Sunday, October 23, 2016

Vote Lizard, 2016 or...May You Live In Interesting Times

This AP photo comes from Politico.
I read a fortune cookie once which related what is said to be, depending on who is quoting it, either an ancient Chinese curse, or an ancient Chinese blessing: May you live in interesting times. Well, blessing or curse, we certainly have the distinction, dubious or otherwise, of living in interesting times. Just look at the American presidential election.

If someone would’ve predicted, even just a decade ago, that we would be in our current political situation, no one would’ve believed it. The Republican Party has been called in the past a big tent. Under the canopy of this big political tent were united such groups as social conservatives, evangelicals, fiscally conservative social liberals, small-government advocates, anti-abortion advocates, gun rights advocates, and those who advocate for strong national defense, among many, many others holding what has come to be called “conservative” views. This Grand Old Party, however, has nominated a reality television star. This man, who calls himself the “king of debt[1],” supports and has used imminent domain to deprive fellow private citizens of their property[2]. He has stated multiple times that (though he claims to be a Christian) he has never once felt the need to repent for his sins[3]. He has embodied in his media career the opposite of anything resembling “traditional family values” (a term I do not care for, but one which has taken up a big section of the GOP’s tent canvas for a long time). He has advocated for unconstitutional gun control policies[4] and, for most of his life, was a registered Democrat who even donated large sums of money to his current opponent and said that she would be a good president[5].

On the Democrat side: Let’s forget for a moment her role in the scandals of her husband such as Whitewater, Troopergate, Travelgate, et. al.[6], and focus just on her own, more recent political career. We are presented with a person who, through her managing of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, has set the world on fire. She has worked to topple foreign governments throughout the Middle East, even after decrying the Bush administration for the same type of nation building. She encouraged the so-called Arab Spring which resulted in civil wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. She supported the fall of the Egyptian dictatorship and its replacement with a Muslim Brotherhood led government[7]. She supported the toppling the Libyan dictatorship, which ultimately led to the Benghazi incident, where three American soldiers and the American ambassador were killed. For weeks she lied about what caused the incident where the US facility was breeched, maintaining that a spontaneous group protest incited by an anti-Islamic YouTube movie got out of hand[8]; the maker of the video in question was subsequently jailed[9]. In reality, it was a coordinated attack by terrorists on the US facility. She led efforts to arm Syrian “rebels” who turned out to be anti-American terrorists with connections to Al-Qaeda and ISIS[10]. Because of her handling of diplomatic relations and her desire to remake the map of the Middle East, we stand at the brink of war with Russia in Syria. She used her private email server for official communications, rather than official State Department email accounts maintained on federal servers. Those official communications included thousands of classified State Department e-mails. The FBI director admitted that what she did regarding the handling of classified material was illegal, but that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case[11].” She is an economic socialist who wants the rich to pay their fair share to feed the ever-expanding welfare state. She supports “common sense” gun laws like the ones in Australia (gun bans, registrations, and confiscation)[12]. She is a feminist who supposedly believes all victims of sexual abuse have a right to be believed[13], but who supported her philandering husband through countless “bimbo eruptions” and sex scandals of his own, even going so far as to work against the women accusing her husband[14]. She believed that marriage was a sacred bond between a man and a woman until it was politically advantageous for her to believe otherwise[15]. It is more accurate to say that she celebrates and promotes abortion, rather than that she “supports” it, right up to the time of the baby’s birth[16]. She is completely disingenuous and morally bankrupt, saying what she needs to say to whomever she needs to say it, to advance herself, and granting access to the power she has amassed to those willing to pay[17].

Now, so close to the November election, I sit back and watch as the same Democrats who defended President Clinton’s sexcapades with Monica Lewinski attack the lewd and deplorable Donald Trump for the same type of lewdness as they defended Secretary Clinton’s husband against.

Remember in the 1990's when President Clinton "…did not have sexual relations with that woman…" and lied about it to a grand jury? Remember all the sex scandals and the parade of women accusing President Clinton of what amounted to rape? Remember how the Democrats circled the wagons and said that President Clinton's private life didn't matter regarding how he did his job as president? Remember when the Republican Party, lead by conservative talk radio and the Moral Majority, said that character matters and someone who was a letch and a liar was unfit to be president? Today all that has been turned on its head.

