Our Lawless President

I can understand why congressional Democrats are reluctant begin impeachment proceedings. After all, following his ordeal in the late 1990’s, Bill Clinton’s popularity rose. Why take the chance that the same might happen with this president?

Nonetheless, the time may be drawing nigh when impeachment is forced upon a reluctant Congress by the acts of an openly lawless president.

Today’s Washington Post reported that the administration considered a plan to bus groups of immigrant “detainees” to certain sanctuary cities and dump them there.

The Post noted that the preferred destinations of choice were Democratic strongholds, such as San Francisco.

Surprisingly, United States “immigration officials” verified that the bussing plan had been considered both last fall and this winter.

Later this morning, the president sent out two tweets that went much further than the WAPO story.

One said, “Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only.”

A second tweet added, “The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!”

So goes policy discussion within the White House—how to use people as pawns to strike at political enemies by diverting ICE and Border Patrol from needed duties.

Of course, there is another facet to the story—that the president would act purely to sow political and societal discord and division on people of this country.

So much for a president who seeks the common welfare.

There is yet another facet to the story—that the administration regards people (mainly families with minor children) as pawns.

However, leave it to Trump to come up with a still more outrageous action.

CNN reported this afternoon that our president told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan that he would grant McAleenan a pardon if he went to jail for having border agents block asylum seekers from entering the US in defiance of US law.

He encouraged an employee of the federal government to break the law.

So much for upholding the laws and constitution of the United States.

The man needs to be held accountable.

 

Uh Oh! Will the Democrats Blow It?

There is plenty for Democrats to celebrate as the 119th Congress gavels to order, but this Democrat wonders if we need to temper our hurrahs and reset our goals.

True, we can raise a toast to gaining control of the House of Representatives. That means not only a Democratic Speaker, but also control of House rules, committees and calendars.

Control of committees not only translates into the oft-noted ability to investigate this corrupt administration but also to shaping all committee work (where most Congressional work gets done) and managing the lion’s share of committee staffs.

In the long-term, perhaps even more important than the above is the incoming Democratic freshman class. Taken as a whole, it better reflects the country’s age, religious, sex, racial and ethnic complexion and complexities more than any prior freshman group. It also boasts the nation’s first Native American congresswoman and first Muslim congresswomen in addition to a record number of newly-elected women and what appear to be more than a few burgeoning political stars.

But at least two things worry me amidst all the good.

First, Congress is open, but parts of the federal government are not, and the Democrats are doing little to open it. Instead, they seem fixed on yet another internecine partisan battle, this one with federal employees used as political pawns.

It is likely that their efforts would be better directed to helping repair the Roman ruins that Congress has come to so closely resemble. Simply put, our second branch of government is as decrepit and crumbling as the Roman Colosseum. This continuing dysfunction inflicts deep damage on our country and its people. Our nation is falling behind globally according to several important measures and many Americans’ quality of life has slipped notably over the last two generations.

Instead of going down the same destructive path, the nation needs Congress to repair itself and begin passing effective bipartisan legislation in any number of areas, such as: vast infrastructure improvements; affordable and available healthcare; and, any number of initiatives to combat global warming and mitigate its already present effects.

Yes, I know the latter would not be easy in the face of a consistently obstinate and doctrinaire Republican party. However, Congressional rebuilding needs to begin. Instead of this, however, the Democratic party is breaking from the gate with more partisan warfare and nary a bipartisan initiative in sight. This is short-sighted and misguided. Which, of course, is what our politics and our Congress have become. And, so it goes.

Second, for its part, the Democratic progressive wing has begun the session balking at one of the first acts of an incoming Congress—adopting rules. Some of its members have said they will oppose a set of rules otherwise widely agreed to within the Democratic caucus. If they get enough votes, the proposed rules will fail or be pulled from the calendar, thereby giving an immediate black eye to the party and its House leadership. This progressive position is disappointingly reminiscent of the Republican Freedom Caucus and its continuing confrontation with Republican House leaders. It also likely foreshadows a number of future problems.

And, here is something for Democrats to add to their agenda: a rural initiative, including proposals related to reinvigorating smaller farms and ranches at the expense of the Big Ag and chemical lobbies; rolling back presidential tariff and trade powers to ease the pain being suffered by dairy and soybean farmers; and, adopting a full-bore rural internet initiative much like the rural electrification initiative of the New Deal. Measures such as these might gain bipartisan support and also peel some Trump voters away and reinvigorate Democratic parties in red states.

Evangelicals Struggle with Self-Identity

The National Association of Evangelicals issued a statement yesterday aimed at clarifying widespread misunderstanding of evangelical beliefs and practices.

