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Friday, May 20, 2016

When The Title Has Nothing To Do With The Article

When I saw the title of Peter Rieth's (click here for a short bio) blogpost at the Imaginative Conservative, Can A Christian Conservative Vote For Trump? (click here for the article), I was foaming at the mouth. It is the kind of article I would love to read and comment on.

What peaks my interest in Rieth's question is that in some ways, many of us religiously conservative Christians have already voted for candidates who proposed Trump-like policies or displayed Trump-like characteristics. This includes LBJ and Richard Nixon, neither of whom were ego-impaired even when compared to Trump, who oversaw our invasion of Vietnam as well as other massive policies. Here we should remember that Trump is not against war, he just isn't in favor of dumb wars. But then the question becomes this: Can he recognize the difference between necessary wars and dumb ones?

Or we could go to President Reagan with his horrific Central American terrorist policies and the Iran-Contra affair where he tried to get Iran to pay for our war against Nicaragua. Or we could go to President Clinton and his Trump-like lust for the ladies while he mainained a no-fly zone over and devastating sanctions on Iraq. Or we could go to President Bush as he increased the authority of the government through the Patriot Act and made as many verbal gaffes as Trump has. Even Eisenhower had his moments with the Iran and Guatemala' coups because those coups.  Religiously conservative Christians, who can be different from Christian conservatives since the conservatism of the latter revolves more around political thought, have supported and even voted for people promoting horrible policies. 

But a funny thing happened on the way from the title to the end of the article. The subject changed. It changed from answering a question about who could vote for Trump to not just using Trump as a barometer of our democracy, but as way of blaming all of our ills on old opponents of Roman Catholic teaching--we should note that Rieth is Catholic. For according to Rieth, the trouble with Western Civilization in general, and with our Democracy in particular, is not Trump per se, but the West's departure from Catholic teaching and its embracing of the teachings that are antithetical to Catholic teaching: the teachings of the Enlightenment and the Reformation. According to Rieth,  Trump represents the right wing of Englightenment and Reformation while Clinton represents the Left wing. And as Rieth so confidently espoused:
Rome is the ultimate solution to all of the problems plaguing Europe and Western civilization in general.

At this point, some observations are in order. For what Rieth is arguing against in others, he is arguing for in his church. Where he talks about political elites shutting down discussions on topics like immigrationa and war in an effort push their agenda, he does the same when talking about Western Civilization and Democracy from his Catholic elitist point of view. Does Rieth complain about Trump having a proud ego? Yes. But how different is that from Rieth's pride in his own church? And does Trump accept any responsibility for his errors? No, but how different is that from Rieth using the Englightenment and the Reformation as scapegoats for what ails the West. And as Rieth pontificates on Roman Catholic teachings, he never mentions its failures. We must ask this: How different is Trump's self-image from the view that Rieth has of his own Catholic Church? For it seems that when it comes to solving problems, both are claiming their side does it better than their opponents could.

And while Rieth blames the Englightenment and the Reformation for what ails our democracy, the nature of Rieth's claims is what actually endangers democracy. For here, Rieth is promoting an authoritarianism in how he blames his Church's enemies and how he brags about the capability of his Church's teachings. For Rieth is saying that to do well, the West must submit to Catholic teaching.  

Here, we should note that Democracy and authoritarianism do not mix. They do not mix because those who promote authoritarianism are looking to consolidate power while the nature of Democracy is to share and distribute power. They do not mix because authoritarianism gives rulership privileges to some while Democracy recognizes rulership rights for all. BTW, please note the difference between the words privileges and rights here. For privileges are given to some. Rights are recognized for all. A more mathematical way of stating this is to say: Liberties - equality = privileges. 

After reading the title, the article itself was a disappointment. The question raised in the title is never answered, let alone addressed. Rather, Trump and others become avenues for Rieth's promotion of Roman Church teachings. And this is despite past failed teachings made by his church.

So what can we take away from all of this? What we can learn is that we shouldn't entrust our democracy to authoritarians. Here, we should note that the most obvious characteristic that Trump and Hillary share is their authoritarianism. And as mentioned before, it is this authoritarianism that is threatening our Democracy, not the Enlightenment or the Reformation even though both, like Roman Church teachings, have their weaknesses and errors. And if we can't leave our democracy to authoritarians, what will we do this Presidential election where both Trump and Clinton seem all but assured of earning their respective party's nomination?




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