The current occupant of the Executive Residence in Washington D.C. continues to literally live up to his name. He continues to get the better of everyone around him, largely because it is the one skill that he has cultivated throughout his life. He doesn’t make deals. In order to actually make deals, on a basic level you must respect those you are dealing with. Trump does not. Trump merely takes advantage and tries to leverage weaknesses he perceives in his many “opponents.” He skips out on payments, he ignores rules and boundaries, he grabs at things (and people) without any regard for anyone but himself. He is literally the embodiment of what it means to “trump.”
This is abundantly clear in his agenda around “religious liberty” which continues to move forward with little fanfare in the press. This week, I was surprised by a statement he made about getting a call from the “biggest pastors” because of how the left has vilified him and then I did some digging. I discovered that while the rest of the country was convulsing over the possible threat of impeachment, he was outlining an actual agenda before the United Nations that would seem to paint the United States as the heroic global leader in religious freedom.
But look again…
The Trump administration has been working quietly behind the scenes, largely through the trio of Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence and Sam Brownback to create a legal foundation for policies that would primarily work to center conservative Christianity as the sole moral compass for the nation. Trump’s speech really says it all. The only stories he has any passion or detail for involve Christians (evangelical and Catholic) and his message is clear: Christianity is under attack.
He might be surprised at the number of Latin American Christians he’s turning away at the southern border…
The administration has aggressively moved on the domestic front to weaken the power of the Johnson Amendment which has kept religion out of political funding and fundraising for the last 65 years. Signing a “religious liberty” executive order in May of 2017 he happily (albeit incorrectly) declared that the Amendment was totally destroyed.
The current effort to reduce the number of refugees admitted to the United States to 18,000 includes a provision that would admit 5,000 (27% of the total) as persecuted religious refugees. Again, look at where Trumps focus lies in his speech:
“I’ve appointed a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. We’re standing up for almost 250 million Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith. It is estimated that 11 Christians are killed every day for the following — I mean, just think of this: Eleven Christians a day, for following the teachings of Christ. Who would even think that’s possible in this day and age? Who would think it’s possible?” – Donald Trump to the United Nations 9/23/19
Yes, Mr. Trump, it is totally possible and totally believable or maybe you didn’t’ notice the Palestinians, Rohingya or Indian Muslims? Then of course there are the large swaths of the world that are dominated by the world’s largest religion (Christianity sits at the top of the list with over 2 billion adherents) that criminalize same sex relationships, murder transgender people and refuse to criminalize or even prosecute rape and sexual subjugation of women. (Human Rights Watch Data on LGBT global persecution HERE.)
Yes, poor little Christianity is definitely the victim (2011 global Christianity stats).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in people’s right to faith or no faith. I’ve written about that before and outlined it explicitly in my own theories around Religious Equity. But we need to walk and chew gum at the same time. We cannot get consumed with Watergate-Redux Fever by paying exclusive attention to the smoke bomb that Trump has lobbed at us. He, and more importantly his Vice President, Secretary of State and Ambassador for Religious Freedom are creating a highly exclusive global network and drawing the kinds of alliances we once had with places like the UK and Canada but doing so with global leaders who have the most limited views on human and more specifically religious rights. Hello theocracy.
Pence, Pompeo and Brownback are quietly strengthening and weaving their faith into our international policies and Trump, being a first-class Godless opportunist, is willing to enable these policies as long as it puts money in his coffers and builds his brand domestically. This is a weaponized brand of Christianity that SHOULD be under attack if we wish to maintain any semblance of true religious liberty in the world.
View from the conservative Christian Perspective: Christianity Today – 9/23/19 Jayson Casper