Patterico's Pontifications

3/10/2021

David French on the Unsurprising Relationship Between Evangelicals And Trump

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:53 pm



[guest post by Dana]

You know I’m a fan of David French. I find him to be a sharp, insightful thinker, as well as having an extraordinary understanding of man’s fallen nature and an intimate knowledge of God’s grace. Certainly, that understanding must be what keeps him from erupting at the exasperating displays of hubris, vanity, arrogance, and self-aggrandizement by our political leaders. I also respect that he isn’t compelled to reflexively defend the Republican Party or the Christian church. David French has talked about the relationship between Christians and Trump during the past five years (and we’ve discussed it too), and in a recent (Feb.2021) interview at Vox he makes some interesting points on the subject. Here are a few of his observations:

You call this moment a particularly “dangerous time for Christianity.” What makes it so dangerous?

David French
There are a few things. I think when you see such a large segment of American Christianity, of white evangelicalism in particular, tie itself so closely to one political party and to one man, Donald Trump, you’re not exactly tying the faith to virtue. That’s obvious enough.

There’s really some fascinating research done by Ryan Burge, who is a statistician and a scholar of religion at Eastern Illinois University. He has shown how different American religious strands, whether it’s Black Christians, Mormons, atheists, Catholics, they all maintain some distance in their ideology from the party they most affiliate with. But this isn’t true for white evangelicals. It is an exact overlap. The identification between white evangelicals and the GOP is almost perfect.

That’s a problem because it means your faith is now tied to an entire array of both personalities and political positions that do not naturally flow from biblical ethics. Any time you’re going to tie faith to ideas and people who do not either personify biblical ethics or positioned to flow from biblical ethics, you’re creating a real problem. They’ve essentially politicized their faith.

But why Trump? Is he just a random but convenient vehicle for Christians? Or is there something particular about him — his celebrity, for example — that makes him a perfect fit for the modern Christian ethos?

David French
Man, that’s a big question. Part of it is simple. White evangelicals are Republicans, and Republicans are white evangelicals, which has been the case for a long time now, and Trump was just the Republican nominee, and so he had to work incredibly hard to lose their support.

I’d say he worked pretty damn hard to do just that, David —

David French
Right, you could say he worked hard to do that by engaging in all kinds of behaviors that are obviously un-Christian, that are contrary to Christian ethics, that are deeply harmful to other people. But that’s where it gets complicated. I tell people all the time that live in other parts of the country, in non-MAGA parts of the country, that they have to remember where white evangelicals tend to get their information about the world.

When it comes to politics, most evangelicals are not getting their information from the pulpit. I think it’s a misconception that a lot of people who are outside of the evangelical world have, that at church they’re getting a ton of politics. No, but what’s happening is a lot of Republican Christians are getting catechized in politics through conservative media, through Fox News, through talk radio. As I’ve told a lot of people, if you had the information inflow that a lot of my neighbors have [French lives in Tennessee], you’d be MAGA also. A lot of it is just a product of information that makes it not that hard to support Trump, if that’s your information flow.

The other thing is that a lot of these people genuinely believe, because of where they get their information, that the country is in some kind of emergency that justifies the extremism of Trump. They believe they need someone who’s willing to be very aggressive in taking on the left, their so-called enemies. Trump was also very shrewd about granting access to evangelical supporters and to outright grifters and opportunists. That’s a big part of what happened as well.

And then there is this spot-on observation by French who is asked whether it’s fair to say that Christians sacrificed their credibility and the substance of their faith when they embraced the GOP as a vehicle to power:

The embrace of political power carried with it a number of dangers that ultimately the church couldn’t escape. I’ve heard a number of people who’ve reflected on the beginning of the religious right and this decision to not just engage in politics, but to engage in politics through the GOP almost exclusively. You can engage in politics, and you can be intellectually independent, but to engage in politics through the GOP specifically in pursuit of political power was a big mistake…The right may have acquired political power, but the left was much more effective at achieving cultural power, and if you believe, as I do, that politics is downstream from culture, the quest for pure political power was always going to be limited. The religious right lost the culture and with it their ability to impact the world the way they envisioned.

The Trump years encapsulate this perfectly. The right went all-in on Trump. White evangelicals went all-in on Trump. They won the presidency. They won the House. They won the Senate. They had the judiciary. Is anyone going to say that the United States of America is now more fundamentally Christian in 2021 than it was in 2017? I don’t think so. Most people would say the cultural left has been empowered during these years. So the religious right got what they wanted in a lot of ways, politically speaking, but I don’t think they achieved their long-term goals by any stretch of the imagination.

