Married Presbyterian Pastors

Protestants do not receive nearly the credit they should for seeing 500 years ago what George Weigel recently observed (and it took Hillary Clinton — a Methodist).

First, marriage can be a good thing:

The Church’s unique, Christ-given structure invests great authority in bishops. And that, in turn, puts a high premium on the ability of the bishop to know his weaknesses and learn from his mistakes. But to know and learn from his weaknesses and mistakes, the bishop has to recognize them – or be invited to recognize them, if one of a number of vices prevents him from seeing himself making mistakes. Wives and children do this charitable correction for husbands and fathers. But Catholic bishops don’t get that form of correction because they don’t have wives and children. So it has to come from somewhere else.

Second, regular assemblies of clergy (think presbyteries or classes) also have their advantages:

“Fraternal correction” among bishops is an ancient and honorable tradition in the Church. Patristic-era bishops practiced it with some vigor, the most famous case being the controversy between Cyprian of Carthage and Stephen, Bishop of Rome. Today, bishops’ respect for each other’s autonomy tends to mitigate against the practice of fraternal correction. Still, if “affective collegiality” means anything, it ought to mean having enough care for a brother-bishop, no matter his position in the episcopal college, to suggest to him that he is off-course, if that is one’s conscientious judgment, tempered by prayer.

Fraternal correction is a delicate instrument, to be used with care. If its use completely atrophies, however, the Church risks becoming an ecclesiastical version of Clintonworld.

Hello! The conciliarists of the 15th century knew this. But when you hold on to “venerable” institutions, it’s hard to change (or admit when you do).

Advertisements

When You’re In the Business of Righteous Politics, It’s Hard to See the Beam in Your Own Eye

The BeeBee’s don’t seem to care for Kenneth Woodward’s complaint about the Democrats’ politics of righteousness, but the former religion editor for Newsweek and ongoing Roman Catholic makes a lot of sense. Who knew the Democrats were the Moral Majority before Jerry Falwell formed the Moral Majority?

The party’s alienation from the white working class began in the streets of Chicago outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention. There, antiwar protesters and activists for a host of countercultural causes fought the police of Mayor Richard J. Daley while the nation watched on television. As President Bill Clinton later observed in the first volume of his memoirs, Vietnam was only one point of contention in what was really a wider clash between generations, social classes and moral cultures:

“The kids and their supporters saw the mayor and the cops as authoritarian, ignorant, violent bigots. The mayor and his largely blue-collar police force saw the kids as foul-mouthed, immoral, unpatriotic, soft, upper-class kids who were too spoiled to appreciate authority, too selfish to appreciate what it takes to hold a society together, too cowardly to serve in Vietnam …”

The 1968 convention marked the end of the New Deal coalition that had shouldered Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson to the White House. It wasn’t that white working-class Americans turned away from the party so much as that political reformers representing the young, the newly wealthy, the suburban and the higher educated deliberately cut party ties with them. “Boss” Daley, the authoritarian Irish Catholic mayor from the blue-collar Bridgeport neighborhood, became the poster boy for all that was “bigoted” and socially regressive in neighborhood-based, white ethnic America.

The new era

Over the next four years, a commission on party structure and delegate selection, with Sen. George McGovern as chairman, introduced a series of reforms ensuring that, culturally as well as politically, the delegates to the 1972 Democratic convention would resemble the young activists who had battled the police in Chicago more than delegates who had been seated inside. The McGovern Commission, as it came to be called, established state primaries that, in effect, abolished the power of the old city and state bosses, most of whom came from white ethnic stock. The commission also established an informal quota system for state delegations to assure greater representation of racial minorities, youths and women that by 1980 became a mandate that half of every state delegation must be women.

The 1972 Democratic platform formally introduced the party’s commitment to identity politics. Rejecting “old systems of thought,” the platform summoned Democrats to “rethink and reorder the institutions of this country so that everyone — women, blacks, Spanish speaking, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans, the young and the old — can participate in the decision-making process inherent in the democratic heritage to which we aspire.” There was also this: “We must restructure the social, political and economic relationships throughout the entire society in order to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth and power.” The delegates put flesh on these lofty moral commitments by adding a plank commending the forced busing of students in order to achieve racial balance in public schools. Blue-collar Boston exploded.