Their longing for clarity arose out of the fact that a growing number of people consider “evangelicals” to be a political grouping rather than a religious one.

The NEA  statement is clear about how they see themselves, “We identify ourselves by our spiritual convictions in the authority of the Bible, salvation through Jesus Christ alone and living out our faith in everyday life, especially sharing the good news of Jesus with others.”

Unfortunately, the NEA is deluding itself if it thinks such statements are meaningful.

No matter whether it is fair or unfair, the vast majority of Americans do not know evangelicals by their spiritual convictions or actions. They do not see evangelicals doing the work of Jesus. They do not see evangelicals worshipping at church, leading foreign missions, feeding the hungry, etc.

Jerry Falwell, Jr. welcomes President Trump to Liberty University.

Instead, they know evangelicals primarily through their well-publicized association with President Trump and the Republican party.

They hear that white evangelicals are the most stable part of the Republican base. They read headlines about 80% white evangelical support of Trump. They see photographs of evangelical leaders clustered around Trump in the Oval Office. They hear about leading evangelical figures giving full-throated support to Trump.

Not surprisingly, they believe what they see and hear—that Trump trumps Jesus and politics trumps faith in the hearts and minds of most white evangelicals.

Evangelical claims of faith are not enough to overcome the overwhelming media coverage—much of it coming from evangelical sources—to the contrary.

God knows, even if evangelicals don’t, that this confusion about evangelical identity was foreseeable and predictable.

Jesus certainly lived his life differently. He did not seek standing with the prevailing powers of the day, he confronted them. He did not seek his own base of power, he gave his life for others. He did not subordinate the gospel to other purposes, he lived it. His priorities were clear and his identity remains clear thousands of years later.

However, white evangelicals chose not to follow Jesus’ path. Instead, they intentionally embarked on a path to gain political power and use it. They have followed that path for decades and show no changes of changing.

They formed the Moral Majority in the 1970’s with the avowed purpose of profoundly impacting public policy. They have given their time, work and money to this effort.

At first, their work resulted in most white evangelicals supporting Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election. Over the years, however, their movement slowly became more identified with Republican policies and the Republican party. By the 2016 presidential election, white evangelicalism was seen by most, even themselves, as being fused with rock-ribbed Republicanism.

And, they got what they wanted. They got political power. They got their Supreme Court nominee. They have the president’s ear and consider him to be their savior, at least in a political sense.

In the process, they have become who many people consider them to be—Republicans seeking and using political power and wanting even more.

White evangelicals should recognize that they have reaped what they have sowed. Any group or organization that lashes itself so completely to the policies, positions and practices of another group or organization loses its original identity. It literally becomes something else.

The NEA and their members may want to insist on their high-minded faith and devotion to Jesus, but no one will pay attention.

Instead of touting things that will be ignored, they might undergo a long needed self-assessment. Perhaps then, they return to the starting point of many Christian journeys  and become like the tax collector Jesus describes in a parable. In Luke 18, Jesus explains that the tax collector went to the Temple, beat his breast and prayed, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.”

After telling the parable, Jesus said that this man “went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

One thing we Christians always can use is a bit more humility before God and humankind and a bit less lust for power, however alluring it may be.

 

Children’s Health Plan and the Axe that Looms

The White House/Administration/Trump continue to be careen on their helter-skelter, immoral course.

Their latest outrage is an attempt to cut the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was renewed for a six-year period earlier this year.

Known more widely as CHIP, this program provides health coverage to nearly 9 million children in low-income families in all 50 states.

It is widely-recognized as successful. It turns out that, just as predicted, children’s health improves with access to medical care.

In addition to its medical and policy successes, CHIP also saves the country money by reducing expenditures on other health care programs, particularly Medicaid. CHIP does this because of the better medical outcomes that result from treating children earlier and in a doctor’s office as opposed to later and in an emergency room.

Nonetheless, it is under threat of the knife.

Indeed, it is on the chopping block to the tune of a $7 billion reduction because of the ballooning budget deficit that the administration is salivating to reduce.

It matters not to the White House that the deficit results primarily from its ill-advised 2017 corporate tax cuts. Those will remain as is, although there are rumors of some wanting additional reductions.

One might wonder why children should go without medical care while the country injects more cash into already-profitable companies, but that is just the way the United States rolls– or, careens– today.

One does hope that our white evangelical brothers and sisters (Where are you Franklin? Jerry, Jr? Rev. Jeffrees? Mr. Perkins?) will use their new-found political muscle to prevent this reduction.

