What If Your Faith Makes You “Unpatriotic?”

Dyer

I am in Boston this week filming a series of lectures for an on-line course on colonial America produced by the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History.  We have been shooting short introductions at places like the Long Wharf, Old South Meeting House, King’s Chapel Burial Ground, Harvard University, and the Boston Public Library.  (We shot some footage at Mount Vernon, Virginia earlier in the week).

Yesterday we filmed an introduction at the statue of Mary Dyer located at the corner of Beacon Street and Bowdoin Street adjacent to the Massachusetts State House.  I talked about Dyer’s relationship with Anne Hutchinson, her so-called “monstrous birth,” her conversion to Quakerism, and her eventual execution in Boston Commons in 1660.

I thought about Hutchinson and Dyer today as I read this tweet from Family Research Council President and court evangelical Tony Perkins.

I agree with Perkins and Pompeo.  We must defend religious liberty.  But I wonder if our current president thinks the same way.  Trump will preach religious liberty to evangelicals until he is blue in the face.  Evangelicals will eat it all up and pull the lever for Trump in 2020.  They will continue to call him the most faith-friendly president of all time.

But what would Trump say about religious liberty if a person’s religious convictions led her or him to criticize the United States for its past and present sins?  What would Trump say about religious liberty if someone’s faith-informed view of the world resulted in the criticism of him?

I don’t know if religious faith informs the moral vision of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, or Ayanna Pressley (we did a post on Ocasio-Cortez back in June 2017).  But if it does, how might Trump reconcile religious liberty with his recent tweet telling these women to leave the country?  If someone’s faith leads one to oppose racism, nativism, xenophobia, misogyny, dishonesty and general cruelty, should we deem that person to be unpatriotic and encourage them to go back to their own country?

The analogy is not perfect (no historical analogy is), but it seems like the faith of Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer led them to criticize the beliefs of the Puritan government in seventeenth-century Massachusetts Bay.  They exercised liberty of conscience in a way that Trump might describe “unpatriotic.”  Hutchinson was not “sent home.” She was sent to Rhode Island.  I don’t think the Puritans were chanting “send her back, send her back” when they banned her, but I am sure they were thinking something similar.

Dyer, on the other hand, was “sent home.”

Trump Has Found His Ticket(s) to Relection

Greenville

Trump has been waiting for a moment like this.  After watching some of his rally last night in Greenville, North Carolina, it is clear that the president thinks he has found his path to re-election in 2020.  Trump hopes to ride his racist criticism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, and Ayanna Pressley to a second term in the White House.  Last night he attacked these women relentlessly.  When Trump disparaged Omar, the crowd chanted “send her back.”

Trump will paint the entire Democratic Party as socialists who share the same views at the so-called “Squad.”  He will mention these four women every night.  He will convince his Fox News listeners that the Democratic presidential candidates are cut from the same cloth.  He will convince people that Democrats hate America and pose and immediate threat.

Of course this entire strategy is built on fear and ignorance.  In 2016 Trump learned that fear-mongering and appeals to anti-intellectualism work.

His appeal to white evangelicals will be the same as 2016.  In fact, this appeal will be more effective in 2020 since Trump has delivered on Supreme Court justices and Israel.  We can only hope that educated evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016 will see the moral degradation of his presidency and abandon him in 2020.

Katherine Hayhoe: Climate Scientist and Evangelical

Hayhoe

The Washington Post is running a really interesting piece on Katherine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University and an evangelical Christian. (Her spouse is a Christian author, pastor, and radio host). Those evangelicals who want to reach public audiences in their religious tribe can learn a lot of Hayhoe’s approach.  Here is a taste of Dan Zak’s post:

Her skills of communication do seem miraculous by the standards of modern climate politics: She can convert nonbelievers. She knows how to speak to oil men, to Christians, to farmers and ranchers, having lived for years in Lubbock, Texas, with her pastor husband. She is a scientist who thinks that we’ve talked enough about science, that we need to talk more about matters of the heart.

For her, that means talking about faith.

