Monday, July 15, 2019

Democracy and the Bible

On July 4th I began pondering American democracy (our Republic)—I suppose it is appropriate to ponder our fragile experiment in democracy on Independence Day. An experiment in democracy, lasting just a short 343 years, is fragile by definition because its success depends on an educated electorate1 that regularly participates in the democratic process, which includes voting in elections and monitoring of elected officials.2

The Bible offers little positive guidance on a democratic government, and what little it says about governmental rule actually presents a problem for readers. Only two extensive descriptions of a political state are to be found in the New Testament, and both of them present contradictory views on that state (the Roman Empire), which was the dominant political power in the New Testament world (from about 31 BCE [ascension of Augustus] to 410 CE [the sack of Rome by the Visigoths]).

The author of Revelation (chapters 13, 17-18) portrays the Roman Empire in ghastly terms as the evil Empire of the Antichrist (Rev12:1-17). Paul on the other hand has a surprisingly na├»ve view of the governing authorities (Rom 13:1-7). His view is that the governing authorities of the Empire are “appointed by God” (13:1-2), and anyone who resists them will incur judgment (13:2). Oddly he makes no distinction between types of governments—apparently even repressive, ruthless, and autocratic governments are likewise appointed by God. Rulers are God’s servants “for your good” (13:3-4), he writes. Thus, one must be subject to them or else suffer God’s wrath (13:5). He concludes this short section directing that taxes must be paid and that citizens of the state should give respect and honor to the authorities, for they are “ministers of God” (13:6-7).

Both writers are clearly mistaken in their views. The Roman domination of the Mediterranean basin while difficult for the Roman Provinces nevertheless provided them with the pax romana (Roman Peace); it provided the provinces with “security and safety made possible travel, trade, and renewed economic development and prosperity.”3 So Roman governance under the Empire was not as terrible as John had imagined it. Paul’s view on the other hand is simply uninformed. That all governing authorities are appointed by God could not possibly be true—if we assume that God has a conscience. In any case, Paul’s views about the Empire clearly conflict with our democratic system of which we find no trace in the New Testament.

It seems fairly clear (at least to me) that Mr. Trump was not “appointed by God” (but then neither was Mr. Obama). Mr Trump was appointed by the Electoral College after he lost the popular vote of the country. His administration (and that of Mr. Obama as well) is plagued by gridlock. That is because governance in a representative democracy (a republic) is often messy and inefficient; it is all too frequently partisan, rather than bipartisan. A democratic form of government should probably be avoided except for the fact that all other forms of government are worse.

The Bible offers no specific advice about government. Except that here and there the Bible’s ethical ideas might be inculcated into government. For specific ideas about how government should function we are left to our own imaginations. It is more than disconcerting to see Mr. Trump employ in his presidency ideas and values different from the positive ethical ideas of the Bible (or even conventional American values) , and nevertheless still receive strong evangelical support.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1National Center for Education: In 2016-17 85% of Americans had graduated High School; 21% had a Bachelor’s degree; 9.3% had a Master’s Degree; less than 2% held a Doctorate.
2In the 2016 Presidential election 58.1% of the voting-eligible population voted: https://guides.libraries.psu.edu/post-election-2016/voter-turnout
3E. Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (3rd ed.; Eerdmans, 2003), p. 29.

60 comments:

  1. Re: Democracy & the bible

    Charlie,

    Your most recent blog seems to diverge a bit from the usual subjects of religious examinations and into American politics. I find the discussion of politics more interesting as it directly impacts the well being of all Americans more than does the Bible or religion in general. In fact the impact of politics on the well being of all Americans is more significant than anything else beyond our physical/mental health and the Earth's environmental health-both of which are directly and significantly affected by world politics.

    More specifically my comments on your expressed thoughts follows:

    In your first paragraph a mention was made but a definition of our Democracy's success was not specified. This was not unexpected since little discussion is rarely made in our society's various efforts to promote specific political and economic agenda, i.e. political, economic, business, families, etc. Most such discussions are no more than propaganda whose only intention is to promote one agenda over another while at the same time to cover the over riding agenda.

    My own measure of success for our Democracy or any other government among the nations of the world is the ever ongoing pursuit of continually increasing the well being of all it's citizens. I will not attempt to go into defining the "well being" at this time but will leave it to each society to determine what that would be for them.

    Now with this measure of success for our Democracy, it seems to be dependent only on the motivation and the efforts of our elected officials and the voting public to pursue this objective.

    Is it possible? God only know; has it ever happened? no; is it likely to ever come about? I'm optimistically hopeful humans are on a journey to make it happen if we do not destroy ourselves first!

    I might say in ending these comments that the present political and economy measure of success of the American government/public along with that of all other present governments/public is the same as throughout all human history: enrich the wealth and well being of only the most political/economic accomplished citizens. The journey I am hopeful for humanity to expand the well being of ALL humans is in progress and has to date in America progressed from less than 1% to about 20% of the citizenry.

    Jim

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    1. Hi Jim,
      I could not help straying a bit into politics--it was after all the 4th of July! Thank you for a thoughtful comment on democracy.
      Cordially,
      Charlie

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    2. Hi Charlie,

      Democracy is a system. Jesus, it seems to me, challenges us to think about systems and possible changes.

