It’s About Women (About Time!)
Written by:
Joe Morris Doss

What will be taught in history classes about the election of 2016? It will be about the equality of women. But the campaign also has clarified the negative perspective: it is about the death spiral of society as patriarchal.

This campaign – as dreadful as it has been – may be remembered as genuinely historical. It can prove historical due to a range of reasons that could come to pass. We may see the Republican Party implode; we may see a new political alignment based more on “identity” than on economic and class realities; we may see globalization and technological developments, such as robotics, change the whole landscape. And those are only some of the possibilities that loom before us, for we find ourselves in a rising, watershed, moment of worldwide change.

But, this campaign began with one grand possibility that would be “a first” for the United States: the election of a woman as President. When all is said and done, that should be the most notable step forward. For patriarchal inequality has been the longest standing wrong in human society, and this election can have a significant effect on the long road still ahead toward the genuine equality of all human beings as proclaimed in Christianity and the U.S. Constitution.

The superiority of men and the view of women as the weaker sex – with all that implies – has stood for all of human history as a given reality of nature. For most people throughout the human enterprise this was not a matter of prejudice, but just the way things are. And of course that meant that women were to be treated accordingly by men, and the ladies were to treat each other that way. Such a deep-seated matter of “reality” has been and will remain hard to overcome. We haven’t even been able to pass an equal rights amendment according to what the constitution already declares.

Note this, for I have not heard it declared: History will observe that this election was significant for the equality of women not only because a woman was elected, but because her opponent was rejected largely on the basis of his recalcitrant patriarchal prejudice and personal treatment of women. The combined reality of a women being elected President and of her opponent being convicted in the court of public opinion of standing for the continuing patriarchal abuse of women should prove effective in the cause of human dignity and equality for each and every person.

The positive statement of what this election has been about is the election of a woman; the negative statement of what this election has been about is the rejection of the patriarchal attitude. That is why the whole issue of Trump’s abuse of women, at least in language and perhaps in acts of criminal misbehavior, are so very, very relevant to the election. His abuse is only secondarily about sin or immoral behavior; primarily, it is about an attitude towards women that is no longer to be accepted.

There has been a rebuttal making the social network rounds against Christian pastors who reject Trump’s behavior. It asserts hypocritical and self-righteous moralizing. The point being made is that rejection of Trump on the charge of immorality violates the Christian precept that God can use broken vessels for good. They point to sinners in scripture, like King David and Paul, and even pagan Cyrus, the Persian King who is given credit in scripture for being God’s instrument for freeing the People of Israel from Babylonian exile. Never mind that it is the Christian view that God shapes everything to the good, or that in each instance employed for their argument, repentance remained the necessary dynamic (e.g. David was rebuked by Nathan: “You are the man;” Paul was knocked off his horse and blinded) and Cyrus would never have been considered for the throne of restored Israel. They are missing the point: it is not the candidate’s sin or personal moral failure – as some abstract wrong – that is making the difference, it is the attitude toward women that is no longer acceptable.

History is going to judge, as it always does, narrowly and with specificity: this election is about the equality of women.


A Comparative Look at the Core Beliefs of Jesus and Mr. Trump
Written by: 
Joe Morris Doss

At the Threshold is not in the business of judging the claims of people to be a Christian, and when someone running for office says they are a believer we take them at their word. However, we do accept a responsibility to place before our readers the clearly stated beliefs of a candidate for President of the United States so that they can be compared to the core and unchallenged Christian beliefs.

Forgiveness:

Jesus offers us forgiveness for our sins, “For,” as St. Paul proclaimed: “all have sinned and fallen short….”  

Donald Trump said last year that he has never asked God for forgiveness. When questioned by CNN’s Jake Tapper, Trump said ”I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad.” Then, when challenged by conservative commentator Cal Thomas, Trump said, “I hope I don’t have to ask for much forgiveness,” and immediately turned to his real and personal concern about that issue: “I think I will be doing very well during the election with evangelicals and with Christians.”

