The Saints Who Vote For the Likes of Donald Trump

There’ve been many reasons cited over the last few years as to why a certain large, right-wing political sect of the Christian religion voted for an undeniable reprobate in 2016. Permit me to deconstruct what I feel is the most causal of all the issues they claim to face, one that forces their hand to vote Republican as faithful Christians.

Most observers look at the Christian political right today, self included, and conclude that the only logical reason for their vote is that they’re being deceived and manipulated. Why else, the thinking goes, would people who worship Jesus Christ align themselves with those who reject the poor, the outcast, the sojourner, or the immigrant. Surely, according to Scripture, these suffering people are close to the Lord’s heart, so it’s hard to understand why any Christians would reject such people.

Why would, how could they turn their backs on the poor the way they have with Trump? It’s not that they’re anti-poor as much as they are anti-government involvement in poverty. They didn’t require a hand-out, they believe, because they were following the Biblical mandate to care for themselves and their own. In their view, the community and the church are responsible for the job of helping the poor, not the government, and that there’s a proper response and an improper response.

The white working poor especially feel themselves better than those who don’t or, as they see it, won’t work to better themselves. To feel otherwise would completely invalidate their own experiences, and that is intolerable to those who’ve bet their lives — and the lives of their families — on the opposite.

In the same way, their beliefs about the importance of family in such matters as taking care of our own are likewise validated by such an extreme position, and to support the opposite would be spiritual suicide. Add this to the statistical reality that black people are disproportionately represented among the poor, and racism is all that’s left. The fear that poverty will rub off on them unless they internally fight against it is a powerful motivator for this Christian sect.

So, their Bible looks past all the admonitions to care for the poor in the name of protecting themselves from what they view as a threat of the devil in their daily comings and goings. And, remarkably, they dismiss social programs designed to do the job as being “anti-family,” because social programs weaken the family unit by taking away their need to strive against lazy self-interest like they themselves once did. They want the pride they feel in this accomplishment to be made available to the poor who wish to work. Poverty, in this sense, is acceptable if a man is trying to take care of his own. These, the church will support.

And so, they’ve taken up war against their own potential poverty by taking the position that God is their provider, not a political system, and that the church is their most significant ally in the conflict. It’s quite ironic therefore that, in railing against such governmental poverty efforts, they find themselves also in the unseemly position of piling on efforts to “make” the poor do some sort of work.

Meanwhile, the extreme wealthy look on and smile.

Unfortunately for them — and fortunately for us — God judges His people on how well they treat these other ones. They can rail against this or that, but God judges those who are supposed to know Him, not those who don’t, so when we look around and find chaos, we must conclude that we’re doing something wrong. The responsibility falls on us. We don’t think so, because God helps those who help themselves, right?

This is the road to perdition, not the path to Heaven, whether that’s in this life or beyond.

It’s on display fully in the response of White Evangelical leaders to the election of Joe Biden, a man they’re convinced will use Federal programs to support the poor, because in that way, the poor will always vote for left-wing (read: socialist) candidates. This is the view of those “pro-family” Christians who will do anything to push their tax money away from such use. After all, they cannot allow themselves to be party to such anti-family, anti-Republican affairs.

Witness the reaction of Megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas. He’s been one of Trump’s most ardent Christian supporters, a regular visitor to the White House, and a key member of Trump’s evangelical advisory group. In an opinion piece for Fox News last week, he called Joe Biden’s win a “bitter pill to swallow” but went on to tell his followers to “pray fervently’ for the President-Elect.”

But here’s his most important remark: “President Trump’s strong policies on life and religious liberty would have seemed, from our vantage point, to be a better path for our country’s future.”

That’s right. Jeffress said this with a straight face, completely ignoring the truth of the past four years in his dreams for a more Christian nation downstream. He can wait, as other leaders of the Christian Nationalism movement appear ready to do, too. They have all the necessary tax-deductible machinery in place; it’s just a matter of finding another candidate for 2024, even if that candidate is Donald Trump again.

Here “religious liberty” means “religious license” to discriminate based on this fear that the life of the flesh is corrupt and best kept at a distance from God’s people. Almost everything we consider “progressive” is judged to be the opposite, which means anti-faith, and this is then elevated to a level of importance just below God in their lives.

What good is knowing God, the reasoning goes, if there’s not a reward for so doing? To these Christians, that reward equals blessings in this life and beyond. They believe theirs is a righteous calling, and they’re taught that holding on to such beliefs is cause for ridicule, misunderstanding, and persecution from the world.

And so, they feel they are fighting against the devil himself, one who is trying to lure them away from the safe harbor they’ve found with their faith, each other, and the church overall.

