a more precise vocabulary for discussing the implications of political decisions. In addition, we have to eschew the lazy habit of speaking in ill-informed generalizations about the attitudes of various demographic groups, especially diverse constituencies like “people of faith.” Finally, as an informed electorate, we need to insist on dialogue that ignores media or party-imposed labels and focuses instead on issues, values, and outcomes. Otherwise we cede far too much power to those who benefit from obfuscating the consequences of their agendas behind empty bombast.

Share This:Print this pageEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

On Talking “Dirty”

Sappho and Homer - Charles Nicolas Rafael Lafond

Sappho and Homer – Charles Nicolas Rafael Lafond (Wikimedia Commons)

I often speak in a blunt and explicit fashion about sex. I like having sex. I like thinking about sex. I sometimes meet attractive women and think, “I wonder what she looks like naked…” or “I wonder what she’s like in bed…” or “I wonder if she finds disappointing sexual performance amusing or just sad?”

I talk honestly about these things, and other sexual topics, with my friends because I think friends should talk about what’s on their mind, and what interests them. Leaving something many of us think about a lot, and are very interested in, off the table keeps us from building honest intimacy with those we love and trust.

I also think that the more open we are about our private thoughts, the easier it is to distinguish between what is healthy and what is unhealthy. Sex is a powerful desire, but one that gets channeled in countless unhealthy ways in our (and every) culture. Being open about it takes the stigma away, and allows thoughtful people to engage in real, meaningful discussions – without shame – about what constitutes healthy sexual expression.

Case in point. Some Trump apologists are referring to his jubilant claims of sexual assault as “locker room talk” or “private, boys-will-be-boys conversation.” No. Just…no. There’s a world of difference between: “Wow, oral sex is amazing. Isn’t everything better after a oral sex?” and “…when you’re a star, they’ll let you do it. You can do anything…Grab them by the pussy…You can do anything.”

One is sexually explicit, intimate conversation. The other is an endorsement of sexual assault.

We are all kinds of screwed up about sex in this culture, but listening to people confuse sexual assault with “dirty” talk is the most egregious example I have seen in a long time. We need a sexual ethic of healthy intimacy AND healthy honesty, but before we start working on that we need to draw a clear and explicit line that – no matter how wealthy and/or powerful you are – you are never, ever, under any circumstances entitled to sexually assault someone else.

Share This:Print this pageEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

Reflections on the Clinton Nomination

2016 DNC Logo

2016 DNC Logo (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

The nomination of Senator Hillary Clinton as our party’s candidate for President of the United States is one of those benchmark moments that gives us a hopeful glimpse into that just future, and reminds us how long it takes to get there.

The civil rights movement has grown to include important conversations about rights for persons of color, right for LGBT persons, rights for immigrants, and the concept of intersectionality. As those conversations continue, we must also remember that we have not completed the simple, obvious fight for equal rights for those people who are only set apart from the people in power by the fact that they still have ovaries instead of having had their ovaries turn into testicles in the womb.

At the 2016 Democratic Convention we finally saw a 102-year-old woman, whose life has spanned all three waves of feminism, declare her state’s delegates for a female candidate who is likely to be the next President of the United States. It has taken nearly the entire century since the Nineteenth Amendment has passed for her to see a major party nominate a woman for President.

I celebrate this milestone for what it represents about the progressive movement at its best – creating a world where prejudices, bigotries, and superstitions do not define people’s roles in society. I also view it as a cautionary reminder that, even on the most basic issues of equality, the work takes decades or even centuries, and the work is never done.

Even if we give lip service to the idea that we know the struggle for women’s rights in the West is an ongoing one, our practice as progressives undercuts the claim. We fight among each other as if the matter of equal rights – legally and culturally – for women were settled, scrabbling over minutiae and details and who the “real” feminists are. Meanwhile, it has taken a hundred years to go from women having the vote to a major political party putting forward a woman as their candidate.