      Family System, Prodigal Son: The profligate younger brother is given a party that the faithful older brother never had. (Luke 11:15-32)

      Economic system, Vineyard Laborers: Those working one hour received as much pay as those working all day. (Matthew 20:1-15)

      Economic System, Money in Trust: A slave, ordered to invest his master's ill-gained wealth, buries it, rather than participate in the master's "reaping where he didn't sow and gathering where he didn't scatter." (Matthew 25:14-28; Luke 19:13, 15-24)

      Military system, Second Mile: In an honor/shame society, walking a mile farther than the conscripted requirement throws shame on this Roman practice. (Matthew 5:41)

      Loan system, Coat and Shirt: This was surely a howler in a two garment society. The outer garment could be pledged as collateral for a loan, and Jesus advises that the inner garment be given, as well. (Matthew 5:40; Luke 6:29b; Deuteronomy 24:10-14)

      Loan System, Lend without Return: This would surely, if taken literally, undermine the entire Capitalist system. (Thomas 95:1-2; Matthew 5:42b)

      Legal System, Before the Judge: Assume that you and your adversary have the mutual ability to settle a matter before the court system is pulled into the dispute. (Luke 12:58-59; Matthew 5:25-26)

      Cultural/social system, Other Cheek: Turning to the right cheek forces the adversary to back-hand one with the right-hand; the left-hand was used for toileting and other unclean acts. The teaching is a demand for right-hand social equality. (Matthew 5:39; Luke 6:29a)

      See, for example, Robert Funk, A Credible Jesus: Fragments of a vision (2002), 95ff, referencing Walter Wink's trilogy: Naming the Powers (1984), Unmasking the Powers (1986), Engaging the Powers (1992).

      Gene Stecher
      Chambersburg, Pa.

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  2. Charlie,
    Regarding evangelicals & their Trump support, a recent book I read, “God’s Favorites,” by M. Coogan, describes how the myth of exclusivity, believing one's nation is “chosen by God,” a biblical view, leads to nativism and its manifestations. In the USA and elsewhere this has supported an xenophobic and racist worldview. It isn’t unique or new to the world or Christianity. The Trump campaign was born of xenophobia (Obama isn’t one of “us,” those coming from Mexico are evil, judges with a Hispanic lineage are unfair, etc.), and played to the basest beliefs and fears of his supporters. This was particularly noticeable in the evangelical support, though with them other factors like misogyny and reaction to modernism, which tend to be biblically supported were also factors. As the sleeve of Coogan’s book states, “Appropriated uncritically, the Bible has thus been used to reinforce exclusivity and superiority, with new myths based on old myths.” It is not surprising that a large faction of Christianity turned to Trump for “leadership.” He just reinforced the myth of Americans as the “chosen people in a chosen land,” a sentiment found since at least the Puritans and other Christians arrived here from English persecution. From the beginning, though, these “chosen people” escaping England chose to dehumanize and persecute those who were “different.”

    I would note, however, that this idea of being “chosen by God” is not unique to Christianity. It is found in far more ancient writings and is probably a part of most of the foundation myths of groups. For some who look at the Bible with a critical (or in my case “hyper-critical”) lens, it can form a base for the ills one finds with the evangelical nativist point of view. Trying to apply ancient biblical perspectives of exclusivity and superiority to societal realities is like serving and eating beef left on a warm cupboard for a week. One might try to hide the rancid flavor with steak sauce but it is still toxic.
    Dennis Dean Carpenter
    Dahlonega, Ga.

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  3. Dennis,

    Thank you for sharing Coogan's book. I think perhaps Trump has skewed and distorted the "chosen" idea in the most basic of ways. It seems to me that he doesn't respect or know enough about the Bible or any religious traditions to adopt the "chosen by God" concept. In an interview a number of years ago he once said that he didn't need forgiveness because he hasn't done anything wrong, having always aspired for the good. That means there is no need to be repentant within his idea-structure; what he thinks and wants is good for everyone, the way life is supposed to be.

    I think that Trump is living out the chosen idea as the "chosen of history" to lead the U.S. in commitment to the ideas and practices which you have outlined. His self-appointed chosen status is equivalent to the actions of a cult leader whose narcissistic manipulation is all compelling in the same manner as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, the Japanese emperor, etc. of the last century and Putin, the North Korean leader and the many other like-minded "dictators" of this century. The goal of all such persons is to manipulate others by any means available with lies and misdirection. The cult is that part of the population which "adores" him. If the military is sucked in, that's the end.

    Perhaps our best hope is that Trump seems to be a coward. Where most of the others who fit his category would not hesitate to use military force to their own narcissistic ends (megalomania), it looks like we might be saved not be the cross, but by the flight response represented by his bone spurs. He seems quite reluctant to actually engage in a physical fight, whatever threats are exchanged. Even so the most important groups in our democracy right now are those who have congressional oversight of the branches of the military. And, of course, democracy lives and dies on the strength of the freedom of the press.

    Obviously I'm a very worried person and fearful for what my children, grandchildren, and future generations will have to face.

    Gene Stecher
    Chambersburg, Pa.

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  4. Gene,
    I doubt the politicians or apologists are aware or care of the historical significance and odious parallels. I was looking at his appeal to the evangelicals, around 80% in the election and holding at around 70% now. The stage was set with the evangelical movement, its co-mingling with fundamentalism in its disdain of modernism and its fear of Green v. Connally, which denied tax-exempt status to organizations if they discriminated against minorities or excluded them. (This had to do with Bob Jones U.) This united many evangelical leaders and they began their campaign, which was a political one that had been largely eschewed by denominations who understood the First Amendment. Abortion was later chosen from a list of behaviors that to them stereotyped the “sixties,” the “counterculture,” and it became a rallying call.

