Wednesday, December 25, 2019
Daniel J. Summers
As I stated in my last post, I have realigned my political affiliation. I set out to find previous posts I've written here which no longer reflect my opinions, and I didn't find much. Most of the things I would write differently if I were writing them today would differ in tone more than content. This confirms my suspicion that it wasn't me who changed as much as it was my party.
To be fair, I'm quite happy with many of the things the current administration has done. The Supreme Court has a nice balance now, regularly confounding people who expect party-line votes from what is supposed to be a non-partisan institution. There are now enough strict-constructionist justices that the Constitution is being followed much more closely. And, for as much scorn as I've heaped on “the resistance,” it's been nice to have a press that sees how unjust many of the things our government has been doing is. It's a shame they lose interest when it's discovered that prior administrations also did those things - or they choose to ignore that, acting like every shame is a new shame that should be borne solely by the current administration.
What changed (or what was revealed) is the character of those in the party, not just the guy at the top of the ticket. It is a perfectly defensible position to say that you agree with the political job that someone is doing, and still lament their character. Pro-life judges don't excuse callous mocking of deceased political opponents. Increasing religious freedom doesn't eliminate adultery and hush-money payments. Yet among the vocal Republican majority, it does. For the “character matters” warriors from the Clinton administration, this is hypocritical; among Christians, this is absolutely devastating to our witness.
(begin evangelical Christian-targeted rant)
Yes, King David was anointed by God to lead Israel; that doesn't mean his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah were fine, because he was “God's anointed.” For those making the “Trump is appointed by God” argument - you're not wrong, but I don't think that argument makes the point you think it does. I wrote on my devotional blog about Paul's writing to the Romans; his words in Romans 13 were written about Nero. Remember, too, that the only reason Israel had kings was due to their rejection of God as their ultimate ruler. King David is a terrible analogy to use if you're wanting to speak positively about our current President while ignoring his personal and professional misconduct; maybe you could draw a parallel about pride, but that's not really what I think you're wanting to highlight.
As a faithful Christian, I can no longer maintain a political affiliation with the Republican party. And, while I'm still part of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” against Hillary Clinton (which, of course, is tongue-in-cheek; there is no such thing, as much as she'd like to blame them for her failures), that is no longer the best description of my views. So, the new tagline here is “Conservatarian at Large” (a nod to Jon Gabriel and Stephen Miller's podcast portmanteau), indicating both a conservative (AKA “classically liberal”) and libertarian viewpoint.
I will also unequivocally state that I do not think that Christians who make a different choice are somehow going against what God wants them to do. There are many different ways to parse our current nuanced environment. Those who believe just as I do may land on continued support for Donald Trump, and advocate for giving him 4 more years at the helm of the good ship USA. As long as they are not seemingly blind to his faults, in my view, they are following a path which they feel God has directed them. That's the nice thing about a proper view of God's sovereignty; He can make His followers have different viewpoints - sometimes to call others to change, and other times to cause them to think.
As for me and my conscience, though, I cannot continue with the GOP. As I alluded in my last post, I'll be exploring the relationship between conservative Christianity and libertarianism in the near future. That won't be the only thing about which I'll write here, but it will probably be the first thing (unless I find some time to resurrect the “good, bad, and ridiculous” thing for 2019).
Housekeeping-wise, the college football posts from 2012-2014 have been removed; those URLs will return a 404. If anyone misses them, you can turn this site's URL into an e-mail address and let me know.
Saturday, December 21, 2019
Daniel J. Summers
As I write this, we are on the other side of the House's impeachment vote, though some legal analysis says that it's not official until those articles are sent to the Senate. Our hot take culture is filled with people sharing their view of what's happened. That's not really my thing, though; the early take is often completely wrong. (Exhibit A for this was the circle game non-troversy at the Army/Navy game; so glad the wokescolds wasted our military's time investigating that.) Another of our culture's pasttimes is giving the worst possible reading to anything that happens, and assuming the worst possible motivation behind it. (See “Exhibit A” again…) Again - not my style and not my speed, because doing that rarely leads one to the truth. So, I've been following the reporting, transcripts, defenses, analyses, and prosecutions from an information gathering viewpoint, trying to cut through the partisan bovine excrement and resistance-disguised-as-objective reporting to determine what happened, how severe it was, and what should be done about it.
“These are the established facts” rarely is followed by established facts as I've found them, using primarily the transcript of the alleged dastardly call and the testimony of the Ukrainians involved. The Congressionally-approved aid was not discussed as much as Ukraine's desire to buy more missiles. Then, in the most quid pro quo part of the call, a White House visit was offered in exchange for Ukraine announcing an investigation. Note what this wasn't - it wasn't a request to do an investigation, it was a request to announce an investigation. It also wasn't part of the previously-approved military aid or the future missile sales. The announcement would have been embarrassing to Joe Biden, whose son Hunter would be implicated; interestingly, Biden's lowest polling to date occurred when this was the main story occupying the news. Ukrainian leaders have also said that they did not feel like they were being extorted.
