A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment

 

Impeachment trial

Confused about impeachment?  Not sure how it all works? Need a primer? Check out Cumberland University history professor Mark Cheathem‘s piece at The Tennessean.

Here is a taste:

The ongoing impeachment process has understandably caused anxiety among Americans.

Some think the process has been rushed and imperfectly investigated, while others believe that it is an attempt to influence next year’s presidential election. Understanding both the constitutional origins of impeachment and the reasons for previous impeachment proceedings should help alleviate these concerns.

Presidential impeachment is discussed in three different sections of the U.S. Constitution. Article 2, Section 4 states that a president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The vague phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” is confusing, but constitutional experts generally agree that while criminal activity can fall under this provision, actions that would not warrant indictment under the criminal code can also be reasons to impeach a president

The impeachment process itself is broadly outlined in Article 1, Sections 2 and 3, of the Constitution. Section 2 gives the U.S. House of Representatives “the sole Power of Impeachment.” The House essentially serves as the grand jury, deciding whether or not to indict the president. A simple majority vote on even one article means that the president has been impeached.

Section 3 directs the U.S. Senate to oversee the trial portion of the impeachment process. The Senate is charged with deciding whether to remove the president from office based on the impeachment article(s) passed by the House. The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over this trial. If two-thirds of the Senate vote to convict the president of even one impeachment article, then the president is removed from office. They are also disqualified from “hold[ing] and enjoy[ing] any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States” and are still “liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”

Read the rest here.

Senior Editor at *The American Conservative*: “The Case for Impeachment is Overwhelming”

Trump impeachment

Here is Dan Larison of The American Conservative:

The case for Trump’s impeachment seemed quite strong more than two months ago, and the evidence provided to the House’s impeachment inquiry has strengthened it further. The president’s abuse of power is not in dispute. It is clear that he used the powers of his office in an attempt to extract a corrupt favor for his personal benefit, and this is precisely the sort of offense that impeachment was designed to keep in check. It doesn’t matter if the attempt succeeded. All that matters is that the attempt was made. It is also undeniable that he has sought to impede the investigation into his misconduct. The president has committed the offenses he is accused of committing, and the House should approve both articles of impeachment.

The president doesn’t have a credible line of defense left. That is why his apologists in Congress and elsewhere have been reduced to making increasingly absurd and desperate claims. The president’s defenders want to distract attention from the fact that the president abused his power, violated the public’s trust, and broke his oath of office, but these distractions are irrelevant.

Read the entire piece here.

The Family Values of Mr. Rogers

Rogers Fred

American religious historian Margaret Bendroth is not a fan of Mr. Rogers.  She calls herself a “Mr. Rogers heretic, one of the unholy few who did not enjoy his television and actively discouraged my children from watching it.”

Ouch.

In a recent piece at the blog Righting America, Bendroth roots Rogers’s understanding of children and family in twentieth-century mainline Protestantism, the topic of her book Growing Up Protestant: Parents, Children ,and Mainline Churches.

Here is a taste:

I was working on Growing Up Protestant  in the 1990s, at about the same time evangelicals were staking their claim to be “pro-family.” The historical irony was hard to swallow. Up until James Dobson came on the scene, evangelicals had little of substance to say about family, much less a theology of Christian child-rearing. They were the heirs of fundamentalists like John R. Rice and Bill Gothard, who insisted that children were sinful, the world was a looming danger, and individual conversion the only way to safety.  

Yet as I researched my way through books like God, The Rod, and Your Child’s Bod,  it struck me that me that despite the hairy authoritarian advice about “daring to discipline,” evangelical child-rearing advice literature was more Bushnellian than not. Even God, The Rod, and Your Child’s Bod was really an argument for the primacy of the “Christian home,” a place “where parents live the Christian life and so practice the presence of Christ that children grow up to naturally accept God as the most important fact in life.” Evangelicals were in effect cannibalizing mainline ideas (possibly in part because the mainline was departing from this tradition in the 1970s and 1980s), and recirculating them with a moralistic, fortress-mentality gloss.

Perhaps that’s why Mr. Rogers traveled under the radar for so long. He was not “pro-family” in the narrow evangelical culture-wars sense of the word, where the family is a stand-in for American moral decline. He loved and respected children, and modeled an ethic of care that extended beyond their immediate families to the world they would one day inherit—which is about as “pro-family” as you can get. On that, as my good friend Henrietta Pussycat would say, the two of us could not meow-meow-meow-agree-meow more.

Read the entire piece here.

Out of the Zoo: The Hedgehog and the Fox

Hedgehog

Annie Thorn is a sophomore history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  As part of her internship she is writing a weekly column titled “Out of the Zoo.”  It focuses on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college.  In this dispatch, Annie reflects on Isaiah Berlin’s essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox.”. –JF

I did a lot of reading this semester. Being a history major, though, I suppose it comes with the territory. Instead of spending hours in the pottery studio like the art majors, or agonizing over lab like STEM students, history majors write and read—a lot. I read John Santrock in Educational Psychology, lots of Sam Wineburg for Teaching History and Social Studies, and many words from the pen of Alexander Hamilton for my Age of Hamilton class. Since the beginning of September I’ve been exposed to a number of different voices, some clear and others confusing, some of which I agree with and others that I don’t. Nonetheless, the challenge of hearing each one out is a task that has surely made me a better writer, student, and novice historian.

