When MSNBC’s Alex Witt interviewed the Rev. Franklin Graham Saturday about many conservative Christians’ silence about the reports, the son of evangelical icon Billy Graham said, “I can promise you he is not President Perfect, and I don’t think I’ve seen a ‘President Perfect’ yet [ . . .] But I appreciate the fact that the president does have a concern for Christian values.”
.. When she asked: “Do you think with all of the evidence out there and the fact that this president has not always been entirely truthful about everything, do you think he’s telling the truth about this to begin with? Doesn’t he have a lot to lose by telling the truth about this affair?”
Graham replied: “I found the president to be truthful with me. And when he says he’s going to do something, he does it and that is what I appreciate about him. Now, did he have an affair with this woman? I have no clue. But I believe at 70 years of age the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago whatever. We just have to give the man the benefit of the doubt. But we just have to think of our country. We’ve got to move this country forward.”
.. For a group of people who regularly view themselves as soldiers in a culture war, there is some belief that evangelicals could wind up losing the overall fight for moral authority over the country and the world.
.. “At the Family Research Council’s recent Values Voter Summit, the religious right effectively declared its conversion to Trumpism.
.. Who would now identify conservative Christian political engagement with the pursuit of the common good? Rather, the religious right is an interest group seeking preference and advancement from a strongman — and rewarding him with loyal acceptance of his priorities. The prophets have become clients. The priests have become acolytes.”
he was trotting out his standard case about the lack of respect he received in New York, despite his immense professional accomplishments.
.. They all look down their noses at me.” Roger was having trouble making his point, though, because of the parade of well-wishers who kept interrupting to shake his hand, kibitz and flatter
.. “Kind of undermines your point, doesn’t it? Half this restaurant is kissing your ring.” “Yeah,” he replied without irony. “But they hate doing it.”
.. That worldview of unending grievance was the cornerstone
.. The Internet did not, as is so often alleged, usher in the siloed media environment.
.. Ailes did that — by proving that there is money, influence and power to be found in serving well-defined interest groups instead of trying to please the widest possible audience.
.. Ailes knew that repetition is the key to buy-in
.. The channel’s ideological prism also insulated Fox News from the bane of traditional outlets — the slow news day
.. Producers could always unearth obscure stories that would be judged trivial by traditional journalistic standards and fit them into a larger narrative about the assault on values
.. The War on Christmas, anyone?
.. “But if you try to come after me from the right, I’ll have to kill you.”
.. he had a different objective: turn talking points into news items for millions of persuadable eyeballs.
Jerry Falwell Jr.: No other president “in our lifetimes has done so much that has benefited the Christian community” so quickly as Trump.
.. Third, without really knowing it, Trump has presented a secular version of evangelical eschatology. When the candidate talked of an America on the brink of destruction, which could only be saved by returning to the certainties of the past, it perfectly fit the evangelical narrative of moral and national decline. Trump speaks the language of decadence and renewal (while exemplifying just one of them).
In the Trump era, evangelicals have gotten a conservative Supreme Court justice for their pains – which is significant. And they have gotten a leader who shows contempt for those who hold them in contempt – which is emotionally satisfying.
The cost? Evangelicals have become loyal to a leader of shockingly low character. They have associated their faith with exclusion and bias. They have become another Washington interest group, striving for advantage rather than seeking the common good. And a movement that should be known for grace is now known for its seething resentments.
.. the idea that the robustly vulgar, fiercely combative, and morally compromised as Trump will be an avatar for the restoration of Christian morality and social unity is beyond delusional. He is not a solution to America’s cultural decline, but a symptom of it.
.. There is first the temptation to worship power, and to compromise one’s soul to maintain access to it. There are many ways to burn a pinch of incense to Caesar, and some prominent pro-Trump Christians arguably crossed that line during the campaign season. Again, political victory does not vitiate the vice of hypocrisy.
.. to believe that the threat to the church’s integrity and witness has passed because Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election is the height of folly.
One reason the contemporary church is in so much trouble is that religious conservatives of the last generation mistakenly believed they could focus on politics, and the culture would take care of itself.
.. if Trump’s presidency collapses, that Christians in general and Evangelicals in particular are going to be the scapegoats.