McGovern naively took for granted the traditional party loyalty of union leaders and the white working class. But these pillars of the New Deal collation recognized that McGovern’s creation of a new “coalition of conscience” built around opposition to the war, identity politics and a redistribution of wealth excluded some of their own conscientiously held moral convictions. McGovern went on to lose every state but Massachusetts and the District of Columbia — and with them the party allegiance of blue-collar workers, union leaders and — what often amounted to the same voters — conservative Roman Catholics.

Jimmy Carter was not a member of McGovern’s coalition of conscience: He had his own powerful sense of moral righteousness, one he derived from his Southern Baptist heritage of personal rectitude rather than McGovern’s secularized Methodist heritage of moral uplift and social reconstruction. There was much in that mix that was admirably righteous, especially the instinct to protect racial and sexual minorities from social oppression. The problem is that pursuing righteousness by expanding individual rights at the expense of communal values often creates greater social conflict. As sociologist Robert Bellah argued in 1991, “rights language itself offers no way to evaluate competing claims.” One side wins, the other loses.

Shazzam! You mean that entering the public square with the certainty that you are pursuing holiness and your opponents are depraved is bad for The Union? You mean “I’m right and you’re wrong” is divisive? Who knew? (Actually, most married couples do.)

How the Mind Works

Consider two different takes on Russia’s involvement in the recent presidential election. The first from my friend and evangelical historian colleague, John Fea:

At the 2:45 mark in the video Smerconish wonders why Americans of all parties are not upset with the fact that Putin and Russia has influenced a presidential election. If Smerconish is correct, and I tend to think that he is, then “identity politics” (or, as Little puts it, just good old fashioned political partisanship) has now gotten in the way of the national security interests of all Americans, regardless of political party.

Yes, the Cold War is over. The Soviet Union has been gone for over 25 years. But if Putin represents some kind of revival of the Russian threat (as Mitt Romney correctly implied during his 2012 presidential run) then it looks are response to this threat will not follow the Cold War model of unified resistance. Whatever collective outrage we have had in the past about Russians trying to influence American life seems to have now been subordinated to party politics.

Then this from James Kunstler:

The New York Times especially worked the “Russia Hacks Election” story to a fare-the-well, saying in its Sunday edition:

The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Moscow put its thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump through the release of hacked Democratic emails, which provided fodder for many of the most pernicious false attacks on Mrs. Clinton on social media.

False attacks? What, that Hillary’s cronies put the DNC’s “thumb on the scale” against Bernie Sanders? That Donna Brazille gave Hillary debate questions beforehand? That as Secretary of State Hillary gave more face-time to foreign supplicants based on their contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and expedited arms deals for especially big givers? That she collected millions in speaking fees for sucking up to Too-Big-To-Fail bankers? That The Times and The WashPo and CNN reporters were taking direction from Hillary’s PR operatives?

Consider, too, how the Deep State “Russia Hacks Election” meme was ramped up to top volume coincidentally the week before the electoral college vote, as a last-ditch effort was launched by the old-line media, the diehard Hillary partisans, and a bunch of Hollywood celebrities, to persuade electoral college delegates to switch their votes to deprive Trump of his election victory.

President Obama did his bit to amplify the message by coloring Russian President Vladimir Putin as being behind the so-called hacking because “not much happens in Russia without, you know, Vladimir Putin,” just like not much happened in old Puritan New England without the involvement of Old Scratch. So now we have an up-to-date Devil figure to stir the paranoid imaginations of an already divided and perturbed public.

In John’s and my world, lots of exchanges go round about w-w, what difference faith makes for scholarship, and (John more than I) whether historians add value to discussions of contemporary events. Perhaps the question too often left out is what accounts for the trust that people put in large scale institutions — from the New York Times to the Central Intelligence Agency. I bet that Kunstler isn’t much impressed by powerful institutions. In fact, he seems to know as watchers of The Wire do that institutions and the individuals who work in them are prone to self-interest and corruption. I don’t want to put words in John’s mouth, but he does seem to share with many other academics a trust in the mainstream media.

Is that what history teaches us?

Christianity?

W-w thinking?

Maybe the world is divided between those who put their hopes in princes (depending on the party occupying the White House), and those who think that Progressives were wrong, that there is no “right side of history,” that it’s all “vanity under the sun.”

