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In Trump Era, Christianity Goes Astray


#1

In Trump Era, Christianity Goes Astray

Bob Burnett

When I was a teenager, my grandfather Harry used to dine with us most nights. After dinner he would deliver a homily; usually, “Beware the Russians!" Grandpa Harry warned us about the Russians because they had no ethics: They would say and do anything to win. If he was alive now, Harry would still fear the Russians, but he would also warn of Christians, because some of them are willing to say and do anything to win. Witness their support of Donald Trump.


#2

Christianity has been astray for a while now. More or less a couple of millennia at this point. It has a lot of company, too.


#3

Glad am am not such a “christian”. As far as “Christianity” going astray, one can certainly argue that if there had ever been a committed Christian ethos in the US it would never have occurred on other peoples’ lives and land ill gotten through a decidedly non-christian ethic in the first place.


#4

“This has led them to forgive his conduct: “They believe God can use anyone, ‘even a thrice married, non-pious, self-proclaimed public playboy,’” to form a Christian nation.”

I recently spoke to an author of Christian books and this is exactly what I was told when I asked about Trump. You could tell by his demeanor that under normal circumstances, he would have condemned someone like Trump, but in Trump’s case, he said the Bible is full of instances of God using less than honorable men to “accomplish good.”

“There were some ‘real bad guys’ there, but God made good things happen through them.”

We know, of course, what “good things” they want for this country, and if they get what they want, it will surely be the end of the American Experiment.


#5

As a humanist-atheist, I believe the whole Christianity thing has been a hoax and a way to control the masses for the elites and government since its origin. Hence, it has been astray since the get-go.


#6

Just read a study concluding that white evangelical men didn’t vote for Trump because of bad economic factors but because they think America is losing its biblical white Christian roots.

If that’s the case, why does Democrat strategy hinge on defeating Trump by alleging Russian collusion, election interference and morality issues like Stormy’s instead of giving conservative white Christian men a direct grassroots voice? They may not win, but conservatives would vote for a seat at the table.

Direct Democracy


#7

In Trump Era, Christianity Goes Astray.”

Where were all those supposed principled folks in large Christian organizations during the run-up to the Iraq invasion? Or defending the poor while Clinton enacted welfare ‘reform’. Not a peep opposing tax cuts for the wealthy nor any defense of their God’s’ earth from corporate rapers and the fossil fuel industry.

Organized religion is a con game foisted on the most vulnerable ever since Reagan opened the government door (illegally) and offered them a seat at the power table. The gentlemen’s agreement (yes, always men in these hierarchal clubs) was that the cutthroat neoliberal agenda would be advanced without pushback, while those in power shoveled money to religious oraganizations and toed the line re abortion, gay issues and male dominance. How coincidental that the sudden appearance of personal responsibility memes and the preposterous gospel of prosperity sync perfectly with evangelical political ascension.

So Mr. Burnett, don’t just blame Trump’s reign for the breathtaking phoniness of the evangelical community. The rot is as deep and wide as it is long.


#8

Yeah you could say that. LOL


#9

Chris Stedman: In his debate with Bill Nye, Ken Ham said that without the biblical divine origin story we’re “just animals” and suggested that this position undermines human dignity. What do you think about the view that we’re “just animals”? What can we learn about our moral nature from looking at other animals?

FDW: People who say that view undermines human dignity obviously have a low opinion of animals, which I don’t share at all. It’s perfectly fine to be associated with dolphins or elephants or chimpanzees.

“Nonhuman animals may arrive at beliefs based on evidence,” writes philosopher Christine M. Korsgaard, “but it is a further step to be the sort of animal that can ask oneself whether the evidence really justifies the belief, and can adjust one’s conclusions accordingly.” Yet it is many humans who are demonstrably incapable of asking whether evidence justifies their beliefs, then adjusting their conclusions. Other animals are great and consummate realists. Only humans cling unshakably to dogmas and ideologies that enjoy complete freedom from evidence, despite all evidence to the contrary. The great divide between rationality and faith depends on some people choosing faith over rationality, and vice versa.


