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Posted by on Jun 24, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Restaurant Reviews, What's Left | 16 comments

The Fine Line Between Civility and Civil Disobedience

 

 

Should public figures, including people we despise, always be entitled to normal common courtesies?  For example — what if the most offensive human being you can think of suddenly walked into your place of business?  Would you serve him/her?

 

I’m torn down the middle by the Sarah Huckabee Sanders-Red Hen restaurant controversy.

In case you didn’t hear, President Trump’s federally-funded falsifier and simpleton stonewaller, otherwise known as Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, planned to dine out over the weekend at a posh restaurant in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains.  When Sanders arrived, she was firmly but politely told she wasn’t welcome by the establishment.  The Red Hen’s owner steadfastly refused to serve Sanders.  The decision was based purely on politics.  In other words, Sanders would have been welcome at the Red Hen had she been any lower-level employee, someone anonymous, or just about anyone else in the universe.  She was refused service for one simple reason — because she holds a high-profile position in the Trump Administration, which is viewed by millions of Americans as the epitome of evil and incompetence.

I’ll veer around the legal debate and skip obvious comparisons to wedding cakes.  Recall the recent Supreme Court decision which effectively now allows any business to openly discriminate against customers based on personal objections to their lifestyle (a gay couple was refused service at a bakery, leading to a lawsuit).  It seems that if a bakery owner can tell someone to “leave” because of some confusion about where certain body parts belong, then a restaurant owner can say “goodbye” to someone who’s unremitting lies to the press and the public have turned the White House into a laughing stock that’s no longer funny.

Predictably, Trump supporters were outraged by what happened.  Right-wing media bubbled over like an overflowing toilet.  No one would even have even known about the isolated incident, except that Sanders blasted out the following tweet:

That’s one perspective.  The other side had quite a different interpretation of events.  The restaurant owner called the refusal to accommodate Sanders an act of civil disobedience.  The owner-citizen had become so fed up with Sanders’ serial lies and constant deflection that he felt a moral obligation to take a stand given the unique opportunity presented when Sanders unexpectantly walked into his restaurant on Friday night.

Was Sanders treated unfairly?

How you answer is likely based on tribal reflexes rather than an objective evaluation of what refusing service to someone really means and most certainly ignores much broader and far more serious implications of carrying out such measures to the extreme.  Not only is humiliating people wrong in most cases, disturbances of the kind could very likely result in an escalation of hostilities and open season in what’s become a culture war.

So, if lines are to be drawn, where should we draw them?

I think most will agree that just about everyone should be entitled to fair treatment.  Otherwise, society can’t function.  The Sanders controversy aside, I can’t imagine any successful business owner refusing to serve a customer based solely on politics.  The reason for broad acceptance of differences and collective tolerance is simple:  Banning a customer is bad for business.

We’re also likely to agree that public figures, including political leaders, should be treated with common courtesy in everyday life.  This fundamental tenet is bipartisan.  No matter what we may think of an elected (or appointed) public official, governing in a civil society demands some degree of decorum.  People should enjoy the right to private time with their families and friends.  They should be extended the same level of service and professional courtesies as any typical patron.

But wait.  Are there limits to normal expectations of civility?  We’re about to pressure test them, now.

What if you’re a restaurant owner and this man walks in and asks for a table?

That’s David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, an avowed White supremacist, and the former Republican gubernatorial candidate in Louisiana.

Would you allow him to dine at your place of business?

Proving this is a non-ideological exercise, instead, let’s suppose this man walks in and requests a table.  Would you serve him?

That’s Louis Farrakhan, an anti-Semite, a Black Nationalist, and leader of the Nation of Islam.

Would you permit him to dine at your place of business?

Duke and Farrakhan may be on opposite sides of the political spectrum.  But consistency rather than hypocrisy probably demands that your answers be the same.  If you refuse to serve Duke, then you probably should also refuse to serve Farrakahn, and vice versa.

