Immigration is an extremely messy issue. Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, “law and order” has been a cover for making the “other” unwanted and “illegal.” Every human being has basic human rights. Those do not need to be earned. Aviva Chomsky’s book, Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal provides both historical background to how immigration came to be viewed in such a negative light as it now is as well as arguments for the basic human rights and dignity of all.
Chomsky provides historical data to understand how immigration became illegal. This is extremely valuable and important because too often, people just say that their ancestors came to the United States the “right way” and make the assumption the process was similar to what it is today. However, there was very little regulation of immigration whatsoever until racial bias began to lead to quotas for people coming in. The Chinese were some of the earliest people targeted, as exceptions and quotas were made to prevent Chinese from becoming citizens. Mexicans were, historically, another national group that was seen either as non-immigrants (not because they were here illegally–no laws governed such migration until relatively recently–but because it was simply taken as a given Mexicans would not stay in the United States) or as a group to be suppressed in its immigration status. Nationality was used to allow for colorblind laws that would simply restrict immigration on one’s nation. As Chomsky writes, “Once status is inscribed in the law, this becomes an automatic justification for inequality: ‘it’s the law!'” (25). The movement to national exclusion of immigrants allowed racist policies to be enshrined in law. After all, countries are not races. Once race could no longer be allowed to deny citizenship, “nationality stood in for it, and citizens of countries like China lost their right to immigrate” (35).
Laws had to be made in order to restrict immigration. Chomsky notes the inequality of movement of people: a United States citizen can, generally, get their passport and unlock travel to virtually any country in the world. Some travel may require a visa with an extra fee, but there aren’t many total restrictions on travel. Contrast this with attempting to enter the United States: here, we have laws that restrict people of other nationalities from entering our country. Similarly, though Chomsky’s book was written before the current administration under President Trump, there have been arguments for and actions banning travel to the United States purely based upon one’s religion. Such restrictions are social, legal constructs that allow the definition of human beings to be tied to national or religious affiliation. Feasibly, this could be expanded almost indefinitely. Thus, immigration law is not an unchanging, immutable thing but rather something that has changed and continues to change. It is mistaken simply to write off the “other” as illegal or even as “other” purely based on laws that have not even been in effect for more than a few decades.
Chomsky delves into the questions related to undocumented status and alleged eligibility for various benefits (it is almost certainly more complex than any reader may think). Then, she moves into undocumented status and working. What is of interest is that labor laws that target undocumented immigrants has, in several cases, led to economic hardship. The exploitation of undocumented laborers helps drive the standard of living citizens of the United States have become used to. One example is in agriculture. “Farm work is so marginal, strenuous, and low paid, that if workers achieve legal status, they quickly move to other sectors… True, for many Mexicans… low-wage, temporary, migrant labor in the United States offers a viable or even hopeful alternative to poverty at home. But this merely means that the US agricultural system depends upon the existence of a lot of extremely poor people in Mexico” (127-128). Furthermore, by making migrant workers “illegal,” this allows citizens of the United States to benefit from their low-cost labor while also not having to provide them with any benefits in turn. “Although the current system benefits many people in the United States, we must also recognize its fundamental injustice and think seriously about how it works and what steps could make it more just. If immigrants are being exploited by the current system, and if undocumentedness is one of the concepts that sustains inequality and unjust treatment, then we need to question undocumentedness itself” (150).
The impact of immigration laws and changing ideals about documentation has tremendous impact on families as well, dividing families and forcing cruelty upon some of the people in the greatest need. The laws that exist in our present situation have come from both Republicans and Democrats, so neither party can claim a high moral ground when it comes to immigration reform. However, such reform is needed, and Chomsky provides several suggestions. Comprehensive reform is a difficult goal to aim for, but Chomsky suggests we ought to instead perhaps question the very basis for immigration law to begin with. A longer quote helps illustrate her points:
[W]e have become accustomed to the notion that controlling the border is a basic prerequisite for security, safety, and sovereignty… The entire immigration apparatus is based on the presumption that we know where people belong and we need to legislate their mobility.