“We humans have been given responsibility for every living thing on this planet, which includes each other,” Hayhoe said at the conference. “We are called to tend the garden and be good stewards of the gifts that God has given us.”

You might say that the climate problem, while understood through science, can be solved only through faith.

Faith in each other.

Faith in our ability to do something bold, together.

Faith that the pain of change, that the sacrifices required, will lead to a promised land.

Does this sound believable? Maybe in some places, to certain people. In Washington, at the climate conference, Hayhoe was preaching to the choir. But the prophet wasn’t just in town to talk to believers. She was here to talk to Congress.

Getting activists to clap for fossil fuels was the easy part.

Read the entire piece here.

Meacham: Trump is Now Tied With Andrew Johnson as Most Racist President in U.S. History

Here is presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jon Meacham on MSNBC:

I’m not sure how you measure this, but Trump would certainly be high on the list.  Johnson was pretty racist.  So was Andrew Jackson. (Meacham’s biography of Jackson won the Pulitzer).

Trump’s remarks were made at a time when racism in America is less overt and more subtle. His comments were also made at a time when we might expect our leaders to have learned lessons from America’s racist past.  Perhaps this all makes Trump’s remarks even more egregious than Johnson or Jackson.

Does Donald Trump Want Frederick Douglass to Go Back to Where He Came From?

frederickdouglass01

Some of you may remember that Donald Trump thinks Frederick Douglass, ex-slave-turned-abolitionist, is still alive.  Douglass is not only alive, but he is doing “an amazing job.” (I am not sure if any corrected him on this. For the record, Douglass died in 1895).

So I wonder what Trump would think about this passage from Douglass’s “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July”:

“What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?

I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

How unpatriotic.  Look–if Frederick Douglass does not love this country he is free to leave.

Yup.

It looks like Trump is going to use his Twitter feed to attack Douglass after he is done with Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, and Ayanna Pressley.  Like the women of “The Squad,” Douglass hates America.  This is why he uses such disgusting language.

And while he is at it, Trump should also target William Lloyd Garrison.  I hear he is getting more and more attention lately.  He burned the Constitution. HOW UNPATRIOTIC!  WHEN WILL GARRISON APOLOGIZE TO THE COUNTRY?

Franklin Graham Responds to Trump’s Racist Tweet

At least not directly:

At least Graham gets credit for staying on message. As long as Trump keeps delivering on this front, the court evangelicals will look the other way on just about everything else.

Former GOP Chairman: “These are the people who spent the last forty years telling everyone how to live, who to love, what to think about morality…”

Steele

Michael Steele, the chairperson of the Republican National Committee from 2009-2011, slammed the court evangelicals and other evangelicals in an interview with journalist Tim Alberta, author of the soon-to-be-released American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the American Civil War and the Rise of President Trump.

Here is a taste of a piece at Business Insider:

Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, called evangelical Christians who support President Donald Trump “the biggest phonies of all” in a new book by the journalist Tim Alberta.

“These evangelical [leaders] are the biggest phonies of all,” Alberta quoted Steele as saying in his newly published book, “American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump.”

Steele went on, “These are the people who spent the last forty years telling everyone how to live, who to love, what to think about morality. And then this motherf—er comes along defiling the White House and disrespecting God’s children at every turn, but it’s cool, because he gave them two Supreme Court justices. They got their thirty pieces of silver.”

Read the entire piece here.

759,935 American Voters Pulled a Lever for Members of “The Squad” in 2018

Squad

In 2018:

110,318 voters in New York’s 14th Congressional District voted for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  This district is 18.41% white.

267,703 voters in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District voted for Ilhan Omar.  The district is 67.39% white.

165,355 voters in Michigan’s 13th District voted for Rashisa Talib. The district is 33.4% white.

216,559 voters in Massachusetts’s 7th District voted for Ayanna Pressley.  The district is 33.69% white.

