So I am ending this series a little early, being disgusted by this latest scandal by the current Republican nominee. I may eventually put these articles along with others intended into a Kindle publication, as I did with the Positive Case for Christ, but this election cycle reminds me of why I have grown to prefer books on politics rather than the news media’s coverage or talk radio, and why I prefer political philosophy to the partisan debates of the moment, one must have idealism tempered by utilitarian concerns of how to make things work in politics, unfortunately, this does not describe modern America’s political diet, and to continue discussing political principles within the growing echo chambers based more on sound and fury is to be drowned out, particularly since I am not very good at marketing this blog.
I’m by nature of a man who makes arguments, who reasons his way to his positions, and then when he has crystalized those positions he will defend that rational with passion. But the timing of this release seems clear, we will no longer be discussing issues and political philosophy, instead, reason and wisdom will be crying in the streets abandoned until after November. I’m done for this year, and will only write a pair of articles defending my brethren; to explain why the question is not one of a hypocritical church, but a church in an imperfect and self-destructive society.
I have never been a Trump fan, back in January I wrote an article entitled, “Evangelicals and the Donald,” in which I noted it was unwise to support Trump during the primaries; latter an interesting article restored my thoughts that my brethren had not gone insane – reports of Evangelical support for Trump during the primaries was likely overstated. Yet, after the primaries it became apparent that Millennials, both inside the church and outside, viewed Evangelical’s who support Trump (whether in the Primary or the General) as “hypocrites” and as an argument against Christianity, and some made claims about the religious right as well (as if Trump could every be rationally described as a conservative of any stripe). Even many young Evangelical’s reacted when a Systematic theologian named Wayne Grudem argued that voting for Trump was the right choice. His argument was sound, but his word choice though was not great. We have also been pilloried in the mainstream press, though this is nothing new, what is new, in a sense is the coming to age of Millennials. Some have suggested we vote third party or for Hillary because of the optics and the way millennials will perceive a vote for Trump; I’m sympathetic, but I’ve never made decisions based on what someone else thought I should do, and optics isn’t something I take into account in formulating my philosophy or theology. If the world thinks I’m crazy, well I’m in good company, they crucified my Master, after all. And yet, not explaining why a Christian might buck the trend to vote for someone with the personal manners of an oaf, of a man I increasingly think of as the Republican Bill Clinton, is unreasonable as well, I planned instead to explain why as a Christian I take the stands I do. In the past, during elections seasons, I have done the obligatory posts on issues Christians ought to be concerned about, but because of these concerns Millennials have, I realized I needed to start defining why I take stands as I do. Conservatives like to talk about principles, but they have long only spoken about them in snippets and soundbytes.
An Open Letter to Millennials
You are the reason I began this series, and the reason I may eventually make this material available elsewhere. My generation is often called, “Generation-X” was often dismissed as being educated, but foolish by many of my parent’s generation, meanwhile, many Gen-Xers became scornful of their predecessors, and became convinced of their own moral and intellectual superiority. As I’ve grown older, I understand my parent’s generation better, I’ve learned the weakness that the idealism of youth creates is that this idealism is often impatient and lacks the necessary tempering of wisdom. Young people (and truthfully many moderns in general), live in echo chambers, where they listen only to those who agree with them. This creates an inward arrogance on the one hand, and a tendency to dismiss others too quickly on the other. I am asking you to resist these tendencies for a moment. You have also grown up in a difficult time. In your college years, a questionable approach to epistemology (post-modernism) has dominated your instruction in ways I’m not even sure you understand yet. One of the side effects is you went to academic institutions that failed you, because to a post-modernist, only one side of an argument ever needs to be considered, that which has a view of a particular type of social progress.
Francis Schaeffer in his book The Great Evangelical Disaster noted that many of the cool, hip Christians of his day thought they demonstrated that they were “with it” because they wore blue jeans, missing the fact that blue jeans were not really a badge of anything since everyone wore them. Today, many millennials do the same thing with the phrase, “Social Justice;” I often hear your generation saying you are interested in Social Justice, but then, so is everyone else. The problem with Social Justice is not convincing people to be for it, the problem is how do we define it, and in the past century many different approaches have been suggested. The distinctions in our approaches are often less about ends than means; and while this does not end disagreement, the differences are important. One may bitterly oppose a racist and amiably, but vigorously disagree with someone about how to deal with racial inequalities in our society. Booker T Washington and W E B Deboise disagreed on such matters, but at the end of the day, their cause was the same, the full rights of citizenship.