It’s also based on some unquestioned assumptions about countries. It is not OK for a public park… to discriminate regarding who is allowed to enter its space. But it’s OK for a country to do that… US immigration laws do just that: discriminate, on the basis of nationality, regarding who is allowed to be where.
If we really want to address the problem of undocumentedness, or so-called “illegal” immgiration, we need to look more in depth at why the United States made some immigration illegal to begin with… It’s just the latest stage in a centuries-long process of legislated inequality, a process both global and domestic. (205-206)
That is, we need to question the very basis for the need for such strong immigration laws rather than accept public assumptions about them. Reform includes a reformation of our minds and thoughts: a questioning of assumptions and looking at facts instead. Since immigration does contribute to our economy in numerous ways (some of which Chomsky documents), we ought to question why there is such a push to restrict it. “In the most immediate terms, we as a society created illegal immigration by making immigration illegal” (208). Is such a move actually something that is necessary? If so, why? These questions need to be answered not by knee-jerk reactions or platitudes such as “a nation without borders is no nation.” After all, nations may still have borders while allowing for immigration. The United States managed to do so all the way until 1882 when immigration laws targeted Chinese people!
Undocumented is a book that is worth reading no matter your political persuasion. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have offered a holistic view of personhood that allows us to adequately view the rights of all humans as equal. This is something we ought to address. Particularly for Christians, there is no question that all people are equal and deserving of our protection. Chomsky has provided historical perspective and even a way forward in thinking on this complex issue.
Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)
The Battle for Bonhoeffer by Stephen R. Haynes highlights the ways that people across theological, social, and political spectrums have played tug-of-war with Bonhoeffer’s thought, words, and legacy. As Charles Marsh puts it in his Foreword, “It is understandable… that readers with different theological and ideological perspectives would desire to claim Bonhoeffer as their own. ‘Excerpting Bonhoeffer’ has become a familiar exercise in each team’s effort to win…” (ix). Yet Bonhoeffer’s legacy is far more complex than a simple Google quote mine would allow. In my own reading of Bonhoeffer’s works, it is clear that it would be simple to find conflicting messages even within the same sermons at times. Like Martin Luther, for example, reading Bonhoeffer and interpreting him is like peeling away the layers of an onion, trying to get to the core. It takes care, precision, and thought. Unfortunately, as Haynes notes throughout this book, few people are concerned with doing so.
Though the subtitle is “Debating Discipleship in the Age of Trump,” there is far more to the book than dealing with the recent Trump phenomenon. Haynes notes how people on both the right and left have distorted or ignored aspects of Bonhoeffer’s legacy to turn in him into a supporter of their own positions. Marsh sets the table well, asking: “Have you heard progressive Christians cite the passage in Ethics calling abortion ‘nothing but murder’? Or recall Bonhoeffer’s preference for monarchy over democracy?” (xii). Haynes notes how Bonhoeffer was cited on one hand by Vietnam draft resisters, peace activists, liberation theologians, death-of-God thinkers on the left, and on the right by people who oppose abortion or same-sex marriage (and, regarding the latter, Haynes notes insights from both Charles Marsh’s Strange Glory and Diane Reynolds The Doubled Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer [which I reviewed here] for reasons this may be quite inaccurate]). The baffling array of topics Bonhoeffer is alleged to have endorsed or condemned suggests that the quote mining being done through his legacy belies an inner complexity that is far deeper.
Haynes surveys the history of interpretation of Bonhoeffer, particularly in America, through the next several chapters. He places a special emphasis on seeing how evangelicals have viewed Dietrich Bonhoeffer. What is interesting in this latter topic is that, initially at least, Bonhoeffer was viewed positively but with some “warning flags” by American evangelicals who interacted with his works. Several appreciated his resistance to Nazi ideals, but were put off by his apparent lack of concern for things like “a high view of Scripture/inerrancy” and his being influenced by liberal German theologians. This portrait by the early evangelicals of Bonhoeffer is far more accurate than the one that has been passed into our own time, in part because it allowed for a multifaceted Bonhoeffer who was complex enough to resist being easily integrated into any one position.
