Donald Trump– Man of Prayer?

Today’s media attention is again riveted on the bright, shiny object of the past few days—the James Comey interview and the tornadic reaction to it from Trump and friends.

However, it was another interview this weekend which caught my attention, the few minutes that Fox and Friends spent with the Rev. Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son and evangelical extraordinaire.

Of course, the Fox hosts did not seem interested in anything particularly religious, except for Graham’s views on the president.

Graham rose to the occasion in an almost Hannity-like fashion with the observation, “this president understands the power of prayer.”

He also stated, “I appreciate that we have a president who understands prayer and solicits prayer.”  

His words had barely left his mouth when Twitter reactions began popping up.

Hollywood Director Judd Apatow tweeted, “I don’t care what your politics are — @FranklinGraham is either a fool or works for the devil. There is no way he believes Trump believes in God and the power of prayer. Nobody on Earth truly believes that.”

Christian voices also weighed in.

Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, Jr., a United Church of Christ pastor wrote, “Seems to me that @FranklinGraham sold his soul to @realDonaldTrump.

Thomas S. Kidd, who teaches history at Baylor University, added, “Because on Fox ‘evangelical’ Christianity means nominal Christianity employed for political ends.”**

Meanwhile, about the time Graham was opining on Trump’s religiosity, the Big Man Himself was undercutting that argument by throwing a Tweetstorm about Comey with the usual type of character assassination which we hope would stop.

However, at least two other comments Graham made gives never-Trump Christians food for thought.

First, he observed that we need to pray for Trump.

Second, he said, “Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, the fact is that Donald Trump is the president of the United States. And if he does well, makes good decisions, it benefits all of us as a nation, regardless of our background … We need him to succeed at home, and we need him to succeed abroad. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about succeeding for all Americans.”

I served at a conservative United Methodist church in rural Texas during Obama’s presidency.

While my prayers for Obama did not stir great controversy in the church, at least two people expressed their displeasure.

Likely, at some progressive Christians would say the same about prayers for Trump.

Christians who place party and politics over God to be at work in a person’s private or professional life need to reassess that position.

The thought of “Donald Trump—Man of Prayer” strikes me as ludicrous given his apparently unrepentant lifestyle.

However, we all can pray for him to become one.

** My favorite comment was from former “New York Times” opinion columnist Clyde Haberman who tweeted, “Donald Trump is to piety what Stormy Daniels is to chastity.”

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Damn the Poor!?!

Trumpcare and the administration’s budget submission propose slashing the social safety net by about $1.7 trillion over the next ten years.

Most of the savings would be stuffed into already bulging pockets of the well-to-do, the top 1% or 2% of income earners.

Meanwhile, the cuts would not only target the poor, but more particularly those who are children, disabled, sick or hungry.

These proposals show the lie that were Trump’s campaign contentions not to cut Medicaid.

You can find articles on the impact of these cuts here, here and here. Here is a rather sad article on the rationale behind the cuts and how a Russian news reporter schooled Trump’s budget director on some aspects of it.

Christians who support this war on the poor don’t even have a fig leaf to wear in justifying these actions.

If you believe scripture, while we may not like it or understand it, God wants fairness and justice for the poor.

Bible verses attesting to God’s concern for the poor:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 23:22

“Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land . . . buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat. The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.” Amos 8:4; 6-7

“Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” Matthew 19:21

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Matthew 25:35

“They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” Mark 12:40

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” Luke 4:18

“So he replied to the messengers, “‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.'” Luke 7:22

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” Luke 12:33

If Trump’s budget and healthcare proposals are enacted, tens of millions of Americans will be worse off than they are today.

According to the latest Census figures, about 45 million Americans live in poverty and over 16 million of those are children.

According to the same figures, about 30 million Americans live just above the poverty line and, again, about one-third of these are children.

Some, such as Franklin Graham say in earnestness, and with faith and hope, that Trump is sent by God.

If that is true, my thought is that if these proposals are to be believed, God sent him not as a blessing but as a curse.

 

An American Mean Streak

Many Americans are proud of our individual freedoms and acclaimed generosity.

