If You Choose to Support Trump in Part, You Are Choosing to Support “The Full Catastrophe”
Written by: 
Joe Morris Doss

David Duke was running hard for the Senate. The Louisiana media was following his every move, reporting all the juicy controversies that popped up on a daily basis, and making him the center of attention for the electorate. At one point Duke offered a proposal that many, even activists who opposed him with great passion, found relatively plausible. It had nothing to do with white supremacy or racism; it actually seemed downright innocuous to most observers. The buzz was that it might even be considered valid and certain politicians on the opposite side were beginning to consider how being able to support something Duke proposed might be good politics. One of the people working to elect Duke’s opponent was Kenneth Duncan, Treasurer of the State of Louisiana and President of the National Association of State Treasurers. At a certain juncture, Duncan found him self cornered by reporters who were asking if he was going to give the proposal his imprimatur.

“Have you read what Duke has to say about it? Will you be able to go along with it?” Duncan replied without hesitation: “I don’t have to read anything he writes. I only need to see whose name is there. I am not going to support the political standing and power of a David Duke by supporting him on anything. He is too toxic to touch.”

That made a lot of sense to me. It was not until Duke was sufficiently isolated by colleagues who would not play ball with him that he finally disappeared into the background.

Then suddenly late this spring, he was on every national news channel announcing his support for Donald Trump. Trump’s response was utterly revealing. Trump refused to distance himself from Duke until the coded signals of racism had been duly received and recorded. It is legitimate to speculate that Trump’s posturing about Duke helped move him along the path to presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.

These now are days when a lot of jockeying is taking place among Republicans, seeking positions that might allow them to have their cake and eat it too. Many are pointing to certain aspects of the Trump candidacy that they can support while acknowledging with long faces that the decision as a whole is problematic. One approach of “Vichy Republicans” – the ones who choose to go along with the take over and occupation of their political party – is to try to distinguish between those issues and areas of governance on which they may be able to support him and the things about which they want to disassociate.

Let’s be clear, if a voter or a politician supports Trump on any one of his ideas, assertions, accusations, proposals, and promises, — his program — that person is supporting all of what will happen if he becomes President.

If it troubles one that Muslims will be blocked from coming to the land first founded on the desire for freedom of religion,

if one would rather not see a wall against Mexicans,

if it causes concern that women will have a leader who is so an obviously a misogynist,

if it distresses voters to realize that the word of a President Trump would not be trustworthy or even to be taken seriously and that when he speaks he will be casually ruthless,

if it is problematic for a President to be lazy and ignorant about “the what” and “the how-to” of government,

if it is uncomfortable to put your life and those of your children and families in Trump’s hands after being warned about his plans for nuclear proliferation and the inevitable use of nuclear arms – by a range of countries,

Then, please be aware that you will be responsible for all of this – and so much more – that the candidate has openly exposed.

The person who chooses to support Trump because she or he can support him in part? That person becomes responsible for the whole!

Message to Christians – including Fundamentalists and anti-abortion Roman Catholics – and traditional Republicans: Do Not Drink the Trump Cool Aid!

This is hard for me to say. I take a person at her or his word in the claim to be a Christian. Of course, I disagree with certain positions people take in their view of Christianity, and I believe there are opinions that would fall within the old categories of “heresy.” But “wrong belief,” even if deemed heretical, does not place a baptized believer outside of the Christian faith community. So, it is hard for me to say definitively and publicly that Donald Trump would not govern according to Christian values and principles. But that is the conclusion to which I have arrived. Morality, personal or social, is a non-issue for Mr. Trump, and the Christian worldview seem to be equally irrelevant — matters to be stepped around or used manipulatively on his way of the acquisition of power as a goal in and of itself. Traditional twentieth century Republican beliefs seem as to be viewed as secondary, or even something to be jettisoned when they get in the way. So, to Christians and to traditional Republicans I say: Do Not Vote for Donald Trump.