Here’s one more prospective “guest” to ponder:

That’s Martin Shkreli, the douchebag punk (and now a convicted felon) who bought a patent to a rare pharmaceutical drug prescribed as a matter of life and death for its patients and then hiked the drug’s cost 56 times the original price.  A few years ago, Shkreli even “won” a poll asking “who’s the most hated man in America?”  Obviously, that poll came out before Trump became a serious presidential candidate.

If you owned a restaurant and Shkreli walked in wanting a table, would you serve him?

What about Harvey Weinstein?  What about Bill Cosby?  What about the jackass who takes Safari selfies after shooting a giraffe?  Would they be welcome at your place of business?

Indeed, there are many cretins, crooks, and con men who go through daily life unmolested in public places.  There are countless racists and rapists who frequent fancy boutiques and upscale restaurants and receive impeccable treatment.  There are some moral and ethical ambiguities at work here when we admonish a partisan political figure and then give a free pass to others who have committed well-documented disgusting acts.

Of course, doing nothing is always the easiest option.  Non-confrontation is the easy way out.  Ignoring the evil deeds of the wicked and overlooking the terrible harm they do — often at the expense of the helpless who have no power nor voice — is a natural human instinct.  We’ve become subject to mass desensitization, to not only to our basic human responsibilities of decency but also willfully blind to awareness of misdeeds.  Sometimes, scandal has even become a cause for celebration.  We covet meeting anyone who’s famous — be they a mob boss or a Kardashian.  O.J. Simpson can’t go out in public without being hounded by gawkers waving smartphones.  Fact is — famous people never get turned away at restaurants.  It doesn’t happen.

Except now, for Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

I do wish we could return to a much healthier and more productive time when political differences weren’t obstacles, but opportunities.  Perhaps after the Trump nightmare ends, we can return to a culture of civility and cooperation.  I hope it’s not too late.

Unfortunately, Trump and his supporters have gutted all the rules as to how the political game is played.  Starting at the very top with a constant bombardment of impulsive tweets and petty personal attacks on just about everyone, from movie stars to Gold Star families, he and his sycophantic personality cult have annihilated the traditions of common civility.  Defaming, dividing, and ultimately destroying all opposition is Trump’s modus operandi.

Call what happened at the Red Hen what it is — a small payback.

Those, like Sanders, who not only carry out acts which debase the culture and willfully deceive an entire nation must be subject to the consequences of what they are doing.  Political protest isn’t pretty.  It’s not polite.  It’s not meant to be pretty and polite.  Political protest, through peaceful acts of civil disobedience, is intended to entice a broader debate and inspire others to take similar action.

Let the civil disobedience begin.  And let’s also remember — to keep things civil.

 

 

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Posted by on Jun 12, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Rants and Raves, What's Left | 0 comments

Trump’s North Korea Summit: A Fraudulent Photo Op

 

 

NUCLEAR SUMMIT SCOREBOARD:

NORTH KOREA – 3
UNITED STATES – 0

“I may be wrong. I may be standing in front of you in six months and say, ‘I was wrong.’ I don’t know if I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of excuse.”

— President Donald Trump speaking at press conference in Singapore

 

Yeah, Trump really said that. “I’ll find some kind of excuse.”

Wow.

Typical.

Trump just got played like a clueless dope at the ring toss of a rigged carnival game. He blew his wad and ended up holding a stuffed teddy bear.

Just days after pissing off virtually all America’s longtime allies following the disastrously embarrassing G-7 summit, Trump’s monumental ineptitude was on full display, getting punked at every juncture by a murderous dictator lacking any social skills, an adversary with no previous experience whatsoever in international negotiations.  The so-called great American dealmaker was out-dealt on every single significant policy issue.

Trump got Trumped. He behaved like a human wrecking ball who mistakenly pulled the wrong lever and knocked down his own house.

What did Trump and the United States get in return for concessions?

Answer: An empty, vaguely-worded 426-word “statement” with no specifics whatsoever addressing North Korea’s “denuclearization,” which was the entire purpose of the summit.

