Another day, another mass shooting. We grieve for Odessa, Tex., and we grieve for America.
The aftermath of every mass shooting follows a now-routine pattern: Feverish coverage will be followed by politicians and pundits engaging in a predictable conversation about gun-safety legislation. All of which we know by now. Of course, we need universal background checks; we need to close all loopholes; we need to outlaw bump stocks; and we need to outlaw assault weapons and the bullets needed to shoot them. But politicians trotting out various forms of I-will-do-this-or-that neither gets to the heart of the matter nor breaks the logjam that has made this horrific and uniquely American problem so intractable.
It is not just our gun policy but our politics that fails to free us of this insanity. Until we override the nefarious influence of money on our politics, it will not be possible to break the National Rifle Association’s chokehold on our society. It is not the will nor safety of the people but the profits of gun manufacturers that is given primacy in our gun policies. Legislation that establishes public funding for federal campaigns should be the battle cry of our generation.
But even then, Americans will have to look deeper for the causal layers of our epidemic of violence. We will have to look beyond politics. We will have to look at ourselves.
As individuals, Americans are not a violent people, but it is undeniable that we’re a violent culture. Regular mass shootings are not societally normal. And until we face this, the situation will not fundamentally improve.
Most politicians stick to a discussion of symptoms only. Politics should be the conduit for our most expanded conversation about societal issues, not the most superficial one. Conventional politics does not lend itself to a discussion of the deeper issues that plague us. Yet go deeper we must.
America does not just have a gun crisis; it has a cultural crisis. America will not stop experiencing the effects of gun violence until we’re ready to face the many ways that our culture is riddled with violence.
- Our environmental policies are violent toward the Earth.
- Our criminal justice system is violent toward people of color.
- Our economic system is violent toward the poor.
- Our entertainment media is violent toward women.
- Our video games are violent in their effect on the minds of children.
- Our military is violent in ways and places where it doesn’t have to be.
- Our media is violent in its knee-jerk shaming and blaming for the sake of a better click rate.
- Our hearts are violent as we abandon each other constantly, breeding desperation and insanity. And
- our government is indirectly and directly violent in the countless ways it uses its power to help those who do not need help and to withhold support from those who do.
The darker truth that Americans must face now is this: Our society is not just steeped in violence; we are hooked on violence. And in area after area, there are those who make billions of dollars on deepening the hook. Until we see that, we will just have more violence. Our minds must awaken so we can see all this. Our hearts must awaken so we can change all this. And our politics must change so we can discuss all this.
Though gun-safety legislation should be fervently pursued, a political establishment so steeped in the ways of brute force is hardly equipped to be the purveyor of a solution to the problem of violence in this country. With a nearly $740 billion military budget but only $40 billion proposed for the State Department budget, our outsize commitment to brute force and ever-withering commitment to soul force is obvious. With the Air Force seeking 100 stealth B-21 Raiders, each with a price tag of $550 million and each equipped to carry both nuclear and conventional weapons, while 12.5 million children in the United States live in food-insecure homes — the idea of politicians who allow this to happen being the ones who are going to save us from the epidemic of violence in America is almost laughable.
We will not break free of dysfunctional realities until we are willing to embrace more functional ones. I propose a U.S. Department of Peace
- to coordinate and harness the powers of conflict resolution;
- restorative justice;
- violence prevention;
- trauma-informed education;
- mindfulness in the schools;
- child and family wrap-around services;
- social and emotional learning; and
- a world-class peace academy to train and to deploy thousands of peace-builders, plus
- national conferences and a presidential task force for peace creation.
We will make every effort to promote a culture of peace both at home and abroad. We will address the root causes, not just the symptoms of violence in America. And in time, we will transform our culture from one of conflict to one of peace.
Nothing is going to fundamentally change until enough of us are willing to take a stand for fundamental change. And no change could be more fundamental than for the United States to transform from a culture of violence to a culture of peace. From the frequency of attack to the frequency of forgiveness. From a land of fear to a land of love.
