Last Saturday morning I broke my curfew (to avoid indoor group gatherings until Jan, 2020 because of my stem cell transplant) by attending the movie Making Peace with Creation at my church ( here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K58eechXY_Q ). The film does an excellent job of presenting the case why the Christian should be engaged as caretakers, not exploiters, of creation/nature.
Protecting the Earth—Opposite = Greed
The discussion around this film quickly brought us to the factual place that much of white-American-evangelicalism (one of the dominate Christian sub-cultures, at least in the US) opposes most efforts to take care of creation. One example is their denial of climate change, especially climate change which is caused by human activity. Another is their opposition to efforts by the EPA to protect the environment.
Caring for the environment is an issue that is now, regrettably, falling along political party lines; the Democratic Party favoring engaging in addressing climate change and protecting the environment, and the Republican Party denying climate change and de-regulating businesses, especially environmental regulations.
I believe, however, that caring for the environment is one of three major issues, that are now considered political, but are really moral and universal and should never have been considered political. The other two issues are the loss of truth and the dignity of the individual.
When I look at the issue of protecting the earth, you can easily reduce it to one thing, greed. I say this because there is no one who thinks pollution (Merriam-Webster definition: the action of polluting especially by environmental contamination with man-made waste) does anything good for the planet. The issue is, how much pollution do we tolerate? The only reason we ask that question is for the sake of money. Companies can make more money if they are allowed to pollute more.
I watch Fox “News” daily (along with CNN, MSNBC, NPR-PBS, BBC, AP-News). They are the only people (except for some right-wing web sites) that promote the denial of man-made climate change. Every time they parade an “expert” on the show to make such statements, I do a due diligence by investigating that person. Fox has never had on their shows a true climate scientist. Most of the “experts” are lawyers who work for anti-climate change groups. One is a weather forecaster with no climate research or experience but is an evangelical, and one has a PhD in forestry. However, all of them, if you follow the money, have roots in the fossil fuel industry (for more on how Fox misleads see; https://www.citizen.org/article/foxic-fox-news-networks-dangerous-climate-denial-2019/ ). The reality is that 98% of true climate scientists, who are actively doing climate research, believe that the earth is warming, and that warming is caused by human activity. It is an accepted fact in the rest of the world and only in the US is it a political matter. Climate change is only one facet of taking care of this planet, however, all of the anti-planet positions have the same roots in making more money for the polluters. However, it is now framed as a political issue.
It is reasonable to have political discussions about how much of the federal budget should be spent to address environmental issues, but it should never have been a political discussion if we should protect the planet or not. So, the moral issue that is opposed to protecting the planet is raw greed.
Loss of Truth—Opposite = The Lust for Power
I use the term truth here in its original meaning of “accuracy, correctness,” as recorded in the mid-14th century. Truth is now one of the most abused words and has become a relative concept, the personal “truth” or the “truth” that is most congruent with my subculture, especially when it relates to a particular church dogma or a political party’s presentation.
It is that later redefining of truth that is the problem that I want to address. While, before now, neither political party had a corner on truth, as it relates to the classical definition. Both parties would spin or even falsify reality to support their political agenda of maintaining their grip on power. When Bill Clinton said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” it was an example of a lie to support his own reputation and that of his Democratic party, helping them to maintain power (vs impeachment).
However now, truth has suddenly deteriorated much further than the convenient spin to right-out, bold-faced lie and a complete divorce from reality. Those who monitor factual statements in the political realm, and do so without political bias, are clear that the present Republican administration has raised dishonesty and the bold falsification of reality exponentially, to a much higher level than ever before. We are in a very serious state of thinking now.
I believe the reason for this sudden decline in truth is the influence of the persona of Donald Trump. I am speaking objectively, not from a political prejudice, when I say that Donald Trump has always been known as a dishonest person, and that was the foundation of his business practices. To him, lying is his method of acquiring and maintaining power. He brought with him his persona of, what some in the mental health field, have called a narcissistic personality disorder which is often combined with being a pathological liar flair (to keep the focus on themselves and to maintain their power). Again, I don’t say these things from a political standpoint, as—before now—I had considered myself more of a Republican than a Democrat. I am saying this a factual point and history will stand as a testimony to this fact.