North Korea scored the following huge wins:

1. Kim Jong-un garnered rock-star treatment on the world stage for the first time and achieved superpower status for North Korea. Meanwhile, Trump flattered the murderous dictator with one of the worst human rights records in the world, who continues to imprison, torture, and starve hundreds of thousands of his own people. Trump did not say a word about human rights. Not one word.  Major fail.

2. North Korea got the United States to cease all joint military exercises in South Korea, which was a major concession and huge victory for dictatorship. Meanwhile, South Korea was reportedly totally “blindsided” by this announcement. They were not consulted. Oh, and the Korean War is still apparently going on.  Peace between the two adversarial Koreas wasn’t addressed.

3. The joint statement failed to address any kind of verification process, nor provided any timetable for “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. Both leaders, who have yet to demonstrate any trustworthiness whatsoever on any personal or political issue, promised to work towards peace. How nice. Maybe at the next summit, Trump will buy Kim an ice cream cone.  Two pals.

“I trust him,” Trump said, referring to Kim who has violated every single previous international agreement on nuclear weapons and testing.

Meanwhile, the United States got…..nothing. Zippo. Nada. Oh, Trump did get a handshake and a promise.

This wasn’t Nixon visiting China.  This wasn’t the Detente of the 21st Century.  This was a photo op ending with a scrap of paper signed by two men whose word means absolutely NOTHING.

The first World Cup match is over and done: North Korea wins 3-0.

Meanwhile, the American political Right, conservatives, and Trump sycophants guzzle more toxic Kool-Aid. The same crybabies who whined about the dangers of normalizing relations with Cuba (because that was an Obama thing) and tore up an effective (verifiably working) Iran nuclear agreement (that was an Obama thing, too) swallow Trump’s lies and fellate the hype.

Quoting Trump’s own hopelessly ill-prepared words at a post-summit press conference, six months from now when we evidence from clearly proves North Korea *still* has nuclear weapons and ICBMs capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, proving NOTHING was accomplished, perhaps Trump will “think of an excuse.”

No worries. Trump’s clueless cultists will believe anything they’re told. In this regard, Trump and Kim have so much in common.

__________

Footnote:

1985: North Korea signs Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty
1992: North Korea signs historic agreement to halt nuclear program! (#1)
1994: North Korea signs historic agreement to halt nuclear program! (#2)
1999: North Korea signs historic agreement to end missile tests
2000: North Korea signs historic agreement to reunify Korea! Nobel Peace Prize is awarded
2005: North Korea declares support for “denuclearization” of Korean peninsula
2005: North Korea signs historic agreement to halt nuclear program and “denuclearize”! (#3)
2006: North Korea declares support for “denuclearization” of Korean peninsula
2006: North Korea again support for “denuclearization” of Korean peninsula
2007: North Korea signs historic agreement to halt nuclear program! (#4)
2007: N&S Korea sign agreement on reunification
2010: North Korea commits to ending Korean War
2010: North Korea announces commitment to “denuclearize”
2010: North Korea again announces commitment to “denuclearize”
2011: North Korea announces plan to halt nuclear and missile tests
2012: North Korea announces halt to nuclear program
2015: North Korea offers to halt nuclear tests
2016: North Korea again announces support for “denuclearization”

 

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Posted by on Mar 30, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

Are the Family Members of Politicians Fair Game for Criticism?

 

 

Yesterday, the husband of Trump Administration spokesperson Kellanne Conway was caught deleting a series of personal tweets that were highly critical of the president.

My question is — why?

Why did Mr. Conway feel any need to delete something he believes?  Furthermore, why was this newsworthy?  Mr. Conway isn’t running for anything.  He holds no position inside the Trump Administration.  He’s a private citizen.

Doesn’t every individual have the right to an opinion and the freedom to express it?  If Kellyanne Conway’s husband tweeted out that President Trump acts like a chimpanzee, why does it matter?  His personal comments are no reflection on her.  It’s only a reflection on him and an honest expression of opinion.

