Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Have to Confess That I Only Now Understand How Purely Cruel My Fellow Christians Are": Commentary on White Christians' Support of Trump

More documentation for you of a very dark time that is rapidly unfolding in front of our eyes — which demands documentation on a day-by-day basis due to the rapidity of what's now happening:

As we enter the era of Donald Trump, I have to confess that I only now understand how purely cruel my fellow Christians are. I find it hard to pray as a result. . . .
[T[he words of Jesus are apparently worthless to people who are angry that immigrants might be made citizens without suffering enough. If you want your impoverished neighbor's insulin supply cruelly torn away from her on the extremely slim chance that it might make your own monthly health insurance premiums go down, you will find little validation in the Sermon on the Mount. If you want to halt immigration for people who are fleeing persecution, you will have some trouble with the God of Zechariah, who tells you in so many words, "[D]o not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another."

For months, the stories came in waves. The death of the religious right. The new moral minority. The Christian case for voting Trump, followed by the Christian case for not voting Trump. Everyone wanted to know what conservative evangelicals, who have long been considered a unified voting bloc, would do during this election. 
Now, it is clear. They overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump.

But when evangelical starts to sound like very bad news for very many Americans, it has drifted far from its roots. A prophetic consensus has emerged that U.S. evangelicalism is irreducibly linked with white privilege. 
Many Christian leaders of color line up with their white peers in theology, yet won't claim the label for white evangelicals failing to provide a robust response to violence against racial minorities. That white evangelicals broke sharply from Christians of color in supporting a candidate who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan will undo generations of efforts to heal the racial injustice tearing apart the church and our country.

The stark reality is that most white Christians, including more than 80 percent of white evangelical Christians, supported Donald Trump for president, despite his evident immorality, bigotry, and disregard for the dignity of women, (not to mention complete lack of qualification or competency). We’re about to witness firsthand what happens when the established Church compromises its moral authority for the promise of power, and it won’t be pretty. I predict millennials in particular will continue to drop out of religious life, and the ethnic divides within American Christianity, which many sought to heal with a quick-fix approach to "racial reconciliation" that bypassed repentance and justice, will only widen. 
There’s an op-ed out every minute urging the bewildered to get out of their bubbles and get to know some Trump supporters, but you don’t need to do that, do you?

Last week I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who, on tape, mocked a journalist with disabilities, and who, also on tape, lied about mocking that journalist. 
I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who admitted to sexually assaulting women and gleefully affirming that he would face no consequences for doing so. 
I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians dismissed his affairs, adultery, multiple marriages, participation in porn subculture, refusals to release his tax returns, failure to donate to charities to which he promised money, mockery of his own supporters (including their wives and parents), participation in racist lies about President Obama, stereotyping of African Americans, Mexican Americans and Muslims–and still voted for him. 
I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who lies about even the most trivial things. 
I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who conveniently "found religion" just in time to court a voting bloc, but who could not answer even baby questions about this newfound faith. 
I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who in his acceptance speech did not mention "God." Not one time. Not even to thank God for his victory or to suggest that "God bless America." 
I lament that, for white evangelicals, my brothers and sisters in Christ (some of whom have joined me in the work of racial justice), the very real lives and experiences of black and brown peoples, Muslims, immigrants, and so many others were apparently not on their radar. People whose highest commandment is to love God and then love your neighbor.

White people, no matter how painful, have a responsibility to reject anybody who stands in front of a camera who spews racism. Who spews sexism, misogyny. Who brags about being a sexual predator. I don’t care what your race is, but especially if you’re white. Because that means that you belong to the race that’s been in power forever. 
This a country that was founded on genocide and built on the backs of slaves. So you have a special responsibility as a white person to always object to anybody who uses racism, who spews this hatred. 
And do not call yourself a Christian if you are not willing, literally, to put your body in front of whoever is coming to hurt the other — the people who are not you.

As soon as the election was over, it became clear that it wasn’t just white voters that elected Trump, but white voters who identified most with Christianity. Certainly in American evangelicalism, with its roots in Calvinism, there is a strong but perverted prosperity gospel tradition, which sees wealth and worldly success as a sign of divine blessing. It is no surprise that this tradition so easily embraced the libertarian ideology that became Republican orthodoxy. 
Catholics don't have this excuse, of course, but a majority of white Catholics still went for Trump. Some might even say they handed him his victory. How did this happen? …Let's face it, I don't see much concern among the Catholic Trump supporters about plans to break up millions of families, destroy the Paris agreement on climate change, or take healthcare away from millions. Yet these are pro-life issues too.

The bishops' conference is at a low ebb. They have focused on marginal issues and their rhetoric against the Obama administration was so consistently hostile, they have become effectively an arm of the Republican Party, a party that has been taken over by a man who is no social conservative, a man who has made millions of immigrant children afraid for their families. Sixty-one percent of Catholics under the age of 18 are Latino. They are the future of the Catholic faith in this country, not even the future, the future is here. They are under attack. As Cardinal-designate Joseph Tobin tweeted last night: "Will US bishops meeting in Baltimore stand in effective solidarity with refugees, immigrants, people of color, the poor? Stay tuned and pray for us." There was a time when that question did not need to be asked. It is a measure of the failure of the leadership of the conference in the past few years that the question is asked and not just by us in the press, but by one of their own.

A Bean Blossom, Indiana church that prides itself on being inclusive and embracing of LGBT people was attacked this weekend with an anti-gay slur and Donald Trump-supporting Nazi sentiments. 
A swastika accompanied spray-painted messages that read, "HEIL TRUMP," and "F*G CHURCH." 
It's just one more of the nearly five hundred documented pro-Trump hate crime attacks that have swept the nation after Election Day.  
But in a surprise move, church leaders did not rush to remove the graffiti. In fact, they're going to leave it up.  
"At first I was a little disheartened," Rev. Kelsey Hutto told the Washington Post. "Saint David's has been very active in our community and to find that is hurtful." 
"We're proud of being targeted for the reason that we were targeted for, at least in which we think we were targeted for, which is being inclusive," she said.

Notice that it is not Catholic churches that are being attacked now. Notice, too, that there has not been a single word at the major "liberal" Catholic newspaper or journal sites I visit daily about the spike in hate incidents following Trump's election.

Not. A. Single. Word.

Lots of words about healing and dialogue and how misplaced anger is in the wake of the election. Lots of censorship of anyone trying to talk about things like racism (but never censorship of those using the abortion issue as a cudgel to beat fellow Catholics about the head with). But not a single word about the acts of hate pouring forth all through the nation in the wake of this election, in which members of minority communities are being targeted.

And isn't that shameful? Like living in the lead-up to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany and watching the churches of that nation, both Catholic and Protestant, refuse to admit what was happening, refuse to preach about it, refuse to stand in opposition to the outpouring of hatred . . . which led to the direst possible consequences for millions of their fellow human beings.

The lay Catholic leaders who control these newspapers and journal sites are not among those who can expect to be targeted now, nor are their children the ones likely to go to school to encounter the N- word painted on bathroom walls, taunts about dykes and fags and beaners and hijabs. They can, I suppose, afford to be silent, or to keep up the pretense that "civility" and "dialogue" and "healing" — but not repentance and definitely not a new configuration of the Catholic conversation to draw in those who have been kept on the margins for far too long, and to hear their painful testimony — will somehow carry us through this dark period of history.

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