Why I’d rather lose my religious liberty than vote for Donald Trump

Why I’d rather lose my religious liberty than vote for Donald Trump

“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

And while Donald Trump said this of women, it’s been more true of his relationship with the Religious Right.

In short, Donald Trump has treated the bride of Christ just like the other married women in that disgusting audio recording. Yet unlike more honorable brides, some evangelical leaders have done nothing to resist his self-serving advances.

This, indeed, is a profound mystery. But I am talking about Trump and the church.

prolifememe

To be honest, I thought I’d written my last post on this subject.

Then came the audio of Trump bragging about his sexual assaults. And yes, that is the proper word for it (You just “Grab them by the p—y; you can do anything!”).

So here we are. Once more unto the breach.

In past posts (for newcomers):

  • I lamented the fact that democracy gives you the candidates you deserve (here);
  • I predicted that despite playing coy initially, evangelicals would ultimately flock to Trump (here) like moths to an orange and hairspray-fueled flame.
  • And I argued that choosing the “lesser of two evils” is not always a rule to live by (here).
  • I’ve also made it clear, that I am no fan of Trump’s main opponent.
  • And I suggested (here) that, for me personally, focusing my voting energy on local and statewide issues is a solution to the high-stakes game of “Would you rather…?” that is the Presidential race.

Along slightly different lines, I also appreciated my pastor’s wise advice to think for yourself, to think biblically, and to vote accordingly.

This post, however, is about a different topic.

THE “RELIGIOUS LIBERTY” ARGUMENT

As many of my Christian friends more-or-less concede, Donald Trump is a lecherous braggart with no serious proposals, the temperament of a toddler, and a penchant for racism and misogyny.

But… they say… We still must vote for him, because if we don’t, we’ll lose our religious liberties. And that “trumps” everything.

I respect people who say this.

And indeed, one of the things I like about academics is that we often disagree (even in print), not because we dislike one another, but because critique brings clarity, and that helps us all.

In fact, amongst esteemed professors, the way you honor someone is to gather their friends from around the globe, and publically critique their work. 🙂

And while that may seem strange, there is something beautiful about it too, because it says that even severe disagreement need not sever friendship.

(Now back to the issue.)

THE GRAIN OF TRUTH

As best I can tell, the logic of the “religious liberty” argument runs as follows:

Christianity is under attack. And if we don’t elect this admittedly horrible person, we will face further marginalization in the future.

(Note: I toned down the prior sentence in the editing process. Originally, it read: “orange-tinted sexual predator,” but I will not say that. Many others are saying it. I will not.)

And to be honest, there are bits of the religious liberty narrative to which I’m somewhat sympathetic.

It concerns me that our culture has confused “tolerance” with “agreement” (see here). And there are some areas in which liberty has been eroded.

The problem, however, is not just that the threat is sometimes exaggerated.

The deeper issue is the assumption that Christians should publicly join themselves with truly horrible individuals (and ideas) in exchange for promised “favors.”

That’s not prophetic witness. It’s closer to prostitution.

THE EVANGELICAL FUTURE

And my fear, which is rapidly materializing, is that American evangelicalism will suffer permanent damage for its shameful part in Trump’s doomed and degenerate campaign.

Here are just a few:

  • We will increasingly be seen as a “White’s only” movement – and if you don’t believe that, just ask my black and Latino students.
  • We will increasingly be known as a misogynistic movement, which has been a concern already, given the way certain evangelicals have tried to keep women from serving in leadership roles.
  • And we will increasingly be an “over sixty” movement, because one needs only to look at the Stats to see that my own generation has little stomach for Trump, or for those who try to force us into supporting him in the name of Jesus.

White guys. Over sixty.

That is not the kingdom of God.

But it is in danger of becoming “American evangelicalism.”

MY PERSONAL OPINION

So what’s my personal answer to the religious liberty argument?

Here it is:

As a Christian, and a father of two girls, I would rather lose every shred of my religious freedom than align myself with this truly vile human being.