To me, this is how the extreme wealthy are able to manipulate their mass into a voting block that actually works against their own real interests in favor of a pathological fantasy that they dare not let go of, one that represents their passionate belief that tax monies collected should not be spent on social problems, only those that support their idea of faith and family. Sometimes, it’s actually against their best interests, but they vote so anyway, because it’s their sacred duty to present their view of reality as THE cultural solution we all seek.

We cannot justify it, but we can understand it. And, we need to understand it, so that we can talk to them from the right perspective.

We’ve got four years to figure it out.

Debunking the Right’s Straw Man Fallacy, Part 1

“A straw man fallacy occurs when someone takes another person’s argument or point, distorts it or exaggerates it in some kind of extreme way, and then attacks the extreme distortion, as if that is really the claim the first person is making.” Excelsior Online Writing Lab’s Argument and Critical Thinking curriculum

This is the strategy of the extreme right in the U.S., which I deconstructed in part in my argument regarding the response of James Dobson to Christianity Today’s editorial about removing Donald Trump from office. This is the first in a series of discussions about the Right Wing Straw Man Fallacy.

The most heinous of the fallacies promoted by the extreme right (which includes our current leadership) is that the have-nots somehow only want handouts — usually from the pockets of the haves — rather than working in the same way that the haves have. These “conservatives” are truly disgusted by those who “refuse” to take care of their own. These people are likely well-intentioned, but this perspective is so addictive that people will follow it to sometimes bizarre conclusions.

This position is but a single facet of the straw man created by the right to justify its extreme positions, and the problem with straw men is that they don’t have to be real to be bullied. This straw man is multi-faceted and represents the extreme of everything the right “hates”. Borrowing in large portion from Dr. James Dobson, here are a few of the characteristics of this “opponent” of the Christian Right:

Pro-abortion
Anti-family
Promotes laziness for the poor
Hostile to the military
Dispassionate toward Israel
Supports a socialist form of government
Promotes confiscatory taxation
Opposes school choice
Favors men in women’s sports and boys in girl’s locker rooms
Promotes the entire LGBTQ agenda
Opposes parental rights
Distrusts evangelicals and anyone who is not politically correct.

In attempts to cloud reality, these people mash all of these into one enemy called “the left”. They are highly adept at promulgating such a fallacy, because their Bible tells them they can make sweeping judgments in the self-serving name of God’s prosperity.

This was recently revealed in a Brookings analysis paper “Low unemployment isn’t worth much if the jobs barely pay.”

Some will say that not all low-wage workers are in dire economic straits or reliant on their earnings to support themselves, and that’s true. But as the following data points show, it would be a mistake to assume that most low-wage workers are young people just getting started, or students, or secondary earners, or otherwise financially secure:

  • Two-thirds (64%) of low-wage workers are in their prime working years of 25 to 54.
  • More than half (57%) work full-time year-round, the customary schedule for employment intended to provide financial security.
  • About half (51%) are primary earners or contribute substantially to family living expenses.
  • Thirty-seven percent have children. Of this group, 23% live below the federal poverty line.
  • Less than half (45%) of low-wage workers ages 18 to 24 are in school or already have a college degree.

These statistics tell an important story: Millions of hardworking American adults struggle to eke out a living and support their families on very low wages.

My own research confirms the position that unemployment numbers are extremely unreliable as a measure of our economy, and the Presidency of Donald Trump has exacerbated the problem. Here’s a graph revealing that in 2019 poverty shows up in unique ways. This graph reveals the growth of people in the labor force working multiple jobs. The source is the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

MULTIPLE JOBHOLDERS 10-YEAR TRACK

Of course, this only reveals about 5% of the labor force. However, other employment categories combine to tell the bigger story:

“Even with sunny job statistics, the nation’s economy is simply not working well for tens of millions of people.” (Brookings Analysis)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 48.8% of the labor force are dual income families. 63% of families with children had both parents working, Even 65.1% of mothers with children under 6 are working. A BLS profile of the working poor in 2017 offered five points worth noting:

  • Full-time workers continued to be much less likely to be among the working poor than were part-time workers. Among persons in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 2.9 percent of those usually employed full time were classified as working poor, compared with 10.9 percent of part-time workers.
  • Women were more likely than men to be among the working poor. In addition, Blacks or African Americans and Hispanics or Latinos continued to be more than twice as likely as Whites and Asians to be among the working poor.
  • The likelihood of being classified as working poor diminishes as workers attain higher levels of education. Among those with less than a high school diploma, 13.7 percent of those who were in the labor force for at least 27 weeks were classified as working poor, compared with 1.5 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Individuals who were employed in service occupations continued to be more likely to be among the working poor than those employed in other major occupational groups.
  • Among families with at least one member in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, those with children under 18 years old were over four times as likely as those without children to live in poverty. Families maintained by women were more than twice as likely as families maintained by men to be living below the poverty level.

