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Election Day is Only 129 Days Away

July 1, 2016

“Do you think it’s right for Christians to use the names of pagan gods for the days of the week?”

– Garrison Keillor

Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits a religious test for public office candidates. This of course doesn’t prevent religion from influencing a voter’s choice. Some take comfort from lining up behind a politician who claims the same faith and beliefs. Some just say that they do.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, a group of noisy Christian ministers dismayed by their perceived growing separation of church and state formed an organization that they branded as the Moral Majority. For a decade or so, they put pressure on politicians, government agencies and courts to address social issues according to their worldview. They mobilized with consequence when they didn’t get their way. They even went after other Christians. When Jimmy Carter, a Sunday School teacher throughout his adult life, didn’t adequately satisfy their demands in his first term, they supported Ronald Reagan. Never hindered by truthfulness or dignity, these guys even ran an expensive and sophisticated political program in the South that questioned whether Carter was even a Christian. They knew how easily American voters are confused and influenced. Their target market was the blossoming “religious right.”

That was then. This is now. The Moral Majority is now defunct. We have a new set of people anointed to speak for and to Christian voters. I don’t know if they have a snappy brand name like their predecessors did. I think they simply go by “the religious right” or “evangelical.” They are working overtime to be relevant and important in this election year. With the Republican convention only a few short weeks away, many of them recently joined other Christians to listen to Donald Trump talk. Among other things, he told them that he is the only person standing between their religious freedom and an oppressive government.

Not everybody took the bait or accepted Trump’s word. Good for them – practice what you preach. However, you have to wonder whether this was any more than a “see and be seen” boondoggle for them. Did they really expect something different from what we’ve already learned about this very public man?

But there were plenty of big names in the Christian circle that don’t seem to have the strength of their stated convictions. I don’t know their motivations, but their “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and “strength of a leader” responses sound a bit thin to me when you combine it with the way that they normally describe the things that they would like to change about American culture.

There they were, joined with the Master of Ceremonies and pebble in the shoe TV personality, Mike Huckabee, to support Trump. They left the event informing their followers that it was time to get behind Trump, yammering on about “hope” and Trump’s conversion and other such nonsense. Their squinty-eyed conclusions and tortured logic seem like a disservice to their flocks and others who pay attention to their guidance. This is award-winning mendacity.  I’m here to give it to them. I call it the Spoiled Fruit of the Spirit Award.

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The Book of Galatians is a letter from the Apostle Paul to newly converted Christians of Galatia. His letter tries to persuade the Galatians about the truth of the gospel and faith in Christ as the single way to God. In addition, Paul counseled the Galatians that holding on to rituals and other obligations of Mosaic Law wasn’t going to get them to heaven. Paul describes the ideal attributes of a Christian and exhorts them to live a life consistent with the teachings of their religion.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

– Galatians 5:22 and 5:25

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Let’s take a quick look for these Christian attributes in the candidate of choice for these people who say that they try to walk in the Spirit.

Love

There’s no violence, there’s love fests; these are love fests. It’s a little disruption, but there’s no violence … and I’ll tell you why: we go and these things are so incredible, it’s a movement and it’s a love fest and we love each other and we’re going to do so well.

– Trump’s assessment of his campaign events

I get along with everybody. People love me, and you know what? I’ve been very successful, everybody loves me.

– In an interview with Anderson Cooper

Joy

In certain ways, it makes it more exciting.

– Lamenting that there was only one protester at one of his events in West Chester, Ohio

Honestly can I be honest with you? It adds to the flavor, it really does, makes it more exciting.

Celebrating the protests and violence at his March events in Missouri

Peace

I’m a peace-loving person, folks. We love peace. We all love peace.

– In the aftermath of the Chicago event that was cancelled due to violent protests and upheaval outside the hall where he was scheduled to speak

Longsuffering

By the way, I don’t like this mic. Whoever the hell brought this mic system, don’t pay the son of a bitch that put it in, I’ll tell you. No, this mic is terrible. Stupid mic keeps popping! Do you hear that, George? Don’t pay him! Don’t pay him! You know I believe in paying, but when somebody does a bad job, like this stupid mic, you shouldn’t pay the bastard. Terrible. Terrible! It’s true. And you gotta be tough with your people, because they’ll pay. They don’t care, they’ll pay. So, we’re not gonna pay. I guarantee I’m not paying for this mic. Every two minutes, I hear like, ‘Boom! Boom!

– Throwing a tantrum over a sound system at one of his January 2016 events

Gentleness

I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.

Oh, I love the old days, you know?… I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.

Commenting on a protest at one of his February 2016 events

Goodness

Why should we give him medical coverage?

– When asked whether it was wrong for him to cutoff the medical coverage for his nephew (who had been diagnosed with a severe medical condition) because he was angry with his brother about their father’s estate

You want to know something? I’m a better person than the people I’m running against.

– After winning in South Carolina

Well, I think I’m a nice person. I really do. And I think that’s why my numbers always go up as they get to know me better. I think that frankly I’d like to discuss the issues. I’m not looking to take anybody out or be nasty to anybody.