In fact, I would rather have Christianity assailed from without (by liberalism) than corrupted from within.

As history shows, we can survive being marginalized. We can even survive persecution (though the “p-word” is sometimes overused by the Religious Right).

But we cannot so easily survive brazen complicity with the worst elements of human behavior. Nor do we deserve to.

So, yes, I still care deeply about abortion, the supreme court, religious liberty, and everything else.

But as Christ’s bride, I will not be treated like that married woman who Trump took “furniture shopping” in an effort to buy her body.

I did try and f— her. She was married. And I moved on her very heavily.

Some things are more important than “furniture.”

And some things are more important than political favors.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.


Now a brief addition to the original post to address a common critique:

I should probably clarify at this point, what I am NOT saying.  I am not saying (as some seem to think) that we, as Christians should simply “give away” our liberties or treat them lightly (Thus, the intentional use of the word “lose” instead of “give” in my admittedly hyperbolic title).

Since true liberties are given by God, they should not be encroached upon by anyone.  Period.  Nor should they be “given up” without right resistance. I’m not proposing that we stop caring about religious liberty–in fact, I explicitly state that I do care about it, and that there are areas of concern.

What I am saying is that the church should stay true to Christ and his values (which, for me, means saying “No” to both candidates). And if that means having to face further marginalization in the future, then we must face that also by staying true to Christ.

Nothing is gained by linking arms with a truly destructive and dangerous candidate simply because he promises certain favors to one particular group. In sum, I do not think this is a particularly controversial idea and there is ample precedent for it in the Scriptures.

 

 

In Your Anger, Do Not Sin

In Your Anger, Do Not Sin

Question: How many of your best decisions have emerged from a fit of seething rage?

Last week, as I watched interviews with disgruntled BREXIT voters, a common theme emerged. Several had voted “Leave” as a way of expressing the anger of being left behind by their economy. They were upset, and perhaps for some good reasons.

Yet as the pound plummeted, markets dived, and the (potential) implications of the vote set in, some on the “winning” side expressed regret:

“It was simply a protest vote. I was angry. I felt like no one was listening, and I wanted to voice my frustration. I wish we could have a do-over.”

Comedians had a field day.

Despite the humor, this also brings up a serious point: Anger can be both warranted and dangerous. When we’re angry, we don’t think clearly. We throw off cost-benefit analysis, and sometimes, it comes back to bite us.

Thus the ancient words of Paul:

“In your anger, do not sin” (Eph. 4.26).

Or to paraphrase: “In your anger, don’t be stupid.”

WHY ANGER IS NEEDED

It is important, however, to note what Paul does not say. His command is not “Don’t be angry.”

Anger can be righteous and redemptive. Jesus got angry. And if things like hunger, racism, and gross incompetence don’t raise your ire, then there is something wrong with you.

When guided by the Spirit, anger can be the spark that lights the fuse of righteous action. Yet a controlled demolition of unjust structures is what’s needed, not a random bombing of anything in the vicinity. Anger (like TNT) is capable of both.

WHY ANGER IS NOT A VIRTUE

While anger jolts us out of apathy, it is not a virtue. If seen as one, then we end up assuming (wrongly) that the shrillest voice is that of wisdom. It is not.

Several commentators saw this phenomenon behind the rise of Donald Trump. While other candidates said: “I understand your anger,” Trump yelled “I am the angriest!” and then set out to show IN ALL CAPPS that he was the most fiery option on menu—a habanero amongst bell peppers; a boy amongst men. It worked. For awhile.

But few people enjoy an exclusive diet of habaneros for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are—how shall we put it—digestive repercussions. And the same is true with anger.

MY ANGER ISSUES

I wish I were immune from this.

I’m not.