The point of all of this, of course, is that silly arguments that present poverty as single dimension are extremely misleading, for nowhere is there a way to nail down the laziness of one group of people over another. Margaret Sanger, in speaking about men, once said, “Women have just as much right to be lazy as men,” and that generalization is just as false as the one presented as part of the left-wing boogieman that the Republicans reference.

But that’s the way it goes when political manipulators paint horrendous pictures of their opponents. Beware the straw man of the right, for the character is quite unbelievable.

The Silk Stockings and Their Businesses

If you’ll look beneath the surface, you’ll find that the entirety of Donald Trump’s policies and positions deal with the ownership and management of business and industry. Even social issues that appear to be otherwise actually cloak a pro-business narrative. His dream Supreme Court is nine individuals who ALWAYS advocate on behalf of the business community. Climate change is about the fossil fuel industry. Racism is about businesses being forced to comply and how to avoid some of the responsibilities of wealth. The border is about business people supporting them with jobs legally. Business would love more of these people in the country, because they’re cheap labor. However, they would need to be here legally.

The grand narrative of this group is that the people who own and operate businesses drive the freedom to create wealth, which is the top rung on society’s ladder. Not only do these people create jobs, they also fund the community chest, which is all they deem necessary to “help” the poor and afflicted among us. Reagan called this “trickle down economics,” a reference to how essential it is to prop these people up by making it ever so much easier for others to prosper. In this sense…

  • Anything that manipulates the hiring and firing of employees from the outside — like government rules and regulations — is considered a blockage to profit. This includes the racist idea that non-whites make lousy employees. Affirmative action is decidedly anti-business.
  • Anything that was brought into being by representatives of those employees — a.k.a. organized labor — is an affront to the freedom to profit. This includes the 40-hour work week, minimum wages, and employee benefits.
  • Any and all regulations that interfere with the businessman’s right to profit are evil at core and therefore suitable for discarding. This includes, but is not limited to, global warming, clean air and water, the dumping of waste, working conditions, and many more.

What’s different about Trump in these matters is that he makes no attempt to hide his belief that he is the undisputed ruler of the business community. By aligning his policies with business, foreign policy becomes the central driver of America “ruling” the international business world. Spy activity envelopes foreign business on anything that might challenge America’s business “right” to rule everybody. A war with Iran is a business war, an attempt to better boost the Middle East on behalf of American business interests. Trump uses the language of war for everything from the United Nations to NATO. “America First” means American business interests first.

Remember that Trump simply gave these people $2 trillion in tax cuts and certain Republican Senators now want to give them more. Where did Trump get that money? He borrowed it, and WE are now the dumb debtors.

Small business owners are highly susceptible to these kinds of “support,” which is understandable. But what about the everyday people. Why do they support management? The reasons are many, including management’s support for the proLife community and, by association, evangelical Christianity, but even that is insufficient to get these people on board. There’s a strong sense of “they have to be right, because look at them” and “if I support them, they’ll support me.”

Nope. Sorry. It doesn’t work that way.

In the South, the textile industry was the first to abandon the U.S. for cheaper foreign labor. The rural people who worked for generations as a part of the industry (because they were close to the cotton the industry needed) heard over and over again about how THEY were responsible, because they assumed they could “run” the businesses as employees, including the high cost of paying American employees. These people feel now that perhaps “they” shouldn’t have chased the industry away by demanding fair wages. Guilt is a powerful motivator, especially when your family is starving.

The GOP has long been the party of the haves, and I helped change that through The 700 Club. By painting the impression that the prosperity gospel was the key to wealth — not time and chance — we moved a great many people to the Republican Party, where evangelicals and party operatives mixed and found common ground to pursue, especially as regards abortion, religious liberty, and promiscuity. These Christians were more than happy to let the Grand Old Party have whatever they wanted on behalf of business in trade for their support for causes that evangelical charlatans could exploit to build their ministries, their churches, and especially, their pocketbooks.

I honestly don’t see this ending unless their opponents are able to paint a more accurate picture of how evangelicals are pawns in their mission, players who sacrifice their own well-being in the name of belonging to “God changing the culture” through their alliance with the GOP. It’s a powerful driver of policies designed to benefit ONLY the wealthy and their wannabes. At the core of evangelicalism is the self-centered desire to save one’s ass from an eternity in hell, and few escape its ability to manipulate politically.

After all, once you’ve identified those selfish at core, it’s easy to lead them to selfish interests across-the-board, and that, my friends, is the very center of Republican Party dreams. Teach them that culture is about them, and that God wants them to prosper, because they’re “His kids,” and you will have them for life.

