But What About Hillary?

Believe Me 3dHere is a recent Amazon review of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

Well it would have been much simpler to take into account what would have happened had the other candidate won.

First of all, I was not electing a clergy-in-chief but a commander-in-chief.

Secondly I felt pretty confident that the two biggest issues were court appointments and abortion which Trump would come through on. Trump has delivered in spades on those issues and they will be affecting our political landscape for decades to come.

Finally I just need to mention two words; Hillary Clinton. In that vien, your book seems like a waste of time and while you toot your own horn, we just thank God that SHE didn’t win.

Besides, Trump might be a baby Christian and just finding his way through his newfound faith. Can you imagine any other person on the face of this earth that could withstand what he has gone through?

That is why he needs our prayers; yes he is a flawed human being, but then again all of us are.

I don’t normally respond to Amazon reviews, but I have received a comment like this from a Trump supporter at almost every stop on the Believe Me book tour.  Here is a very quick response:

  1. I was not electing a clergy-in-chief either.  But I do expect my president to have some kind of moral center.  I don’t care if such a center is informed by Christianity, religion generally, an innate moral sense, civic humanism, virtue, conscience, a respect for American values and institutions, or some kind of commitment to the common good.  Moreover, I am not only electing a commander-in-chief.  The president’s role as the leader of the military is only one part of his constitutional responsibilities.
  2. Trump has affected the political landscape for “decades to come.”  But what will the Christian church look like in “decades to come?”  Who on the Trump side of the ledger is asking this question?  Moreover, as I argue in the book, I do not believe that overturning Roe v. Wade is the best way to reduce abortions in America.
  3. Christians are not supposed to hate.  But they hate Hillary Clinton.  Jesus followers need to take a look at this.
  4. If Trump is a “baby Christian,” he has not manifested much spiritual growth in the last three years.
  5. Yes, Trump needs our prayers.  So does everyone who has suffered and is suffering under his presidency.

32 thoughts on “But What About Hillary?

  1. Justin,

    There are undoubtedly pretenders and opportunists in any large group, be it ecclesiastical, commercial, social, artistic, academic, or governmental. Human nature is often not admirable.

    Personally, I believe that the majority of Court Evangelicals have the pure motive of bringing a measure of official decency to our society. For the fakers, St. Paul sums it up ultimately in I Corinthians 4: 4,5. “…but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” This passage is talking not specifically about a Christian’s external behavior but rather the motives for that behavior. Accordingly, Court Evangelicals with ignoble motives will regret their deception. Thankfully, I don’t think most of them are are hiding sinister or self-serving intents, but that remains to be shown.

    James

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  2. “James, I fully agree with your statement about benign government. I do not believe, however, that many of the prominent “court evangelicals” who curry favor with the administration, and many of the “rank and file” evangelicals who follow their lead, are really seeking “benign” government. Rather, they are seeking a political leadership that will actively privilege Christianity both financially and in political power . . . and, to be clear, not just “Christianity,” but very specifically conservative American evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity. Such a government can’t really be described as being benign.”

    I would go a step further and say that most Court Evangelicals aren’t seeking much to do with Christianity at all; they seem to be primarily invested in their own social media empires, brokering publication deals and creating influence as a means to generating prestige and wealth for themselves. Maybe some of them started out with good intentions (like maybe Dobson) but now they’ve plugged into a corporate machine that validates their self-interested while distancing them from the large-scale consequences of their dual allegiance, first to the powers that dominate the world and then to Christ. When they fight for Christianity in the culture wars, they are really just fighting for their own brand and self-interest.

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  3. “There is an overwhelming sea of it and it has to be having a deleterious effect on the national psyche.”

    Agreed!

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  4. Jimmy Dick,

    I don’t know what John Fund wrote about N.C. When I mentioned him, I was thinking about sime of his earlier broader work. Of course, Mr. Fund is hardly the only respected journalist who has investigated voter fraud. Absentee ballots are a small part of the problem nationally.
    James

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  5. I believe that John Fund pointed towards election fraud in North Carolina. Oddly enough, he was right about the absentee voter fraud there as we just saw when Republicans committed fraud in an attempt to win a seat in the House.

    As for the 2016 election, there is no evidence that there was massive voter fraud. The mouthpiece behind the voter fraud fantasy, Kris Kobach, admitted under oath that he made up the whole thing because he had no proof whatsoever to back up his claims of voter fraud in that election.

    The voter fraud fantasy isn’t really at the polls or even about voter fraud. It is about disenfranchising likely Democrat voters to benefit the GOP. Of course, if younger voters would just take the time to vote, the issue wouldn’t be important because the GOP would get blown away by the results. We just saw some of that take place in 2018. Wonder what will happen in 2020? Here’s one bet: Donald Trump will lie about voter fraud no matter what.

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  6. Justin,

    There are serious studies and journalistic investigations into these voter frauds. Please google some of them. I know that John Fund did some respected work in that area.

    James

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  7. “(Although there is a dispute about DEM totals due to fraud, but that’s a matter for another discussion.)”

    There is no dispute, only a bald-faced lie issued by a narcissistic president to give his supporters a rationale in moments like this very conversation.

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  8. John,
    You are correct about the 2016 raw vote counts. (Although there is a dispute about DEM totals due to fraud, but that’s a matter for another discussion.)

    The fact, however, that Joe and Mary Citizen pulled the lever for Hillary in no way implies that she doesn’t have a negative image in their minds. They might have been voting against the lesser of two evils in their thinking. Perhaps they simply always vote for the straight party ticket. We have all heard the old expression, “I held my nose and voted for Candidate X.”

    Let’s face it. Hillary is no Adlai Stevenson or William Jennings Bryan, failed DEM presidential candidates, who were so well regarded that they were given second chances by their party.

    James

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  9. James, you wrote “most people do have a negative opinion of Hillary Clinton.” Of nearly 66 million people seemed to like her to some degree in 2016. Last time I checked, that was 3 million more than Trump.

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  10. Justin,

    Well, most people do have a negative opinion of Hillary Clinton. Most public figures bear an image of some sort. If I say “Mother Teresa”, it conjures up certain positive thoughts of charity. If I say “Hugh Hefner”, it conjures thoughts of sexuality and libertinism. Mention “Thomas Edison” and most people will think of a genius inventor. Speak of “George Patton” and most people think of a tough general. And so it goes.
    Hillary Clinton has her image, as well. She and her handlers attempted to cultivate her image as a bright, innovative, female trailblazer, and that impression is still strong in the minds of her core supporters. The rest of the country has a generally different primary perception of her. The reviewer of Dr. Fea’s book was simply tapping into that perception.

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  11. Dave H.,

    You are a thoughtful man and I respect your opinion, but I just don’t see it the same way. Christians have been on the receiving end of a lot of public policy and societal misunderstanding which has really been hurtful. To use a sports metaphor, they are just playing catch-up ball.
    James

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  12. Justin,
    You raise valid points about previous uncivil behavior; people can be venomous in any age.

    My accusation against social media, cinema, print media, television, etc. is that a certain unofficial imprimatur accrues from them. The increasing rawness of language, vulgarity, sexual explicitness, vitriol, etc. is offered to us and our children on a 24 hour basis. There is an overwhelming sea of it and it has to be having a deleterious effect on the national psyche.
    James

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  13. James, I fully agree with your statement about benign government. I do not believe, however, that many of the prominent “court evangelicals” who curry favor with the administration, and many of the “rank and file” evangelicals who follow their lead, are really seeking “benign” government. Rather, they are seeking a political leadership that will actively privilege Christianity both financially and in political power . . . and, to be clear, not just “Christianity,” but very specifically conservative American evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity. Such a government can’t really be described as being benign.

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  14. By saying only “Hillary Clinton,” the reviewer turns a real person into a generic icon, upon which other critics can project their worst interpretations–like you have done. By not offering specifics about what bothers them, they turn H. Clinton into a boogieman that their friends and allies can hate along with them, so people who dislike Hillary for misogynistic reasons can ally with those who dislike Hillary for her political affiliation, and neither side feels responsible for the biases of their partners while simultaneously reinforcing them.