The Trump administration proposed a $4.7 trillion budget that would sharply reduce spending on safety-net programs, while effectively exempting the Pentagon from strict spending caps set to take effect in fiscal year 2020.
The president’s plan would widen the federal budget deficit to $1.1 trillion in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, and would propose to eliminate the deficit by 2034, in part by assuming the economy grows much faster than many independent forecasters expect.
The White House budget document proposed $2.7 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, including $1.9 trillion in cuts to mandatory spending programs, a senior administration official said Monday. The official said the president’s budget proposes more spending cuts over the next 10 years than any administration in history.
The budget would reduce the overall level of nondefense spending by 5% next year below current federal spending caps, a nearly $30 billion reduction. The budget would increase military spending by 5%, to $750 billion from $716 billion in fiscal year 2019.
.. The budget proposes to cut $22 billion from safety-net programs next year—$327 billion over the next decade—and proposes new work requirements for recipients of food stamps, Medicaid and federal housing programs, the senior administration official said... The budget assumes the extension of the individual- and estate-tax cuts slated to expire at the end of 2025, and it proposes repealing some tax incentives for alternative energy, including a tax credit for plug-in electric cars.It requests $8.6 billion for new barriers along the southern U.S. border, including $5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security and $3.6 billion for the Defense Department’s military-construction budget. The president’s blueprint would also provide additional funding to boost manpower at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, and it proposes policy changes to end so-called sanctuary cities.
The plan would also increase investments in national defense, such as artificial intelligence and hypersonic weapons, and provide more than $80 billion for veterans health care, a 10% increase from fiscal year 2019, according to the White House budget office.
You said recently that conservatives and Christians should stop electing nice guys. Aren’t Christians supposed to be nice guys?
Of course, of course. But that’s where people get confused. I almost laugh out loud when I hear Democrats saying things like, “Jesus said suffer the little children to come unto me” and try to use that as the reason we should open up our borders.
It’s such a distortion of the teachings of Jesus to say that what he taught us to do personally — to love our neighbors as ourselves, help the poor — can somehow be imputed on a nation. Jesus never told Caesar how to run Rome. He went out of his way to say that’s the earthly kingdom, I’m about the heavenly kingdom and I’m here to teach you how to treat others, how to help others, but when it comes to serving your country, you render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. It’s a distortion of the teaching of Christ to say Jesus taught love and forgiveness and therefore the United States as a nation should be loving and forgiving, and just hand over everything we have to every other part of the world. That’s not what Jesus taught. You almost have to believe that this is a theocracy to think that way, to think that public policy should be dictated by the teachings of Jesus.
So, the government you want is one free of religious association?
Yes. The government should be led by somebody who is going to do what’s in the best interest of the government and its people. And I believe that’s what Jesus thought, too.
In 2016 you wrote in a Washington Post editorial that voters in the 2010 and 2014 midterms sent a message they were “tired of the leftist agenda.” What message did voters in the 2018 midterms send?
This midterm, the president did better than the average president does in his first midterms. So I think the message is that the American people are happy with the direction the country is headed and happy with the economy, happy with our newfound respect in the world. It’s a better result than you normally see in the first midterms.
.. You and other white evangelical leaders have strongly supported President Trump. What about him exemplifies Christianity and earns him your support?
What earns him my support is his business acumen. Our country was so deep in debt and so mismanaged by career politicians that we needed someone who was not a career politician, but someone who’d been successful in business to run the country like a business. That’s the reason I supported him.
The deficit and debt have increased during his first two years.
Yeah, Congress, the spending bill that they forced on him in order to get the military spending up to where it needed to be — he said that would be the last time he signed one of those. But he had no choice because Obama had decimated the military, and it had to be rebuilt.
Is there anything President Trump could do that would endanger that support from you or other evangelical leaders?
That’s the shortest answer we’ve had so far.
Only because I know that he only wants what’s best for this country, and I know anything he does, it may not be ideologically “conservative,” but it’s going to be what’s best for this country, and I can’t imagine him doing anything that’s not good for the country.
