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Archive for the ‘F & L in the News’ Category

[189] Identity Politics

Perhaps the single most defining difference between the left and the right, is the nature of their politics. The right remains ideological—smaller government, lower taxes, stronger military, etc. The left seems to have abandoned ideology for what is called identity politics. The latter involves seeing the populace in terms of identifiable interest groups rather than more broad-based political beliefs. You will hear Democratic pols regularly mention women, Hispanics, African-Americans, and LGBT adherents in their speeches. All of this resonates in an age of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

With identity politics comes political correctness and postmodernism—the notion that truth in it is purest form does not really exist, but each individual and group has its own truth, a truth that needs to be respected and accommodated by the larger society. Hence, Hillary’s campaign slogan, “Stronger together.” There is no agenda, no real message, in such a slogan, but it is a major doctrine in the catechism of identity politics, and Trump’s trampling over the sensitivities of the political correctness doctrine, has generated an incendiary hatred of the 45th president.

It is hard to overstate the importance of this difference. It is, at core, the reason for the currently polarizing atmosphere. Politics—at least successful politics—involves the often arduous process of compromise. There is value in affirming group identity, as the American experience of the various subgroups differs greatly. Trump himself acknowledged this by appealing to minorities in his campaign. There is also a case to be made for certain enduring ideologies and national values. The challenge is in finding a synthesis, one that will only come when each side becomes truly patriotic, and pursues the common good.

DC

[188] Schumer & Co.

It seems that the purpose-driven life for Chuck Schumer and his Democratic colleagues can be defined in but a single phrase: Destroy the Trump presidency. The odds, however, do not favor such a strategy if they seek to regain political dominance.

When I began my professorial career at the tender age of 24, the college president said to me there are really two types of professionals—thesis-staters and critiquers. Thesis-staters are doers, people with an agenda, who walk the walk. Critiquers criticize the thesis-staters and their every action. He was right. In the academic world, the thesis-states are in the arena, publishing the books, and doing the research, while the critiquers rip their publications and scholarly endeavors apart. It is the former, however, who cross the finish line of success, while the latter remain forever on the sidelines.

So it seems to be in the current political climate. The Schumer-led Democrats have offered next to nothing in the form of an agenda, contenting themselves with assailing all things Trump. The President, however, marches on with his agenda. At this point, I am betting on Trump. Not because he has operated error-free, or has unassailable policies, but because he is a thesis-stater in a nation thirsting for change.

The Democrats must offer a message—a thesis, an agenda, some policy alternatives to Trump and the Republicans—to gain political traction. Instead, they seem to be unable to accept the reality of Trump’s electoral win, choosing to try to undo it. To recover from their political losses, they need to stop booing from the sidelines and get into the arena, making ideas rather than personal and political assault their weapon of choice. DC

[187] O’Reilly & Fox

“Pride goes before destruction,” says the writer of Proverbs (16:18), “and a haughty spirit before a fall.” So it seems for one, Bill O’Reilly, who seemed indestructible. It is difficult to imagine a network paying out in 8 figures, on behalf of anyone, to women alleging sexual harassment. Not unless you realize what a cash generator Bill O’ was for Fox. Last year the “no spin” man brought in $110MM in ad revenue. That is 5x Rachel Maddow’s rake in, his strongest cable opponent. His ratings were stupendous, regularly garnering an audience larger than all his cable foes combined in his time slot.

Money talks, or at least it pays well for those like O’Reilly who can talk effectively. It also says, “Goodbye” to people who cross certain lines. And that was the fate of the star of the Factor. Once his sexual shenanigans went viral, the ad revenue plummeted and this once TV titan became a pariah.

Returning to the lead in this blog, O’Reilly made arrogance part of his persona. He had a John McLaughlin-like air that was for some enraging, and for others amusing. In any case, he apparently believed he was bulletproof and so–for over a decade–continued to engage in unwelcome behavior with members of the opposite sex. O’Reilly, like the rest of us, is not indestructible, and his network has taken a fall. With its cleanup hitter, O’Reilly, out of the nightly lineup, Fox News has crashed, going from dominating cable news to third place behind MSNBC and CNN. DC

[186] Deluge

Donald Trump hardly stepped into the presidential batter’s box and the actions came flying. Executive actions–a wall, immigration restrictions, and deregulations galore joined the confirmation hearings of a host of change-agent members of his cabinet, and a Supreme Court nominee to boot.