I appreciate French’s unflinching look at the church, especially as so many Christians sacrificed their personal credibility and their witness by supporting and defending Trump. The problem, of course, is that the Christian right could easily deify another very flawed individual in 2024. Maybe even stick with Trump. After all, has their thinking really changed?

French also addresses masculinity in the church:

I’d say that there is a perverted version of masculinity that is common in Southern evangelical circles that rendered the church vulnerable to the Trumpian influence. I’ve seen that with my own eyes. There’s a deep-seated insecurity that exists about masculinity in the church for lots of interesting reasons, some of them related to the way the secular culture has cast a lot of aspersions on traditional masculinity as being “problematic.”

One of the things that has been so bizarre to me has been this equation of Donald Trump with virtuous masculinity. We don’t need to go into all of the details, but this is a man who evaded military service, who has serially cheated on wives, who is terribly out of shape, is so cowardly in a lot of his personal interactions, that he delegates to others the task of firing people. There’s so much that if you were going to map out who is the archetype of the masculine leader prior to Trump, he would be the opposite of that.

If I could pull something out of the Christian hat that illustrates the bizarre culmination of Trump’s influence on evangelicals and the danger of their devotion to Trump, I think it would be this crazy report about a Baptist pastor in Missouri:

Now in professional counselling, a Baptist preacher drew backlash from his congregation for a sermon he gave last month in which he told women to smarten themselves up. “Don’t ever forget this, God made (men) to look and you want them to look at you — not some hottie out there or someone on a computer screen.”

Pastor Stewart-Allen Clark said it was “really important” for men to have a beautiful woman on their arm. “Now look,” he said, “I’m not saying every woman can be the epic trophy wife of all time like Melania Trump, I’m not saying that at all,” but “you don’t need to look like a butch either.” He then advised them on makeup, hairstyles, fashion tips and sexual intimacy.

In the sermon, Clark, 55, had asked “Why is it so many times that women, after they get married, let themselves go?” He criticized them for wearing sweatpants, flip-flops and pyjamas, and not watching their weight. “Men have a need for their women to look like women,” he said.

He told his General Baptist denomination that “Most women can’t be trophy wives, but you know … maybe you’re a participation trophy.”

[Ed. I’m going to follow David French’s example of extending grace toward fellow members of the church body with whom he disagrees and exercise self-restraint by not excoriating this sniveling little pustule who made a mockery of Christ by spewing such inanities from the pulpit.]

–Dana

Lawmakers Consider Making It A Crime To Insult or Taunt Police Officers During A Riot

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:39 pm



[guest post by Dana]

How is this not an infringement on free speech:

A bill moving through Kentucky’s Senate would make it a crime to insult or taunt a police officer during a riot. Supporters say the bill targets people who unlawfully “cross the line” but opponents call it a blatant attempt to crush protests and a violation of First Amendment rights.

Senate Bill 211 mandates up to three months’ imprisonment for a person who “accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words,” or makes “gestures or other physical contact that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person.”

A person convicted of this misdemeanor charge could also face a $250 fine and be disqualified from public assistance benefits for three months.

Uh, hold on sec…I have questions. Is the default position going to be that it is always the police officers who are the reasonable and prudent ones? Because I can think of a few police officers who recently demonstrated to the world that they were anything but while on the job… With that, how do the bill’s proponents define a “riot” versus a “protest”? That seems important. And what constitutes whether an insult or taunt is worthy of an arrest? What happens if Officer A has a taunt directed at him by Protester X and doesn’t feel insulted or provoked, but when Officer B is faced with the same taunt, he is highly insulted and feels provoked? Are there going to be specific buzz words that will determine whether the insult or taunt qualifies for an arrest? What level of emotion must accompany the insult or taunt to qualify as unacceptable? Do the protesters have to be in their face or space for it to qualify for arrest? Must the insults or taunts be shouted or screamed to qualify for an arrest? What about if it’s delivered in a loud voice? And what sort of insults are we talking about? If a protester calls an officer a “pig,” or a “fatty pie,” or a “ratfucker,” do they all meet the threshold for arrest? Also, what “gestures” will result in an arrest? If a protester gives the officers the finger, or flashes a “Q” sign, or plugs his nose while pointing to them, do those count? And exactly what and where is “the line” that is not be crossed? What does it look like in real terms? To me, it all seems a bit vague, as well as arbitrary and subjective. And I say this as someone who respects and supports law enforcement and has almost no tolerance for anyone getting in the face of others, including protesters. But this is not that.

