Thursday, January 5, 2017

Jan Chamberlain's rhetoric is too strong. But the stand she has taken is right.

I do not share the religion of Jan Chamberlain. I don't even pray to the same god. But I can't help but admire the integrity of the woman who quit the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rather than sing at Donald Trump's inauguration.

Ms. Chamberlain, like me, voted for Evan McMullin in November. Like me, she holds no brief for Hillary Clinton or her agenda. But she cannot, as she put it, "throw roses at Hitler."

As I've said before, comparing Trump to Hitler strikes me as harsh. I believe that Trump is a power-hungry narcissist who exhibits disturbing signs of psychopathy, like Hitler. Like Hitler, he has stigmatized  defenseless minorities- Muslims and undocumented aliens, rather than Jews- and made them scapegoats for the nation's troubles. Like Hitler, he has ridden a wave of irrational hatred and emotion to power. Like Hitler's, his agenda foreshadows disaster for the nation he has been chosen to lead.

But he's not going to set up death camps for Muslims. The prospect of Gestapo-type midnight raids to separate families and deport undocumented aliens is disturbing, and should never have been mooted- but it's probably not going to happen. And the wall won't solve the very legitimate problem of the inability of our nation to control its own borders.  In fact, it will never be built. It was an exercise in propaganda and deception from the beginning. Even Trump's advisors now say that it should not have been taken "literally."

Even as an image, it calls to mind Nikita Khrushchev and Walter Ulbricht rather than Jefferson and Lincoln- or Reagan, whom as I recall was all about tearing walls down, not building them. Still, even if immigration raids  do take place, the tiny percentage of the undocumented aliens in this country who are rounded out will be sent back to Mexico, not to the gas chambers and ovens.

Trump, like Marine Le Penn in France and Nigel Farage and the others who have led similar movements in other countries, represents an ugly vision radically at odds with the values of freedom and democracy. That he has been able to use the same weapons which they- and for that matter, Hitler- used to exploit the darkness of the human heart doesn't make him a mass murderer. But it does make him an enemy of the values that made America great in the first place, and give the lie to his promise to make it great again.

And the values of Trump and those like him are values any person of faith should blush to embrace. No, Donald Trump is not Hitler. But what he stands for is evil. It is the antithesis of everything that religious people, regardless of the religion, aspire to.

As the first paragraph of this post indicates (and as any reader of this blog knows), I am not one of those who refuses to believe his own religion because an imagined and misdefined "tolerance" requires the adoption of the shallow attitude that all faiths are equally valid. To respect the beliefs of others, and the people who hold them, is not to embrace those beliefs or to lessen one's own allegiance to beliefs which may contradict them. Nor am I one of the countless Americans who misidentify ethics as the heart of the Christian faith. That heart is not justice, but the notion that we all need mercy rather than justice, and that it's the experience of having received it which motivates people to show it to others, thus changing hearts and not simply behavior.

But contained within that concept is a notion which does resonate through pretty much all of the great religions, even the many I believe the last analysis to be false paths:  the idea that it would be a good thing if people treated each other with respect,  approached their differences with tolerance where they cannot in conscience agree, and understood the important distinction between enemies and opponents. Donald Trump, sadly, seems not to understand that distinction.

Abraham Lincoln (sorry, naive evangelicals) was certainly a theist, but he was not a Christian. Tragically, the Gospel of justification by grace, for Christ's sake, through faith was not the bottom line of his religion. But he expressed that shared truth which, inadequate though it be, is shared by Mormons and Lutherans and Roman Catholics and Baptists and Buddhists and Hindus- and, yes, many Muslims- when he said that his preferred method of destroying his enemies was by making them his friends.

Donald Trump and his movement are enemies of that idea. And that is why Jan Chamberlain was right to see participating in his inauguration as an unseemly thing for a person of faith to do.

No comments: