Deliver Us, Lord, from the NeverTrump Christian Scolds
I just heard a podcast that pointed out something shocking. It has been three years since the 2016 presidential campaign really got rolling. On the one hand that’s reassuring, since it proves that time’s really flying, and we’re all that much closer to leaving this vale of tears. On the down side, it reminds us of something more sobering: We’re about to go through it all again.
Not every last bit of it. I fear that we’ll miss out on the fun part. That was watching Donald Trump slice his way through the crowd of straw men he faced in the GOP primaries. How delightful it was to hear him knock down the phony arguments of neocon foreign policy! To violate all the taboos which conservative pundits had enforced by shunning and shaming. And then dare “rabble rouse” on the immigration issue, evoking among elitists the terrible prospect of “populism.” Just imagine … consulting the people in the course of electoral politics! Especially on whether the government should open its borders and replace them with a new, imported people, more malleable to big money and machine politics. What kind of person does that?
Some Republicans never forgave Trump for actually winning. NeverTrump is still a movement, if that’s what you can call a few hundred people inside the Acela Quiet Car, incessantly riding back and forth between Manhattan and Washington, D.C., retweeting each other’s quips and sobbing in the restrooms. I mean, they’re technically moving, though they’re not really going anywhere.
Mitt Romney: Liquid Metal Terminator
I read with amusement Mitt Romney’s take on the Russia hoax. He thought it extremely damning evidence against the president’s character. Now in many ways Romney is flexible. He has been on both sides of every major civic and moral issue in America. For gay “marriage” and against it. In favor of socialized medicine, and staunchly opposed to it. Pro-choice, then pro-life. A border hawk, then a dove.
I’ve wondered if Romney is really human, or if he’s some liquid metal Terminator, which shape-shifts according to the last public opinion poll it has touched. There is one consistent theme in Romney’s character, though. Ambition. He wants to accumulate power, and rise in the ranks. He’s not sure what he would do with that power. He might not even care. He just knows he wants to exercise it. And Trump stands in his way. So count on Romney as a staunch, principled critic of whoever has what he wants. That’s a hill he will die on.
Bill Kristol called on Romney to challenge Trump in the GOP primaries, for the “honor” of the Republican party or something. I hope he does. The more the merrier, in fact. It would be smart for Trump to schedule a dozen or so debates with whatever shadowy ghosts of the legacy GOP plan to run against him. That way the Democrats won’t eat up all the media oxygen with their rugby team of candidates. Instead, we can watch Trump bat around John Kasich, William Weld, and maybe Mitt, like a cat toying with mice. And crush them in primaries by 90 percent to 4, 3, and .05 percent. Over and over again. That at least would keep things fun.
The Christian Scolds
Perhaps the most irritating part of the upcoming election season will be the return of the Christian Scolds. These men will put down their knitting to remind us that they are shocked, shocked to learn that faithful Christians are willing to vote for … a man like that! They will warn us that we’ll frighten the children if we carry on this way … that Millennials and younger are appalled at President Trump.
We will lose them forever for Christ if we don’t renounce this public sinner. No matter that he has done more for the pro-life movement than any president since Reagan. Nor that he takes seriously religious liberty at home, and the fate of persecuted Christians abroad. Nor that the economy surged under his policies, giving jobs to tens of thousands of the poor. Not even that for the first time, again, since Reagan, the Christian Right actually wields some influence over policy. Instead being fobbed off with tiny scraps and completely ignored. As happened to Christians since 1996, when our leaders sold out to Bob Dole for a mess of pottage, through 2016, when Trump’s political isolation made him need us.
None of that matters. In fact, it is tacky, brutish, and worldly for anyone to point it out. It suggests that Christians want to … win some battles and have an impact on what actually happens in the world. This fallen, fallen world, so dirty and sinful, it almost seems beneath us to worry about it. We’re not supposed to win, don’t you understand? The whole point of Christianity is losing, but doing so graciously, with damp eyes and a noble, faraway look on our faces. We can’t ally ourselves with worldly men who want to save something as sordid as a concrete, actual country. We’re citizens of Heaven!
At this point you might feel tempted to break the news: Government is a seedy business anyway. It’s all about who gets to point the bayonets of the State and govern its prisons. You wouldn’t and shouldn’t expect people who aspire to that to be the very best kind of person. You’ll usually be disappointed. Elections aren’t about finding some idealized replacement father figure for the country. Instead, they’re the grim business of deciding which ratcatcher you send out to handle pest control.
But don’t say that. You might make the poor men cry.
I’ll Take Constantine Over Diocletian, Thanks
No, I’m not looking forward to seeing this kind of pap trotted out all over again, like a dirty sock puppet at some aging hippie minister’s clown liturgy. I’ll just say this, as I said today:
I would rather be ruled by a sultan with a harem who defended Christianity, than a gay Episcopalian who wanted to hack and slice Christianity to suit his personal vices.
— John Zmirak (@JZmirak) April 25, 2019
To unpack that a little bit, I’ll recall what I wrote in an exchange at The New York Times:
We’re fallen creatures trying to render unto Caesar as well as unto God. The nexus between those two is how we as sovereign citizens direct our government to treat the vulnerable.
We supported Constantine, and Harry Truman, and many other imperfect men who were better than the alternatives. I don’t even expect saintly behavior of popes, much less of presidents. If the circumstances in which God saw fit to place us make us choose between the “squeaky clean” persecutor of the unborn and the Little Sisters of the Poor, or between Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the choice is obvious. If we pick the persecutor because he pleases us more aesthetically, better fits our internal self-image, then we will answer for that on the Day of Judgment.
And that’s a hill I would die on.