This disregard for truth quickly moved beyond the person of Trump, to contaminating almost the entire Republican party like the flu virus. It happened as soon as he was inaugurated, if not when he won the party’s nomination. The best example of this is where the official photo of Trump’s inauguration clearly showed an attendance that was far less (some estimates were half) than Obama’s (the most attended inauguration in history, because he was the first black president and a lot of people wanted to witness this), yet, the official word from the White House and the Republican party was that Trump’s inauguration was the most attended in history despite the photos. This deception was not a trivial matter but represented a profound and wholesale decline from reality for the entire party. It was a pivotal moment in our country’s history. If Trump had run as a Democrat and won, I suspect the hard-core Democrats in Congress and the Senate would have done the same. Maybe not. But is not a political issue; it is a moral issue of seeking truth Vs the lust of personal power.
Now, if you attempt to speak real truth, and if that truth is not flattering to Donald Trump or the Republican party, it is seen as a political attack and disregarded. I am not saying that the Democratic party still doesn’t do their own spinning of reality to suit their needs, but there is now, at this point in history, a chasm between the two parties in how they evaluate and dispense truth. Trump is the great manipulator of reality, and his coinage of the term Fake News is his attempts to discredit anything that goes against the false reality that he is attempting to create, that he is great and powerful.
The most profoundly sad thing about this development is that the white-American-evangelicals have adopted Trump and his falsification of reality as their own. This unholy union, and I’ve said this before, is one of the most tragic things that has ever happened to the Church in its 2000-year history. If Christianity does not stand for truth, regardless of which political party espouses it, then they have lost everything. This adoption of dishonesty without critical thinking is far worse than the pro-life Vs pro-choice debate. It is a far worse sin to embrace someone who lives in this false reality but espouses a “pro-life” position, than embracing someone who speaks the truth most of the time but adopts a pro-choice view. If God is there, then he represents truth in the classical sense. The more un-truth that you or your associations embrace, the further you are away from God and the more delusional your life becomes. All sins are rooted in self-deception.
However, truth should never be a political issue. Both political parties should be after truth in the classical sense, rather than spin. This is not a political problem, but a deeply moral one.
The Dignity of Humans—Opposite = Racism
The third issue that has been wrongly politicized is the devaluation of humans based on cultural traits. Politicians often use this emotional strategy, for example, if they want to marginalize a group of people, use a particular group of people as scapegoats, or go to war with a particular culture.
It is a legitimate political discussion about allowing more or less immigrants into the country (I have never met a Democrat who is for “open boarders”). It is a reasonable political discussion about who we should grant visas to, a merit-earned visa or first come, first served. However, the idea of dehumanizing a particular people with statements like, “they are rapists, terrorists, drug dealers, and thieves” is not a political discussion but a dark, moral failure of racism (especially when it is not factually true). To add actions to those lies is to mistreat a people group by not showing them the dignity that all people, created in God’s image, deserve. When this attitude is applied by cultural references, color of their skin, language they speak, country of origin, sexual orientation, religion, or financial position in life, it is sin of the worst kind, blatant racism.
I have never cared for Donald Trump, since I figured out, decades ago, that he was a narcissist and a very dishonest man. He was a Democrat when I first formed my opinions about him. There was also evidence that Trump was a racist going back for decades, however, I never knew that side of him until he promoted the “birther” issue with Obama, a clear racist endeavor. However, I was never tempted to hate the man until I heard his campaign speech where he said that the Syrian refugees were mostly terrorists, which was absolutely not true. He added, because they were terrorists, we should therefore not allow them in this country or show them compassion. I also heard an evangelical friend and Trump supporter, add that we should bomb the refugees while they are still in their boats, in the Mediterranean, because they were terrorists. This really pissed me off because I’ve worked with refugees from war-torn countries, starting when I hitch-hiked to the Khyber Pass and took care of refugees from the Russian-Afghanistan conflict in 1981. Denise and I signed up as missionaries to work with refugees from the Lebanese civil war in 1988, however, we were reassigned at the last minute to go to Cairo. I have had the opportunity to visit and work in refugee camps in places like Pakistan (again) and Nepal since then. I love refugees to pieces. Before coming down with this stinking cancer, I was looking at opportunities to go and work with refugees during our retirement, such as in Syria or Yemen.
