Trump Wins – Michael Moore Was Right

I will elaborate on my very negative opinion of Michael Moore later in this post. But, when Moore explained weeks ago why Donald Trump would win, I believe he was brilliant — even prophetic.

If you ran into Moore, a far-left movie maker who has made millions of dollars in his chosen field, at the local 7-11, you might easily mistake him for an overweight, middle-aged guy getting a cup of coffee and some junk food on his way to his job at the local sheet metal shop. In his ball cap, t-shirt, and baggy blue jeans, he’s hardly anyone’s image of a Hollywood star.

Moore grew up the son of a Michigan automotive assembly line worker. The first major documentary movie he produced, Roger & Me, villainized U.S. automobile maker General Motors accusing that company’s upper level management of selling their U.S. workers down the river by outsourcing their jobs to Mexico. Moore understands blue collar working families. He came from one. And, he understands those men and women, not in some abstract way, but in terms of the frustration that many of them have felt for a long time.

And, that’s why he gets it so right in this clip. WARNING: Moore’s language is salty, to put it mildly, and unsuitable for the office or the ears of little ones. But, it is a pitch perfect echo of what you might hear on the shop floor or on the construction site:

 

Moore PERFECTLY captures the mood of a lot of people who just helped make Donald Trump the President-Elect of the United States. A lot of elites in Manhattan and Los Angeles don’t know anyone who feels this way. I know a lot of people who feel this way. But, you might ask, what about people who voted for Trump but who have a good job, and good insurance, and whose families are intact, and who don’t curse like sailors, and who are disgusted by the coarseness in Trump’s character. I can tell you that Moore still brilliantly captures the essence of the mood of many of these folks. They make up most of my friends and acquaintances here in a small town in a very red state. Many people who don’t fit the stereotype of the laid-off Rust Belt blue collar worker, got fed up with being patronized by elites who looked down their cultural noses at them as unsophisticated “deplorables” just because they oppose things such as same-sex marriage or safe-zones on college campuses, or are in favor of any number of politically incorrect beliefs or practices.

Don’t make the mistake of concluding that Moore is a fan of Trump. In the film, Michael Moore in TrumpLand, from which the clip above is taken, Moore ridicules Trump and makes it clear why he thinks Trump will be a disaster for America.

To reiterate what I stated above, my general opinion of Moore is negative, and that’s putting it mildly. I think his socialist politics are wrong and would be a disaster. I think his various crack-pot conspiracy theories are beyond wacky. But, he understands something about what a lot of “non-elite” Americans are feeling that most of the well-educated professionals who lead our society just don’t get.

And, I must confess, Moore’s paean to democracy in the middle of the video above brought me to the brink of tears. There is something powerfully just and right when, as Moore says, even though American men and women may lose everything they have, they still have “one thing: the one thing that doesn’t cost them a cent, and is guaranteed to them by the American Constitution: the right to vote…….it’s equalized on that day….. a millionaire has the same number of votes as the person without a job: one.”

How the SSM Debate Made Me a Libertarian

After listening to yesterday’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage (SSM), I am now an unabashed political libertarian. It’s a political philosophy that I’ve been leaning towards for years, but the SSM debate has now sealed the deal for me.

Have my views regarding the morality and wisdom of SSM changed? No. If anything, I am more convinced than ever that SSM is an oxymoron, that it will be detrimental to society as well as many individuals, that homosexuality is a warped expression of human sexuality, and that homosexual acts are sins.

I believe that the same can be said about premarital sex, adultery, about most instances of divorce, as well as a whole host of other actions and attitudes involving not only human sexuality but all of our relationships with one another and the rest of God’s creation. I hold these convictions because I embrace what most Christian churches have taught over most of the last 2000 years regarding these matters. Those churches have arrived at those teachings as they have sought to interpret the teachings of Jesus and the apostles as preserved in the New Testament scriptures.