However true these qualities may be, our continuing struggles with racism, nativism and xenophobia indicate we still struggle how far those freedoms and generosity extend.

Indeed, racism, nativism and xenophobia are on ample and sometimes heart-breaking display in the Trump administration’s enforcement of immigration laws. Some of those actions are hard-hearted.

Last month, a mother of four was ripped from her family and deported to Mexico. Maribel Trujillo Diaz had lived in Fairfield, Ohio for the post several years. A native of Mexico, she is the mother of four children, ranging in age from three to fourteen, including one with special needs.

Interviewed earlier this year,  Trujillo said that she crossed the border in 2002 to flee threats from a drug cartel and “find a better way of life.” She has been living here since then, and has had work permit for the last several years. That permit was due to expire in July.

That made no difference to ICE, which arrested her in early April, irrespective of the work permit, her job and a clean criminal record. After her arrest, a trio of high-placed Ohio officials, Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Rob Portman and Sen. Sherrod Brown asked ICE to reconsider their decision to deport her.

ICE declined and proceeded with its action. Trujillo has now been “removed” from the country and become another statistic, while her children apparently remain motherless in Ohio.

Two articles covering her deportation are here and here.

It was reported this week that immigration arrests increased 38% over the first 3 months of 2017 compared to the same period last year. The Administration contends that its policies have emphasize the deportation of criminals. An article on that is here.

That is false as ICE “criminal” figures include anyone charged with an offense. Moreover, one of offenses included within the figures is being in this country without proper documentation. In other words, the government includes arrests of suspected immigrants without papers in its statistics. These things obscure the truth.HOew

There are now scores of reports like the one about Ms. Trujillo.

It is true that Trump’s deportation policies are working as he intended. Their consequences include arresting mothers at home in front of their minor children, ripping families apart, ridding the country of the “menace” of high school valedictorians without proper papers who hope to attend college here; and, hauling away people recognized as pillars of their community.

This is a national shame.

I say this because of personal and religious views.

My mom’s lineage is pure Anglo-Saxon and rather well-to-do. It is family lore that her father’s line in America began when a forebear was sent by England’s king sometime in the early 1700’s to serve as a royal official in the Carolinas. After that, the family became prosperous farmers, well, to be honest, plantation owners in South Carolina. We don’t like to talk too much about that odious slave-owning history.

Instead, I consider with some pride that I am from my father’s line of Scotch-Irish-English mutts.

We have no idea when that line began in the United States, although my theory is that a an ancestor was on the lam from the law in England and stowed away on an American-bound ship to get a second chance at life. There is something mutt-like, populist and hopeful in seeking to improve one’s life through radical risk and hard-work.

I view most immigrants out of this lens. My interactions with undocumented immigrants have been consistent with this. To a man and to a woman, they have been friendly, hard-working, humble and hopeful.

My Christianity also reinforces my inclinations toward sympathy and understanding.

There are some Bible verses to the contrary, but the heavy weight of both testaments emphasizes just, fair and even generous treatment of the foreigner, stranger and alien.

This is easily seen with even a casual reading of the Bible or the simple consideration that, in their own ways, Jesus and the early evangelists were at one time or another “foreigners, aliens or strangers.”

I deplore the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented workers. It has led not only to the deportation of so-called dreamers, but split families, swept up innocents and weakened local law enforcement.

You will find several hits on these items if you google “deportation of mother,” or “deportation of dreamer,” or “sanctuary cities.”

 

They Aren’t the Enemy

I’m an oldie who remembers the Watergate scandal unfolding drip-by-drip over a period of almost two years until the president resigned in August, 1974. Looking back, it felt like there were almost daily revelations of someone associated with the president having committed one or another illegal act. Finally, “the smoking gun” was discovered and Nixon resigned shortly thereafter.

For some reason, one of my most vivid memories of the time is of sitting at my kitchen table reading the Houston Post a few weeks after his resignation. The Post had an article stating that polls showed that a number of people still supported Nixon. I remember thinking something like, “Who are these people? How can they do that?” It made no sense to me. I thought he was virtually a criminal.

