Racism and the Donald


Of all the verbal actions your volatile president takes, none is so divisive as his racist remarks. And, given your history, this should give you pause.


Race is the one issue that can bring down the curtain on American civilization. It has the power to generate levels of polarization that will make it difficult for us to communicate with one another honestly. It can generate levels of conflict that result in unprecedented chaos and disorder. It is our rawest nerve, most explosive issue, and most difficult dilemma.

Cornel West, Hope on a Tightrope

And we have become amazed at how Donald has taken the stage as the most controversial racist in your unfolding drama.


Last week, the president of this great nation attacked four, constitutionally elected women of color using some of his most hateful, divisive language yet, telling these American citizens to “go back” to the countries they came from.

Just as they did after Trump’s racist equivalence in the wake of the Charlottesville attacks, white nationalists across the country cheered the president’s Twitter assault on the four congresswomen. Prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer called Trump talk and no action but congratulated him on being able to “win back” a sizable portion of what he called the deluded alt-right with a single tweet.

On Wednesday evening, at a Trump 2020 campaign rally, the president again attacked these congresswomen and reveled in the crowd’s vile chant of “Send her back! Send her back!” He stood on the stage looking every bit the vainglorious narcissist that he is.

This president is engaging in the worst kind of racism. That is, he is using racist language in an attempt to enrage the masses and convince one American that another American is their enemy simply because they are different, and he is doing so to advance a political agenda and personal power.

Republican activist who ran for Congress: Trump stole my party and my heart is breaking. By Jennifer Horn, USA Today, July 19, 2019

It’s the worst of times in America to have a President enrage the masses. But, that’s the guy so many of you backed.

American against American. Was this what you bargained for?


The open embrace of racism as a political strategy is, however, a natural progression from the 2016 campaign. While the president’s bigotry in the first campaign was instinctive, a reflection of his long-held and -lived convictions, it also served a political purpose. He and his advisers understood the appeal it would have. After the violent white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, Trump praised “very fine people on both sides,” causing a firestorm.

Trump Goes All In on Racism, By David A. Graham, The Atlantic, July 15, 2019

And firestorms escalate…


The escalation of racialized rhetoric from the President of the United States has evoked responses from all sides of the political spectrum. On one side, African American leaders have led the way in rightfully expressing outrage. On the other, those aligned with the President seek to downplay the racial overtones of his attacks, or remain silent.

As faith leaders who serve at Washington National Cathedral ¬– the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance – we feel compelled to ask: After two years of President Trump’s words and actions, when will Americans have enough?

Have We No Decency? A Response to President Trump, From The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, The Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, Canon Theologian of Washington National Cathedral, July 30, 2019

When will Americans have enough? Good question, especially with the 2020 race in full swing.

We also know, of course, that Donald claims he is not a racist – and that so many of you Christians support his claim. He said himself, he’s the least racist person in the world, right?

But, before you dismiss the racist charge out of hand as more fake news, what we would like to help you explore in this section of the report is the possibility that there is a broader way than usual to think about racism and the Donald.

This is especially important for Christians to think through, for your God is keenly interested in your posture toward your fellow image bearers in America. Because we discovered that it matters a great deal to your God, if Christianity is the story we are in, how you view and treat others.

As our team continued to explore the story of America, we came to see that the simple story question…


Who are we, here in the story?


… doesn’t ever leave the story of America.



Let’s begin our exploration of Donald the racist with a reminder our team’s discovery that Donald Trump is a narcissist.

This helped open our minds to a broader way of seeing him in relation to racism. And notice the power of verbal actions, calling racist words weapons…


Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, has a theory about President Donald Trump. The president is a “narcissist,” not a racist, Graham told reporters on Wednesday. A racist hates everyone of a certain color or ethnicity, said Graham. A narcissist, on the other hand, makes exceptions for those who flatter or support him.

That’s an accurate assessment of how Trump thinks. But it’s an elaboration, not a refutation, of the president’s bigotry. Trump is a narcissist and a racist. He uses racism as a weapon to serve his narcissism. And his narcissism, in turn, shapes his racism.

….