Not to be missed, though, in Kunstler’s post was this:

Hillary and her supporters have vehemently asserted that “seventeen intelligence agencies” agree with the assessment that Russia hacked the election. It might be greater news to the American people to hear that there actually are seventeen such agencies out there. Perhaps Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama might explain exactly what they are beyond the CIA, the FBI, the DIA, the NSA, and DHS. Personally, I feel less secure knowing that there are so many additional surveillance services sifting through everybody’s digital debris trail.

Exactly. Well, not exactly since I’m not sure what U.S. spies would actually do with my ordinary digital footprint. But 17 intelligence agencies. Where’s the academic left’s outrage over President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s compromise with the Bush Administration’s draconian surveillance state? Can we get an “amen” for original sin and power’s corruption?

Localism is Great (beats pretty good) as Long as Charles Taylor is Your Neighbor

Joshua Rothman has a thoughtful piece on Charles Taylor and ends on a surprisingly hopeful note considering the recent election and how fly-over country voted:

[Taylor] is in favor of localism and “subsidiarity”—the principle, cited by Alexis de Tocqueville and originating in Catholicism, that problems should be solved by people who are nearby. Perhaps, instead of questing for political meaning on Facebook and YouTube, we could begin finding it in projects located near to us. By that means, we could get a grip on our political selves, and be less inclined toward nihilism on the national scale. (It would help if there were less gerrymandering and money in politics, too.)

One imagines what this sort of rooted, meaningful democracy might look like. A political life centered on local schools, town governments, voluntary associations, and churches; a house in the woods with the television turned off. Inside, family members aren’t glued to their phones. They talk, over dinner, about politics, history, and faith, about national movements and local ones; they feel, all the time, that they’re doing something. It’s a pastoral vision, miles away from the media-driven election we’ve just concluded. But it’s not a fantasy.

But what about Phil Robertson’s community? Not even the Gospel Allies are willing to countenance those parts of America:

That “cultural curtain” prevents Robertson from seeing the reality of the Jim Crow era, allowing him to look back in wistful fondness. Yet I think there is also a personal element that keeps the former “white trash” farmhand from seeing the segregation of his youth as it truly was.

Robertson makes it clear that he didn’t come to Christ until the late 1970s. During the 1960s he was abusing drugs and alcohol, cheating on his wife, and hiding out in the woods to prevent being arrested by the authorities. His former fellow farmworkers might look on the 1960s as an era when African Americans were gaining access to long-overdue civil rights. But for Robertson, that decade was a time of self-destruction and familial strife. Since then Robertson has turned his life over to God and become, to use his catchphrase, “Happy, happy, happy.” In his mind, godliness is equated with happiness.

That is why I believe that when Robertson looks back on his youth, what he sees is not African Americans suffering under the evil of segregation, but men and women who were godly, and thus obviously had what he has now: a happiness that transcends mortal woes. He seems to think that because they were godly, the exterior signs of happiness (singing, smiling, etc.) can be construed as a sign of their having inner peace, if not peace with the world. It’s a noble, if naïve, idealization of his neighbors.

Does that noble intent excuse his insensitive remarks about the segregated South? Not at all. Robertson is a public figure and when he gives interviews in the media, he must take responsibility for how his words are perceived. While I believe he was attempting to pay tribute to the African-American Christians who preceded him in the faith, he has inadvertently offended many of his African American brothers and sisters.

And so it looks like the Gospel Industrial Complex is a much on the side of President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s one-world order as they are part of an organizational enterprise that disdains denominational attachments (is Tim Keller Presbyterian?). Can anyone imagine an evangelical academic or preaching/teaching celebrity writing what Damon Linker did about universalistic cosmopolitanism and humanitarian liberalism?

any outlook that resists or rejects humanitarianism is an atavistic throwback to less morally pristine times, with the present always superior to the past and the imagined even-more-purely humanitarian future always better still.

Concerned about immigrants disregarding the nation’s borders, defying its laws, and changing its ethnic and linguistic character? Racist!

Worried that the historically Christian and (more recently) secular character of European civilization will be altered for the worse, not to mention that its citizens will be forced to endure increasing numbers of theologically motivated acts of terrorism, if millions of refugees from Muslim regions of the world are permitted to settle in the European Union? Islamophobe!