One of the first pieces I read this semester was for my Historical Methods class, an essay by Isaiah Berlin titled “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” I distinctly remember reading it within a few days of arriving on campus, sitting at one of the picnic tables outside Murray Library when it was still warm enough to do so. Pulling from the Greek poet Archilochus who once wrote “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing,” Berlin thinks that this statement, taken figuratively, describes a great difference that splits writers and thinkers. Some are hedgehogs, Berlin writes, who “relate everything to a single central vision,” who like to simplify their findings and organize them into a neat and concise conclusion. And then there are others, the foxes, who “pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory,” who dwell in nuances and complexity, who run in the many different directions that their thinking, writing, or researching takes them. 

In my methods class we talked about how, as historians, we think and write and research somewhere between these two sects. For while we may start a project with a central topic, theme or idea in mind, as we do research we are stretched in many different directions. No matter how much we desire to organize all our findings into a thesis statement that’s orderly and decisive, we sometimes must face the reality that the past is often far too complex to do so to our satisfaction. We have the spines of hedgehogs and the fluffy tails of foxes, or so it seems. 

As I wrap up my final papers for the semester (which I have already written about here and here) I am continuing to realize the truth of this assertion. I’ve spent the whole semester knee deep in research–seeking out sources, following leads, falling down rabbit holes–all in an attempt to answer the questions I set out to answer.  But after all my research, I’m realizing that the questions I asked months ago are not so easily answered. I’m realizing that there will always be paths that remain unexplored, questions that go unanswered; yet with due dates fast approaching I must bring my research to some sort of end.

Thus, it is here that I will remain. In the tension between the one and the many, the simple and the complex, I attempt to bring my months of research together into a cohesive whole. I try to bring my outstretched hands together and weave the fringes of my research into some kind of tapestry. I can only hope that my tapestry will be a beautiful one.

Trump’s Narcissism is Again Revealed as the House Announces Articles of Impeachment

Image: US-MEXICO-CANADA-TRADE

This morning the leaders of the House of Representatives stood in front of a copy of Gilbert Stuart’s 1796 “Lansdowne portrait” of George Washington and announced, for only the fourth time in United States history, articles of impeachment against the President of the United States.

The President, of course, is tweeting about it:

 

These are the desperate cries of a man who has committed high crimes and misdemeanors against his country.  He has abused his power and obstructed the House impeachment investigation.  Trump’s tweets remind me of this scene from November 17, 1973:

Nixon understood the gravity of his impeachment in the larger context of American history.  So, it seems, does Bill Clinton.  They both admitted (eventually) that they had done something wrong.  Clinton even described his behavior as “sin.”

Trump, on the other hand, thinks he has done nothing wrong.   Some people believe that Trump knows he is guilty, but continues to tell the American people that he is innocent because he wants to remain in power and preserve his legacy.  There is a lot of evidence to support this theory.

But what if Trump believes he is innocent because he has absolutely no understanding of American history, the U.S. Constitution, or the meaning of impeachment?  Here, again, is what I wrote about the relationship between narcissism and American history in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

But the problem with Donald Trump’s use of American history goes well beyond his desire to make America great again or his regular references to some of the darker moments in our past–moments that have tended to divide Americans rather than uniting them.  His approach to history also reveals his narcissism.  When Trump says that he doesn’t care how “America first” was used in the 1940s, or claims to be ignorant of Nixon’s use of “law and order,” he shows his inability to understand himself as part of a larger American story.  As Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote in the wake of Trump’s pre-inauguration Twitter attack on civil rights icon John Lewis, a veteran of non-violent marches who was severely beaten at Selma: “Trump seems to have no feel for, no interest in, the American story he is about to enter.”  Gerson describes Trump’s behavior in this regard as the “essence of narcissism.”  The columnist is right:  Trump is incapable of seeing himself as part of a presidential history that is larger than himself.  Not all presidents have been perfect, and others have certainly shown narcissistic tendencies; but most of them have been humbled by the office.  Our best presidents thought about their four or eight years in power with historical continuity in mind.  This required them to respect the integrity of the office and the unofficial moral qualifications that come with it.  Trump, however, spits in the face of this kind of historical continuity….

Is Trump capable of understanding the gravity of what is happening to his presidency right now?

19th-Century Evangelicals on the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

1869_Zions_Herald_BostonThis morning I read chapter nine of Victor Howard’s book Religion and the Radical Republican Movement, 1860-1870.  The chapter is titled “Impeachment and the Churches” and it focuses on how Protestant churches, denominations, and clergy responded to the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.  While Howard’s chapter covers a specific segment of mid-19th century evangelicalism (mostly northern, radical, anti-slavery churches who favored Republican Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War), it provides some interesting context in light of today’s announcement of articles impeachment and the expected court evangelical opposition to these articles.

Here is a passage on p. 155-156. (I added the links):

The lawmakers of the new Fortieth Congress met immediately upon the adjournment of the Thirty-ninth Congress and promptly undertook the task of amending the Reconstruction Act.  On March 23, 1867, a supplementary bill was passed which gave federal military commanders on the South authority to initiate Reconstruction by registering eligible voters and calling state conventions, but Johnson, as the radicals feared, used his presidential powers to obstruct congressional Reconstruction.  Basing his action on the investigations of the Military Board and the report of the congressional committee, General Sheridan had removed the governor of Louisiana and local officers responsible for the New Orleans massacre. Johnson ordered Sheridan to defer the removals, but Sheridan answered him with a protest against recalling the order.  The president sought the opinion of Attorney General Henry Stanbery, who declared that the military commanders were not authorized to promulgate codes in defiance of civil government of the states but were to cooperate with the existing governments which were set up under Johnson’s plan of Reconstruction.  Stanbery’s interpretation virtually emasculated the Reconstruction Act. Stanbery also denounced General Daniel Sickles’s acts in North Carolina as illegal.  The general angrily asked to be relieved of his duties so that he could defend his conduct before a court of inquiry.