    When you mentioned Hitler, my understanding from several books is that the discontent that caused it had pre-WWI roots in radical nationalism, as well as fear of ultramontanists and Political Catholicism by other Catholics, especially around Munich, and with Protestants elsewhere. The religious roots can’t be denied, though the movement was exacerbated by the outcome of WW1. This co-mingled with the anti-Semitism of the time, which was fuelled by the wide distribution of “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a spurious racist conspiracy theory pamphlet. By 1926 there was even a prayer to Hitler, with him as “savior” and “master” (as in the word translated as “Lord”), calling for “...a new, elevated Fatherland,” written by Otto Bangert.

    Yesterday, I came across my college political science text. Coincidentally, at this time in 1974 I was taking the class and a major part of the course was the Watergate hearings. I couldn’t help but get the feeling of deja vu.

    Dennis Dean Carpenter
    Dahlonega, Ga.

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  5. "The Bible offers no specific advice about government. Except that here and there the Bible’s ethical ideas might be inculcated into government. For specific ideas about how government should function we are left to our own imaginations. It is more than disconcerting to see Mr. Trump employ in his presidency ideas and values different from the positive ethical ideas of the Bible (or even conventional American values) , and nevertheless still receive strong evangelical support."

    Charlie, I'm so sorry that those pesky deplorables (excuse me, I meant evangelicals) are disconcerting you because they aren't voting the "right" way. I suppose their ethical standards just aren't as high and mighty as yours are. I do wonder what gives you the moral authority to sit in judgement over evangelicals voting for someone like Trump? For that matter, what gives you the moral authority to sit in judgment over President Trump himself? I guess he's the first politician to fall short of the Bible's moral teachings, isn't he? That's never happened before. Personally, I don't think that highly of myself to go digging around for specks in other people's eyes while the plank in my own eye nearly gives me a concussion.

    Voting has nothing to do with right or wrong- it has to do with preference. You may have preferred Hillary or Obama, but to say either one was more "ethical" is going to be a very tough sell... However, feel free to try. They both weaponized the FISA court and the FBI to spy on Trump's campaign. And you want to talk about ethics. That kind of selective moral indignation is why President Trump got elected. I'd rather have an orange-haired, blunt-speaking, controversial, problem-solving leader for our President than a self-righteous, sanctimonious saint any day of the week.

    One "Messianic" presidency was enough. Many thanks, Elizabeth

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  6. Good Morning Elizabeth,
    Thanks for posting. Actually I may be able to give you an answer to the questions you raise in your second paragraph. Whether or not it is satisfying to you is another matter.
    I am called upon to make moral judgments every day of my life between various issues, Here is one example on election day I am faced with a moral judgment as to who I should cast my vote for. So we all must "sit in judgment" on others in a democratic society. But in general this is America and I figure that I have as much moral right to criticize Mr. Trump and his administration with impunity as you have to criticize me for criticizing Mr. Trump. But in either case it is my responsibility as a citizen of the state to critique the government when they in my opinion fall short of what I consider to be good government. It is part of the American system.
    Cordially,
    Charlie

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    1. Excuse me- you make moral judgements about actual human beings and their motives on a daily basis? Really? You know what's in their heart mind and conscience? Criticizing is one thing- condemnation and judgement is another. You may want to re-think that statement.

      When you speak of judgment, I think you mean "evaluate." That is completely different from sitting in judgement over a human being, which invalidates their humanity. Do you mean to invalidate the humanity and the morality of the President of the United States and the evangelicals who vote for him? Are you condemning them personally or being critical of opinions and policies? Your "criticism" sounded a bit personal rather than political. Criticize all you want- but be careful with condemning human beings. That's one thing we all have in common, our humanity. Elizabeth

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    2. Hi Elizabeth,
      I don't think I can respond in a few short sentences so I will address the issue of making moral judgments in my next blog, which will hopefully fill out where I am coming from with my comments just above.
      Cordially,
      Charlie

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  7. Hi Elizabeth,

    I'm struggling right now after reading your post and Charlie's gracious answer. I joined this group because it seemed like a place where one could express an opinion and share information
    without being personally attacked by another participant. Having, always appreciated your contributions, I hope that I wasn't wrong about your willingness to share in that practice.

    Gene Stecher
    Chambersburg, Pa.

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    1. Gene please read my reply to Charlie- that explains where I am coming from. However if that doesn't satisfy your misgivings then I don't know what to tell you... Charlie made it personal by questioning the motives of evangelicals. He did it in a nice gracious way, and I called him out on it. That's what happens when you stray into politics.... As much as it may disconcert, one can only control ones own communication. You can't control other people's responses to it. Elizabeth

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    2. Hi Elizabeth,

      Charlie did not attack you personally as a member of this group. In some of his remarks he described a group of people known as evangelicals. You could have easily described a group of people called evangelicals in your own terms without personally attacking him. A writer simply needs to say, "This is the way I see evangelicals (or any other group or entity)," and leave it at that.

      Evangelicals, like any group, are not necessarily a monolith. I did have an interesting experience last year at some point watching an interview of a student at an evangelical college somewhere in the mid-west. The reporter asked why the student supported Trump when he expressed many questionable values. The answer was, "We're supposed to forgive." For Trump's view on forgiveness, see my 7/17 post.