The Cross:

Jesus, who was cursed, humiliated, and crucified by the powerful said, “…my strength is made perfect in weakness;” “Blessed are the meek…blessed are the poor in spirit.” St. Paul said, “…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block…and foolishness…(to others).”

As President, Trump would function under the rubric: “Might Makes Right.” He has declared – often – that what counts is power, and that the way “the score” is kept in this society is “money.” Trump’s “gospel” is success, and precisely in the terms of what Paul names as the “world’s wisdom,” which is revealed in the cross as “foolishness.” In his book, any soldier who lets him or herself get captured, even if that person’s behavior proves heroic, is “a loser.” His confusion about strength and weakness extends to the church. Speaking to a gathering of pastors, he chided them, “You don’t use your power.” (“You’re…powerful. Because you have men and women, you probably have something like 75, 80 percent of the country believing. But you don’t you your power.”) What Trump admires is not meekness, or any sort of impoverishment, but only strength, worldly success, and power. (Raise your hand if you can imagine him embracing “spiritual poverty,” or grasping even a tiny bit what this strong and lasting Christian tradition means.)

The Truth:

Jesus: The truth will set you free.

Donald Trump uses falsehoods that he feels free to contradict with other falsehoods. For Donald Trump there is no “truth,” and no “facts.” As conservative commentator Michael Gerson put it, “It is not surprising that Trump inhabits his own factual universe in which truth is determined by usefulness and lies become credible through repetition.” Gerson listed some examples by use of statements he made and then flatly denied during the first debate: “When confronted with his claim that global warming was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, Trump replied, ‘I did not [say it].’ He did. When Trump’s claim that he could not release his tax returns because of an IRS audit was exposed as false, he still insisted on it. When charged with saying he could personally negotiate down the national debt, he said this was ‘wrong.’ The charge was right. When Trump’s transparently deceptive claim to be an early opponent of the Iraq War was debunked, he doubled down in a babbling defense, citing Sean Hannity as he ultimate arbiter.” In that debate Trump again repeated that which finally drove the NY Times to use the word “lie”: the claim that Clinton aides started the question of our first black President’s American birth (in 2008).

Enemies:

Jesus: love them; pray for them.

Trump: Demonize them. Dehumanize them. The person who disagrees with Mr. Trump, stands up to him, or oppose him, will be declared worthless, stripped of dignity, and made the object of derision. Each human being is, in his view, either “a winner” or “a loser,” and there is no more awful thing in his book than to be “a loser.” This attitude is central to his campaign, it is central to how he works (as those of us who found ourselves having to work with him almost always discovered), and it seems to be central to his belief system.

Discipleship:

Jesus: Followers are to be “the salt of the earth,” “…do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God.” Christians are to defend human dignity, welcome the stranger in our midst, stand for justice, offer the blessing and dispense the grace of God, behave as agents of reconciliation where there is brokenness and division.

Trump: ‘nuf said, I would think. Surely so, if attention is being paid at all to his campaign of “walling-off” and “rejecting” and “condemning” and “dividing” and, and, and…

Conclusion: Whether or not Mr. Trump is a Christian, the worldview he proclaims and represents is absolutely incompatible with the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

 


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.


The Didache

There is much talk about the middle class and the 1 percent in the Presidential campaign, but the word “poor” is almost completely missing from the conversation. This is happening while the portion of the population that is designated as “poor” or “living in poverty” is and has been growing by leaps and bounds for the last 40 years.  

Is there no preference for the poor? If ever a question challenged the supposition that the United States is a Christian nation, it is this one? The preference for the poor demonstrated by Jesus, carpenter of Nazareth and itinerant peasant who had no place to lay his head, stood as one of the church’s earliest and most passionate distinctions – a distinction that defined Christians against pagans and proved dramatically attractive to rich and poor alike. (The distinction defined Jews as well, but Jews did not evangelize.)  Read More…