Trump has no principles. He doesn’t believe in white supremacy any more than he believes in equality, pluralism, or civil rights. All he has is a set of resentments—his and his supporters’—that he’s willing to deploy whenever they suit him. He’ll go after whatever he can use against you: your ancestry, your religion, your disability, your sex. Racism is part of his narcissism, and narcissism is part of his racism. That’s his sickness. And the sickness in his party is that to men like Graham, the narcissism somehow counts as a defense.

Is Trump a Racist or a Narcissist? He’s both. By WILLIAM SALETAN, Slate, JULY 19, 2019

And look at this, from the husband of Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s key White House aides…


No, I thought, President Trump was boorish, dim-witted, inarticulate, incoherent, narcissistic and insensitive. He’s a pathetic bully but an equal-opportunity bully — in his uniquely crass and crude manner, he’ll attack anyone he thinks is critical of him. No matter how much I found him ultimately unfit, I still gave him the benefit of the doubt about being a racist. No matter how much I came to dislike him, I didn’t want to think that the president of the United States is a racial bigot.

But Sunday left no doubt. Naivete, resentment and outright racism, roiled in a toxic mix, have given us a racist president. Trump could have used vile slurs, including the vilest of them all, and the intent and effect would have been no less clear. Telling four non-white members of Congress — American citizens all, three natural-born — to “go back” to the “countries” they “originally came from”? That’s racist to the core. It doesn’t matter what these representatives are for or against — and there’s plenty to criticize them for — it’s beyond the bounds of human decency. For anyone, not least a president.

George Conway: Trump is a racist president, Washington Post, July 15, 2019

And we continue to be grateful to your Drollinger dude for showing us things like this…


Prideful people will often display attitudes and actions of scorn (open dislike and disrespect); derision (the use of ridicule); and mockery (a counterfeit appearance) to manifest con­tempt. Scoffers are quick to pass judgment on others. The Psalmist warns us not to go near them: Do not sit in the seat of the scoffer, he says, lest you learn his ways.

Dealing with Pride: in Life and in D.C., BY RALPH DROLLINGER, Capitol Ministries, MAY 1, 2018

So, as you consider the Contemptomania of Donald Trump, you may want to ponder this…


The essence of American racism is disrespect.

The Case For Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Atlantic, May 21, 2014

So, as our team looked into all this, we sensed that in America, the term “racism” has been expanded and applied in a number of ways which confuse the average person…


In the end, the research program on symbolic racism amounts to a recommendation to change the meaning of the concepts of racism. The change, we have become persuaded, would be a change for the worse because it would weaken the meaning of racism. Racism used to refer to genuine prejudice – a deep-seated, irrational insistence on the inferiority of blacks, and contempt and hostility toward them. It still does. It is a mistake to leech away the meaning of racism, to diminish it, by making it merely a synonym for political attitudes with which one happens to disagree.

“Reflections on American Racism,” Paul M. Sniderman and Philip E. Tetlock

So, we wondered whether there is a core to racism which could represent a shared understanding. Is there some basic concept we could point to and say… “Yes, that’s at the heart of racism.”

Fortunately, our team found that there may be a basic core which is at the heart of racism…


one group or individual assigning inferior value to another group or individual based on racial or ethnic difference


We came to see this from a number of sources. Consider this explanation from Wikipedia:


Racism, by its simplest definition, is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.


This core definition is widely subscribed to among Americans. Consider…


Racism consists of ideologies and practices that seek to justify, or cause, the unequal distribution of privileges or rights among different racial groups. Modern variants are often based in social perceptions of biological differences between peoples. These can take the form of social actions, practices or beliefs, or political systems that consider different races to be ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities. It may also hold that members of different races should be treated differently.

Racism, Wikipedia

racism

1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race 2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

Merriam Webster Online Dictionary

Notice how those definitions track with the following from two important American organizations we came across…


“It’s sad that still America has not overcome those racist beliefs that grew out of the myth of white supremacy and black inferiority,” said NAACP Interim President & CEO Dennis C. Hayes. “Expressions of those beliefs are hurtful to the targeted victims, do violence to members of the defamed group and disserves all members of society, no matter who the speaker.”

