“Trump that bitch!”
“Build a wall – kill them all.”
“F**k them beaners!”
- Spontaneous screeches at Trump rallies recorded by the New York Times
The polls of early August point to a Trump defeat in November. But whether that comes as a relief to you, it almost doesn’t matter.
Mr. Trump leaves in his wake an energized minority fueled by hate and eager to shout their vitriol from the rooftops.
This aggrieved minority, mostly white, will present serious problems for a theoretical President Clinton just as they have for President Obama. They masked their racist antipathy to Mr. Obama with fatuous claims he is a Kenyan, a Muslim, a racial provocateur, an environmental fanatic, and an out-of-touch purveyor of political correctness. All of this would have been ironically amusing if the anti-Obama zealots hadn’t coalesced into a far-right-wing cabal to support Congressional Republicans as they stalled every White House initiative.
Now Mr. Trump has given his minions cover to bring their racism, xenophobia, and misogyny into the full glare of day. Their racism is disguised by chants of “All Lives Matter,” their xenophobia is expressed by support of a wall that Mexico will pay for, and their misogyny is expressed in chants of “Crooked Hillary,” “Jail Her,” and “Trump the Bitch.”
It’s tempting to hope that all this will be swept away by a righteously indignant electorate on November 8. But even if that happens, Trump’s Children will not go away. The bigger the defeat, the angrier they will be. And they will remain a treacherous and probably well-armed menace, especially when they feel disenfranchised by the people they hate: persons of color, non-English speakers, immigrants, and any group the great white haters regard as “others.”
The New York Times revealed the intensity of this hostility by posting a video, “Voices from Donald Trump’s Rallies, Uncensored.”
Charles M. Blow, the prophetic voice of the New York Times, initially tweeted that the uncensored voices were “so gross,” but he also posted an insightful column describing how Trump’s following stems from “White Male Fragility.” If Mr. Trump gets anywhere near the Oval Office, Mr. Blow writes, it will be because of white guys who “feel threatened by unrelenting change — immigration, globalization, terrorism, multiculturalism — and those people want someone to, metaphorically at least, build a wall around their cultural heritage, which they conflate in equal measure with American heritage.”
That analysis makes sense. But it leaves unanswered the question of why white guys feel threatened. What’s wrong with us?
Another way of asking the question was put by the Rev. James Martin, SJ, the prophetic voice of the Jesuits (or one of them, anyway).
Father Martin read the Times article and asked, “How many of these voices would call themselves Christians?”
Father Martin probably knows the answer and, as a scion of the Yahootude, I can peer deeply into my heritage and tell him the truth. They all call themselves Christians.
The reason, as Mr. Blow suggests, is that – despite historical realities to the contrary – we white folks think we live in a Christian nation settled and established by Christians and any group that doesn’t look like us Christians has got to go.
In fact, the nation’s founders were deeply opposed to establishing religion of any type and James Madison wrote a Constitutional amendment to make that clear. But of course it’s not clear and the people who think we are a Christian nation are the same people who think Mr. Madison urged all true patriots to stock up on AR-15s. There’s no point in arguing truths that were repressed long ago.
But perhaps we can open a discussion on what it means to be a Christian. And there’s no better place to begin that discussion than the Hebrew Scriptures, which told God’s truths centuries before Jesus first read them.
Fittingly, this week’s Revised Common Lectionary gives us some insight into what God thinks when we go through the motions of religion while ignoring God’s will for us.
Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:14-17)It’s impossible to reconcile God’s words with the words of hate spewed at Trump rallies. In fact, the words captured by the Times are expressions of hatred, injustice, and oppression.
Of course, some Christian Trumpites will dismiss this particular biblical exhortation because it was written by Jews to Jews about Jews.
But that would be both anti-Semitic and dangerous to individual souls. Those who prefer to read what God thinks in Jesus’ words should re-read the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. Jesus doesn’t allow for any wiggle room.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:43-47)
Does any of that sound like, “Build a wall – kill them all”?
Even so, as Father Martin suggests, most of the persons vomiting hatred at Trump rallies think they are Christians.
But there is no evidence Jesus would agree.
So what are our alternatives?
Prayer will help. We can ask God to grant that these venomous expressions might ease and the campaign dialogue will lighten up as this interminable campaign comes moves closer to the end.
And we can ask God grant that after the election, what ever the result, the national dialogue will be more reasonable and less full of hate.
But we all suspect that for some persons, years of ignoring God’s word has made it too easy to resist it. If there is a satanic influence in this campaign, I suspect it takes place in the hearts of those who have become so comfortable with their hatred that they have closed their hearts and minds to the God of love and justice.
But God’s words are written down and discoverable any time.
Perhaps the best we can hope for is that when the campaign is over and the rallies are silent, the haters who think of themselves as Christians will take advantage of their new free time to see what’s going on in their Sunday schools.
The painting above, A Copse Evening, is by A.Y. Jackson, 1918.