Saturday, August 17, 2019

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Shame in Religion and Politics

   By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

Katherine Parker has long been one of my favorite columnists.  She has a sense of humor that can brighten the darkest political topic. But I was disappointed in her latest column that criticized progressives’ shaming of Trump supporters.  She called such “shaming a sham” since “many, if not most, Trump supporters don’t think he’s a racist, and don’t think that they are, either.” 

Parker’s criticism was aimed at Democrats who shamed Trump and his supporters as racists “for political gain, even as the bodies of the slain [in El Paso and Dayton] are still being laid to rest.”  She described such shaming as “politics at its most craven--and the definition of shameful.” But Trump’s hateful and racist politics have “outshamed” those of Democrats.  

Parker admitted that “Trump’s singling out of minorities for ridicule and stereotyping has added to the fevers of the already inclined.  As a moral imperative, at the very least, he should be condemned and voted out of office.” Parker then says that “shaming as a tactic works only if...the alleged shameful can be shamed.”  Trump may be shameless, but his supporters aren’t.   

Shaming is judging and condemning people for their moral behavior, and Christians can be shamed.  Jesus said, Do not judge (Mt 7:1-5), but then he condemned Jewish religious leaders for their hypocrisy and sanctimony (Mt 23).  Christians judge candidates whenever they vote, and their judgment is shameful if and when they support egregiously immoral politicians.

Pastors are expected to preach the moral standards taught by Jesus, but their pulpits have been silent on morality in politics.  Pastors should promote the moral stewardship of democracy and in a nation polarized by partisan politics, pastors should support a politics of reconciliation, and urge congregants to repent if they support populist demagogues like Trump.

Kathleen Parker has opined that “it’s despicable that we have a president who seems intent on stoking division by mocking migrants, immigrants and citizens he doesn’t like, [but] leaping extrapolations get us all into trouble.”  That’s true. But if those white Christians who elected Trump in 2016 don’t repent before the 2020 elections, we’ll all be in even more trouble.

God’s will is to reconcile all people as children of God, while Satan’s will is to divide and conquer, and Satan does a convincing imitation of God in the church and in politics.  In the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil, Satan is winning the popularity contest, and that’s a determinative factor in a democracy, where voters determine their political destiny.

Christians should be ashamed of empowering a populist demagogue like Trump.  In the 1930s German Christians should have shamed Hitler and his Nazi regime for their hateful and racist rhetoric and violence, rather than supporting Hitler’s “make Germany great again” populist politics.  Had they done that, the world might have avoided the devastation of World War II.

American Christians have an obligation of faith and politics to hold Trump and his supporters accountable for immoral behavior likely to cause domestic violence.  They should be ashamed of supporting racist politics; and shame is best served warm, while the horrific events precipitated by Trump’s hateful and racist comments are fresh in the minds of Americans.

The judgment and condemnation of shaming is harsh, but in a democracy it’s necessary to hold politicians and their supporters accountable when they undermine political legitimacy.  While many Trump supporters acknowledge his immorality, they still support him because he is “fighting for them.” They should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and double standard of morality.               


Edward Simmons believes that “Our nation has reached a point of crisis demanding calls for repentance from every Christian pulpit. Hypocrisy, narcissism, and mental instability in the Trump administration, ...and the silence in too many pulpits, as Trump’s relentless hate language jumped into higher and higher gears growing evidence of betrayal by Christian churches of all varieties.
Americans have been losing confidence in our political and religious institutions since the 1960s. The fundamental reason is well-founded suspicions of dishonesty among political and religious leaders. Outright lying was not always the problem, rather it was a failure of courage to acknowledge political and religious truths that became increasingly obvious despite efforts to deny or obfuscate.”
Simmons cited Matthew 7:1-5 (Do not judge…) in cautioning those who criticize (or shame) evangelicals who support Trump.  He urged them to “take an honest look at ourselves before finding fault with others.” But he noted that “Christian Evangelicals [who support Trump] keep avoiding the message of Jesus. Their justifications reflect the narcissism of Trump himself. They are champions of religious liberty, of America as a Christian nation, of unborn children from murder, of a righteous Supreme Court that will agree with them in imposing on the United States solutions from old-fashioned white America. Unwilling to look honestly at the coercive righteousness of their motives, they want to save America by removing what they see as the logs that distort vision. The problem is that the logs they want to remove include truth as known through science and history. They also lack the honesty to admit their champion is mentally unstable, grotesquely immoral, and lacking fundamental human compassion for victims of his policies. Narcissism is a trap that theological advocates can easily fall into – whether it be the rights of women, of all genders, of all races, of the disadvantaged, or of all humanity. Special pleading can lead to fault finding with specks in ways that turn our specks into logs if we are not careful.
Simmons then urged national repentance for the “...accelerated fault finding that is ripping apart our social fabric and making us daily more vulnerable to foreign adversaries. Christians in America can vote to force changes in destructive and unchristian behaviors. We must repent, pray for forgiveness, and then act with courage to reverse deadly tides undermining the forces that build honesty, trust, and unity. We must also put aside our own temptations to narcissism...and repent of the silence and lack of courage that prevents this message from ringing from every Christian pulpit.” See

