THE REAL HUMAN COSTS — AND THE COSTS TO OUR HUMAN VALUES & NATIONAL CONSCIENCE — OF TRUMP’S BOGUS REFUGEE BAN!

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/somali-refugees-american-dream-hold-trump-ban-debated-49866974

Tom Odula reports for the AP from Nairobi, Kenya, where the unnecessary human suffering caused by the Trump Administration is a daily reminder of how our national soul was diminished by Trump’s election:

“Somali refugee Asho Manangara Ibrahim has a dream. She wants to educate herself and her children in the United States. For 10 years she went through a rigorous process of interviews and screening and finally she was cleared to travel to the United States.

But Ibrahim’s hopes have been dashed. The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Trump administration to maintain its restrictive policy on refugees. The court agreed to an administration request to block a lower court ruling that would have eased the ban on refugees and allowed up to 24,000 refugees to enter the country before the end of October.

Ibrahim, a 30-year-old mother of four children, escaped war-torn Somalia in 2007 after three men forced their way into her house and assaulted her.

She trekked for three days with her 2-year-old daughter to reach the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp in neighboring Kenya where she stayed for three years. She was relocated to Kakuma refugee camp where she learned that she could apply to be resettled in a third country. By the time she was cleared to travel to the U.S. on July 19, she had three other children from a second marriage.

After years of patiently waiting to be resettled, the news that she may not be allowed into the U.S. because of the Trump administration restrictions has devastated her.

“I feel shocked. I forget things now,” she told The Associated Press last month through an interpreter.

She and her three daughters and small son pass their days in a makeshift home of mud walls, sticks and battered sheets. The children sit on woven plastic rugs covering a cracked-earth floor amid the barest of possessions: plastic water jugs, metal basins, a simple stove.

Ibrahim is one of about 500 people among the hundreds of thousands in Kenyan refugee camps who are ready for resettlement in the U.S. but are now stranded, said Jennifer Sime, senior vice president with the International Rescue Committee, an organization that helps resettlements.

The fear and rhetoric that refugees are a security threat or terrorists looking to infiltrate the U.S. are unfounded, Sime said.

“The probability of dying from an act of terrorism committed by a refugee is unbelievably low. Refugees have not perpetrated terrorist acts,” she said. The chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion a year, she added, citing 2016 figures from the Cato Institute.

Globally about 45,000 refugees have been approved for resettlement in the U.S. and 2,000 are ready to board planes but this has been put on hold, Sime said. Many gave away their hard-earned belongings to start a new life, she said.

Tuesday’s court order was not the last word on the travel policy that President Donald Trump rolled out in January. The Supreme Court justices are scheduled to hear arguments on Oct. 10 on the legality of the bans on refugees anywhere in the world and on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries.

It’s unclear, though, what will be left for the court to decide. The 90-day travel ban lapses in late September and the 120-day refugee ban will expire a month later.

The Trump administration has yet to say whether it will seek to renew the bans, make them permanent or expand the travel ban to other countries.

For now Ibrahim, like many in limbo, must wait to see if her American dream of education for her family will become a reality.”

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Maybe, moral leadership doesn’t end wars or prevent famine. But, we have graphically demonstrated over the past four decades the inability to solve problems by use of military force. Moral leadership is still a useful thing to have. And, by electing Trump and his intellectually shallow, unqualified, amoral minions we have diminished ourselves in the world’s eyes!

PWS

09-15-17

THE WORLD HAS MORE REFUGEES THAN AT ANY TIME SINCE WWII; REFUGEES NEED THE U.S. TO SAVE THEM & WE NEED REFUGEES’ ENERGY, BRAVERY, & TALENTS! — THE RESPONSE OF WHITE NATIONALISTS LIKE MILLER & SESSIONS IS TO RECOMMEND CUTTING REFUGEE ADMISSIONS TO AN ALL-TIME LOW OF 15,000! — Don’t Let These Racist Xenophobes Get Away With It!

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/09/trump-considers-cutting-refugee-cap-to-lowest-in-decades.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Intelligencer%20-%20September%2013%2C%202017&utm_term=Subscription%20List%20-%20Daily%20Intelligencer%20%281%20Year%29

Adam K. Raymond reports in New York Magazine:

“In 2016, the last year of President Obama’s administration, the U.S. accepted 85,000 refugees and set a goal of bumping that number up to 110,00 this year. Those plans changed with President Trump’s so-called travel ban, which set the refugee limit at 50,000 for 2016. Now, the administration is considering setting that number even lower for 2018, despite the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The President has until October 1 to set a refugee ceiling and, the Times reports, there’s a debate raging in the White House about whether the number should be reduced to numbers not seen in decades. Leading the arguments against cutting the totals is Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hawk and ally of Steve Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Miller has reportedly produced cutting the number all the way to 15,000. The Department of Homeland Security has proposed its own cut to 40,000.

The Times explains their purported thinking:

 

Two administration officials said those pushing for a lower number are citing the need to strengthen the process of vetting applicants for refugee status to prevent would-be terrorists from entering the country. Two others said another factor is a cold-eyed assessment of the money and resources that would be needed to resettle larger amounts of refugees at a time when federal immigration authorities already face a years long backlog of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers.
This reasoning doesn’t align with the facts. Refugees are far more likely to be victims of politically motivated attacks than perpetrators. Limiting refugees does not keep America safer because refugees are not dangerous. It’s difficult not to see nativism as the motive behind pretending that they are: fear makes it easier to convince people that suffering people should be excluded from the United States. As for the cost concerns, the GOP’s feigned fiscal prudence should never be taken seriously.

By setting the refugee cap at 50,000 this year, Trump has already pushed the number lower than it’s been in decades. In the 37 years since the Refugee Act of 1980 gave the president a role in setting the cap, it hasn’t slipped lower than the 67,000 President Reagan set in 1987.

Cutting the refugee ceiling would leave tens of thousands of vulnerable people out in the cold, the International Rescue Committee said in a report last month. The humanitarian organization advocates for a ceiling no lower than 75,000 people. “An admissions level of at least 75,000 is a critical signal to the world that the United States remains a safe haven for those fleeing persecution, terror and ideologies antithetical to American democratic values,” the report says. “Anything less would be to turn our backs on the United States’ humanitarian tradition and global leadership.”

*********************************

Under the last three Administrations, the US has made an absolute muddle out of two ill-advised wars and Middle East policies in general. The idea that guys like Trump, Tillerson, Miller, Bannon, Sessions, and even “the Generals” can come up with a constructive solution borders on the ludicrous. Nope. They going to to fight the 21st Century version of the “100 Years War” with similar results.

If there is a solution out there that will help achieve stability and provide a durable solution to the terrorist threats, it’s more likely going to be coming from one of today’s refugees who have a better idea of what’s actually going on and how we might become part of the solution rather than making the problems worse.

Refugees represent America’s hope. The Sessions-Miller-Bannon cabal represents America’s darkest side — one that threatens to drag us all into the abyss of their dark, distorted, and fundamentally anti-American world view.

PWS

09-13-17

 

 

COURTSIDE COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS: AG Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions Might Be A Clown 🤡 — But His White Nationalist Plan To Destroy The American Justice System Is No Joke — He Has Already Done Untold Damage To Our Country & Our Rights — And, He And His White Supremacist Buddy Steve Bannon, The Alt-Right, And Other Haters Are Just Getting Started On Their Plan To Turn America Into A “Whites Only” Paradise!

Three articles from today show the “clear and present danger” to American democracy, our national security, and our fundamental values stemming from Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions and his radical right — some would say fascist is more accurate — cabal.

While Trump increasingly appears to be a looney incompetent functioning primarily in the early morning “tweetosphere,” Sessions & Co. know a thing or two about how to take over and sabotage government of the people, by the people, and for the people. (Ironically, the “Party of Lincoln” has morphed into  the “anti-Lincoln,” opposed to equality, generosity, democracy, and inclusion.)

First, Dana Milbank in the Washington Post describes “Gonzo the Clown’s” ludicrous attempts to use and abuse criminal law to suppress free public expression of opinions:

“Did you hear the one about Jeff Sessions?

I’d like to tell you, but I can’t. You see, it’s illegal to laugh at the attorney general, the man who on Tuesday morning announced that the 800,000 “dreamers” — immigrants brought here illegally as children — could soon be deported. If you were to find my Sessions jest funny, I would be an accessory to mirth.

This is no joke, because liberal activist Desiree Fairooz is now being put on trial a second time by the Justice Department — Jeff Sessions’s Justice Department — because she laughed at Sessions during his confirmation hearing. Specifically, she laughed at a line about Sessions “treating all Americans equally under the law” (which is, objectively, kind of funny).”

Yeah, I guess what Sessions, a well-established liar, probably a perjurer, really meant was “all Americans except Blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans, immigrants, migrants, Dreamers, gays, lesbians, transgendered, bisexual, criminal defendants, Democrats, non-Christians, protestors, non-GOP women, and the poor.” Read the rest of Dana’s article here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/apparently-its-illegal-to-laugh-at-jeff-sessions/2017/09/05/86b6e48a-9278-11e7-aace-04b862b2b3f3_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.c6b057add449

But, the following list of hostile actions that Sessions has already taken at Justice, compiled by CNN’s Gregory Krieg, are no laughing matter:

“*Directed federal prosecutors to pursue the stiffest possible charge in every single criminal case — potentially triggering draconian mandatory minimum sentences the Obama administration tried to avoid on fairness grounds for non-violent offenders.

*Withdrawn an Obama administration directive offering protections for transgender students who wanted to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

*Reversed an Obama DOJ order that the federal Bureau of Prisons back off new deals with private facilities. “I direct the Bureau to return to its previous approach,” Sessions said in a memo citing concerns that the “future needs of the federal correctional system” would be “impaired.”

*Launched a broad-based effort to reduce federal oversight of local police departments, like those put under increased scrutiny following investigations into alleged abuses. The deputy attorney general and associate attorney general were ordered to review lots of things, including all “contemplated consent decrees.”

*In a move criticized by voting rights advocates, asked state election officials in June to lay out their processes for purging voter rolls of individuals who have become ineligible due to, among other reasons, “death or change of residence.”

*Put in place a policy that could pave the way for an increase in a certain kind of civil asset forfeiture, a controversial practice — in this case a joint federal, state and local version that some departments were accused of using to get around state law — that allows police to seize money or property from suspects who haven’t been convicted of a crime. (The DOJ says it has put new safeguards in place to prevent abuse.)

And more.
Consider Trump’s plan to end DACA. When it came down to it, the President steered clear of the spotlight and let Sessions be the public face of a decision officials from both parties have described as unfair or even cruel.
It’s not the first time Trump has been happy enough — or detached enough, depending on your assessment of the his mindset on these issues — to defer to Sessions or, in cases where executive action is required, follow his lead. Where Trump is primarily focused on how he’s covered in the press and how his actions play with “the base,” officials like Sessions and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have shown themselves to be laser-focused on very specific policy points.

. . . .

By his side? None other than a once anonymous aide turned top Trump White House official: Stephen Miller.”

Read Gregory’s complete article here:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/06/politics/jeff-sessions-donald-trump-daca-policy/index.html

And, in the Washington Post,  Sarah Posner puts it all in scary context by describing the Bannon-led White Nationalist’s larger program to turn America into a White Theo-Fascist State:

“Now that he is out of the White House, Bannon’s ambitions, if anything, appear to seek an even more enduring footprint on Republican politics. His grand plan is to remake American conservatism, by shifting it away from its long-standing “three-legged stool” coalition of tax-cutters, defense hawks and the religious right. His strategy is to peel away Christian conservatives from that coalition, and to build a new coalition with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, far-right nationalists, in order to make the Trump revolution permanent, even after Trump has left the White House.
Consider the headline on a prominently placed “exclusive” published on the site late last night, which heaps the most coveted of Breitbartian praise on Moore: “Judge Roy Moore Embodies Jeff Sessions.” In an interview with Breitbart, Moore says he shares Sessions’s views on immigration and trade, and that he, too, is a “very strict constructionist of the Constitution.” He says he favors impeaching federal judges, even Supreme Court justices, and singles out Obergefell v. Hodges , the landmark 2015 case legalizing same-sex marriage, as warranting impeachment.
Bannon hinted at some of his designs in an interview with me last year. He said that, without the religious right, his base alone lacks the numbers to “to ever compete against the progressive left.”
In Moore, Bannon has found an unabashed proponent of “biblical law.” Bannon doesn’t appear to care much about “biblical law,” but Moore’s overheated depiction of the overreach of the federal government dovetails with the Bannon goal of “the deconstruction of the administrative state.”
Indeed, the Breitbart-Moore alliance is the most vivid example to date of the anti-government, white-nationalist Breitbart forces teaming up with a candidate with shared views on issues such as immigration and the role of the federal government, but which are driven by outwardly theocratic aspirations. Bannon is not seen as an overtly religious figure, but he has actively sought the religious right’s imprimatur for purely political purposes.
As Politico reports, Bannon himself is now using Breitbart to help “orchestrate the push” for Moore’s candidacy in high-level meetings with influential conservative groups.
There is a good deal of overlap between Bannon’s depiction of Trumpism as a revolt against global elites and Moore’s own rhetoric. Moore has long railed at elitists and “tyrannical” government overreach, albeit from a theocratic point of view. He first became a national hero to the religious right over a decade ago, after he was stripped of his post as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for defying a federal court order to remove a 2.6-ton Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse, because it violated the separation of church and state.
Undeterred, Moore ran unsuccessfully for governor and then again for his state’s top judicial post, regaining his seat in 2012. After a federal court struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in early 2015, Moore pointedly told Alabama’s governor that complying with the federal court order could violate God’s law.
Although Breitbart hardly teems with religious language, Moore shares its conspiratorially dark vision of America, and particularly America’s perceived enemies. When I saw him speak in 2011, when Barack Obama was still president, Moore maintained: “Our government is infiltrated with communists, we’ve got Muslims coming in and taking over where we should be having the say about our principles.” On immigration, he said the government was failing “to protect against invasions” and was “letting anybody come in!”
Ultimately, the Breitbart-Moore alliance offers a hint at where the Trump base is headed. If Bannon has his way, it will evolve into a kind of coalition of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim white nationalists seeking to disrupt the GOP from within by joining forces with the Christian right, long an essential component of the GOP base. Whether or not Moore wins, if Bannon can keep pushing the Trumpist base in that direction by continuing to solidify that coalition, we can only guess at the consequences that will have for the GOP over the long term.”

Consequences for the GOP, Sarah? What about the consequences for the world and humanity of turning America into a White Fascist State incorporating the worst parts of Christian mythology, while leaving the kind, merciful, inclusive, and forgiving message of Jesus Christ in the dust?

In the first place, fortunately, only a minority of Americans share the Bannon-Sessions White Nationalist dream. So, making it come to fruition has to involve suppressing and overcoming by unlawful or unconstitutional means the will and rights of those of us in the majority.

That’s an old Bolshevik trick. And, indeed, Bannon is a self-proclaimed “Leninist revolutionary” — Sessions is his Trotsky. (Can’t really picture Stephen Miller as Stalin —  but his ability to concoct lies at a moment’s notice and his cold lack of humanity or any discernible decency or human values, along with his disdain for representative government and love of the dictatorial model certainly fits “Papa Joe” to a tee. You could definitely imagine Miller as leader of a Trump “personality cult” in a fascist regime.)

Read Sarah’s complete article here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2017/09/05/steve-bannons-grand-disruptive-designs-are-only-getting-started/?utm_term=.80ddcfa9f294

But, that’s not all folks! Intentionally cruel, racist, and gonzo as Sessions’s grand plan of “ethnic cleansing” of Dreamers might be, it would actually cost the US economy an astounding  $215 billion, and that’s a conservative estimate that doesn’t even factor in the billions that would be wasted by DHS and EOIR in arresting and deporting America’s future stars (basically, because they aren’t White. As I’ve said before, no sane person thinks we’d be having this orchestrated “immigration debate” if the migrant population were predominantly white, English as a first language, Christians)!

According to Vanessa Wang in Buzzfeed:

“Reversing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could cost the economy $215 billion in lost GDP and cost the federal government $60 billion in lost revenue over ten years, according to the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute.
Ike Brannon, a visiting fellow at Cato, wrote in a recent blog post: “It is important to note that these estimates are conservative, as DACA recipients will likely end up being more productive than their current salaries indicate, as they complete their degrees and gain experience in the workplace. Nor does this analysis factor in the enforcement cost of physically deporting recipients should the program be eliminated, which we believe would be significant.”
California, New York and Florida would bear the greatest costs, according to the Cato Institute’s analysis.
The New American Economy — a coalition of business leaders and mayors “who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today” — estimated that the DACA-eligible population earns almost $19.9 billion in total income annually, contributes more than $1.4 billion to federal taxes, more than $1.6 billion to state and local taxes and represent almost $16.8 billion in spending power.
“Despite the rhetoric claiming undocumented youths are a drain on the U.S. economy, 90% of the DACA-eligible population who are at least 16 years old are employed” and contribute meaningfully to the economy, the coalition wrote in a brief.
“Ending DACA will disrupt hundreds of thousands of promising careers and cost the US economy dearly,” said John Feinblatt, President of New American Economy in a statement on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said it would shut down DACA in six months, potentially giving Congress some time for a legislative solution. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said there are DREAMers “who know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home. And so I really do believe there that there needs to be a legislative solution.”
“Now it’s imperative for Congress to do what’s right and economically smart – protect the young achievers who know no home but America,” said Feinblatt.”

That’s right folks! The Bannon-Sessions White Nationalists would be willing to damage our economy to the the tune of probably a quarter of a trillion dollars for the sheer joy of ruining human lives and entrenching their White Power structure. In most other contexts, there would be a name for such conduct: “domestic terrorism!”

Here’s a link to Vanessa’s article:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/venessawong/scrapping-daca-could-cost-the-economy-as-much-as-215-billion?utm_term=.xdw9nKYOa#.liAZ2w8Y5

Finally, a number folks have noted that DACA is a DHS/USCIS program. So, why was the Attorney General, who pointedly was stripped of his immigration deportation functions and responsibilities by the Act creating DHS, out there acting like he is the deporter-in-chief and administrator of the DHS (which, by statute, he no longer is.)

 

Well, not suprisingly, I’m not in the Trump Administration’s “inner circle.” So, who knows for sure.

But, to me two things were evident. First, Donald Trump is a coward who didn’t have the guts to be the front man for his own inhumane policy — particularly since Sessions contradicted Trump’s public assurances that he “loved Dreamers,” understood their plight, and that they had “nothing to fear” from him and his Administration because he was going to come up with a”great solution” to their situation.

Second, Sessions has never accepted his secondary statutory and Constitutional role in immigration enforcement. With the weak Gen. Kelly in charge of DHS, Sessions simply pretended like the AG was back at the helm of immigration enforcement. After all, Sessions has spent a lifetime attempting to turn back the clock. This is just the first time that he has gotten away with it without any real opposition.

Kelly was a “bobblehead,” meekly agreeing with Sessions’s most outrageous, unlawful, and inhumane statements. He even lent his name to an infamous Sessions-Miller contrived “letter” asking the President for Travel Ban 2.0 and citing facially bogus statistics and disingenuous arguments attempting to tie individuals from Muslim countries to unrelated terrorist threats. In other words, on immigration enforcement, Kelly’s “substance” was about 1/16″ deep, and I’m being generous.

Obviously, killing the Dreamers’ future while heaping scorn on them was Session’s version of “Super Bowl Sunday:” a chance to publicly reclaim the role of deporter-in-chief, while inflicting gratuitous harm on a gallant but vulnerable (largely non-White) group of young people, and tossing in some gratuitous racist insults and nativist lies in the process. For a guy who has spent a lifetime heretofore unsuccessfully trying to “get back to Jim Crow” (where not coincentally, bogus “rule of law” arguments and “state’s rights” were used by Sessions’s Alabama antecedents to deny Black Americans not only their constitutional rights but in many cases their very lives in the process) this had to be “hog heaven.” Let’s not forget that Sessions has endorsed the blatantly racist and anti-semitic “Immigration Act of 1924” as a model for White Nationalist restrictionist policies. See, e.g.http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/09/05/jeff_sessions_praise_of_1924_eugenics_immigration_law_remains_insane.html

I’m sure Gonzo pines for the “good old days” of the Chinese Exclusion Laws when America knew how to use the “rule of law”  and just how to treat the folks who built the trans-continental railroad, most of California, lots of New York, and points in between. Declare them to be an “inferior race” — a threat to our cultural integrity —  and throw them out before they can displace the White Americans who exploited their ingenuity and hard labor.

Also, make no mistake about it, if Sessions were able to carry out his gonzo plans to deport Dreamers to foreign lands that most of them have hardly lived in, some will actually die in the process. But, hey, the lives of non-Whites are just “collateral damage” in the Bannon-Sessions world vision.

Sessions is part of our nation’s racist, White Supremacist past that we will need to get beyond to continue to prosper as a country and to lead the free world. The Dreamers can help us do that! The only question for the rest of us is what legal channels are available to move Sessions and his cohorts out of the way so that the Dreamers, along with other immigrants and minorities, can help lead us to a brighter future as a proudly diverse, humane, and powerful nation.

Liz Warren was right! America is better than Jeff Sessions! It’s time we showed it!  

PWS

09-05-17

 

 

RELIGION: Gary Silverman In Financial Times: How White Evangelicals Traded The Mercy & Hope Of Jesus Christ For The False “Profit” Donald Trump!

https://www.ft.com/content/b41d0ee6-1e96-11e7-b7d3-163f5a7f229c

Silverman writes:

“Trump’s efforts to reach evangelicals during the campaign were marred by technical difficulties. After an appearance at Liberty University in Virginia, which was founded by Falwell, Trump was lampooned for quoting from a section of the Bible he called “Two Corinthians”, rather than “Second Corinthians”, as would customarily be done. Ultimately, Liberty University split over Trump. Its current president, Jerry Falwell Jr, endorsed his candidacy. But Mark DeMoss, a member of the university’s board of trustees and a former chief of staff for the elder Falwell, objected and resigned as a trustee. In a Washington Post interview last year, DeMoss described Trump’s rhetoric as antithetical to Christian values.