The editor of the Baptist Watchman and Reflector asserted “If the President acts on this opinion…to obstruct justice, he will…inaugurate a new war in Congress.”  The generally conservative Ohio Baptist Journal and Messenger concluded, “The President’s conduct from the first has not been such as to inspire confidence in his ability or integrity.  Congress has therefore only the more solemn responsibility resting upon it to be calm, vigilant, and unfalterting in its adherence to duty. The editor of the Zion’s Herald was more direct.  “Without doubt, the easiest remedy would be the prompt impeachment and remove of President Johnson.”

Here is a passage from p. 159:

The Baptist Christian Times and Witness condemned Johnson’s course but still did not think Congress should impeach him, because the president’s term was drawing to a close and opinion on the matter remained very divided.  “Providence has graciously provided for the protection of the country during the remainder of the term…by giving to loyal people such a decided preponderancy in Congress to keep wrong doing in check,” explained the editor.  But J.W. Barker, editor of the Christian Freemanviewed the crisis differently.  “When he who bears the sword bears it so vainly as to be no terror to ‘evil doers,’ but to cause the good and loyal to quake, he has lost his divine commission as a magistrate,’ the editor charged. 

Here is Howard on p. 160:

By October 1867, several ecclesiastical bodies were going on record in support of the current objectives of Congress.  The New London (Connecticut) Baptist Association, for example, resolved that “the open hostility of the President to the laws of Congress and the consequent hindrance to the peaceful progress of reconstruction fill us with the most painful solicitude.”  The Grinnell [Iowa] Association of Congregational Churches characterized Johnson as “an aider and abettor of principles inimical to the best interests of the country.”

Robert Jeffress is an Embarrassment to Evangelical Christianity

Watch how he:

  1.  mocks Nancy Pelosi’s faith with his self-righteous culture warrior sneer.  Jeffress’s approach to Christianity and public life can be summarized on one word: “abortion.”
  2.  says that Trump has brought Christmas “back to the forefront” of our country.  So true. I remember before Trump was elected everyone had to work on Christmas or face fine/imprisonment. When I read Luke 2 to my family on Christmas morning I did so out of constant fear of a Gestapo-like police force storming my house and whisking me away to a prison-camp.  There were no Christmas specials on television.  I remember when Obama, the godless socialist, was president my town made me take down my Christmas lights and tried to close all the Christmas tree lots.  And all Christmas Eve church services were forbidden.   Whew!  I am glad Trump changed all this.  😉

If you can’t see the video, click on the twitter link: pic.twitter.com/3u2yLj0NmH

The Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton Articles of Impeachment

Impeachment

With two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump set to be released tomorrow (Tuesday), I thought I would offer some historical context by providing the articles of impeachment for Clinton, Nixon, and Johnson.  (Only Clinton and Johnson were impeached.  Nixon resigned before the Senate trial).

Clinton Articles of Impeachment:

RESOLVED, That William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors . . .

Article One: In his conduct while President of the United States . . . in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of the President . . . has . . . undermined the integrity of his office . . . betrayed his trust as President . . . and acted in a manner subversive of the rule of law by:

  • willfully corrupting and manipulating the judicial process of the United States for his personal gain and exoneration
  • willfully committing perjury by providing false and misleading testimony to the grand jury in relation to his relationship with an employee
  • willfully committing perjury by providing false and misleading testimony to the grand jury in relation to prior perjurious testimony in a civil rights action brought against him
  • allowing his attorney to make false and misleading statements in the same civil rights action
  • attempting to influence witness testimony and slow the discovery of evidence in that civil rights action

Article Three: . . . has [in the Paula Jones Case] prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice by:

  • encouraging a witness to give a perjurious affidavit
  • encouraging a witness to give false testimony if called to the stand
  • allowing and/or encouraging the concealment of subpoenaed evidence
  • attempting to sway a witness testimony by providing a job for that witness
  • allowing his attorney to make misleading testimony
  • giving false or misleading information to influence the testimony of a potential witness in a Federal civil rights action
  • giving false or misleading information to influence the testimony of a witness in a grand jury investigation

 

Nixon Articles of Impeachment:

RESOLVED, That Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. . . .

Article One: [for] making false or misleading statement to delay, cover up, or conceal evidence relating to the Watergate break-ins by:

  • making false and misleading statements to the government and the people
  • withholding information
  • allowing/encouraging witnesses to give false or misleading statements
  • attempting to interfere with FBI and other investigations into the break-ins
  • allowing secret payments to influence witnesses
  • attempting to misuse the CIA
  • leaking information about the investigation to help the accused
  • insinuating that people who refuse to testify against him or who give false testimony will receive favors

Article Two: . . . [for having] engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens . . . and impairing the due and proper administration of justice . . . by:

  • using confidential tax return information to initiate tax audits in a discriminatory manner
  • misusing the FBI, Secret Service, and other government employees by allowing their information to be used for purposes other than national security or the enforcement of laws
  • allowing a secret investigative unit within his office
  • using campaign contributions and the CIA in an attempt to sway the fair trial process
  • has failed in faithfully executing the law
  • knowingly misusing the executive power by interfering with agencies within the executive branch

Article Three: . . . has willfully disobeyed the subpoenas of and failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and information for the House Judiciary Committee . . . assuming to himself the functions and judgments given to the House of Representatives by the Constitution.