    It’s like…. in one basket you have ordinary hardworking people who (right or wrong) are afraid of Democratic policies, and in another basket you have a collection of morally deplorable and spiteful haters of liberal women, and the GOP through Donald Trump managed to unite them into one homogeneous group by amplifying their fears and biases.

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  15. The idea that things “used” to be civil in politics or social discourse or even the American church seems commonplace, but if you just look up the pamphlets and rhetoric of the past, the tone was typically worse, not better. There is more sensitivity now than there used to be; people who frequently step beyond the civil norms are typically criticized for it. It might be worth googling “yellow journalism” for example to look at examples from the past about how entire groups were demonized, or the “red scare.” Those are iust two examples off the top of my head, but racism, hostility, the assumption of nefarious motives etc. has gotten better, not worse; I think the biggest difference might be that mass social media means that now even people who weren’t really prone to pay attention in the past are barraged with the kind of propaganda that was always out there.

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  16. Dave H.,

    While I concur with your implicit statement that the Christian Faith has survived hostile political leaders over the last 2,000 years, it is still better to have a benign government. I Timothy 2: 1,2.

    James

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  17. Dave H.

    That was a helpful explanation of the problems you noted in the church.

    Regarding the level of touchiness and discord, it sadly reflects a larger universe of incivility in society as a whole. Can we blame social media or general media and cinema? The open hostility and coarseness in these venues might be doing a lot to lessen people’s inhibitions. It is just sad when that spirit makes its way into a body of professing Christians.

    James

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  18. Hi James, I was likely not as clear as I could have been in my comment, because I think you have taken me as saying something I did not intend to say.

    I was not saying that the church exodus was prompted over political debates and divisions. That was not the case at all. Most people there had very similar political inclinations. What I was saying is that the rising political/cultural anger people were reflecting in general in society seemed to spill over into other interpersonal dynamics that had nothing to do with politics, and adversely affected relationships and dynamics within the church. For lack of a better term, it just seemed like during the time period I mention, the entire atmosphere of our church got a whole lot “meaner.” People just got generally angrier, touchier, and were more quick to lash out at people and at issues. There was a general malaise and a sense that “everything is going wrong, and everything is bad,” and people were bitter about it.

    I fully recognize that there are other factors beyond politics that have made discourse in society as a whole more coarse, more harsh, more confrontational. But certainly the highly divisive and demonizing tone of politics is a contributing factor.

    I’m not even saying that the spillover from political anger and bitterness was necessarily a primary factor to the church breakup. But that angry tone certainly was a contributing factor. There were other factors that contributed to the breakup of the church. They were not doctrinal in nature. Much of it had to do with a long-standing approach by leadership of discouraging any positive/proactive discussion of problems or concerns, because they wanted to preserve the illusion of ours being a church that had no problems. Well, of course, legitimate concerns and problems pushed under the surface don’t just go away; rather, they bubble away under the surface and fester and then eventually erupt in unhealthy ways. By providing no processes or avenues to positively and proactively address small issues, the leadership unintentionally allowed those small issues to needlessly grow into very large issues.

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  19. Dave H.,

    Obviously, I cannot comment on the causes of the fissures within your church but know quite a lot about splits and factions in other churches. I have never seen political differences cause ecclesiastical factions and splits.

    Sadly, most church splits are personality-based. There is something in the pastor’s style, his organizational approach, or his accessibility which rankles a faction within the church. Or perhaps his wife has rubbed some members the wrong way. She didn’t come to Mrs. Smith’s Bible study but instead attended the study hosted by Mrs. Jones.

    The allocation of church money is occasionally also an issue. This can be seen as a subset of the aforementioned organizational approach along with issues such as worship style or service times.

    Finally, some church splits are doctrinal in nature. Perhaps a Calvinist, a charismatic, or a hyper dispensational cell unsettles members. Sides are taken and splits occur.

    In summary, local churches can ferment plenty of discordant notes on their own. National political matters are incidental.

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  20. Tony, being more of a political moderate I was always somewhat uncomfortable with the degree of politicization in my church, but for many years it was more or less representative of what I would have expected from most evangelical circles. Staunchly pro-life, a strong preference for Republicans, lots of Focus On The Family type programming, etc. But in my later years there it really ramped up to what I described in my comment. I believe it was propelled by three main factors.

