Dodging the Trump bullet

Neil Carlson cites this NYT article to observe

party identification and religious identification can both reflect pro- or anti-Trump selection bias. People who used to be “independent” and “no particular religion” may now say they’re Republican evangelicals, because that brand is associated with Trump’s iconoclastic populist nativism. And vice versa. The more we repeat the “81% of evangelicals voted Trump” figure, the more we reinforce the brand and create further self-fulfilling prophecies about support and opposition.

Speaking practically, this shifting of brands means that an institution like the CRC must be especially on its toes. How does it position itself within its communities as a non-Trump entity? (Not anti-Trump, but as a counter). The Trump party is going to end soon enough and will definitely be giving Evangelicals a morning-after headache of the worst sort. The trickiness is of course, that by conviction the US wing of the church sides broadly with the Evangelicals and has a record of voting that inclines that way. But separate we must if we are to have any morning-after credibility, particularly with our vision of reaching a broader set of communities.

Finding Trump, Missing Jesus

Sometimes the pain of politics gets us, robs us. One plaintive cry from Facebook

I have been questioning Christianity since Trump took office. A lot of church members supported him (to my complete surprise) and I just couldn’t understand. I stopped going to church and I am now starting to question my faith, which makes me sad. I wonder “am I believing in something for good reasons or am I just following”. At first it just gave me pause for church but now has me questioning my faith. Does anyone have any advice?

Yes the faith map is so discouraging sometimes, especially if you are accustomed to gathering with conservative Christians of the Evangelical variety. So to break on politics means that you also give up a community that has in some sense nurtured you or given you a sense of place. Part of the underlying fear is that if you go to one of those “other” churches you will find an expressed faith that is not as vibrant, the thing that holds you currently with the church.

 
Spiritual communities give some needed resources in this time. First, there is simply the solace of friendship arising from a common task (not to dis the political, but in politics we tend to think instrumentally, that we are only as good as we give. the best spiritual gatherings have a sort of baked-in acceptance, as you are, where you are.) A second reason to consider a spiritual community is because the critique of this Trumpian time has such spiritual qualities, the turning away from others for the exaltation of self, say. The unwillingness to work for the common good. The shrinkage — the absence! — of compassion. Churches and other spiritual communities have some pretty deep wells that can help here.
 
And I do hear how alone you are in this. There are others of us out there, and we very much want you to know how embraced you are. Peace.

Memories of the Ford Administration

Is the President as bad as some say? David Brooks suggests that all depends…. While the administration collapses or perhaps reverts to a plutocratic mean, how does one resist, or think about the day after, the n+11? Much depends on whether one sees this administration as something altogether new, an Americanized version of hard right kleptocrats everywhere, or as an echo of another era. Is this the regime of Jackson or of the Gilded Age?

Brooks opts for the latter. What is needed is the restoration of sound government, of good government, of the Mugwumps (though he doesn’t use that word). In short, a government that Jerry Ford could love.

How Should One Resist the Trump Administration?

 

Evolution?

Rep. Justin Amash held a town hall meeting at City HS auditorium and the place was packed. What was striking to many was the engagement.The big lesson (always!) is that you don’t have to agree, but you do have to listen. And you don’t have to agree with him to admire him.

There is, I think, a growth from the brash 20-something bomb thrower a decade ago. At the time of his election I wondered how the office, how time would change him. Would he end up as a sort of ideological purist, on the fringe? Would he migrate to an official (and powerful) libertarian platform? Who would he become? For him, Trump is a gift, pushing back, standing for the Constitution, Amash builds a broader base than he did in the last years of Obama. At last the  stance begins to get traction, and his skills of communication finally show up. Justin Swan sees as much in a Facebook post,

My response to the noise against him, beginning back in 2010 has been “have you heard him speak? Because if you hear him speak, you wouldn’t say what you just said about him.”… finally, people from both sides of the isle are hearing him speak, and for the most part, they like what they hear OR they respect where he’s coming from.

More on this from Rachel Bade at Politico:

How one GOP congressman tamed pro-Obamacare protesters

Wild at Heart?

In Donald Trump and Militant Evangelical MasculinityKristin du  Mez points to the obvious connection of the Evangelical church to a militant masculinity.

a masculinity that has enshrined patriarchal authority, condoned a callous display of power at home and abroad, and functioned as a linchpin in the political and social worldviews of conservative white evangelicals. In the end, many evangelicals did not vote for Trump despite their beliefs, but because of them.

She notes the usual players, James Dobson, Promise Keepers, and of course John Eldredge’s Wild at HeartPerhaps what is missing however are the external cultural trends (Evangelicals are nothing if  not culturally alert). Culturally, the early turn to masculine narratives follows two other important trends. First, there was the emergence of families among the Baby Boomers — this is what fuels Dobson’s initial impact, why he gained such a voice across the church (we forget how big the early Focus on the Family programs really were, how they were even used by non-evangelical churches). Second, there is the role of Robert Bly and “mythopoetic men’s movement” (ah, drum circles!).

What is striking about the Evangelical-Trump alliance which she details.

Trump’s testosterone-fueled masculinity, … aligns remarkably well with that long championed by evangelicals. What makes a strong leader? A virile (white) man. And what of his vulgarity? Infidelity? Bombast? Even sexual assault? Well, boys will be boys.

However the longing for a strong leader represents something of an idealization. It is not the pursuit of masculinity, of being a guy doing guy things, but of an ideal. Trump then represents more the absence of something than the thing itself, what we “want” or we miss rather than as an exemplar. This is the hidden ambiguity, of masculine identity as ideal over against the reality of the day-to-day life in cubicle land; Mark Driscoll v. Rick Warren.