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FAITH AND RESISTANCE IN THE AGE OF TRUMP – Miguel A. De La Torre, editor

August 8, 2018

FaRThis is a collection of reflections by notable religious scholars, ministers, and activists address the Trump phenomenon. With chapters treating issues of gender, race, disability, LGBT justice, immigration, the environment, peace, and poverty, the contributors seek to name our situation and to set forth an agenda for faith and resistance. They were all written within a month of his Inauguration.

Contributors include Susan Thistlethwaite, Amir Hussain, David Gushee, Miguel Diaz, Kelly Brown Douglas, Christiana Zenner, Sister Simone Campbell, Kwok Pui-lan, George “Tink” Tinker, and Rabbi Steven Greenberg

Better editing would have led to less repetition.

Jim Wallis of the Sojourners community in Washington, DC, says in his Foreword, “we have to build a movement of what we are for and not just what we are against.”

The 23 contributors see Trump as neither a surprise nor a deviation. His election is an apocalyptic moment in which the real—but until now somewhat hidden—America stands evident for all to see.

And what is the America that has been so exposed? It is, in the words of Kelly Brown Douglas, a nation whose “defining narrative [is] Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism and the supremacist culture of whiteness that serves to protect it.” She asks: “To what lengths will America go to protect its mythic identity of Anglo-Saxon greatness? Answer: The election of Donald Trump as president. This is the truth about America.” Or as the editor of the volume, Miguel A. De La Torre, puts it, “for marginalized communities in the United States, especially racial and ethnic communities, Donald J. Trump is the true face of America.”

The authors see a stark choice, as Douglas puts it, between “the Anglo-Saxon myth of exceptionalism” and the “democratic rhetoric of being a nation of liberty and justice for all.” Theologically, she frames this choice as one between “a divine vision that reflects an Anglo-Saxon God or a divine vision that reflects a God whose image is revealed through a racially, religiously, and culturally diverse humanity.

In his Conclusion editor Miguel De La Torre notes that “History demonstrates the futility of simply denouncing unjust social structures . . . Even following a Trump presidency, it would be naïve to assume that oppressive structures will cease to exist.”  In its analysis and prescriptions for action Faith and Resistance in the Age of Trump offers a praxis of solidarity for the long haul.

Quotations:

This moment in time spans from his election, to when he placed his hand on the Bible and took the presidential oath, to the chaotic first three weeks of his administration where so much damage to basic civil justice occurred with the stroke of his executive pen. This book is a bold proclamation of why so many faith communities, specifically communities historically marginalized, are deeply con­cerned at the start of the Trump presidency.

“This administration just doesn’t accept the rule of law,”

A New York Times article featured the large-scale response at airports across the nation, focusing on this new legal brigade. Trump’s impulsive and, I would agree, lawless decision mobilized flawyers everywhere to defend “the stranger,” as our Scriptures call refugees and immigrants.

The Trump era clearly promises to be dangerous to many people in our country: to many of our core values and institutions, to our governmental balance of powers, to the rule of law, to a free and honest press, and, seemingly, to truth itself. Many will find them­selves vulnerable under our new political realities in Washington. But all of us who morally oppose what is going on and fear what is threatened have to make decisions about how and where and when we will speak and act for the things we know are right, and against the things we know are wrong.

We only have so much control over what happens in the world.

a continual strategy to undermine the press, protests, and polls when they disagree with him, a continual posture of conflict and bullying toward his opponents—are all the behaviors of authoritarian leaders. It is not surprising that the force of Trump’s attacks have been against the press and the judiciary—primary checks and balances to his power. Resistance from many people and places will be required now.

Both Republicans and Democrats must be called to hold the presi­dent accountable; the press must be encouraged to exercise their integrity; and the judiciary must be strongly upheld to protect the rule of law. But the willingness to resist this autocratic rule will have to come from a broad and awakened citizenry. Speaking the truth and acting on behalf of what is right will require the efforts of all of us, at the deepest levels.

Paul speaks to this in Corinthians when he talks about the ori­gins of the Christian movement: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.”

What I mean by that is: Do you think Jesus of Nazareth, that prophetic guy who preached that the first should be last and the last shall be first; that guy who made friends with sinners and out­siders; that guy who put women and children in the center of his ministry; that guy, that son of a God who made a stranger—an outsider, a religious minority, a Samaritan—the hero of his parable about what it means to love neighbor. Do you think that guy would approve of this behavior?