Andrew Johnson Articles of Impeachment

Read all 11 articles here.

Expect Two Articles of Impeachment Tomorrow (Tuesday)

  1. Abuse of Power
  2. Obstructing Congress

Here is The Washington Post:

Democrats are expected to unveil two articles of impeachment against President Trump on Tuesday that will focus on abuse of power and obstructing Congress, and would be voted on by the full House next week, according to three officials familiar with the matter.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and other committee chairmen Monday night after a nine-hour hearing in which a Democratic counsel laid out the party’s case against Trump. The three officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private talks, cautioned that the plan had not been finalized.

Leaving a meeting with Pelosi, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) told reporters that he and the chairmen of other House committees would announce specific articles at a news conference at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Read the rest here.

“There is no functioning, stable, globalized world of the future without the humanities”

GLobal commerce

Karen E. Spierling is an associate professor of history and director of global commerce at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.  She believes that the humanities must “go on the offensive.”  Here is a taste of her piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education:

It is time for humanists to go on the offensive. Not by shoring up our silos or rejecting collaboration with nonhumanists. Not by insisting that the nature of the humanities is somehow unchanging across time and place and, thus, of ineffable and universal value. And not by giving in to the pressure to reduce the goals of our teaching to producing students who can manage both spoken and written communication effectively. (This is certainly an inherent product of humanities teaching, but not an isolated goal.)

Instead, we must make clear what we ourselves already understand: There is no functioning, stable, globalized world of the future without the humanities.

A world based on the constant global exchange of information, goods, services, and money depends upon an increasing need to rapidly access another person’s or organization’s point of view, cultural assumptions, and social norms. In a world where exchanges of all kinds rely on technology and big data, some of the greatest potential pitfalls come not in the numbers but in the interpretation of those numbers, the communication strategies needed to carry out initiatives based on those numbers, and the relationship-building areas of all types of work.

Functioning effectively in a globalized society — in business, politics, medicine, education, daily interactions with immigrants in one’s own community, or daily interactions with locals in the community into which one has immigrated — requires the skill of rigorous, critical, empathetic thinking.

Not just run-of-the-mill empathy. Not a wishy-washy definition of empathy that reduces it to natural feelings or emotions. Not just instinctive “people skills.” Not some kind of imagined empathy that depends on a person’s inherent ability to listen well and think from another person’s point of view. Not touchy-feely but uninformed sympathy for “those less fortunate” in other parts of the world. Instead, navigating this globalized world requires sophisticated, well-honed skills of empathy.

Rigorous, critical, empathetic thinking. How else are we to understand the experiences and points of view of co-workers, trading partners, or colleagues who live long distances from us? There are limits to global travel, and those limits are becoming more glaring as our climate-change crisis picks up speed. There are limits to technology — even with all of its benefits — and to how we communicate through video chats and instantaneous texting. There are limits to how much time and energy we can invest in moving to another place and immersing ourselves physically in the cultural practices of another society.

Read the entire piece here.

The Author’s Corner with David King

God's internationalists.jpgDavid King is Karen Lake Buttrey Director at the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving and Professor of Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. This interview is based on his new book, God’s Internationalists: World Vision and the Age of Evangelical Humanitarianism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019).

JF: What led you to write God’s Internationalists?

DK: As a scholar always seeking to bring an international lens to American history, I have long been intrigued by the untold story of World Vision. Beginning in 1950 as a small missionary agency, the relief and development agency has now grown to become one the world’s largest Christian humanitarian organizations. I felt that World Vision’s story illustrates the role that major faith-based NGOs now play not only in foreign policy and humanitarian work but also in shaping the global imagination of millions of Americans. In many ways, they have taken the public role once occupied by western missionaries. How that transition occurred and what it means, I felt, was important and underexplored.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument for God’s Internationalists?

DK: In chronicling the organizational transformation of World Vision from 1950 to the present, I am making the case that American evangelicals changed in the ways they saw themselves and their world in the period following World War II in ways that push scholars beyond a singular focus only on politics and popular culture. Chronicling the evolution of World Vision’s practices, theology, and institutional development, I also hope to demonstrate how the organization re-articulated and retained its Christian identity even as it expanded beyond a narrow American evangelical subculture illustrating the complexities of faith-based humanitarianism that do not presume the scientific and secular dominance of the humanitarian and philanthropic sector.

JF: Why do we need to read God’s Internationalists?

DK: First, I believe readers will enjoy some of the colorful characters in the pages of God’s Internationalists. World Vision founder Bob Pierce was a larger than life character that traveled the world jumping out of helicopters on the front lines of the Korean and Vietnam wars. Yet, as World Vision grew, Pierce refused to grow with it. After he quit in a fit of rage, he would later go on to start another organization, Samaritan’s Purse, and he mentored Franklin Graham who took over once Pierce passed away. These intertwined histories are obviously still relevant today.

Beyond the immediate relevance of exploring the histories of organizations that still shape the global outlook of many American Christians, I believe it is also important to make the case that American Christians spend far more resources on global missions and international relief and development than they do on domestic politics. While religion and politics get our overwhelming attention for obvious reasons, I believe it is important to broaden our field of vision. Religious relief and development agencies like World Vision demonstrate a complex but oftentimes healthy set of working relationships that mix government, local congregations, private philanthropy, and a wide variety of religious or secular agencies partnering together. In our particular moment, seeing how these partnerships have developed and how they might lead us to common ground, I believe, is worthy of our time. Finally, I believe God’s Internationalists forces us to expand our field of vision beyond domestic issues to see how Christians at home and global Christians abroad have led to new ways of engaging with the world.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American Historian?