Fairly early on, however, the complexities of Bonhoeffer’s thought and life began to be ignored in favor of seeing him as a figurehead for resistance to one’s own preferred ideas. Haynes demonstrates how Bonhoeffer was used to resist George W. Bush and the “war on terror,” and then ironically turned around to resist the “culture of death” under Barack Obama. The raising of the “Bonhoeffer flag” behind such opposed viewpoints should have served as a warning sign, but it unfortunately did not.
Enter Eric Metaxas. Metaxas’s biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy was an extreme departure from Bonhoeffer scholarship generally. For one thing, Metaxas himself admitted to virtually ignoring or explicitly shunning the conclusions of 70 years of Bonhoeffer scholarship both at home and abroad. The cover flap for the book features a spurious quote from Bonhoeffer “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself…” that has since been passed all over the world and even “quoted” multiple times in Congress on record. To say that using an invented quote from Bonhoeffer on the cover of a biography of the man is a bad sign is an understatement. Haynes notes many, many problems with the biography, from a lack of engagement with Bonhoeffer’s actual works (and ignoring, for example, his Letters and Papers from Prison, which is one of the most important works for understanding his developed thought) to a recasting of Bonhoeffer into an American Evangelical. Yet it is Metaxas’s biography that has become the torch-bearer for the populist Bonhoeffer, making an image of the man that is incredibly distorted. For my own part, when I read Metaxas’s work, I was struck by how entirely de-Lutheranized Metaxas had made Bonhoeffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man who explicitly stated that, for example, without the Lord’s Supper there is no Christianity and who certainly supported infant baptism and regeneration, but Metaxas excised such details from his own dim look at Bonhoeffer’s theology, preferring to pull out those things which were more amenable to the typical American evangelical.
It was the populist view of Bonhoeffer which lead to notions of a “Bonhoeffer Moment” at various times before, during, and after the 2016 election cycle. Haynes spends some time noting how it was frequently said during the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case that American Christians were facing a “Bonhoeffer Moment” in which they would need to resist the government’s tyranny. Haynes notes how many evangelicals made comparisons to previous Supreme Court rulings, conveniently ignoring those unjust rulings they supported or the just ones they opposed. More decisively, Haynes notes that after Obergefell, evangelicals rallied around a woman who was part of an anti-Trinitarian sect to be their martyr for the cause. In the time since, though, very little has been done by evangelicals in their supposed “Bonhoeffer Moment.” This kind of co-option of the man’s legacy is a disservice to all involved.
Haynes doesn’t limit his analysis of the “battle for Bonhoeffer” to just the positives of Bonhoeffer’s life. Metaxas and others have argued Bonhoeffer is a “Righteous Gentile” (Metaxas even made “righteous gentile” part of his additional subtitle to his biography). But Bonhoeffer has explicitly been turned down for that technical categorization for a few reasons: 1) he wrote or supported some things that were seemingly anti-Semitic; and 2) though he did become a martyr, it wasn’t specifically due to his efforts to help the Jews during the Holocaust, which is a criterion for being deemed a “Righteous Gentile.” Bonhoeffer certainly opposed the Nazi treatment of the Jews and did help some Jews escape Germany (though at arm’s length for the most part–simply helping get proper papers from afar); but that was not his project or his main reason for opposing Nazi Germany. And that’s okay. It is important not to lionize Bonhoeffer for things he didn’t actually do, and Haynes is careful to help readers realize that.
The Battle for Bonhoeffer isn’t very long, but its length shouldn’t be taken for a lack of depth. It’s a thoughtful, critical, and sometimes convicting read. As one who is deeply indebted to Dietrich Bonhoeffer in my own theology and thought, I found ways in which I had been distorting him in this book as well. Haynes’ book provides an invaluable correction to distortions on the man’s life, times, and thought. I very highly recommend it.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)
How are we to live as Christians in the political arena? It’s a question that feels tired at times, but it remains as pressing as ever. Fred van Geest’s Introduction to Political Science: A Christian Perspective is remarkable for its even, fair look at a number of political questions from a broadly Christian viewpoint.
There is no possible way to approach a book like this without bias. Van Geest acknowledges this and notes that Christians ought not to be excluded from using their faith to help determine their answers to political questions; after all, no one can be an unbiased commentator on political questions. The book is organized around four parts: Foundational Values and Ideas for Government; Institutions; Policy; and Foreign Policy and International Relations.
