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Trump is the Gift of the Church

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As we come to the last few months of the 4-year sentence America subjected itself to in the presidency of Donald Trump, the one armchair sociology question many of us have been trying to answer through every stage of this tragic piece of history is, how can one third of Americans still support him after all he has done?

Credit where credit is due, Donald Trump is a master manipulator of the media. You don’t have to be a psychic to be able to tell that virtually all of the journalists on CNN, MSNBC, and a solid half of the Fox News people, despise Trump and yet they are all just cats that can’t tear themselves away from a catnip mouse when Trump says or does something outrageous. 

I contend that there have been very many reasons why, with proper attention and investigation, that Donald Trump should be behind bars if not standing in front of a firing squad, but he has been a master of diversion, getting out attention drawn away to the next thing and the next thing as if we were all school children with serious ADD who were all out of Ritalin.

Trump is the Gift of the Church

I tried to go back and look at two different things… the first were indications of character flaws and general ignorance which should have kept people from voting for him in the first place, like when he carried out a campaign to have the Central Park Five executed even after DNA evidence proved their innocence . . . which was just disgustingly racist and paranoid, and the other being things of a criminal nature for which any president should be impeached and removed from office, like his recorded admission that he sexually assaulted women and was a sexual predator towards teenagers in a beauty pageant. I know several people who are in prison for 8 to 15 years for much less than what he confessed to on the Access Hollywood recording. With a recorded confession, I don’t know how he wasn't charged, tried and imprisoned in 2016 . . . maybe it is the money . . . yeah, I bet it’s the money.

So, I don’t have time to speak to all of these character charges that would stem from racist things like the Muslim ban and the pardoning of racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but his firing of James Comey and his refusal to turn over his tax returns as promised should have sparked a real and in depth investigation of his financial ties to Russian banks or worse, Russian organized crime, and the credible conviction that Vladimir Putin as compromising material on Trump. This is inside the ball park of treason for which execution, not just impeachment, is the constitutional punishment. And even the two-year-long Muller investigation never looked under the rock to see what was there. In the end, we have to say that Bob Mueller stalled and protected Trump from a real investigation.

As the Senate report on the 2016 election, that 1000-page-plus tome, clearly states, Trump and his family and aids did collude with Russia in the 2016 election and the 2019 impeachment hearings proved, in spite of the Republican Senate votes to protect him, that Trump and his aids colluded with, extorted, and mob boss style, exploited the government of the Ukraine to influence the 2020 election. He even publicly, on the media, asked for China to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. This doesn’t call for an expensive or lengthy investigation, this is treason, T-R-E-A-S-O-N, on the face of it and there is no rational way around it. 

Trump is the Gift of the Church

The hush money paid to porn star, aka Stormy Daniels, was a campaign finance violation which is impeachable, and the multiple instances of obstruction of justice related to that and the Russia investigation are all impeachable offenses. 

As much as he says that he hates them and wants to wall them out, Trump has been found to have knowingly employed undocumented immigrants on both construction sites and to maintain his hotels and golf courses. A crime that has forced the resignation of many other politicians in the past who were not as wealthy as Trump . . . do you think it is the money? I bet it’s the money.

He has removed troops from Syria, basically turning it over to Russia. He has defunded, alienated, and withdrawn forces from NATO, an apparent favor to Russia. . . moves that are so treasonous that it seems difficult to explain merely with a pee-pee tape and charges of mafia money laundering which does call for a substantive investigation of exactly what Russia does have on their POTUS puppet?

Trump not only approved of the political murder of an American journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, by the Saudi crown prince, but late last year reports surfaced that Trump had actually given orders to shoot and kill immigrants crossing our southern border. Regardless of who he thinks that he can shoot and get away with it, murder is still murder and even a billionaire president can’t get away with that. 

Trump is the Gift of the Church

In November of last year, Trump had to pay more than $2 million dollars in fines for having misused and stolen money from the Trump Foundation which has now been shut down due to a history of fraudulent and illegal activities. We can only hope that there are state indictments waiting until Trump leaves office in January. 