DK: I majored in history at Samford University and fell in love with the history of civil rights which came alive to me as I explored that history through oral interviews and site visits right there in Birmingham, Alabama, where so much of that history took place. I later focused on American religion with a particular interest in missions history through my work with Grant Wacker at Duke. After I finished a PhD in American religious history at Emory University, I continued to find a way to keep writing as a historian even as my own academic interests have continued to evolve over time taking me now into philanthropic studies, an interdisciplinary field, where I am presently rooted at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

JF: What is your next project?

DK: Speaking of philanthropy, I have just finished an edited volume with Philip Goff of IUPUI, on Religion and Philanthropy in the United States that looks at a variety of religious traditions and particular case studies over the long twentieth century up to the present that will be out with Indiana University Press in 2020. I am also excited to be writing with my colleague Eric Abrahamson a history that intertwines the lives of evangelical philanthropist, Howard Ahmanson, Jr. and evangelical civil rights icon John Perkins. In framing their improbable friendship with one another, we believe the book opens up many untold stories such as the history of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) as well as Ahmanson’s funding of controversial initiatives such as intelligent design and Christian reconstructionism to key global missions such as the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. Like Gods Internationalists, we hope it will open up another lens to explore American evangelicalism.

JF: Thanks, David!

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

Virtue mongering among academics

Should you tell a search committee that you are from the area?

How did Meriwether Lewis die?

David Swartz reviews Darren Dochuk, Anointed With Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America

Eugene McCarraher talks about his new book The Enchantments of Mammon

Jill Lepore watches the impeaching hearings

Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman’s extended testimony on Trump and impeachment

I got the “$20 Replacement Badge

The death of Dorothy Bradford

The relevance of Bonhoeffer

Rethinking the Junior year

Christmas movies

The conservative case for Bernie Sanders

The history of racism in Virginia

Two old national roads

Healing social and political wounds

Episode 58: The Reverse Underground Railroad

PodcastAmericans are undoubtedly familiar with the harrowing journey made by freedom seekers escaping enslavement that we have termed the “Underground Railroad.” Sadly, historians are only now becoming equally aware of a “Reverse Underground Railroad,” in which free black people from the North were kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Deep South. Historian Richard Bell tells the story of one such kidnapping in his new book Stolen, and joins John Fea to talk about it on this week’s podcast.

21st-Century Kids Watch Mr. Rogers

Last weekend I saw the film A Beautiful Day in the NeighborhoodI went with my family and we all loved it.   As I left the theater, I asked one of my daughters if she thought the television show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” might attract young kids today.  “Yes, definitely,” she said.  But my daughter is 22-years old.  What about the children of today who are bombarded with video games and other kinds of electronics?

With all this in mind, I was encouraged by Mary Pflum Peterson‘s recent piece in The Washington Post: “What happened when I showed vintage Mr. Rogers to my 21st-century kids.”  Here is a taste:

I had been crushed before by their lack of appreciation for the icons of our youth. I wasn’t going to let them do that to Mister Rogers.

So into my bedroom I retreated to watch Mister Rogers alone. And that’s when something magical happened.

Within a half-hour of my bingefest, our youngest two children, then ages 5 and 7, came to ask me to help them with some homework. They sat down on the bed beside me and peered at the television as I looked over their worksheets.

In the episode I was watching, Mister Rogers had gone to a restaurant in Pittsburgh to show his young viewers how restaurants work.

“Mommy,” asked my young daughter. “Who is that nice man?”

“It’s Mommy’s friend, Fred,” I explained.

“I like his voice,” said my 7-year-old son.

“I like his clothes,” said my daughter.

“Can we watch with you?” my son asked.

I was skeptical but nodded. And so it began.

I held my breath, waiting for them to tell me that the episode was too slow, to implore me to fast-forward to a moment when something more interesting happens.

I waited for them to abandon ship and seek out an iPad or a snack in the other room, to seize control of the remote and turn the television to the Cartoon Network.

But they didn’t do any of those things. And when that episode was over, they asked for another. And then, shockingly, another.

Read the entire piece here.

What is Happening at DePauw University?

DePauw

I visited the campus of DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana last September.  I was in Greenville for a volleyball tournament and came away greatly impressed with the campus and the quaint downtown area.  But like many, many other liberal arts colleges, DePauw is struggling.  Much of what I read in Lili Wright’s Indianapolis Monthly piece sounds very familiar.  Here is a taste:

For years, DePauw ran at a deficit, drawing from its flush $730 million endowment to meet the gap, but last year trustees got serious about balancing its books. Meager 1 percent raises were followed by a mid-year switch to a cheaper healthcare plan. Morale plummeted. Frustrated by what some perceived as President Mark McCoy’s lack of communication, transparency, and vision, the faculty passed a no-confidence vote. Then the real shocker: In a “restructuring,” DePauw laid off 56 full- and part-time administrators and staff, and offered a voluntary buyout to more than 100 tenured faculty, some as young as 50. Administrators jumped ship, including the academic vice president and the dean of faculty. Come spring, the admissions department announced more bad news. The incoming class was 200 students short of its usual 630 target, creating a $5.4 million tuition shortfall. Within weeks, McCoy resigned.

“It was a tough year,” says Gary Lemon, who has taught management and economics at DePauw for 44 years. “A perfect storm.”