The President of the United States says that these four women of color should leave the country because they don’t love America.  Would he say the same thing about 759,935 people who voted for this members of the House of Representatives?  These women were duly elected by their constituencies.  Unless, of course, the elections were rigged.  🙂

Commonplace Book #129

Though he remained an invalid for the rest of his life, [Emanuel] Carnevali continued writing in English, taking backward glances at his American experience.  One of his poems, written as he approached his native land, bespeaks his ambivalent feelings and those of many another immigrant toward both Italy and America.  “In America,” he wrote,

. . . everything

Is bigger, but less majestic. . .

Italy is a little family:

America is an orphan

Independent and arrogant, 

Crazy and sublime,

Without tradition to guide her,

Rushing headlong in a mad run which she calls

Progress

American cities, he continues, are mechanical; “in their hurry, people forget to love and be kind.  Immigrants are hungry not only for bread but for people, but America you gather the hungry people/And give them new hungers for the old ones.”

Jerry Mangione and Ben Morreale, La Storia: Five Centures of the Italian American Experience, 361-362.

 

Where are the Court Evangelicals Today?

jeffress-reed-perkins-metaxas-trump-550x267

It seems like we have asked this question before.

The court evangelicals got their Supreme Court justices and embassy in Israel.  They got tax cuts.  They think Trump is the most faith-friendly president in American history.

Today the court evangelicals are silent.

Yesterday Donald Trump told four members of the United States Congress–all women of color–to go back to their countries.  As someone who spent two decades studying and teaching American history (including American immigrant history), this kind of rhetoric is racist.

It was racist when Anglo-Americans told the Irish to go back to their country.

It was racist when Italians, Jews, and Chinese were told to go back to their country.

It is racist when immigrants from the Middle East, Asia, Central America, and Southern America are told to go back to their country.

It is racist when white people tell black people to “go back to Africa.”

Here is some additional historical context.

Trump is simply calling upon an old tradition in American history.  Sadly, we have been telling people to “go back to your country” since the birth of the republic.  None of this is new.  Trump appeals to the darkest parts of our past.  This is what demagogues do.  Today he refused to rescind his comments because apparently a lot of people like them.

But America has always had its better angels.  We have always had men and women who have tried to consistently apply our country’s ideals to matters of race, immigration, and injustice. Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. Jack Graham, Tony Perkins, Paula White, Ralph Reed, Gary Bauer, David Barton, Jim Bakker, Lance Wallnau, Steven Strang and the rest of the court evangelicals do not fall into this category.

Sadly, the court evangelicals have chosen to side with darkness over light.  They are sycophants, incapable of speaking truth to power because they have made a deal with the devil (who apparently has come in the guise of a new King Cyrus).  They have enabled Donald Trump.  The silence speaks volumes.

Rather than speaking out today, some of them are simply quoting Bible verses:

And there is this:

Click here to see what Trump says in private about his evangelical enablers.

Commonplace Book #128

Although the Irish were more advanced economically and socially than any of the other new immigrants, many were still unskilled laborers who found themselves competing with Italian laborers willing to work for substandard wages.  The two people seem to be irreconcilable, especially in the great disparity in their concept and practice of Catholicism.  While both groups considered themselves Roman Catholic, the Irish adhered strictly to the Church’s official liturgy and doctrine and revered their clergy, whereas the southern Italians showed little respect for the clergy and practiced a folk religion that had changed little since the birth of Christ.

The southern Italian religion was based on awe, fear, and reverence for the supernatural, ‘a fusion of Christian and pre-Christian elements of animism, polytheism and sorcery along with the sacraments prescribed by the Church.”  These Italians believed in the power of the evil eye and in spells cast by witches that could kill a person or destroy a crop.  To protect themselves against malevolent forces, a peasant family might employ an exorcist when prayers to the local patron saint, the central figure in any southern village, went unheeded.

Jerry Mangione and Ben Morreale, La Storia: Five Centures of the Italian American Experience, 326-327.

 

Inside the Mind of the Literary Editor

Writing

If you write books, Lauren Toor’s interview with literary agent Susan Rabiner is a must read.  They cover the art of making an argument, the practice of narrative history, and the topics that are “hot” right now in trade publishing.

