Monday, March 12, 2018

Trump evangelicals like to dish out moral criticisms, but can't take any.

Trump evangelicals moved their loyalty from the man on the right to the man on the left and are getting angry for being dragged about it. They had better get used to it because the dragging will be going on for a long time.

The Family Research Council, a group which supports Donald Trump in spite of his incompetence and immense moral failings, is angry at  a writer at The Atlantic for calling out their hypocrisy.

In a just published Washington Update, FRC president Tony Perkins verbally went after Michael Gerson for his recently published, and very astute, criticism of white evangelical support of Trump. In his piece, The Last Temptation,  Gerson doesn't pull any punches in dragging Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins and other conservative evangelical figures and groups.

And Perkins is "ever so pissed" about it:

CBS's "Face the Nation," which, like most liberal outlets, is quite content beating this dead horse, invited Gerson on the show yesterday to elaborate, without, I should add, a countering perspective. Like other partisans masquerading as "journalists," he insists evangelicals are hypocrites for not demanding a national recall of the president over 10-year-old allegations of infidelity. The host reminds Gerson that evangelicals' support isn't without cause. After all, the president has spent the year delivering on a long list of promises to his base. No matter, Gerson waves her off. "They are acting like, you know, slimy political operatives, not moral leaders. They are essentially saying, in order to get these benefits... they are willing to wink at Stormy Daniels and wink at misogyny and wink at nativism." 
Evangelicals, he goes on, "have not provided that moral judgment that I think leavens our politics or should leaven our politics." I'm curious what kind of "moral judgment" Gerson thinks Christian leaders should be offering. This is, after all, behavior that happened in the past. Does Gerson think that Christians should continue piling on judgment for actions that, to our knowledge, no longer continue? No one is rationalizing or excusing his failings. But Americans -- evangelicals included -- elected Donald Trump with almost full knowledge of Trump's past. As I've explained numerous times, it came down to him or Hillary Clinton, so Americans gave him a chance despite his past. Now that he's earned their support with his actions as president, it's our job to hold Donald Trump accountable for what he does in office. We can't do anything about the past. If any immoral behavior were taking place on the president's part today, Michael Gerson would be writing a very different story about the estrangement of Trump and his evangelical base. 
For now, our support for the policies of this president is hardly the great mystery that liberal lackeys like Gerson claim it to be. This isn't blind allegiance on the part of evangelicals or "slimy" opportunism. This is reasoned support for a political leader who has made and kept his campaign promises. If you want to know the real reason Gerson's crowd is unhappy with evangelicals, it's not because we're hypocrites. It's because we stand in the way of the Left's designs, with the same ability to affect government that they've had for almost a decade. Their goal is to try and shame evangelicals into disengaging from the policies and elections that govern our lives and our ability to live according to our Christian faith.

Damn, what exactly did Gerson say Perkins riled up?

Things like this:

 . . . Loyalty to Trump has involved progressively more difficult, self-abasing demands. And there appears to be no limit to what some evangelical leaders will endure. Figures such as Falwell and Franklin Graham followed Trump’s lead in supporting Judge Roy Moore in the December Senate election in Alabama. These are religious leaders who have spent their entire adult lives bemoaning cultural and moral decay. Yet they publicly backed a candidate who was repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct, including with a 14-year-old girl. 
In January, following reports that Trump had referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries,” Pastor Robert Jeffress came quickly to his defense. “Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him,” Jeffress wrote, “President Trump is right on target in his sentiment.” After reports emerged that Trump’s lawyer paid hush money to the porn star Stormy Daniels to cover up their alleged sexual encounter, Graham vouched for Trump’s “concern for Christian values.” Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, argued that Trump should be given a “mulligan” for his past infidelity. One can only imagine the explosion of outrage if President Barack Obama had been credibly accused of similar offenses. 
The moral convictions of many evangelical leaders have become a function of their partisan identification. This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption. Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can’t see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives. Little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness.

Perkins and the rest of the evangelical right might as well get used to onslaughts like this. As long as Trump is in office and proceeds to make an immoral ass out of himself and as long as these so-called arbiters of morality excuse his behavior, they should get and expect to get  dragged, pointed at, and basically called out.  Because, in spite of what Perkins said, they are being hypocrites. Furthermore, their public debasement is at least the one good thing coming out of Trump's electoral victory. And do not make the mistake of thinking that the LGBTQ community isn't watching and enjoying all of this.

We are watching, enjoying, and most importantly keeping the receipts.


Frank said...

I read the very excellent article by Gerson. Having grown up Catholic and educated in Catholic institutions through graduate school, I have that perspective rather than an evangelical one. Gerson contrasts his background with Catholic theology of social justice, a theology that has, like liberation theology, I believe, fallen out of favor as more and more progressive Catholics have left the church. The current Catholic church looks more like an evangelical denomination...emphasizing abortion, anti-LGBT and other conservative issues and thus, I would not be surprised if more Catholics support Trump than one might expect.

Gerson also says "Politics in a democracy is essentially anti-apocalyptic, premised on the idea that an active citizenry is capable of improving the nation. But if we’re already mere minutes from the midnight hour, then what is the point? The normal avenues of political reform are useless. No amount of negotiation or compromise is going to matter much compared with the Second Coming."

I would go one step further...and I do that at the risk of sounding like a science fiction writer...that, from what I've observed, many of the most vocal, fundamentalist-biblically literal-evangelicals see the current administration as a literal means to bring about an apocalyptic event: from the status of Jerusalem to the possibility of nuclear war.

The real danger that they pose is that these fanatics and fringe-christians have the ear of a president whose ego is such that he can be influenced to do their bidding (he already has to a great extent) and they may someday come bidding him to push the button. (I hit the "publish comment button" as the announcement comes that Rex Tillerson gets fired)

Hunter said...

They gave a rationale that explains their position -- it doesn't excuse it to any normal person, but it does explain it. I found this quote from Robert Jeffress in this post from Digby:

The pastor, who oversees the First Baptist Church in Dallas, said evangelicals understand “the concept of sin and forgiveness.”

“We are all sinners, we all need forgiveness, [and] that forgiveness is available through Christ for anyone who asks,” he said. “And whether the president needs that forgiveness for this particular allegation, whether he’s asked for it, is between him, his family and his god.”

In their own minds, this justifies their willingness to excuse Trump's complete lack of moral foundation. The fact that their "ministries" are in actuality political machines is beside the point.