According to Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, the bill is the result of the tumultuous protests that took place in Louisville last summer.

Retired police officer and state Senator Danny Carroll offered this explanation for the bill:

“This is not about lawful protest in any way, shape, form, or fashion,” Carroll says. “This country was built on lawful protest and it’s something we must maintain our citizens’ right to do so. What this deals with are those who cross the line and commit criminal acts.”

“If you see the riots, you see people getting in these officers faces, yelling in their ears, doing anything they can to provoke a violent response,” he adds.

He added:

I’m not saying the officers do that, but there has to be a provision within that statute to allow officers to react to that. Because that does nothing but incite those around that vicinity and it furthers and escalates the riotous behavior.

However, when CBS News requested a comment from Carroll, he said this after seeing the outlet’s headline Kentucky bill would make it a crime to insult a police officer:

After looking at you’re headline, I don’t think I have anything to say to you. I miss the time when we actually had unbiased journalists!!

Ah:

The bill also has a provision pushing back on the “defund the police” movement, stating that government entities that fund law enforcement agencies must “maintain and improve their respective financial support.”

–Dana

Trump: Donate to Me, Not the GOP

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



Trump is fleecing GOP donors, and he wants them to stop contributing to legitimate GOP organizations and start donating to him exclusively.

The former president this week escalated a standoff over the Republican Party’s financial future, blasting party leaders and urging his backers to send donations to his new political action committee — not to the institutional groups that traditionally control the G.O.P.’s coffers.

“No more money for RINOS,” he said in a statement released on Monday by his bare-bones post-presidential office, referring to Republicans In Name Only. He directed donors to his own website instead.

The best part is, he doesn’t have to use the money for the GOP. He can just profit:

Mr. Trump’s actions could give him a stream of money at a time when his private company is struggling under the scrutiny of investigations, with some discussions of whether properties need to be sold. His business is now politics, and political action committees have few restrictions on how they operate and use their money, according to campaign finance experts.

The former president could, in theory, pay himself and his family members salaries from the money raised there.

“That sort of PAC has no meaningful restrictions on how it could spend its money,” said Adav Noti, the senior director of trial litigation at the Campaign Legal Center.

People close to the former president say there has been no discussion about Mr. Trump giving himself a salary. But historically, his political committees have paid to use his properties, among other things, indirectly enriching him.

What was it Lindsey Graham said recently about Trump? Oh right:

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Donald Trump was my friend before the riot. And I’m trying to keep a relationship with him after the riot. Uh, I can still consider him a friend. What happened was a dark day in American history. And we’re going to move forward. So here’s what you need to know about me. I want this to continue. I want us to continue the policies that I think will make America strong. I believe the best way for the Republican Party to do that is with Trump, not without Trump.

JONATHAN SWAN: Not only does he show no remorse, I mean, he’s still telling everyone he won in a landslide.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah. And I tell him every day that he wants to listen, that I think the main reason he probably lost in Arizona is beating on the dead guy called John McCain.

JONATHAN SWAN: Do you think you could have won re-election without being an ardent supporter of President Trump?

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Here’s the thing, my election’s over.

JONATHAN SWAN: Yeah.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: I could throw him over tomorrow.

JONATHAN SWAN: Right.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Why aren’t I?

JONATHAN SWAN: Yeah. That’s what I really don’t understand.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well then, you don’t understand me very much.

JONATHAN SWAN: I don’t. That’s why I’m asking you.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: That’s right. So that, I could say, that’s it. It’s over. It’s done. That’s just too easy. What’s hard is to take a movement that I think is good for the country, try to get the leader of the movement who has got lots of problems facing him and the party, and see if we can make a go of it. Mitt Romney didn’t do it. John McCain didn’t do it. There’s something about Trump. There’s a dark side and there’s some magic there. What I’m trying to do is just harness the magic.

To me, Donald Trump is sort of a cross between Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan, and P.T. Barnum. I mean, it’s just, it’s just this bigger than life deal. He could make the Republican Party something that nobody else I know could make it. He can make it bigger, he can make it stronger, he can make it more diverse. And he also could destroy it.

There’s a sucker born every minute. And every minute, people are donating to Donald Trump.


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