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"A Conscience That Is Not Awake to Suffering and Fails to Respond Is Walled Off from the Love of God": Commentary on Trump and Religious Issues

Posted on the 03 February 2017 by William Lindsey @wdlindsy

With his performance at yesterday's National Prayer Breakfast (an event organized by the shadowy anti-LGBT group calling itself "The Family," as David Badash reminds us), and with the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch, Trump and religious matters are in the news. Here's commentary in the past few days I'd like to recommend:
More than 800 Christian leaders to Mr. Trump as he headed to the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday — by way of Antonia Blumberg at Huffington Post: 
A conscience that is not awake to suffering and fails to respond is walled off from the love of God.

Nelle Smith, "Trump May Be the End of the World As We Know It — But for Some Evangelicals, That's Just Fine": 
A distinct subset of evangelical Christians know that Donald Trump is bad news for the entire world—and they're really, really excited about it. 
I know this because I used to be one of them.

Steven Rosenfeld reports: "Trump's Bloodthirsty National Prayer Speech Was Quite a Doozy." As Mr. Trump spoke of blood and war and violence at the National Prayer breakfast, representatives of the white Christian establishment who elected him when 8 in 10 white evangelicals and 6 in 10 white Catholics and Mormons cast their votes for him sat spellbound, dreaming (so it appeared) of bathing themselves in the blood of their enemies while their morally vacuous, egomaniacal emcee spouted pseudo-biblical language keeping them spellbound, though  his entire life history has been a mockery of Christian values.
Charles Pierce, "President Trump's National Prayer Breakfast Was a Blast, Just Like Our Coming War with Mexico": 
Since we closed the shebeen last night, the president* has rattled the saber at Iran and at Mexico, both of whom laughed at his mighty sword. (Why do they laugh at his mighty sword?) He has also managed to damage our relationship with Australia, which I didn't believe was possible. . . . 
"Don't mess with me, dingo. I nearly won as bigly as Martin Van Buren did." 
And then, on Thursday morning, after assuring the Senate chaplain that his job was safe, he regaled us with tales of Momma Trump reading the Bible to him by the fire when he was a child. 
And with tales of beheadings. 
Maybe the National Prayer Breakfast should be a daily thing.

Adele Stan, "Trump Leads the Religious Right to the Promised Land: Evangelicas' Alignment with Trump Shows Their Affinity for Power Over Morality": 
During the 2016 campaign, pundits were often incredulous at the sight of religious-right leaders at the side of the thrice-married, biblically ignorant, philandering, ethically challenged businessman-turned-politician — one whose blatant and coarsely stated misogyny, whose braggadocio about sexually harassing women, whose treatment of women as property and objects of derision, could not deter them from joining his quest. After the election, commentators puzzled over the 81 percent of white evangelical voters who cast their ballots for Trump, despite ample evidence of his questionable, decidedly unchristian business practices and cheating of workers and contractors. Not even the scandal of his Trump University grift kept them away from him. 
The attraction is now apparent: power.

Kevin Drum, "Faith Doesn't Matter Anymore in American Politics": 
One of the things Donald Trump taught us last year is the ultimate hollowness of the Christian right. Trump is the most obviously unreligious person to run for president in—well, probably forever. He doesn't go to church. He hasn't read the Bible. His lifestyle would make Hugh Hefner blush. He doesn't pray. He doesn't ask forgiveness from God for his sins. He's not born again. There is literally nothing in his 70 years on this earth that suggests he's anything but a stone atheist. 
But that didn't matter. All he had to do was make a few awkward and obviously fake protestations of faith, and that was that. His insincerity was palpable to anyone paying the slightest attention, but everyone decided not to pay attention. As long as he mouthed the right words, everything was fine. 
The Christian right has never been about actual faith. Like any other interest group, they just want what they want: abortion restrictions, money for private schools, opposition to gays, and so forth. As long as you're on board, they don't care what's in your heart. They never have, and that's why the suggestion that Democrats need to be more publicly devout has always been so misguided. Faith doesn't matter. Empathy for people of faith doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is supporting the Christian right's retrograde social views, and Democrats were never going to do that.

Steve Benen: "Why Trump's National Prayer Breakfast Speech Matters": 
[W]hen it comes to electioneering and tax law, houses of worship have effectively made a deal with the government: the pastors will enjoy the benefits of a tax-exemption, and in exchange, their ministry will be non-partisan. 
Trump is saying he wants to scrap the deal: the churches should get the benefit of a tax exemption from the government, without any of the conditions
As for the First Amendment, note that tax-exempt entities, including churches, have the option of getting engaged in partisan politics, endorsing candidates, and intervening in campaigns to their hearts' content – but they can’t do this while keeping their tax exemption. 
Why does Trump want to change this? Basically because the religious right told him to. But why does the religious right want this? Because some on the right still dream of creating a church-based political machine.