I am not even going to create a slide for 2020 because this year defies being briefly summarized, but you know all too well how badly he has botched the management of the pandemic, how he has used pardons to obstruct justice and fired other patriotic civil servants, also to obstruct justice, and now he is tampering with the United States Postal Service to try to rig the 2020 election in his favor, all of which are impeachable on either criminal or incompetence grounds. 

And his available administration friends who can attend White House lawn cook outs has gotten pretty small since so many of his staff and advisors are in jail, with Steve Bannon waiting in the wings for his turn behind bars.

That is now 10 minutes of your life that you can never get back, that I have used to remind you of this basic fact: The president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, is one of the most horrible, immoral, dishonest, and clearly criminal human beings on earth. And for my audience, I probably could have just started with that sentence and moved on, you have my apologies.

Absentee Ballots

But the question that I, as a parish pastor, and you, as citizens of a democracy, have to answer is: Since this level of really creepy immorality, dishonesty, corruption and even treason is plainly obvious, how can 40% of our neighbors, family members and fellow citizens still approve of and say that they are going to vote for four more years of this nightmare? 

Where is the Republican Party? Where are the senators and members of congress who ran for office with pledges of patriotism, as advocates for family values, morality, honesty, and the interests of the American people at heart. Why do we never hear from a Republican who is seeking re-election who will speak up against this travesty against humanity and mother nature itself?

For all of the wrong reasons I love this Facebook meme that says that the bat that gave the world Covid-19 is one of the invited speakers at the Republican Convention. Obviously a joke, however, reality is not much better and certainly more shocking.

Patricia and Mark McCloskey, who have been charged with a felony for threatening Black Lives Matter protestors who marched past their million-dollar home in St. Louis were invited to speak, prior to their eventual conviction and imprisonment. Trump invited Nick Sandmann, the former Covington Catholic High School student whose interaction with a Native American elder in Washington was captured on video, to the shame of teenagers everywhere . . . Nick will speak at the convention. I don’t know if he is really going to have Scott Baio back, or if Mike from My Pillow ads will be trotted out again, and I hope the demon-sperm doctor is just in this picture as a joke, but so far, it looks like the GOP convention could be fairly labeled, “Darwin’s Waiting Room.”

Filibuster Overturned

Mitch McConnell gives a thumbs up after changing the Senate rules to force through Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation on a party-line vote.

The Republican Party has, by and large, watched in silent consent as Trump has disassembled the alliances that have prevented wars and kept the world safe since World War II. They have silently consented to the dismemberment of democratic government in the creation of a Fascist government, so much so that the term, “antifa” or “anti-fascist” has become an insult.

Let me take a moment to remind you that these young men who fought and died on the beaches of Normandy were anti-fascists. My father, who suffered through dozens of bouts with malaria while fighting in the south Pacific during WWII was an anti-fascist. Heck, Woodie Guthrie, the author of “This Land is My Land,” that peace loving folk singer of the mid 20th century, his guitar was emblazoned with the words, “This machine kills fascists.” Woodie Guthrie was antifa!

Woodie Guthrie, the author of “This Land is My Land,” that peace loving folk singer of the mid 20th century, his guitar was emblazoned with the words, “This machine kills fascists.” Woodie Guthrie was antifa!

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Last year, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, asked: “How can you defend a president who is a danger to democracy?” Appropriately, Gerson says the issue would benefit from psychological study.

No one less than John Dean, of Watergate fame, and Bob Altemeyer, the famous Canadian psychologist who is an expert on Authoritarianism, wrote a powerful response, observing the fact that this psychological study has been done over the past century as we have seen over and over, in nation after nation, how many people literally prefer a “strong man” authoritarian government over democracy. 

Wealthy donors have a different set of motivations. They really do believe that there should be an aristocracy and a class of serfs who make them rich. They attempt to influence government to create an economic system that they can exploit for personal gain. But the majority of Trump supporters, and forgive me for saying this, but the majority of Hitler supporters, are the evangelicals who combine self-congratulatory religion with deep personal fear verging on paranoia. 

