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.


McCain’s Presidential Campaign Chairman Predicts the Demise of the Republican Party
Written by: 
Joe Morris Doss

Steve Schmidt is a bright, politically experienced, and honorable man who greatly admired John McCain as a War hero, effective Senator, and fellow Republican. Schmidt was proud to run his campaign. Nevertheless, Schmidt realized that the Republican Party had come to a point that it was going to be very difficult to elect a standard bearer to national office. He reached for “a game changer” and recommended Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate. Aside from obvious campaigning talent, she represented the crucial part of the Republican Party that had come to dominate their “base” of support: evangelical Christians, and he hoped her ability to get them all out to vote for his candidate would make the difference.

Steve Schmidt learned his lesson. If you have seen the movie, “Game Changer,” you know that he soon realized that his choice was not only a mistake, but disastrous. It was disastrous not because she hurt the ticket, but because she was not qualified or fit, in any number of important ways, to serve as President — the most important qualification of a Vice-President. The enormity of his mistake overwhelmed him, to the extent that he was the consultant to the movie that made that mistake so obvious.

What Steve Schmidt realized was that his mistake was THE mistake being made by the Republican Party. Last week, just before the second debate, Schmidt articulated why he thinks the crucial mistake the Republican Party has made, and from which it seems incapable of freeing itself — the Grand Ol’ Party, that he had thought of as, “…one of the great institutions of the world,” and on behalf of which he spent his career — is so deeply in trouble. Hypocritical forces, exemplified by religious conservatives who exploit their church’s theological positions as an excuse to support their political, cultural, and social views, have captured it. He spit out the following thoughts about the Trump campaign:

“It has exposed the intellectual rot in the Republican Party. What this exposes goes much deeper into the Republican Party as an institution.”

“With the complicity of much of the leadership of the Republican Party. It has been building for some time.”

He terms the Trump candidacy a disgrace of “unimaginable magnitude to the country… almost impossible to be able to articulate.”

“This exposes a massive hypocrisy inside the Republican Party. Think about people like Gary Falwell, Jr., people who claim to be religious, or evangelical Christians who are apologist for this (Trump’s) behavior….It has exposed at a massive level… the modern day money-changers in the Temple.”

“Mike Pence says, “I’m a Christian; I’m a conservative; I ‘m a Republican, in that order.” If that’s true how did Mike Pence stay on this ticket, unless ‘I’m a career politician’ precedes it all?”

“In this fusion of religion to political conservatism is a toxic element in our politics,” “This hypocrisy is on display for all to see.”

“This party… has great soul searching to do.”


Distinguishing Duke and Trump From Other Politicians

Written by: Joe Morris Doss

Author’s Note: The church should be non-partisan in elective politics. This includes organizations like At the Threshold that are not official but purport to speak to issues theologically and on behalf of concerns of the church. It is extremely rare for the church to find itself having to speak out against a serious candidate for office, much less a nominee of one of the two major parties of the United States, much less a nominee for President. But there are examples in history – too important to ignore – in which it is clear that the obligation of the church demands, or should have demanded, that it take a stand against certain leaders and forms of leadership. Without identifying reasons in the abstract, At the Threshold has been offering a series of statements about the candidacy of Donald Trump that should reveal why we think just such an exceptional case has arisen. Please be aware that these statements are not written due to political opinion, but are based on careful employment of well-honed moral theology.

Recently I asserted on behalf of At the Threshold that the voter who supports Donald Trump on certain selected matters, and thus chooses to support his election, is supporting all of what will happen if he becomes President. The point was that Trump has promised to take actions and positions as President so toxic that voters should balk at supporting some of his positions unless willing to take responsibility for all. An analogy was drawn to the White Supremacy position of David Duke.

Someone I dearly respect asked: “What is the precise distinguishing factor(s) between applying this ‘if support some, then support all’ principle to Trump and Duke but not to all candidates?”