I’m baffled as to why family members of politicians should be required to fall in iron lockstep with orthodoxy.  Does anyone really expect each family member of every elected official to agree 100 percent of the time on all the issues?  If that’s the case, then that’s not a marriage.  It’s blind servitude.

Politicians will say what they say and do what they do.  But the many wives, husbands, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers of those who run for high office should never be expected to subjugate themselves nor hide their views.

My opinion on this is non-partisan.  It doesn’t matter which family member of what politician belonging to whichever party is expressing an opinion.  Everyone should be entitled to their views.  Moreover, no action, no embarrassment, and no arrest should negatively reflect on the politician.  When President George W. Bush’s twin daughters were caught drinking while underage in the midst of his presidency, that shouldn’t have been newsworthy.  They were typical 19-year-old girls doing what most college students do.  Leave them alone.

Many years ago, actress Elizabeth Taylor was married to Sen. John Warner, a Republican from Virginia.  Taylor was widely criticized when she broke ranks with her husband and announced during a campaign interview that she was pro-choice on abortion.  She still loved and fully supported Sen. Warner.  She even campaigned at his side.  But the couple had an honest difference of opinion on that issue.  So what?  Taylor managed to deflect the criticism because, well — she was Liz Taylor.  The family members of most candidates and family members aren’t quite as lucky.  They’re muzzled.

I think it’s terribly unfair to attack the family members of most politicians.  This especially applies to the way they look.  Perhaps the most unfortunate recent instance of a family member who faced constant ridicule for her physical appearance was Chelsea Clinton.  If Chelsea had been anyone else but the first daughter of two controversial political leaders, she wouldn’t have attracted a second glance nor even a mention.  But since she was a Clinton, Chelsea even as a child became an inviting target.  I find resorting to such depths disgraceful.

What about the current administration?  What about President Trump’s kids?  What about his wife?  What about his ex-wives?  Are they fair game?

It all depends.  President Trump has appointed at least two of his immediate family members — daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared — to be advisors and adjunct diplomatic envoys.  Both have offices inside the White House.  Both have voluntarily assumed various responsibilities of leadership within the administration.  Hence, both became fair game.

What about more personal stuff?  Should Ivanka have been asked about her daddy’s dirty deeds as she was in an interview a few weeks ago when his serial peccadillos came up during a televised media appearance?  Absolutely.  She’s fair game because she’s a high-profile advocate for her father.

Trump’s two sons — Donald Jr., and Eric — are also fair game.  Why?  Both Trump sons have openly tweeted many times and frequently spoken out in the media on serious political matters, especially relating to their abrasive father.  They’ve also launched public attacks against critics and have even spoken at political rallies.  Even more pertinent — there’s clear evidence both are profiting handsomely from their cozy business relationships which are tied to their obvious association with the White House.  Both are completely fair game.

First Lady Melania Trump is a much tougher question to ponder.  Surely, grace and even some latitude should be extended to the person who’s married to the president.  Traditionally, first ladies have been expected to assume a certain role, and willingly become a servant.  Were she to face cameras and be interviewed, I’m not sure there’s any rationale for Melania to be asked about such a private matter.  Unlike Ivanka and Jared who are globetrotting the world willingly advancing the Trump agenda, Melania seems much less linked to policy.  That said, her “anti-bullying” campaign does seem ironic given the attack dog nature of her husband.

It’s hard to remember the last independent and outspoken first lady who deviated in any meaningful way from the president’s platform.  Betty Ford comes to mind on the Equal Rights Amendment, which was a hot topic during the mid-1970’s (President Gerald Ford was against the ERA).  But she didn’t stay in the White House for long (just two years) and became far better known for her advocacy of addiction issues after the Fords left the White House.

It seems at least two close Trump Family members deserve to be excluded from public criticism, and even matters of mass speculation — what’s often referred to in the media as “palace intrigue.”  According to my knowledge, daughter Tiffany Trump has kept her distance from all the turmoil.  She hasn’t given any interviews nor expressed her opinions on social media.  It seems terribly unfair to lump her in with political activism and thus subject her to criticism.  Secretly, she may harbor some serious concerns about the harm her father is doing to the country.  Who knows?  I say, leave her alone.