People of faith need encouragement to cultivate a spirituality of resistance, as we seek to counter the onslaught of hatred and

bigotry spilling out from the White House like a noxious poison. We need a book like this one, to sharpen our thinking, to enlarge our imaginations, to remind us that it is our moral responsibility to stand against oppression and for our neighbors. The love revolution we so desperately need is awaiting us just over the horizon. And it is not coming without us in it.

In Genesis, chapter 12, we meet Abram, the singular man urged to leave the cradle of civilization and become an immigrant, a stranger in a new land. There he will found a goy gadol—”a great nation.” God will bless him and make his name great and all the families of the earth shall be blessed through him. The shift in greatness is palpable, but how will this one man found a great nation that will spread blessing to the world? We are left to wonder how this will work till chapters 18 and 19, when we discover that the nation’s promised greatness will not be a matter of its size but of its moral commitments. Abraham will be the father of a great nation because he will teach his progeny to do tzedek and misbpat, righteousness and justice.

The rabbis speak of a Sodomite bed (mittat sedom), which the people of Sodom provided for weary guests. However, when the wayfarer would lie down they made sure that he fit the bed perfectly. A short man was stretched to fit it and a tall man was cut to size. The people of Sodom are not only protective of their wealth and punishing of acts of charity, but they are also desperate to force everyone to fit a single measure. They have a well-to-do gated com­munity that makes sure no beggars disturb their luxury and peace. They have zoned out both poverty and difference. For Sodom, the needs of others are experienced as a threat; for Abraham, they are opportunities for communion. For Sodom, the response to differ­ence is violence; for Abraham, curiosity.

Returning to the opening question of this essay: How did Donald Trump become president? By unearthing and revitalizing a “truth” about America that resonated with far too many of its citizens, including, according to Pew polls, 58 percent of white Protestants, 60 percent of white Catholics, and 81 percent of white evangelicals.19 Essentially, Trump dared to do openly what those who previously ran for office refused, at least explicitly, to do in their bids for the presidency, even when the opportunity arose: to play into the Anglo-Saxon culture of whiteness that is the odious underside of America’s identity.

If you crossed the border without documents at any time, you have committed a chargeable felony and the executive order has already determined that aliens are a threat to public safety. The low-level immigration officer now has sole discretion as prosecutor and judge to place the person in expe­dited removal.

In that list of priorities with no ranking, everything and every­one is a priority for deportation. If you were issued a traffic citation for a faulty tail light, if you wrote a bad check, if your child ben­efited from a school lunch program, or if in the judgment of a low-level immigration official you pose a risk to public safety, you are a priority for deportation.

Because the U.S. government takes the position that aiding undocumented Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees in this country is a felony, we have no middle ground between col­laboration and resistance.

When the government itself sponsors the crucifixion of entire peoples and then makes it a felony to shelter those seeking refuge, law-abiding protest merely trains us to live with atrocity

Trump’s promise rests on a strange mix of neoliberal capitalism on steroids and the introduction of regulations and controls that have led some economists to suspect the end of neoliberal capitalism as we know it….Trump’s administration neoliberal capitalism is giving way to what might be called “national capitalism.” Considering this term as the frame for my observations on the new economy under Trump, I was taken aback by the realiza­tion that this term had already been in use by alt-right pundits for some time who make it no secret that their use of the expression is developed in relation to the notion of national socialism.’

On the other hand, Trump is pushing further deregulations that intensify the neoliberal ethos, for instance, in environmental stan­dards, building codes, health care, and education; and he is in favor of repealing regulations of banks and lending agencies that were !introduced in the wake of the Great Recession

First of all, Trump’s brand of national capitalism appears to divide the world into good and evil, quasi-theological categories that are applied on the basis of “us” vs. “them.” ,,,,,, Relationships with China, Mexico, and certain Muslim countries obviously fall into this latter category.

Second, power is envisioned as most appropriately held by the elites, mirroring quasi-theological categories of divine power as unilateral and top-down

In Evangelii gaudium Pope Francis does not mince words when he writes about this failed economic policy. In paragraph 53 he states: “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”

Tax policy: Creating a tax policy that has everyone who benefits from our nation (including corporations) paying their fare share of the costs would be a major step forward. Politics, such as raising the actual tax rate for the top income earners, the incentive for money being the measure of mortgage interest deduction for second horn would help level the playing field; and fund: by ending tax loopholes that corporations “offshore”—a move that would increase in federal programs. Tax policy can also be used to out money into hands of working people through enhancing Tax Credit for adults without custody of minor children.