Not since Reagan have we seen so much change so soon, and Reagan’s pace was not as rapid. Trump’s machine-gun like actions constitute a deluge.

I submit that there is a political motivation undergirding this tidal wave of activity. By sending out an unceasing flow of decisions from the executive branch, Trump has knocked his opponents off balance. No sooner can those opponents marshal a unified opposition to one of his decisions before another comes their way. His opponents find themselves consistently behind the president’s pace as he makes major wave after wave. Take the immigration ban. A near firestorm ensued, but only a few days followed before the Acting Attorney General was waxed. A day later Gorsuch was nominated for the Supreme Court. And the ban followed the wall, and the wall followed something else. All this in less than a fortnight in the Oval Office.

This is an effective strategy. Such rapid fire activity makes life chaotic for those who are in the response position. It is also savvy strategy because Trump has a friendly congress. The pace will slow down, and then the real issue will be joined. Can Trump bring the deliverables? Will his actions bring turn his campaign promises into reality? DC

[185] Why the Hatred?

Why the incendiary hatred for Donald Trump? I remember Ronald Reagan, whose policies were anathema to many, and Bill Clinton, as polarizing a political figure as we had in the 1990’s. I even remember Nixon, the most genuinely despised political figure of my lifetime, before Trump, of course. But in each case, the Hatemometer never approach the level we see for the 45th President of the United States.

Why?

Here are some thoughts. There is no more sacred doctrine for the political left than Political Correctness (PC). And there is no more accurate expression of PC than its commitment to skin-deep diversity. Racial and ethnic minorities and women (a minority when using social power as the definition) are the most superficially protected of all species by the left. I say superficial, because liberalism does not always express itself by ceding power to the powerlessness. It does, however, fiercely guard minorities against any hint of verbal disrespect. In fact, disrespectful references to minorities is tantamount to a call of arms.

Donald Trump is not ignorant of PC. He is at war with PC. He says so. He views PC as a restriction to the First Amendment, a way of shaping public discourse in a politically liberal direction. Hence, he recklessly calls Mexicans thugs and castigates radical Muslims, without carefully qualifying his remarks by emphasizing that he is speaking of only a segment of Mexicans and Muslims, and certainly not those who reside peacefully in these United States, and in the case of the Khan family, willing to give their lives for this nation. He knows, as do we all, that he is referring to subgroups of Mexicans and Muslims, but Trump does not bother to make these clarifications, allowing the brush to paint broadly and inflame many.

The Hatemometer really hit the boiling point when Access Hollywood exposed Trump’s less than respectful references and alleged behavior toward women. No political minority is more protected on the left than women. The revulsion among women as being little more than sex objects has its genesis in the earliest days of the women’s movement. The Access Hollywood exposure put Trump’s picture—life-size–on the wall of the political left’s post office.

Had Trump offered an apology, or at least a clarification of his remarks toward minorities, hoping to remove any perceived insult, the temperature would be cooler. But other than his apology for his Access Hollywood-reported remarks about women, no apologies have been forthcoming. And, I suspect, none will. Hence, we have the most powerful person in the world, the leader of this nation, the president of every American citizen—irrespective of political preference–openly and unabashedly violating the most sacredly held credos of the left, and furthermore, denouncing and even threatening the liberal media, the voice of the left.

Nixon, knowing he was hated, made often clumsy attempts at gaining acceptance. Reagan, whose views were despised on the left, and Clinton who was similarly held in contempt by the right, regularly attempted to be gracious and conciliatory when addressing political blocs that held them in contempt.

Not so Trump. He concedes nothing. The hate does not seem to bother him. In some cases, he seems to enjoy it. In any case, these barbs are not reflections of a lack of verbal savvy. They are deliberate. Donald Trump speaks of destroying ISIS, but PC seems to be his more immediate focus. DC

[184] Getting It

Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of the New York Time recently made a startling admission that goes to the heart of media secularism. “We don’t get religion. We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives. And I think we can do much, much better,” said Baquet.

That is it. The media simply does not understand the worldview aspect of the faith.

For them, religion is an increasingly irrelevant compartment in some people’s lives. It is that private little, subjective, non-material component that has some import to some people. It is never understood as the foundation of one’s view of reality—the center of one’s identity. Hence, it is intellectually bankrupt in an educated society. The reason the secularists see it as meaningless because, while they understand faith to be personal, they do not see it as rooted in a personal relationship. And that is because they do not see God as both real and personal. At best he is the unknowable, amorphous “force.” Because they do not see scripture as Truth, they discount the revelation of God.

