Donald Trump and the Dawn of the Evangelical-Nationalist Alliance

In their eyes, religious conservatives aren’t making a cynical bargain by embracing a president with dubious religious bona fides. They finally have the street brawler they’ve always wanted.

they all centered on returning the country to a better and more comfortable time.

To economic nationalists, it meant going back to an era of high tariffs and buying American. To defense hawks, it meant returning to a time of unquestioned military supremacy. To immigration hard-liners, it meant fewer jobs for foreign-born workers—and, for some of those voters, fewer dark faces in the country, period.

But for many evangelicals and conservative Catholics, “Make America Great Again” meant above all else returning to a time when the culture reflected and revolved around their Judeo-Christian values. When there was prayer in public schools. When marriage was limited to one man and one woman. When abortion was not prevalent and socially acceptable. When the government didn’t ask them to violate their consciences. And, yes, when people said “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”

.. the president recalled the Founders’ repeated reference to a “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence. “How times have changed,” Trump said. “But you know what? Now they’re changing back again. Just remember that.”
The audience roared with a 20-second standing ovation.

.. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council .. Trump’s greatest impact is legitimizing those people and views that have been marginalized. “Barack Obama used the bully pulpit and the courts to demonize those who held to the very values that made America great. And Trump is doing the opposite,” Perkins says. “What the president and his administration can do is once again make people feel like it’s OK to stand up and talk about these traditional values, and engage in these conversations. Then we can win hearts and minds, and that’s where the transformation begins.”

.. When Moore spoke to a Friday luncheon sponsored by the American Family Association, he was introduced unapologetically as someone who would put Christianity ahead of the Constitution.

.. He raised eyebrows by inviting former White House aides Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, the polarizing promoters of Trump’s “America First” message, to speak at the event, despite neither having any roots in the Christian conservative universe.

.. This shotgun wedding resulted in some predictably awkward moments. Bannon, emphasizing the importance of grass-roots politics in winning elections, raised the 44th president’s former job title. “What’s a community organizer? I’ll tell you what it is. Somebody that could kick your ass—twice.” There were crickets from the audience; it was almost certainly the first time someone had ever used a curse word during a speech to the Values Voter Summit.

.. Erick Erickson, a frequent Trump critic, tweeted, “Sad to see this said at a Christian conference. Where is the grace? Where is the mercy? Where is the Christ?”

.. Many Christian voters embraced Trump not despite his provocative style but because of it, betting on a brash street brawler to win the culture battles they had been losing for generations.

.. And their faith has been rewarded: From abortion policy to religious liberty to judicial appointments, Trump has delivered for social conservatives more than any other constituency, making them the unlikely cornerstone of his coalition.

.. With political victory, however, has come the loss of moral high ground

.. If he wins the Senate seat, a spiritual renaissance in America is unlikely to result. But something else will: a deepening alliance between economic nationalists and social conservatives, two distinct tribes that are growing codependent in the era of Trump. As Perkins now sees it, Republicans will win elections only by merging these factions—hence his inviting Bannon and Gorka to speak.

Richard Rohr Meditation: Love and Mercy

After almost 50 years as a priest teaching in many countries, I believe that many if not most people are attracted to religion because they want order in their own lives and in the world. This is not bad; it is a first-half-of-life need and task. But it is simply the warm-up for the real Gospel (see Galatians 3:24). Today even science demonstrates rather convincingly that asymmetry is what breaks the dead patterns and moves all elements, species, and ages forward. Life itself proceeds by the radical asymmetry of life and death: no new forms will form unless the old ones die out.

.. This is how the transgression myth was revealed through the Gospel: Jesus, who is judged—by objective criteria—to be a sinner/offender/failure/transgressor by both high priest and Roman Empire is, in fact, the one who “redeems the world”! Paul repeats this message and calls it the “mystery of the crucified,” which forever discounts both “the Law” (his Jewish religion) and “reason” (Greek philosophy) which at that point were the two great ways to achieve order in their world. Yet these are so deep in our psyche that Christianity went right back to both of them—with a vengeance!

.. The Gospel and the cross say that the only honest and healing order is the acceptance of disorder. This is God’s surprising and scandalous plan.

.. Pope Francis is the first pope I am aware of who has had the insight and courage to say that Divine Love is the only absolute, not law, Scripture, church, or moral behavior. Law and reason can never achieve their own goals perfectly, but love and mercy can and do. “Where are your philosophers now? Where are the scribes?” Paul shouts (1 Corinthians 1:20). Love alone, he says, is the “fulfillment” of the law (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14), which of course is what Jesus said (see Matthew 22:40).

Trump’s Tangle of Rhetorical Inadequacy

A gifted leader might make the case for building more statues rather than tearing down the ones we have.

The political aspect of the president’s failures this week is to reveal him as increasingly isolated. He is not without supporters, but it’s down to roughly a third of the country and one senses soft around the edges. That is not a base, it’s a core. A core can have an impact, but a president cannot govern if that’s all he has.

..  Donald Trump is binding himself down with thick cords of rhetorical inadequacy. People felt let down, angry and in some cases frightened by his inability to make clear moral distinctions when he addressed the events in Charlottesville, Va. There were neo-Nazis, anti-Semitic chants, white supremacists; a woman was killed and many people injured. It’s not hard to figure out who and what needed to be castigated—clearly, unambiguously, immediately.