This is “moving week” for us, which has involved one-hundred degree temps, inspectors who can find safety violations in a bar of soap, a moving company that suddenly does not have the truck we “reserved” (word used loosely), a scheduling mistake by PSO that delayed necessary repairs, and an electrician who turned out not to be licensed, leaving us with an expensive job that the city would not approve. Add to this three small children, a funeral message, a Sunday sermon, and (oh yeah) actually moving, and it was a volatile cocktail.[1]

All this came to a head as I worked to remove belongings from an attic that made Dante’s Inferno seem like a crisp fall day. “Why do we even have this [stuff]!?” I fumed. And instead of carrying said belongings down the stairs, I began to launch them through the attic opening as if I were manning the bomb bay in an old-time Flying Fortress. To complete the metaphor, several exploded.

It felt really good. Until I had to clean it up.

Sic semper ira.

Thus always with anger.

CONCLUSION

 

In sum, this post is simply a reiteration of the apostle Paul, said mostly to myself.

“In your anger, do not sin.” Also:

Realize that some things are not worth getting angry about.

Take a deep breath.

Don’t take things out on innocent bystanders.

And in your anger, don’t make a mess that takes far longer to cleanup than the one you were angry about in the first place.

Now, off to move more boxes…

 


 

[1] In truth, all these problems eventually worked out better than I could have hoped for. But in the moment, things were frustrating.

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: On Democracy, Deservedness, and Donald Trump

The problem with democracy, according to the old adage, is that “you get the leaders you deserve” (Joseph de Maistre).

Which raises the question: What are we doing to deserve someone like Donald Trump?

Trump
Photo by Gage Skidmore.

For many of us, the fact that someone like him has made it this far is enough to trigger acid reflux.

It is an indictment of our culture, and it raises questions.

Questions like: Is this really happening?

Are Americans really nominating a reality TV star with a penchant for misogyny that is matched only by his love of spray tans, xenophobia, narcissism, and a braggadocios meanness?

Yep.

In fairness, my suspicion is that there is enough blame to go around for the rise of Trump, and it extends to both sides of the aisle. Both parties have failed working class Americans, and there is justifiable frustration with certain currents of political correctness. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. And so the pendulum swings, until it puts an eye out.

Still, such moments are useful for some soul searching. And as a theology professor, that’s the part I’m interested in.

Consider the following:

Not long ago, when the optimism of the Arab Spring turned to the eternal winter of sectarian violence, I recall hearing something like the following applied to places like Egypt, as well as elsewhere:

Some cultures (read: Muslims) can’t handle democracy, because if given the chance, their angry and ignored constituencies will choose violent and abusive leaders—immoral opportunists—who will stoke the pent up passions of the mob and smash dissenting voices in a wave of sanctioned violence.

Such arguments carry more than hint of cultural superiority, if not outright racism.

Yet as I watched a U.S. presidential frontrunner openly, and on more than one occasion, incite supporters to violence in exchange for legal fees(!), I wondered if there was perhaps a grain of truth to the above contention. Not in Egypt, mind you—with the Muslim Brotherhood—but here.

At the risk of repetition, I’m not saying that the angrier-than-thou supporters of “the great orange-haired unintended consequence” don’t have reasons for their outrage. As Marilynn Robinson phrased it:

“The public is exasperated by the political system to the point that it is enjoying a kind of catharsis, the indiscriminate smashing of things as performance art.”

That sounds accurate.

And when you’re angry, it feels good to smash things.

Yet when the demolition is directed against the very house you live in, the catharsis comes at quite a cost. If the political fire you set is in your living room, then you stand to lose some things in this bonfire of inanities.

So what’s the takeaway?

Despite everything, my assumption is that democracy–that worst of all forms of human governance, except for all the others–is a gift of inestimable value. And like all gifts, not least of all God’s grace, we can’t deserve it.

Yet as any parent might say to a child engaged in such gleefully destructive Christmas present smashing:

“This is why we can’t have nice things.”

And if it continues, we won’t.

 

 

NB: This post should not be taken as a tacit endorsement of any other political candidate or party. And if you are a Donald Trump supporter, I still love you, so please don’t sucker punch me.