They don’t get religion. DC

[183] #1 Issue

Now that president-elect Trump has rounded out his cabinet, it is time to reflect on what criteria a faith and learning adherent might use in assessing his choices. Clearly one will be a person’s general ideology—her position on the liberal-conservative continuum. Another will be competence. Still another might be suitability for the designate for an executive role. (Some will argue that a nominee is more of an advocate or theorist than a get-things-done person). I see the value of these and other criteria. For me, however, it is about what I believe is the #1 issue facing this country: the continuing advancement of secularism and its increasing domination of our culture. Confronting that threat to the spiritual foundation of our republic is what most concerns me. Hence, as important the various criteria may be for each cabinet position, my first concern is the cabinet candidate’s stance toward the protection of religious freedom in this country. Her “Christian friendliness,” for want a better term. Secularism thrived during the administration of our out out-going president; not so much because he is personally antagonistic to the faith (he does not at all seem to be), but because it appeared that he does not see the subtle march of secularism in our country. That awareness is critical. All one has to do is nothing, for secularists to continue to change laws, initiate court battles, and continue to make our educational institutions bastions of unbelief. I am generally encouraged by Trump’s picks. I hope I am correct. I believe all that is at stake is the survival of our nation. DC

[182] Dog Whistles

The term, dog whistle, has become rather popular in the media of late. It refers to a politician’s tendency to use code words in political speech, terms that communicate racism, misogyny, and other nasty things in cloaked fashion, such that they are detected only by targeted subgroups rather than the masses, just as humans cannot hear certain sounds detectable to more sensitive canine ears. The Trump campaign continues to be charged with dog whistling. Opponents suggest that Trump and his minions are repeatedly sending verbal and behavioral messages of comfort to white supremacists, latter day robber barons, and those who would subjugate women. It is a cranky little charge, but an effective one. It feeds cynicism and distrust rather than open-minded consideration of policy positions and executive decisions. Relationships are built on trust. As it is, political figures have little credibility in the minds of those they govern. We need to move in another direction. If we continually encourage citizens to ignore the face of the message and look beneath the surface for the hidden meaning we all but remove any connection between the people and their leaders. And when that happens it will no longer matter what is said or intended. DC

[181] Castro & Christ

So was Fidel Castro religious? We do know he was raised as a Roman Catholic. That, apparently, did not stick, as he later claimed to be an atheist. While assailing scripture for advocating the subjugation of women and African Americans, he acknowledged that Christianity did contribute “ethical values” and “social justice” to society. Though apparently devoid of personal faith, Castro said he could be considered a Christian in terms of “social vision.” Castro pushed the social envelope a bit further, claiming that Jesus was—like himself—a communist. The now departed Castro documented this claim by Christ’s ministry, most particularly his feeding of the 5000 and his encounter with the rich young ruler.

We do not know Castro’s spiritual heart. We do know he had a sense of who Jesus is. More important, he was impressed with Christ’s example of living out the Second Great Commandment. Ruthless, unbending, and vindictive, the mercurial Castro could also be generous, kind, and an advocate of the common person. Those latter qualities may well have been inspired by person who is the Savior to all those—including Castro—who will humble and yield themselves to him. DC

[180] Trump & Xianity

For those of us in the faith and learning community, the election of Donald Trump begs the question of his relationship to the larger Christian community in the US.

Unlike Carter, Reagan, and Bush the younger, Trump makes no claims to be an orthodox Christian, and clearly his statements and conduct throughout the campaign hardly radiate the fruits of the Spirit.

Ideally, the President-elect would be a practicing biblical Christian. Short of that, however, we want him to be favorably disposed toward believers—those who are concerned about the subtle but very real onslaught on secularism. Trump passes this latter test rather well. Perhaps the greatest indication of this is in his choice of Mike Pence, a public figure who openly confesses his faith in Jesus Christ. That Trump has now charged Pence with the leadership of his transition team is compelling evidence of his faith in his Christian running mate’s judgment.

Furthermore, Reince Priebus is to be Trump’s Chief of Staff. Priebus, Greek Orthodox, openly elevates the name of God. In addition, Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, a Roman Catholic, is comfortable discussing her faith publicly. This, in addition to the support Trump received from well-known evangelicals should give the faith community some optimism that there will be support for their concerns. DC

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