The two major streams of Christian engagement on war are pacifism and just war theory, which comes out of Catholic social teaching. The pacifist response to Syria strikes is clearly opposed. As for the just war analysis, it takes a little explaining, but reaches the same conclusion.
In Trump’s first nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, abortion foes were convinced they had the jurist who would fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to appoint justices who would deliver the reversal they have worked decades to achieve. But now, after last week’s hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, some are voicing concern that Gorsuch might not be such a reliable anti-Roe vote after all.
The May 13 speech at Liberty’s football stadium in Lynchburg, Va., will be Trump’s first commencement address as president, but it won’t be his first at Liberty, which describes itself as the largest Christian university in the world.
The then-presidential candidate spoke last year at the university’s Convocation, promising, “I will protect Christians,” and famously stumbling over a reference to “Two Corinthians.”
A day after his first speech to Congress, President Trump was still basking in unexpected praise from the public and some pundits, who saw in his delivery a man who finally came across as measured in tone and downright “presidential,” as some put it, even if his few policy prescriptions reiterated the hard line, nationalist agenda that propelled him to office.
But there is one key constituency that might not be as enamored with the address: social conservatives, whose support was arguably most critical to Trump’s election.
Eye of the Beholder
In “Where Protestantism Went Wrong” (February 2017), Wesley Granberg-Michaelson rightly critiques some of the consequences of the Reformation. Surely he is inaccurate, however, in arguing that “the Reformation bred a mistrust of aesthetics.” It would be more accurate to state that it promoted a different aesthetic than that prevalent in Catholicism. New England Puritans, for example, developed a “plain style” in literature and architecture evident in the accessible prose of William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation and the beauty of many Congregational churches still standing in town squares. This plain style influenced modern literature and the “form follows function” aesthetic of much modern architecture. Sometimes, to quote a fine expression of the Protestant aesthetic, “ ’tis a gift to be simple.”
Jim Wallis has asked the question that I, and I am sure others, have been wrestling with for some time: “What is an evangelical?” (“White Evangelicals and the Election,” January 2017). As an 81-year-old Lutheran pastor, I have been advocating that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America drop the word “evangelical” from our name. The word has been hijacked; the original meaning has been perverted! Retaining the word in our church’s name distorts the very heart of our identity. The change should not be that significant for Lutherans; when “evangelicals” meet, the ELCA is usually absent. It is sad but true that other words must be employed to convey the powerful identity that the word evangelical once held.
North Richland Hills, Texas
Stick to the Facts
I was disappointed in your January 2017 issue’s exclusive focus on the danger Trump poses because of a “racist, misogynistic, ethnocentric brand of nationalism” and policies that likely will hurt poor, vulnerable people (“Is America Possible?” by Heath W. Carter). What of his cavalier attitude toward facts, evidence, and truth, such as his disputing the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused global warming? When our culture is on a binge of finding “truth” in unwarranted places, and people are believing what they want to believe no matter how far off the mark (with the encouragement of our president), our democracy is in serious, long-term danger.
In David Gushee’s November 2016 piece on abortion (“The Abortion Impasse”), where are women’s voices? Where is the acknowledgment that there are no women’s voices here? Gushee supports not banning abortion. In some cases. I get that. But the rhetoric, implicit and explicit, embodied in such statements and phrases as “abortion is the sad song that never ends,” “the everyday ‘garden variety abortions’ go on and on,” and “that miserable drive to the abortion clinic” send chills of exclusivity, domination, privilege down this reader’s spine. “What is an anxious Christian to do about all this?” Listen to women’s and girls’ stories. Listen. And listen. And listen.
The former U.S. religious freedom ambassador told a congressional subcommittee that leaked language of a proposed presidential executive order on religious liberty could cause “constitutional problems.”
“I think it raises very serious equal protection issues,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, who recently ended his tenure at the U.S. State Department.
I went to the March for Life, mostly out of curiosity and a conviction to break out of my liberal bubble and some of my preconceived notions about pro-lifers. Instead, I was faced with a very bleak question: To be pro-life, do you have to support Donald Trump?
A week after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, throngs of anti-abortion marchers gathered near the White House to applaud his administration’s actions and his plans to support their cause.
Since coming to power in 2012, the government has made abortion completely free as part of the National Health Service, scrapped a requirement that a woman must be “in distress” to obtain permission to abort, and dropped a weeklong “reflection period” between applying for and carrying out an abortion. It decided to act again in part because several anti-abortion sites were found to be ranked higher on search engines than the government’s own abortion information site. Although their home pages appear to be neutral, the sites and their advice hotlines — run mostly by Catholic anti-abortion activists — are on closer inspection clearly against abortion and stress the physical and psychological damage they say the procedure can cause.
A Plateful of Good Stuff
“Game Changer?” by Rose Marie Berger in the December 2016 issue really challenges me as a Catholic. We are called to be a peace church. We are disciples of a nonviolent redeemer and liberator. I want to be nonviolent. It would mean that I have to love nonviolently. I cannot call anyone names. I should love the members of the other political party and work for unity. I should be a listener. I should advise military people to be conscientious objectors in violent affairs, and maybe more than that. I will love the veterans, as I presume they did what they did according to their conscience. I have a plateful of good stuff to do. Help me, dear Lord.
Rev. Anthony Kroll
Sauk Rapids, Minnesota
Those Who Have Ears ...
In the days following the ugliest election in my life (I was born in 1945), I have seen few, if any, commentaries on how this election impacted the children of America. Our kids hear our fears and anxieties, as well as what they hear on TV or radio, but they are not able to deal with and process those fears as are adults.
