Trumped Up? Is the Donald’s Support Really Driven by Racist Xenophobia?

The last few months have witnessed the appearance of a burgeoning cottage industry of take-writing about the rise and appeal of Donald J. Trump. In her latest post, Rachel Held Evans has voiced her opinion: Trump’s appeal among evangelicals is down to racism, xenophobia, celebrity worship, and his promise of power to supporters.

This is reassuring for any comfortable middle-class progressive Episcopalians who might momentarily have been afflicted by the nagging thought that Trump’s strong appeal among the white working class and its sizeable constituency of evangelicals might owe something to an unfair marginalization, rejection, and pathologization of valid concerns of that class by those of us who don’t belong to it. Well, crisis averted: It turns out that our prejudices about white working class voters were justified all along.

By vocally articulating our opposition to Trump supporters and confessing our white privilege—those uneducated white working class evangelical rubes just don’t get it!—we can now demonstrate our virtue to others within our social class on social media and tut-tut about how stupid, evil, deluded, and backward wide swathes of our Trump-supporting compatriots and coreligionists are. Continue reading

Might Makes Right: A Response to Matthew Lee Anderson

Editor’s Note: ”Boromir” has been involved with Mere Orthodoxy to varying degrees over the years and anonymously submitted this response to Matthew Lee Anderson’s piece on The Undead Religious Right. We have published it here for the sake of hearing out another side in this controversy.

As a longtime reader, commenter, and writer at Mere Orthodoxy, I was disappointed to see Matthew Lee Anderson’s return to the blog with a flaccid jeremiad against Ted Cruz. While Matt is certainly free to share his opinions, it struck me (and many other commenters) that Matt misunderstands quite a few things about the way that the world works. For the sake of those other commenters and Mere-O readers, let’s set the record straight. Continue reading

Is Not Voting in an Election Nihilistic?

One of the more common complaints about yesterday’s feature by Matt is that refusing to vote for a candidate in an election is nihilistic in a way that goes well beyond whatever nihilism one might see in Dod Crump. (This is henceforth how I will be referring to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz—feel free to join me if you are as sick of them as I am.)

The obvious problem with this argument is that it epitomizes the sort of prioritizing of the presidency above all else that was one of Matt’s main targets yesterday. One of Matt’s chief concerns in yesterday’s piece—and it’s been a concern of his (and mine) for some time—is that a church which subordinates the life of the church to the goal of political power is a church that will be incapable of using political power effectively. You cannot win a culture war without a culture and right now the most pressing problem facing orthodox Christians is the lack of a true Christian culture in many parts of our nation.

To go on arguing that we must continue supporting men who don’t seem to have any actual principles but will vaguely gesture in our direction to win our support because #religiousliberty is to make the very sort of argument Matt has been attempting to rebut for years. Indeed, it shows more clearly than anything else how evangelicals will subordinate the values most necessary to the life of a Christian culture in order to achieve political power. Continue reading

The Undead Religious Right: Why I Cannot Support Ted Cruz

It is a well-known story: The Religious Right first galvanized around Ronald Reagan in 1980. Their ascent was over by 1988, when Pat Robertson’s failed campaign divided its constituency and the Moral Majority was dissolved. But the obituary was premature. Robertson’s campaign rose from the grave as the Christian Coalition, which handed out over 30 million voter guides to help usher in a Republican Congress and Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America,” securing the Religious Right’s influence on the American political landscape for at least the next decade. George W. Bush (in)famously made evangelicals central to his campaign in 2000 and 2004; by the time his tenure was complete, the “Religious Right” had morphed into “social conservatism” and stories of its demise began reappearing, thanks to the ascendance of Barack Obama and a hopeful media obsession with the moderatish, rapidly maturing “young evangelicals.” In both 2008 and 2012, social conservatives were too divided to do much more than give Huckabee and Santorum the appearance of being serious contenders without any of the substance. In the years since, the stream of stories about the end of the religious right has became a flood, thanks in part the resolution of the gay rights marriage dispute in Obergefell. Continue reading

Reviewing John Wilsey’s “American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion”

I’m pleased to publish this guest review today by Hillsdale College visiting professor Dr. Miles Smith. You can learn more about Dr. Smith from his bio below this post. You can also follow him on Twitter @IVMiles

A book exploring the idea of American exceptionalism is especially timely in a year when the political realm has been captured, or at least invaded, by a man promising to Make America Great again. For many Americans, especially American Evangelicals, the notion that America is great is synonymous with the notion that America is exceptional. Few American Evangelicals, after all, believe that the United States is exceptionally bad. John Wilsey’s American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion is written for the educated Evangelical layman and proves to be earnest attempt to reevaluate the idea of American exceptionalism from a Christian perspective. Continue reading

The Relationship Between American Political Thought and Biblical Interpretation

Tim Scheiderer is a freelance writer and Southern Seminary graduate. He lives in metro Washington, DC.

