This morning my old buddy Bob (pseudonym) called me. First time in months. We shared some great memories. Bob has fantastic recall, especially for high school days.
Then, a comment led to politics. Bob really didn’t like some gender stuff he’d seen on TV. Made it clear he’d been a long time Republican. Primed for a verbal duel, asked if I voted for Hillary. That seemed irrelevant to me. I returned to the present. Told Bob I understood his concern.
Bob seems to feel Donald Trump will make such disturbing stuff on TV go away. He says President Trump has done many great things. Bob will send me a list of 20 great things. (Another evangelical friend said he’d send me his Trump top 20. Is that a thing? Like maybe the wellspring of faith in Trump?).
I began to drill down. Bob said, “I really felt good at the start of our call. I just feel tired now.” End of call.
It was when I started talking First Amendment Rights I could sense Bob getting tired. I wanted to know if he thought it would be better for government to limit speech which offends us or to have a system which would allow people to say things we found offensive, even do things which went against our belief system. All that got no further than Bob’s parting claim of “lots of good things, at least 20.”
To my evangelical brothers and sisters younger than I, please consider some facts which may not be as present to you as they are to me. Hitler brought us a number of good things: Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, BMW, and indirectly the Ford and General Motors companies we have come to know, even the precursors of interstate highways. Henry Ford had a portrait of Hitler in his office (for a while). Ford and GM factories located in Germany built some 86% of Nazi war machine vehicles. World War II spurred amazing industrial development and scientific research. Yes, some things that looked pretty good came from Hitler.
Maybe doing “good things” is not the ultimate measure of value for a society. The foundation of my faith is freedom. First, the most amazing thing about God is the gift of free will to me. That’s truly theologically unsettling. It’s been a subject of debate, warfare and torture over the centuries. But that’s where I stand.
As to politics, I believe God gave us a marvelous system of government which, even though flawed as all human ventures seem to be, has given me the freedom to believe what I wish and even voice it, for now.
The US was built in large part on the desire for free choice and the resulting efforts of people fleeing from state imposed religion. Freedom of religion means I can choose to be believer, agnostic, atheist or totally oblivious to such matters. I love that system. In this sense, maybe I’m a troublesome minority among evangelicals who just know we need to go back to our Christian roots and are counting on Donald Trump to take us there.
My recollection of readings about the ramp up to World War II, was that many religious leaders saw Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy and Franco in Spain as leaders who would really get some good things done. I guess they did. But then, it seems things went kind of sideways: Guernica, Blitzkrieg, concentration camps, etc.
I heard one evangelical leader who seems to have broken ranks with Trump believers refer to a Faustian deal: Give Trump support. Church leaders get access to power.
That didn’t work too well in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain or most anywhere else for those who were just bargaining for “good things,” for “peace in our time.” There is some saying about the Devil will have his due.
Ho, hum, you say. Like Bob, you grow tired of my babble. But are you really sure, my evangelical friends, that your heavily armed vigilante colleagues will play nice. It seems some have such itchy trigger fingers they use protestors for target practice.
I’ll hope to share more with you on these points in some upcoming posts, in particular “Blue Eyed Nazi” or something like that.
Meanwhile, let’s close with a poem brought to mind earlier today by my good evangelical friend Dr. D, down south. It’s from the late German Christian theologian Martin Niemöller.
First they came
When they came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.