DePauw’s struggles are personal for me. I came to Greencastle in 1999 as part of the hiring spree the college is now trying to remedy. My husband is also a tenured professor here. We raised our children in Greencastle. Some former students are now parents and have careers that have surpassed my own. Within weeks of my arrival, DePauw received what was then the biggest donation ever made to a liberal arts college, $128 million from the estate of Philip Holton and Ruth Clark, who made a fortune from cardboard boxes. On opening day, faculty was asked to jot down ideas for how best to spend the new largesse. DePauw was on a roll.

So what happened? That, like the solution, depends on whom you ask.

Read the rest here.

Not *The Onion*

toilets

Here is President Donald Trump yesterday (HT: McSweeney’s):

We’re doing things. The lightbulb: They got rid of the lightbulb that people got used to. The new bulb is many times more expensive. And I hate to say it, it doesn’t make you look as good. Of course, being a vain person, that’s very important to me. (Laughter.) It’s like a — it gives you an orange look. I don’t want an orange look. (Laughter.) Has anyone noticed that? (Laughter.) So we’ll have to change those bulbs in at least a couple of rooms where I am in the White House. (Laughter.)

But we’re going back to the — it’s a double standard. We have a standard of the new bulbs, and we have the old bulbs. And they’re already making the old bulbs. Many people were complaining that the new bulbs were much, much more expensive. Many times, in some cases, more expensive. And the other thing, they’re considered a hazardous waste that, because it’s largely a gas technology, when the bulb is disposed of, you’re supposed to bring it to a hazardous waste site. I said, “How many people do that?” “No- — nobody does it.” And, you know, that’s a bad thing.

“It’s going to take lots of energy for us to grapple with the challenge we’re facing, and some of it is on vivid display in these pages.” —Bill McKibben

So you probably heard about it. You probably read about it. And you’ll be able to buy lightbulbs that actually are better lighting, in the opinion of many — and, I tell you, in my opinion — and for a lot less money. And so we’re doing that. But you’ll also be able — if you want, you can buy the other bulbs also. And I’ll tell you, even the bulb companies are very happy about that.

But together, we’re defending the American workers. We’re using common sense. We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on — in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it — and you don’t get any water. You turn on the faucet; you don’t get any water. They take a shower and water comes dripping out. It’s dripping out — very quietly dripping out. People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion.

You go into a new building or a new house or a new home, and they have standards, “Oh, you don’t get water.” You can’t wash your hands, practically, there’s so little water comes out of the faucet. And the end result is you leave the faucet on and it takes you much longer to wash your hands. You end up using the same amount of water.

So we’re looking at, very seriously, at opening up the standard. And there may be some areas where we’ll go the other route — desert areas. But for the most part, you have many states where they have so much water that it comes down — it’s called rain — (laughter) — that they don’t know — they don’t know what to do with it.

A band of intrepid chickens leave behind the boredom of farm life, joining the crew of the pirate ship Pitiless to seek fortune and glory on the high seas. Led by a grizzled captain into the…

Trump’s Lawyer Writes to Jerry Nadler

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announcing that the House will move forward with the impeachment of Donald Trump

Yesterday Donald Trump’s White House lawyer Pat Cipollone sent a letter to Jerry Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.  Here it is:

Dear Chairman Nadler:

As you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness. Nevertheless, the Speaker of the House yesterday ordered House Democrats to proceed with articles of impeachment before your Committee has heard a single shred of evidence.

House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade. You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings. Adopting articles of impeachment would be a reckless abuse of power by House Democrats, and would constitute the most unjust, highly partisan, and unconstitutional attempt at impeachment in our Nation’s history. Whatever course you choose, as the President has recently stated: “if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business.”

Several thoughts:

1.  House Democrats have heard plenty of evidence.  The suggestion that there is not a “single shred of evidence” is disingenuous.  It actually sounds like Trump wrote that sentence.  Moreover, this impeachment is not “baseless.”  Even Jonathan Turley, the GOP-chosen lawyer who testified earlier this week, agreed that there were things uncovered by the hearings that needed to be explored more fully.  But how can the House go any further when Trump won’t let people like Bolton, Pompeo, Giuliani, and others testify?  This is obstruction of justice.  Last time I checked, obstruction of justice was a crime.

2. While Cippolino is technically right when he says that “House Democrats” are impeaching Trump, it is actually the House of Representatives as a body that will impeach the president. The Constitution says that the House of Representatives have “the sole power of impeachment.”  It does not say that “House Democrats” or “House Republicans” have the power of impeachment.  There will be a vote and the results of that vote will represent the will of the House of Representatives on impeachment.   Plain and simple.

Many pro-Trumpers are saying that the impeachment process is undermining or delegitimizing the 2016 election.  There are many, many problems with such a suggestion.  For example, if you want to talk about undermining elections, one could say that such a belief undermines the midterm elections of 2018.  Let’s face it, in November 2018 the people spoke.  Now the member of the House of Representatives who were elected by the people are doing what they think is best for the republic.

3.  Cippolino complains that this impeachment is the most partisan impeachment in U.S. history.  However we rank the level of partisanship in this impeachment, it is important to remember that partisanship characterized the Johnson and Clinton impeachment as well as the attempt to impeach Nixon. Hamilton even commented on the partisan nature of impeachment in Federalist 65.  I encourage you to read it.

4. Cippolino says that the impeachment of Trump is “unconstitutional.”  This is impossible.  All impeachments are constitutional. The House always has the constitutional right to impeach the president.  It is part of their job description.

5. Let’s face it,  Donald Trump will be the third U.S. president to be impeached.  He will join Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton in the history books.  He will be named in future classroom lectures and multiple choice tests.  There will be no asterisk next to his name.  Whether or not he is removed from office or not, this will be his legacy.

What is the Fairness for All Act?

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Yesterday Utah congressman Chris Stewart introduced the Fairness for All Act.  The bill would protect LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.  Fairness for All has the support of the Church of Latter Saints, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and the National Association of Evangelicals.

Unlike the Equality Act, Fairness for All provides exemptions for religious organizations.

Here is a taste of Dan Silliman’s piece at Christianity Today:

Smith (sic) proposes the Fairness for All Act in Congress Friday. Advocates of the idea of finding common ground for religious liberty and LGBT rights, led by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), have spent three years planning, discussing, and strategizing for this moment.

The law would prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation, including retail stores, banks, and health care service providers. Currently, under federal law and in the majority of states, LGBT people can be evicted from rental property, denied loans, denied medical care, fired from their jobs, and turned away from businesses because of their sexual orientation.

The Fairness for All law would offer LGBT people substantially the same protections as the proposed Equality Act, a bill LGBT advocates have long promoted and Democrats in the House passed earlier this year, only to see it stall in the Senate. The Equality Act, however, includes no exemptions for religious organizations.

“The Equality Act was written in such a way that a religious person like myself couldn’t vote for it,” said Stewart, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “[Democratic legislators] wrote it so that they could say to LGBT people, ‘No Republican voted for it; they don’t care about people like you,’ which just isn’t true.”

The Fairness for All Act exempts religious groups—both churches and nonprofits—from the anti-discrimination rules. Churches wouldn’t be required to host same-sex weddings. Christian schools wouldn’t have to hire LGBT people. Adoption agencies could receive federal funding even if they turned away same-sex couples looking to raise children. The law would also protect the tax-exempt status of religious groups that condemn homosexuality.

The anti-discrimination rules would not apply to for-profit businesses with 14 or fewer employes, excluding them from the definition of “public accomodation.” This would mean small-business owners such as the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony in 2012 would have the right to refuse service on religious grounds.

Read the entire piece here.

Members of the LGBTQ community don’t like the bill because it provides religious exemptions that appear to discriminate.  Conservative evangelicals don’t like the bill because it gives rights to members of the LGBTQ community.

Here is Silliman again:

Leaders from more than 90 evangelical groups signed a statement rejecting any legislation protecting sexual orientation or gender identity after the CCCU started to advocate for a Fairness for All law in 2016. The list of signers included The Gospel Coalition president D. A. Carson, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, First Things editor R. R. Reno, and Southern Baptist leaders Russell Moore and Al Mohler.

“Christians cannot support [Fairness for All] for this overarching reason: It is grounded in an unbiblical conception of the human person,” Owen Strachan, director of the Center for Public Theology at Midwestern Seminary, wrote in September. “The Scripture will not allow us to see any ungodly ‘orientation’ or ‘identity’ as essential to our humanity, as directed toward our flourishing, and thus enshrined in law as a protected category.”

Others evangelical leaders, however, including pastor Tim Keller, legal scholar John Inazu, and CT editor in chief Mark Galli, have argued that a both/and approach is possible. The Fairness for All idea has also received support from some legal scholars, and it has been endorsed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A similar law has been enacted in Utah, with the support of the LDS church.

The “similar law” Silliman mentions is the so-called “Utah Compromise.”

A piece at Deseret News by Kesley Dallas and Matthew Brown is also worth a read.

I believe in religious liberty for institutions that uphold traditional views of marriage. I believe that all human beings in a democratic society should have basic civil rights regardless of sexual orientation.  (If I read Owen Strachan correctly, he seems to believe that a person somehow loses his or her dignity as a human being if they are gay.  And based on this belief, Strachan does not believe that LGBTQ men and women deserve civil rights in a democratic society).

Fairness for All represents the kind of political compromise necessary to sustain a robust pluralist society.  I support it.

 

Michael Gerson on Fear, Hope, and Advent

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In Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump I wrote:

Fear has been a staple of American politics since the founding of the republic.  In 1800, the Connecticut Courtant, a Federalist newspaper that supported President John Adams in his reelection campaign against Thomas Jefferson, suggested that, if the Electoral College chose Jefferson, the founding father and religious skeptic from Virginia, the country would have to deal with a wave of murder, atheism, rape, adultery, and robbery.  In the 1850s, the anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant American Party, commonly known as the “Know-Nothing Party,” was infamous for its American-flag banner emblazoned with the words “Native Americans: Beware of Foreign Influence.”

In modern America, campaign ads keep us in a constant state of fear–and not always from right-wing sources either.  I still get a shiver up my spine when I watch “Daisy Girl,” the 1964 Lyndon Johnson campaign advertisement that opens with a little girl standing in a quiet meadow picking the petals off a daisy.  Midway through the ad, an ominous countdown begins, and the camera zooms into the girl’s eye, where we the viewers see the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion.  As the ad closes, we hear the voices of sportscaster Chris Schenkel reading the following words on the screen: “Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd…The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”  This ad played an important role in Johnson’s landslide victory over his Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater, the conservative Arizona senator who made reckless statements about the use of nuclear weapons.  Fear is a powerful political tool.