Fed up with the way EU bureaucracies disregard and override British sovereignty on a range of issues, including migration within the Eurozone? Xenophobe!

As far as humanitarian liberals are concerned, all immigrants should be welcomed (and perhaps given access to government benefits), whether or not they entered the country illegally, no matter what language they speak or ethnicity they belong to, and without regard for their religious or political commitments. All that matters — or should matter — is that they are human. To raise any other consideration is pure bigotry and simply unacceptable.

Earlier forms of liberalism were politically wiser than this — though the wisdom came less from a clearly delineated argument than from observation of human behavior and reading of human history. “Love of one’s own” had been recognized as a potent and permanent motive force in politics all the way back to the beginning of Western civilization, when Homer and Sophocles depicted it and Plato analyzed it. It simply never occurred to liberals prior to the mid-20th century that human beings might one day overcome particularistic forms of solidarity and attachment. They took it entirely for granted that individual rights and civic duties needed to be instantiated in particulars — by this people, in this place, with this distinctive history and these specific norms, habits, and traditions.

But now liberals have undergone a complete reversal, treating something once considered a given as something that must be extricated root and branch.

If people gave up their particular attachments easily, conceding their moral illegitimacy, that might be a sign that the humanitarian ideal is justified — that human history is indeed oriented toward a universalistic goal beyond nations and other forms of local solidarity. But experience tells us something else entirely. The more that forms of political, moral, economic, and legal universalism spread around the globe, the more they inspire a reaction in the name of the opposite ideals. The Western world is living through just such a reaction right now.

That means, of course, that Phil Robertson’s family, neighborhood, and church might harbor expressions that other people find objectionable. But since when did we think that people will always be easy to like and say things that make us feel happy? I guess the answer is — as long as we have been rearing children who go to college and expect to find nothing more challenging to their well being than cookies and milk (aside from the frat parties). Still, I wonder if those kids were accepted at every elite university to which they applied. If they received a rejection letter, did they burn the U.S. flag?

What Am(mmmeeeEEEE) I Missing?

A few more observations about religious journalism after the news that Books & Culture is ending its run next month. A couple of evangelical academics have taken this news about the way that I felt when I heard that Chris Hughes had bought the New Republic and its editorial staff resigned.

According to Alan Jacobs:

For twenty-one years, Books and Culture has been one of the most consistently interesting magazines in the English-speaking world. I have often been surprised at the number and range of people who agree with me about that. Alex Star, a former editor of the New York Times Magazine and now an editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, once told me that he read every issue in full. Cullen Murphy, former editor of the Atlantic, told me that John Wilson is the best editor in the business.

Chris Gehrz seconds Jacobs:

… in any event, it’s certainly a good moment to celebrate what John Wilson has been able to accomplish over twenty years of editing B&C — and how much I appreciate that he has gone out of his way to encourage young authors and scholars. Thanks, John, and all those who have made Books & Culture possible these last twenty-one years.

Both authors mention personal ties to John Wilson and my own relations to the magazine no doubt inform my reaction to the news which is a measure of sadness, especially for people who are losing the jobs. But I can’t say I’ll miss B&C because I haven’t subscribed to it for years.

One reason was precisely those young writers that Gehrz believes John Wilson cultivated. For me that was a fault of John Wilson’s powers as gate keeper for what could have been the jewel in intellectual evangelicalism’s crown. If you want to point to the rich treasures of the evangelical mind, why not turn to its intellectual statesmen and make your publication evangelicalism’s go to place for your movement’s most insightful writers? But evangelicalism suffers from an implicit egalitarianism that elevates the ideas and opinions of the novice and untested to the same worth as the tried and true.

This was exactly what Leon Wieseltier refused to do with the New Republic. In the “back of the book” he turned to some of the academy’s best minds (including Mark Noll) and gave them lots of room to explore a range of ideas that — sorry — B&C never approximated.