Barron, Trump’s 12-year-old son, also deserves a pass for no other reason than he’s way too young for scrutiny and shouldn’t be subject to the same spotlight as his older brothers.  During the 2016 presidential campaign, I found speculation about Barron’s mental capabilities to be quite disgusting.  Perhaps Barron will turn out as bad as his dad.  Then, maybe he’ll take another route in life.  But please — let’s give the kid a chance.

Sadly, President Obama’s immediate family was viciously attacked, especially by the far-Right.  Obama’s two daughters — Sasha and Malia — appeared to be excellent students and model children.  But that didn’t stop the racial slurs.  The ceaseless barrage of stomach-turning comments about the first family went on for eight years.  It was despicable.

Which brings me back to Mr. Conway, who made those nasty tweets about President Trump.  I say, leave him alone.  And let Kellyanne Conway do her job without being queried about her husband’s views.

It’s time we allow all individuals to express their personal views without regard to their last name and who they’re related to.  It’s also past time we leave those alone who, for whatever reason, choose not to be involved politically.

_____

 

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Posted by on Mar 21, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 5 comments

Tucker Carlson is Full of Shit

 

 

Occasionally, I subject myself the cruel misfortune of watching the FOX News Channel.

It’s excruciating.

The disgraced propaganda machine popular “news network” once domineered by two serial sexual predators (Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly) is the longtime love nest of Republicans.  It’s beloved by fundamentalist Christians.  It’s the media harbor and spotlight for ideological conservatives, which comprise the vast majority of its dwindling and dying off elderly viewership.  It’s a favorite media hangout for on-air screwballs willing to junk all the customary standards of journalistic decency in exchange for national fame and a quick buck.

FOX News has become the Pravda of the Trump Administration.  Desperate for constant fawning adoration which hints at something far more deeply troubling, President Trump compulsively watches the network several hours each day.  FOX News eagerly parrots any plausible-sounding lie and pimps every conspiracy theory that stands even a remote a chance of being swallowed up by millions of haters who faithfully line up at the trough willing to lap up the network’s crackpot dogma.

For example, FOX News frequently promotes various “Deep State” plots.  On-air personalities routinely try to debunk the science of man-made climate change.  The network has repeatedly been exposed for manipulating photos and videos.  FOX demonizes anyone construed to question the “America First” agenda.  They’re tucked deep inside the pocket of the Koch Brothers, the Blackwaters, and religious kooks.  And, they continue to bang the war drums against anyone outside their diminishing circle of wackos — including former President Obama, liberals, intellectuals, Hollywood, the European Union, immigrants, Muslims, minorities, high school students, Blacks, civil rights activists, the cast of Hamilton, and their all-time favorite punching bag, Hillary Clinton, even though it’s been 15 months since she was relevant about anything.

Indeed, FOX News is a rats nest of disinformation.  A self-parody of truth.  A black comedy.

What follows isn’t merely an honest mistake, which does sometimes happen in journalism.  This is a news story which is intentionally misleading.  The story is willfully intended to conjure up fear.  It instills hate.  Watch this short “news” segment which aired last night on FOX News on the subject of immigration and how some neighborhoods in America are changing.  The clip runs only 1 minute and 21 seconds long, so it’s a quick view:

 

 

The story is one-sided.  But at first glance, it sounds plausible.  A small American town is changing rapidly because of a recent influx of new immigrants.  This is happening in many communities across the country.  There’s no denying this.

The problem is, Tucker Carlson is lying.  He fabricates fear.  He wants to scare the hell of out people — mostly old White people who see new immigrants moving in next door and shit their Depends.

Don’t take my word for it.  Here are the facts.

Carlson cites the Pennsylvania coal town of Hazelton.  The town once had a tiny Latino population, which in recent years has become a majority in number.  According to Carlson:  “People in Hazelton return to a town where they can’t communicate with the people who now live there.”  The claim is that most of the new immigrants don’t speak English.