Political fear is so dangerous because it usually stems from legitimate concerns shared by a significant portion of the voting population.  Thomas Jefferson did question many supernatural elements in the Bible.  Barry Goldwater did support the use of atomic weapons in Vietnam.  Today the growing number of Muslims living in the United States does raise important questions about how religious identity intersects with American values, or how we should defend the religious liberty of the millions of peaceful Muslims while still protecting Americans fro, the threat of murderous Islamic terror groups.  The United States States does have a problem with undocumented immigrants entering the country illegally.  And it is clear that television and social media make it easier for politicians to define our fears for us.  They take these legitimate concerns, as political theorist Corey Robin puts it, and transform them “into imminent threats.” 

And here is what I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump about hope:

Can evangelicals recover [a] confidence in God’s power–not just in his wrath against their enemies but in his ability ability to work our his purposes for good?  Can they recover this hope? The historian Christopher Lasch once wrote this: “Hope does  not demand a belief in progress. It demands a belief in justice: a conviction that the wicked will suffer, that wrongs will be made right, that the underlying order of things is not flouted with impunity.  Hope implies a deep-seated trust in life that appears absurd to most who lack it.”  I saw this kind of hope in every place we visited on our [history of the Civil Rights bus tour].  It was not mere optimism that things would get better if only we could elect the right candidates.  Rather, it was a view of the world, together with an understanding of the world to come, forged amid suffering and pain.  Not everyone would make it to the mountaintop on this side of eternity, but God’s purposes would be worked out, and eventually they would be able to understand those purposes–if not in this life, surely in the world to come….

But too often fear leads to hopelessness, a state of  mind that Glenn Tinder has described as a “kind of death.”  Hopelessness causes us to direct our gaze backward toward worlds we c an never recover.  It causes us to imagine a future filled with horror.  Tyrants focus our attention on the desperate nature of our circumstances and the “carnage” of the social and cultural landscape that they claim to have the power to heal.  A kernel of truth, however, always informs such a dark view of life.  Poverty is a problem.  Rusted-out factories often do appear like “tombstones across the landscape of our nation.”  Crime is real.  But demagogues want us to dwell on the carnage and, to quote Bruce Springsteen, “waste our summer praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets.”  Hope, on the other hand, “draws us into the future,” and in this way it “engages us in life.”

If I ever met Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, I think we would have a lot to talk about.  Here is a taste of his recent column on hope, fear, and the Advent season:

This is the time of the Christian year dedicated to expectant longing. God, we are assured, is at mysterious work in the world. Evil and conflict are real but not ultimate. Grace and deliverance are unrealized but certain. Patient waiting is rewarded because the trajectory of history is tilted upward by a powerful hand.

None of this is to deny the high stakes of politics and elections. But the assurance at the heart of Advent is the antidote to fear. No matter how desperate the moment, we are told, time is on the side of hope.

Such hope does not come naturally to human beings. On the evidence of our senses, despair is perfectly rational. Entropy is built into nature. Decay is knit into our flesh. By all appearances, the universe is cold, empty and indifferent. There is a certain bleak dignity in accepting the challenge of a hopeless cause.

But most of us can’t be content in this state. We fill the void with cries of protest, or hymns of thanksgiving, or demands for justice. This search for answers seems essential to our humanity. It is possible, of course, that our deepest longings are actually cruel jokes of nature. But it is also possible and rational that our longings are hints of a reality beyond nature. Perhaps our desires exist because they are meant to be fulfilled.

Read the entire piece here.

Fear not.

Getting Writing Done With a 4/4 Load

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Some helpful thoughts here from Deborah Cohan, a sociologist at the University of South Carolina Beaufort:

One of my beloved colleagues with whom I exchange a lot of office banter often quips, “Gosh, Deb, do you ever sleep? Are you ever not writing?” Another dear friend tells me, “You’re like a publishing machine.”

It was not always this way. For too many years, I was cobbling together contingency employment across state lines, zigzagging all over Massachusetts and Connecticut seeking an elusive tenure-track position. People encouraged me to write and publish as much as I could in order to have a better chance on the job market.

But the truth is, you do the best you can when you are just trying to survive, landing visiting gigs and trying to get settled in a new place while already applying for a job for the next year to ensure you can feed yourself, pay your rent and utilities, repay student loans, get some health care, and keep your CV looking like it is in forward motion. Gap years are highly recommended for students after high school, but they look treacherous on a CV of someone with a doctorate.

So I really couldn’t get into much of a writing routine until I landed my current job. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, writing is not at the foundation. That said, fast-forward and I now see my writing life as, in fact, foundational — a measure of how well life is flowing and feeling.

I have learned some things along the way that have helped me write more regularly and publish with greater frequency, even on a 4/4 load with over 110 students in a semester, summer teaching and no teaching or research assistants or dedicated administrative assistance. I want to pass along my hard-won lessons to you.

No. 1: Let go of the tyranny of perfectionism. All my life I’ve been plagued by this. There are ways it served me well, but when it comes to regularly getting work out, it is detrimental. Perfectionism is not just a thief of the present and the future; it is also a thief of creativity. It keeps us stuck.

Getting our work out there means we are vulnerable. We may change our minds, our data, and our perceptions of concepts and trends may shift and evolve over time, and we need to be OK with letting our work go even as it is in progress. All intellectual and creative thought — if it is indeed intellectual and creative — is shifting and evolving, and it is fine to write and publish and later be open to new ideas that subtly or profoundly alter our perspective. And if we wait for our ideas to feel so rock solid, so right (whatever that even means), they may actually lose some currency and become stale.

Read the rest at Inside Higher Ed.