Alissa Wilkinson, "Trump Wants to 'Tottaly Destroy' a Ban on Churches Endorsing Political Candidates": 
Contrary to Trump’s assertions, the Johnson Amendment doesn't restrict the right of congregations to "worship according to our own beliefs." Instead, it prohibits registered 501(c)(3) organizations — which include some religious congregations but also various other nonprofits, including organizations like the Clinton and Trump Foundations — from endorsing a candidate for public office and participating in political campaign activities. (Not all tax-exempt organizations fall under the 501(c)(3) designation, but most do.)

Heather Digby Parton, "Payback to the Christian Right? Donald Trump Owes a Huge Debt — and Neil Gorsuch Is the First Installment"

Patricia Miller, "Unified Catholic Opposition to Trump's 'Muslim Ban' Is Wishful Thinking": 
It's understandable that with people grasping for a light in the darkness in the wake of Trump's Muslim travel ban, they would look to the leadership of the Catholic Church. After all, the institutional Catholic Church has consistently been a voice for immigrant rights and Pope Francis has made compassion for migrants and refugees a special concern of his papacy. 
So we get articles like this one in the Washington Post, asserting that Trump is "facing fierce opposition" from Catholic leaders who are "issuing strongly worded statements condemning" the ban. But a look at the actual statements, and who is making them, shows that the idea of unified Catholic opposition to Trump is largely wishful thinking. With a few exceptions, the opposition isn't particularly "fierce." Nor, given the type of cleavages the church has helped foster among its own constituents, is it likely to be particularly effective in terms of rallying Catholic opposition to the ban.

Heather Digby Parton, "Child Refugees from Central American Are Being Turned Away, Too: The Human Cost of Trump's Ban Grows Daily": 
Not just Muslims: Trump's ban also affects children seeking medical care and child refugees from Latin America. . . . Trump's order was justified as necessary for national security. It’s hard for decent people to imagine how stopping children from reuniting with a parent or adult relative will keep our nation safe. But the Trump administration is full of people, including the president, who believe that most foreigners are a destructive force in America society.

Elissa Strauss, "Trump's Muslim Ban Is an Assault on Children and Families":
If you are still hoping to find a shred of humanity in the new administration, it’s time to call off the search. Spicer's casual demonization of children is as horrific as it is heartbreaking. Children and families have already begun to feel the effects of Trump’s executive order, and they will continue to do so until this ban, and the unjustified Islamophobia that fuels it, come to an end.
According to a recent assessment by Unicef, the children most in need of emergency international assistance come mainly from the countries included in Trump's ban. Of the seven countries identified as the most dangerous places for children to live, five are on Trump’s list: Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. (All Syrians have been barred indefinitely according to Trump’s order, and all refugees have been banned, regardless of their country of origin, for 120 days.) Children in Syria are living without clean water and in need of medical aid. Children in Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia are starving. Children in Iraq require vaccinations. Unicef estimates that there are around 23 million child residents of and refugees from these countries in need of help."

Sunnivie Brydum reports: "The Deafening Silence of 'Religious Freedom' Defenders on Trump's Muslim Ban": as she notes, the religious right have been screaming about how religion is under attack in America in the 21st-century, how religious freedom is being trampled on when it's a foundational principle of American democracy.
But now that a religious test is actually being applied to a group of people immigrating to this country — now that a whole religion is under attack by the U.S. government — total silence from these same folks. Zipped lips. And isn't that odd? What has suddenly happened to their zeal for religious freedom? Sunnivie Brydum writes,
These organizations exist to appease the long-simmering victimhood complex of the American right wing, which is now and has always been a tribalistic campaign to allow one particular group of American Christians to discriminate based on their reading of Christianity. This battle has never been about genuine "religious freedom," because it has never attempted to protect a citizen's right to reject religion entirely, and has always dedicated the vast majority of its resources to legally enforcing Judeo-Christian values, at the expense of those whose existence, we are told, somehow offends that doctrine.

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, "Donald Trump's Mission Creep Just Took a Giant Leap Forward": 

Ladies and gentlemen, we are already in the midst of a national emergency. The radical right — both religious and political — have been crusading for 40 years to take over the government and in Trump they have found their rabble-rouser and enabler. They intend to hallow the free market as infallible, outlaw abortion, Christianize public institutions by further leveling the "wall" between church and state, channel public funds to religious schools, build walls to keep out brown people and put "America first" on the road to what Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has called 'God's Kingdom.' 
You can see in the chaos a pattern: the political, religious and financial right collaborating to move America further from the norms of democracy with the triumph of one-party, one-man rule. There's never been anything like it in our history.

(Thanks to Jim McCrea for emailing me and others some of the articles featured above.) 

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