We must face the fact that Donald Trump promotes racism and racism is always a means (a terrible means) to boost our own egos. It goes like this, “I’m different than you. I’m better than you. You are inferior to me because you are not like me.” Racism, even the racism of deeply confident people like Hitler (or Trump), is always built on deep feelings of personal insecurity.
The Politicization Process
How Did these three issues become political? On the eve of the election, when we were all shocked about Trump winning the presidency, I was having a discussion with a good friend and Trump supporter, Hank (not his real name). I continued the discussions with Hank for several weeks. The Day after the election I participated in the Women’s March and the March for Science a few weeks later. It was during this time that Hank said the strangest thing to me.
I had known Hank for a couple of decades, and he was an evangelical at the same time I was. He was certainly a staunch Republican, as were all my evangelical friends because we were (wrongly) taught that was God’s party. Hank got me watching Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, and in the beginning, I liked both (25 years ago). But I also knew from hanging around Hank that he hated (he wouldn’t use that word because evangelicals love to pretend they don’t hate) gays. Hank also said a lot of derogatory things about blacks and other people of color. He despised the “Black Lives Matter” movement as well as black athletes kneeling. I could tell he was racist, as was I (reformed now, I hope), since I grew up in the racist south. But after the election, Hank started to say things to me such as, “We didn’t treat your party like this when your people were elected.”
My party? Who’s my party? Did he assume I was a Democrat because I despised Trump? He he think I was a Democrat when I looked at the inaugural photos (above) and see that Obama’s was larger? Did he think my views were politically motivated? There are a lot of Republicans that I have…or let me say, I had respect for. I had never considered myself a Democrat, while, at one time, when I was an evangelical, I considered myself a Republican. No, I don’t despise Trump because he’s a Republican, I despise him because he is a narcissist, lying, racist, crook, and couldn’t care less about this country. I would feel the same about him if he were still a Democrat. Hillary Clinton was not my favorite candidate, although she is far more intelligent, moral, and honest than Donald Trump. There were plenty of other candidates on both sides that were decent people and would have made great presidents.
I have said, and I stick with this view, that being a Donald Trump supporter, regardless of which party he is part of or if he claims to be “pro-choice” or “pro-life” is incompatible with being a Christian in the same way someone cannot be a Satan worshiper during the week and a Christian on Sunday. There is simply no excuse for it anymore and it makes me wonder if they ever really knew the teachings of the historical Jesus or had only bought into the comfortable white-American -evangelism subculture that has almost nothing to do with original, authentic Christianity. That to them, greed, power and racism are attractive traits, but traits despised by the real Jesus of history.
When I talk to these people, I have the same feeling as I’ve had when I’ve talked to other people involved with a cult. They have lost all discernment, have a very narrow input of information (in this case Fox News or right-wing web sites) and swallow the lies that keep them in bondage, such as the Democrats are the devil, Donald Trump is Pro-life and will overturn Roe Vs Wade. It is not going to happen because being “Pro-life” is simply a baiting technique for the Republican party to get the evangelical vote and they have no intention of making abortion illegal. They could have done this easily when the Republicans had all branches of our federal government. I suspect that privately, they don’t want abortion to be illegal because of the “Family Values” Republicans who want it as an option for their mistresses in case they get pregnant. Don’t take me wrong, Democrats bait other groups for the same reason, votes. Was I mean to say that?