This conclusion about Christianity is mine, but it is based on Trump’s own words, such as:

when he acknowledged that he had never asked God for forgiveness and declared that he has never needed to;

when he demeans and belittles those with whom he differs or in any way is opposed and even suggests that violent action should be used against them, in particular Muslims, women, and people of other cultures who have immigrated to the United States without legal status;

when he ignores any international role of the United States for enhancing human rights, justice and peace, but instead declares that he wants America to be “number one” in order to “lord it over” other nations on the basis of raw power and fear, and when he glibly and with wildly negligent responsibility proposes to allow nuclear power to spread and become rather commonly used as a force of war.

He offends other Christian doctrines that must not be compromised, but let us focus on three.

Sin and Forgiveness: Donald Trump does not believe in the profound need of every person to be forgiven or in the divine forgiveness that is offered in the dying and rising of Jesus of Nazareth. He believes in a theology of “justification,” not by grace, but through “winning,” and proposes that money is the way “the score” is to be kept.

Human Dignity: Donald Trump does not respect the dignity of every individual human being as a child of God or believe that human life is sacred. Trump ignores the ecumenical claim that the “dignity” of the human person is a sound foundational standard for a moral vision for society. Instead the human being is of value according to other measures less eternal and far less precious. By any other name, he is a white-supremacist, taking political advantage of the frustration white citizens, especially white males, feel about becoming a minority in the land.

Justice and Peace: Donald Trump does not believe in the ultimate goals of justice and peace in and for the world. He would have the United States become the new Roman Empire with its old theology in which “Caesar is Lord;” the “Senatorial class” is wealthy beyond any ability to use it; the home land has the vast majority of the earth’s resources to use and even waste; other peoples are to be considered and treated as having a status of secondary humanity.

A noted columnist, Robert Mann, recently coined the term that is apt for traditionally minded Republicans who give in and support Trump: “Vichy Republicans.”

The Conservative Movement unintentionally produced the Trump candidacy as a result of its gradual but steady take-over of the Republican Party. That ultimately had led to a remarkably small group of the wealthiest elite, including a few women, becoming Party gatekeepers – and all but grinding legislative government to a halt. Then, as though the propitious moment had arrived, an enormously wealthy businessman, but one who was an outsider to that inner group and also far more experienced and insightful about TV and digital communications moved through them to take center stage. Surely the small and easily identified group of wealthy political activists led by libertarian radicals like the Koch brothers would never have wanted a Donald Trump to emerge and take over the party they had commandeered.

Surely, Republicans who value such traditional goals as less government regulation, fiscal responsibility with business growth, and defense security cannot truly desire the Republican Party of Donald Trump or the government he would lead.

What we are facing is a temptation to totalitarianism’s great and intrinsic evil: the abrogation of traditional values that depends not only on the surrendering of those values but also on the fashioning of elegant rationalizations to justify it.

Education In the Way? Starve It, Run Over It, Go Around It, Subvert It
Written by: Joe Morris Doss

In the latter part of the twentieth century the increasingly successful Conservative Movement decided to target its enemies. One was “the academy,” the American institutions of education. Public education was placed under special attack.

At least two relevant issues have to be identified that already had created grave problems for public education of elementary and high schools when the Conservative Movement went to work; these then contributed to its emerging strategy: vouchers and competition between schools. The early leaders of the civil rights movement understood that the achievement of racial integration and equality of opportunity depended in large measure on improving the quality of education by equalizing it. Thus, instead of such targets as segregated housing and unequal job opportunities, the civil rights movement focused on integration of schools. Private schools cropped up all over the place, and especially private religious schools. As it turned out, many of these new private schools taught religious and political views that have proved supportive of the conservative movement, e.g. creationism v. evolution. Meanwhile, Roman Catholic schools were increasingly under financial stress due to the decline in numbers of priests, nuns, and others called to vocations that provided teachers and staff. The demand soon developed for publicly funded vouchers to support private schools of personal choice. As for the underfunded and unequally underfunded public schools, especially within districts serving a high percentage of students living in homes of poor and uneducated adults, the turn has been to the fundamental conservative principle of competition judged by markets forces. (1) The competition between the public schools within a given location – those publicly run and privately run – provides a choice. The use of vouchers widens the choice to one between public and private schools. (2) The competition between teachers is based on norm-referenced, group-administered comparative achievement testing of their students.