These people want a strong leader who will stomp out the dirty people, the inferior people, the criminal element, those who are viewed as “takers” and not “makers.” Hitler used fear and prejudice to blame Jews, Travelers, gays, and the handicapped for the perceived problems in Germany and it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to point out that Trump uses fear and prejudice to blame immigrants, Muslims, and black people for the perceived problems of Evangelical Christians in America.

Trump is the Gift of the Church

It is not original to me, but I will repeat the observation that America’s problem is not that Christianity is not taught in our public schools. Our problem is that Christianity is not being taught in our churches! I said last week that our churches have failed our culture and this is one of the most crucial aspects of that failure.

People make bad decisions when they are afraid. Prejudice is a by-product of fear. Militarism is a by-product of fear. Hoarding, greed, are fueled by fear. 

But folks, faith should be an antidote to fear. Faith should bolster character, instill values and character in religious people. Even when we are afraid, our faith should demand that we still be good people.

I get that Mark and Patricia were scared when they saw hundreds of black people marching down the street in their gated community. Awash in white privilege and, well, being lawyers, you can see that they were paranoid about those black people coming close to their mansion but is this armed reaction what good people do? Is this Christian? Is it even Episcopalian?

Since this level of really creepy immorality, dishonesty, corruption and even treason is plainly obvious, how can 40% of our neighbors, family members and fellow citizens still approve of and say that they are going to vote for four more years of this nightmare? 

In what is an increasingly rare event for me, I took a passage from the New Testament for our wisdom lesson today. I am not much of a fan of St. Paul. He seems to me to be episodically a misogynist and a homophobe, possibly somewhat excusable in the world of the early first century but not laudable at any time. And even in this beautiful piece in which he is imploring Christians to be noble people he includes a sentence, possibly echoing the Old Testament claim that “vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord,” but his suggestion that by doing good to our enemies is, in effect, heaping burning coals on their heads is the opposite of nobility. 

Still, bearing in mind that Paul has not yet been to Rome and he is writing to people whom he does not know, he boils down the goal of the Christian journey this way, telling them to:

Romans 12:9-21
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
. . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Trump is the Gift of the Church

Folks, we are standing on the threshold of the worst part of the coronavirus pandemic. We may be standing on the threshold of a new global economic depression. And I feel certain that we are about to enter a time of dramatic changes in governments, not just in the United States but in many places where people are having to face a contest between fear driving fascism and the hopefulness of a new kind of democracy and justice. 

I have spent the last four years decrying the moral corruption of American politics and I’ll tell you, at my estimable age, I look forward to being allowed to turn the page next year so that I can spend 2021 doing what churches are supposed to do, trying to encourage people to be good people. The gift that the church has to give to the world is not to weigh in on partisan politics or to try to legislate our morality on people who do not share our spiritual world view. 

The gift that we can give to the world post-Trump is goodness, character, honesty, generosity, virtue. When Trump either walks out of the White House or is dragged out in handcuffs by the Secret Service, the Trump era doesn’t end when Trump is either on a golf course in Florida or making license plates in a New York state prison. Guard your hearts, my friends, not everything that is cathartic, and satisfying is good for our souls. 

What Trump has revealed to me is that the church has largely failed in its mission to teach people how to be good people, how to conquer fear with faith. How to, as Paul says, “overcome evil with good.” 

The Black Lives Matter demonstrators who walked down the street in front of a mansion that is the home of Patricia and Mark McCloskey did not break down the gate of their private neighborhood. The gate was unlocked and they just walked in. When the McCloskeys saw them, what they saw were people who scared them. 

What good are the thousands of churches in our nation if we cannot teach the McCloskeys to see #blacklivesmatter demonstrators as their brothers and sisters? What if they had been the kind of people who could have greeted the demonstrators with cold bottled water, or even if they had been able to come out and throw roses on their path? 

Dr. Roger Ray

You may say that I’m a dreamer, but, I can tell you this, I’m not the only one. I hope someday all of you can join me, and the world can truly be as one.

Rev. Roger L. Ray
The Emerging Church