Evangelicals aren’t turned off by Trump’s first term--they’re delighted by it. “Evangelicals voters paint the portrait of the Trump they see: a president who acts like a bully but is fighting for them.  ...They label themselves “value voters.” What they mean by values: abortion and gay rights, not traits like integrity and kindness.  Rev. Dennis Episcopo hasn’t felt the need to denounce any of [Trump’s shortcomings] in front of his congregation, which includes more than 5,000 attendees on a typical Sunday. His megachurch is almost entirely white and conservative, like the lakeside region where it is located. Episcopo has not seen any behavior from Trump in the past three years that would prompt him to openly dissuade churchgoers from supporting this president.  “There could be something, where society really crosses the line on something, that I feel as a pastor I have to get up and say something,” he muses. “But it hasn’t happened yet.” See

On how Trump’s divisive rhetoric at a recent campaign rally in Greenville, N.C. increased fear, hate and violence, see After El Paso, the “send her back” chant echoes to some as a prelude to murder, at

Rev. Thomas Summers, a pastor in Columbia, S.C., has asked: “Did our president’s casting of vile and fear-ridden a part in the shooting massacres seen in mosques, shopping malls, congregations, schools , concerts and other venues?  He answered in the affirmative, and concluded that “When our social and spiritual soil becomes soaked by the influence of ruthless words, a deadly prejudice begins to find its birth. Indeed, words can kill.” See Letters to the Editor, The State, August 15, 2019, at page 9A.  

Related commentary on religion, morality and politics: 

(12/29/14): Religion, Violence and Military Legitimacy
(2/8/15): Promoting Religion Through Evangelism: Bringing Light or Darkness?
(2/15/15): Is Religion Good or Evil?
(4/12/15): Faith as a Source of Morality and Law: The Heart of Legitimacy
(6/28/15): Confronting the Evil Among Us
(7/12/15): Reconciliation in Race and Religion: The Need for Compatibility, not Conformity
(8/9/15): Balancing Individual Rights with Collective Responsibilities
(8/23/15): Legitimacy as a Context and Paradigm to Resolve Religious Conflict
(8/30/15): What Is Truth? American Exceptionalism: The Power of Persuasion or Coercion?
(1/16/16): Religion, Politics and Public Expectations
(3/26/16): Religion, Democracy, Diversity and Demagoguery
4/30/16): The Relevance of Religion to Politics
(5/7/16): Religion and a Politics of Reconciliation
(5/28/16): Nihilism as a Threat to Politics, Religion and Morality
(7/2/16): The Need for a Politics of Reconciliation in the Wake of Globalization
(8/5/16): How Religion Can Bridge Our Political and Cultural Divide
(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
(3/4/17): Ignorance and Reason in Religion and Politics
(3/18/17): Moral Ambiguity in Religion and Politics
(4/22/17): The Relevance of Jesus and the Irrelevance of the Church in Today’s World
(7/1/17): Religion, Moral Authority and Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy
(7/15/17): Religion and Progressive Politics
(7/29/17): Speaking God’s Truth to Man’s Power
(8/5/17): Does Religion Seek to Reconcile and Redeem or to Divide and Conquer?
(8/12/17): The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism  
(8/19/17): Hate, History and the Need for a Politics of Reconciliation
(10/7/17): A 21st Century Reformation to Restore Reason to American Civil Religion
(10/21/17): The Symbiotic Relationship between Freedom and Religion
(11/18/17): Radical Religion and the Demise of Democracy
(12/2/17): How Religious Standards of Legitimacy Shape Politics, for Good or Bad
(12/16/17): Can Democracy Survive the Trump Era? 
(12/23/17): If Democracy Survives the Trump Era, Can the Church Survive Democracy?
(1/6/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Diversity in Democracy
(1/13/18): Nationalist Politics and Exclusivist Religion: Obstacles to Reconciliation and Peace
(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
(3/17/18): 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
(5/12/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christianity and Making America Great Again
(5/19/18): Musings on Morality and Law as Symbiotic but Conflicting Standards of Legitimacy
(7/21/18): Musings on America’s Moral and Political Mess and Who Should Clean It Up
(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
(8/25/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Moral Priorities 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
(10/27/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Migrant Tidal Wave
(11/24/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christianity and the Legitimacy of Democracy
(1/5/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Building Political Walls or Bridges
(2/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America the Blessed and Beautiful--or is it?
(3/30/19): Musings on What the Mueller Report Doesn’t Say About Trump’s Wrongdoing
(4/12/19): Musings on Religion, Nationalism and Libertarian Democracy
(4/20/19): Musings on the Resurrection of Altruistic Morality in Dying Democracies
(4/27/19): Musings on the Legitimacy of Crony Capitalism and Progressive Capitalism
(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 
(6/22/19): The Universal Family of God: Where Inclusivity Trumps Exclusivity
(6/29/19): Musings on a Politics of Reconciliation: An Impossible Dream?
(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 
(7/20/19): Musings on Diversity in Democracy: Who Are Our Neighbors? 
(7/27/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Love Over Law and Social Justice
(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

No comments:

Post a Comment