Those of us who seek to follow Jesus as Lord make a critical error if we believe that the governments of this world are somehow partners with God’s people in ushering in the kingdom of God. Governments are indeed ordained by God and necessary for civilization. But governments, no matter the form, are comprised of sinful human beings. And, governments always possess and utilize the power of coercion. Every government, no matter how well-structured its forms and well-intentioned its participants, will eventually fail and fall. To think otherwise is to set up an idol that will compete with the one Lord who has promised that He and He alone ultimately will bring peace and justice.

Therefore, the God-ordained roles for government are few in number and narrow in scope. Enforcing contracts? Yes. Building infrastructure for the common good, for example roads? Yes. Protecting its citizens against any who would deprive them of life, liberty, or their property? Yes. Protecting the helpless against imminent danger? Yes.

Defining and sanctioning “marriage”? No. Government should enforce contracts. If adults want to enter into a contract with the property rights and responsibilities that we have traditionally associated with marriage, then, as far as the government is concerned that should be allowed – not because it is good, but because adult citizens should be free to associate and enter into legally enforceable agreements with one another, as long as those agreements do not deprive others of their life, liberty, or property.

Justice Alito asked the lawyer arguing for SSM this question: why should we deny marriage to two women and two men who want to get married? Read the transcripts, if you wish. I’ll just say that I found her answers unpersuasive – and, ironically one of those answers sounded strangely similar to the “tradition” argument used by SSM opponents.

Once the Supreme Court declares that there is a constitutional right to SSM, which it will almost certainly do, then there is no logical reason that the government should deny marriage rights and responsibilities to any group of consenting adults who choose to enter into that contract.

Meanwhile, religious communities – including churches – who hold to the traditional definition of marriage should act in accordance with our teachings. That means not performing weddings or recognizing arrangements that we do not consider marriage, even if they are allowed by the state.

Most of us Christians need to wake up and take a lesson from our Anabaptist brethren: “Christian nations” do not exist. Governments, whether they be democracies, monarchies, or oligarchies, can claim that they are. They can even fake it for extended periods of time. But all governments ultimately depend on power and coercion for their existence. That’s not the way of Christ. So, how can they possibly be “Christian”?

Christians in the United States should work to make our democracy a libertarian democracy. This means that we will be surrounded by institutions and activities that we believe are wrong and that, in the long run, are harmful to human beings and our societies. (News flash: that is going to be the case until Jesus returns no matter what form of government we have and no matter who’s in charge of it.) But, it is also the best way to create an environment where Christians, no matter how despised we may be for our beliefs, can live out and act on those beliefs; and, most importantly, have the freedom to speak the Good News that Jesus Christ died for our sins, is risen from the dead, and will return to set all things right.

 

The Crisis of Islam

In The Crisis of Islam, Near- and Middle Eastern historian Bernard Lewis gives an historical overview of the conflicts over the last, oh, 1400 years or so between Islam and “the West.” It was written in 2003, so a lot has happened since then: the “completion” of American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the so-called Arab Spring, civil wars in Libya and Syria, the killing of Osama bin Laden,  the rise of ISIS, just to name a few. But, given that most of the book is devoted to giving a historical perspective, it’s still valuable. And, most of Lewis’s themes and conclusions don’t seem to have been contradicted by anything that has happened since he wrote the book. I judge his biggest omission to be his failure to acknowledge and discuss the deep Sunni/Shia schism in Islam and the implications for the Middle East. Still — Lewis is a good writer and this is a good read.

Free Expression for All! (Except for Traditional Religious Believers)

In the wake of the murders in Paris of the Charlie Hebdod staff, I have been encouraged by the outpourings of support for freedom of the press and freedom of speech. But, it is obvious that many, at least here in the U.S., despite their declarations of such support, believe they know best when those freedoms should be restricted. For example, the New York Times editorial writers…….

If you haven’t heard, last week the city of Atlanta fired Kelvin Cochran, the chief of its Fire and Rescue Department. Cochran charges that it was because he expressed his condemnation of homosexuality in a book he wrote in 2013.