Enacting living wages: Too often we fight over the minimum wage, yet we know minimum wages keep would need to shift to a federal law that sets up the criteria for establishing regional living wages’ and gives a preference to businesses that commit to fair wages. Additionally, we workers’ organizing in order to give them the for what they actually need in today’s market

The point here is broader: Lest we blame a particu­larly egregious individual for these inequities, let it be known that these actions have occurred not just under President Trump, but under the Obama administration as well, revealing the prevalence of systemic tendencies within cherished forms of liberalism despite the radical personality differences in those two presidents.

Emotional manipulation via affecting phrases, images, and music, and then progressively ceases to have a significant connection to truth at all. I doubt that people “believe” advertising.

the internet also makes possible a kind of democratization of ignorance and delusion. There are no editorial boards, no peer reviews, no community discussions necessary for a posting or a website. As an isolated, atomized individual, without connection to possible cor­rection, re-thinking, awareness of other positions, or fact-check­ing, the web (and thus the world) is my oyster. Like the isolated act of voting, the isolated internet voice does not reflect self-conscious, mediated, relational, communal intelligence, but far too often sim­ply the prejudices and slanted ignorance of an individual or a paro­chial, narrow-minded, intellectually insular community.

Right now every anti-Trump supporter needs every other one. Any carping over details, drawing of political lines in the sand, or demands that fellow fighters follow our particular ideological shibboleths is at this point an exercise in the most profound denial of just how bad things are.

President Trump has promised to sign the “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA), and Senator Ted Cruz has promised to rein­troduce it. This piece of legislation, first introduced in 2015, allows anyone (including a business) who “believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage” to “act in accordance” with that belief or conviction without conse­quence.’ This would legalize discrimination against LGBTQ peo­ple and anyone who has sex outside of marriage. A company could fire an unmarried pregnant person. An emergency medical techni­cian could refuse to treat a transgender person. A landlord could refuse to rent an apartment to a legally married, same-sex couple. These are only a few examples of allowing personal convictions to impact civil rights.

The second position suggests that the world is moving from the United States as the sole superpower to multipolar centers, and this change will be better for world peace and stability. In The Post‑American World, Fareed Zakaria argues that what we are seeing is not the United States in decline but rather the rise of everyone else.’

the difference between white  evangelicals and fundamentalists fades to invisibility in many parts of the United States

White evangelicals were attracted to the nationalism of Donald Trump.

Many American evangelicals (and fundamentalists) have been schooled in a very deep “God and country” conflation. Long after many Americans had either abandoned patriotism, abandoned reli­gion, or both, millions of evangelicals are both deeply patriotic and deeply religious, and have not been taught any real differentiation between the two. I think of the thousands of Christian schools in which children each morning say the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian flag almost in one breath.

Mr. Trump communicated that Christianity would be restored to its privileged place in the American public square.

It’s not just maleness, it’s also masculin­ity that matters.

Many evangelicals run their families and their churches in an authoritarian rather than democratic way. I think of the thou­sands of churches founded by one man and controlled by that one man with little oversight.

I speak here not just of those churches that have explicitly embraced the “prosperity” or “health and wealth” gospel, in which preachers teach that God rewards the faithful with worldly success.

that especially the massive megachurch movement within evangelicalism and fundamentalism bears a striking resemblance in many ways to the business and political model offered by Donald Trump. Everything revolves around an attractive central (male) figure, who exudes power, wealth, and success, and is usually accompanied by an equally beautiful wife and children. Donald Trump fit that paradigm.

Evangelical individualism also makes it difficult for white evangelicals to accept the reality of structural or systemic racism.

Perhaps we are now to be called postevangeli­cals, or ex-evangelicals, or something else. Whatever we call ourselves, it is time to move on.

The point is that much if not almost all of the First Testament was produced either in or through the fires of migration or exile.

Part of the point of the Christian message or way of life was that believers were to be distinct from the world and sur­rounding culture.

My own pentecostal perspective insists that the salvific redemp­tion of the triune God comes in and through the many tongues of even Cretans (stereotyped, remember, as “liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons”!; Titus 1:12), Arabs (the historically estranged side of the “family”), and Romans, inclusive of those who had benefitted from oppressive imperial practices (see Acts 2:10-11)

In the 2006 film V for Vendetta, set in a future neo-Fascist Britain, one of the characters (Dietrich) is taken away by the authorities for owning a copy of the Qur’an. As a presidential candidate, Mr. Trump said very famously on CNN on March 9, 2016, that “I think Islam hates us,”1 and so one wonders what will happen to American Muslims during his presidency.

is the response from the American Jewish community. They have been at the forefront of the protests, both because they know that the commandment that is repeated more than any other commandment in the Torah is to not oppress the stranger, and because they know with the painful history of the Holocaust of where the road of prejudice and intolerance ends.

There is also a socioeconomic difference. American Muslims are an American success story, solidly middle class, and mostly profes­sional.

Finally, there is a difference between American-style secularism, which doesn’t seek to abolish religion but to give all religions an equal seat at the table, and various kinds of European disestablishment of religion, which seek to make the public space nonreligious

The point is that Trumpism repre­sents, as Hitlerism did, one more stage in the long-turning wheel of capitalism. In the United States, liberal democracy has espoused neo-liberal economic policies.

we should be wary of his rhetorical resolve, promising to cure the crippling malaise of the middle, working class, by unraveling the protective regulations from labor through ecological standards.

America’s cultural disdain for disability, the marginalization of those held outside this labor contract, has been shaped by an implicit Puritan ethos, a sentiment I lifted up from Christian Scriptures, that is, “Those who are unwill­ing to work will not get to eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). When paid labor becomes not only the means by which we belong together as a nation but a religious norm of the self, the economically pre­caritized may assume further harm to their own environment and bodies in the hope of jobs.

By insisting on “America first,” Trump is deploying code language that resonates with his supporters about exercising a preferential_ option for all things white, male, heterosexual, and rich within a Christian-supremacist social order.

casting off its own members as expendable “losers” and still today “derides dependency, solidarity, community, and any viable notion of the commons.”

Less-educated white Americans feel that they have become `strangers in their own land.’ They see themselves as victims of affirmative action and betrayed by `line-cutters’—–African-Ameri­cans, immigrants, refugees and women—who jump ahead of them in the queue for the American dream. They resent liberal intellectu­als who tell them to feel sorry for the line-cutters, and dismiss them as bigots when they don’t.””

The lake itself was built in the middle of the last century by displacing hundreds of reservation families and flooding the most fertile acreage on two reservations, Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Reservations. This best of the reservations’ land (some 206,000 fer­tile acres) was grabbed in accord with the legal principle of eminent domain. Moreover, the promised monetary compensation for loss of land was never paid.

When we claim that we should be hospitable to immigrants as “strangers” in our land, we reproduce settler colonial violence by acting as if U.S. citizens rather than Native North Americans have a proper ability to be hospitable in this land. Moreover, rhetorics of hospitality, rather than acornpanamiento, still presume the uneven power dynamics of citizenship excess, that citizens are entitled to hold greater rights than migrants, and thus citizens are able to offer up some of these rights as an act of generosity.

He has unmasked a disturbing truth about America…..Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the presi­dency brings us to a point of decision in this nation and hence a particular challenge to religious scholars and leaders.

fully three-quarters (75 percent) of white Americans report that the network of people with whom they discuss important mat­ters is entirely white, with no minority presence.

Put bluntly, it is impossible to be at once white and Christian. To reiterate, whiteness is a sinful reality, for it means that one is not able to be where the God of Jesus is—in solidarity with those who are victimized by the crucifying realities of white privilege.

Jesus called his disciples to during the Last Supper. Such remember­ing is about more than a mental recollection of events. Rather, it is about bringing the past into the present through our bodies, our lives, and our very work. In this regard, moral participation is about bringing the past that was Jesus’ ministry into our very present. This, then, is a past defined by a ministry of sanctuary, especially for those who are most marginalized by the power and privilege of whiteness; it is a past that empowers us to witness against the forces of oppression and the perpetrators of unjust privilege.