That’s not true.  Data from the American Census Bureau which took about 2 minutes to pull up on Google reveals that 84 percent of Hazelton residents speak English well, which isn’t much of a change from the same data source decades ago.  But wait, there’s more, especially for those who know something about the history of this region of the country.  The real irony is that Hazelton exists only because it was initially populated in very large numbers by Eastern- and Southern-European immigrants, a majority of which didn’t speak much English when they arrived.  Those are the ancestors of most who live in Hazelton — immigrants who didn’t speak English very well.  Hence, 100 years ago Carlson might have been right.  Most of Hazelton’s population had difficulty communicating in the English language.  So, Carlson ended up being correct — albeit a century too late.

Typical conservative….always behind the times.

There’s more misleading innuendo.  All these new immigrants made Hazelton’s crime rate soar, right?  Again, credible data exists which clearly refutes this.  Despite an obvious demographic shift in local population (more immigrants), crime is down significantly over the past two years — by a whopping 40 percent.

READ STORY AND WATCH VIDEO:  Crime down by 40 percent in Hazleton (Jan. 18, 2018)

To be clear, this nation must have a serious discussion as to acceptable levels of immigration in the United States.  We should be debating this.  That’s a topic with legitimate points of view on multiple sides worthy of contemplation.  But let’s do this with facts, not falsehoods or hyperbole.

Let’s not get sidetracked by lazy talking heads like Tucker Carlson on FOX News who constantly muddy every issue they take on with their misleading agendas.  Falsely asserting the residents of a community can’t communicate with each other because of new immigrants panders to the worst instincts in people.  It stokes hate and fear.  Implying immigrants make our cities more dangerous is junk journalism.  What makes these wrongs so utterly detestable is — they are not true.  There is clear evidence to the contrary.

This problem isn’t just emblematic.  It’s a pandemic of most conservative media.  Virtually none of the millions of regular FOX News viewers who viewed the misleading report will fact check anything.  They’ll eagerly turn on the likes of Carlson, and Hannity, and the rest of the Right-wing hate parade and willfully march along.

They believe whatever they’re told.

_____

 

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Posted by on Mar 13, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

Why Did Forbes Take Down an Article Critical of White Christian Evangelicals?

 

 

Two days ago, the online website for Forbes (magazine) took down an article that was critical of White Christian evangelicals.

Why?  I’ll address that in a moment.

I read Forbes on occasion.  It’s not part of in my standard political wheelhouse.  The magazine’s ceaseless cheerleading for American capitalism is repetitive and often cringe-worthy.  Most investment geniuses who make the coveted Forbes cover have crashed and burned when luck runs and market expertise returns to the statistical mean.

However, Forbes is to be credited as a legitimate source for news, information, and opinion.  Forbes adheres to journalistic standards and practices and speaks with an independent voice — at least as independent a voice as a media giant can be headed by someone named Steve Forbes.

I tried to read the article initially posted on Sunday, written by Chris Ladd, who appears to have published an impressive body of credible work in the past.  But when I clicked the Forbes website, I received an “Error 404” message.  That’s the standard code that a webpage is no longer available.  It had been removed.

Of course, that just made me want to read the article all the more.

It was easy to track down the feature article, which raises some legitimate questions about the grotesquely hypocritical evangelical Christian movement.  Since evangelicals constitute a significant percentage of Trump supporters, this strange cult of super believers is a timely topic of discussion.  Certainly, President Trump’s mind-boggling number of moral lapses makes us wonder what evangelicals must be thinking when they seem to ignore all the teachings of their holy book.

Allow me to offer the following theory as to why a well-written, fact-based article with many irrefutable historical references was taken down.  Forbes is a publication and website mostly frequented by conservatives.  Many subscribers aren’t comfortable with having their faith questioned or moral and ethical beliefs put to the test.  Criticism of White Christian evangelicals is taboo in some Right-leaning political circles.  So much for conservatives being the champions of ideas and free expression.  They’re just as hypocritical as everyone else, and on the matter of religion, even more so.