      By the way, may I ask what you meant by "one 'Messianic' president was enough?" I've never heard any of the presidents referred to as Messianic.

      Gene stecher
      Chambersburg, Pa.

      Gene Stecher
      Chambersburg, Pa.

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    3. Good evening Gene- with regard to Messianic presidency... A few media personalities referred to Obama as a "Messianic" president, meaning he was a change agent. (Or something to that effect) The only one I can specifically remember using that term was Oprah, but there were others. I can't remember who they were off the top of my head.

      You keep suggesting that I have personally attacked Charlie. In what specific way have I attacked him? Because I questioned his moral authority? Sorry, but that is a legitimate question. I have no problem with Charlie or anyone else questioning the political (or even religious) opinions of evangelicals. I myself have questioned their points of view, their beliefs, and their theological perspectives... But questioning their morality is a whole different matter entirely. That crosses a line because it implies that one can see into another person's heart, soul, mind, conscience. In other words, it's pretending to be God. I'll tolerate a great deal of nonsense, but self-superior sanctimony is my achilles heel... I won't stand silent for that. When someone put sthemselves on God's throne of judgement to condemn their fellow human beings- my voice will be heard.

      You don't know me and I don't know you. You have no idea what's inside my heart- or the hearts of anyone else including evangelicals. To try to assume otherwise is deeply offensive, and I voiced my revulsion loud and clear. No apologies. Elizabeth

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    4. Hi Elizabeth,
      Thank you for speaking up in an eloquent, concise and thoughtful manner. I think you're the bomb!
      Anonymous Reader

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    5. Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for answering the "Messianic" question.

      Do you think that phrases like "you're pretending to be God...self-superior sanctimonious...putting yourself on God's throne of judgment" are not personal attacks?

      If "the plank in your own eye nearly causes a concussion"
      why are you so sure that you've found "immorality" in Charlie's eye?

      Something seems to be going on here that could only be appreciated (and perhaps resolved) in face-to-face dialogue. (Perhaps I'll meditatively re-read Martin Buber's book I and Thou.)

      Gene Stecher
      Chambersburg, Pa.

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    6. Well Gene, please do whatever you have to do gain clarity and insight about whatever is bothering you. There are people in this world (I'm not saying you're one of them) who take any sort of criticism as a personal attack. That is understandable. You and I very different. I love the back and forth of political debate- my mom and dad hate it! But we both realize that we are "wired" differently- and they know how I feel about some of their religious views. We agree to disagree, and we are fortunate enough to have plenty of other areas where we find fun, laughter, and lightheartedness. I do indeed see the act of condemning a human being's "morality" to be sanctimonious and pretending to be God. No one can see into another human's heart and mind. So I choose to strongly criticize that action. It's not a personal attack. I do realize that it's just my opinion that that particular action appears be sanctimonious, self righteous, whatever you want to call it. And as Alan Watts put it- all opinions are fallible. Including mine... Which is why I come to this blog and listen to everyone else's opinions and learn from them. The opinions expressed by Jim and Dennis about our President and his supporters sound very condescending and actually go way beyond "sanctimony." But I don't take it personally that they feel that way. It's just their opinion which is as fallible as mine. If I took every criticism and sharply worded idea as a personal attack, I'd be in pretty rough shape.

      But like I said, politics is not for everyone and I do look forward to getting back to other areas of interest on this blog, as I know you do as well. I learn a lot from (and appreciate) your insights.

      To the Anonymous Reader, thank you for your kind words and please be assured that this course of discussion is NOT the norm! Charlie rarely brings up political subjects, so please feel free to join in future discussions. It's really a wonderful forum and what I love most is that we never know what's coming next. It's always a surprise. So please jump in with questions and comments, it's a lot of fun. Elizabeth

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    7. Hi Elizabeth,

      Regarding your statement, "It's not a personal attack":

      The frequent use of the term "you" in your replies to Charlie indicates that they are personal attacks and not an objective discussion of subject matter.

      Gene Stecher
      Chambersburg, Pa.

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    8. Gene, this extreme effort you are exerting in order to force someone such as myself to admit I've been "personally attacking" another blogger is starting to become a little odd. You are correct that I was not objectively discussing a "matter," I was indeed criticizing Charlie's opinions and judgments. Criticism is indeed personal, but criticism is not an "attack." If you can't see the difference between the two, I can't help you.

      I'm sorry my explanation is not suitable. However, it is not healthy to try to force me to agree with your opinion of my motives. Your opinion of my motives is just simply that- your opinion. You are free to express it and you have done so quite thoroughly- duly noted. Thank you. Elizabeth

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  8. Re: I suppose the evangelicals that voted for Trump aren't voting the "right" way."

    Charlie,

    I feel compelled to opine on Elizabeth's & your reference about evangelicals not voting the "right" way, i.e. for Trump.

    Any vote for Trump for any public office cannot be justified by any evangelical on any rationale basis. The man is clearly not qualified to serve as the nation's President and in fact acts in such a manner to constantly harm our republic. That he was/is so compelling to any American and especially evangelicals challenges all rational explanations except that they were/are ignorantly mislead by those that have influenced them to do so lack any level of moral, ethical, legal, patriotic, or constitutional judgement.

