Missing The Earthquake While The Scale Shakes

November 12, 2018

Faith & Action, Politics, Uncategorized

election results

From the Democrat-Chronicle of Rochester, New York

Does the human race prefer the soap opera’s crisis and drama? It seems so. Just view the 2018 American mid-term election scene, where pundits snuggle into their own concocted enigmas and miss potential electoral tremors in the nation’s religious landscape.

First, the facts and nothing but: As of now, the Democrats have flipped 37 US House seats (they needed a mere 23), traded seven governorships (reducing the Republican lead from 33-16 to 27-23) and are drubbing the GOP by 7.1 million votes. That’s the very definition of a “wave,” especially since it crested over Gerrymandered districts. All Republican efforts to raid health insurance, Medicare, and Social Security will slam into a navy-blue wall.

But the pundits respond: The election was mixed … disappointing … meh – all because the Democrats lost Senate seats and didn’t meet arbitrary “wave” definitions. Ed Rogers even said, “Democrats won the House, but Trump won the election.”

Huh? Everyone and her kid brother saw the tipped Senate scales: Vulnerable Democrats were on the chopping block in Trump-leaning states. The fact that pro-choice Beto O’Rourke even chased Republican US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was a miracle in itself, and it looks like Arizona will be sending the Senate a Democrat. Texans might want to field a holistically pro-life Democrat next time – just for fun.

Jennifer Rubin loaned us her sanity: “It turns out the 2018 midterm elections were pretty much a route.” She cited actual facts and figures.

Focusing on false spectacles blinds us to the real drama, which played before a nearly empty theater. Here are some titled scenes:

Scene One: That About Wraps It Up for the Religious Right. Jerry Falwell, Jr., let the cat out of the bag in a New York Times interview:  “I don’t look to the teachings of Jesus for what my political beliefs should be. I don’t believe he wanted us to.”

That quote would be incredible except for this: The only surprise is Falwell’s articulated admission. It’s plainly evident that the Religious Right has drifted so far it can’t even see its own shore. The movement was ostensibly launched in the late 1970’s to bring the nation back to biblical verities, but most soon smelled a rat: Its leaders supported Ronald Reagan against born-again Jimmy Carter. The rat stench stunk up the room in 2007, when Pat Robertson endorsed pro-choicer Rudy Giuliani in his ill-fated bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. Robertson felt that Giuliani, who also held liberal gay rights beliefs, wielded the political mojo to beat the Democrats, guard the nation against the “blood lust of Islamic terrorists” and fight “massive government waste and crushing federal deficits.”

Giuliani’s views on abortion and gay rights – supposedly two key issues – were sacrificed on the altar of political convenience. Robertson, and now Falwell, have gutted the movement of its soul.

A “Religious Right” may linger for years in name, but Falwell’s quote – along with the Trump-fawning from him and other leaders – destroys his moral credibility as a religious and political spokesman. He’s never held an elective office, so the only reason he stood before the microphone was his religious position. He’s now confessed that his political views are not based on his religion.

Once again, I ask: Where is the religion in the Religious Right?

Scene Two: Evangelicals Aren’t So Thrilled With Trump After All. The breath-taking 2016 election results still echo: Self-identified white evangelicals voted for Trump 81-19. The follow-up commentary often drops the key adjective, “white.” Sentences begin, “The 81-19 evangelical vote …” The religious clan marches like an army of Trump zombies. One problem: About a third of all US evangelicals are not white, and they voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center drops the 81 drops to 56 when factoring in minorities.

Behold: The scales fall off the zombies. They’re legitimate humans again. And they’re browner. Asians, African Americans, and Hispanics are joining the throngs. What will the evangelical vote look like as the minorities become the majority? That’s a genuine mystery – a real-life drama, even.

Scene Three: Meet The Reasonable Evangelical. America saw a different kind of religious leader in the form of Tim Keller, who recently retired from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Keller is kind, sophisticated, polished, and urbane. He wrote a New Yorker article in which he distinguished “big-E” evangelicalism, to which the media flocks, and “little-E” evangelicalism, of which reporters are barely aware but which populates our minority communities and spreads across the world. The little-E’s are far more committed to racial justice and care for the poor. “In this way, they might be called liberal. On the other hand, these multicultural churches remain avowedly conservative on issues like sex outside marriage.” They “resist contemporary ethical package deals” from the political partisans.

In The New York Times, he addressed the burning question: With which American political party should Christians feel more at home? His answer: Neither. Our cry for justice and conservative family morals doesn’t sync with either party’s grid. We’ll inevitably make people freeze at cocktail parties. This doesn’t mean we should abandon politics, since many moral issues bear political ramifications (think of slavery in the 19th century); it does mean we walk to a different beat.

Will we all eventually see what Keller sees? I have no idea, but the coming true-life narrative is far more compelling than the pundits’ fable.

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern

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