– In August 2015

I never forgive.

– In an October 2015 cable TV event

Faith

I wouldn’t want to get into it because to me that’s very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible, it’s very personal, so I don’t want to get into verses…The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics.

– In August 2015 when he was asked about his favorite Bible passages

Jesus to me is somebody I can think about for security and confidence. Somebody I can revere in terms of bravery and in terms of courage and, because I consider the Christian religion so important, somebody I can totally rely on in my own mind.

– When asked to describe Jesus

I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.

– When asked if he has ever asked for forgiveness

How do you think he’s doing? How does that walk in the Spirit look from your angle? Maybe you think I’ve stacked the deck.

The leader of the Moral Majority once made it sound real simple, “If a man stands by this book (the Bible), vote for him. If he doesn’t, don’t.” Then he went out and executed a character assassination against the nation’s first “born again” evangelical president and did everything he could to make sure that he wasn’t re-elected.

This new group of knaves matches up well with their predecessors. They can’t square the teaching of their religion with Trump’s character and behavior, yet find it necessary to support him anyway. It’s all a lot of arm-waving. They talk in nuanced terms and imagine that a seventy-year old man with a strong personality will change in ways prescribed by St. Paul. Borrowing a phrase from their guy, believe me, they are sorely mistaken.

Conversion_of_Saint_Paul_(Michelangelo_Buonarroti)

A Michelangelo painting of Paul’s conversion to Christianity. This image is from Wikipedia.

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Chris Heath interviewed Trump in November 2015.

Do you believe in heaven”
– Yes

Do you think you’ll be going?
– I hope so. That’s what I strive for.

How’s that going?
– Pretty good.

19 Comments
  1. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Well done, Bruce! Sigh … just four more months of this noise and then, I hope, we will be just a tiny bit closer to that joy and peace and gentleness that sounds awfully good.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great, well written piece Bruce. I hope America will learn from what has just happened in the UK following the Brexit referendum vote. I hope you will not shoot yourselves in the foot as we have done and create an deep division within the country, which will take years to heal. We cannot go back, the damage is done. The UK – Europe – is like a house of cards, in danger of collapse – we have the joker Boris – you have a Trump card. I hope you don’t use it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rebecca – I read about Brexit, listen to BBC and other outlets from the UK, but I am not sure I understand all of the ramifications of the election outcome. It seems that I am not alone; the Leave campaign itself and those who voted for it seem to be scrambling.That’s to be expected given all the social, economic, political and legal issues involved. Keep us updated.

      Like

  3. Well written and (sigh) depressing at the same time. Let’s hope these Millennials have a heart and an inkling of social justice or we are all doomed.

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  4. Opportunists in search of power who would impose their limited perspective on everyone else. They never were particularly moral, and thankfully, never made up the majority. –Curt

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    • Curt – They were never easy to listen to or read, were they? And neither is the current set. There always seems to be a bit of fancy footwork going on.

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      • What bothers me the most, Bruce, is that the flock buys it. But maybe that’s what comes from suspending disbelief and leaping over the falls of fundamentalism. It would be hard to find a more Machiavellian group than the Jerry Falwells of the world, whether they clothe themselves in Christianity, Islam, or some other religion. –Curt

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Why not, they use everything else from pagans 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Bruce, this is an excellent, yet depressing post.
    The fear mongering and the hypocrisy are rampant, and folks are falling victim to it.
    In my city, right now, those who promote fear have made bringing 1-3 refugee families to the city into a huge mess. Decent people have been persuaded to act irrationally

    Like

  7. No group has been pandered to and exploited more – with so little to show for it – than the so called “Religious Right.” Sadly, that *drum* will continue to be beat until the dash for cash that it is, dies a very public, painful public death. I – for one – will not be holding my breath.

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  8. PS – “Two Corinthians walk in to a bar…” 😉

    Like

  9. As always, really good. I tweeted it which means it will tweet and go to my Facebook page…

    Like

  10. A wonderful piece of reporting/commentary in which I smile (in total agreement) and grimace (ugh ugh ugh) at the hypocrisy in politics. UGH. But thanks for putting quotable light on the subject.

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  11. Wow. Decidedly thoughtful and well-written, as always. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I think politicians should keep their religious beliefs to themselves. Not that I don’t think they should have any!

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  12. Sad and funny at the same time. 🙂

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  13. Well done, Bruce. I enjoyed this one. I couldn’t move entirely away from a point you made in the beginning, about Article 6 preventing a religious test for a candidate, but that citizens could certainly use it to help them decide. I disagree with what happens in practice. There is an absolute requirement for candidates to be not only religious, and to prove their devotion during their candidacy and during office, but also to belong to one of a rather short list of religions. This is annoying as hell for me, an atheist. It drives me crazy that valuable time is wasted on trying to trick people into confessing that they are a weaker Christian than they say they are. Because WE the public are the ones who originally insisted that they must be a Christian!

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