I believe Trump is a lying, sexist, misanthrope who will say anything to get elected, whether he believes it or not. I abhor his treatment of women as sexual playthings, I abhor that much of his money is comes from the gambling industry, an industry that hurts the poor. I abhor (as a Christian thinker) his tendency to misrepresent conservative and Christian arguments; his dishonesty and hatred of good men throughout the primary season, and I can go on and on; I have never liked Donald Trump. And yet, I also abhor much of Hillary Clinton’s intolerant rhetoric (the statements she made about those living in trailer parks in the nineties in my mind is just as bad as racism), the way she has attacked the character of women who have a history with her husband, including those who have made allegations that Bill Clinton raped them, like Juanita Broaddrick. I am angered that her husband’s administration, with her apparent backing, examined for political capital the FBI files of Republican donors, and I believe the evidence suggest that she took bribes through her husband’s speeches and the Clinton foundation while she was Secretary of State.
Many people will immediately accuse me of defending Trump by making an argument from moral equivalency, but I am not defending Trump, I’m defending believers, and the only issue of moral equivalency would really be, in my mind, why is it when we have two candidates with such serious history of moral failings, dishonesty, and intolerance does the popular press only asks about the character of one of them – but this is a question for another day.
In short, I want to make a different argument, not why Donald Trump is good for the country, nor why Hillary Clinton is bad for the country, but why someone might think Donald Trump is less bad, this will be in part 2.
Grudem argued that a vote for Trump was a morally good choice; but this assumes something about Biblical ethics I do not – that there is always a choice that is morally good, and a choice that is morally bad. I can agree with much of what Grudem has stated about the relationship of the Church and the State, I can agree with him on his discussions of the Old Testament, but I cannot argue that voting for Trump is morally good, I can only make the case that voting for Trump may be the least morally bad.
My perceptions about the Clintons, as will become apparent, is not based in ideology, Bill made it clear he was no ideologue. After 1994, he abandoned his economic platform, blasted the Contract with America as extremist, but then adopted that contract as major points of his political accomplishments beginning with a speech during his re-election campaign, when he stated he had raised taxes “too much.” In a sense, I view the Clintons the same way I view Lucky Luciano, the man who organized the American underworld during prohibition into what we now call the Mafia. Luciano and the Clintons on the one hand are figures that are morally reprehensible, and solely interested in enriching themselves at the expense of the public, and yet, I find that I admire the genius of their ability to organize and sell their ideas, foolish sinful human being that I am.
Perhaps it is only me, but I often think of Bill Clinton as the man who stole what little honor the Democratic party had left. I can remember watching my father grow anger, the man who always described himself as a life long democrat, and then a Reagan Democrat finally said he did not leave his party, his party left him. I watched a man I had disagreed with, but at least respected, Dick Gephardt prove himself to similarly dishonor himself to protect a dishonorable man, and from the primaries that was precisely the worries I had for the Republicans, that a Trump nomination would discredit what was left of the party and take the country with him.
There were originally two parts intended, political ideals (starting with my article on why Christians approve of democracy, and one last piece that as not completed, on the very notion of Social Justice) followed by a practical discussion on economics, race, LGBTQ, and if there was time immigration and poverty. I began the series with my usual tendency to clear what I consider the underbrush that makes it difficult to make a point, in this case, our tendency to make judgments based on perceptions about motives, rather than on facts and reasoning that can be determined, and I was then planning on expanding this for a Kindle release in 2018.
To be fair, Trump has apologized, and the tape was 11 years ago. We play these odd games with apologies in this country and I do not want to engage it in. Trent Lott’s career was largely ruined when he praised Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrat campaign, as it was insinuated to be support for Thurmond’s segregationist stance. Meanwhile, various democrats, including the Clinton’s have faced no reprisals for their support for Senator Robert Byrd, former Klansman, who lied about the extent of his involvement with the Klan. There was a long standing tendency by Democrats to argue Thurmond’s repentance was not genuine, there was a long term tendency by Republicans to say the same thing about Democrats such as Byrd. Engaging in games such as this are petty, and something I wish to avoid playing these games, I can’t judge anyone’s hearts, and motives belong in God’s court, not mine.
But, what is clear, is that Trump has not mastered his tongue; I grant the possibility he could change over the years, but his language during the campaign does not support that assumption.