When we look at history, it’s clear that Christianity is an evolving faith. It only makes sense that early Christians would look for a logical and meaningful explanation for the “why” of the tragic death of their religion’s founder. For the early centuries, appeasing an angry, fanatical Father was not their answer. For the first thousand years, most Christians believed that the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross—the “price” or the ransom—was being paid not to God, but to the devil! This made the devil pretty powerful and God pretty weak, but it gave the people someone to blame for Jesus’ death. And at least it was not God.
Then, in the eleventh century, Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033–1109) wrote a paper called Cur Deus Homo? (Why Did God Become Human?) which might just be the most unfortunately successful piece of theology ever written. Thinking he could solve the problem of sin inside of the medieval code of feudal honor and shame, Anselm said, in effect, “Yes, a price did need to be paid to restore God’s honor, and it needed to be paid to God the Father—by one who was equally divine.” I imagine Anselm didn’t consider the disastrous implications of his theory, especially for people who were already afraid or resentful of God.
In authoritarian and patriarchal cultures, most people were fully programmed to think this way—working to appease an authority figure who was angry, punitive, and even violent in “his” reactions. Many still operate this way, especially if they had an angry, demanding, or abusive parent. People respond to this kind of God, as sick as it is, because it fits their own story line.
Unfortunately, for a simple but devastating reason, this understanding also nullifies any in-depth spiritual journey: Why would you love or trust or desire to be with such a God?
Over the next few centuries, Anselm’s honor- and shame-based way of thinking came to be accepted among Christians, though it met resistance from some, particularly my own Franciscan school under Bonaventure (1221–1274) and Duns Scotus (1266–1308). Protestants accepted the mainline Catholic position, embracing it with even more fervor. Evangelicals later enshrined it as one of the “four pillars” of foundational Christian belief, which the earlier period would have thought strange. Most of us were never told of the varied history of this theory, even among Protestants. If you came from a “law and order” culture or a buying and selling culture—which most of us have—it made perfect sense. The revolutionary character of Jesus and the final and full Gospel message has still to dawn upon most of the world. It is just too upending for most peoples’ minds until they have personally undergone the radical experience of unearned love. And, even then, it takes a lifetime to sink in.
Mike Flynn. In 2016, the retired general published a book that made clear where he stood when it came to Russia.
“Although I believe America and Russia could find mutual ground fighting Radical Islamists,” he and co-author Michael Ledeen wrote, “there is no reason to believe Putin would welcome cooperation with us; quite the contrary, in fact.”
Lest there be any doubt as to where the future national security adviser stood, Flynn went on to stress that Vladimir Putin “has done a lot for the Khamenei regime”; that Russia and Iran were “the two most active and powerful members of the enemy alliance”; and that the Russian president’s deep intention was to “pursue the war against us.”
All this was true. Yet by the end of the year, Flynn would be courting Russia’s ambassador to Washington and hinting at swift relief from sanctions. What gave?
What gave, it seems, was some combination of financial motives — at least $65,000 in payments by Russian-linked companies — and political ones — a new master in the person of Donald Trump, who took precisely the same gauzy view of Russia that Flynn had rejected in his book.
.. the president’s craven apologists insist he’s right to try to find common ground with Russia. These are the same people who until recently were in full throat against Barack Obama for his overtures to Putin.
.. Yet the alleged naïveté never quits: Just this week, he asked for Putin’s help on North Korea.
The better explanations are:
- the president is infatuated with authoritarians, at least those who flatter him;
- he’s neurotically neuralgic when it comes to the subject of his election;
- he’s ideologically sympathetic to Putinism, with its combination of economic corporatism, foreign-policy cynicism, and violent hostility to critics;
- he’s stupid; or
- he’s vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
.. Each explanation is compatible with all the others. For my part, I choose all of the above — the first four points being demonstrable while the last is logical.
.. There’s no need to obsess about electoral collusion when the real issue is moral capitulation.
During the campaign, when President Trump’s advisers wanted him to stop talking about an issue — such as when he attacked a Gold Star military family — they sometimes presented him with polls demonstrating how the controversy was harming his candidacy.
During the transition, when aides needed Trump to decide on a looming issue or appointment, they often limited him to a shortlist of two or three options and urged him to choose one.
And now in the White House, when advisers hope to prevent Trump from making what they think is an unwise decision, they frequently try to delay his final verdict — hoping he may reconsider after having time to calm down.