NAACP Leaders Speak Out Against Racist Comments Aimed at Rutgers University Team, April 9, 2007

Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics.

Anti-Defamation League

And here are some explanations of the heart of racism, which one of our team members found in a very helpful book: Racism: Essential Readings


The psychology of race prejudice then involves the erroneous mental attitudes which one race entertains for or against another, formed in advance and without foundation in either reason or fact.
….
In the United States race prejudice is predicated upon the belief that the colored race is naturally inferior to the white race, physically, intellectually, religiously, socially, and morally.

The Psychology of American Race Prejudice, George W. Ellis, 1915

Until the late eighteenth century, thinking on race was distinguished chiefly by its verbosity. In theory, Christianity argued that all men were spiritually alike in the sight of God, but in practice, all sorts of arguments could be found to prove the inferiority of the black man.
……
Racial prejudice, the main prop of racialism, has deep historical roots. Prejudice of one people against another has existed throughout the course of history. …. No age has been free of group prejudice and no society has existed without it.

The Idea of Racialism: Its Meaning and History, Louis L. Snyder, 1962

What is racism? The word has represented daily reality to millions of black people for centuries, yet it is rarely defined – perhaps because that reality has been such a commonplace. By “racism” we mean the predication of decisions and policies on considerations of race for the purpose of subordinating a racial group and maintaining control over that group.
……
The social and psychological effects on black people of all their degrading experiences are also very clear. From the time black people were introduced into this country, their condition has fostered human indignity and the denial of respect. Born into this society today, black people begin to doubt themselves, their worth as human beings. Self-respect becomes almost impossible.

Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America, Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton, 1967

The myth of a Black race that is inferior was developed to rationalize the institution of enslavement of Blacks from Africa.

“Dysconscious Racism: Ideology, Identity, and the Miseducation of Teachers,” Joyce E. King

Where does this all begin? When did black people come to be worth less than others? Why?
……
Unlike the supporters of scientific and environmental explanation of human differences, Christians were committed to the notion of monogenesis and a common human origin. This is related to the question of “creationism” according to which all human beings are created by God and descended from Adam and Eve.
……
For although races are socially imagined and not biologically real categories, human beings continue to act as if they were real; and as long as they do so, race becomes real in its consequences.

“When Black First Became Worth Less,” by Anton L. Allahar

Let us lay out for you again the basic core our team came to see which underlies all this…


Racism is–

one group or individual assigning inferior value to another group or individual — because of race or ethnicity.


We regularly try and put ourselves in your shoes. So, would it be an accurate reflection to say that you Christians would argue that…


The heart of racism is the problem of one person or group failing to show the respect owed to their fellow human beings, who are made in the image and likeness of God…

and instead, attempting to assign an inferior value to another person or group based on racial difference.


And, if Christianity is the story we are in, that would be sheer disrespect…


The essence of American racism is disrespect.

The Case For Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Atlantic, May 21, 2014

We felt it would be helpful to revisit this insightful passage, written so long ago, but still so relevant for your situation today…


The social and psychological effects on black people of all their degrading experiences are also very clear. From the time black people were introduced into this country, their condition has fostered human indignity and the denial of respect. Born into this society today, black people begin to doubt themselves, their worth as human beings. Self-respect becomes almost impossible.

Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America, Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton, 1967

…because it is so relevant to what the Donald has done. Look at this…


Many Americans probably have no idea of the long history of the “go back to your country” taunt and how it was used to denigrate ethnic minorities. If they did, they would better understand the visceral reaction to it.

To understand what is unfolding, one must understand the history of this awful saying. One must also understand that we, as ethnic minorities, consider ourselves to be co-equal citizens in this fantastic country we call America. In other words, there is no place to go back to. This is my country—the one that I love.

When President Donald Trump said four members of Congress should “go back” to the “places from which they came,” he was wrong, and he shouldn’t have said it.

His words conjured up unpleasant memories for so many black people like me and immigrants alike who have been targets of the “go back to your country” taunt throughout their lives. His words hurt people beyond the congresswomen he intended to condemn.