.. In times of stress and fracture, people want a president who’s calm in the storm, who speaks to the nation’s moral conscience, recalls first principles, evokes what unites us, honestly defines the contours of an event, and softly instructs. Mr. Trump did not do any of that.

If a leader is particularly gifted he could, in a moment of historical stress, succeed in speaking to the nation’s soul and moving its heart by addressing its brain. This kind of thing comes from love—of the country, our people, what we’ve been.

.. It struck me this week as he spoke that his speeches and statements are peculiarly loveless. The public Mr. Trump is not without sentiment and occasional sentimentality, but the deeper wells of a broader love seem not there to draw from. Seven months in, people know they can look to him for a reaction, a statement, an announcement, but not for comfort, inspiration, higher meaning.

.. After the church shootings in Charleston, S.C., two years ago, the great and immediate moral leaders were the victims’ families, whose words at the shooter’s bond hearing spread throughout the country within 24 hours. “I forgive you.” “We are praying for you.” It was the authentic voice of American Christianity, of Wednesday night Bible study, of mercy and self-sacrifice. It quieted the soul of a nation: We’ll be OK. This is who we really are.

.. When a nation tears down its statues, it’s toppling more than brass and marble. It is in a way toppling itself—tearing down all the things, good, bad and inadequate, that made it. Or, rather, everyone. Not all of what made America is good—does anyone even think this?—but why try to hide from that?

 .. When you tear down statues, you tear down avenues of communication between generations.
.. Condi Rice said it well, before the current controversy. She did not agree with the impulse to tear down. “Keep your history before you,” she said. Keep it in your line of sight.And once the tearing down starts, there’s no knowing where it will end. On this the president is right. Once the local statues are purged the Tear-Downers will look to Statuary Hall, and the names of military bases, and then on to the Founders, to the slave-holding Washington and Jefferson. Then, perhaps, to their words and ideas. In what way will that help us?

.. Leave what is, alone. Be a noble people who inspire—and build—more statues. I’d like one that honors the families of the victims in the Charleston shooting.More statues, not fewer; more honor, not more debris. More debris is the last thing we need.

Richard Rohr: Law and Grace: Grace Must Win

a match in which grace must win. When it doesn’t, religion becomes moralistic, which is merely the ego’s need for order and control. I am sorry to say, but this is most garden-variety religion. We must recover grace-oriented spirituality if we are to rebuild Christianity from the bottom up.

In Romans and Galatians, Paul gives us sophisticated studies of the meaning, purpose, and limitations of law. He says its function is just to get us started, but legalism too often takes over.

.. Why did they fail? Because they relied on being privately good instead of trusting in God for their goodness!

.. Law is a necessary stage, but if we stay there, Paul believes, it actually becomes a major obstacle to transformation into love and mercy. Law often frustrates the process of transformation by becoming an end in itself. It inoculates us from the real thing, which is always relationship. Paul says that God gave us the law to show us that we can’t obey the law! (See Romans 7:7-13 if you don’t believe me.)

.. We’ve treated Paul as if he were a moralist instead of the first-rate mystic and teacher that he is.

.. Ironically, until people have had some level of inner God experience, there is no point in asking them to follow Jesus’ ethical ideals. It is largely a waste of time. Indeed, they will not be able to even understand the law’s meaning and purpose.

.. Humans quite simply don’t have the power to obey any spiritual law, especially issues like forgiveness of enemies, nonviolence, self-emptying, humble use of power, true justice toward the outsider, and so on, except in and through union with God.

Be Merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” —Matthew 5:7

In this Beatitude Jesus again returns to the idea of flow. Notice that there’s an exchange going on here: we give mercy and we receive mercy. And this is not coincidental, for the root of the word “mercy” comes from the old Etruscan merc, which also gives us “commerce” and “merchant.” It’s all about exchange.

Usually we think of the mercy of God as a kind of divine clemency, and we pray, “Lord have mercy upon us” as a confession of our weakness and dependency.

.. mercy is not something God has so much as it’s something that God is.

Richard Rohr: Awakening to Mercy

Jesus also said, “Those who show mercy will have mercy shown to them” (Matthew 5:7).

.. When you do not know you need mercy and forgiveness yourself, you invariably become stingy in sharing it with others

.. we have developed penal and judicial systems that think of mercy as an affront to justice. We seem to have a craven fear of–and even hatred for–anyone outside our own kind of people. After centuries of legalistic religion, sacraments administered in a juridical fashion, and biblical fundamentalism, the very word “mercy” seems newly introduced into our vocabulary–as if it were from a language other than our own, a truly foreign concept. Mercy refuses our capitalistic calculations. Most religion now offers no corrective to the culture, but largely reflects cultural self-interest.

.. Any candidate is praised and deemed worthy of high office because we think, “He speaks his mind” (when it is actually our prejudices that he is speaking aloud). Two thousand years of Jesus’ teaching on compassion, love, forgiveness, and mercy (not to mention basic kindness and respect) are all but forgotten in a narcissistic rage. Western culture has become all about the self, and that is just way too small an agenda. The very self that Jesus said “must die” is now just about all that we think about!