.. The president is often impulsive, mercurial and difficult to manage, leading those around him to find creative ways to channel his energies.
.. Some Trump aides spend a significant part of their time devising ways to rein in and control the impetuous president, angling to avoid outbursts that might work against him, according to interviews with 18 aides, confidants
.. “I restrict no one, by the way, from going in to see him. But when we go in to see him now, rather than onesies and twosies, we go in and help him collectively understand what he needs to understand to make these vital decisions.”
.. Trump’s penchant for Twitter feuds, name-calling and temperamental outbursts presents a unique challenge.
.. One defining feature of managing Trump is frequent praise, which can leave his team in what seems to be a state of perpetual compliments. The White House pushes out news releases overflowing with top officials heaping flattery on Trump
.. One regular practitioner is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who praised Trump’s controversial statements after white supremacists had a violent rally in Charlottesville and also said he agreed with Trump that professional football players should stand during the national anthem.
.. Former treasury secretary Larry Summers wrote in a Twitter post, “Mnuchin may be the greatest sycophant in Cabinet history.”
.. Especially in the early days of his presidency, aides delivered the president daily packages of news stories filled with positive coverage
.. Some aides and outside advisers hoping to push their allies and friends for top postings, such as ambassadorships, made sure their candidates appeared speaking favorably about Trump in conservative news outlets — and that those news clippings ended up on the president’s desk.
.. H.R. McMaster, the president’s national security adviser, has frequently resorted to diversionary tactics to manage Trump.
.. he will volunteer to have his staff study Trump’s more unorthodox ideas
.. When Trump wanted to make South Korea pay for the entire cost of a shared missile defense system, McMaster and top aides huddled to come up with arguments that the money spent defending South Korea and Japan also benefited the U.S. economy in the form of manufacturing jobs
.. If [Trump] wanted to do something that I thought could be problematic for him, I would simply, respectfully, ask him if we could possibly wait on it and then reconsider,” Nunberg
.. During the campaign, after reading a story in the New York Times that said Trump’s advisers went on television to talk directly to him, the candidate exploded at his then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, chastising his top aide for treating him like “a baby,”
.. The president appreciates how Mattis, a four-star Marine general, speaks to him candidly but respectfully and often plays down disagreements in public.
.. Mattis’s focus has been on informing the president when they disagree — before the disagreements go public — and maintaining a quiet influence.
.. Mattis has also gone out of his way not to suck up to the president
.. Mattis has also worked to get on Trump’s good side by criticizing the media for putting too much emphasis on his disagreements with Trump
.. When he has broken with the president, Mattis has done it as subtly possible.
.. Several people who have met with Trump in recent weeks said he mocks other officials in Washington, especially fellow Republicans.
.. Trump upset Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) by cutting a deal with Democrats. In subsequent days behind closed doors, the president mocked the reactions of McConnell and Ryan from the meeting with an exaggerated crossing of his arms and theatrical frowns.
.. “They have an on-the-record ‘Dear Leader’ culture, and an on-background ‘This-guy-is-a-joke’ culture,”
In his total absence of dignity and decorum, his violence and his vulgarity, he was the emblem par excellence of the Trump White House. That reports of his wife filing for divorce surfaced during his brief apotheosis completed the picture. Fast-talking and fatuous, self-important and servile, he embodied the “commedia dell’arte” of Trump’s dysfunctional crew.
.. Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to Trump, who recently told the BBC that, “The military is not a microcosm of civilian society. They are not there to reflect America. They are there to kill people and blow stuff up.”
.. The Scaramouch was just a stand-in for the president he professed to love. The real “braggart and poltroon” sits in the Oval Office.
.. What but some profound sense of inadequacy could explain the neediness and the nastiness, the pout and the pettiness, the vanity and the vulgarity, the anger and the aggression? This president gets off on the humiliation of others. He is inhabited by some deep violence to which self-control is a stranger. It is almost painful to watch the degree to which he pursues self-aggrandizement. He confounds masculinity with machismo. As J.K. Rowling put it in a tweet: “You tiny, tiny, tiny little man.”
.. The transgender decision .. was, in the words of Stephen Burbank, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, “an engine of malice.” It illustrated how, “In the realm of moral leadership, President Trump is leading a race to the bottom.”
.. The police department in Suffolk County also pushed back; it would not tolerate brutality.
.. But this is the president we have: turbulent, chaotic, boastful, cowardly and violent.