The Trump phenomenon: an appeal for common decency

Saturday, February 27, 2016

It may be that Max Lucado, a leading conservative-evangelical minister with a reputation free from the usual scandals, will be the one to call his community to its senses. I think this piece that he wrote has already gone viral, but I’m glad to add my blog to the chorus:

(Lucado comments further on the Christianity Today website.)

As of today (Feb. 27), with Chris Christie signing on to the Trump candidacy and Marco Rubio trying pathetically (and failing) to imitate Trumps prodigious vulgarity, the crisis in American politics is becoming genuinely serious. I heard a long discussion on the POTUS satellite channel in which the host (a Democrat) said he was no longer thrilled that Hillary would have a clear path to victory if Trump were nominated. He and the guest analyst (an impressive woman whose name I did not get) agreed that Trump had already done grave damage to the body politic and that five months of him on the  campaign trail would contaminate American values in a truly alarming fashion for many years to come. 

In addition to the POTUS conversation I listened to a speech that Trump gave, broadcast in toto on CNN. It was even worse than I had thought, and it went on for at least forty minutes, maybe more. I will be preaching in Georgia and South Carolina next week, and I am wondering what in God’s name I am going to say. To say nothing would be a total cop-out.

American values, not to mention Christian values, really are at stake here. I read an article in The New York Times today which seems relevant. It describes the rising tide of extremism, nationalism, neo-Fascism, a “sudden and sinister rise in right-wing racism” and anti-refugee sentiment. In German this takes the form of burning down refugee centers as extremist right-wingers who “feel increasingly powerless and lose faith in politicians and the news media.” Does that sound familiar?  If we continue to tolerate and even cheer vicious, angry, divisive rhetoric from our putative leaders, we will certainly see such an increase of hostility toward minorites, immigrants, and vulnerable people of all kinds.

Speaking of The New York Times, part of Trump’s very long speech today was an attack on the paper, which has been doing some research into his business dealings and hiring practices. He spent a good five minutes excoriating the Times for its bad real estate decisions (he may be right about that, for all I know) in order to brag about his superiority (he rattled off a list of all his properties) and, above all, to deflect the conversation from the Times‘ journalistic findings. He invited his whooping, cheering audience to understand that these are “bad people, bad people” at the Times whereas, of course, his fans are “wonderful people.” The definition of a “wonderful person” is someone who loves him. That explains why he has said, “I love the poorly educated.”

In a previous blog, I called attention to Marilynne Robinson’s essay, “Fear.” She writes that “America is a Christian country, and fear is not a Christian habit of mind.” Neither are indecency, insults, boorish behavior, hateful speech, ignoring facts, spreading vicious untruths about one’s perceived enemies…and above all, divisive language about “wonderful people” vs. “bad people.” The Christian faith, about which Trump appears to know virtually nothing, is about the justification of the ungodly. That includes all of us sinners and requires us to be very careful about claiming special status for ourselves and those who support us at our worst.

The mainline churches are largely voiceless these days. Conservative-evangelical support for Trump is growing by the day.  A friend emailed me to the effect that the mainline churches have been under judgment for a long time for emphasizing certain hot-button issues at the expense of building up a deeply-rooted understanding of our true faith. As I’ve been blogging recently, the great divide between the Christian right and the mainlines–for which the mainlines must bear a good deal of the responsibility–is already coming back to haunt us.

Here is a link to the Times article about Germany:

And here is one about Marilynne Robinson:

And here is one recent post about the mainlines and the Christian Right:

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