Well, the NY TImes editorial writers, recent defenders of Charlie Hebdod’s right to publish cartoons considered blasphemous by many Muslims (and by the way, I can understand why many Muslims would be offended), apparently see no contradiction between that defense and cheering the firing of Cochran. How strange. Just a few days ago, David Brooks, columnist for the NY Times pointed out this kind of hypocrisy among many self-identifying liberals, for example, the enforcers of political correctness on college campuses.

Rod Dreher discusses the chilling hypocrisy of the NY Times editorial board. And Denny Burke highlights, what seems to at least some of us to be, the obvious implications for religious liberty. Both point out the admission by the city of Atlanta that there was absolutely no evidence that Chief Cochran had mistreated gays or lesbians. In other words, the NY Times finds it laudable to fire people because of what they believe and say, even when what they are saying is consistent with the traditional teaching of three of the world’s great religions. (Although, I agree with Rod: I think the way that Cochran expressed himself was graceless. I wouldn’t have said it the way he said it. But, that’s fodder for another post.)

We are in for some big debates in this country regarding freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. But, I suppose that’s been obvious for quite some time.

The War in Afghanistan – Over?

The last few days, there have been numerous news stories about the end of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. I’m glad that it’s “over.” But, there’s a reason I put “over” in quotation marks. As a friend of mine told me on New Year’s Eve, even as the news media is focused on the end-of-the-year end of the war, her son is being deployed by the Air Force to …… Afghanistan. This Bloomberg story gives some of the reasons why it’s still not over.

Silence in Mosul

Len Sweet posted on Facebook yesterday:

“In Mosul (north of Iraq), the church bells did not ring out at Christmas for the first time in 1600 years. All remaining Christian churches—45 die-hard Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant/Pentecostal communities of faith—were closed by ISIS upon penalty of death.”

Ironically, on this day, December 28th, many churches that follow the liturgical calendar commemorate the horrible massacre that was precipitated by the birth of Jesus, the “Prince of Peace.” Matthew recorded in his Gospel how King Herod, jealous of reports that a new king had been born in tiny Bethlehem had every male child under the age of two years slaughtered.

I associate baby Jesus with God’s love, compassion, and mercy. Apparently, the human response to such a message includes violence and murder, from baby Jesus in Bethlehem, to the man Jesus crucified, to his follower Stephen stoned, all the way up to the present day.

 

 

What Afghanistan Needs

I’m behind on my magazine reading. Last night I finally got around to the September/October issue of The American Conservative. Andrew Doran’s, “Absurd in Afghanistan,” is thought-provoking. Doran relates his conversations with “Joseph,” an Army officer who lived, negotiated, fought, and ended up incredibly frustrated in Afghanistan. How can Western soldiers and officials, coming from an institutional culture, even begin to have meaningful conversations with people still living in a tribal culture?Joseph recognizes that both cultures are violent, but negotiate and execute almost everything, even violence, in starkly different ways.

But why try to have a meaningful conversation? Just do the mission. But, Joseph and Doran insist that it’s precisely that pragmatic American approach that cripples our ability to make any long-term change in Afghanistan. They draw parallels between the American approach and the utilitarian bent of another great empire: the Roman empire. Just conquer the enemies, build the roads, construct the buildings. Who needs cultural change? Who needs philosophy? (I know – an oversimplification. But there’s truth there.)

Well, the slow development of social and cultural capital – the rule of law, a respect for reason and its application, the building of institutions – is exactly what Afghanistan needs. Yet America is reluctant – incapable? – of having that conversation.

Again, Joseph and Doran look to antiquity and argue that a better model than the Romans might be the Greeks. As they conquered much of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern world, including Afghanistan, the Greeks, unlike the Romans who succeeded them, proudly brought the culture of their philosophers with them.

Ironically, centuries later Islamic scholars, including the great Persian thinker Avicenna, a native of Afghanistan, preserved, illuminated, and advanced Greek philosophy during the Islamic Golden Age. But, that high civilization of Afghanistan was crushed after the Mongol conquest of Afghanistan in the 13th century.

Perhaps Doran wrote the truth in the subtitle for this article: “The Islamic world needs Avicenna, not America.”