Kay Cole James, Americans Are the Real Casualties of the Trump-‘Squad’ Showdown, The Daily Signal, July 16, 2019

And here’s an interesting thing. We suspect some of you Christians would also say racism is a good description of pride.

In fact, if Christianity is the story we are in, it appears that racism is an example of pride.

Notice again the following argument about pride, which the famous British Christian writer C.S. Lewis makes in his book Mere Christianity


The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive – is competitive by its very nature – while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.


Can you see the Donald in that?

Yet, if Christianity is the story we are in, if you are taking pleasure in being above the rest, are you not assigning inferior value to another? And to assign inferior value to a being who is incredibly exalted in value is deeply offensive, at least so it would seem to us.

But it goes deeper still. It also demonstrates that the assigner of value is blind to reality, because the very act of attempting to assign value to an image bearer instead of recognizing the astonishing value which is already there is a sign the assigner is suffering from a deep lack of understanding, at least that makes sense to us.

But, can we take you one step further? Assigning inferior value is also an absurd action, because if a human being really does have that value, then nothing can in reality diminish his or her actual value.

Make all the effort you want, it doesn’t change the reality of their actual value.

But it doesn’t stop there.

As Lewis points out, pride can lead elsewhere…


According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.


No wonder your God hates pride so much! You can’t find a deeper relational diss.

But, we’re curious. Will you Christians in America who support Donald Trump still accept that insight from C.S. Lewis?

So, we want to know, who are you with, here in the unfolding drama?

Who has your heart? And will you call on the Donald to take this seriously?…


Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

Philippians 2:3


But you won’t call him out, will you?

Well, then it’s time to sit down and eat your vegetables…three days old…


A Steady Diet of Donald’s Racism

Donald Trumps Takes Verbal Actions Aimed at Dehumanizing

As you digest these words from this talented communicator, Peter Wehner, consider how your God feels about the treatment of his precious lambs, his offspring, who he created in his own image and likeness…


We don’t know, and we may never know, how much President Donald Trump’s rhetoric influenced the white supremacist in El Paso who allegedly killed 22 people. What we do know is that Trump has done more than any politician in living memory to fan the flames of ethnic and racial antipathy and nurture a culture of bigotry.

A generation from now, when historians look back at the defining features of the Trump era, among the most prominent will be his dehumanizing rhetoric—the cruelty and virulence, the pulsating hate, the incitements to violence, and the effort to portray his targets as alien invaders, unworthy of dignity and respect, even subhuman.

Trump’s Words Are Poison, By Peter Wehner, The Atlantic, August 6, 2019

When it comes to dealing with those who oppose him, he consistently uses words to demean, belittle, bully, or dehumanize. He has mocked former prisoners of war, the disabled, and the appearance of women. He has perpetuated conspiracy theories. He has attacked Gold Star parents and widows. And he has engaged in racially tinged attacks. The number of his targets is inexhaustible because Trump’s brutishness is inexhaustible.

Trump’s Sinister Assault on Truth, By Peter Wehner, The Atlantic, June 18, 2019

To dehumanize begs a mental hook-up to a tragic point in the twentieth century…


Within days of Trump’s election, Mexican political analysts were predicting that his open belligerence toward Mexico would encourage political resistance. Mentor Tijerina, a prominent pollster in Monterrey, told me at the time, “Trump’s arrival signifies a crisis for Mexico, and this will help amlo.” Not long after the Inauguration, López Obrador published a best-selling book called “Oye, Trump” (“Listen Up, Trump”), which contained tough-talking snippets from his speeches. In one, he declared, “Trump and his advisers speak of the Mexicans the way Hitler and the Nazis referred to the Jews, just before undertaking the infamous persecution and the abominable extermination.”

A New Revolution in Mexico, By Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, June 25, 2018 Issue

His verbal treatment of others is brutal…


At the same time, the president has cultivated a studied insensitivity, treating empathy as a sign of weakness or fecklessness. The distinctive rhetoric of Trumpism isn’t merely the use of insult and invective against political opponents; it is also the brutal willingness to degrade and demonize others as “animals” and “rapists” while unsubtly comparing them to the sort of vermin who will “infest” the country.