Surely Jerry Emmett , and the other senior delegates, hoped it would happen in their lifetime and feared that it would never happen at all. I shared those hopes, and those fears. Hope, because it seemed like each generation was moving closer to the just future Dr. King spoke of in Montgomery. Fear, because – having gained some momentum and a seat at the table – whole segments of the feminist movement seemed to devour themselves and their allies.

I wonder how much harm we have done to basic progressive causes by attacking each other and fragmenting into tiny camps seeking to out-progressive our neighbors. I was born in the seventies, and saw – as a child – the victories of second wave feminism that made it possible for the leaders of third-wave feminism to have the freedom and social capital to attack each other for not being “real” TM feminists. I’ve watched people simultaneously defend gender and sex stereotypes when they found them personally affirming (and call that “feminism”) while simultaneously attacking gender and sex stereotypes when they found them offensive or counter-productive (and call that “feminism,” too).

All the while: female CEO’s, Senators, and Governors remain rare as hen’s teeth; disenfranchised men continue to vent their anger at successful women through threats of rape and other forms of violence online and in-person; and men who stay home to raise children, as well as women who go back to jobs outside their homes, face unfair stereotypes and expectations about their roles at home and in the workplace.

We turned on each other long before the fight was done, somehow thinking that our infighting would produce the final (as if there were such a thing) push into actual equality. Personally, I think we placed our energies in the wrong place, but equality means everyone should be equally free to fight for what matters to them, so I am glad that – at the very least – there is space for all of the competing voices of modern feminism to be heard. Nonetheless, the century it took to nominate a woman for President, fifty years after the Democratic party became the party of civil rights, reminds us that the original fight for basic equality of the sexes is far from over.

In this moment, then, I will celebrate this victory for what it is – a watershed moment in the long arc begun by the founding mothers of feminism when they fought back against the notion that women should have no say in how the world was run. There are people alive today who remember the era when denying even basic rights to women was “common sense,” and there are people alive today fighting to return to those good ol’ days and make America “great” again.

The nomination of Hillary Clinton stands as a beacon against the dark shadows of those days – past and yet to come. However convoluted and slow the path, we are nonetheless moving forward to a horizon that bends toward justice. My hope is that we will remember how hard-won this victory is, how long and difficult the road to that far horizon is, and that those of us to seek it will only get there if we overlook our factional differences and seek it together.

Share This:Print this pageEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

The GOP and the Destruction of Christianity

The Baptism of Constantine - Gianfrancesco Penni (Wikimedia)

The Baptism of Constantine – Gianfrancesco Penni (Wikimedia)

I’ve been fascinated by the critiques of my recent essay on how abundantly clear the obligatory, Christian response to the Syrian refugee crisis is. Some critics noted that they were glad Jesus didn’t determine our governmental policies. Others noted that “times were different” in Jesus’ era, and we can’t take his words out of context in an attempt to apply them to a modern circumstance.

So, in other words, despite the plain teachings of Jesus (and of the Hebrew Bible, c.f. Exodus 22:21-27; Leviticus 19:33-34, and countless other texts about “widows and orphans”), we should ignore the consistent voice of the biblical writers and the tradition because: times are different now, it wouldn’t be safe/practical, and personal religious belief shouldn’t determine public policy. The hypocrisy here surely needs no clarification, but, just to be safe, here goes.

Let’s begin with the idea that times are different now. When the topic is homosexuality, prominent figures within the Republican Party are quick to point out that God’s Word and will are unchanging. Mike Huckabee explains that we have not been given permission to change “God’s standard.” Ben Carson writes that he is not willing, in the interest of “political correctness” to disagree with God’s description of homosexuality as an “abomination.” Marco Rubio, in agreement with the teachings of his Roman Catholic faith, answers directly that homosexuality is a sin. Ted Cruz, strident in his opposition to same-sex marriage, believes its legalization is a threat to religious liberty. Apparently, when it comes to homosexuality, the GOP leadership sees no room whatsoever for considering the possibility that changes in historical context require interpreting biblical texts with nuance.