Here is a taste:

Can you define what you mean by narrative?

Rabiner: Sure. You don’t create narrative by simply inserting lots of anecdotes, character portraits, or description. Those features are terrific but are not meant to stand on their own. They are part of a story that creates a kind of tension in the reader — a need to find out where the book is going and how it will add up.

And remember, the story doesn’t have to be a story about people. It can be the story of an idea — how and why we once believed something and now do not. It can be the story of an event that we have been interpreting one way but should be re-examining in a different light.

Read the entire interview here.

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

Trump Democrats in eastern Kentucky

The past and future of busing

Untruth has been “baked into democratic politics from the beginning”

The American gas station

The photo archives of Ebony and Jet are up for sale

Wendell Berry the virtuous life

R. Marie Griffith calls for a deeper conversation on “heartbeat” bill

Who is up for a 2022 Civil War tour with the Pietist Schoolman?

A chapel on the moon

Rewriting Trump’s America

Nancy Isenberg reviews Greg Grandin, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

Black women suffragists

YouTube and nostalgia

A python eats a crocodile

Christian nationalism in Dallas

The real historical problem with Trump’s “revolutionary war airports” speech

What is going on at Olivet Nazarene University?

Is Jimmy Carter a public historian?

Michael Wear: “Democrats Shouldn’t Be So Certain About Abortion”

abortion

When it comes to abortion politics, Michael Wear, an evangelical Christian and member of Obama’s faith-based initiative team, is one of our most important voices.  His piece in today’s New York Times is one of the best things I have read on the subject.  Here is a taste:

According to some progressives, Democrats need to learn from Mr. Trump’s style of politics and name enemies, draw harder lines and callously stoke the animosities that roil Americans’ lives for partisan advantage.

This emulation of Mr. Trump’s flattening of our political discourse to its extremes is evident in many areas, but perhaps nowhere more clearly than on abortion. There were several examples of this just in the last month.

In the first presidential debate, Senator Elizabeth Warren was asked if there was any restriction on abortion she supported; she could not name one, and no other candidate on the stage tried to either. Joe Biden was berated by his Democratic competitors and others for his previous support for the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion, and announced that he would now oppose it. And yet a Politico/Morning Consult poll from June showed that slightly more Democratic women support the Hyde Amendment (at 41 percent) than oppose it (at 39 percent). Overall, 49 percent of registered voters support Hyde, compared with 32 percent who oppose it. It is not so much that Mr. Biden was out of step with the Democratic electorate, but that the 2020 Democratic candidates are out of step with American voters, even Democratic voters, on the issue of abortion.

Read the entire piece here.

Trump is Ramping-Up for the 2020 Election and Its Getting Very Racist

You can definitely expect a lot of this kind of “presidential” rhetoric over the course of the next fifteen months as Donald Trump ramps up his re-election campaign.  He won on white nationalism in 2016 and he will try to do it again.  Trump is a racist and a xenophobe.

It is also worth noting that Robert Mueller will be testifying soon and Trump needs a distraction.

And let’s not forget this:

According to Trump, the members of “The Squad” do not just disagree with him politically, but they are also racially inferior because they come from the wrong countries.   Wow!  It almost sounds like these congresswomen came from Germany (18th-century), Ireland (19th-century) or Italy and China (20th-century). “Go back to where you came from.”

Read more at The Washington Post.

Nice Work Ted Cruz…Kinda

As readers of this blog now, I am not a big Ted Cruz fan.  I criticized him heavily during the 2016 campaign and also covered him in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

But I am glad to see this:

Thanks, Ted Cruz!  Here is a Washington Post piece.

ADDENDUM:  These days I am just happy when a leading Republican calls out racism and white supremacy.  But as Al Mackey notes in the comments, let’s not pretend that Cruz’s references to Forrest as a delegate to the 1868 Democratic convention is not sending a subtle message rooted in the idea, popular among the Right today, that the Democrats continue to be the party of racism.  Kevin Kruse and others have debunked this view of history for its failure to recognize change over time.