“Donald Trump is the only candidate who has dealt almost exclusively in the politics of personal insult,” DeMoss said. “The bullying tactics of personal insult have no defence — and certainly not for anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. That’s what’s disturbing to so many people. It’s not [the] Christ-like behaviour that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students.”

Nonetheless, Trump was backed by 81 per cent of white voters who identified themselves as evangelical Christians, more than recent Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney and John McCain, according to the Pew Research Center, and more even than George W Bush, whose strategist Karl Rove made wooing them a priority of the campaign. Analysts say Trump made evangelicals an offer that they could not refuse. Unlike his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton — who was both disliked by conservatives and uncompromising in her support of a woman’s right to choose — Trump pledged to appoint an anti-abortion justice to fill the vacancy on a Supreme Court that was split between conservatives and liberals.

The white evangelical flight to Trump has caused “deep heartbreak” for “evangelicals of colour” who see him as a bigot, says Jim Wallis, a progressive evangelical leader in Washington. “It’s the most painful divide I have seen in the churches since the beginning of the civil rights movement.”

. . . .

But that’s not the way things look at the house on a hill in Auburn, Alabama, where Wayne Flynt lives with his wife of 55 years, Dorothy. As evangelical Christianity has grown more successful in the political realm, Flynt fears that it has been reduced to a sum of its slogans. Lost in the transition, he says, is the traditional evangelical standard for sizing up candidates — “personal moral character”, which includes such criteria as marital fidelity, church attendance and kindness.

“No one I know of would argue that Donald Trump inculcates moral character,” Flynt says. “What has happened to American Christianity is there is this afterglow of what a candidate is supposed to represent. It’s no longer moral character. It’s policy positions on things that bother evangelicals.”

Flynt says evangelical Christians are mainly mobilising against the sins they either do not want to commit (homosexual acts) or cannot commit (undergoing an abortion, in the case of men). They turn a blind eye toward temptations such as adultery and divorce that interest them. In 2010, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling the rising incidence of divorce among its members a “scandal”. A Pew Research Center study in 2015 found that evangelical Protestants in the US were more likely to be divorced or separated than Catholics, Jews, Muslims or atheists.

“Jesus says four times in four different places: do not divorce,” Flynt says. “Does divorce bother evangelicals? No, absolutely not. Does adultery bother evangelicals? No, not really, because if so they wouldn’t have voted for Donald Trump. So what bothers them? Abortion and same-sex marriage. Beyond that, there’s no longer an agenda.”

Flynt, who left the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979 to protest its turn to the right, notes ruefully that his former denomination has lost members for nine years in a row.

Into this religious void, he believes, stepped Trump, an unabashed materialist and hedonist — “What is right to Donald Trump is what gives him pleasure,” Flynt says — who thinks that he alone can make America great again.

“To be sure, every politician has some element of narcissism, but he has perfected narcissism, he has made it the supreme element of his life, and not only that, evangelicals have responded in an almost messianic way that he is the saviour, which makes him feel really good because he does believe he is the saviour,” Flynt says. “It is kind of curious evangelicals would not be offended by this. I am as an American Christian. I’m offended because I already thought following Jesus was going to make us great again.”

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Whatever happened to the Christian message of humanity, humility, faith, self-sacrifice, generosity to all, mercy, forgiveness, understanding, peace, elevating the spiritual over the material, and grace? I hear those things from Pope Francis (although I’m not a Catholic). But, not from Trump and his zealots. Go figure!

PWS

06-25-17

RELIGION/POLITICS/REFUGEES: Pope Francis Puts Migrants’ Lives First — World’s Top Catholic Stands Tall Against Those Who Would Shun Most Vulnerable — Pence’s Values Might Bar Meeting With Women, But Haven’t Stopped Him From Supporting Policies That Hurt Refugees, Migrants, Transgender Children, Gays, The Sick, The Poor, The Starving, Many Women & Almost All Other Vulnerable People! Big Time Disconnect!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/how-pope-francis-is-leading-the-catholic-church-against-anti-migrant-populism/2017/04/10/d3ca5832-1966-11e7-8598-9a99da559f9e_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-more-top-stories_no-name%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.1dbd72f3d9a0

Anthony Faiola and Sarah Pulliam Bailey report in the Washington Post:

“VATICAN CITY — As politicians around the world including President Trump take an increasingly hard line on immigration, a powerful force is rallying to the side of migrants: the Roman Catholic Church led by Pope Francis.

Catholic cardinals, bishops and priests are emerging as some of the most influential opponents of immigration crackdowns backed by right-wing populists in the United States and Europe. The moves come as Francis, who has put migrants at the top of his agenda, appears to be leading by example, emphasizing his support for their rights in sermons, speeches and deeds.

The pro-migrant drive risks dividing Catholics — many of whom in the United States voted for Trump. Some observers say it is also inserting the church into politics in a manner recalling the heady days of Pope John Paul II, who stared down communism and declared his opposition to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The Vatican is standing in open opposition to politicians like Trump not just on immigration but also on other issues, including climate-change policy.

But the focal point is clearly migrant rights.
In the United States, individual bishops, especially those appointed by Francis, have sharply criticized Trump’s migrant policies since his election. They include Newark Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, who last month co-led a rally in support of a Mexican man fighting deportation. Tobin has decried Trump’s executive orders on immigration, calling them the “opposite of what it means to be an American.”

In Los Angeles, Archbishop José H. Gomez, the first Mexican American vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which leads the U.S. church, described migrant rights as the bishops’ most important issue. He has delivered blistering critiques of Trump’s policies, and instructed his clerics to distribute cards in English, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese informing migrants of their rights in 300 parishes .
Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, one of Francis’s closest allies in the U.S. church, has issued orders that if federal immigration authorities should attempt to enter churches without a warrant in search of migrants, priests should turn them away and call the archdiocese’s lawyers. Catholic school principals were given the same instructions by the archdiocese, which Cupich said was an attempt to respond in a way that was firm “but not extreme.”

He said Francis has helped bishops shape their response.

“The pope makes it a lot easier for me to be a bishop because he’s very clear in his teaching, and [on] this one in particular, he’s trying to awaken the conscience of the citizens of the world,” Cupich said.

Francis has long been an advocate of migrants — kicking off his papacy in 2013 with a trip to an Italian island used as a waypoint for migrants desperate to enter Europe. In a highly public spat early last year, Francis and Trump exchanged barbs — with Francis declaring that anyone who wants to build walls “is not Christian.”

. . . .

Those who have the pope’s ear say Francis is seeking to counter anti-migrant policies by appealing directly to voters.

“I don’t think the pope is challenging [the politicians]. I think he is challenging their supporters, both those who actively support them and those who passively allow their policies to happen,” said the Rev. Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Vatican’s new Section for Refugees and Migrants, which opened in January, just before Trump took office. Czerny reports directly to the pope — a sign of the importance of the new office.

“Mr. Trump or Ms. Le Pen are not the root of the problem,” Czerny continued. “The root of the problem is the fear, selfishness and shortsightedness that motivate people to support them.”

. . . .

He [William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore] added that previous popes have taken similar positions as Francis on immigration. But, Lori added, Francis is “perhaps more dramatic.” His trips, such as his 2016 visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, also connected his stance on migrants to politics.
“The poor is the hallmark of his papacy,” Lori said. “It will affect our priorities and it should.”

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Meanwhile, Carla Gardina Pestana writes about “Arrogant Christians in the White House” in HuffPost:

“Mike Pence, the fundamentalist Christian whose views are so extreme that he cannot be alone with a woman other than his wife, and Donald Trump, who brags about sexually assaulting women and famously stumbled over an attempt to quote a biblical passage while on the campaign trail, seem to hold wildly divergent religious views. Yet both adhere to variations of Christianity inflected with arrogance. Together they represent two troubling trends in American Christianity, trends which appear to prove all the complaints secular liberals ever leveled against Christians.

Pence adheres to biblical literalism. Put simply, this view asserts that the Bible is a transparent document, one that prescribes specific behavioral guidelines. Glossing over the fact that the Bible is a complex text built of ancient fragments brought together by human hands, that it does not speak directly to many modern issues, and that even on its own terms it encompasses numerous contradictions, these Christians confidently declare that the Bible provides clear guidance for every Christian. Literalists arrived at this position only relatively late in Christian history, in response to various challenges from many quarters, including biblical scholarship, advances in science, and a rise in unbelief. Cutting through the complexities and the need to make choices, literalists declared all choice to be false and all discussion to be error. It was a comforting if simplistic and authoritarian solution to the problem of uncertainty.

Its arrogance lies in the hubris of those who believe that only their chosen answers are correct. Its potential to harm others comes when adherents gain political power and force their mandates on nonbelievers. One of the many dangers emanating out of the Trump White House is the power of Pence to impose not his religion but the behaviors his religion dictates onto the rest of us. Women’s rights and gender equality are on Pence’s hit list.