The embrace of swaggering callousness became a hallmark of Trumpism, with harshness masquerading as toughness and cruelty as a sign of strength.

The New Cruelty, By CHARLES J. SYKES, Weekly Standard, June 21, 2018

Your president is engaging troubling turns of phrase…


As president, Trump is still fixated on infestations, but now he wields that language against those he sees as political foes, especially people of color.

….

Trump’s rhetorical choice is far from benign, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow notes, because “infestations justify exterminations.” Rolling Stone senior writer Jamil Smith made a similar point last year after Trump lashed out at MS-13 gang members: “When Trump speaks of immigrants ‘infesting’ America, he speaks in the language of genocide, not governance. By likening people to insects or vermin, even if he considers them criminals, he provides himself license to be an exterminator. We know that story.”

In his 2018 book Contagion and the National Body, Gerald O’Brien, a professor of social work at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, surveyed the history of U.S. immigration debates for illustrations of the “organism metaphor,” which draws parallels between the human body and the body politic. O’Brien found that “groups that are targeted for control are often compared to parasites or ‘low animals’ capable of infection and contamination.”

The author of a 1921 anti-immigration tract called The Sieve, for instance, wrote that enclaves such as “‘Little Italy,’ ‘Little Ghetto,’ ‘Little Hungary,’ or any other ‘little’ colony in New York or Kalamazoo” were “parasites on the oak of national prosperity, and should be eradicated.”

O’Brien’s research draws on metaphor theory, as pioneered by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their 1980 book Metaphors We Live By. When people in marginalized groups are likened to vermin or parasites, O’Brien argues that the metaphor can be reinforced by the idea that such people live in vermin-infested environments. In other words, when Trump describes Cummings’ constituents as living in a “rat and rodent infested mess,” he is reinforcing the metaphor that the people belong in the same conceptual category as the vermin.

As Andreas Musolff explored in Metaphor, Nation and the Holocaust: The Concept of the Body Politic, it was just this type of infestation metaphor that propelled Nazi ideology against the Jews, who in the party’s propaganda were constantly analogized to parasites, tapeworms, termites and the like. O’Brien finds similar rhetoric in American anti-Semitic literature, such as the 1934 book Are These Things So?, published by the World Alliance Against Jewish Aggressiveness, billing itself as a “Study in Modern Termites of the Homo Sapiens Type.”

The book included a news clipping about a termite infestation in Greenwich Village, making the metaphorical relationship explicit: Eastern European Jews were “infesting” New York City just as real termites were. Louis Farrakhan revived the metaphor when he tweeted last year, quoting one of his speeches, “I’m not an anti-Semite, I’m anti-termite,” which led to him being kicked off Twitter.

Trump may be unaware of this rhetorical history, but that does not make it less disturbing that his language has been overrun by such a troubling turn of phrase.

What Trump Talks About When He Talks About Infestations, By BEN ZIMMER, Politico, July 29, 2019

Are you feeling sick yet?

Well, keep eating. You’re not done yet, because Sykes says Trump degrades and demonizes others…it’s brutal.


At the same time, the president has cultivated a studied insensitivity, treating empathy as a sign of weakness or fecklessness. The distinctive rhetoric of Trumpism isn’t merely the use of insult and invective against political opponents; it is also the brutal willingness to degrade and demonize others as “animals” and “rapists” while unsubtly comparing them to the sort of vermin who will “infest” the country.

The embrace of swaggering callousness became a hallmark of Trumpism, with harshness masquerading as toughness and cruelty as a sign of strength.

The New Cruelty, By CHARLES J. SYKES, Weekly Standard, June 21, 2018

Eat this recent comment by Herold Meyerson, and try not to gag, because he says Trump is leading you on a path to violence, for he dehumanizes his fellow Americans…


America’s darkest moments haven’t come when foreign powers have nosed around in our affairs. They’ve come when our own leaders have dehumanized their fellow Americans, which invariably has prompted acts — or waves — of violence against them.

….

