Dear Alt-Christians, does Trump’s hush money for Stormy Daniels count as a faith offering?
Pardon me if that sounds flippant. I am just trying to figure out the contours and boundaries of what passes for conservative Christianity these days. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The proximity of the anti-abortion March for Life on January 19 (which I call Mind Your Own Vagina Day) and the Women’s March on Washington on January 20, besides being an affirmation of American freedoms of speech and assembly and a good occasion for avoiding the DC Metro, seemed a fine time to pull back from the political fray for some perspective. The whole reason for these competing marches is that our goals are not the same. Sometimes they are not even coherent.
Let’s face it, there is no need to schlep down to the National Mall, or wherever they schlep out your way, only to yell “Shut up, you’re right!” at one another. If that were the case, we could just go to Walmart and snap pics of badly dressed shoppers, catch up on The Chi on Showtime, or sit around comparing our shitholes of origin. Instead, let us step out of our comfort zones and look about.
I have taken notes of what I’m hearing from my fellow citizens (and be forewarned, there is something here to offend everyone). Response to an awkward date that includes consensual sex: “If you fail to read my mind and this does not live up to my romantic fantasy, you deserve character assassination via revenge porn.” Response to Republican excesses: “This is a chance for progressives to advance the revolution.” Response to disagreeable speakers at universities: “Bar them from campus or shout them down.” Response to a business you don’t like: “Abolish capitalism.” Response to tensions with North Korea: a mistaken Hawaiian missile alert.
The voices proliferate. “Ban the police.” “Police must be given free rein.” “End incarceration.” “Block Chick-fil-A.” “Stop the Bible Museum.” “Allow anti-trans job discrimination.” “We don’t have money to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program.” “Force the terminally ill to die slow, painful deaths.” “Black and brown immigrants are dangerous.” “One more Supreme Court justice and we can revoke gay marriage and criminalize abortion.” “Abolish rules on air and water safety, workplace safety, food and drug safety, car safety, gun safety, consumer product safety, and cruelty to animals. It’s yours, do what you want.”
One stratagem of intolerance embraced by Trump is insisting that “religious freedom” entitles healthcare workers to invoke their faith in refusing to serve patients who, to quote the fictional Sister Mary Ignatius, “do the thing that makes Jesus puke.” I’d like a Gospel citation for that. Christ in Matthew Chapter 25 says to care for people.
Religious carve-outs may appear simple but can metastasize like a cancer. If a pharmacist can refuse to fill your birth control prescription because he deplores your ungodly behavior, why not allow restaurant workers to refuse a customer’s meal order based on disapproval of gluttony?
I write amid shutdown. The president refuses to negotiate with Democrats unless they surrender. Paul Ryan’s duplicity, Mitch McConnell’s cynicism, and Trump’s vacillation are all hostage to the mindless xenophobia Republicans have so long stoked. We might just as well impose government by the voices in people’s heads. Perhaps we can seek guidance on that from home schoolers David and Louise Turpin, arrested in California last week on charges of torture and child endangerment for starving their children and chaining them to the furniture.
Cable TV sages talk about our polarization as if it were a weather anomaly. I don’t blame solar flares or the monster under the bed. I blame zealots at one extreme who traffic in bigotry, suppress voters, demonize the press, and encourage Russian hackers. To a lesser extent I blame those at the opposite extreme who engage in groupthink, denounce anything short of their particular idea of utopia, and are too busy attacking moderates to build broad governing coalitions. Meanwhile, a grassroots ferment foreshadows a wave election.
Our republic will be saved by citizens who stand and fight for its values, offers this small voice in your head.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.