Soma and the Silencing of Evangelicalism After Trump

In his novel Silence Japanese writer Shusaku Endo tells the story of two Portuguese missionaries in 17th century Japan. After initial pioneering work by Francis Xavier in the 16th century, a small native Japanese church had begun to flourish in the mid-to-late 16th century, possibly growing as large as 100,000 people. Then the government took a hard anti-Christian turn, closed the island to foreigners, and began a harsh regime of persecution against the Japanese Christians.

At the center of this persecution were small icons called fumi-e, pictured above. During the torture, the government officials told the Christians that all they needed to do to end it is agree to trample on the fumi-e, which was understood to be a way of renouncing the faith. To make sure it took, it was common practice in much of Japan to require former Christians to step on a fumi-e once a year. (Silence spoilers below the jump.) Continue reading

Why Christians Can Support Tighter Immigration Restrictions

Today we have another long-form piece, this one coming from Stephen Wolfe. I’m pleased to run this piece chiefly because Stephen does a good job of trying to focus the debate around the specific principles that undergird our thinking about an issue like immigration. Even if you disagree with his conclusions, I think you’ll find that this piece raises new questions and issues that should help enrich your thinking about the issue. Again, if you want a print-friendly version of the essay, simply click that green button on the left side of the post. 

And now, here is Stephen:

The success of the Brexit campaign, driven largely by a rejection of the EU immigration policies and handling of the migration crisis, has shattered the hopes of progressives that xenophobia is a thing of the past—a hope that the older generation’s prejudice would give way, through natural attrition, to a new common humanity and cosmopolitan view of human relations, built on universal rights, negative liberty, and common human interest.

Donald Trump, likewise, has found success in promising to “make America great again” through various vague and unlikely policies, including building a wall on the US-Mexico border, generously funded by the Mexican government, and limiting immigration from select countries that tend to produce Islamic terrorists. The Western ruling class has expressed public outrage over these developments, condemning them as xenophobic, racist, and bigoted.   Continue reading

There is no Pro-Life Case for Donald Trump

We are now in the 12th hour of the conservatism’s life in this election cycle, which means it is as good a time as any to revisit the question of how I plan to proceed through American political life over the next four months.

For those who don’t want to read further, it is hard to find a more succinct or accurate distillation of the development of my thought than that offered by Ben Sasse’s spokesman after the Senator met with Trump this week: “Mr. Sasse continues to believe that our country is in a bad place and, with these two candidates, this election remains a dumpster fire. Nothing has changed.” I heartily agree.

There are no conditions at this point under which I could possibly vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Continue reading

Brexit and the Moral Vision of Nationhood

Note from Jake: This is an Alastair piece so it’s both extremely long and extremely rewarding to those who will read the whole thing. That said, today may be a good day to avail yourself of that green “print-friendly version” on the left-hand side of the post.

On the morning of June 24, Britain awoke to the devastation of a vast political and social earthquake, as, after an unpleasant and divisive campaign, a majority of our nation voted to leave the European Union (EU). The aftershocks and long term consequences of this earthquake are likely to define our politics for a generation.

Upon announcement of the result, the value of Sterling plunged precipitously, initially losing a tenth of its value against the dollar, as the markets responded to radical uncertainty about the future of Britain’s economy. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, quit and a vote of no confidence was submitted against Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, declared that, in light of Scotland’s overwhelming support for Remain, a new vote for Scottish independence should take place. Sinn Fein called for a vote on the reunification of Ireland. In response to Gibraltar’s 95.9% Remain vote, Spain renewed its push for joint sovereignty over the British territory. France’s current border agreement with Britain at Calais was challenged, with potentially significant consequences for the deeply controversial migrant camps there. Meanwhile, over a million people signed a petition advocating for a second referendum and many others for Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, to declare the city’s independence from the rest of the UK and remain in the EU. Continue reading

A Christian Case for Gun Control

Note from Jake: It’s been 10 days since the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Out of respect for the victims and their family, we haven’t posted anything about the shooting until now. But given the significance of this event in the life of our nation, we need to speak about it, but I hope that our continued discussion of it will show the same respect for the victims that our silence did. On that note, here is Bernard Howard making his Mere O debut:

On February 16th, Jeb Bush tweeted the single word, “America,” accompanied by a picture of a handgun with his name inscribed on the barrel. The tweet has been retweeted more than 29,000 times, probably by a combination of the admiring and the appalled. It led, as one might have guessed, to a multitude of copycat tweets featuring a place name and an emblematic picture. Continue reading

The Worst Way to View Our Politics

I’m pleased to welcome a new guest writer, Donald Norman, to Mere O today.

By now most Christians have thought about the “lesser of two evils” voting strategy:

“I can’t vote for Trump. He’s too [fill in the blank]. But, I can’t vote for Clinton either. She’s pro-choice. Lacks integrity. ‘I don’t trust her.’ So, I guess I’ll just vote for the lesser of two evils.” At which point I’m never really certain if someone has just told me they’re voting for Trump or Clinton. All I am sure of is they think both people (and by proxy, political parties) are evil. Continue reading

Idylls of the Right

This guest post is by Matthew Mellema.

“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,

And God fulfills himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

The rise of Donald Trump has me thinking of Tennyson, and specifically of the last scene in “Idylls of the King.” Arthur, mortally wounded in a final battle against his son Mordred, reflects on his failed kingdom to Sir Bedivere, his only surviving knight. It reminds me of the Religious Right after Trump.

I have some expertise on the Religious Right. I worked at an evangelical ministry during the halcyon days of the Bush Administration. Early in college, I was that conservative firebrand who loved picking fights with liberals in econ class, and thought that Reagan’s gospel was a logical extension of Jesus’s.

A lot of that embarrasses me now, and I’ve been distancing myself from it for years. But I still have enough of a connection to feel like Sir Bedivere, alone among the ruins of Camelot. Like Arthur, the Religious Right sowed the seeds of its own destruction. But also like Arthur, there’s something tragic in its passing. Continue reading

If the American church is dying it’s because we deserve it.

Back in 2007 after the death of Jerry Falwell, famed atheist Christopher Hitchens took to the airwaves of Anderson Cooper’s CNN talkshow to blast the late Baptist reverend. He began by saying that Falwell certainly wasn’t in heaven “and it’s a pity there isn’t a hell for him to go to.”

From there he went on to attack Falwell for anti-semitism as well as his noxious comments after September 11 before claiming something that may not have been true of Falwell but almost certainly is of other prominent leaders of Falwell’s movement: that he was a fraud who didn’t believe a word of what he said but was in it purely to make himself rich and powerful.

You can see the full interview below: Continue reading

The Culture War Is Interested in You

NOTE: Because Jake is a nincompoop he accidentally forgot to update the author information on this post before posting. The post is by Samuel James of the ERLC.

Last summer, David Brooks wrote that the social conflicts “oriented around the Sexual revolution” were over. Legal same-sex marriage and the declining influence of traditional Christianity had combined, he wrote, to put the goals of the culture wars of the last few decades out of reach. Conservatives, Brooks argued, now had two options: They could continue to fight a losing battle and eventually be counted among our culture’s worst civic villains—or, they could fight a new war, not zeroed on things like sexuality, marriage, and abortion, but on poverty and the fragmentation of society.

The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

Brooks acknowledged that conservatives are already involved in the work he suggests, but his prescription was that such work in humanitarian efforts become the primary concern of social conservatives. If Obergefell ended the first culture, conservatives should go fight another one, a war centered not over ideas about human flourishing but over situations where it is threatened.
Continue reading