So here are some issues, which are debatable and can easily fall along party lines, 1) issues of taxation (who gets taxed the most), 2) how health care is provided, 3) US involvement in foreign wars, 4) balancing the budget (one of the reasons I used to favor the Republican party, but now they don’t give a rat’s ass), 5) infrastructure maintenance of America—how much should we spend, 6) issues of policing, such as gun control or mental health screen for gun buyers, which drugs should be legal, etc., and I could name several others. But the three issues I’ve discussed above are not political, they are moral.
If my cancer has anything to with what I’m typing it is I care even less what other people think of me, or if I offend someone. Life is short and seems far shorter to me than I thought even a year ago. I have never cared a lot about social mores, but even less now. Those who want to politicize these issues think I commit social blunders by talking about these things, because it is considered offensive by some. But this is the reason that we must remove these moral issues from political debates. These are not just matters of opinion. If (think of the book and 1973 movie, Soylent Green) someone was in town, taking small children or babies and grinding them up to make dog food, would we speak up? Or would we remain hushed up, being afraid that we might offend someone who has the opinion that grinding up babies is a good thing? Read about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his friends in the face of rising Nazism and you will see the tension they had to overcome. It was not political to them (in the end) but moral.
The Silence of the Lambs
I am also very disappointed in, not only the Trump supporter-accomplices, but the complacent, meaning those who either have no opinion about these moral issues, or (more likely) have an opinion but never talk about it. I do have some empathy for pastors and others who are these delicate positions of trying remaining neutral on political issues, but these are moral issues. I read a statement by the Navigators, my old Christian organization, and they said that they would not take any political position because they don’t want it to distract from Jesus. I say, bullshit! It is not political, but moral! If you take away the morality of those three issues mentioned above, then your “Jesus” is neutered. He is a paper Jesus that has no substance. He preached for finding real truth. He preached for human dignity and universal love. If you declare these as unimportant political concerns, then you open your hand and have nothing in it. It is like being a dairy farmer and deciding to tie off the cow’s teats for good, because their milk is messing up the barn. Then what’s the point of being a diary farmer?
6 responses to “Ramblings: The Depoliticization of Morality”
“The discussion around this film quickly brought us to the factual place that much of white-American-evangelicalism (one of the dominate Christian sub-cultures, at least in the US) opposes most efforts to take care of creation.”
As a survivor of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay (and its corollary, Christians for Nuclear War), I can explain this in four words:
“IT’S ALL GONNA BURN.”
It’s Physical, it’s Fleshly(TM), NOT SPIRITUAL(TM).
“If you take away the morality of those three issues mentioned above, then your “Jesus” is neutered. ”
A wholly-owned subsidiary of Trump Inc, nothing more.
All for a Supreme Court that WILL overturn Roe v Wade, Put Prayer Back In Our Schools (and throw Evolution out), and Restore Christian Family Values (especially in Pelvic Issues). Victory Dance for The Culture War.
Everybody’s got his price, and CHRISTIANS CAME CHEAP.
In our movie discussion, “It is all going to burn” came up as one of the main reasons evangelicals avoid serious discussions about the environment.
When The World Ends Tomorrow (at the latest) and It’s All Gonna Burn, don’t expect anyone to think ahead, make plans for the future (because they have none), dare great things, or think big in any way. Only live for the moment like an animal, no matter how much pious spin you put on it. Because you have no future. Because there is no future.
Against this dogma, Creation Care has an uphill fight.
And Greed has a field day. Because if It’s All Gonna Burn, better use it up NOW before Christ returns and destroys it all. (Yes, I am a survivor of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay.) Remember the urban legend about James Watt’s Senate Confirmation circa 1981?
Well Mike, once again you tackle a very difficult and complicated issue and provide calm insight and opinion in a very readable way. Thank you.
Are moral issues and political issues mutually exclusive? I see a huge overlap. It’s hard to deny that at the very minimum issues like abortion, war, the death penalty are both deeply political and deeply moral. I tend to think that almost every political issue is a moral issue (mostly immoral issues).
Your understanding of spirituality, mapping it to the socio-political environment is commendable. Really informational and deep. Appreciate your article.