Saturday, March 7, 2020

Musings on America's Need for a Politics of Reconciliation, not Revolution

   By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

Will our next president be the radical right demagogue now in the White House, a radical left socialist ideologue, or just a regular Joe?  Donald Trump now controls the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party hasn’t yet decided who will carry its banner in November; but Joe Biden has become America’s best hope for a politics of reconciliation rather than revolution. 

Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are radical populists who promote slashing and burning government as we know it, whether they call it draining the swamp, destroying the deep state, or ending the last vestiges of a healthy democracy with a socialist state.  Sanders’ supporters call him a progressive, but most Americans consider him a radical left socialist.  

Super Tuesday revealed that most voters prefer Biden’s politics of reconciliation with incremental change, rather than the contentious and divisive politics of Trump and Sanders. Trump’s supporters want America to return to the 1950s and Sanders supporters want to go back to the 1930s when socialism was popular.  Biden wants to move forward, not backward.     

Both Trump and Sanders promote radical and divisive “us versus them” politics that have polarized American politics and radicalized America’s two political parties.  Before Biden’s recent success in the primaries, it seemed that both parties would sponsor radical candidates for president, with both Sanders and Trump promoting a partisan politics of “my way or no way.”

Religion is the source of the moral standards of political legitimacy.  Most Americans claim to be Christians, yet most white Christians support Trump, whose morality is the antithesis of that taught by Jesus.  Popularity is the measure of success in the church as well as in politics, so that most pastors keep politics out of their pulpits. That has cost the church its legitimacy.   

God’s will is to reconcile and redeem humanity, while Satan’s will is to divide and conquer.  God’s will is expressed in the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves.  It’s taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus, and is accepted by Islamic scholars as a common word of faith.   

In the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil, Satan seems to be winning the political popularity contests that determine who holds power in a democracy.  That’s because Satan is a master of deceit and does a convincing imitation of God in the church and in politics. It should be comforting to know that God’s kingdom is not a democracy.

The stories of the temptation of Jesus depict Satan offering Jesus all of the world’s kingdoms if he bows down to Satan--as many of our politicians do today.  We know the rest of the story. Jesus rejected the temptation of worldly power and glory to do God’s will. He taught and exemplified sacrificial love for others, but his altruistic teachings have never been popular.
Can a remnant of Christians promote a politics of reconciliation and save American democracy from its demise, or will America continue to promote divisive identity politics and ignore the need to provide for the common good?  We can only hope that those who call themselves Christians will become stewards of democracy and save America from itself.


Rev. John Culp, a retired United Methodist pastor, has lamented the immoral politics of Trump, and expressed hope that a remnant of Christians can restore morality to American politics.  He asserts, “Even though wrongness and corruption exists, there is a common thread that blesses and keeps life. In biblical thought or explanation this is called “the Remnant of God’s Presence.” (Romans 11:5)  
...The biblical prophets began to see that there never had been a time, and there never would be a time, when the whole nation was true to God.  But at the same time, always within the nation there was a remnant left who had never forsaken their loyalty or compromised their faith. ...The remnant of truth is the body of consecrated, dedicated men and women within the nation and world.”  Culp concludes by citing Matthew 7:13,14, in which Jesus says that the road to truth and life is narrow and that few find it. See Remnant: the devoted minority, in The South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, March 2020, page 6.

Sean Sullivan  and Robert Costa have depicted Trump and Sanders as leading competing populist movements, reshaping American politics. “Trump’s and Sanders’s movements reflect a broad shift across Western democracies toward a politics rooted in passionate emotion and grievance — one that has pushed the Brexit movement in the United Kingdom from little-regarded sideshow to official British policy under the aegis of a prime minister whose public appeal is similar to Trump’s. In Germany, a far-right movement has gained influence in government.  Meanwhile, left-wing populism and self-described democratic socialists are gaining power throughout Europe and the Americas, at times replacing an older guard of liberals who embraced globalization. ‘Populism is the future of American politics’ said Stephen K.Bannon, a former top Trump advisor. ‘The question is whether it’s right or left--the deconstruction of the administrative state or democratic socialism.’ 
For Sanders, whose movement is based in economic inequality, the culprits are the financial elite, billionaires and chief executives who have succeeded while workers have either been laid off or watched their wages stagnate in an economy where costs are otherwise rising. His events are infused with laments of shell-shocked Americans who talk of their struggles to keep up. The tenets of the Sanders platform follow suit: enacting a Medicare-for-all government health-care system, steep new taxes on “the billionaire class,” free college for all Americans and sharp cutbacks in U.S. military interventions overseas — a fundamental expansion of the role of government in the United States.
For Trump, whose movement is based on cultural resentments and who has been accused by critics of stoking white nationalism, the culprits have been immigrants, women and others seen as displacing those who traditionally benefited from the economy’s boom times, a group mostly white and male that reflects the president’s most avid backers. ...Trump’s solutions have focused on reversing decades of cultural change, including his efforts to ban Muslims from entering the country, build a border wall and pass restrictive immigration policies, and curb the environmental protections that have grown for the past half-century — a vast downsizing of the role of the federal government. (His signature tax plan benefited the economic elites that he has inveighed against, but he has lost little ground among his supporters who don’t fit neatly into that category.)” See
The vulgarity of Trump and his supporters has been on display in his raucous campaign rallies, and Sanders now has his own Pied Pipers of the Dirtbag Left Who Want to Lead Everyone to Bernie Sanders.  Sanders supporters seem to be trying to outdo those of Trump over who can be the most obscene.  See

On Super Tuesday, Biden demonstrated that he has a broad base of moderate voters, including independents.  His campaign is one of reconciliation rather than revolution and division. See   

Related commentary on the greatest commandment:
(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
(10/13/18): Musings on a Common Word of Faith and Politics for Christians and Muslims
(2/23/19): Musings on Loving Your Enemy, Including the Enemy Within
(7/20/19): Musings on Diversity in Democracy: Who Are Our Neighbors? 
(8/31/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism
(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
(10/26/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Discipleship in a Democracy
(11/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irrelevance of Morality in Politics
(12/14/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Prophets, Scripture and God’s Truth
(2/1/20): Musings on the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Altar of Partisan Politics

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
(11/15/15): 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
(12/24/16): Advent: The Coming of a Light that Shines in the Darkness
(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
(6/15/18): The Prosperity Gospel: Where Culture Trumps Religion in Legitimacy and Politics
(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
(8/17/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Shame in Religion and Politics
(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
(10/12/19): Musings on Impeachment and Elections as Measures of Political Legitimacy
(10/26/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Discipleship in a Democracy
(11/2/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Polarization and Reconciliation
(11/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irrelevance of Morality in Politics
(12/7/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religious Triumphalism and Politics
(12/21/19): Musings on Advent and a Not-so-Merry Christmas for American Democracy
(1/4/20): Musings on How a Depression (or a War) Could Make America Great Again
(1/25/20): Musings on the Legal and Moral Standards of Political Legitimacy in Impeachment
(2/15/20): Musings on How Political Centrists Will Make a Difference in the 2020 Elections 


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