What Does Jesus Have to Do With Trump’s Budget?

To look at my newsfeed, he has quite a lot to do with it. It comes mostly in the form of memes designed to slam the Christian hypocrites, like the example posted with this essay. The target of derision includes those who declare their born-again devotion to Jesus Christ while ignoring his teachings on feeding the hungry.

Image 3-18-17 at 4.20 PMThe theology of this meme is not well developed, to say the least. It is not created from a forward-thinking theology of social programming, but it is conjured from the Theology of Gotcha, hurled with glee in the face of hypocrites.

Might the Son of God have an opinion about Meals on Wheels? That possibility could be unpacked with some good textual or historical-grammatical exegesis. But Jesus is not seriously invoked here. Instead, he is touted conveniently in a shouted spray of bad populist theology.

I would rather see Jesus invoked seriously as a support for more generous government social programming than to be used to shame hypocrites. I cannot be sure (so who am I to judge?) but my hunch is that the authors of these memes are not prepared to discuss any theology beyond the simple shaming of hypocrites that it provides for them.

The bothersome thing here is the wide presumption that evangelical Christians are all hypocritical, the whole lot of them. The creators of the meme might balk at that, and simply say that not all evangelicals are meant here, only “if the shoe fits, wear it.” But readers of the memes get that the whole of conservative evangelicalism is implicated. Usually this is illustrated well in the dark dungeon of comments under the post.

The narrative goes something like this: “Aren’t you following the guy who fed the hungry? And now you all are supporting a budget that cuts food to the hungry? Some Christian you are!” This cheap shot is undiscerning of the evangelicals who do not support Trump or his budget. It also ignores the thoughtful theological distinction, held by many, that Jesus directed his words toward our generosity of heart, and many thoughtful conservatives would rather do this (and they do) with unforced charitable giving. Tax revenues collected under the coercive power of the magistrate may not be in view when Jesus commands us to be charitable.

That is to say, Jesus was talking to my heart and my wallet, not to my 1040. And if you are of the other view, tell us why Jesus’ words really do apply to the distribution of government revenues.

This meme closes the discussion by slapping a final “you’re all hypocrites!” on the argument, tinting every prudent budget cut as presumably demonic. No discussion, you are the devil. That is silly, disrespectful, and bigoted toward a whole people group.

Can we have a discussion about where to put our budget dollars without calling all your opponents the anti-Christ?

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Sally Will Tell You What You Did

I did not vote for Trump, but if you did, there are a lot of people who think they know why.

The explanations vary, from the political analysis kind (“you are an angry white male”) to some more accusatory (“you endorsed misogyny”). Still others are downright patronizing, looking down their long noses at these pitiable malcontents. We will listen to Michigan next time, poor dears.

We can interpret the Trumpers any of several ways, but in the end we are all still friends, right? Well, actually, no. At least some people see the values gap as too great to be reconciled.

screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-11-56-28-amTake Bob and Sally, for instance, friends despite Bob’s vote for Trump and Sally’s for Hillary Clinton. This is admittedly a sappy, feel-good cartoon, but a subsequent editor did not appreciate this sentiment and revised the cartoon in red font, showing Sally as better off without Bob in her life. Sally will not be a friend with someone who votes for a misogynist, racist, and predator. To reconcile would be a manipulation of her views, something called “gaslighting,” and being friends with Bob would “normalize Trump.”

This is just funny, some will say, intended to blow off steam for those who are too mad to willy-nilly lay down their views and be friends. But the red-font words are too visceral to be a joke. This taps a “hell yes” response from people who would rather excommunicate than do the hard work of listening. Such people, like Sally, are too pissed off to be friends. Never mind that Bob may not personally be any of the things said of Trump, he still voted for him.

This is Sally telling Bob the meaning of what he did. This is not appreciative inquiry (something we teach in corporate behaviors), whereby we learn why another person holds a view or engages in a behavior. This is skandalocracy, “rule of the offended,” where a person’s reasons are not accepted or even heard. Instead, the one who judges it offensive determines the meaning unilaterally. This tactic has been in play a long time. It is seen more recently when someone’s opposition to policy is called hate speech. Now I do not have to listen to you. You’re a hater.

It’s ingenious, actually. Tell people often enough that a view is hateful, and identity politics takes hold. No one wants to be regarded as hateful. Truly hateful views like White Supremacy are obvious, but Sally (and those like her) have decided that voting for Trump—a private act for private reasons—is just as plainly hateful. Thus spake the scandalized: Don’t give me your reasons, I am not interested, you are not my friend.

Based on my knowledge of Trump voters, Bob was probably not “fine” voting for someone like this, but truly believes Trump’s abhorrent behavior is not relevant to the job. By this, Bob invokes the “it’s just sex” reasoning as heard from Bill Clinton’s defenders in the late ‘90’s.

If Bob and Sally were around in the 90’s and held consistent views, we would expect Sally to also reject friendship with anyone who supported the presidency of Bill Clinton. We would also expect Bob to wink at Bill’s indiscretions and say “all guys do that” or something similar, like he does now with Trump. But something tells me such consistency probably did not happen: Outrage is rarely consistent, but is adjusted to serve one’s politics.

This is not about whether Sally is right or wrong about Trump, but whether she’s right about reconciliation and friendship.

Sally’s distaste for Trump’s manner has been transferred to include those who would vote for him. She regards a vote as an act of hate. Sally is not open to the possibility that Bob was disgusted with Trump’s behavior and yet “held his nose” and voted for him for other reasons. I won’t talk to you about any of those other reasons, Sally says, we’re done.

When re-made in the image preferred by the red-font editor, Sally is holding her friendship with Bob hostage to her interpretations, and is certain she knows what values were in play in her former friend. Bob is therefore shit until he repents, and even repenting may not be good enough.

Word to Sally: This kind of manipulation, my friend, is known as “gaslighting.”