The above are the facts, as the dictionary defines facts; other characterizations are something other than facts. It was neither a perfect call nor a gross abuse of Presidential power.
That being said, what President Trump did with Ukraine was not good. If there is an investigation needed, then encourage them to do it. Unless there are allegations that Joe knew that his son was trading on a connection to the US government, though (which I've rarely seen alleged), doing a “guilt by association” attack on Joe through his kids is way more objectionable than someone making a pun with one of his children's names. And, connecting requests like this with a call that had discussed foreign aid is worthy of official censure…
...which brings us to his detractors. The House of Representatives, and the Democrats within it, have behaved even worse. From Adam Schiff's creative interpretation of the transcript to open the hearings, to their misrepresentation of the facts (holding up Congressionally-approved aid for personal political reasons), to their lack of objectivity and transparency - they seem to be hanging on to a thread of legitimacy. They focus-grouped their prosecution, settling on the term “bribery,” which they repeated ad nauseum until it was time for official articles to be drafted. Then, we get a charge called “obstruction of Congress,” which isn't even a thing, especially as applied to the executive or judicial branches. My more cynical nature thinks that they were hoping that reporters would say “obstruction of justice” (because that's a thing, and a thing to which most people are opposed), or that people would at least think it. Given the misconduct, a motion to censure would have been much more appropriate; interestingly, until they forward the articles to the Senate, that's exactly what they've done.
Those defending the President are just as bad. The call was far from perfect and the aid did not flow when it was expected to flow. Republicans have (rightly) long complained about how Presidents Clinton and Obama (especially Clinton) traded access and overnights at the White House for political gain or favors; how is this now just the way it is when it's someone in the same party? You don't get to claim to be the party of principle if you abandon those principles to keep or maintain power or influence. And, while Trump's impeachment was conceived 60 days before he took office, and has been executed in a purely partisan way, Senators McConnell and Graham deciding to double down on the lack of objectivity bewilders me. In an impeachment trial, the Senate is the jury; juries aren't supposed to pre-judge the case to which they are assigned.
One of the strangest aspects of this administration is how evangelical Christians (among whose number I count myself) wholeheartedly defend Trump not just as a politician, but as a person. This is the crux of an editorial posted at Christianity Today entitled "Trump Should Be Removed from Office." In the editorial, the author says that this removal can come from either the Senate or the next election, but it's hard not to view the headline as intentionally incendiary, particularly given the current context. And, true to form, I've seen liberals and atheists sharing it far and wide saying, “See? Even Christianity Today thinks he should be thrown out!” (It doesn't.) It's also prompted responses from prominent evangelicals, including Franklin Graham (Billy Graham's son), whose defenses fall into the category of the paragraph above. Christians should be better than this; Scripture emphasizes the importance of truth, and of being quick to hear yet slow to speak.
I continue to be an evangelical Christian, believing that our problems will not be ultimately solved by government, but through the transforming work of Christ in each of our lives. This is a key point missed by those who paint Billy Graham's silence on civil rights during his early years as racism. God working in human hearts can eliminate racism, but people in racist cultures (both oppressed and oppressor) need eternal salvation far more than earthly salvation; he was focused on the former. When government follows biblical principles, government flourishes; however, our government cannot follow biblical principles simply because they're biblical. Our government operates “by the consent of the governed,” and forcing behavior does nothing to change the ultimate state of a soul. To be sure, the current administration has appointed many people who protect life and religious liberty; that should not cause us to sweep bad behavior under the rug.
While my Christianity has not changed, the Republican party to which I belonged through 2016 has changed immensely. The GOP has been known, at different times in history, as the “party of Lincoln” and the “party of Reagan.” Both these men were inspirational leaders who presided over difficult times in our nation's history, and the legacy of both only increased once they left office (with reconstruction and the end of the Cold War). The GOP is now the “party of Trump,” demanding sycophantic loyalty to a leader, and looking to use the same heavy-handed government intervention on social issues that the liberals do - just to different ends. This does not align with my conservative principles at all. No leader is perfect, and our presidents put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. And, while the life issue is very, very important, a host of other issues need less government, not more.
Hello, Libertarian Party. You have a new member whose sole dissent with your platform is preborn life, but I know I'm not alone in that. I look forward to working with you to advance the cause of freedom and conservative less-government principles, and I encourage my Christian friends to consider the same things I have. I will write more about how I've aligned my faith and the LP platform in the months to come.