Saturday, March 30, 2019

Musings on What the Mueller Report Doesn't Say About Trump's Wrongdoing

   By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

The Mueller Report found no evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians, and insufficient evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.  But that doesn’t exonerate him from wrongdoing. Trump’s egregious immorality is clear and convincing evidence of wrongdoing that disqualifies him from being president, even if he is not indicted for a crime.
The Mueller Report properly ignored immorality and focused on violations of law.  But in our democracy political legitimacy is based on moral standards as well as those of the law, and is determined in the voting booth, not in the courtroom.  Trump isn’t the first president to claim that morality is irrelevant if his actions are legal. Bill Clinton did the same, but Trump has outdone him.

That’s the way it was in Jesus’ day.  Ancient Jews defined right and wrong with Mosaic Law; but Jesus taught the moral primacy of love over law and described immoral acts that made a person unclean, or evil: Evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. (Mark 7:21-22).  Evangelicals who support Trump have acknowledged and condoned his immorality, claiming he was appointed by God.

Based on the teachings of Jesus, Trump should never have been elected president.  The irony is that white Christians ignored those teachings and threw Jesus under the bus.  In 2020 they can redeem themselves and save American democracy from its demise by electing a president and congress that exemplify the altruistic teachings of Jesus.

Those teachings are summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors as we love ourselves, including those of other races and religions.  It’s a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.  It’s taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus, and is accepted by Islamic scholars as a core principle of their faith.

God’s will is to reconcile and redeem humankind, while Satan’s will is to divide and conquer.  But Satan does a convincing imitation of God in the church, mosque and in politics. As a result, Satan is winning the popularity contest in the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil.  A politics of reconciliation based on altruistic love is needed to reverse that trend.

In politics altruism is needed to promote the common good, while polarized partisan politics oppose the common good.  Altruism is rare in partisan politics, despite the politician’s sobriquet of public servant.  And in business, Ayn Rand’s self-centered objectivism sanctifies the unrestrained greed that has become the moral norm for Wall Street mega-corporations.  
Altruism requires cooperation to promote a politics of reconciliation, while partisan politics promotes divisive political competition to defeat their partisan opponents.  Socialism is a political ideal based on cooperation, while capitalism is based on competition.  Neither is inherently good or bad, and Western democracies offer mixed versions of both political ideals.

The law is not the final word on wrongdoing, and moral standards are as important as the law in defining political legitimacy.  Donald Trump is an immoral demagogue who has used fear and hate to mobilize his supporters and divide and conquer his opposition.  We didn’t need the Mueller Report to tell us that Trump is a wrongdoer, even if he hasn’t broken the law.

Demagogues are elected when mindless majorities prevail over thoughtful and moral minorities.  To save American democracy from its demise, voters must make the altruistic moral teachings of Jesus a priority of their faith and politics.  Then they can promote a politics of reconciliation that can restore the political legitimacy of the American civil religion.


Jim Wallis has observed that the Mueller Report doesn’t exonerate Trump from moral wrongdoing.  See

Richard Cohen has observed that the best way to get rid of Trump is to beat him at the ballot box.

After asking Has America gone socialist?, Robert Samuelson has pointed out that socialist programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment compensation now share political legitimacy with capitalism in America, and more socialist programs are likely.  Government spending in Europe’s socialist democracies is now around 50% of their GDP. In America, it’s now 38% and climbing.

Related commentary:

On the greatest commandment and love over law:
(1/11/15): The Greatest Commandment: A Common Word of Faith
(1/18/15): Love over Law: A Principle at the Heart of Legitimacy
(1/23/16): Who Is My Neighbor?
(1/30/16): The Politics of Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves
(3/31/18): Altruism: The Missing Ingredient in American Christianity and Democracy
(2/23/19): Musings on Loving Your Enemy, Including the Enemy Within
On mysticism and morality in Christianity:
(9/17/16): A Moral Revival to Restore Legitimacy to Our Politics
(1/28/17): Saving America from the Church
(3/11/17): Accountability and the Stewardship of Democracy
(3/18/17): Moral Ambiguity in Religion and Politics
(7/1/17): Religion, Moral Authority and Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy
(10/28/17): The Moral Decline of Religion and the Seven Woes of Jesus
(12/2/17): How Religious Standards of Legitimacy Shape Politics, for Good or Bad
(12/23/17): If Democracy Survives the Trump Era, Can the Church Survive Democracy?
(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
(2/24/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religion, Freedom and Legitimacy
(3/24/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christian Morality as a Standard of Legitimacy
(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
(5/26/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Mysticism and Morality in Religion and Politics
(7/7/18): Whose America Is This? Musings on Conflicting Standards of Legitimacy in Religion and Politics
(7/14/18): Musings on Why Christians Should Put Moral Standards Over Mystical Beliefs
(7/28/18): Musings on the Polarization of Christian Morality and Politics
(8/11/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Changing Morality in Religion and Politics

On Christian discipleship and the stewardship of democracy in politics and the American civil religion:
(12/17/16): Discipleship in a Democracy: A Test of Faith, Legitimacy and Politics
(3/11/17): Accountability and the Stewardship of Democracy
(4/22/17): The Relevance of Jesus and the Irrelevance of the Church in Today’s World
(9/9/17): The Evolution of the American Civil Religion and Habits of the Heart
(9/23/17): Tribalism and the American Civil Religion  
(10/7/17): A 21st Century Reformation to Restore Reason to American Civil Religion Musings on the American Civil Religion and Christianity at a Crossroads
(1/19/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Discomfort of Discipleship
(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

Good versus evil and love versus hate:
(6/28/15): Confronting the Evil Among Us
(11/22/15): Dualism: Satan’s Evil Versus God’s Goodness
(12/5/15): Faith, Hope and Love in a World of Fear, Suspicion and Hate
(8/5/17): Does Religion Seek to Reconcile and Redeem or to Divide and Conquer?
(8/19/17): Hate, History and the Need for a Politics of Reconciliation
(6/2/18): Musings on Good Versus Evil and Apocalypse in Religion, Legitimacy and Politics

Altruism versus selfishness:
(3/31/18): Altruism: The Missing Ingredient in American Christianity and Democracy

Cooperation/socialism versus competition/capitalism and Ayn Rand objectivism:
(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
(6/3/17): When Winning Trumps Mercy and Losing is Evil
(9/16/17): The American Civil Religion and the Danger of Riches
(2/10/18): Musings on Peacemakers in a Culture of Competition and Conflict
(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
(8/18/18): Musings on Religion and the Morality of Socialist and Libertarian Politics

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