Saturday, December 28, 2019

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the End as a New Beginning

  By Rudy Barnes, Jr.,

In religion, legitimacy and politics, the end of 2019 in America begs a new beginning.  The American civil religion has lost its moral compass. The legal and moral standards of political legitimacy produced by the myriad varieties of Christianity have little resemblance to the altruistic teachings of Jesus, and our polarized partisan politics show it.

Trump’s impeachment by a Democratic House is just the tip of the iceberg.  With a Republican led Senate sure to exonerate Trump, polls indicate that America is hopelessly divided headed into a new year.  But the only poll that counts will be on November 3, 2020. It will be a watershed event for American democracy, whether for good or bad.         

It is said that “In our end is our beginning, ...unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”  The Hymn of Promise gives us hope that the future holds a resurrection for our nation’s dying democracy.  If not, we can dispense with the idyllic illusions of America the Beautiful and acknowledge the ugliness of America’s morality.

America’s morality is reflected in its political leaders.  With a majority of Christian voters, our elected leaders should have altruistic values that counter America’s materialistic and hedonistic culture.  The 2016 election of an egregiously immoral President and his obsequious Republican minions in Congress is an indictment of American Christianity and its politics.

We can hope that in 2020 more white Christians will rediscover the altruistic moral imperatives taught by Jesus that are summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves.  That could doom Trump’s reelection, since he depends upon the support of white Christians. 

A recent editorial in Christianity Today chastised Trump for his immorality, even as it acknowledged that most white Christians would continue to support Trump.  Trump’s rage at the editorial coupled with his continued support among white Christians is evidence that American Christianity has not only lost its moral compass but also its credibility and legitimacy.

 Defeating Trump on moral grounds will be difficult with his Wall Street backing and a strong economy.  In presidential elections, It’s the economy, stupid!  But despite strong consumer confidence, excessive personal and corporate debt coupled with overrated stock values could cause an economic downturn between now and election day.

Trump’s billionaire cronies who control America’s means of production and its politics have created dangerous disparities in wealth.  Regulation is needed to counter Wall Street’s unrestrained greed and its exploitation of the middle class. Remember, It’s the economy, stupid!  A low unemployment rate based on second-rate jobs is not a sign of a healthy economy.  

We must hope that the end of 2019 will be a new beginning for American politics and Christainity.  What will happen in 2020 is a mystery that God alone can see; but all of us can see what will happen if Christians don’t become stewards of democracy and make the altruistic teachings of Jesus the moral standards of political legitimacy.  That prospect makes it hard for me to wish anyone a Happy New Year; but I can wish us all a Hopeful New Year.


Hymn of Promise, United Methodist Hymnal #707:
In the bulb there is a flower;
in the seed, an apple tree;
in cocoons, a hidden promise:
butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter
there’s a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season, 
something God alone can see.
There's a song in every silence,
seeking word and melody;
there's a dawn in every darkness
bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future,
What it holds a mystery,
unrevealed until its season, 
something God alone can see.
In our end is our beginning;
in our time, infinity;
in our doubt there is believing;
in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection;
at the last, a victory,
unrevealed until its season,
something God alone can see.

In the cost of criticizing Trump Sarah Pulliam Bailey has noted more strident expressions of differences over the role of politics within Christianity in the wake of  the Christianity Today editorial.  See

Jim Wallis has sounded a hopeful note, saying Let speaking prophetic truth guide us into the new year.    “The power of the Christian life is joy and hope in the face of discontinuity. ... Woven throughout is our commitment to building bridges with people at various places along their faith journey. I have believed that the evangelical Religious Right would rise and fall with Donald Trump. Now I am hopeful that the courage of Christianity Today in calling for a national conversation can distinguish a true and morally balanced evangelical witness in politics from the Religious Right’s morally blind support of Trump.  We are a community, building a movement to create a more loving and inclusive world, as Jesus taught us in word and deed. See

On the role of a booming economy in 2020 politic and what one of the most successful investors of Wall Street says are the three (unlikely) events that would definitely trigger a bear market, see

Uncertainty is the norm on where wealthy Americans think the market and US economy will be at the end of 2020.  See

David Leonhardt asserts that You shouldn’t believe believe the GDP numbers.  The statistics keep on rising, but they don’t track the well-being of most Americans.  “Instead an outsize share of economic growth flows to the wealthy.  And yet GDP is treated as a totemic measure of the company’s prosperity.”  Leonhardt attributes the failure of GDP to measure general economic well-being to “Business executives and investors deciding to maximize corporate profits, regardless of societal effects, while the government became more passive about regulating big business.” See The New York Times, December 15, 2019.      