Maybe it is apples and oranges, but I doubt Jean Bethke Elshtain could have evaluated Hillary Clinton for John Wilson the way she did for Wieseltier:

I am no a family-above-all person. Some families are rotten and the children in those families should be spirited to safety as quickly as possible. But truly rotten families are, thank God, few and far between. More commonly we have good enough families or almost good enough ones. How high do we place the threshhold in assessing good and bad parenting? Whose business is it anyway? Here Clinton makes one of the more lamentable moves in her book. She is dead-on about the importance of being attuned to the needs of infants, feeding them, cuddling them, holding them, but in a discussion of the fact that there is not “substitute for regular, undivided attention from parents” we learn that the “biggest difference” that emerged from a study she cites and endorses, was “in the sheer amount of talking that occurred” in various households. It is no surprise that Clinton favors the chattering classes, but she proceeds to malign poor and working-class parents because they interact less with their children….

Like Clinton, I recoil when I hear a parent shout at a child. I, too, cringe when a parent is curt, abrupt and dismissive. But I recognize that this is not the same thing as neglect, not the same thing as abuse. Perhaps, as the late Christopher Lasch insisted, the working-class or lower-middle-class style aims to instill in children a tough, early recognition that life is not a bowl of cherries, not a world in which everyone is telling you how great you are; that their lives will be carried out in a world in which they tasks they are suited for, the jobs they do, the lives they live, and even the way they talk (or do not talk) will be scrutinized and found wanting by their “betters.” I know that Clinton would argue, in response, that she means no invidious comparison. But the comparison is there and it is invidious. According to her book, the higher the income and education, the better the parenting, all other things being equal….Don’t get me wrong. As a general rule, children shouldn’t have to…[suffer]. And no group of children should be stuck in such a situation as a permanent condition. But life is hard, and its necessities bear down on people. In the light of such recognitions, it is best at times to restrain ourselves and not rush to intervene and fix everything and tell people struggling against enormous odds that they are doing a crummy job. Sometimes Clinton understands this, sometimes she doesn’t.

Michelle Obama is the Most Christian First Lady Ever

Okay, I’m borrowing a claim already made elsewhere about the First Lady’s husband.

But it is instructive when blessing Hillary Clinton as the Christian candidate in this year’s presidential contest to remember what Mrs. Obama said about Mrs. Clinton.

First, the baptism of Clinton (by a Fuller Seminary turned Yale University theologian no less):

The best case to be made for Hillary Clinton is that on balance she better represents the convictions and character that should concern Christian citizens. No candidate is perfect. There are certainly areas where Secretary Clinton’s policies and record might give Christians pause. But she takes the threat posed by climate change seriously. Her policies, such as paid family leave, would actually strengthen American families. She is committed to a just and welcoming approach to immigration that does not unduly compromise the legitimate good of security. She supports major reforms to America’s overly retributive and racially-biased criminal justice system. And, perhaps most importantly, she has demonstrated much deeper commitment to supporting the disadvantaged and the vulnerable than her opponent has, his grandiose rhetoric notwithstanding.

Second, keep in mind what Obama said about Clinton:

One of the important aspects of this race is role modeling what good families should look like. And my view is that if you can’t run your own house, you certainly can’t run the White House. Can’t do it.

Of course, Mrs. Obama and the president have not always been so discerning about certain popular entertainers or the lyrics to their songs which rival most of what Donald Trump has said.

Still, sorting out the Christianness of the candidates and their observers is getting really hard to do especially when partisanship clouds judgment.

Would Ron Sider Trust Richard Nixon?

Ron Sider comes out for Hillary over Trump and appeals to statesmanship:

Do we evangelical Christians trust Donald Trump to be a wise statesman leading the world to avoid conflict and war? The US president is the leader of the democratic world and the commander of the world’s largest military. A wise, thoughtful president who listens carefully to the best-informed advisers is essential if the United States and China are to avoid catastrophic conflict in the next decade or two.

Trump has absolutely no experience in foreign affairs or global diplomacy. He has repeatedly demonstrated arrogant, impulsive decision making. I can’t trust him to control the nuclear trigger. In August, 50 of the nation’s most senior Republican national security officials issued a public letter saying Trump “lacks the character, values, and experience” to be president, and added that Trump “would be the most reckless president in American history” and would “put at risk our country’s national security.”

I don’t understand why Richard Nixon doesn’t haunt anyone who thinks of backing Clinton. It’s not like paranoia and secrecy worked out that well for the Republican president. And now baby boomers have come to terms with Watergate?