When great nations topple, it’s usually because they’re rotting from within, with one set of their residents pitted against another. Trump’s chief contribution has been to accelerate America’s rot by demonizing a large portion of the nation’s citizenry. His deep-seated racism has resonated with many anxious, provincial whites and set the stage for the rise we’ve seen in hate crimes. His fragile narcissism — deeming anyone, dead (John McCain) or alive, who fails to extol him to be an enemy worthy of destruction — has poisoned an already vituperative public discourse.

So Trump didn’t collude — he’s still the most dangerous president in U.S. history, By HAROLD MEYERSON, Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2019

And your man Max says Trump is — vulgar, slanderous


Lucado, pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, told NPR in an interview published on Sunday that he wouldn’t have gone after Trump if the candidate “didn’t call himself a Christian,” but that he felt that Trump’s behavior and stated faith called him to action.

“It’d be none of my business whatsoever to make any comments about his language, his vulgarities, his slander of people, but I was deeply troubled … that here’s a man who holds up a bible one day, and calls a lady ‘bimbo’ the next,” Lucado said. “Here’s a man who calls himself a Christian and yet just had the audacity to make fun of a lady’s menstrual cycle.”

….

“My concern is that somebody would make a decision against Christianity because of Mr. Trump’s behavior. And that’s my high concern here,” Lucado said. “And to that person I would say, the way he speaks about people is not the way our master, our savior has taught us to speak, it’s not the way our scriptures urge us to speak.”

The preacher said that the Bible urges Christians to respect others, especially those with whom they disagree. Lucado also said that the holy book calls believers to “never libel people, to never label people.”

Famed Author and Pastor Who Broke His Silence and Unleashed on Donald Trump Is Shocked by the Reaction: ‘Really Struck a Nerve’, by Billy Hallowell, The Blaze, March 7, 2016

Is your heart with Max here? Are you concerned about somebody making a decision against Christianity because of your “Christian” president?

Harvey concurs: vulgar


The most striking aspect of the rise and reign of Donald Trump has been his unabashed display of vulgarity and the ease (so far) with which he gets away with it. “Vulgar,” a term of condescension, is not often heard in democracies, where it most applies. It certainly applies to The Donald.

The brazen insults he strewed along his path to the presidency were more than enough to deserve the plain name of vulgar. His success despite them suggests something even more upsetting than Trump himself: that his vulgar manliness was not a drag but an advantage.

The Vulgar Manliness of Donald Trump, By HARVEY MANSFIELD, Commentary Magazine, August 14, 2017

Did that turn your stomach?

So, if Christianity is the story we are in, one way we came to think about all this in relation to the Donald is in terms of what you Christians might deem The Failed Worldly Pattern.

We came across the Apostle Paul’s admonition in your New Testament…


Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Romans 12:2


Transformation is about change, right? And story is about change.

So, if Christianity is the story we are in, your life is a story… 


When Christians do not think right, they do not decide right, act right, or feel right. The biblical command, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2) shows that God changes our living by changing our thinking. And God desires to change our thinking by His Spirit and through His Word so that we live like Christ because we think like Christ.

Henry Holloman, The Forgotten Blessing

That doesn’t mean that people don’t need to change. The Christian message is a message of transformation, and we are all sinners saved by grace. Yes- God wants us to change, and God helps us to change, but like Billy Graham said, “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” Our world is full of disagreement. But thank God that our loving acceptance of people doesn’t have to be built on agreeing with them. Our loving acceptance of them is built on the cross.

Brian Houston, Live Love Lead

We can better understand how the Spirit changes Christians by observing that “transformed” renders a word (metamorphoō) which means to “transform” or “change in form” and from which we get “metamorphose.” The verb (metamorphoō) occurs two other times in Scripture: (1) to describe Jesus when “he was transfigured” (Matt. 17:2) and (2) to exhort believers to “be transformed” by the renewing of their mind (Rom. 12:2).

The Relation Of Christlikeness To Spiritual Growth, By Henry W. Holloman, Michigan Theological Journal, Spring 1994

But think about your President and how his mind seems to work, how he views his fellow humans. Does he view them as fellow image bearers, first and foremost?