Commonplace Book #127

The wide gulf between the Old World and the New went beyond custom and moral values.  At the center was a basic difference in philosophy.  Ingrained in the Southern Italian’s peasant soul by centuries of poverty and oppression were strong elements of fatalism, which some of them referred to as Destinu.  This fatalism contradicted the philosophy that their children brought home from school, where repeatedly their teachers talked of freedom, free enterprise, and free well, constantly stressing the individual capacity’s to change and improve his or her situation.  For the second generation that grew up in the 1920s and 1930s, the message of freedom was further accentuated by images of flappers, Rudolph Valentino, the gospel of free love, and the sermons of Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger–images that conflicted with the old ways of their parents.  Inevitably, these sons and daughters became aware of the basic differences between their parents and other Americans, which heightened  their dissatisfaction at being obliged to lead a double life, a state of mind that often generated serious identity problems as they approached adulthood.  An erosion of self-esteem was not uncommon for those who ventured into the American mainstream.

Jerre Mangione and Ben Morreale, La Storia:  Five Centures of the Italian American Experience, 218.

Commonplace Book #126

…Others, however, were invigorated by New York.  Arriving in the city at the age of fifteen, Pascal D’Angelo was startled, then entranced, by the spectacle of an elevated train dashing around a curve.  “To my surprise not even on car fell.  Nor did the people walking beneath scurry away as it approached.'” Minutes late, while riding a trolley, he was distracted by the sight of a father and son moving their mouths in continuous motion ‘like cows chewing on cud.’  Never having known of chewing gum, he assumed, ‘with compassion, that father and son were both afflicted with some nervous disease.’  Later, just before he and his immigrant companions reached their destination, he was surprised to note signs at street with “Ave., Ave., Ave.’ printed on them.  “How religious a place this must be that expressed its devotion at every crossing,” he mused, though he could not understand why the word was not followed by “Maria.”

Gerre Mangione and Ben Morreale, La Storia: Five Centures of the Italian American Experience, 125.

What is Going on at Riverside Church?

Riverside

Amy Butler recently resigned as pastor of New York City’s historic Riverside Church.

But why?

Was it because she was an outspoken on sexual harassment?  Here is a taste of Rick Rojas’s piece at The New York Times:

Dr. Butler’s supporters said she lost her job because she had spoken out about sexual harassment and she had complained in particular about an incident in which a former member of the church’s governing council left a bottle of wine and a T-shirt on her desk, both with labels that read “Sweet Bitch.”

They said she had pursued better treatment for women and minorities, with the aim of fixing a difficult environment that had led some church employees to complain and even quit. Her persistence strained an increasingly fractured relationship between her and the church’s lay leaders, her supporters said.

Was it because her leadership style was too progressive?  Again, here is Rojas:

…her opponents said her dismissal was being misconstrued, and pointed to the governing council’s significant misgivings about changes she made to the church staff and programming and spending priorities. Her philosophy and leadership style, they said, collided with a church whose culture remained deeply traditional, despite its politics.

Or did it have something to do with a strange visit to a Minneapolis sex shop.  Here is the New York Post (the article is also cited in Rojas’s piece in the Times):

The Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, the first woman to lead Manhattan’s famed Riverside Church, lost her lofty post amid complaints that she brought ministers and a congregant on a sex toy shopping spree and then gave one of them an unwanted vibrator as a birthday gift, The Post has learned.

On May 15, Butler allegedly took two Riverside assistant ministers and a female congregant to a sex shop in Minneapolis called the Smitten Kitten, during a religious conference, according to sources familiar with the out-of-town shopping excursion.

At the store, the pastor bought a $200 bunny-shaped blue vibrator called a Beaded Rabbit for one minister — a single mom of two who was celebrating her 40th birthday — as well as more pleasure gadgets for the congregant and herself, sources said.

The female minister didn’t want the sex toy, but accepted it because she was scared not to, sources said.

Butler also offered to buy a toy for the second minister — a gay man in a committed relationship — but he declined, sources said.

Read the rest here.