For those interested, here’s the original article which has been cut and pasted for another rogue source.  It’s well worth reading:

_____

 

Why White Evangelicalism is So Cruel

[by Chris Ladd]

Robert Jeffress, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and an avid supporter of Donald Trump, earned headlines this week for his defense of the president’s adultery with a porn star.  Regarding the affair and subsequent financial payments, Jeffress explained, “Even if it’s true, it doesn’t matter.”

Such a casual attitude toward adultery and prostitution might seem odd from a guy who blamed 9/11 on America’s sinfulness.  However, seen through the lens of white evangelicals’ real priorities, Jeffress’ disinterest in Trump’s sordid lifestyle makes sense.  Religion is inseparable from culture, and culture is inseparable from history.  Modern, white evangelicalism emerged from the interplay between race and religion in the slave states.  What today we call “evangelical Christianity,” is the product of centuries of conditioning, in which religious practices were adapted to nurture a slave economy.  The calloused insensitivity of modern white evangelicals was shaped by the economic and cultural priorities that forged their theology over centuries.

Many Christian movements take the title “evangelical,” including many African-American denominations.  However, evangelicalism today has been co-opted as a preferred description for Christians who were looking to shed an older, largely discredited title: Fundamentalist.  A quick glance at a map showing concentrations of adherents and weekly church attendance reveals the evangelical movement’s center of gravity in the Old South.  And among those evangelical churches, one denomination remains by far the leader in membership, theological pull, and political influence.

There is still today a Southern Baptist Church.  More than a century and a half after the Civil War and decades after the Methodists and Presbyterians reunited with their Yankee neighbors, America’s most powerful evangelical denomination remains defined, right down to the name over the door, by an 1845 split over slavery.

Southern denominations faced enormous social and political pressure from plantation owners. Public expressions of dissent on the subject of slavery in the South were not merely outlawed, they were a death sentence.  Baptist ministers who rejected slavery, like South Carolina’s William Henry Brisbane, were forced to flee to the North.  Otherwise, they would end up like Methodist minister Anthony Bewley, who was lynched in Texas in 1860, his bones left exposed at a local store to be played with by children.  Whiteness offered protection from many of the South’s cruelties, but that protection stopped at the subject of race.  No one who dared speak truth to power on the subject of slavery, or later Jim Crow, could expect protection.

Generation after generation, Southern pastors adapted their theology to thrive under a terrorist state.  Principled critics were exiled or murdered, leaving voices of dissent few and scattered. Southern Christianity evolved in strange directions under ever-increasing isolation.  Preachers learned to tailor their message to protect themselves.  If all you knew about Christianity came from a close reading of the New Testament, you’d expect that Christians would be hostile to wealth, emphatic in the protection of justice, sympathetic to the point of personal pain toward the sick, persecuted and the migrant, and almost socialist in their economic practices.  None of these consistent Christian themes served the interests of slave owners, so pastors could either abandon them, obscure them, or flee.

What developed in the South was a theology carefully tailored to meet the needs of a slave state. Biblical emphasis on social justice was rendered miraculously invisible.  A book constructed around the central metaphor of slaves finding their freedom was reinterpreted.  Messages which might have questioned the inherent superiority of the white race constrained the authority of property owners, or inspired some interest in the poor or less fortunate could not be taught from a pulpit.  Any Christian suggestion of social justice was carefully and safely relegated to “the sweet by and by” where all would be made right at no cost to white worshippers.  In the forge of slavery and Jim Crow, a Christian message of courage, love, compassion, and service to others was burned away.

Stripped of its compassion and integrity, little remained of the Christian message.  What survived was a perverse emphasis on sexual purity as the sole expression of righteousness, along with a creepy obsession with the unquestionable sexual authority of white men.  In a culture where race defined one’s claim to basic humanity, women took on a special religious interest.  Christianity’s historic emphasis on sexual purity as a form of ascetic self-denial was transformed into an obsession with women and sex.  For Southerners, righteousness had little meaning beyond sex, and sexual mores had far less importance for men than for women.  Guarding women’s sexual purity meant guarding the purity of the white race.  There was no higher moral demand.

