Saturday, November 7, 2020

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Good and Evil in Religion and Politics

     By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

The 2020 presidential election looks a lot like 2016, but it has yet to be decided.  It’s an accurate reflection of the forces of good and evil in America, and it revealed once again that the forces of evil in America have neutralized the forces of good in its politics.  America is not the beautiful nation we grew up believing that we were.

Almost 64% of South Carolinians are white; over 26% are black, with 10% are Hispanic. Over 78% of voters claim to be Christians, and most white Christians again voted for Trump and his Republicans.  Partisan politics continue to be defined by race.  Most whites vote Republican and most blacks vote Democratic; and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

Most S.C. churches are segregated, making Sunday mornings the most segregated time of the week.  While Protestant churches are not becoming more integrated, there’s no evidence of racial discord among them.  The white and black congregations of the United Methodist Church in S.C. are not truly united; they are separate but equal churches in the UMC.

Cultural and traditional differences can explain why UMC churches are racially segregated; but white and black UMC churches could sponsor interracial meetings to discuss their divisive partisan differences and promote a politics of reconciliation.  Racial reconciliation should begin in white and black churches, and the S.C.UMC is a good place to begin.

God’s will is to reconcile and redeem, while Satan’s will is to divide and conquer; but Satan does a convincing imitation of God in the church and politics, and the election confirmed that Satan is winning the popularity contest in the battle between the forces of good and evil.  That’s bad news for democracy; but the church could change that dynamic.

The altruistic and universal teachings of Jesus are summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, including our neighbors of other races and religions.  It’s about reconciliation, and was taken from the Hebrew Bible, taught by Jesus and has been accepted as a common word of faith by Islamic scholars.

In politics, the greatest commandment is a universal and altruistic principle that requires balancing individual and partisan interests with providing for the common good.  If the church were to emphasize that altruistic principle in both faith and politics, it would promote a politics of reconciliation and counter the forces of evil that have dominated American politics since 2016.

The church has failed to promote the altruistic moral teachings of Jesus in politics and allowed evil to corrupt the power of God’s goodness in America’s church and its democracy.  To prevent the divisive forces of evil from further unraveling the fabric of American democracy, the church must engage the forces of evil in politics--even if it costs the church its popularity.


Trump’s Language of Hate Has Deep Roots in American Religious Bigotry. (11/5/2020) “President Donald Trump’s influence on U.S. politics and society will last far longer than his tenure as president. Trumpism is not a coherent doctrine; there’s no grand strategy holding it together. Instead it is a combination of ideologies: judicial appointments to renew the culture wars and preserve Trump’s power; deep-seated corruption to benefit the Trump family and their allies monetarily; standard Republican ideas about taxes; and, most crucially, systems of violence, ideological and physical, against groups the administration defines as the Other. That’s an idea that goes back a long way in the United States, and which hasn’t entirely escaped its religious roots.Trump has repeatedly leaned on fear of and opposition to imaginary enemies to avoid responsibility for his own failures and to suggest who belongs and who doesn’t in U.S. society. The most recent example is his executive order establishing the 1776 Commission. Pitched as an counterpunch to the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which examines the consequences of slavery in the United States, it was in fact a declaration that the Other does not and has never existed in U.S. society, and that anyone who suggests otherwise has a nonfactual, un-American agenda.This is absurd.  

U.S. politics has a long history of weaponizing the fear and hate of the Other, one of the earliest of which was anti-Catholicism and the genre of symbolic language associated with it, “anti-popery.” Quakers accused the newly mobilized voters of having rigged the election and pretending toward greater freedom while secretly intending a radical agenda of egalitarianism and wealth redistribution. Sound familiar? Any abusive or corrupt actions by the state or its governing elite could be readily denigrated as “popish.” Yet, so, too, could elements of society seen as subversive, dissatisfied, or antagonistic to the godly society of the empowered. The beauty of this symbolism to those who relied upon it was that it could increasingly be detached from a specific meaning or grievance without losing any of its potency to mobilize the fearful and resentful within society. Think “socialist” among the right wing today.                                          Trump’s reliance on this same kind of religious symbolism have not been subtle. Trump overtly claims that Christians are under attack in the United States and that he is fighting back against their supposed oppression. Plenty has been written on the multiple branches of Christianity that support him in this endeavor—Christian dominionists, Christian Zionists, neocharismatic Pentecostals, and evangelicals in general. His travel ban on several majority-Muslim countries, his violent rhetoric about Muslims in this country and abroad, and the several performative laws banning “sharia law” by GOP state legislatures across the nation have been very clear. Trump’s embrace of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories such as QAnon, of explicitly white-nationalist groups, and repeated promotion of anti-Semitic propaganda about “cosmopolitan elites,” “globalists,” and protests “paid for by [George] Soros,” helped lead to the Tree of Life synagogue shooting and other incidents of anti-Semitic violence.                                                        To be sure, Trump did not invent this political language. It is exceedingly unlikely he is aware of its long presence in U.S. history and the language that informs it. But he stands in a long tradition of conservative political leaders that have embraced the conspiratorial style within U.S. society, a calculated language that strikes a careful balance between unspoken or understated inference and a current of anger and resentment toward anyone who might be to blame for the misfortune of the so-called silent majority. For Trump and his followers, however, subtext is often straightforward text. Even 19th-century nativist supporters didn’t resort to grave desecration.  Trump’s presidency will end, and there will be a rush to pretend we are back to normal. The horrifying truth, however, is that religious violence is historically the United States’ normal. And when he goes, it won’t disappear with him.” See

On the evil of Trump’s politics up to the 2020 election, see

Biden May Win, but Trump Remains the President of Red America (11/4/2020)  See also, Trump may lose, but Trumpism hasn’t been repudiated (11/4/2020)

On good and evil in religion and politics since 2018, see related commentary at:

(4/28/2018): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Virtues and Vices of Christian Morality

(2/1/2018): Musings on the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Altar of Partisan Politics

(6/2/2018): Musings on Good Versus Evil and Apocalypse in Religion, Legitimacy and Politics

(9/15/2018): Who Put Jesus on the Cross and Trump on the Throne?

(11/3/2018): Musings of a Maverick Methodist: Has God Blessed Us or Damned Us?

(11/10/2018): Musings on the End Times: God’s Rapture or Satan’s Rupture?

(2/9/2019): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Hypocrisy of American Christianity

(2/16/2019): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America the Blessed and Beautiful--or is it?

(5/4/2019): Musings on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

(8/3/2019): Musings on the Dismal Future of  the Church and Democracy in America  

(2/1/2020): Musings on the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Altar of Partisan Politics

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