The difference is that there are some candidates who take certain defining positions that are “out of bounds” of what is tolerable and become personifications of actions and ideas that must be rejected unconditionally by the electorate. Their leadership is to be categorically rejected. David Duke has been recognized as one such politician; Donald Trump should be another.

David Duke could not be supported on ordinary matters, like tax reform, because standing by him on anything would have conferred on him more power and standing to use in his fight for white supremacy, hyper-nationalism, and thuggish authoritarianism. In the story that was previously used, for the State Treasurer to support him on an issue such as tax reform would have been taken to mean that the official was supportive, or at least open to, his stand on race.

Normally it is appropriate to support candidates without agreeing with them across the board. To support Bernie Sanders on equalizing pay for women does not mean one must oppose the international trade agreements he criticizes. Nor is it clear that a majority agrees with him on either issue; they are matters currently being debated and not yet settled. But to support Trump on his stated plan for tax reform, and thus to vote for him on that basis, is as well a vote to endanger the world, to exclude people of certain religious beliefs and affiliations, to denigrate and discriminate against women, to elect someone who will say and do anything without regard to truth or even to personal belief in what he himself is saying, etc., etc., etc. He cannot be supported in one or more parts deemed desirable without bringing about proposals that must be avoided. It is an either/or vote. That indeed is unusual, but in this case it is very real.

The distinction we are talking about has to do with how absolutely positions taken by a candidate must be avoided. In something like nuclear proliferation it is damningly close to absolute. Throughout my adulthood, the greatest fear has always been that some crazy person, some greedy maniac, or some terrorist group might get their hands on nuclear power and use it against a city or region. If the nuclear power is available, “the market” will find it. Do we no longer fear that rogue leaders and/or nation states will gain the use of nuclear bombs and use them?

A policy like excluding Muslims may not be absolute — eventually the policy could be corrected — except in how real flesh and blood human beings and families will suffer the consequences in the meantime, and especially except for the great violence done to our values, traditions, and identity as a nation. Then, there are the issues that were once in conflict, but finally have become settled. Often a minority of citizens may continue to hold to a position after the controversy over right and wrong has been clarified and decided, and even when it would be unacceptable to go back on that settled resolution. For example, we have decided that slavery is wrong and being the United States of America is good. Yet, 38 percent of those who voted for Donald Trump in South Carolina acknowledged that they wish the South had won the Civil War; another 38 percent say they aren’t sure which side they wish had won, while just 24 percent say they are glad the Union won. Thirty-five percent of Cruz supporters said they thought the U.S. would be better under the Confederacy.

There must be a line drawn between disagreement and political “debate” over a controversial issue, such as when the south largely refused to allow most black citizens to vote, and when that issue has been settled, as after the civil rights movement and voting act. To revive the previous controversy is unacceptable and must be avoided. Trump’s candidacy has raised several of these kinds of issues.

Then, there are issues on which we have been moving rapidly toward political resolution, but on which Trump would reverse course. We could decide that women are just less worthy as workers and deserve less pay, but women are about done with that kind of suppression. We can rely on fear for our basic motivations, but that is doomed to become exhausting, oppressive, and counter-productive. The United States can try to become a modern empire on a model like the old Roman Empire – but that is fantasy and immoral. We could try to maintain a white majority in the US, but that will prove a simple denial of reality. We could raise established and fundamental issues of civil rights again, but that is just asking for pervasive pain. Racism in many of its manifestations is definitely at stake in this election, but we must move forward instead of backwards. Keeping Muslims out of the US and many of Trump’s other promises comes pretty close to the sort of ridiculously negative standard exemplified in slavery. But there are other proposals that are even closer to an absolute “NO”: like a proposal to proliferate nuclear weapons! 

Another valued friend that I deeply respect opined that change is needed and that it is Trump who would bring it about. I can appreciate the way most of us are sick and tired of all politicians seeming to play the same game in which “the fix” is on and “we the people” are not in on it; I share the yearning for some genuine political reform. But going where Trump would take us is only to jump from the frying pan into the fire.


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.