    Jim

    Jim

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  9. Evangelicals and their support of Trump: “I suppose their ethical standards just aren't as high and mighty...” (Ethics = set of moral principles, from “ethos,” or custom.) The evangelical movement was formed on a core ethical principle of living a morally upright life. To vote for one who bragged about his sexual assaults, has been married three times because of extramarital affairs, has indeed gone to paying off women with whom he has had affairs, is known as one who doesn’t pay sub-contractors of his businesses for work done, rails against illegal immigration but uses their labor in his hotels, and the list goes on shows evangelicals as a group to be blatant hypocrites. The evangelicals reveal their “ethical core values” are a joke.

    Another core value is a belief in the infallibility of the Bible, which has a theme running through it from the Torah through the teachings of Jesus and of the letters of compassionate treatment and acceptance of immigrants (strangers to the land, sojourners), those who accept Trump because he would build a wall to keep people out of the country and has locked immigrants in hideous concentration camps have again showed their stated values to be lacking. Tearing children from their parents, making them de facto orphans, is opposite another theme of the Bible (found generally with the immigration texts), which is to care for the orphans and widows, not CREATE them. So, the ethical standards haven’t been lowered; they no longer exist.

    Dennis Dean Carpenter
    Dahlonega, Ga.

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  10. Hi Charlie,

    I was hoping that some might respond to my very first post which lists sayings of Jesus that may be relevant to "systems" behavior.

    Gene Stecher
    Chambersburg, Pa.

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    1. I,in general, agree with you although I am not sure that Jesus would have thought in terms of "systems," which seems like a modern concept.
      Cordially,
      Charlie

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    2. In the first example, the preferred "younger son" motif is used in quite a few examples in Tanakh, beginning as early as the Cain & Abel story, with God paying attention only to the younger son's offering.
      Dennis Dean Carpenter
      Dahlonega, Ga.

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    3. Charlie and Dennis,

      Compelling observations. Thanks!

      Gene Stecher
      Chambersburg, Pa.

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  11. Well Charlie, I can't imagine what in the world you have to say about making moral judgments... That's something I tend to stay away from. Judging one's fellow human being as "moral" or "immoral" is a tricky business because it's impossible to know what is within their conscience. It puts you in a position of superiority to their human frailties, and I'm just not comfortable straying into that territory. But that's just me. If you feel differently, we'd love to hear where you're coming from.

    The word "judge" can mean two different things. It can mean to "evaluate," and it can also mean to "condemn." I feel fairly certain that you are engaging in the former and not the latter. Many thanks as usual, Elizabeth
    PS: Being a frail human myself- I don't wish to give the impression that I never "judge" (in a condemning way) other humans for their insufficiencies and short-comings... I'm sure I do it on a daily basis, and I too fall short of Jesus's words "Judge not lest ye be judged." I hope you make reference to that scripture in your upcoming discussion on moral judgement. I don't associate "moral judgment" with criticism/evaluation of someone's actions and opinions... I associate it with condemnation and invalidation of their inner motives, morality, and conscience as a human being. I'm interested to learn your definition.

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  12. According to Pew Research a bit over 80% of the evangelical vote went to one whose principals exemplified and exemplify the “moral decay” the evangelicals like Jerry Falwell, Paul Weyrich and others decried as destroying the country in the late 1970’s. Two of the four “big sins” as they saw them were divorce and promiscuity. It is not “judgment” but “observation” to use their own standards, their own “measure,” to describe them.

    The evangelical position historically has been clear, that of high moral standards, since the first Great Awakening, Second Awakening, especially through a co-mingling of fundamentalism and evangelicalism in the twentieth century, so one has has a clear insight into evangelical principles and is free to make observations, in effect using their own criteria to see whether they measure up to their own standards. This is certainly appropriate, and some might say one’s responsibility, when one came from an evangelical faith tradition, as did many, including myself. Evangelical moral standards are, in fact, built on judgments about behaviors, probably based as much on” Lutherized” Pauline theology as Jesus. When evangelicals abandon these principals, as they did in the 2016 election, this should be brought to light. In effect, this is using *their* own traditional measure to describe them.

    Dennis Dean Carpenter
    Dahlonega, Ga

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    1. I feel silly pointing this out- but who gets to decide which moral standards are more important than others? What about abortion and LBGTQ issues? Those seem to be fairly important to evangelicals. Have you ever considered that evangelicals have to pick and choose which moral standards they choose to support... Or do you perhaps believe that one political party perfectly encapsulates ALL moral standards? Maybe a "moral standards" checklist would be in order and we could have evangelicals use it to determine who the right candidate is. I wonder who should write such a checklist? I'm sure plenty of folks here at this blog feel more than qualified to steer evangelicals in the right direction since they seem to be an authority on what they should and should not believe. Any volunteers?

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    2. There are many books on the subject of evangelical Christianity, for those with an interest. My personal library has probably two dozen about evangelicals, along with a plethora of SBC material inherited. The evangelical (in those days called the Religious Right or “born again” Christians as much as “evangelical”) became a wing of the Republican Party in 1980 and has voted that way since, so, yes, their views align with the Republicans. Abortion was chosen purposefully as a wedge issue, but when it was decided in 1973 it wasn’t an issue. The largest group, the SBC, applauded the decision because they saw it as a moral, not a political matter (Butler, et.al., Religion in American Life, p. 390). Traditionally, Baptists were for separation between church and state and abortion had no business in politics. (It had to do with the “two tables.”) They were well versed in the repression of 15th & 16th century England, especially toward Puritans and anyone not the religion of the ruler. The idea that outrage with the Roe v. Wade court decision was the motivating force in the politicization of evangelicals is pure myth (ibid, 390). As I stated earlier, it was Green v. Connally, a case that wouldn’t let schools discriminate based on race. In other words, a racist agenda, which was helpful in recruiting, especially in the South. One must understand that some of the largest leaders had built universities (Falwell, Roberts, Swaggart, Jones, etc.), so they had a large financial stake in the case. Who chooses for the evangelicals? All they need is an “R” by the name, it seems.