These same candidates are equally clear when it comes to their view of the relationship between Christianity and the United States government. Mike Huckabee believes that it is essential that the United States function as a “God-centered nation that understands that our laws do not come from man, they come from God.” He also believes that the Supreme Court “cannot overrule God.” Ben Carson talks of a “war” against those trying to turn America away from what he believes is its heritage as a Christian nation. Marco Rubio actually makes the bizarre claim that – unlike other nations where rights come from government and laws – part of America’s uniqueness is that we believe “your rights come from your creator.” Ted Cruz launched his political campaign at a prominent, fundamentalist Christian university with language that makes his run for president sound like a crusade to reclaim the Holy Land. The leaders of the Republican party are not shy in their rhetoric about America as a Christian nation that is obligated to follow Christian principles.

They stay steadfast in their support of “Christian” political principles, right up to the point where those principles conflict with their right-wing ideology. Mike Huckabee, in what one hopes in not a demonstration of his pastoral understanding of Christian compassion, compares Syrian refugees to “tainted meat.” Ben Carson believes that our “big frontal lobes” should inform us that accepting Syrian refugees is not a good idea. Marco Rubio, demonstrating a significant lack of understanding of the refugee process, said simply that we can’t take more refugees. Ted Cruz actually wants to establish a religious test for potential refugees, accepting the Christians and sending the Muslims elsewhere.

Cruz might want to re-read his Bible. The biblical witness is abundantly and overwhelmingly clear that Christians have a moral obligation – even if it means personal risk – to help those who come to us in time of need, even if they do not share our faith. Yet, without irony, the political leaders who shout the loudest that “Christian values” should determine our government’s laws and policies are the same ones who are most eager to slam the door on the refugees hoping to find a safe haven on our shores. Apparently, the GOP leadership believes that we are a Christian nation, whose rights are derived from God’s will and benevolence; and, that we are expected to adhere completely to God’s stated laws as clearly expressed in the Bible; but, none of that applies when it comes to providing shelter for the weak and wounded who have been ravaged by war. How is it possible that the blatant and explicit hypocrisy of that set of beliefs is going unchallenged within the Republican party and among their political base?

The simple answer is that the GOP, along with their public relations arm Fox News, has so fully conscripted, prostituted, and re-invented “Christianity” that – in public perception, even among self-identified Christians – it is inseparable from the fringe-right ideology of the Republican political machine. Far too many people have come to assume, without critical reflection on the actual words of Scripture or the history of biblical interpretation, that whatever the right wing of American politics recommends must be the “Christian” approach. If there was ever any doubt that the “family values” movement was not about families, and that “Christian nation” policies are not about making sure our government acts in a Christian manner, the response of far-right politicians to the Syrian refugee crisis is the unequivocal proof.

Co-opting the Christian banner in this way is hardly surprising when political leaders do it, but the willingness of religious leaders and rank-and-file Christians to follow blindly along is deeply disturbing. The problem is not just that granting fringe-right politicians free reign with the label “Christian” allows them to advance their xenophobic and reactive agenda without scrutiny or critique, although that is certainly a grave threat. Of equal concern for those of us who love the Church is the possibility that the unique and transcendent identity of the gospel will be lost, as Christianity simply becomes a synonym for fundamentalism and right-wing ideology.

If Republican politicians have their way, that is the dark and terrible future of faith in America, one that is – ironically – not unlike the ways in which the Taliban and Daesh use religious rhetoric to gain support for their own regressive policies. The only way to prevent it is for individual citizens to refuse to accept the cognitive dissonance and blatant hypocrisy of politicians’ haphazard use of Scripture to justify whatever agenda serves their purposes. Simply put, when politicians claim they are advocating for “biblical truths” and a “Christian nation,” they are lying, and the responses to the Syrian refugee crisis is the inarguable evidence to that effect. As citizens concerned with the integrity of our political process, and as Christians concerned with the integrity of our faith, we cannot allow that to stand.

Share This:Print this pageEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn