Like many of my fellow Americans and people across the world I am saddened and angry at the gun violence and white supremacy that has reared its ugly head in America. It is a terrible evolution of the American Republic and speaks volumes of America in the 21st century. Recently I have wondered how did we get to a point as a country and a people to where we are so divided along with beliefs, world-view’s and politics that we are not only tearing the country apart but we are oftentimes, destroying our families.
When you look at the Americans who support Donald Trump, by-and-large you will find them to be a white, male, Republican Party member, evangelical, fundamentalist or conservative Christian. Like many of our HAPI members, I was brought up in a religious household. My brothers and I were raised Roman Catholic and attended Mass and Catechism regularly; however my mom’s family was Southern Baptist so we were influenced by an Evangelical Christian denomination as well. When I was a child, I remember going to Mass and Catechism, Baptist church services and Sunday school and reading the Bible with my parents and my grandmother and learning about Jesus Christ. Through all these teachings, reading and family time, the Jesus that I came to know and remember, taught tolerance, kindness, selflessness, sacrifice and treated all people with respect, dignity and love. As a child, Christianity represented love, kindness, and compassion. I remember the song “Jesus Loves Me” and the word that follow it. Yet the American Republican will scoff at the idea that separating children from their families and locking children into cages is immoral and harmful to the child. You will hear them often counter with “We are protecting our borders” or I “Well, they knew the risk when they came here illegally.”
As an adult, I do not see the evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians representing the Jesus that I was taught about so long ago. So my question is “what has happened to America and more directly, the American Evangelical Christian?” What has happened to the people of faith? How did Christianity become the religion of intolerance, bigotry and racism? How did it become a religion that votes for a party that supports or is at least silent on White Supremacy? How did they become participants in a religion that preaches the importance of traditional family values and love, while holding a rally and offering standing ovations for a man who preyed on 14-year-old girls? How did they become the people of faith who look to excuse the appalling allegations against Roy Moore by literally quoting the bible, and comparing his molestation of children to that of Joseph and Mary? What has taken place in America and ideology that has turned Christianity and especially the evangelicals Christians to become such white supremacist, race baiters and people of intolerance? How did they become people who acknowledge Jesus with their words, and deny him through lifestyle, action and words? How did it become a common thread seen in the American mass shootings that the shooter is white, male, radicalized by the right and by and large, ascribes to the evangelical and/or fundamentalist Christian ideology? How did these “good Christians” become zealous supporters of Donald Trump?
People in America are now using Trump’s rhetoric as a criminal defense for sending pipe bombs to Democratic congressmen and women and for the fracture of a 12 year old boy’s skull by a perpetrator of violence on this child, who said he was only following the admonition and direction of President Trump. And by now we all know, that the El Paso shooter quotes the words of Donald Trump liberally throughout his “manifesto”. And yet, the Trump supporter still denies there is any connection between the violence and mass shootings in America with the words spoken by the American President. For Americans that support President Trump and say his rhetoric has nothing to do with the violence, I dare say to them that you must also agree then that Mussolini’s and Hitler’s rhetoric had nothing to do with WW 2 and the death of millions of humans. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all Trump supporters or people of faith are racists and support the violence, but what I am saying is all people who support the violence and racism are Trump supporters.
I give you the most hypocritical religious group in America, the evangelical and fundamentalist Christian. If you don’t believe me then consider the Alabama pastor David Floyd. In 1999 during the Clinton Presidency, Floyd was so appalled that a president of the United States had the gall to embark on a sexual relationship with a woman less than half his age that he told his Alabama flock that Bill Clinton had crossed the line and had to go. Now, nearly 20 years later, with four women and 30 sources confirming allegations against Roy Moore, what does the righteous evangelical pastor have to say? David Floyd now calls Moore “an upright man” who should be forgiven for his sins and elected to office. Floyd went on to say “Don’t worry; you have to look at the totality of the man. I’ve prayed with him. I know his heart.” My interpretation of what the Pastor means is “it’s okay to prey on children and women as long as you pray to your God”. These views, beliefs and sentiments were echoed on evangelical shows by televangelist. Consider Pat Robertson who said Bill Clinton turned the oval office into the play pin of sexual freedom of the 1960s, but then cheered and promoted Trump as an inspiration and explained that Trumps sexual predatory past was him just “acting macho”. And then there is the leader of the evangelical movement, the good Rev. Franklin Graham. Franklin Graham, the leader of the evangelical/fundamentalist movement has repeatedly said horrible and violent words about LGBTQ humans (like when he included the death-to-gays Bible verses when talking about Democratic candidate for President, Pete Buttigieg) and trans people (saying that a bathroom bill would benefit pedophiles and sexually perverted men) and Graham compared the bombing of Planned Parenthood clinics (where many poor women and women of color in America receive their health care services), to the bombing of train tracks that carried Jewish people to Nazi death camps. Some may say that America and the American Christian has always been that way, but I don’t think so. I think the bigotry, hatred and intolerance began in the 1960’s and the social revolution that happened in America when conservative, white run America was challenged.
So how does America stem the tide of bigotry, racism and hate in the United States? How can we make America the land envisioned by our Constitution as the country where all are created equal and have inalienable human rights? I offer five ways that this can be accomplished and the soul of America can be healed.
First, America must recognize that the American evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, as well as Republicans at-large, believe they are engaged in a struggle against a wicked enemy—not Russia, not North Korea, not Iran, but rather the American Democratic Party, the progressive liberal and the left. If you listen to Trump supporters, you will hear adjectives applied to those on the left that could easily be used to describe a Stalinist regime. Second, the American people must become active in the democratic process and vote. Third, the American politician at all levels must show leadership, statesmanship and stand against hate, racism, white supremacy and violence. Fourth and most important for the long-term survival of the American democracy, is a change in the make-up of the Supreme Court. The Justices must be replaced from those blinded by conservative politics and strict construction of the Constitution to one of a judicial interpretation that follows a more loose construction. A loose constructive interpretation of the Constitution will consider a wide and broad view of the world than considering only the original text. The basis of this argument is built upon the premise that the Founding Fathers could not envisage how modern society has developed and therefore the Constitution must be interpreted according to modern standards. And Fifth and so important in the healing of America is the American people must adopt core humanistic principles and values as a guide to our laws, and lifestyle. America will not last as a democracy if religion, superstition and a belief in myths are the defining values of the people.
America will not change overnight.
We did not get ourselves in this predicament overnight. But I firmly believe that if we adopt the five ways for healing that I have outlined above we can once again or finally become the nation of immigrants of the American dream, where all have inalienable rights, are treated with dignity and equality and there is an opportunity for all. The American dream is still out there; we just need to have the courage, fortitude and the desire to make it happen.