Today we have Democrats wringing their hands lamenting the character of Donald Trump because he is a vulgar misogynist who would be a terrible role model for America's children. Republicans and evangelicals, meanwhile, dismiss the terrible things Donald Trump has said and claimed to have done because Hillary Clinton is worse than him. The two parties have completely switched places regarding the importance of morality. What this says about the two parties is that contrary to what you may hear from their spin-masters, apparatchiks, and talking heads, the leadership and membership does not believe the things they said they believed. They simply seek to win elections by any means necessary. I know this isn't a huge revelation about politics and political types. It is, however, quite revealing of American Christianity and its leaders.

Fundagelical hatred of Hillary Clinton apparently trumps their professed moral values. Character, evidently, does not count in 2016 as much as it did in the 1990’s.

Fundagelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, and Dr. James Dobson are defending Donald Trump, mostly on the grounds of “…but Hillary is worse!” I agree that Hillary Clinton is worse than Donald Trump. That does not mean, however, that we should abandon our moral principles and support him. To be clear, these American Christian leaders should have been nowhere within 10 miles of the Trump Train from the beginning. With the most recent revelations, one would have expected all Christian leaders to denounce his sins, call him to repentance, and pull their support until he did so. Instead, the opposite happened. Falwell and Dobson, while calling Trump’s statements and behavior toward women in the past deplorable, doubled down in their support, citing that Hillary is worse! Falwell said:

“The comments Mr. Trump made 11 years ago were deplorable and I condemn them entirely…I also find Hillary Clinton’s support of partial birth abortion criminal and her opinion of evangelicals to be bigoted. There really is only one difference between the two. Mr. Trump promises to support religious liberty and the dignity of the unborn. Mrs. Clinton promises she will not. It [the video] was completely out of order, it’s not something I’m going to defend…it was reprehensible. We’re all sinners, every one of us. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t…It was just a horrible thing. He apologized. He was contrite about it” (Bailey 2016).

Dobson defended Trump along the same lines as Falwell, and he even compared him to President Clinton, though Dobson maintains his condemnation of President Clinton for his misdeeds is comparing apples to oranges:

“First, I do not condone nor defend Donald Trump's terrible comments made 11 years ago. They are indefensible and awful. I'm sure there are other misdeeds in his past, although as Jesus said, 'Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.' I am, however, more concerned about America's future than Donald Trump's past…To my knowledge, Donald Trump has never abused women physically or had oral sex in the Oval Office with a vulnerable intern. Nor has he committed perjury by lying to Congress for many hours…Clinton, on the other hand, lost his license to practice law for that criminal act” (Malado 2016).

I can’t agree more with most of what Falwell says. The things Donald Trump said were indefensible and reprehensible. We certainly are all sinners and I, for one, regret many things I have said and done in the past. I certainly would be embarrassed and ruined in the eyes of many who count me as friends if video footage of my “mistakes” was broadcast all over the world. The difference is that the church is to call Christians to repentance for their sins. Donald Trump has made no bones about telling us all just what he thinks of the state of his nature, and what he thinks his standing is before God. 

“I try not [sic] make mistakes where I have to ask for forgiveness…Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness, if I am not making mistakes? I work hard, I’m an honorable person” (Nothstine 2015).

The answer to Donald Trump’s question is simple: Law. You are making mistakes. Except, they’re not called mistakes, they’re called sins. You are sinning every day. In fact, you were conceived and born in sin, and you are, by your very nature, sinful and unclean. You have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed, by what you do, and by what you fail to do. You have not loved God with your whole heart, and you have not loved your neighbor as yourself. You deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment for your sin.

And, when/if he acknowledges his sin and repents, Donald Trump could hear the Gospel and learn about God’s grace; he could hear that, for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Jesus, God will be merciful to him and forgive him all his sins.

That, however, isn’t being done. Fundagelical leaders (I refrain from calling them pastors) should be calling Donald Trump to repentance, but they can’t, and I think it is because of how American Fundagelicalism looks at sin, human nature, and worship.