The attack at the level of higher education has been even more direct, though far more covert. The academy, that source of information, ideas, and facts that too often run counter to the aims and policies of the Conservative Movement, such as persistent concerns regarding global warming and macro economics that enjoyed scholarly consensus, is countered first with a generalized anti-intellectual message, belittling scholarship and appealing to “common sense.” But more directly the public institutions of education, especially higher education, are to be squeezed financially, under the rubric that government should be smaller and should not be in the business of paying for the “commodity” termed education; rather the individuals that profit from it should pay for their own. That is, the idea developed that schools should operate like a business – one that sells services for which a consumer pays according to market value – and leave government out of it. Public education is to be underfunded to the extent that it would finally become unaffordable for the masses of young people, such as working class children, immigrants, and high school graduates whose parents lack have the necessary resources to pay tuition and costs.

Meanwhile, those educational institutions and organizations on campuses that were more in line with the Conservative Movement, such as Liberty University, are boosted; for example, recruiting and promoting their students into the political working of the Republican Party and its various administrations. Conservative students join groups like the Federalist Society, which is not only highly helpful career move but a practical necessity for a lawyer to move up the ladder in the conservative legal and political structures, e.g. Chief Justice Roberts of the U. S. Supreme Court. Such societies are as old and diverse as education itself, but it is unique for them to be established and funded from the private coffers of a political movement.

Finally, it was decided to infiltrate established educational institutions by convincing them to offer classes that would present the “party line,” such as conservative economic theory for classes in “Law and Economics”. “Infiltrate” is an appropriate word since there was no embarrassment about using stealth to implant these classes that would not ordinarily be of the quality demanded by such institutions like George Mason, Brown, and Yale.

But perhaps the most effective tactic was the enhancement of the effectiveness of the conservative “think tanks” and the creation of several new ones. Scholars of these institutions were to counter directly the liberal ideas and facts to be expected from educational and research institutions of higher learning, as well as from the think tanks the Movement considered liberal. For example, while scientists enjoyed broad agreement regarding the dangers to global warming, the supporters of fossil fuel could point to scholars within purportedly objective and public-minded think tanks who disagreed, creating an effective smoke screen for policies dangerous to the earth.
The following is an indication of the extent of the problem caused by evaporating state support of its colleges and universities. In some states the results are moving toward what many consider catastrophic reductions in financial support. The amount of general state funding for the support their schools of higher learning fell from 14.6 percent in 1990 to 9.4 percent in 2014.

“Despite modest increases in 2013 and 2014, state support for public higher education per full-time equivalent student remains nearly 30 percent below spending in 2000, after adjusting for inflation using the State Higher Education Finance cost adjustment. Source: State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) Association, SHEF: FY 2014—State Higher Education Finance (Boulder, Colo.: State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, 2015).

Higher education has suffered relative to other priorities…According to one recent analysis, “eleven states spent more of their general funds on corrections than on higher education in 2013. And some of the states with the biggest education cuts in recent years also have among the nation’s highest incarceration rates.“ (Mitchell, Palacios, and Leachman, States are Still Funding Higher Education below Pre-Recession Levels.)


Going Deeper

By: Joe Morris Doss

At the Threshold has noted previously that strategic decisions were made and acted upon by a determined and focused group of wealthy Americans as the Conservative Movement gained ascendancy. Most of these people were not active members of a Christian church, and even fewer had strong feelings for any one of the several faith communities. Yet, they invested heavily in the church. They did so for purely political purposes. Readers of modern historical material about activities such as are documented in Dark Money (Jane Mayer) and Thy Kingdom Come (Randall Balmer) will not find this surprising.