Notice these parallels:

Not even Clinton’s harshest critics could claim that Servergate (or Chappaquadata, or whatever it may come to be called) constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor. But it does connote a reflexive wariness about her enemies – a wariness that sometimes seems to border on paranoia – that has long dogged Clinton, and that struck at least a few old Nixon hands as familiar.

“This is like the Nixon tapes, in a sense,” said Ken Khachigian, who was a young speechwriter on Nixon’s White House staff and is now a grizzled veteran of California’s Republican political wars. “Everybody wanted access. We resisted, and then they were eked out in death by a thousand cuts. Finally they were expropriated and now belong to the archives.”

And that doesn’t even capture the hi-jinks that went into Hillary’s recent physical collapse.

Which also is reminiscent of Nixon:

It was 1960, and Nixon was preparing for the nation’s first televised presidential debate. The debate became a case study in political image-making, with Kennedy looking healthy and vital while Nixon was waxen, sweaty and haggard.

“He was sick during the debate,” Scalettar said.

Only the doctor and Nixon’s advisers knew that Nixon was suffering from a serious infection — the result of a knee injury on a campaign trip to Greensboro, N.C. …

Nixon had a staph infection, which brought on septic (poisonous) arthritis. And he refused to take time off from the trail because he had promised to campaign in every state.

Scalettar wrote that the illness, Nixon’s failure to rest and recuperate normally, his loss of time due to illness and his appearance “seriously impaired his effectiveness as a campaigner.”

He’s convinced that Nixon’s medical secret contributed to his narrow loss to Kennedy — by slightly more than 100,000 votes — that November 56 years ago. Coming clean about how sick he was right before that debate may have severely altered the course of American history.

It doesn’t add up to support for Trump. But are Americans ready for another constitutional crisis?

Forgiving a Scapegoat?

Alan Noble raised the bar pretty high — as high as church membership mind you — when he explained why evangelicals should be never Trump:

In response to these profound violations of human decency, he scoffs, changes the subject, denies he even said it, or doubles down. As he has said, he does not ask God for forgiveness, because he doesn’t believe he needs it.

That insight into Trump’s perception of his own soul should tell evangelicals all they need to know about him as a leader. Any man who is so unaware of his own depravity that he cannot recognize his need for forgiveness is incapable of justly leading any country. There simply is no way around this fact for evangelicals.

Has anyone asked Hillary Clinton of her need for forgiveness? At least, Noble should give equal time to both candidates. He might also want to consider the constitutional qualifications for holding the office of POTUS. No religious tests. So does Noble understand how much he sounds like a Jerry Falwell (Sr.)?

At least Roman Catholics are less driven by piety than by policy. Here are the items to worry about in a Clinton presidency (via her appointments to SCOTUS):

Religious Liberty: In the highly-publicized case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby could be exempt from laws that violate its religious beliefs, in this case Obamacare’s contraception mandate. This was an enormous win for religious liberty, but it was only decided by a slim 5-4 margin. With a liberal majority, you can expect the Court to rule against companies like Hobby Lobby or non-profits like Little Sisters of the Poor. Religious corporations and organizations around the country would be forced to chose between violating their consciences or paying penalties that would likely put them out of business. If liberals have their way, say goodbye to many religious retailers, charities, bookstores, hospitals, medical centers, and so on.

Transgender Bathrooms: Thirteen states are currently suing the Obama administration over its directive to public schools mandating that transgender students be able to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice without having to prove their gender identity. Perhaps no issue more directly impacts the lives of our children than this. A liberal Supreme Court will undoubtedly uphold the Obama administration’s rule and force states to comply. The consequences will be catastrophic. Don’t be so naive as to think boys won’t abuse these policies and force their way into female bathrooms and locker rooms. Parents and teachers won’t be able to stop them. And aside from sexual misconduct and assault, this policy could mean the end of men’s and women’s competitive athletics as we know it.

Second Amendment: Without a doubt, the Second Amendment would become a primary target of a liberal Supreme Court. In recent years, two landmark decisions protecting an individual’s right to own and bear arms – Heller v. District of Columbia and McDonald v. City of Chicago – were each decided by just one vote. (Are you noticing the 5-4 trend yet?) Given the opportunity, a liberal Court wouldn’t hesitate to overturn those decisions. We got a glimpse of this in June, when the notoriously liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Second Amendment does not permit the public to carry concealed firearms. A liberal Supreme Court would certainly uphold this ruling and continue to hack away at the rest of the Second Amendment.