In much of American Fundagelicalism sins are viewed as “mistakes” or “bad breaks.” Human nature is sick, but not dead, and therefore able to cooperate with or respond to God. Worship is not where God’s people gather around Word and Sacrament to receive the gifts God would give us through Christ. It is a place where Christians come to serve God, to learn what they need to do to please him (and the five keys to a more fulfilling sex life with your spouse), and evangelize “seekers” who may have unsuspectingly wandered in off the street for a cup of coffee, thinking the strange modern-looking building was some kind of new Starbucks. To the average American Fundagelical, I suspect it is perfectly reasonable, even expected, that their leaders should tell them which political candidate to vote for, just as they tell them which store to boycott, and how much money to give. Pastors, however, are to stand in the stead of Christ, handing out his gifts as they have been called to do. Pastors preach Law and Gospel, calling people to repentance and forgiving sins. Pastors wear vestments which hide the man and serve to focus attention, not on the man underneath them, but on Christ. Secular politics have no place in Christian worship, and church leaders should not endorse candidates. They should make disciples, baptize and teach, and administer the sacraments.

By boarding the Trump Train, I believe Dobson, Falwell, and Graham have done severe damage to their reputation, and that of all faithful Christians, in the eyes of those young “unchurched” people they have been courting. Those outside of Christianity don’t make a distinction between American Fundagelical and Confessional Lutheran. We are all one flavor to the secular press. And, to them, we look like hypocrites because the heavy hitters of American Christianity are supporting a lewd, irreligious man, and they are justifying their support with grade school arguments.

So, what are we to do? If we don’t vote for Trump, Clinton – whom we *know* to be evil – will get in. At least Trump, the argument goes, says he’ll do some of the things we want. He says he’s pro-life new, even though I have no real evidence of his change of opinion, and he has a long pro-choice record[18]. I suppose it comes down to whether or not you take him at his word. He says that past performance is not indicative of future results, but you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t believe that to be the case. “But…a vote for a third-party is a wasted vote!!!” That argument reminds me of a passage from one of my favorite books of all time, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

By Douglas Adams, 1984
In book four of the five book trilogy (yes, you read that correctly), “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish,” A flying saucer lands in London, and a 100 foot tall silver robot exits and says, “I come in peace. Take me to your Lizard.” Ford Prefect explains to Arthur Dent that the robot comes from a very ancient democracy where, “On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards, and the lizards rule the people.” Arthur can’t grasp this and wonders, if it is a democracy, why the people don’t just get rid of the lizards, rather than voting for them. “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” replies Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

Gin would be helpful indeed.

Stop voting for lizards. Stop voting for the lesser evil. Stop voting against people. When you do those things you’re voting for lizards, and evil, and people who don’t hold your values (political or moral) and will ultimately bring us to ruin. If you have to hold your nose to vote, you’re doing it wrong. As for wasting your vote: maybe, but I remain unconvinced. I can hear my “binary choice” friends now, saying, “Sure, your Constitution Party candidate might be better on paper, but he can never win!” To that, I say that’s what the GOP establishment thought about Donald Trump during the Republican primaries. He was a joke, and he couldn’t win. Every political expert was waiting for him to fizzle out. It only took people not listening to the conventional wisdom of the talking heads to cast their votes to change that, much to the chagrin of the GOP. The voters chose to defy the Republican Establishment progressives, only they did it with Donald Trump rather than Cruz or Paul, more’s the pity.

It is my hope that all those conservative, Constitution-loving (if indeed they are) Fundagelicals will realize this, abandon the progressive Republican party, and put their considerable money and support behind a party and candidate that deserves it. If they do, Dobson and Falwell and Graham won’t have to defend the indefensible. And, neither will you.

Works Cited

Bailey, Sarah Pulliam. "We're all sinners: Jerry Falwell Jr defends Donald Trump after video of lewd remarks." The Washington Post. October 10, 2016. (accessed October 22, 2016).

Malado, Jardine. "James Dobson defends his continuing support for Trump." The Christian Times. October 14, 2016. (accessed October 22, 2016).

Nothstine, Ray. "CP Politics." Trump: 'Why Do I Have to Repent or Ask for Forgiveness If I Am Not Making Mistakes?' (Video). July 23, 2015. (accessed October 22, 2016).

Wikipedia. Gun laws in Australia. October 22, 2016. (accessed October 22, 2016).

