Men and women of principle

>> Thursday, December 08, 2016

In short, many religious Christians of a traditionalist bent believed that liberals not only reduce their deeply held beliefs to bigotry, but want to run them out of their jobs, close down their stores and undermine their institutions. When I first posted about this on Facebook, I wrote that I hope liberals really enjoyed running Brendan Eich out of his job and closing down the Sweet Cakes bakery, because it cost them the Supreme Court. I’ll add now that I hope Verrilli enjoyed putting the fear of government into the God-fearing because it cost his party the election.
The Washington Post, December 7th, 2016.

One naturally wonders what to do with these kinds of articles and arguments.

Firstly, because it's probably fair to say that Evangelical Christians are probably right that a fair number of us would like to see their beliefs relegated to the same dustbin that holds wife-burnings and human sacrifices.  I would like to be kinder and more tolerant about this, but I give up: I think if you're content to have your religion and let me have my lack of it, we can live together just fine, but if you want your belief in a sky fairy and a literal take on ancient legends to govern daily life and oppress consenting adults from having consenting adult relationships, or regulate adults' reproductive choices, for examples, we don't have much room to live together after all.  One of us has to give in about gay marriage and/or access to contraception, and I don't intend to.

This is why I've gotten tired of people insisting that there are "political" divisions that people "just need to get over" or "seek compromise" on.  You and I disagree on a tax rate, that's political.  You and I disagree on whether gay people are entitled to the full panoply of civil rights, that's something else.  And it's not a "compromise" for us to decide that gay people have some human rights but not others: that's just a "lite" version of deciding they're not entitled to be treated as fully human.

We went through this and are still going through this with African-Americans.  Either black folks and white folks have the same basic rights or they don't, and the white folks who spent the Reconstruction era saying that the former slaves ought to be satisfied with being former slaves without insisting on being able to vote and hold office, demand equal pay, and use the same public transit facilities were missing the point.

It may be that there will be a backlash and terrible bill to be paid for the Obergefell decision, but I'm not about to feel bad about that.  If a certain kind of Christian considers gay marriage an assault on their values, well maybe it is and if so it ought to be.

Which also brings us, the long way around back and through the woods, to the secondly.  (I certainly wouldn't begin a section "firstly" if I didn't have a "secondly."  Well.  Not on purpose, anyway.)

Secondly, it's hard to know what to make (if anything) of observations like Bernstein's when the evangelical voters he is writing about go out of their way to make it so damned hard to take their values seriously by voting for somebody who conspicuously flaunts and violates them.

The Mormons in Utah who voted for McMullin, I can respect where they were coming from and what they did; if it was a futile gesture, it was nevertheless a touchingly honest one.  I don't share their values, mostly, and I can't say I care for their candidate.  But they didn't reject Hillary Clinton in favor of a man who doesn't represent a single value the Church of Latter-Day Saints has ever laid claim to.  The evangelicals who voted for Trump, on the other hand....

The evangelicals who voted for Trump: we know they value something, whatever it is.  But that whatever seems to take precedence over, say, the seven venal sins, all of which seem to be embodied by Trump.  He's a braggart who can't open his mouth (or Twitter app) without boasting.  There's pride.  He boasts about pussy grabbing and makes lewd comments about his own daughter and goes through wives the way some people lease cars.  Lust, I think?  His lifestyle reeks of greed and gluttony (and more pride).  He's notorious for not working hard to prepare for things like the debates and the office he's the presumptive winner of, talked about how great it was to have an actual veteran give him an unearned Purple Heart because that was the easy way to get something he always wanted, and he's only where he is because of his dad's money.  Let's group these under laziness.  He has a short temper and is easily riled--there's anger.  Do you suppose his being upset about not getting an Emmy counts as envy?

Admittedly, the Seven Deadlies are very Catholic.  But one wonders at how Trump is granted forgiveness by so many self-pronounced Christians when he's undeniably done so many of the things these same people flayed the Clintons for.  Marital infidelities, corrupt self-dealing, public lying?  Sounds like Donald Trump.