Unfortunately, their political agenda may be too crowded with issues other than the just treatment of children.

 

America’s Sacrificial Lambs: Our Children

Child sacrifices are one of the more gruesome practices of humankind. Genesis 22 describes a chilling scene of one that almost happened.

God tells Abraham to sacrifice his young son, Isaac. Abraham dutifully begins to obey, no questions asked and no emotion shown.

Instead, he soon packs what is needed for the task and leaves for Mt. Moriah with Isaac and two servants. It was there that Isaac would die.

When they arrive, Abraham tells the servants to wait while he and his son find a place to “worship.” He and Isaac then leave for a short hike to find God’s preferred site. Ironically, Abraham gives Isaac the wood to carry while he takes the knife and “fire.”

When they arrive at the appointed site, Abraham builds an altar, puts wood on it, binds Isaac and places him the wood. He then lifts his knife to kill him, to sacrifice his son on altar to God.

There is no indication what Isaac and Abraham were thinking and feeling as the events unfolded. Instead, it played out rather matter-of-factly—like another day, another sacrifice to make. Ho-hum.

So it seems to go in our country. Another day, another sacrifice to make. Or like yesterday, seventeen sacrifices.

Child sacrifice was common in ancient cultures. Today, we think of it as a primitive, barbaric act, something too horrific to imagine.

Unfortunately, we routinely do it as a culture. We are the primitives. We are the barbarians. We are the ones who sacrifice our children. We are the ones with blood on our hands.

We sacrifice them on altars made not of wood but of political power and zealotry. Our gods are the NRA and a particular interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.

God stayed the hand of Abraham that day, but our country does not seem to have the ability to take any meaningful steps to stay the hands of mass murderers, even in our public schools.

Admittedly, there are laws against murder and there are some restrictions on the sale of firearms.

But, there have been twenty-five fatal school shootings since Columbine. There have been over 150 mass shootings (defined as shootings where four or more have been killed by a lone shooter) since Charles Whitman climbed the University of Texas Tower on August 1, 1966 to gun down twenty-five people.

In the last twenty-four hours, the governor of Florida, attorney general of the United States and president of the United States have made statements deploring the act and vowing to end school shootings.

But, the fact is that our governments have done . . . nothing.

And, our body politic has done . . . nothing.

And, more die.

Christians believe that sin is endemic to human beings. Our task as our culture is to seek ways to curb this particular manifestation of sin.

Unfortunately, that requires a national effort and a political effort that includes both political courage and citizen revolt against these murders. To date, all these elements have been missing.

If you are one who cares, then by all means pray for the victims, witnesses and their families. Pray for the law enforcement officers and other first responders who had to see and wade through the carnage. Pray for doctors, nurses and health care personnel who cared for those who were brought in for treatment. Pray for the shooter and his family.

Then, phone, write or email your legislators at all levels of government. Give money to candidates who will change the status quo. Write letters to the editor. Rage on social media. Do anything you can to reduce the carnage.

 

 

What Would Jesus Tweet?

One of the more disappointing aspects of the fealty white evangelical leaders pay to Donald Trump is not so much that it reveals their potent lust for political power (He talks to us! He does our bidding!). Power’s siren song has lured many irrespective of religious beliefs.

Nor is it their unfortunate over-identification with conservative political policies. They unabashedly remain true to this Caesar not only on matters like abortion and judicial appointments, but also military funding; making and threatening war; harassing immigrants, Muslims and DREAMERS; repealing Obamacare; opening the treasure trove of deep tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy; and on and on.

Like the lust for political power, however, belief in the ultimate truth of personal policy preferences is a common human failing.

No, instead of such things as these, the most regrettable moral failure of these church men is their steadfast refusal to condemn or even mildly criticize Trump’s notable and numerous personal excesses or, as we mainliners might say, and evangelicals used to say, sin.

We can even dismiss the whole sex thing from this analysis, including the infamous ‘grab their pussy’ video; the twenty or so women who have accused him of varying degrees of sexual assault; and, the supposed ‘hush money’ settlement with Stormy Daniels. After all, the video is only thing known to be true. As a result, many conservatives, including these leaders, refuse to consider their veracity.

But what in Jesus’ name would our Lord make of Trump’s ever-lasting pursuit of money; continual attacks on other people; new-found pastime of toying with people’s lives (immigrants, legal or illegal, Muslims, refugees, DREAMERS, etc.); naked bullying of those having less power than him; and, continual dog whistles to racism and white supremacy?

There is no need to beat a drum about the golden rule, drone on about the most important commandment, tell of Jesus’ example of love and sacrifice or cite chapter and verse of the Bible to condemn such conduct.