    First, the election of Obama. Many of my fellow churchgoers HATED Obama with a hatred that went far beyond just the regular dislike of all things liberal, and even beyond the dislike of politicians more staunchly liberal than Obama. I firmly believe that this level of hatred was exacerbated to some degree by racial attitudes. That perception of mine was further solidified by their constant mocking of Michele Obama’s physical appearance, which I fully attribute to racial stereotyping.

    Second, the rise of the Fox News culture, by which I mean the large number of people who subsided on a daily diet of the evening commentary shows, which drove to fever pitch the already-present distrust and dislike of all things Democratic.

    Third, the state-by-state inroads that were being made towards same sex marriage which were on an upswing even before Obergefell (I was gone from the church before that decision). Many of my fellow churchgoers saw this trend as actually tearing down or somehow nullifying traditional marriage, and convinced some that these were the first steps towards liberal government outright outlawing Christianity. Much of the scare-mongering media these fellow churchgoers were avidly following reinforced these fears. Our pastor’s outright endorsement from the pulpit of Romney by name in 2012 was because he said it was our absolute last chance to avoid destruction and to save the faith. Which of course was the same message of many going into 2016, only even more so.

    All I can say to that is that I don’t see my Christian faith as needing to be saved by a political party or a political strongman, and so I am not going to simply sign my total absolute support over to someone who promises to do so.

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  21. Dave: with all due respect, your (awful) experience at an Evangelical church — I’m amazed you stuck it out as long as you did given what you’ve described — is not an indication of how all or most Evangelical churches behave.

    I’ve spent most of my life in Evangelical churches — 4 different congregations in 4 different locations — and have seen, heard nothing like what you experienced. Again: I am not questioning your story, merely suggesting that you should be cautious in claiming it is representative.

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  22. Amen, Dave, amen.

    They’re angry because it profits the people who mislead. To build a church and keep people from leaving, it helps to instill a sense of urgency. We’re doing God’s work and anyone not with us is with the Devil. If you waver or doubt, if you don’t accept the authority of the pastor, you are going to hell.

    Fox wants ratings. People tune in if they are mad. Obama’s a nice guy with whom we disagree is boring. That’s bad for ratings. So he has to be a secret Muslim bent on destroying our culture. Tune in tomorrow for another fix.

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  23. If the evangelical church where I spent 27 years of my life is any indication (I left it several years ago), Paul’s observation is entirely correct. In that church, all things Republican were portrayed as good and righteous and perfect. All things Democratic were portrayed as evil and sinful and satanic.

    For most of my time there, the pastor stopped just short of endorsing individual candidates by name from the pulpit, but made it clear how good Christians were to vote. (This changed in 2012 when he explicitly told us from the pulpit that it was our Christian duty to vote for Romney; he said tax regulations about political speech no longer mattered when “the very survival of the Christian faith is the line.”) Every election time various “Christian voting guides” would be distributed. In every case, every GOP candidate was portrayed to match up perfectly with the “Christian” position on every single issue. Every single Democratic candidate was portrayed to be opposed to the “Christian” positions. Some of these issues perplexed me; some of them seemed to have no single clear “Christian position,” and in some cases I felt a good argument could be made for a “Christian position” that was exactly the opposite of that portrayed by the voting guide. No matter, because it was simply accepted by everyone that if it was Republican, it was God’s will.

    The rise of the Fox News culture took deep root in our church. It was clear from conversation that Fox was where most people got 100% of their news intake. So everything they saw outside of church also reinforced the “Republicans all perfectly good, Democrats all perfectly evil” theme.

    What is interesting is that in the end, I didn’t leave the church because of its political focus. Being an evangelical, I knew full well that I would likely face the same situation in most other evangelical churches I might attend. No, what led to me and my family leaving the church was the rising level of anger and interpersonal conflict that grew in the church over the time roughly corresponding to Obama’s first term in office, until the church literally tore itself apart. Two thirds of the regular attenders left over a period of 2-3 years or so. I know that many factors contributed to this situation, but to me one big factor was a growing anger/resentment/fear related to politics and political issues, which increasingly inhabited and preoccupied people and ultimately spilled out into all areas of personal interaction. People’s lives became characterized by anger and resentment and bitterness, and it destroyed the church from within. In my view, all of this went hand-in-hand.