Abortion: It was an activist, liberal Supreme Court in 1973 that decided Roe v. Wade and legalized abortion. A liberal Supreme Court in 2017 will only reinforce and protect that decision. It will likely strike down majority-supported, common sense abortion laws that have been passed in the states, like late term and partial birth abortion restrictions and pain-capable legislation. Just this June, the Supreme Court invalidated the Texas law requiring basic health standards for abortion facilities, a law passed to prevent another Kermit Gosnell house of horrors from occurring.

But the best perspective on Trump and Clinton may come from those without a faith-based dog in the hunt:

But Trump is a monster! Yes, but given the right circumstance, so are you. His ugliness is simply more apparent than that of other managers of the state’s sacred violence. Let’s be frank here: though his speech is scarily vulgar, the violence he promises is already occurring.

Think his call to deport illegally undocumented workers is fascist? The Obama administration, garbed as it is with the shimmering rhetoric of victimhood, has already deported over 2,500,000 human beings—23 percent more than Bush.

How about his pledge to torture suspected terrorists? Clinton-Bush-Obama beat him to it. They just don’t talk about it like he does. And let’s not limit it to foreigners; Obama didn’t bat an eye as elderly tax protester Irwin Schiff died of cancer chained to a prison bed far away from his family for breaking the sacred taboo against being too stingy in sharing his resources with the collective.

How about the time Trump promised to target terrorists’ families? Obama, the great defender of Islam, already trumped that when he murdered people like U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, who hadn’t seen his father for two years. This teen and his friends were blown apart by the Nobel prize winner while having a campfire dinner, apparently for the sinful dreams of his father.

Actually, a faith-based perspective makes sense of Never Trump. He’s our Scapegoat:

In today’s Christ-haunted West, we no longer have complete unanimity in our identification of common enemies, but we still seek it in the sub-factions we continually form. Yet Donald Trump’s faction is not going to prevail in any lasting way: his sacred dogma is built on “Winners.” His brand is a throwback to Nietzsche, who was himself a kind of throwback to a still older “golden age,” a time when pagan religion celebrated history’s winners, who were deemed right because of their might.

Trump even viscerally looks the part of the old scapegoat kings who would be ceremonially paraded before being sacrificed: he is often mocked for having small hands and goofy orange hair; he eats profane food like McDonald’s; he loves gaudy decoration in an age of “shabby chic”; he calls himself a winner in a culture where people must offer faux humility to gain status. Trump, who has repeatedly said that were he not her father he would be dating his daughter, is even accused of breaking the age-old taboo against incestual lust.

In the ancient cultic world of our past pagan order, hierarchies of kings, priests, and elites often killed or excluded the odd, weak, infirm, disabled, ethnic minority, or child based on the cultural fact that they were intrinsically inferior and thus deserving of a worse lot in life. But since the crucifixion meme began dominating the West, our modern cultures are increasingly self-critical and haunted by victims. Jesus robbed us of our blindness to the unjust order of “might makes right,” but he didn’t create an alternative ideology to deny us choice. We still have to choose, to a person, to model forgiveness and nonviolence as we seek to heal the victims most vulnerable to exploitation. But we’re stubborn in doing this work, and so we try to create cathartic peace and order through scapegoating—this time in the name of victims.

Mitt ’16

Trigger warning: what follows is a post on a series with lots of profanity and — get this — lots of prayer. If you want to contemplate the disparity between profaning and praising God’s name, see what Curmudgeon has to say.

Like Curmudgeon, I agree that Last Chance U. is a terrific series. It even evokes aspects of — watch out — The Wire since it explores the way college sports functions in African-American boys’ lives and possibly offers a way out of the hood.

The series is so good that the missus did a little research on the director, Greg Whiteley, which took us to his 2014 documentary about Mitt Romney, with the title (of all things) Mitt.

Some think that if this movie had come out during the campaign, Romney might have won. Since the movie ends with the 2012 election returns and Romney’s concession, it’s hard to imagine how the movie might have come out during the campaign. But the movie does humanize Romney in ways that once again raise questions about media coverage of the contest and the mileage anti-GOP folks obtained from Mitt’s 47% remark.

