Faith, Hope, Love and Trump: Saving American Democracy

People will not be demeaned and held in contempt by their leaders forever and President-Elect Trump is all the evidence we need to prove it.

By Jim Tonkowich Published on November 16, 2016

Last week, after Donald Trump was elected president, a Facebook friend posted a map of the United States. The parts that voted for Hillary Clinton — the northeast, the west coast, Colorado and New Mexico, Illinois and Minnesota — were blue and labeled “America.” The rest of the country was in red with the label, “Dumbf**kistan.”

“Right now, there is no reason to be polite or nice about what happened,” he commented, “Trump created this climate of anger and hatred. It’s his job to try to undo it.”

Somehow it did not occur to my friend — even when prodded — that the map was angry and hateful toward everyone who didn’t think and vote exactly the way he did — and that it wasn’t Donald Trump who posted it.

“This is precisely the thinking that gave rise to Trump and gave him victory,” I wrote in response, “The disdain for the average American that this map illustrates infects both major political parties. Until that changes, nothing will change. Trump did not create this problem, he just rode it to victory.”

Disdain for Others

Disdain for others is the most corruptive agent in any and every relationship. It destroys friendships, marriages, relationships between parents and teenagers, and politics.

People — particularly hardworking, honest, God-fearing, family-loving, and patriotic people — will not be demeaned and held in contempt by their leaders forever and President-Elect Trump is all the evidence we need to prove it.

Writing about “the bitter-clingers,” Francis Beckwith reminds us that, speaking at a private meeting for donors in 2008, President Obama commented on people in “small towns in Pennsylvania and … a lot of small towns in the Midwest” noting with condescension, “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The private meeting turned out to be not as private as perhaps Mr. Obama hoped, but most of the “bitter-clingers,” Beckwith notes, voted for Obama anyway, hoping for a better future. Instead, they received more disdain from their self-appointed betters.

We saw that last September when, speaking at a LGBT rally, Mrs. Clinton said these memorable words, “You know, to just be grossly generalistic [sic], you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’ Right?…. The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.” Beckwith comments, “By publicly condemning Obama’s bitter-clingers to the basket of deplorables, and delighting in the laughter that followed, Clinton and her adoring audience unwittingly sealed their fate.” Exactly.

Disdain will do that, maybe not right away, but expect it sooner or later. People — particularly hardworking, honest, God-fearing, family-loving, and patriotic people — will not be demeaned and held in contempt by their leaders forever and President-Elect Trump is all the evidence we need to prove it.

Some on the Right Share in the Disdain, They’re Just More Polite About It

Lest this be a one-sided commentary, my impression is that many on the right have the same disdain for their fellow Americans, but are more careful and polite about expressing it. How many Republicans in Washington have pandered to the concerns of religious conservatives right up until Election Day and then do nothing about those concerns in Congress? The answer is far too many and people rightly feel used and resentful.

And it’s not just politicians. A wonderful, gentle, thoughtful, Christian friend sent me an email assuring me, “OK, so now it’s time for something entirely different from politics.” It was a set of photos entitled “Redneck Projects.”

Not political? While some of the projects were ingenious, the photos are intended to produce condescending laughter about those rednecks and their shenanigans. And you know what I’m talking about since you’ve had a good giggle over the “people of Walmart” and similar postings. That is disdain, my friend, and it is very political.

Francis Beckwith highlights the underlying problem with a mea culpa that applies to many of us: “My friends and I exist in the cultural equivalent of a guarded and gated community: suburban, professional, highly educated, middle-class, mobile, and cosmopolitan. We are people of means, largely insulated from the everyday lives of most white, religious, non-college educated, working class Americans, the ones whose votes put Trump over the top in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin.”

Since we don’t know those people, we make assumptions, create caricatures, laugh at their projects, bemoan their unhealthy lifestyles, and consign them to Dumbf**kistan when they decide they’ve had enough.

How dare we?

Faith, Hope and Love

The solution came in Sunday’s sermon. We Christians must, the preacher insisted, develop the three theological virtues — faith, hope and love — to combat the anger, disdain, and hatred we find all around us.

To do that, of course, we’ll need to get out of our bubbles so that we can meet our neighbors in order to love them. If we do, we’ll probably find ourselves uncomfortably challenged, but stretched, and enriched. We’ll meet new and different Christian brothers and sisters. And we’ll begin breaking down the hardened and hateful elitism that is slowly strangling American democracy.

Can Christians save America? Not with politics as usual. But with faith, hope and love, we just might.

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