Or--and I'm not a Christian, maybe I was misinformed--but I was given the distinct impression evangelicals put a high priority on family values and living a Christlike life.  It has been a long while since I perused the New Testament, but I fail to recall the passages where Jesus went around walking into women's dressing rooms at the beauty pageants he hosted, sexually harassed girls and women, cheated people out of their hard-earned money by promising to teach them at a fake "university," mocked the disabled and the families of dead soldiers, bullied people, and ran his mouth with such a pathological indifference to facts or consistency that calling it "lying" seems somehow inadequate and itself misleading.

I do seem to recall Jesus being something of a religious scholar: had the Bible as we now know it existed, I sincerely doubt he would have referred to something as "Two Corinthians."

The nearest resemblance to what passes for a Christian I can find in Donald Trump is a reference to the now-popular "Prosperity Gospel" that equates worldly success (something I vaguely recall Jesus as being disdainful towards in the actual Gospels) with virtue.  Trump, whatever his actual financial holdings, lives in a gilded world and has stumbled into the office of President of the United States; if these are signs that he has pleased God and therefore been rewarded... well, I have been told The Lord moves in mysterious ways, and I admit to being frankly baffled.  Indeed, if acting like a thoroughly godless, secular lout is the way to pleasing God, let me point out to the Divine Creator of the Universe that I don't even believe in Him, that I curse like a sailor and have questionable morals, and that my very profession is associated with prostitution and held in slightly less regard; surely I am even more pleasing, then, and deserve a little something something for my efforts?  Am overdue, even, for my beautiful reward?

It is, anyway, hard to look at someone who (a) claims they're an evangelical Christian and (b) voted for a lying, fraudulent, money-grubbing pervert, and decide that their actions and values are in alignment.  Indeed, one is inclined at this point to "reduce their deeply held beliefs to bigotry": if you are more distressed that two consenting adults of the same sex wish to spend their lives together with the full benefits accorded by a secular state than you are by the fact that you just voted for a man who resembles the money-lenders and hypocrites who appeared as villains and cautionary examples in Biblical tales more than he resembles your Savior, I don't see how it's surprising or even unfair for me to conclude that your homophobia is more important than any other values you pretend to have.  I'm not even saying that you necessarily believe Donald Trump is a good or godly man; only that you care about that less than you care about the squickiness you feel about grown men holding hands, kissing, or being allowed to participate in medical decisions on behalf of their partners.

Let me just say in closing that I can imagine some American pundit of a hundred-and-sixty-years ago gloating that he hoped John Frémont enjoyed threatening Southerners with the prospect of losing the balance of Free and Slave states in Congress and scaring hard-working property owners with the prospect of being unable to recover personal property that happened to abscond him-or-herself across the Mason-Dixon Line and onto Free Soil.  No doubt being staunchly abolitionist cost the Republicans of 1856 the White House, and nominating a firebrand like Frémont who would campaign under an offensive and divisive slogan like "Free Soil, Free Men, and Frémont!" was obviously a mistake; I imagine our pundit writing in the 19th Century's equivalent to Politico that if the Republicans wanted to have any hope whatsoever of winning future elections and to exist as a viable political party, they would need to abandon divisive rhetoric, reach out to those alienated by the Republican Party's "identity politics" and those rejecting the "political correctness" that reduced their "deeply-held values" to bigotry.  And by the metric of victory--surely the only thing that counts, right?--this pundit would be absolutely correct: the divisive, partisan, identity politics of the Republican Party cost them a Presidential election, practically handed the White House to James Buchanan, and the Republicans had no right to be upset about the results when it was clearly their own damned fault for picking a divisive and polarizing candidate like John C. Frémont as their standard-bearer instead of somebody willing to compromise on the issues that really mattered to the average American voter.  Remember the great bipartisan compromises like the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854?  That's the kind of middle-of-the-road, middle American cooperation this country needs to be great again.

Yeah?  Well?  I guess I have an appropriately Yuletide season response to that kind of thinking, then or now.


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