      Morally, I find Trump’s values to be deficient. Bullying, racism, nativism and misogyny are his major character traits, things I have opposed all my life and that bode poorly for the future of USA societal values. By reinforcing them the evangelical culture is a partner in the decay of morality, not morality from texts like the Bible, but morality that most people (I hope) learn at home and school, a secular morality that holds the multi-culture society of the USA together.

      Dennis Dean Carpenter
      Dahlonega, Ga.

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    3. Thanks, Charlie, but I should have said "16th and 17th century." (Couldn't decide between cardinal & ordinal so I fouled it up.) There is a great book, "Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul," by John M. Barry, that documents the persecutions in England and, as the Mass. Bay Colony developed, in America.
      Dennis Dean Carpenter
      Dahlonega, Ga.

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    4. Hi Elizabeth,
      My answer to your question about who gets to decide moral standards is this: That is a question that everyone decides for himself or herself. Moral decisions are very personal.
      Cordially,
      Charlie

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  13. It doesn't matter how many books there are on evangelical Christianity, they do not speak for all evangelicals. Where is evidence that they do? They may offer a glimpse into some of the reasons, but that's the trouble with abstract studies. They are mere theories, which some people take as concrete facts. No one knows what is going through the mind of an evangelical voter in the voting booth.... No study exists that can predict how anyone will vote. To claim complete understanding of a religious groups voting practices is very tenable. You don't know why evangelicals support Trump (nor do I) but it is clear that it angers you. Values are important and necessary so long as one doesn't think his values trump everyone else's. Or try to impose his or her "superior" values on those people they deem to hold inferior values.... that is the epitome of being a bully. Elizabeth

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    1. I am not angry at evangelicals or at you.
      Cordially,
      Charlie

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  14. Correction: should have typed "untenable"

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  15. Actually, though you are bordering on ad hominem, you are completely wrong. Aside from the books and data from Gallup, Pew and Barna, all which give snapshots of beliefs, almost all those with whom I grew up, with whom I worked, with whom I attended church when young, with whom I argued vigorously on a daily basis as I became older, were and are evangelicals. If there is one group of Christians I have both known and have studied, it has been evangelicals and the evangelical movement in the USA, known because they are as pervasive as fleas in North Georgia, studied to provide a background for debate.

    Dennis Dean Carpenter
    Dahlonega, Ga.

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  16. You still have offered no proof as to why they vote the way they vote, only theories and conjecture. None of which is conclusive. I do wonder what anyone has to gain by scrutinizing a group of individuals so closely? It doesn't sound like anyone is looking for common ground or unity.

    We can only know with certainty why we ourselves vote the way we do. Worrying about why evangelicals vote a certain way seems like a strange use of time and energy because it doesn't achieve anything worthwhile, only fuel for judgement and condescension. In the end, there's absolutely nothing anyone can do about the support of evangelicals for Trump other than to accept it. Elizabeth

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    1. I do disagree. One can keep describing Mr. Trump's character, which is lacking a great deal.
      Cordially,
      Charlie

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  17. You do indeed have to accept evangelicals right to support our President (or any President) regardless of your prejudiced opinion of his character. Evangelicals have the constitutional right to support (i.e. vote for) whoever they wish to support and that is the right of every American citizen. Many thanks, Elizabeth

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  18. Hi Elizabeth,

    No one in this group has said that Evangelicals don't have the right to support the President or anyone else.

    No one in this group has said that Evangelicals shouldn't vote for whomever may be their choice.

    The opinion of any Evangelical may be just as prejudiced, or not, as anyone else's opinion.

    Like very many groups Evangelicals are approached by pollsters for information and many choose voluntarily to provide answers to the questions about values, voting practices, and so forth. That provides a base of information to which anyone may refer.

    Interestingly, speaking just for myself, I seldom cooperate with pollsters due to the fact that the info may be skewed if those who choose to participate aren't truly representative of the group.

    It may be a privacy matter for you. But if you're willing to share I would love to know the story behind your incredibly strong need to speak up for Evangelicals. Like others have said in the group, I grew up an Evangelical.

    Gene Stecher
    Chambersburg, Pa.

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    1. To be honest, I don't know why my speaking up for Evangelicals would require an explanation... Does it bother or unsettle people for some reason? I can't imagine why it would bother or confuse anyone whatsoever. I guess my question is: why do people here have a strong need to speak AGAINST evangelicals? I only try to figure out for myself why I choose to vote a certain way... I don't concern myself with figuring out why other people vote for their candidate of choice. I try to keep my nose in my own business and refrain from condemning others who do not share my political opinons... I don't always succeed in that endeavor, but that's my goal. Elizabeth
      PS: I grew up Evangelical/Fundamentalist

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  19. It’s also important to point out, I think, that a prejudice is a pre-conceived view. When one judges one by actions and words, that is not prejudice. The president has been seen, heard, and read for over four years on almost a daily basis. Opinions would not be “prejudiced,” but informed by his words & actions over several years.
    Dennis Dean Carpenter
    Dahlonega, Ga.