End Notes

[1] "‘I Love Debt’: Trump Says He Is the ‘King of Debt’ | Video ..." Accessed October 22, 2016.

[2] Lott, John R., Jr. "Trump & Eminent Domain - National Review Online." February 2, 2016. Accessed October 22, 2016.

[3] Ray Nothstine. "Trump: 'Why Do I Have to Repent or Ask for Forgiveness If ..." July 23, 2015. Accessed October 22, 2016.

[4] Ward, Jon. "The Surprising Agreement between Trump and Clinton on Gun ..." September 27, 2016. Accessed October 22, 2016. Donald Trump said that he agreed with Hillary Clinton when she supported infringing the Second Amendment rights of Americans who were placed on the no-fly list. This would amount to an infringement of a constitutional right protected in the bill of rights without due process of any kind.

[5] Rothfeld, Michael, and Mark Maremont. "Donald Trump Said Hillary Clinton Would ‘Make a Good ..." July 11, 2016. Accessed October 22, 2016. Donald Trump is attacking Hillary Clinton these days, but eight years ago, in the midst of the 2008 Democratic primary race, he said she would “make a good president” and a lot of people thought pairing her with Barack Obama would be a “dream ticket.” 

[6] Graham, David A. "From Whitewater to Benghazi: A Primer on Bill and Hillary ..." September 23, 2016. Accessed October 22, 2016. This list of Clinton "controversies" is surprisingly comprehensive and accurate in it's summary, though I do not necessarily agree with the author's assessment of the seriousness of each one.

[7] Case, Spencer. "How Obama Sided with the Muslim Brotherhood - National Review." July 3, 2014. Accessed October 22, 2016.

[8] Pavlich, Katie. "Clinton Claims She Didn't Blame Benghazi Attack on a ..." October 22, 2015. Accessed October 22, 2016. Not only did Clinton blame the attack on a video "offensive" to Islam, the Obama administration and the State Department purchased $80,000 worth of commercial airtime in Pakistan apologizing for the video.

[9] McKay, Hollie. "Blamed For Benghazi: Filmmaker Jailed After Attack Now ..." September 12, 2016. Accessed October 22, 2016.

[10] McElroy, Damien. "CIA 'running Arms Smuggling Team in Benghazi When ..." August 2, 2013. Accessed October 22, 2016.

[11] Zapotosky, Matt, and Rosalind S. Helderman. "FBI Recommends No Criminal Charges in Clinton Email Probe ..." July 5, 2016. Accessed October 22, 2016.

[12] A “mandatory buy-back program” is, in its effect, a confiscation and ban. Quite contrary to the intent of the Second Amendment, Australian-style gun control would mean implementing laws along the following lines: A person who possesses or uses a firearm must have a firearm license. License holders must be at least 18 years of age, have a "genuine reason" for holding a firearm license and must not be a "prohibited person". All firearms in Australia must be registered by serial number to the owner, who also holds a firearms license. Firearms manufactured before 1 January 1901 may not need to be registered in some states. The firearm owner must have secure storage for the firearm. Firearms dealers must be over 21 years of age and hold a dealer's license, and dealers' employees must be vetted by the police. "Prohibited persons" cannot be employed by dealers. Besides other requirements, dealers must ensure that the purchaser of a firearm holds a firearm license, must maintain a register and must notify police of each transaction (Wikipedia 2016).

[13] Wilkinson, James. "Hillary Clinton's Website Removed Promise to 'believe' All ..." August 15, 2016. Accessed October 22, 2016.

[14] Scher, Brent. "Hillary Clinton’s Long History of Targeting Women ..." March 9, 2015. Accessed October 22, 2016.

[15] Weiner, Rachel. "How Hillary Clinton Evolved on Gay Marriage - The ..." March 18, 2013. Accessed October 22, 2016.

[16] Payne, Daniel. "No Fact-Checkers Can Cover For Hillary Clinton’s Ghastly ..." October 21, 2016. Accessed October 22, 2016.

[17] "New Abedin Emails Reveal Hillary Clinton State Department ..." August 22, 2016. Accessed October 22, 2016.

[18] "Donald Trump on Abortion -" September 15, 2016. Accessed October 22, 2016.