This week, I checked polls from those months and found out that, sure enough, a Gallup poll taken shortly after Nixon’s resignation revealed a bit over 20% of the electorate still supported him.

[You can find the articles of impeachment here and the Gallup poll here.]

Despite my shock at that those polls, supporting Nixon made a great deal of sense to my father, who was one of the diehards. He maintained, and probably still does forty years after his death (Daddy was never much on changing his opinions), that the whole thing was a witch hunt and Nixon was a great president.

When he and I discussed it at the time, I could not understand his point of view about something so clear to me.

In turn, he couldn’t understand my point of view about something so clear to him.

Most people are like Daddy and me. We humans have a tendency to be unable to understand how others can hold differing opinions about important matters that are  clear to us.

There are times when we need to look past those opinions and seek to understand “the other.”

Understand that my point is not that we need to seek understanding in the face of any disagreement, because it is sometimes incumbent upon us to confront and battle injustice.

Our country’s history shows clear examples of such times: the dispute with Britain about independence in the 1770’s; the vast gulf between the North and South over slavery and secession in the pre-Civil War years; the continuing fight against racism, with all of its injustice, violence and dehumanization; and, the decades-long battle in the early part of the last century for workers’ rights.

However, there are also times when we should seek to understand the differing opinions of others, and perhaps reach out in friendship to them despite those differences.

I think this is one of those times. Unfortunately, the chasm between Democrats/liberals/progressives and Republicans/conservatives is widening and hardening.

This is illustrated by a recent NBC News poll showing the same wide partisan split over Comey’s firing as other polls have shown about other executive actions taken by Trump, such as the travel ban(s), Gorsuch appointment and global warming actions.

In addition, conservative columnist Charlie Sykes writes this weekend in the New York Times that what was once a conservative movement has become in the age of Trump an anti-liberal movement or, more accurately, an anti-anti-Trump movement.

Sykes says, “As the right doubles down on anti-anti-Trumpism, it will find itself goaded into defending and rationalizing ever more outrageous conduct just as long as it annoys CNN and the left.”

Similarly, Republican consultant and pollster Frank Lutz said recently that people sympathetic to Trump automatically side with him because they believe he is constantly held to an unfair standard.

For their part, Democrats/liberals/progressives are the mirror image of their Republican/conservative brothers and sisters. I am one of the former, but think we also cling tightly to our beliefs and habitually fail to seek to understand opposing points of view.

For example, when I checked my email while writing this piece there was a fund-raising request from a liberal group urging me to donate to it in order “to punish the GOP right now.” And, there was a separate request from another liberal group beseeching me to sign a petition against Trump because it would take “only six seconds to hammer the GOP.” Uh, no thanks.

[Most of the below applies to Democrats/liberals/progressives, but others might find it useful as well.]

For a variety of reasons, we need to overcome this hostility and division to and build some bridges across the divide.

First, we do not want to end up with a liberal version of Trump.

Second, we do not want to end up with a liberal version of Infowars and Alex Jones.

Do not think these first two cannot happen. Remember that Trump is a creature not only of contemporary culture but also the Tea Party movement. If we continue down the Tea Party path of virulent opposition and even hatred of “the other”, we are in danger of engineeting the emergence of a Trump-like figure.

Third, we lost the election and need to gain voters, not alienate them. I know that Hillary won the popular vote, but it is the electoral college that matters. We will not convert people by attacking them.

Fourth, most people on both sides want to address national problems like jobs, infrastructure, economic development, climate change, true religious freedom, equal justice under the law, etc. We need broad, bipartisan and nonpartisan support instead of yawning division to do this.

Fifth, personal attacks dehumanize our brothers and sisters who disagree with us. We need to realize that they are just folks like us and are due respect and fairness.

Sixth, our fight is not so much with them but with the policies and incompetence of Trump and his administration.

In that regard, it is useful to point out that Nixon had approval ratings of about 70% right before the Watergate revelations started becoming public.

That support fell 50 points over the next two years not because of partisan vitriol but because of the president’s words and actions. In other words, he hung himself.