Or is his view based on something else entirely?

Viewing human identity primarily through the lens of race and ethnicity is conforming to a pattern of this world which, according to your version of the  story we are in, has failed human beings tremendously.

It’s safe to say, it’s a failed worldly pattern which has led to disaster in the past.

Consider, for instance, how our frenemy, the British historian Niall Ferguson, takes a look at the 20th century in a way which helps us think about the issue of foundational identity in history. In the first segment of his book turned BBC documentary, The War of the World, Ferguson introduces us to the following idea…


It was a century in which countless families were driven from their homes. It was a century in which city after city was laid waste, not just in the World War, but year after year, in what seemed like a global hundred years war. The difference with Well’s nightmare vision was simply that those responsible were not Martians. They were human beings, who in order to justify the killings, defined other human beings as aliens.


And notice how this assigning of inferior value is done in the following three quotes. The first is from Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederacy, in his infamous “Cornerstone Speech”…


Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science.


The second is from the renowned scientist, Charles Darwin, in his book, The Descent of Man


At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked (18. ‘Anthropological Review,’ April 1867, p.236.), will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.


And look where it eventually led…


Adolf Hitler

“Since the Civil War, in which the Southern States were conquered, against all historical logic and sound sense, the American people have been in a condition of political and popular decay…. The beginnings of a great new social order based on the principle of slavery and inequality were destroyed by that war, and with them also the embryo of a future truly great America.”

Adolf Hitler, quoted in Harry Jaffa, A New Birth Of Freedom

And that sure fits with this description of the Fuhrer…


For Hitler, there is little for the individual personality beyond the experience of here and now. We are animals, and just like animals we face the choice of destroying or being destroyed. 

[F]or Hitler, the belief that life was essentially about the strong destroying the weak was enormously invigorating. This was because he allied his quasi-Darwinian vision to the idea of race. It wasn’t just that one strong individual ought to destroy one weak individual, but whole racial groups should band together to eliminate other races. The “Aryan” race, wrote Hitler, was a “superior” race responsible for “all the human culture.” The core of Hitler’s message was that individual life had meaning because the individual was part of a “race.” Individuals that subordinated themselves for the good of the racial “community” led the best lives. Your life thus did have a kind of meaning- you may not live on as an individual but if you lived the correct life then the racial community to which you belonged would flourish after your death. 

Laurence Rees, Hitler’s Charisma

But according to your version of the story we are in, no one should attempt to assign a value to human beings. You assert that our responsibility is to recognize the astonishing value they already have as image bearers.

To do otherwise is an affront to both those human beings and to your God himself.

Is this what Trump believes?

Is this what you believe?…


Christianity poses the question: What if every man and woman — every victim of abuse, every abandoned child, every lonely senior, every intellectually and physically disabled person, every single parent, every gay and transgender person, every prisoner, every homeless person and every billionaire — everyone we love, and everyone we fear, were actually the image of God in our midst, equal in humanity, in dignity and in worth? How should we then live?

Evangelicals are having their own #MeToo moment, By Michael Gerson, Washington Post, May 7, 2018

I suggest that Christianity can help us make sense of our intuitions that human life is meaningful and that morality is objective, while secular philosophies cannot. The Christian understanding of humans as created in the image of God gives real value to human life that is absent in secular worldviews. Christians have good reason to believe in human equality and human rights, but these values are not explicable from a secular standpoint. Secularism cannot explain why slavery or genocide is wrong, but Christianity can. Thus it is bizarre that many secularists accuse Christianity of justifying or even promoting slavery and genocide. Why should secularists even care about slavery or genocide? If secularism is true, then slavery and genocide are just facts of nature, and thus nothing to get worked up about. If secularism is true, then human life has no value. If Christianity is true, then loving God and loving one’s neighbor are the highest moral commands. If Christianity is true, then human life has value.

Richard Weikart, The Death of Humanity and the Case for Life

Weikart is telling me if the secular version of the human story is the story we are in, well then, my life has no value. So depressing.

It sure looks like it all depends on which story we’re in.

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