Culture is a force comprised of traditions curated and subsequently cherished in the hearts of the collective as years expire. It presses itself upon every facet of one’s life more often than realized. For instance, in the United States, ordering an afternoon cappuccino at Starbucks is a common practice. If one orders an afternoon cappuccino in Rome, however, the barista will begrudgingly oblige seeing it is not an Italian tradition to enjoy one after breakfast. Just as culture impacts food choices, it also impacts emotions. Americans are in the midst of the holiday season. During this time, it seems everyone has a figurative fireplace warming their hearts with openness, nostalgia, good will, and generosity. These feelings, however, are neither experienced globally by all people nor historically by every age. In America, in our culture, the high time of national festivities is late November to the first of January. (Interesting that a calendar tells us when to become sentimental.) Continue reading

On Prayer Shaming

If you grew up evangelical, or at least in the fundamentalist brand of evangelicalism I grew up in, one of the things you learned about prayer is that it isn’t gossip if you tell a compromising story about another person and end it by asking for prayer.

You probably also learned that public prayer could be a great opportunity for advertising your extensive knowledge of the Bible and practicing particularly pious sounding phrases in order to impress your friends or, more likely, parents and youth group leaders. Continue reading

Moral Sentimentalism and Mechanized Society

Recently Alastair Roberts and I had the chance to do an email back and forth over an issue I’ve noticed increasingly often in the way that many are reasoning about issues of public ethics. Unsurprisingly, the discussion sprawled out a bit from there and brought in everything from the work of Jonathan Haidt to the bureaucratic state to the way that the internet shapes and constrains our reasoning. It’s a bit long, but hopefully enjoyable. My emails are in bold. Thanks for reading!

Alastair, here’s my basic observation. You tell me if I’m crazy.

In discussions of public policy it is very rare to find the online discussion beginning from a place of inquiry or a felt need to investigate further. There is a kind of instinctive assumption that we just know the good and so the main priority is then advocating for that good, shaming those who are opposed to it, etc. The name I’ve given this so far is “moral positivism.”

It seems like there are a number of things that likely feed into this. One of them is the assumption behind a lot of left-wing writing these days that most public problems aren’t necessarily moral problems, but administrative ones. Find the right public policy to realize the good and we’re sorted. That’s my biggest critique of the Vox.com set. (This is, of course, a quintessentially modern way of approaching social problems and is precisely the sort of thing CS Lewis is attacking in That Hideous Strength.)

Another point is that I think the Overton window on certain issues has become incredibly small. If something can plausibly be framed as being the position in favor of equality or the compassionate position, then it’s almost impossible to make arguments against it. Continue reading

Evangelicals need to read Richard Hooker.

I’m pleased to host this excellent interview between Mere Fidelity contributor Alastair Roberts and my friend Dr. Brad Littlejohn. Dr. Littlejohn, who did his doctoral work at Edinburgh with Mere O favorite Oliver O’Donovan, has just published a popular level introduction to 16th century English theologian Richard Hooker. If you’re like me, you’ve probably come across Hooker’s name somewhere, but don’t know much about him. His lone major work, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, is hard to track down in an affordable edition. So Hooker is just a name for most of us, like other obscure theologians in the church’s past. Brad’s book will go some way toward addressing this problem. Having read it, I now want to find a way of reading Laws, if only I can find an affordable edition. Enjoy the interview! (Full disclosure, Brad is the president of the Davenant Trust, an organization I’m pleased to serve as a board member. But even if I were not his friend and fellow board member I would be delighted to host this interview here at Mere O.)

Thank you for agreeing to join me to discuss the subject of your new book, Richard Hooker: A Companion to His Life and Work. For the sake of those who may not be familiar with Hooker, can you give a very brief description of who he was?

Sure thing. Basically, when I’m talking to Reformed people, I say something like “Think of him as Anglicanism’s John Calvin.” He became within a few decades after his death the preeminent theologian of the tradition that came to call itself “Anglican,” even though Hooker wouldn’t have thought of himself in these terms, just as Calvin never thought of himself as the first “Calvinist.” His life was comparatively short (1553-1600), almost entirely coinciding with Queen Elizabeth’s long reign (1558-1603), so he is mostly known only for his one great work, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Continue reading

The Privilege of Atheism, The Politics of Urgency, and The Limits of Policy

What matters more: changing hearts or changing laws? When Hillary Clinton was recently confronted by Black Lives Matter activists about racial injustice in America, she had some frank words: “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws.” While leaving the possibility of heart change open, she continued to focus on the necessity of policy solutions to achieve racial justice in America. Continue reading