One of the important strategic goals was to convince the public, through manipulation of the media, that Christianity is politically conservative by its very nature and limited in scope to private matters of personal moral behavior, individual “spirituality,” and otherworldly aspirations. For those reasons, it was asserted, Christians support liberal causes only as the church becomes captured by a secular agenda, e.g. the “gay agenda,” the “feminists agenda,” etc. In such a light, the proper public role of the church should be to support laws and policies that will suit the views of its most conservative Christians and impose laws that they consider “God’s will” for human society.

The conservative columnist Cal Thomas wrote an April 30 op-ed in which the accepted assumptions that identify Christianity with conservative political positions are exemplified. Speaking at an evangelical seminary he had no compunction about addressing his audience as though he was speaking for all of Christianity. Thomas lamented the failures of Christian influence in American government, noting the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage as an example of the secularization of society, and compared the situation of the present day church to that of the early church, “when it was the target of persecution.”

That Christians seem to be losing ground in what has erroneously been called the “culture wars” may not be a bad thing. It might force them to re-think their primary calling, which is to a kingdom “not of this world.”

This Christian vision is narrow and shallow. If it is taken as the vision of the church there can be little wonder that we have lost the imagination of society.

In striking contrast, on the morning that I read this opinion I next picked up an excerpt from Belief in God in An Age of Science by John Polkinghorne. (All quotes and references are taken from Part 5.) The author is a world-renown physicist who is also a noted philosopher and theologian. As a student of the physical makeup of the universe Polkinghorne is not to be turned away from interest in creation – its physicality, its order, and its purposes. From the very beginning in the first century the church courageously opened its mind in search of the full truth being revealed to them in the Jesus story. It certainly refused to ignore God’s design and commitment to creation.

This is not the place or the occasion for a sufficiently in-depth theological exploration, but perhaps some rudimentary sketching will offer a hint for why I found the comparison of the two essays so arresting. Polkinghorne is aware not only that transience and death have always been part of the world of human experience, but that today we realize how mortality characterizes the whole universe itself.

“Not only has it looked very different in the past from its appearance today, but eventually, after many more billions of years, it will change again, ending either in the bang of cosmic collapse or the long-drawn out whimper of an ever expanding dying world.”

The author links our own hope for resurrection with the resurrected universe and offers his studied hope that both we and it will be made new, just as God raised Jesus by transforming his dead body into a new form of embodied life.

“I have never felt that the perpetuation of the race, or of life itself, or—least of all—of selfish genes, represented sufficient fulfillment to make sense of the history of this world. The fact that we now know that all these carbon-based entities will one day perish only makes the point more clearly. If cosmic history is no more than the temporary flourishing of remarkable fruitfulness followed by its subsequent decay and disappearance, then I think Macbeth was right and it is indeed a tale told by an idiot.”

Polkinghorne perceives a deep yearning, an intuition of hope within the human spirit, that is expressed by no less than the atheist philosopher, Max Horkheimer, in his cosmic fancy that the murderer should not triumph over his innocent victim.

“Theology is—and I consciously phrase it carefully—the hope that injustice, which is typical of the world, will not have the last say… a yearning that in the end the hand of the killer will not remain on top of the innocent victim.” (Horkheimer, “Die Sehnschucht nach dem ganz Anderen,” Gesammelte Schriften, VII, s. 389, as quoted here.)

If we consider profound Christian hope and thus the role of the church in politics, we must reach into such deep and complex issues and, yes, we must consider even the “end things,” how it is all to turn out if God’s will is to be fulfilled. Only God can take from death the last word and if the human intuition of hope – that all will be well and that the world makes ultimate sense – depends on God. But, as frightening as it may be, God has made us agents of the divine will.

What Polkinghorne has to say as a profoundly modern Christian thinker sounds to me like solid Pauline scripture, surprised not that the whole world is in the process, groaning in travail though it may be, of coming to the new birth in which there shall be justice and peace – shalom – but that each of us is loved by God as though every one of us is a whole cosmos. This is a  Christian vision that can charge the people of the earth with energy and a passion for justice.