Saturday, January 14, 2017

Keeping the Moral Center Alive in Age of Retrenchment: Valuable Commentary from Last Week

A selection of things I've read this week on disparate topics, but all bound together by a common concern to keep moral perspectives alive in discussions of public issues — at a point at which powerful forces in public discourse seek to obliterate the moral center (nor can you expect to hear such morally probing discourse in your white evangelical, Catholic, and Mormon churches, for the most part — since that constituency placed Trump in the White House and has set fresh hell into motion in the name of a "pro-life" ethic):

Andrea Germanos, "Obamacare Repeal = $7 Million Tax Cut for Nation's Richest 400 People": 

Repealing Obamacare, which Republicans on Friday appear closer to doing, would deliver a sizeable tax cut for the rich, a new report shows. 
Released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the publication shows that the repeal would give to each of the top 400 highest-income taxpayers—who averaged incomes of roughly $318 million in 2014—a tax cut of about $7 million a year.

Sarah Smith on Facebook

Jana Riess, "Why Abortion May Increase During a Donald Trump Presidency": 

Many American voters who held their noses and cast a ballot for president-elect Donald Trump said they did so because of his campaign promise to overturn Roe v. Wade, overriding their other concerns about his lack of experience or his fundamental character problems. 
I have a couple of friends in this category. Deeply religious people, they admitted that they voted with tunnel vision. Abortion, they said, was so important an issue that they had to vote for the candidate who promised to make it illegal. 
Yeah. About that. Not only is Trump unlikely to repeal Roe, but his administration may become a catalyst for actually worsening abortion rates in this country. The history of the last thirty years shows that America has had its best success in decreasing abortion when Democrats have occupied the White House, not Republicans. 
That is largely because women are more likely to abort a fetus when they lack adequate jobs and health care coverage — which is the economic situation Trump wants to reduce them to. . . . 
When the ACA repeal is complete, it is possible – even likely – that Trump will have contributed to an upturn in the number of abortions in America. 
That's because despite the lip service that GOP candidates have paid to reducing abortion, what’s required isn't just appointing pro-life judges. What's required is creating hospitable conditions for American women, especially the poor, to actually raise to honorable adulthood any children they don't abort.

Robert Weissman, "Trump's Corporate Cabinet": 

We're facing the prospect of a government literally of the Exxons, by the Goldman Sachses and for the Kochs. 
President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet and top nominees draw more deeply from an extremist faction of the corporate class than any in memory, and likely in history. We are witnessing the wholesale corporate takeover of the American government. 
Nothing more plainly shows Trump's complete cynicism and dishonesty than his absolute betrayal of the core claim of his campaign — to rid Washington of corruption, cronyism and insider dealing. The corporate interests who he properly alleged in the campaign buy politicians will now themselves be directly in charge of the government. 
With this Cabinet, it is a virtual certainty that this administration will be the most corrupt and scandal-prone in American history.

Wendell Griffen, "How the US Turned from Barack Obama to Donald Trump":

The United States will soon enter a period where national policies will be driven by a narcissistic white male supremacist with a known propensity for dishonesty, disrespect for people who are different, and idolatry of self. It is telling that Mr. Trump received support from so many people who profess to being followers of Jesus, a Palestinian Jew who included women among his closest followers and treated them with respect, someone who was an immigrant refugee as a child (and probably undocumented at that), and a social progressive who was put to death by the Roman Empire based on false testimony fabricated by his religious enemies. 
The truth is that Donald Trump resembles more people in the United States than many people thought were around. Some of us, however, have always known that the talk about the United States entering a 'post-racial' era was hogwash. We knew what people were really saying when they embraced the Tea Party and signed on to its rhetoric about "wanting my country back." Our elders warned us that "smiling faces tell lies." . . . 
And from now on, whenever someone asks how the US came to be led by a President named Trump after having been led by a President named Obama, quote these words from Dr. King: "Despite its virtues and attributes, America is deeply racist and its democracy is flawed both economically and socially."

Leah McElrath, "Putin's Coup Against America," Twitter

Soraya Chemaly, "The White Male Effect Is Real and Dangerous to Us All": 

In the United States today, the white male effect pervades practically every level of government. "White males dominate Trump's top cabinet posts," 12 out of 15 members, is the actual headline from a CNN article published yesterday. White men, overwhelmingly conservative men, are only 31% of the population, but hold 65% of elected offices. They make up between 73 and 100% of police departments Fortune 500 companies, tenured professorships, and Hollywood management. In Silicon Valley, numbers reflect the same institutionalized imbalances, despite the best intentions of any individual men who benefit from this fraternity. Such is the cultural force of these imbalances that even using the words "White" and "Men" descriptively in the same sentence is considered by many to be sexist and racist. . . . 
A lack of inclusivity in leadership across sectors is clearly putting our democracy at risk today. The homogeneity that persists in leadership eliminates any reasonable checks or balances, such as vitally important nuanced and expansive perceptions of what constitutes public risk. Donald Trump did not defeat Hillary Clinton in some sort of glorified arm wrestling match. Nor did he win because Democrats' "identity politics" failed. Trump won because the identity politics that his platform cultivated with malice leveraged mainstream white male institutional power, including media, on both the left and the right, nationally and internationally.

Bill Moyers, "The 'Hidden Figures' Jeff Sessions Wants to Keep in the Shadows": 

If he could, Jeff Sessions would take back all the racial progress. Now he will at last have the chance to turn the clock back, which is why Donald Trump chose him. I watched Sessions feint and evade during the hearings and thought what an insult his appointment is to a half-century of history in which the civil rights movement helped end overt oppression and won for Johnson, Vaughan, Jackson and countless others the standing and recognition they earned and deserved as citizens. As Americans. 
So much struggle and sacrifice over the years, so many burning churches, mutilated bodies, ticking bombs and bloodshed — so much venomous human behavior before we finally began to get it right. Racism still remains a powerful toxic stream flowing through American life. Too many people are still unseen.

Warren Hall, "A Gay Priest Reflects: 'Why I Can't Go Back'"

Will the day come when "disordered" and "evil" referring to LGBT people are changed or, better, removed from Catholic teaching? I believe it will. But today is not that day. Therefore, until that day arrives, we have to keep discussing, debating and perhaps even being "disobedient." 
So, will I seek reinstatement as a priest in good standing? 
I can't, simply because I could not in good conscience take the Oath of Fidelity that all priests take upon ordination and when assuming a pastorate, namely, that I "accept and hold everything that is proposed by the hierarchy" and that I "adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings."
I'm not talking about the matters of faith but matters of discipline. I'm sure pretty much all Catholics pick and choose what teachings to follow, and in a sense that’s what I'll be doing when it comes to the church’s views on gay men and women. 
But that teaching is hardly the most important one. I think the average Catholic wants the church to get back to the basics: feeding the hungry; clothing the naked; proclaiming the message of love, forgiveness and inclusion that Jesus taught his followers. 
It's a message the people are not hearing enough, and because of that their church is failing them and because of that many are abandoning their church, in droves! As bishops sit on their thrones the view has to be disturbing.

And in a day or so, I hope to say a few words as I point you to Alan McCornick's recent essay at Hepzibah about gay theologian David Berger's volte face regarding same-sex marriage.

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