The Idols Keep Crumbling
I am rested and back from vacation. Thanks so much for the kind words and prayers. It was nice to have several days away from the news. If anything, it is remarkable just how many avenues people have to connect with me though. There were private messages on Instagram, direct messages on Twitter, Facebook messages, text messages — I could get off Twitter and not check email, but still, the onslaught of messages came through. It was fine though. I could ignore them. I could also appreciate how many people just wanted to send a note of kindness or prayer.
Having rested through the weekend and come back to the news with fresh eyes, I want to roll a few things into one thing.
First, there is the Supreme Court decision. Superficially, it was not a decision that will change much. “But Gorsuch” decided sexual orientation and transgender status can roll into Title VII prohibitions on sexual discrimination. Interestingly, having read the case, Gorsuch seems to be trying to thread a needle to affirm two sexes, male and female, and that transgenderism suggests a person of one sex acting as the other. It all but builds the groundwork to block men and women from competing in sports of the opposite sex under Title IX. It also outright rejects the prevailing age’s nonsense about multiple genders.
Nope, yesterday the Supreme Court said there were two genders.
Let’s not expect that to last. Also, Gorsuch gives a great deal of authority to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which a clever Senate could end with reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered (clever, I said, no need for a lecture on Senate rules).
Additionally, where we will have problems are Christian run enterprises that operate on the belief that Americans have the right to exercise their religion, not just worship. The Supreme Court has ruled 9-0 that Americans have a more expansive exercise right than just worshipping, but I give it less than a year before the transgender teacher sues for having lost his job in the Christian school.
“But Gorsuch” made clear there is a ministerial exception, but my kids go to a Christian private school that is not directly affiliated with a church. The activists will come for these schools first and in many parts of the country they will make headway. The Supreme Court may carve out religious liberty exceptions for Catholic charities, Christian adoption ministries, etc, but the unaffiliated religious school or the religious small business are probably toast in the long run.
Christians who sided with Donald Trump to protect them from the culture war just saw Trump’s own Scalia replacement try some too clever by half legal twists that will upend their protections.
Lastly, regardless of the result, as a conservative, I have philosophical opposition to the Supreme Court adding protections to a law that Congress itself has tried multiple times to add and failed to do so. It suggests the authors of the law recognized those protections are not there and the Supreme Court should not fix Congress’s bad legislation. It just encourages a dishonest Congress to also be lazier in drafting laws with an expectation that the unelected Supreme Court will do Congress’s dirty work for it.
In one day, evangelical idol worshippers are realizing that neither Donald Trump nor a conservative majority on the Supreme Court can protect them. There is too much going on in the world to flag June 14, 2020, as the day Donald Trump lost his re-election. But Neil Gorsuch just gave a lot of evangelicals who’ve been wavering on the President already their hall pass to check out of the election. And yes, there is some wavering among evangelicals who are tired of the drama and the President’s handling of it. They were fine with President Trump disrupting the system, but they didn’t foresee a crisis of leadership.
President Trump won 2016 with 70,000 votes spread over Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In 1960, John F. Kennedy won the presidency with 49.72% of the vote to Richard Nixon’s 49.55%. What is remarkable is that Kennedy won by just a few tenths of a point, but in 1964, after his assassination, pollsters were hard-pressed to find anyone who would admit they voted Nixon.
The way 2020 is coming, by 2024 pollsters will be hard-pressed to find anyone who claims they voted for Trump. We’ve got Lyndon Johnson’s societal turmoil, Jimmy Carter’s economic turmoil, and George H. W. Bush’s Supreme Court turmoil all rolled into Donald Trump’s final year of his first term. It is going to be a heck of a re-election campaign. At least, for the President, it is June and he has time for a turnaround and a potentially massive crime wave coming to help him.
If you got in a time machine, went back to 2016, went on Sean Hannity’s show, and said by 2020 the Supreme Court would put transgenderism and sexual orientation into Title VII without Congress, Obamacare was not only still legal but expanded, churches could not meet, socialists had taken over part of Seattle, the economy had cratered, Planned Parenthood is funded, and the national debt was bordering $30 trillion, Hannity would insist the only way to prevent all of that and more was to elect Donald Trump.
Then we have the police situation in the country. There are riots and protests. A great many white people are waking up to racial disparities in the country. But then there are shootings like the one in Atlanta. The police had a peaceful interaction with the victim for thirty minutes, then he went nuts, grabbed a taser, ran, turned and pointed it at the police, and got shot. Some people want to lump in all the acts of police together and others would prefer to distinguish. The latter get attacked. By the way, I am in the latter camp. If I started a disturbance with the police in a tense situation, grabbed a taser, and pointed it to shoot, I could expect to get shot.
But the mayor of Atlanta is throwing all the police under the bus now.
We keep seeing reality and mythology blurred in ways that are going to give some people excuses to avoid confronting reality and make it impossible for others to figure out what to believe. It is a mythology that Michael Brown in Ferguson actually said “hands up, don’t shoot,” and it is the reality that he charged a police officer and tried to fight him. It is also mythology that Rayshard Brooks, killed in Atlanta at a Wendy’s the other night, ran away and was killed while running. No, Mr. Brooks pointed a taser at an officer — a taser obtained in a struggle with the police — and the police opened fire. There is no reason to armchair quarterback police in tense situations, which is what too many people now want to do. We can all see the George Floyd situation and recognize a knee on a neck for over eight minutes is excessive without demanding all police everywhere be punished. We can also acknowledge it is true that there are plenty of times a similarly situation white person would have not been shot and killed.
There’s no reason to dance around that, though some will. What others will also dance around is the ongoing effort to add more institutions to the list of those distrusted. We’ve got the big three of congress, the presidency, and the supreme court. The media isn’t trusted. The police aren’t trusted. The clergy aren’t trusted. The military is trusted, but probably not for much longer. There are no small businesses anymore to trust.
Churches that are trying to be bold against racism are seeing hell bound hotheads with scripture in their Twitter bios attack them. Churches that want to stand up against racism and also stand for the police are a target.
Basically, what I’m getting at is back to my prior point — we are going through a great sorting right now. All of this has a divine hand. A Christian that has his feet planted firmly in the camp of “vote Trump” and “but Gorsuch” is not a Christian who can fully trust the sovereignty of God. God is taking away the bet hedges. You cannot trust in these institutions at all anymore nor can you vote in enough people to stop a cultural shift in directions you might not want to go. The President may very well win re-election because the left is terribly going to overplay its hand both against the police and against those who do not side with them culturally. The coming crime wave as underpaid and under attack police sit on their hands has Trump 2020 commercials just waiting. But even a re-elected Donald Trump won’t stop the cultural rot.
All you can do is trust God. The divine hand is crumbling American evangelical idolatry before our very eyes. If you trust scripture, you trust that God chose Donald Trump as President and Barack Obama before Trump. There’s a lot of irony in all of this as the idols of evangelicalism come crashing down, also disrupted by the Great Disrupter.
PS - Ideas still matter and boy does the GOP need some. If 2020 is an electoral disaster as polling increasingly suggests it will be for the GOP, some old school analysts will use the cheap example of the California GOP after Pete Wilson. They really should use the Virginia GOP self-destructing through suicide as the example.