Trump’s religion, although very different, is similarly alarming. Unsurprisingly Trump accepts a religious viewpoint that tells him he is uniquely awesome. Whatever he has—however he acquired it—God wants him to enjoy to the fullest. Although traditional Christian social practice mandates that believers exercise humility, charity and other virtues that put others before self, Trump’s faith rejects all curbs on self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement. This religious position, known as Prosperity Theology, is newer than Pence’s literalism. It preaches that God wants the rich to be not only rich but selfish. Its attraction to a man like Trump—born to wealth, selfishly guided by his own desires, endlessly demanding that others adore him but never judge him—is transparent.

. . . .

Pence’s arrogance leads him to believe that he knows exactly what God wants us all to do and that he ought to force that on us if he has the power to do so. Trump’s faith simply endorses his own self-regard, elevating his personal whims to God’s desires. The political marriage of the two men is obviously one of expedience, given the great disparities in their beliefs and goals. Yet between them, they can do a great deal of damage. Arrogant self-righteousness and egotistical self-regard together wield power over the rest of us.

Little wonder that the pope has been modeling Christian humility and singing the praises of Christian charity, or that the supporters of these two find his lessons in what it means to be a Christian so infuriating.”

Read the complete article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/arrogant-christians-in-the-white-house_us_58e94a6fe4b06f8c18beec89?

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Also, Allen Clifton writing in Forward Progressives quotes the views of Pastor John Pavlovitz taking Trump and the GOP to task for hypocricy on Syrian refugees, a point that has been noted several times previously in this blog: 

“There are many things concerning Donald Trump that completely baffle me, but the fact that he’s strongly and enthusiastically supported by a party that comically portrays itself as representatives for “the Christian moral majority” is right near the top of my list. Of all the major candidates who ran for president from either party, Trump was, without a doubt, the least Christian of any of them. I haven’t viewed Republicans as actual Christians for years, but Trump’s rise to the top of the GOP cemented the fact that there’s nothing Christian about the Republican Party.
A great example of what I’m talking about is Trump and the GOP’s take on refusing to accept Syrian refugees. Innocent, desperate people, many of whom are women and children, fleeing a war-torn country hoping to escape a brutal dictator who, once again, just used chemical weapons against his own people. Not only have Trump and his fellow Republicans blatantly vilified these poor people as a means of pandering to the bigotry that fuels their party, but they continually lied about the process refugees must endure before ever stepping foot on U.S. soil.
If you listen to Trump talk about the vetting process, he essentially said we never had one — which is an outright lie. Every refugee allowed into the United States endures a rigorous process that usually takes between 18-24 months to complete and these refugees never know where they’re actually going to end up. So it’s not as if some “undercover terrorist” can pose as a refugee, say they want to go to America, and they’re here in two weeks.
Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that Trump and the GOP have gone out of their way to demonize these poor people for political purposes.

That made it rather nauseating to watch Trump claim that the images of the victims of the most recent chemical weapons attack launched by Assad are what “moved” him to take action by ordering last week’s airstrike. Nothing like selling yourself as the party of “Christian values,” while vilifying and rejecting refugees, then claiming that the images of victims of a horrific chemical attack “moved you” — not to do everything you can to help people who need it — but to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at an airbase that was up-and-running within a few hours of the attack.

I’m sorry, but you can’t claim you’re “moved” by the sickening images of what’s going on in Syria when your administration’s policy is to reject helping thousands of refugees desperately trying to flee the carnage that’s plagued that nation for over six years now.

That’s also along the lines of what North Carolina Pastor John Pavlovitz said in a recent blog post:
‘This is the human collateral damage of what Donald Trump’s been selling for 16 months now. It is the cost in actual vibrant, beautiful lives, of the kind of incendiary rhetoric and alternative facts and Fox News truths that you’ve been fine with up until now. This is what you bought and paid for. Maybe not something this sadistic or explicitly grotesque, but the heart is the same: contempt for life that looks different and a desire to rid yourself of it.
I want to believe that you’re truly outraged, but honestly your resume is less than convincing.
Honestly, you didn’t seem all that broken up when Muslim families were handcuffed in airports a couple of months ago, or when mosques were being defaced, or when many of us were pleading the case for families fleeing exactlythe kind of monstrous atrocities you were apparently so moved by this week—and getting told to eat our bleeding hearts out by MAGA hat-wearing trolls. You weren’t all that concerned when your President told terrified, exhausted refugees to leave and go home—twice.'”

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Matthew 25:

44And they too will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45Then the King will answer, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ 46And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”…

PWS

04-11-17