#10

This country for most of its history had Protestant majority. It no longer does and that is the key. The Protestants have been losing political power for decades as the US has become more and more secular. The mainline Protestants who live mainly in the northeast and upper Midwest have seen their numbers greatly decline and have given up the notion of being a power and largely support liberal causes. However, the Evangelicals still refuse to face the reality that this is not a Christian country and refuse to make peace with this fact. They are desperate to reverse the trend and turn the US into a Christian country compatible with there religious beliefs so they have sold themselves out and support Trump, a man without an ounce of human decency let alone any religious values. They are clearly willing to trash the Constitution, not caring at all about the majority of Americans who are not even Protestant. Religious fanaticism is dangerous. Just look at the Middle East. There are many fanatic Christians, Muslims, and Jews. These people do not fit in democratic secular societies. In the US the Evangelicals form a large part of the Republican base. They are joined by economic libertarians funded largely by by the Koch brothers, white supremacists such as the KKK, neo-Nazis, and alt right computer trolls, and the Patriot militias who fear what they call the New World Order. This is why the US appears to be heading toward authoritarian government which is of course unacceptable to tens of millions of Americans.


#11

Just. Not. True. Look around at the mainline denominations. Mine, the PC(USA) (which happens to be the one djt claims), has active offices in DC (Office of Public Witness) and at the UN, and has had so loud a voice for social justice of all kinds as to create a schism within. But we stood tall. In 2014, with the support of Jewish Voice for Peace and in direct rejection of an overture by Netanyahu, we divested from 3 US corporations that were selling goods and services used in the Palestinian occupations. This year there are Presbyterians walking to the General Assembly to witness for divestiture from fossil fuel industries. And that’s billions of reserves, between pension funds and foundation. Those are just a couple of examples. And there are similar actions in the Episcopal Church, the ELCA, and the United Methodist (which owns the building across from the UN where others have offices). Not perfect, made up of millions of imperfect individuals, but raising our voices for as long as we’ve existed, using our organizations to multiply our voices. And what about the Moral Monday movement and the New Poor People’s Campaign, both led by Christians.

It’s not Christianity that’s gone astray, but one small faction. Did you see that Burnett’s numbers came down to White Evangelicals being something less than a quarter of those who identify as Christian? (I’ve downloaded the Baylor report he cites and will get back with comments on the sociology.) I’ve been given, by another Christian (who reads and follows the teachings of Jesus and his tradition), the suggestion of referring to those who will say and do anything to win as “Christianists.” That’s even better than what we on the left of the PC(USA) were careful to call those who tried to drive us from the church, “Other Presbyterians.”

But Burnett doesn’t know much at all about real Christianity, and he doesn’t very well represent the Society of Friends with his snarking. Jesus was a Jew. When he spoke of Scripture, it was of what Burnett so rudely dismisses as the “Old Testament.” Jesus took issue with the religious leaders of his time, but he did not see himself as starting a new religion that would replace the old. This is just another of the things too few, in and outside of Christianity, bother to understand. And there is nothing to be gained if we don’t bother to understand each other.


#12

I would not call the Evangelicals a small fraction. That group has grown tremendously in recent decades while Mainline Protestant groups lost many members. I read that very recently the Evangelicals have also begun to lose numbers. A growing number of Americans do not identify with any religion. The Evangelicals only hope is a dictatorship. The demographics are clearly against them. Or they could give up their quest for power and decide to live as best they can in a diverse secular democracy, a choice most other Protestant groups have made and which seems like the wise choice to make.


#13

As I said. Arguments from “I read that …” don’t cut it. And what do you accomplish with that?

It is indeed, as you said in the comment that got in just ahead of mine, all about power. But it’s not about the power of groups. It’s about the power of unaffiliated preachers (look up the noisemakers, none of them under the discipline of a denomination). And it’s about the same thing as sports fandom, vicarious accomplishment. That’s a very different cancer on our body politic.