The creators of jobs don’t really care about the jobs; they care about power, and they’re always lusting for more.

Redefining Compassion

The Trump administration’s budget reveals a dramatic dismissal of programs designed to help the poor, including some, such as Medicaid, that have great favor with the majority in the land. This should surprise no one who’s taken the time to study the platforms of both the Democratic and Republican parties, because much of conservatism has always been about the worship of the individual and the protection of wealth. Poverty is one of those sticky issues that clearly divides, for in the narrative of the GOP, poor people are takers who take from the pockets of the wealthy. This cynical view is best depicted in our current administrations attempt to “redefine compassion.”

In the name of decreasing government spending, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney made this remarkable statement in front of the House Budget Committee on Wednesday:

“We no longer want to measure compassion by the number of programs that we have, or the number of people that are on those programs,” he said. “We want to measure compassion, true compassion, by the number of people we help to get off those programs.”

takemefishing.org

Trump supporters, including Evangelical Christians, will see this simply as the old adage “Give a man a fish, and you’ve fed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for life.” This is part and parcel of the Gospel of Self and a very useful metaphor for those pushing a political agenda along with the faith. Unfortunately, the concept misses on two rather enormous assumptions. One, for it to be true in practical terms, the idea assumes an endless supply of fish for everybody, and the truth is that all resources are limited and mostly in possession of the top fishermen, those who also own the best lakes and streams. You can teach a man to fish all you want, but unless the supply is available to all, the story falls apart. Two, and this is a biggie for the Christian crowd, Jesus actually tied poverty to the unrighteousness of God’s people as written by Moses in the Torah in Deuteronomy 15. Therefore, the dream of redefining compassion by teaching people to fish directly contradicts the message of the Bible, which always includes restrictions on the rich getting too rich. Instead, the evangelical message offers the idea that humans can somehow “manage” their way out of poverty while others maintain a selfish grip on resources and income. Not happening.

So once again, I’m forced into the corner of declaring that the church is under judgment, not the nation of the United States, western culture, or “the world,” and it specifically relates to this issue. It’s not about visible “sins” that the faithful rail against and in so doing blame the victims of poverty instead of their own greed. It’s about a certain group of believers who espouse a formulaic version of life through their faith. That’s why this — and my book specifically — is a message for Christians, for the pathway to truth is the willingness to challenge one’s own assumptions, whether you call yourself a Christian or not.

Please do not interpret my statements as disrespectful, for I find nothing disingenuous about Mr. Mulvaney’s view or that of the many Evangelicals who subscribe to the fishing metaphor. I fully believe they believe this to be THE solution to poverty. The same day Mulvaney was testifying, HUD secretary Dr. Ben Carson — an Evangelical — was on Sirius XM radio being interviewed by his longtime ally Armstrong Williams:

“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind. You take somebody who has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street and I guarantee you, in a little while, they’ll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world and they’ll work their way back down to the bottom.”

Dr. Carson went on to add that this mindset begins in childhood and is passed along by parents. He, too, favors the “teach a man to fish” model, noting that there’s both “economic poverty” and “poverty of the spirit,” what he called “that defeatist attitude.”

“I think the majority of people don’t have that defeatist attitude, but they sometimes just don’t see the way, and that’s where government can come in and be very helpful. It can provide the ladder of opportunity, it can provide the mechanism that will demonstrate to them what can be done.”

In my experience, this is the thinking that dominates the Evangelical Christian crowd who believe that their form of “salvation” includes prosperity of mind, soul, body, and pocketbook. This set of religious rules can be highly self-centered by providing future rewards in this life and in Heaven for teaching people to fish. So it’s not just about the teaching; it’s about the reward for so doing, which doesn’t depend on the outcome. Hence, it’s very easy to say “teach a man to fish,” because that’s where the responsibility ends.

It would appear the Trump administration is attempting to change the way Washington looks at spending by invoking the shallow thinking of certain Evangelical Christian teachings, which is, I suppose, exactly what Mr. Trump’s followers asked him to do. They will try and it will all fail, because those teachings are self-centered and conveniently bypass entirely the “love your neighbor” mandate. Oh I know the contrary arguments. I used to believe them and teach them myself.

Life is not manageable, no matter what you believe. Life is chaotic. Order is “the dream of man,” as Henry Adams noted long ago. And the book says that “time and chance” occurs to everyone anyway regardless of their faith and witness.

You want to redefine compassion through a spiritual message? How about “Thy will, not mine be done?” Living life on life’s terms (and not my own) is the greatest personal challenge we all face in the expression of our compassion for others.