    So when John writes about the evangelical political/cultural mindset in Believe Me, I understand exactly what he is talking about. For me it also explains why, even with Trump in the presidency and the GOP firmly setting the political agenda and their constituents getting all of their precious ultra-conservative judges and justices, it seems that the political right (including the religious political right) has gotten only angrier in tone since 2016. And finally, it forms the basis of my firmly-held conviction that the evangelical church is absolutely destroying its Christian witness in this world. How can we be ambassadors of God’s love when we are so hatefully angry and resentful and bitter and wanting to destroy everyone who has a different political point of view? How can we be God’s witnesses to “the world” when we actually hate “the world”?

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  24. John,
    My point was made to Rick who stated that the reviewer of Dr. Fea’s book should not have used a succinct descriptor such as “Hillary Clinton” to stand for a broader set of facts.
    James

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  25. I find it rather sad that people are still obsessing about Hillary Clinton. It seems they proudly wear their hatred of her as a badge of honor! Well, their hatred tells me more about them and who they are than anything else.

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  26. I’m no HRC fan. But what is your point? Donald Trump is “emblematic of venality, meanness, elitism, arrogance, entitlement, and dishonesty. Many polls leading up to” today “support this perception.”

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  27. Analogies are useful to help us process or understand difficult information. But you should avoid simplistic or misleading historical analogies. Just because two or more events separated in time agree in one respect (e.g., stating that the fire-bombing of synagogues and schools and attacks on Jews in France during 2002 is like the treatment of Jews by the Nazi-sympathetic regime set up in Vichy France during World War II), does not mean they also agree in other or all respects. Usually, the differences outweigh the similarities, which is the case between the 1932 Weimar and the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. False analogies do not enhance our understanding of complex events.

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  28. It doesn’t matter anyway.
    As Prof Fea points out in his coverage of Court Evangelicals and their groupthink lock-in threshold of Born-Agains, Trump IS their Second Coming of Christ. “AVE, DIVINE CAESAR!”

    American Evangelicals have sold their birthright for a Supreme Court pack to overturn Roe v Wade and put Prayer Back in Schools for our Christian Nation(TM). At least Esau got a decent meal out of his deal.

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  29. As local afternoon drive-time radio put it in a 2008 rant prediction for a GOP campaign commercial:

    “HILLARY CLINTON!
    HILLARY CLINTON!
    HILLARY’S COMING TO EAT YOUR CHILDREN!
    AAAAAAAAAA!! AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”

    That said in 2016 the Primary nomination system broke down big-time. The two major parties both succeeded in nominating their WORST possible candidate, to the rejoicing of True Believers of both One True Ways but leaving the rest of us with a similar choice as German voters circa 1932.

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  30. Rick,

    I don’t know anything about the I.Q. of the person who wrote the review. It might be high or low. I did, however, understand what the individual meant by simply using the words “Hillary Clinton.” She is emblematic of venality, meanness, elitism, arrogance, entitlement, and dishonesty. Many polls leading up to the 2016 election supported this perception.

    James

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  31. Evangelical churches have for decades been teaching a steady drumbeat of hatred of liberals.

    Their bile has been aimed at promoters of civil rights, those who removed prayer in schools, supporters of gay rights and abortion rights, intellectuals who teach things that go against church teachings (such as an acceptance of the Bible as literal truth), women’s equality, and on and on. Russians used to be on the list, but now they are cool since they oppress the same enemies.

    We’ve been taught (without honest justification) that American evangelical culture is the same as God’s culture, so anyone who has a different view is in league with the forces of evil. Why would we care about Trump’s record of bilking poor people via his phony scams, or his hedonistic lifestyle or his corruption with foreign enemies when the alternative candidate wants to ban Christianity and all that is good in our country (and this is not about Hilary, the same reasoning holds about any Democrat)?

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  32. “Finally I just need to mention two words; Hillary Clinton.”

    Actually, an intelligent person needs to do a little better than invoking a first and last name. The haters’ inability to articulate the policies and personal qualities that they disagree with is pretty telling.

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