Wednesday, August 10, 2016

We've Ended Up with Donald Trump as a Candidate Because the U.S. Churches — the White Ones — Have Brought Trump to Us: 25 Theses on What the Church Is (Not) Good For

1. It is frightening to be in the final period of one's life, to be gay, and to see someone like Donald Trump not only rising to power in one's own nation, but vying for leadership of the nation.

2. This experience can make one question the worth of her or his whole life — to question whether all of his or her attempts to lead an upright, productive, generative life have meant nothing at all when all is said and done, in terms of earning respect or even basic security in his/her old age.

3. I am certain I am not alone in experiencing such fear and entertaining such questions now. Many women are contemplating the possibility of a Trump presidency with similar justifiable fear, I would think. African Americans and immigrants of various religious and ethnic backgrounds are doing so, and should do so.

4. I'm not claiming that my perspective, my fears, my questions, are unique and normative: they are fears and questions arising out of my unique perspective of being an aging, married gay man in a part of the country in which Donald Trump is wildly popular, especially among my fellow Christians.

5. One of the lessons the Nazi period in Germany should have taught us (I've been thinking of this lesson after having read Joachim Fest's Not I and Alison Pick's Between Gods recently) is that it's entirely possible for a whole set of human beings to imagine they count, are respected, will be accorded safety — and then to discover that their illusions about where they stand in the eyes of others can vanish in the twinkling of an eye.

6. We count insofar as we are accorded a place in the world by people around us. 

7. Some people always count more than others count.

8. But the lesson of the Nazi period is that even people who have contributed much to the building of a culture, who are well-integrated into a culture, who are wealthy, educated, important to a nation's business life, who have gone to war on behalf of their nation for generations, can suddenly find themselves on the no-count side of the tally — as people they thought of as friends and supporters stand by in total silence when those no-count people are slated for annihilation.

9. For those of us who have no choice except to think about these matters as Donald Trump contends for the presidency as one of the candidates of the two major parties in the U.S., what do the churches have to offer?

10. I'll speak again from my personal perch: I know with absolute certainty that I could not turn to almost all of my local churches for support or assistance, if a sudden horrific twist occurred in our culture and I found myself targeted as an aging gay married man by people intent on doling out injustice or even violence to me.

11. The churches — the white ones — are responsible for Donald Trump.

12. The churches — the white ones — have brought us Donald Trump.

13. Some eighty percent of white evangelicals have declared that they intend to vote for Donald Trump. Half of white mainline Protestants and half of white Catholics have made the same declaration.

14. Donald Trump would not ever have made it to this point in American political life had it not been for the active support and strong sympathy many church members — white ones — have shown him.

15. The fact that Donald Trump has reached such a point in our nation's political life is the direst possible indictment of white American Christianity.

16. The rise of Donald Trump is a moment of dark kairos for American Christianity, in which the savage individualism of white American Christianity, with its callous judgmental disdain for those on the margins of society, should be apparent in a crystal-clear way for those who have hitherto not been able to see or acknowledge the maleficent potential of some forms of (white) Christianity in the U.S.

17. There is a mean, heartless edge to much of American Christianity (white-style American Christianity, I have to repeat). At its worst, that edge is apparent in the mean-spirited in-your-face decision of a group of (white) anti-gay church leaders to hold an in-your-face gay-bashing conference two blocks from the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on the two-month anniversary of the mass shooting there. Donald Trump will be at that event.

18. But, truth be told, how much less mean is it, really, for a leading American Catholic scholar promoting women's rights and writing for a "liberal" Catholic publication to publish an article about violence in the U.S. mentioning the recent massacre at "a nightclub" in Florida and refusing to name the nature of that nightclub or the specific identity of those murdered at that nighclub for having that identity? How is it possible for a well-informed "liberal" Catholic human rights activists not to know full well that refusing to name the sort of human beings slaughtered at a gay nightclub is a mean-spirited, in-your-face act?

19. It's not, after all, as if there hasn't been a ton of discussion about this very issue of making LGBTQ people invisible following the mass murders at the gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, is it? And a ton of discussion about the mean-spirited, in-your-face refusal of church leaders including Catholic ones to speak honestly and openly about who was slaughtered in this act of mass violence . . . .

20. For that matter, is it really less mean for the many "liberal" Catholics who defend this kind of behavior to lionize someone who deliberately and meanly refuses to name LGBTQ people who are murdered en masse at a gay nightclub, and to suggest that a Catholic scholar engaging in such mean-spirited actions while claiming to defend other human rights is, after all, okay because she promotes at least some human rights issues?

21. What, when all is said and done, does either the conservative or liberal incarnation of white Christianity really have to offer to LGBTQ people as Donald Trump rises to power? I personally would not dream of turning to either a conservative or a liberal church in my community for support if I were susceptible to unjust actions or outright violence following a Trump electoral victory. Neither kind of church community has shown much relish for welcoming, affirming, including, listening with respect to the likes of me.

22. The same Catholic journal that gives a loud voice to this Catholic scholar who engages in a mean-spirited, in-your-face refusal to name the Pulse nightclub as a gay club and those murdered there as LGBTQ people is now doing something it has done to certain people contributing to its online discussions in the past: it's targeting this person, expunging his comments, providing no explanation for doing so.

23. And even when other regular contributors to this journal's online discussion place note this and ask what's going on, the censorship continues — while people mounting direct attacks against LGBTQ people with snide comments about "buggery" and "so-called gay 'marriage'" continue to be allowed to post with impunity.

24. And while defenders of the journal (who also defend the Catholic scholar who engages in the mean-spirited, in-your-face behavior of speaking of the violence at "a nightclub" in Orlando recently) minimize and excuse what this Catholic journal is doing to this openly gay contributor to its online discussions — in precisely the same way they have minimized and excused its indefensible, never-explained censorship of other people it has targeted in similar fashion in the past . . . . 

25. What does such apathy in the face of techniques to target, marginalize, and exclude people who are already targeted, marginalized, and excluded really communication to these people, when it's dished out by good, faithful church members? What does such parochial, tribalistic behavior that never opens a door to those shoved to the margins of church and society really have to offer those who find themselves excluded in this way? And how does it really serve as any kind of corrective to the white Christian tribalism that has brought us Donald Trump?

Mean-spirited white Christianity in the U.S. has brought us Donald Trump because mean-spirited white Christianity has not ever found it possible, in its heart, to listen attentively and respectfully to the testimony of those on the margins of society — notably, African-American and LGBTQ human beings. Mean-spirited white Christianity in the U.S. is utterly comfortable with a tribalistic club mentality that glibly and willingly excludes those regarded as different in a way that the tribe or club members find unacceptable at any point in time. And that mean-spirited clubby mentality is in full evidence not only in the right wing of American Christianity: it's in full evidence, too, among so-called "liberal" Christians in the U.S., who are as unwilling as are right-wing Christians to create safe, inclusive dialogue spaces within the churches to permit church members to hear the testimony of those shoved to the margins of church and society.

(Thank you all, by the way, for your kind comments in response to my posting yesterday — and this is not an afterthought; I'm placing these thanks at the end and not the start of my statements here so that they will not distract from the flow of thought in the 25 theses. I probably will not respond to each of them individually. Please know that this does not mean that I do not cherish what you say and your support of this blog. I simply do not feel "together" right now. I do not feel articulate. I don't, I suppose, trust my voice and insights, and rather than say something that may be harmful to anyone, I'm trying not to refrain from doing much talking — hence the "theses" approach I've adopted in this posting.)

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