A few things I read over coffee this morning…while watching the talking heads discuss Iowa:
Morton Guyton, writing at Patheos blog Mercy Not Sacrifice, discusses an ideological perspective he calls ” White Evangelical Nihilism:”
There’s a genuine ideological foundation for the ethos that makes Trump and Cruz so popular. I call it white evangelical nihilism.
When you’re told by your pastor that all the people outside of your ideological tribe are utterly wicked and deserving of eternal torture, that’s how it becomes a sin to compromise with your opponents politically and work together for the common good.
Everything about secular liberalism must be utterly antithetical to the Christian gospel and profoundly offensive to God. It has to be, or else secular liberals wouldn’t be worthy of damnation. So everything about liberalism is put into binary opposition with “God’s truth.” To believe in climate change is to believe that God is not in control of the environment. To believe that the government should provide for the poor is an emulation of atheist communism and a usurpation of God’s sovereignty. To promote “political correctness” is to silence the courageous proclamation of “Biblical truth.”
This tracks with a point I make when discussing today’s polarized American political climate. Conservatives run on a set of existential issues on which there can be no compromise: abortion, homosexuality, taxes, and guns. Two of these have their basis in religion and two in racism, but all four depend on the fundamental premise that only wicked, lazy or authoritarian people disagree with the right wing on these issues. This is the fundamental American political problem we need to resolve.
Guyton goes on to reframe salvation. Rather than a search for God’s help in saving individual sinners from themselves, he argues we should seek His help in saving other people from our sin:
Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” Imagine if Christians, and especially Christian politicians, were known as the people who regard everyone else as “better than [them]selves.”
Read the whole thing. Excellent essay. Continue reading
Chris Matthews hit Bernie Sanders pretty hard the other night on Hardball for his new Goldman Sachs ad, which points out that the firm recently paid fines for banking law violations that helped damage the economy in 2008. The ad goes on to remind Americans that none of the people responsible faced criminal prosecution – though actual humans acted to break the law. These individual Wall Street bankers, the ad notes, get away with this because they contribute to political campaigns and pay huge speaking fees to politicians. The ad does not mention Hillary Clinton at all – but because Clinton has a relationship with Goldman Sachs that includes both campaign contributions and speaking fees, Matthews characterized this as a slam on the Secretary.
Sanders has a reputation as a clean campaigner and has said several times that he won’t go negative in his race against Hillary Clinton. After showing several clips of Sanders saying he’s never used a negative ad and won’t start now Mathews showed the spot and then spent several minutes making a claim that Sanders has changed strategy and “gone negative.” Continue reading
Ta-Nehisi Coates hit Bernie Sanders pretty hard this week for rejecting the idea of paying “reparations for slavery.” He didn’t like Sanders’ response – that Congress would never agree to such payments, the discussion would prove divisive, and we should instead invest in rebuilding cities and creating new jobs. I’m sympathetic to the reparations argument – given that much American wealth and capitalism depends in no small measure on slavery it makes sense to compensate those who worked in slave labor camps to help build it. But as a practical matter the chances of developing an effective reparations policy and getting it through Congress do in fact look pretty dim.
Sanders also took a hit from the Clintons, who sent daughter Chelsea out to make the somewhat misleading claim that he would “dismantle ObamaCare,” not to mention Medicare and private health insurance. To be sure, Sanders’ idea for an American Health Security Trust Fund (AHSTF), or single-payer universal health care, would replace the Affordable Care Act eventually. It would do so by expanding Medicare to every American, so I’m not sure how this “dismantles” that program. And it’s also not clear that this would mean the end of private health insurance firms. Even a universal health care system would have room for private sector supplements to whatever benefits the public sector provided. But part of the critique is that AHSTF is a political pipe dream that could never pass in the existing political climate. “I am not interested in ideas that sound good on paper but will never make it in real life,” Clinton said.
Finally, Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money fires a similar shot across Sanders’ bow. Asking “So What Would Happen if Bernie Sanders Won,” Loomis expresses two concerns: that Sanders would not be prepared to quickly appoint judges and executive officers, and that his base would abandon him within a year, dooming his presidency. Continue reading