Is it hypocritical for evangelical leaders to support a leader who has advocated violence and who has committed adultery and lies often? I understand that a person can be forgiven their sins, but should that person be leading the country?
When Jesus said we’re all sinners, he really meant all of us, everybody. I don’t think you can choose a president based on their personal behavior because even if you choose the one that you think is the most decent — let’s say you decide Mitt Romney. Nobody could be a more decent human being, better family man. But there might be things that he’s done that we just don’t know about. So you don’t choose a president based on how good they are; you choose a president based on what their policies are. That’s why I don’t think it’s hypocritical.
There’s two kingdoms. There’s the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom. In the heavenly kingdom the responsibility is to treat others as you’d like to be treated. In the earthly kingdom, the responsibility is to choose leaders who will do what’s best for your country. Think about it. Why have Americans been able to do more to help people in need around the world than any other country in history? It’s because of free enterprise, freedom, ingenuity, entrepreneurism and wealth. A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity, not of any real volume. It’s just common sense to me.
You’ve been criticized by some other evangelical leaders about your support for the president. They say you need to demand higher moral and ethical standards. You disagree with them on that?
It may be immoral for them not to support him, because he’s got African American employment to record highs, Hispanic employment to record highs. They need to look at what the president did for the poor. A lot of the people who criticized me, because they had a hard time stomaching supporting someone who owned casinos and strip clubs or whatever, a lot them have come around and said, “Yeah, you were right.” Some of the most prominent evangelicals in the country have said, “Jerry, we thought you were crazy, but now we understand.”
This, combined with America’s failure to build its own fortified islands in the South China Sea and line their shores with a gauntlet of antishipping missiles, will amount to the de facto surrender of international waters to a covetous competitor.
.. If the U.S. cedes international waters, watches as parts of Europe fall away (as in Crimea and the Donbas), deploys a defenseless fleet, and by default opens vulnerabilities in its nuclear deterrent, the international system will shatter as allies defect to rivals for whom American capitulationists will arise to do the rivals’ bidding and adopt their principles. We have seen the dawn of such things in the Iran deal, “strategic patience,” apology tours and fundamental transformation... But that is not all. The unremediated military decline in relation to potential enemies is the cause of a dangerous alteration in doctrine, which in itself is a form of early, if unconscious, appeasement. The new doctrine is expressed by Gen. John Raymond, chief of Air Force Space Command, who stated in April that the U.S. will respond to an attack on its assets in space “at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing.” He called this “a huge change in our overall strategy,” and it is... These are admissions that the U.S. cannot proportionally and equally defend itself in space, cyber, and response to tactical nuclear weapons except through the threat of escalation and intrusion into other domains. At the beginning of the nuclear age, American withdrawal of conventional forces in Europe led to reliance on strategic nuclear weapons as a response to Soviet invasion. As the Soviets acquired their own nuclear arsenal, doctrine matured and it became obvious that a flexible response, restricted as much as possible to matching methods and means of the challenge, was necessary to avoid disastrous escalation... As Michael Griffin, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for research and engineering, succinctly warns, if the U.S. fails to shape up in regard to, for example, defense against hypersonics alone, China and Russia will “hold at risk our carrier battle groups . . . our entire surface fleet . . . our forward deployed forces and land-based forces,” with the only choice “either to let them have their way or go nuclear.”.. Thus the U.S. will have put itself in the position of Russia, which has continued the promiscuous and dangerous Soviet nuclear doctrines upon which it relies because of weakness in its conventional forces and a dearth of “soft” powers. In short, American failures in vigilance may force a doctrinal step up the escalation ladder, and a step back into a more perilous nuclear age... Save for the near miracles of ingenuity that have in the past served the U.S. so well, the only way to prevent this is with a massive, properly directed, long-overdue infusion of funds that will allow us to avoid the knife edge of risk upon which otherwise we will soon be dancing.