#14

Quite possibly the single person most dangerous to the survival of our secular democracy is not Jim Mattis, nor Mike Pompeo, nor even Tweetle-Dumb himself, but Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos – not merely a stooge of the Funny-Dementalist “christian” Dominionist movement, but a totally devoted & embedded member of the cabal plotting to destroy public education in the U.S. and to replace it with tax-supported religious schools dedi­cated to brainwashing our children from K through 12 – and beyond – with their extremist beliefs.

And DeVos is far from alone — see https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/04/27/legislators-are-trying-hide-dangerous-voucher-proposal-inside-defense-spending-bill.


#15

I was referring to large, evangelical organizations - you know, the ones with money and power. Of course there is progressive support from Presbyterian, Methodist and other protestant churches. Though where were the catholics on the Iraq invasion? That blowhard Donohue gets re-faced over abortion but is MIA on more than half a million Iraqis murdered, for what again? And could you recite the percentage of white christians who voted for the Bushes and Trumps of our elections when there were peace candidates they could have supported?


#16

Astray from what? Astray implies a deviation from an intended path, but every time a faction of Christianity wants to split off or change course, they simply adopt a new path.

“Christian ethics is an elastic concept and you’ll get different definitions from Christian to Christian.”

The closest thing I see to a common denominator is personal acceptance of an overriding obligation to be obedient to the will of GodJesusGhost. Where Christianity fractures into a thousand shards and splinters is over the vigorous disagreement as to what, exactly, GodJesusGhost wants and commands.


#17

One quarter isn’t a small fraction. And this really isn’t about Catholics, it is all about Protestants and Evangelicals are a large percentage of Protestants. I would not even use the term “Christian” in this discussion. I would just refer to Protestants. Catholics are the largest single group of Christians in the US but they are a smaller group than Protestants. About half of US Catholics are Hispanics and the percentage is growing. The Pope is certainly a critic of what Trump seems to stand for. I think it easy to feel empathy with the situation the Evangelicals find themselves. They feel like strangers in their own country. That is not a good feeling. Everyone can practice their religion in the US but that is not enough for many Evangelicals. So they must be opposed to continue to have a country based on the Constitution and certain values that largely came from the Enlightenment.


#18

There are none nearly as large or wealthy as the progressive denominations. I’m sorry I don’t know much about the RCs, except that leadership varies from Pope to Pope and Bishop to Bishop. I’ve no idea who you mean by “Donohue.” You’ll have to do your own research on voting for the Bushes and djt. We Presbyterians don’t tell each other how to vote. Mostly we’ll do studies and give each other “advice and counsel,” bring overtures to the biennial General Assembly, and listen for the Holy Spirit. It took 10 years of shareholder action to get those 3 corporations (HP, Motorola, Caterpillar) to drop Israel before we gave up and voted to divest.


#19

Snarky as your presentation may be, you’ve pretty much got it. Faith is a very individual thing, especially for progressives. When I was ordained to the office now known as “ruling elder” (not professional, but with parity with those who are), I affirmed acceptance of the scriptures as “the unique and authoritative witness” to God, “and, by the power of the Holy Spirit God’s word to [me].” As I interpret it (and my Presbytery validates my ministry as Writer in Residence each year, the same as they do professional nonparish ministries like those of counselors and seminary professors), that means some days some bits just don’t cut it, and there are a few bits that never have yet.

That individuality also happens to be why nobody’s been able to end religion (bands of believers), no matter how much you try to belittle us.


#20

I think you should check your statistics before you make claims such as that RCs are not significantly Evangelical/Christianist, especially among those Hispanics you went on about. Despite having a Pope, RCs are far from monolithic. Look at the “Nuns on the Bus” vs. the ones who sued to not have to offer their lay employees health coverage that included contraception, and many stops in between. And a quarter is indeed a small fraction. No sociological study would get published if it let a quarter of respondents represent the whole.