.. These diehard Trump-backing Christians will have provided progressives, as well as factions within the GOP who are sick of Christians’ influence in the party, with the pretext they need to crack down. Good luck defending religious liberty when it is associated with Donald Trump
.. He has given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge. He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable. He shows no curiosity or capacity to learn. He is, in short, the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool.
Some have compared Trump to King David, who himself committed adultery and murder. But David’s story began with a profound reliance on God who called him from the sheepfold to the kingship, and by the grace of God it did not end with his exploitation of Bathsheba and Uriah. There is no parallel in Trump’s much more protracted career of exploitation. The Lord sent his word by the prophet Nathan to denounce David’s actions—alas, many Christian leaders who could have spoken such prophetic confrontation to him personally have failed to do so. David quickly and deeply repented, leaving behind the astonishing and universally applicable lament of his own sin in Psalm 51—we have no sign that Trump ever in his life has expressed such humility. And the biblical narrative leaves no doubt that David’s sin had vast and terrible consequences for his own family dynasty and for his nation. The equivalent legacy of a Trump presidency is grievous to imagine.
.. Important issues are indeed at stake, including the right of Christians and adherents of other religions to uphold their vision of sexual integrity and marriage even if they are in the cultural minority.
But there is a point at which strategy becomes its own form of idolatry—an attempt to manipulate the levers of history in favor of the causes we support. Strategy becomes idolatry, for ancient Israel and for us today, when we make alliances with those who seem to offer strength—the chariots of Egypt, the vassal kings of Rome—at the expense of our dependence on God who judges all nations, and in defiance of God’s manifest concern for the stranger, the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed. Strategy becomes idolatry when we betray our deepest values in pursuit of earthly influence. And because such strategy requires capitulating to idols and princes and denying the true God, it ultimately always fails.
Enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord. They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us—in hope, almost certainly a vain hope given his mendacity and record of betrayal, that his rule will save us.
.. If — if — we learn that Trump did what he is alleged to have done, and you stand behind him even so, how do you answer the charge that Christians care so much about access to power that they will turn a blind eye when the president they support blabs extremely sensitive national security secrets to the Russians? Are we really idolaters who would sell our souls to stay in the king’s good graces?
.. There was a time when we condemned Democrats and liberals for standing by Bill Clinton, despite how he disgraced the Oval Office. We accused them of caring more about power than principle — and we were right to. Remember when the liberal journalist Nina Burleigh said in 1998, amid the Lewinsky scandal, that she would fellate Bill Clinton to thank him for keeping abortion legal? Are conservative Christians really prepared to walk a mile in her kneepads for Donald Trump? And for what?
God is not mocked.
If Trump is planning to surrender Eastern Europe to the Russians or start a world war with the Chinese, perhaps his secretary of state nominee deserved an all-night talkathon of opposition. If he’s bent on domestic authoritarianism with a racist tinge, then it’s Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, who presents the natural target for Democratic protest. If the biggest problem is that Trump will nominate allies who are unqualified for their responsibilities, then the choice of Ben Carson to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development seems like an obvious place to draw a line.
.. Never mind that the bulk of DeVos’s school-choice work places her only somewhat to the right of the Obama administration’s pro-charter-school positioning, close to centrist Democrats like Senator Cory Booker. None of that mattered
.. it tracks with much of what we know about school choice in general — that it offers real potential benefits without being a panacea.
.. So why did the Democrats fight so hard? Because in this particular case, the rules of normal pre-Trump politics still apply.
First, when interest groups talk, politicians listen — and the teachers’ unions are simply more powerful in Democratic circles, with more money and leverage and clout, than most of the groups leading the charge against other Trump policies or nominees.
.. upper-middle-class suburbanites haven’t lost their influence, and they generally like their public schools and regard school choice as a threat rather than a promise. Charters and vouchers are most appealing to the poor, the religious and the eccentric — to low-income families locked into failing schools and religious conservatives and bohemians with ideological doubts about the content of the public-school curriculum.
.. But the fervor and pitch of the opposition basically reflected the present Democratic Party at its worst: unstinting in defense of bureaucracy and its employees, more excited about causes dear to the upper middle class than the interests of the poor, and always girding for the battle with the Real Enemy, religious conservatives, no matter what the moment actually demands.