Trump will do the same and, as that unfolds, we want to be in position to welcome into our fold any who become alienated from him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Be Suckered by Trump’s Tweets

The New York Times had a recent article noting that our diplomats in Europe are warning governments wary of Trump not overreact to his tweets. America—and especially my fellow Democrats, progressives or liberals—needs to heed this warning. Today’s tweet by the Orange One about an arms race has yielded a bumper crop of overreactions.

The Washington Post editorial board already has posted an editorial warning about this threat. Meanwhile, Twitter chirps away with yet more hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing tweets about this latest storm and Facebook is rife with similar condemnatory posts. Even Trump’s advisors are playing their familiar role of walking back another burst of their boss’s regrettable statements. Predictably, progressive and liberal periodicals like Mother Jones, The Nation and The New Republic are also hurling thunderbolts at the POEUS.

Of course, there are many things we can object to about Trump. For example, we should be repelled about his appointment of a racist (Sessions); climate change deniers (several of them); Goldman Sachs alumni (again, several); and, climate change creators (in the person of Exxon’s Rex Tillerson). We can add to these his repugnant tilt to Putin; probable support of Assad; stirring of the Chinese pot; further inflammation of the Middle East; embrace of Israel; taxing and spending policies; intended repeal of Obamacare; possible action to reduce Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; and, the list stretches on. Will it become infinite?

These are all substantive issues that we need to work on now. The tweet du jour which is just another in the round of tweets du jour is not a substantive issue. Yes, they do degrade our country. Yes, they will contribute to the deterioration of our role in the world. Yes, they do reflect the unstable mind at the helm and might scare the bejabbers out of us. If you are like me, you wake up early in the morning feeling that there is no way this ending will be good.

However, we need to put his tweets in their proper place as a blowhard doing what he does best. Instead of focusing on them, we need to focus on upcoming confirmations battles as well as subsequent fights over health care, taxes and the social safety net. So, instead of worrying about Trump’s early morning statements, we need to ask ourselves what steps we might take to counter his actions as opposed to his bloviations.

Democrats! Relax, Breathe in– and Get Ready to Work

Talk about disappointed and angry white males, I’ve been out of sorts since late Tuesday night. I haven’t killed anybody, but have embarrassed myself with two seperate rants. Forgive me, Customer Service Department at Express Scripts!

Teeth-gnashing, second-guessing and fault-finding began after the first vote totals began. It continues today, as it will for some time. May we not circle the wagons and shoot in. Instead, let’s breathe in, relax and take some time reflecting and assessing. Along the way, there are a few things to consider.

  • Democrats didn’t turn out. As of this writing, Hillary has received 59,938,290 votes. Obama received 65,915,79 in 2012 and 69,498,516 in 2008.
  • Republican vote was also less than four years ago. Trump received 59,704,886,less than the 60,933,504 that Romney received AND less than McCain’s 59,948,323.
  • White, male working class voters did come out in greater numbers for Trump, especially in the heretofore “Blue Wall” states that Trump won.
  • However, if the Democrat vote had turned out in those states, Hillary would have won.
  • Don’t believe the pundits and their opinions right now. They were wrong last week and for months and even years before that.
  • We don’t need to address the discrete issue of jobs and opportunities for angry white males in the Rust Belt or elsewhere, but jobs and opportunities for both genders in all parts of the country. This especially includes inner cities and Greater Appalachia.
  • We are weaker in local and state offices than we are in presidential vote. Talk about your ground game! It turns out that there is one we have ignored.
  • Sexism, racism, nativism and xenophobia affected some voters, but we will never be able to figure out who or in what proportion. So, we don’t need to call anybody “deplorables,” but need to focus instead on our goals and tactics.

Meanwhile, let’s also remember that we our values to use in deciding upon those goals and tactics. In her concession speech, Hillary said:

“So, let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear: making our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top; protecting our country and protecting our planet; and breaking down all the barriers that hold anyone back from achieving their dreams. We’ve spent a year and a half bringing together millions of people from every corner of our country to say with one voice that we believe that the American Dream is big enough for everyone — for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people, and people with disabilities.”

You might say it a little bit differently, but those are values worth working and fighting for.