Truth Dig‘s Maj. Danny Sjursen (former asst. professor of history at West Point) has written a series of fascinating articles about the little known and sometimes seamier side of American history. His most recent covers the Andrew Jackson administration (1829-1837). Comparisons with our current President are unavoidable and a little uncanny. Just as interesting are Sjursen’s earlier articles about the War of 1812, and the Adams and Jefferson administrations. The entire series is definitely worth a read, since it demonstrates with great accuracy and clarity how our current political struggles are rooted in our national past. We may think this nation has never been so divided along partisan lines, but a peek at the political landscape of 200 years ago might contradict that assumption. Racism, white supremacy, fake news, populism, partisan violence, corruption, demagoguery– all the key players on the contemporary political stage have their counterparts in early 19th century history. In the end, history may give us hope that our republic has survived similar if not worse crises. (On the other hand, the early partisan divide did eventually lead us into a bloody civil war. So history may also serve as a warning.)
Tag Archives: Donald Trump
So at last you think you’ve found a church where you can be safe from all the Christo-fascist noise, racism, and ignorance. But you can’t. It’s everywhere, at least here in the South. Last week we were just about to take the plunge and sign up for a membership class in our new church (our seventh since moving here), when our pastor got up and said that God had shown him that Donald Trump is a kind of “Nebuchad-nezzar,” an enlightened despot, who, though not perfect, will be used mightily by God. Yeah, we’ve heard that analogy before in the mouths of white Christians vying to come up with the most abominable biblical justification for voting for and supporting a racist for President of the United States.
We were shocked when our pastor said this but not altogether surprised. If you’ve visited as many churches as we have since moving here, you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Still, we felt hurt, since we thought we had finally found a church home that our daughter loved and where we felt the manifest presence of God.
Of course, most of the congregation, who are white, erupted into applause. But what saddened us no end is that this church has a growing degree of diversity. How did those few black, Latino, and immigrant families feel about this encomium to a man whose racist administration has brought nothing but fear, degradation, and misery to their communities. Basically, in spouting the same metaphor as those Trump apologists, our pastor was, inadvertently, saying, “I’m white and I want Trump to make America white again, to give the white church back its power and dominance, and to hell with the rest of you!”
Really? Nebuchadnezzar? He was the Babylonian king who in the Bible conquered Jerusalem, sacked its temple, and deported its inhabitants, but who, in the end, was taught to fear God and who eventually restored power and influence to God’s people. Sure there are similarities, especially in the awful deportation thing, the defilement of the temple (cf. Trump’s degrading of the church), and the overweening narcissism (according to the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar made a giant statue of himself and forced his subjects to bow down to it. Today, he would have simply called Fox News and had them ratchet up the fawning praise). Ironically, of course, the Babylonian king was initially seen by the Hebrew prophets as executing God’s judgment on God’s people. Okay, okay, so perhaps he might be a Nebuchadnezzar, but not in the positive sense they mean. If the American evangelical church is regaining political power and influence, it is at the expense of its soul, the suffering of its brothers and sisters of color, and its reputation in the eyes of the world.
A.R. Bernard, pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, NY, said it best. He was one of only a few clergymen of color to join Trump’s pastoral advisory panel, and he was the first to resign. He knew the man could not be reached after the first day. Pastor Bernard believes Trump is more like a King Saul. Israel begged God for a king and he sent them one–as a judgment and as a manifestation of something deeply corrupt in their hearts.
Our pastor is a kind and compassionate man, and I really don’t think he meant to offend anyone. That’s why I took the opportunity to offer some feedback. I very respectfully submitted my objections to what he said and explained why. I guess I was hoping for some kind of apology (naïve child that I am. I was always taught to apologize even if I did not think I had done anything wrong). What I got was a terse reply from an assistant who denied any wrong doing. I doubt the pastor even saw the note.
What’s it going to take for white Christians to stand up against racism and call it what it is? Just yesterday the President showed his true colors (again) in his comments about immigrants from “shit-hole countries.” As if we needed any more evidence. Didn’t we have plenty even before the election? No, there’s no excuse for it. No excuse for defending racism, which is by its very nature indefensible. It’s called sin.
“Imperfect elections and flawed candidates often make for complicated and difficult choices for Christians. But sometimes historic moments arise when more is at stake than partisan politics–when the meaning and integrity of our faith hangs in the balance. This is one of those moments,” reads a petition recently signed by leading evangelicals like the Reverends William Barber and Eugene Cho, as well as Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo, and Ron Sider.
“We believe that the centrality of Christ, the importance of both conversion and discipleship, the authority of the Scriptures, and the ‘good news’ of the gospel, especially for the poor and vulnerable, should prevail over ideological politics, and that we must respond when evangelicalism becomes dangerously identified with one particular candidate whose statements, practice, personal morality, and ideology risk damaging our witness to the gospel before the watching world.
“We believe that racism strikes at the heart of the gospel; we believe that racial justice and reconciliation is at the core of the message of Jesus.
“We believe the candidacy of Donald J. Trump has given voice to a movement that affirms racist elements in white culture—both explicit and implicit. Regardless of his recent retraction, Mr. Trump has spread racist ‘birther’ falsehoods for five years trying to delegitimize and humiliate our first African-American president, characterizing him as ‘the other’ and not a real American citizen. He uses fear to demonize and degrade immigrants, foreigners, and people from different racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. He launched his presidential campaign by demonizing Mexicans, immigrants, and Muslims, and has repeatedly spoken against migrants and refugees coming to this country—those whom Jesus calls ‘the stranger’ in Matthew 25, where he says that how we treat them is how we treat him. Trump has steadily refused to clearly and aggressively confront extremist voices and movements of white supremacy, some of whom now call him their ‘champion,’ and has therefore helped to take the dangerous fringes of white nationalism in America to the mainstream of politics.”
To read more or sign the petition click here.