The movie also makes you wish Romney were running now. He seems so much more impressive than either Trump or Clinton. No one has any trouble reminding you what a buffoon the Republican candidate is. Just listen to a ward leader in Philadelphia:

I am writing this letter primarily to the Republicans and Independents of the Ninth Ward (Chestnut Hill and a little bit of Mount Airy). Normally I write to Democratic voters to motivate them to get out and vote in the election. But in this unusual election cycle I think it is important that we talk.

The issue, of course, is Donald Trump. He is a candidate unlike any other that we have seen and, frankly, someone who deeply concerns me and I suspect also concerns many of you. In brief, he is not fit to be President. I say this after a few months of appalling behavior that reveals much about his character.

It is not a question of slips of the tongue or being politically correct. Rather his behavior reveals much about him. These statements show he is not fit and should not be President / Commander in Chief. From the sexist insults of Megan Kelly and many other women, to ridiculing a disabled New York Times reporter, to calling out the Mexican American federal judge as unfit to judge him, to attacking the gold star parents of Captain Kahn, he has revealed his character.

So you vote for Hillary and look the other way when someone asks about character? Where on the spectrum of bad character does a candidate become acceptable, even fit for office? Hillary’s at the good spot on the bad character spectrum? And was this Democratic official standing by Hillary’s man when the president seemed to reveal a few flaws of his own? Now some people know what it feels like to be Jerry Falwell.

Of course, Mitt may overdo Romney’s character. Maybe he’s not that wholesome and easy going. Maybe his family is not so pleasant when the camera is off. Maybe the candidate praying with his family on their knees — in Christ’s name, no less — was phony.

But if Trump could be this year’s candidate, why not Romney? At one point Romney says he is everything the Republican Party is not — he’s northern, rich, and Mormon while the party is southern, populist, and evangelical. Well, what is Donald Trump? Southern? Populist? Christian?

What he is is anti-elite and anti-PC. J.D. Vance explained it to Terry Gross (via Rod Dreher):

… so my dad is a Trump supporter, and I love my dad, and I always say, Dad, you know, Trump is not going to actually make any of these problems better. And he says, well, that’s probably true, but at least he’s talking about them and nobody else is and at least he’s not Mitt Romney. At least he’s not George W. Bush. He’s at least trying to talk about these problems.

Romney was far more regular than the press or his campaign made him seem. But he was too much part of the establishment — though not enough to get the blessing of the mainstream media — (Harvard, governor of Massachusetts) to attract “poor white trash.”

That’s too bad.

As White and Christian As Ever

Some think the United States is becoming less white and less Christian:

These racial and ethnic changes are dramatic, but they only partially account for the sense of dislocation many whites feel. In order to understand the magnitude of the shift, it’s important to also assess white Christian America’s waning cultural influence. It’s impossible to grasp the depth of many white Americans’ anxieties and fears—or comprehend recent phenomena like the rise of the Tea Party or Donald Trump in American politics, the zealous tone of the final battles over gay rights, or the racial tensions that have spiked over the last few years—without understanding that, along with its population, America’s religious and cultural landscape is being fundamentally altered. . . .

It’s true that mainline numbers dropped earlier and more sharply—from 24 percent of the population in 1988 to 14 percent in 2012, at which time their numbers stabilized. But beginning in 2008, white evangelical Protestant numbers began to falter as well. White evangelical Protestants comprised 22 percent of the population in 1988 and still commanded 21 percent of the population in 2008, but their share of religious America has now slipped to 18 percent.

Meanwhile, some can’t help but notice that the Democrats and Republicans have nominated white Protestants:

Too little noted, Protestant America has managed to nominate two Protestant candidates for president. As Clausewitz famously observed, “war is simply a continuation of political intercourse, with the addition of other means.” My corollary, from which most Americans might prefer to avert their eyes: “Politics is simply a continuation of religious intercourse, with the addition of other means.”

While almost ignored it is a telling and, perhaps, a defining aspect of the 2016 election. In his imperfect but authentic way, Donald Trump is reflecting certain of the Calvinist values underlying his beautiful Presbyterian faith. Hillary Clinton is reflecting, in her own imperfect but authentic way, the values of her beautiful Methodist faith.

If you’re not convinced that America is still white and Christian, then you haven’t tried out the apologists’ argument that Roman Catholicism hasn’t changed.