Changes brought by the Civil War only heightened the need to protect white racial superiority.  Churches were the lynchpin of Jim Crow.  By the time the Civil Rights movement gained force in the South, Dallas’ First Baptist Church, where Jeffress is the pastor today, was a bulwark of segregation and white supremacy.  As the wider culture nationally has struggled to free itself from the burdens of racism, white evangelicals have fought this development while the violence escalated.  What happened to ministers who resisted slavery happened again to those who resisted segregation.  White Episcopal Seminary student, Jonathan Daniels, went to Alabama in 1965 to support voting rights protests.  After being released from jail, he was murdered by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, who was acquitted by a jury.  Dozens of white activists joined the innumerable black Americans murdered fighting for civil rights in the 60’s, but very few of them were Southern.

White Evangelical Christians opposed desegregation tooth and nail.  Where pressed, they made cheap, cosmetic compromises, like Billy Graham’s concession to allow black worshipers at his crusades.  Graham never made any difficult statements on race, never appeared on stage with his “black friend” Martin Luther King after 1957, and he never marched with King.  When King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech,” Graham responded with this passive-aggressive gem of Southern theology, “Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children.”  For white Southern evangelicals, justice and compassion belong only to the dead.

Churches like First Baptist in Dallas did not become stalwart defenders of segregation by accident.  Like the wider white evangelical movement, it was then and remains today an obstacle to Christian notions of social justice thanks to a long, dismal heritage.  There is no changing the white evangelical movement without a wholesale reconsideration of their theology.  No sign of such a reckoning is apparent.

Those waiting to see the bottom of white evangelical cruelty have little source of optimism.  Men like Pastor Jeffress can dismiss Trump’s racist abuses as easily as they dismiss his fondness for porn stars.  When asked about Trump’s treatment of immigrants, Jeffress shared these comments:

Solving DACA without strengthening borders ignores the teachings of the Bible.  In fact, Christians who support open borders, or blanket amnesty, are cherry-picking Scriptures to suit their own agendas.

For those unfamiliar with Christian scriptures, it might help to point out what Jesus reportedly said about this subject, and about the wider question of our compassion for the poor and the suffering:

Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.

What did Jesus say about abortion, the favorite subject of Jeffress and the rest of the evangelical movement?  Nothing.   What does the Bible say about abortion, a practice as old as civilization?  Nothing.  Not one word.  The Bible’s exhortations to compassion for immigrants and the poor stretch long enough to comprise a sizeable book of their own, but no matter.  White evangelicals will not let their political ambitions be constrained by something as pliable as scripture.

Why is the religious right obsessed with subjects like abortion while unmoved by the plight of immigrants, minorities, the poor, the uninsured, and those slaughtered in pointless gun violence? No white man has ever been denied an abortion.  Few if any white men are affected by the deportation of migrants.  White men are not kept from attending college by laws persecuting Dreamers.  White evangelical Christianity has a bottomless well of compassion for the interests of straight white men, and not a drop to be spared for anyone else at their expense.  The cruelty of white evangelical churches in politics, and in their treatment of their own gay or minority parishioners, is no accident.  It is an institution born in slavery, tuned to serve the needs of Jim Crow, and entirely unwilling to confront either of those realities.

Men like Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy group, are trying to reform the Southern Baptist church in increments, much like Billy Graham before him.  His statements on subjects like the Confederate Flag and sexual harassment are bold, but only relative to previous church proclamations.  He’s still about three decades behind the rest of American culture in recognition of the basic human rights of the country’s non-white, non-male citizens. Resistance he is facing from evangelicals will continue so long as the theology informing white evangelical religion remains unconsidered and unchallenged.

While white evangelical religion remains dedicated to its roots, it will perpetuate its heritage.  What this religious heritage produced in the 2016 election, when white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump by a record margin, is the truest expression of its moral character.

You will know a tree by its fruit.

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