Related commentary:
On the future of a church that has lost its moral compass and the end times:
(2/8/15): Promoting Religion Through Evangelism: Bringing Light or Darkness?
(2/15/15): Is Religion Good or Evil?
(4/5/15): Seeing the Resurrection in a New Light
(4/19/15): Jesus: A Prophet, God’s Only Son, or the Logos
(10/4/15): Faith and Religion: The Same but Different
(7/9/16): Back to the Future: Race, Religion, Rights and a Politics of Reconciliation
(8/5/16): How Religion Can Bridge Our Political and Cultural Divide
(9/17/16): A Moral Revival to Restore Legitimacy to Our Politics
(9/24/16): The Evolution of Religion and Politics from Oppression to Freedom
(11/5/16): Religion, Liberty and Justice at Home and Abroad
(12/31/16): E Pluribus Unum, Religion and a Politics of Reconciliation
(1/7/17): Religion and Reason as Sources of Political Legitimacy, and Why They Matter
(1/21/17): Religion and Reason Redux: Religion Is Ridiculous
(1/28/17): Saving America from the Church
(3/18/17): Moral Ambiguity in Religion and Politics
(4/15/17): Easter and the Christian Paradox
(4/22/17): The Relevance of Jesus and the Irrelevance of the Church in Today’s World
(4/29/17): A Wesleyan Alternative for an Irrelevant Church
(6/24/17): The Evolution of Religion, Politics and Law: Back to the Future?
(7/1/17): Religion, Moral Authority and Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy
(7/15/17): Religion and Progressive Politics
(7/22/17): Hell No! 
(8/12/17): The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism  
(10/7/17): A 21st Century Reformation to Restore Reason to American Civil Religion
(12/23/17): If Democracy Survives the Trump Era, Can the Church Survive Democracy?
(3/3/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America’s Holy War
(3/17/18): Jefferson’s Jesus and Moral Standards in Religion and Politics
(3/31/18): Altruism: The Missing Ingredient in American Christianity and Democracy
(4/7/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Need for a Moral Reformation
(4/28/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Virtues and Vices of Christian Morality
(5/5/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Nostalgia as an Obstacle to Progress
(5/12/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christianity and Making America Great Again
(7/14/18): Musings on Why Christians Should Put Moral Standards Over Mystical Beliefs
(8/4/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religious Problems and Solutions in Politics
(8/11/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Changing Morality in Religion and Politics
(9/1/18): Musings on the American Civil Religion and Christianity at a Crossroads
(9/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of Christian Universalism
(10/6/18): Musings on Moral Universalism in Religion and Politics
(11/3/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist: Has God Blessed Us or Damned Us?
(11/10/18): Musings on the End Times: God’s Rapture or Satan’s Rupture?
(12/1/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Mystical Logos
(12/15/18): Musings on the Great Commission and Religious and Political Tribalism
(12/22/18): Musings on Faith and Works: The Unity of All Believers and The Last Judgment
(2/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Hypocrisy of American Christianity
(3/2/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Post-Christian America
(3/9/19): Musings on the Degradation of Democracy in a Post-Christian America
(3/16/19): Musings on the Evolution of Christian Exclusivism to Universalism
(3/23/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Thinking Outside the Box
(5/4/19): Musings on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
(5/11/19): Musings on the Relevance of Jefferson’s Jesus in the 21st Century
(5/18/19): Outsiders Versus Insiders in Religion, Legitimacy and Politics
(5/25/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Divinity and Moral Teachings of Jesus
(6/8/19): The Moral Failure of the Church to Promote Altruism in Politics 
(6/15/19): Back to the Future: A 21st Century Pentecost for the Church
(6/22/19): The Universal Family of God: Where Inclusivity Trumps Exclusivity
(7/6/19): Musings on Democrats, Busing and Racism: It’s Deja Vu All Over Again
(7/13/19): Musings on Sovereignty and Conflicting Loyalties to God and Country 
(8/3/19): Musings on the Dismal Future of  the Church and Democracy in America
(8/10/19): Musings on Christian Nationalism: A Plague on the Church and Democracy
(8/31/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism
(9/7/19): Musings on the Self-Destruction of Christianity and American Democracy
(9/14/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Chaos as a Prelude to a New Creation
(9/21/19): An Afterword on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics from 2014-2019
(10/5/19): Musings on the Moral Relevance of Jesus to Democracy
(11/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Virtual Alternative to a Failing Church
(11/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irrelevance of Morality in Politics
(11/23/19): Musings on Jesus and Christ as Conflicting Concepts in Christianity
(12/7/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religious Triumphalism and Politics
(12/14/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Prophets, Scripture and God’s Truth
(12/21/19): Musings on Advent and a Not-so-Merry Christmas for American Democracy

On Christianity and capitalism:     
(3/8/15): Wealth, Politics, Religion and Economic Justice
(8/9/15): Balancing Individual Rights with Collective Responsibilities
(10/18/15): God, Money and Politics
(1/30/16): The Politics of Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves
(6/4/16): Christianity and Capitalism: Strange Bedfellows in Politics
(10/1/16): The Federal Reserve, Wall Street and Congress on Monetary Policy
(2/11/17): The Mega-Merger of Wall Street, Politics and Religion
(3/11/17): Accountability and the Stewardship of Democracy
(9/9/17): The Evolution of the American Civil Religion and Habits of the Heart http://www.religion
(9/16/17): The American Civil Religion and the Danger of Riches
(12/16/17): Can Democracy Survive the Trump Era?
(1/20/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Morality and Religion in Politics
(1/27/18): Musings on Conflicting Concepts of Christian Morality in Politics
(2/17/18): Musings of a Maverick on Money, Wall Street, Greed and Politics
(6/15/18): The Prosperity Gospel: Where Culture Trumps Religion in Legitimacy and Politics
(4/27/19): Musings on the Legitimacy of Crony Capitalism and Progressive Capitalism
(6/29/19): Musings on a Politics of Reconciliation: An Impossible Dream?
(8/24/19): Musings on How a Recession Could Transform Religion and Politics in 2020
(9/28/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Polarized Politics of Climate Change

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