It simply is clear that a Jesus ethic condemns lusting for money, disparaging others, beating them down, or encouraging racial, ethnic and other types of divisions.

After all, it is doubtful that Jesus would do things like mock a person’s disability (he healed them!); tweet about a woman’s weight or urge watching her sex tape; or, accuse an judge of racial basis because he is a “Mexican.”

Yes, I know. It is hard to see in another person’s heart. However, this president gives the world an up close, 20/20 view into his heart—and it is ugly.

Similarly, some would say that he can confess any sin and all sins. That also is true, but at some point confession needs to include at least a feigned attempt to alter one’s conduct. Trump rarely even apologizes.

It is unfortunate that the failure of leaders like (Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell, Jr.) has ramifications beyond being a mere personal failure.

Indeed, they have not only reaped a whirlwind but a hurricane, tornado and tsunami as well.

They have abandoned the proclamation of Jesus Christ and the Christian ethic.

They have ignored a ripe opportunity to proclaim any type of moral standard for the nation. Trump has everyone’s attention. Calling him out would be a highly publicized event.

Their failure combines with myriad other forces to make it more likely that the United States will continue its slow slide toward abandoning any widely accepted ethic of appropriate personal conduct.

This, in turn, will ensure that the types of excesses Trump so amply displays will be adopted by others and metastasize across American society.

 

 

It’s Hot in Hell

My conservative brothers and sisters– real meal deal, red meat conservative evangelical Christians– often claim that America is going to straight to hell.

They are the ones who nod in agreement when preachers blame the latest devastating hurricane (e.g. Katrina, Irene, Sandy, et al) on American LGBTs; rail against government spending while warning against anyone taking their Medicare; roll down their car windows upon seeing a homeless person and yell, “Get a job;” and, claim to believe in the in the “right to life” while staunchly upholding the death penalty.

I used to roll my eyes at their beliefs, but am coming to believe they are right, at least in their conclusion about where we are headed. If it is not to hell, than it is to someplace equally as dreadful.

Several events of the last two weeks well illustrate our national downward journey.

Gianforte

Gianforte: A kick butt kind of guy

Yesterday, Montana elected a temperamental, violent man as their congressman. The night before the election, he assaulted a reporter. Here is a recording of the assault.

When the news went public, his press office issued a dishonest explanation. Meanwhile, some applauded his action and others justified it. The best Republican leaders could do is whimper, “He should apologize.”

No, they should condemn his physical attack on the free press.

Ironically, as they ignore or attack freedom of the press, this man, his supporters and Republican leaders beat their chests about the freedoms of speech, religion and bearing forearms and how their opponents are trying to subvert them.

We need freedom of the press far more than we need another hothead in Washington.

The assault took place after he was asked about our second revolting item of the week– the CBO score on the cruel-hearted Republican take-away-healthcare bill.

That score said that, if the bill is enacted, 23 million Americans will lose healthcare coverage and millions of others, including many with preexisting conditions, will be priced out of coverage.

Instead of owning these outcomes and their real goal of using the resultant savings to hand a tax cut to the rich, Republicans have the temerity to run a series of national ads claiming that the bill increases coverage and reduces premiums while also protecting those with preexisting conditions.

In other words, they lie and present night as day and fact as fiction.

These have also been the weeks the Seth Rich conspiracy theories have circulated, a conspiracy born in conservative minds with no basis in fact. The claim has aired on Fox News, the Sean Hannity show, other conservative media and interviews with former House speaker and should-be felon Newt Gingrich.

The story has been thoroughly debunked, but some undoubtedly still hold onto it.

Its airing was devoid of decency and unneeded misery for the Rich family.

Our president has been abroad during much of this. His visit to Saudi Arabia, including a meeting with numerous Arab heads of state, reportedly exceeded expectations.

Apparently, our gets along well with autocratic despots, including those in Saudi Arabia and Qatar who excel in exporting their vicious version of fundamentalist Islam that radicalizes young minds.

Leaders Meet For NATO Summit

Trump at NATO meeting

By contrast, however, Trump embarrasses us among our European, more democratic allies (do they still let Erdogan in?) by lecturing them on his misguided understanding of NATO funding and shoving people aside to get in front of cameras.

At least we were spared seeing Trump respond to revelations about his son-in-law’s entanglement with the Russian investigation and the release of his budget requested that balanced the United States budget by double counting $2 TRILLION.

This is Republican America were up is down and bad is good.

If it is not hell, it is close enough.

And it not the fault of LGBTs or any other liberal bogeyman.