What is our Christian responsibility to help our children deal with and overcome the fear and anger they feel when they hear the president-elect denigrate minority groups and promote violence against those who disagree? This is truly a teachable moment in every house of worship, and not just for adults. Our kids are suffering, and we cannot let the words of a narcissistic bigot go unchallenged. I agree with everything Jim Wallis said (“Ministers of Reconciliation,” December 2016), but I urge us not to forget the children.
Ministers of Inspiration?
I was thrilled to receive my first issue of Sojourners magazine and find Jim Wallis’s article titled “Ministers of Reconciliation.” I am grateful for the reassuring inspiration I derived from his words.
Rev. Dale Morris Lee
A Heavy Hand
In your November 2016 issue, David Gushee writes of Americans yelling at each other about abortion and our polarization on the subject (“The Abortion Impasse”). But he shows his own polarization with the sentence, “Having actually held dead 18-week fetuses in my hands ... I think it is indeed a travesty that abortion is permitted in non-emergency circumstances as late as that.” I ask him: Have you ever held the hand of an 18-year-old girl dying of sepsis from a backstreet illegal abortion? I have. When abortion is not legal or the financial cost is too high, the poor seek out the unskilled—which can take weeks—while the wealthy go to other countries. Until we have a country that cares for and about all its citizens by lowering our high infant mortality rate and doing away with guns, wars, death penalties, and cop shootings, why should anyone worry about abortions? I think the answer is: It is a way to subjugate women. As Gloria Steinem says: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”
South Hamilton, Massachusetts
Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, has come under fire for his friendship with Russian president Vladimir Putin – who is suspected of trying to tip the election to Trump – his lack of diplomatic experience, and the fact that he is a corporate bigwig who champions fossil fuels, even as the threat of global warming grows.
But Tillerson, whose nomination was announced on Dec. 13, may also face criticism from an unexpected quarter – social conservatives whose support was critical to Trump’s unexpected election last month.
The Rev. Frank Pavone, a leading anti-abortion crusader and Donald Trump supporter, was jubilant on Nov. 9 after his candidate’s surprising win in the presidential race.
But the head of the Staten Island-based Priests for Life group is also facing a stern rebuke and investigation from his bishop, over Pavone’s shocking election eve video, in which he posed with an aborted fetus on an altar while delivering a 44-minute appeal to voters to elect the Republican nominee.
As a Christian who truly believes that abortion is a moral issue, I am deeply committed to dramatically reducing them. But criminalizing an often desperate choice is not the answer. We must also be deeply committed to the economic security, healthcare, and childcare choices that women need, which are critical to reducing abortion. I believe in the sacredness and dignity of life from womb to tomb. But a “consistent ethic of life” also ending poverty, human trafficking, the death penalty, ceaseless and senseless wars, and weapons of mass destruction.
For the first time in three general election debates, a moderator asked the presidential candidates on Oct. 19 about abortion.
Given that abortion has rightly been described as the source of America’s second civil war, there has been a baffling lack of engagement with it this election cycle.
The Utah Republican is on 11 state ballots. He has no major-party backing, and he’s little known outside of the Beehive State.
But Mormon disaffection with Donald Trump is offering the Provo-born graduate of Brigham Young University a chance to disrupt the outcome in this reliably red state, which has not gone to the Democrats since 1964.
There is no legislative solution to the problem of abortion. There is no president who can end abortion. There is no Supreme Court justice who will solve abortion.
This is not just because we Americans, including we American Christians, have been shouting at each other about abortion for more than 40 years, with no end in sight. It is not just because the conflicting beliefs that people have about abortion are unlikely to change. It is not just because our polarized interest groups and political parties now gain support off of abortion. It is not just because the two “sides” on abortion are roughly balanced and appear likely to remain so.
Abortion is the sad song that never ends. It never ends because at one level it is an intractable human problem, visible in all times and cultures. It goes like this: Fertile heterosexual males and females are needy, passionate, sexual creatures who are drawn to each other and often end up having sex. They do so for all kinds of reasons, some good, some just okay, some terrible. When a fertile male and fertile female are “shooting with live bullets,” sometimes the woman will get pregnant. This is true sometimes when they are using birth control and certainly when they are not using birth control. The God-given power of mammalian reproduction is not easily denied.
Almost every known society has attempted to create systems of social control to limit sexual contact between fertile men and women, in large part because of the procreative power of the mature human body. These have been remarkably comprehensive social systems. They have involved religious, political, legal, moral, communal, and familial efforts to train attitudes, impose constraints, inflame fears, and so on. Always they have involved efforts to limit private contact between sexually mature men and women outside of the socially approved context for procreation—usually, marriage.
Carl Anderson, leader of the Knights of Columbus fraternal order and one of the most influential lay Catholics in the church, has said that abortion outweighs all other issues in the presidential campaign and Catholics cannot vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights.
Abortion is not “just another political issue” but “is in reality a legal regime that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths,” Anderson told the Knights’ international convention in Toronto in a speech on Aug. 2.
If there is one constant in this unconventional presidential campaign it is the unpredictability — and importance — of the Catholic vote.
Once a reliably Democratic cohort, Catholics have in recent decades swung back and forth between the two parties. And because they represent more than a fifth of all voters, and are concentrated in key Midwestern swing states, the candidate with the most Catholic support has wound up winning the popular vote.
The 2016 Democratic National Convention party platform includes much that religious progressives from multiple faith backgrounds might like. Approved July 25, it calls for expanding LGBT rights, combating climate change, and narrowing the income gap. Here are some of the hot-button social proposals.