The question is how are we going to resist? Perhaps one answer is in what I call an ethics or praxis of joder. Joder is a Spanish word never used in polite company; it can be translated as “to screw with.” An ethics para joder is an ethics that screws with the prevailing institutional violence. An ethics para joder fosters an effective response to the consequences of a Trump regime. To joder is to resist. A joderon is one who strategically becomes a royal pain in the rear end, purposely causing trouble, constantly disrupting the established norm, shouting from the mountaintops what is supposed to be kept silent, audaciously refusing to stay in one’s assigned place. To joder is to create instability, upsetting the prevailing social order designed to maintain the law and order of the privileged. Think of Jesus cleansing the Temple, the liberative praxis of literally overturning the established tables of order and oppression (Matthew 21:12-13). To joder is to overturn established tables. Political and social change requires going beyond the rules created by the dominant culture, moving beyond what is expected, pushing beyond universalized experiences.

We refuse to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” Let this book be a small step toward unmasking the injustice of a Trump age. Seekers of justice, especially whites, are invited to join us in solidarity in singing a different song-/Basta!

In deep-red America, the white Christian god is king, figuratively and literally. Religious fundamentalism has shaped most of their belief systems. Systems built on a fundamentalist framework are not conducive to introspection, questioning, learning, or change. When you have a belief system built on fundamentalism, it isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone not a member of your tribe and in a position of power. The problem isn’t that coastal elites don’t understand rural Americans. The problem is that rural America doesn’t understand itself and will never listen to anyone outside its bubble. It doesn’t matter how “understanding” you are, how well you listen, what language you use…if you are viewed as an outsider, your views will be automatically discounted. I’ve had hundreds of discussions with rural white Americans and whenever I present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they will not even entertain the possibility that it might be true. Their refusal is a result of the nature of their fundamentalist belief system and the fact that I’m the enemy because I’m an educated liberal.

At some point during the discussion, they will say, “That’s your education talking,” derogatorily, as a general dismissal of everything I said. They truly believe this is a legitimate response, because to them education is not to be trusted. Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts. The fundamentalists I grew up around aren’t anti-education. They want their kids to know how to read and write. They are against quality, in-depth, broad, specialized education. Learning is only valued up to a certain point. Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous. I watched a lot of my fellow students who were smart, stop their education the day they graduated high school. For most of the young ladies, getting married and having kids was more important than continuing their learning. For many of the young men, getting a college education was seen as unnecessary and a waste of time. For the few who did go to college, what they learned was still filtered through their fundamentalist belief systems. If something they were taught didn’t support a preconception, it would be ignored and forgotten the second it was no longer needed to pass an exam.

Even though they’ve backtracked on some of their more racist declarations, many still believe the original claims. Non-whites are the color they are because of their sins, or at least the sins of their ancestors. Blacks don’t have dark skin because of where they lived and evolution; they have dark skin because they are cursed. God cursed them for a reason. If god cursed them, treating them as equals would be going against god’s will. It is really easy to justify treating people differently if they are cursed by god and will never be as good as you no matter what they do because of some predetermined status.

How do you make climate change personal to someone who believes only god can alter the weather? How do you make racial equality personal to someone who believes whites are naturally superior to non-whites? How do you make gender equality personal to someone who believes women are supposed to be subservient to men by god’s command? How do you get someone to view minorities as not threatening to people who don’t live around minorities and have never interacted with them? How do you make personal the fact massive tax cuts and cutting back government hurts their economic situation when they’ve voted for such policies for decades? I don’t think you can without some catastrophic events. And maybe not even then. The Civil War was pretty damn catastrophic, yet a large swath of the South believed—and still believes—they were right and had the moral high ground. They were/are also mostly Christian fundamentalists who believe they are superior because of the color of their skin and the religion they profess to follow. There is a pattern here for anyone willing to connect the dots.

  • They complain about coastal liberals, but taxes from California and New York cover their farm subsidies, help maintain their highways and keep the hospitals in their sparsely populated rural areas open for business.
  • They complain about “the little man being run out of business,” and then turn around and shop at big-box stores.

 

  • All the economic policies and ideas that could help rural America belong to the Democratic Party: raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions, spending on infrastructure, renewable energy growth, slowing down the damage done by climate change, and healthcare reform. All of these and more would really help a lot of rural white Americans.

What I understand is that rural Christian white Americans are entrenched in fundamentalist belief systems; don’t trust people outside their tribe; have been force-fed a diet of misinformation and lies for decades; are unwilling to understand their own situations; and truly believe whites are superior to all races.

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