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    1. Racists are racists because of the past judgements they have made about a particular ethnicity- the same is true for people who have made past judgments about our President. Whether it's made in the past or made in the present, it is still a judgment and it is still a prejudice because you're keeping the past in mind on a continuous basis. Which, of course, is your privilege and your prerogative to keep doing. Elizabeth

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  20. Hi Gene, I'm really sorry... I replied to both you and Dennis but for some reason only the reply to Dennis showed up.... ??

    I'll wait a bit more to see if it appears- otherwise I guess I'll have to re-type it. I don't know what happened. Elizabeth

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  21. Elizabeth, you are not stating what "prejudice" means or even implies. It isn't "prejudice" to judge a person. That is a judgment, but not a "prejudice." A prejudice is made before one is familiar with a person or a group. That is why the prefix "pre" is in front of it. It means "before," as in forming an opinion and judging before knowing anything about the person or group. Before Trump ran for president, in other words, I knew nothing about him except that he built hotels and had some kind of show on TV. My judgments are built on what he has said and how he has acted since he began running for president. And, he hasn't changed, judged by his constant rants and actions. Not a prejudice, but a judgment based on the racist, nativist, misogynist, and bullying prattle and actions that have been ongoing. That is what some in America judge as wonderful. I don't.
    Dennis Dean Carpenter
    Dahlonega, Ga.

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  22. Dennis I did state what prejudice means and if you disagree with my definition, that is your issue not mine. The only way one can "pre" judge a person is by using a drawing upon a past experience, or a past association...All judgments come from the past.

    There's no such thing as a correct opinion because all opinions are subjective. As I stated, it is your prerogative to cling to your bitter, condescending opinion of our President. Your opinions of him are just as imperfect and fallible as mine. Elizabeth

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  23. Hi Elizabeth,

    So, if I understand correctly, you and Dennis are both imperfect and fallible, but you, even though imperfect and fallible are able to correctly judge him to be bitter and condescending toward the president.

    We've now come full circle back to my concern that, at least until now, this group enjoyed an exchange of views that did not include personal attacks. If it continues, and I fade out of participation, I hope I won't be judged too harshly.

    Elizabeth, would you be willing to share your opinion about the communication and interactive example that Trump sets for young people, your children, my grandchildren.

    Gene Stecher
    Chambersburg, Pa.

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  24. Why are you interested in my opinion of the President Gene? What possible difference does it make to you? It's not going to change anything. Sharing political opinions contributes nothing valuable to society, as you can tell from the litany stated in this comment section.

    I never said my opinion of Dennis was correct- you are free to disagree with it. I do think the conclusions he has made about the President are bitter and resentful, but it is his own personal opinion and is therefore valid. Evangelicals may have opinions that Charlie and Dennis find distasteful- but they are still valid opinions. Just because they disagree with Evangelicals political opinions does not mean those opinions are invalid. They are just as valid as Charlie's and Dennis's, whether they think so or not. I get the impression that neither of them believe the opinions of Evangelicals are valid at all. But I hope I am wrong. Elizabeth

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  25. Hi Elizabeth,

    I asked the question because I participate in this group to learn. Usually, one learns more from someone who thinks differently from oneself than from someone who thinks the same as oneself.

    Gene Stecher
    Chambersburg, Pa.

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  26. They are neither bitter nor resentful. They are four descriptive categories (nativist, misogynist, etc.) with a myriad of examples on tape, in print, etc. And, of course it isn't "prejudice" to listen to his comments bragging about sexual assaults (Access Hollywood tape) and see that as misogyny. It's a description of his words about his actions.
    Dennis Dean Carpenter
    Dahlonega, Ga.

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  27. Charlie & all,

    Much as been said in comment about evangelical's right to vote as they choose. I did not note any allegations that would challenge this right though some mention has been made as to an explanation for such a vote in light of Trumps actions and thought that reflect character far beyond the realm of evangelicals. My own perception of the answer to this question which seemingly continues to puzzles Americans was stated in my July, 19 response and is repeated here: "Evangelicals have been/are ignorantly, i.e. unknowingly misled by those that have influenced them to do so lack any level of moral, ethical, legal, patriotic, or constitutional judgement".

    Jim

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  28. Gene, when it comes to religion and the Bible, I do see a willingness to share and to learn. When it comes to President Donald Trump, I do not see any willingness to learn at all because everyone here has their mind made up about him. I can tell you why President Trump is a positive role model for our sixteen year old son (who loves him by the way) but I know it will be met with bitterness and cynicism.

    We respect President Trump because of his devotion to our veterans and his devotion to our country, in spite of its flaws and imperfections... Unlike Obama who went around the world apologizing for America which was an embarrassment to our nation and a poor example of leadership to our son. We didn't vote for President Trump because he's a choir boy. Unlike Dennis, I am not at all shocked and surprised to learn that Trump is a womanizer so I don't need to clutch my pearls and get the vapors over it... As if no other politician was a skirt-chaser. Yeah that's never happened before. Trump is the first President in United States history to chase women. Give me a break. All these Democrat Pollyanna's getting out the smelling salts- where were they when Bill Clinton was running around with Monica Lewinsky? Not to mention the credible rape allegations by Juanita Broderick and Kathleen Willey. So please forgive me, but the selective moral indignation is just a tad nauseating... And my son sees right through their hypocrisy as well. That's why I get my feathers a little ruffled when I hear the morality police lecturing evangelicals.

    I'm sure you see both Presidents Obama and Trump differently than I do and I'm sure you disagree with my assessment of their actions. There's a fine line between "sharing and learning" and "defending" one's own political views. What has been demonstrated here has not been sharing or learning but "point" "counter-point." So if there's anything else you wish to learn about Trump- there are much less biased people than me who can enlighten your desire to "learn" more about him. Many thanks, Elizabeth

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  29. Hi Elizabeth,

    Thanks for expressing two observations about President Trump. I got it. Trump is a good role model for our children because he is devoted to veterans and devoted to our country in spite of its flaws. I had hoped further for an answer which addresses his "communication and interactive example" for our children.

    Gene Stecher
    Chambersburg, Pa.

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    1. For an example of Trump's communication style and interaction with young people- he spoke brilliantly on Thursday with Young College Conservative voices and his speech can easily be looked up on YouTube... Young people adore him and he communicated his ideals and values to them in the same way he always does- passionately. Young people love his passion and authenticity and humor. Older people find it offensive and off-putting. (generally speaking there are exceptions) Elizabeth

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  30. Trump has bashed Republican McCain, bashed Gold Star parents, flippantly said his Viet Nam was avoiding STD's, a shining example of his "devotion" to veterans, among them the Mueller he besmirches, a Republican Viet Nam veteran and recipient of a combat award. He was fighting for the country while Trump fretted about a bone spur (he wasn't sure which foot it was) and tried to escape from the horrors of herpes.

    And, when one tries to compare the reprehensible behavior of one with the reprehensible behavior of another to attempt to mitigate the behavior of another it is in effect saying that the present behavior is okay because others had behaviors that were bad. This is usually found in socially maladjusted children caught misbehaving who would manipulate by rationalizing their aberrant behavior, trying to misdirect the teacher’s attention to others instead of the matter at hand. It doesn’t work in elementary school, either. What is at issue is what is happening now and whether, as a society we go forward or backward. Of course, when the person to be president brags about sexual assaults as did Trump, it isn't a role model that is good for the children or adults, though some tout him as a model for children. When he made fun of the disabled journalist, in a way I have seen fifth graders get in severe trouble for doing, and uses derogatory "nicknames" for people who criticize him he normalized bullying for children. I suppose that is the role model, though, some would look to.

    Dennis Dean Carpenter
    Dahlonega, Ga.

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  31. No one said Trumps behavior was "ok." Not everyone expects a politician to be perfect. The issue is about sanctimonious moral standards being equally applied to both Clinton and Trump, which you obviously are not doing. You are giving one of them a pass and expressing moral outrage at the other. My son noticed it immediately. It prompted a question that both of us have: Who is hated more- Trump or the evangelicals who support him?

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  32. For the record, your accusation of Trump committing sexual assault is false. What was described on that tape is something some women seek out, and other women do not. You are not a woman and therefore cannot speak for women who put themselves in those positions. I personally know women who do not consider that activity to be assault.... that's their business, not yours or mine. Your belief in false assault accusations does not them true.

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  33. Elizabeth,

    Now, you are defending his statements. Earlier you were using moral equivalency as an excuse, now you blame victims as "wanting it." I won't even comment on the second, contradictory defense, except to say that the notion that women (or, I would think, all people) seek out being assaulted so it is okay to assault them is disgusting.

    The first defense: Moral equivalency really bites those who use it, from kids trying to get out of trouble to people using it to defend the aberrant behavior of one by comparing it to another deviant behavior, especially if that person is promoted as a “role model.” In this case, it is almost humorous. To equate Clinton and Trump’s behaviors is the same thing as saying that, since Clinton engaged in an extra-marital affair it is okay for Trump to tout sexual assault, thus by extension, okay for all, when the latter is held up as a “role model.” Moral equivalency is an error of logic in the same way as the old adage tells one, that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” One validates Trump’s behaviors because another president also had immoral behaviors. That is like saying abhorrent behavior is okay because it has occurred in the past. That is identical to the attempted analogy between Trump and Clinton. To look a bit deeper, there is another factor in the words of this “role model” Trump, that of the boasting of sexual assault.

    Hegel (Philosophy of Right, 140), notes that “doing evil with a bad conscience...” is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy has the added factor of “the falsity of holding up evil as good in the eyes of others...” Trump added hypocrisy in the “Access Hollywood” tape, trying to impress Billy Bush by bragging about his assaults, unless he didn’t know that what even elementary students call “bad touch” is wrong or, like the socially maladjusted adolescent, that rules don’t apply to him. Whilst Hegel went on to speak of people looking to theological arguments to hypocritically mutate their evil into good, Trump was using validation from the endorsement of Bush through Bush’s laughter (which probably had something to do with why he was fired, since the episode was so appalling.
    Even the evangelicals I know wouldn’t go so far as to call Trump a role model. Their misconceptions come from Romans 3 (“For all have missed the mark and lack the splendor of God”) or “hate the sin, love the sinner.” (I’m not sure where this originated, unless it was synthesized from Luke 5 and the end of Matt. 5.)
    Dennis Dean Carpenter
    Dahlonega, Ga.

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    1. "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone..."

      John 8:7

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  34. Dennis is no different than an evangelical... Evangelicals cast stones at Clinton while giving Trump a pass. Dennis is casting stones at Trump while giving Clinton a pass. So I don't understand what all of Dennis's ranting and raving achieves.

    (Personally I don't care about either of their philandering, I have more important things to worry about.) Elizabeth

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