Included among the foundational values and ideas are questions about what a government is to begin with, what it means to be a “Christian” government, and whether such a thing ought to even exist. What makes van Geest’s analysis interesting is that he largely manages to navigate that space between liberal and conservative, showing how ideas and ideals from both groups can be held in unity and even lead to policy change that may be mutually agreed upon. Though it is impossible to truly navigate entirely in that tiny “in between” space, van Geest’s book helps readers to at least understand both sides more than they might have before.
One aspect that makes van Geest’s analysis particularly interesting is his breaking out of the unfortunate tendency to simply analyze U.S. politics from a Christian perspective. Instead, he frequently looks at international perspectives and uses examples of countries outside of North America. Many charts are included showing things like voting turnout (and setting that alongside how different systems of voting may encourage or discourage said turnout), opinions on gun control in the U.S., corporate tax rates in different countries (and why some aspects of taxing corporations may be beneficial or not), and many, many more.
Where van Geest brings in a specifically Christian perspective to politics, it becomes even more interesting. He compares Jimmy Carter’s and George W. Bush’s statements on politics and faith, shows the real challenges of poverty and health care in various countries (including the U.S.), argues that income inequality can lead to very real wrongs, questions some aspects of Just War thought, and challenges readers to look at human rights in a global perspective. Though I didn’t always agree with van Geest, I found him bringing so much information to bear in some of these chapters that I was able to sit back and reflect and even change my view on some things.
The book is an introduction, so it doesn’t delve too deeply into any one topic, but it does give readers all kinds of information for further reading and exploration. Moreover, van Geest does a remarkable job of presenting so many different topics in such a short space. Having read the book, I found I felt more informed, even as someone who was a social studies major in college.
Introduction to Political Science: A Christian Perspective is most notable for the fact that van Geest manages to navigate the difficult terrain of the political minefield without becoming overly polemical. I found it highly enjoyable and challenging in the best ways. I recommend it highly.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling… (1)
The Left Hand of Darkness has come to be considered one of the greatest works of science fiction. The book portrays the efforts of an ethnologist, Genly Ai, makes to try to unite the people of the planet of Winter with the Ekumen of Known Worlds. What happens in his efforts will be explored thematically in what follows. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.
Le Guin has come to be known as a major innovator in science fiction by putting forth feminist ideas in the form of novels. In The Left Hand of Darkness, Winter is populated by humans who have genetically been modified to be essentially genderless. But it goes beyond that, because in each monthly cycle, people become either male or female during a time of fertility, and then become effectively “neuter” again.
The novel is oriented around questions of how this may affect perceptions of gender. It is largely narrated from the perspective of Genly, who himself has many assumptions about what men and women are like from his own gendered society. In reading Genly’s thoughts, the reader is exposed to notions of duality. At one point, Genly attempts to explain what a woman looks like and who a woman is in his own society to one of the inhabitants of Winter:
I suppose the most important thing… is whether one’s born male or female. In most societies it determines one’s expectations, activities, outlook, ethics, manners–almost everything… (252-253).
Ultimately, Genly admits defeat in attempting to explain what women are like. He says they are “more alien” to him than the aliens of Winter (253). But Genly, in his own mind, has much to think about women. He often thinks of women as submissive, foolish, and perhaps a little weak. They are tied down through childrearing while men are to be dominant in society. Genly’s own thoughts on the topic serve as a foil for the reader’s thoughts about gender. By placing the reader in Genly’s mind, and seeing the absurdity of his views of gender lined up against an effectively genderless (or potentially gendered?) society, one is forced to consider one’s own views of gender and the power structures which may accompany it.
Jarringly, the inhabitants of Winter are always referred to with male pronouns. The reason is explained at one point as having to assign the Gethenians (those inhabitants) some pronoun to use. But the fact is that the Gethenians may be both the mother of some children and the father of others due to the way their procreative cycle works. One is forced to wonder at the wisdom of using the male pronoun for such persons.
The implications of a sexless society (or again, potentially sexed?) are used as a way to view our own society. We are told to “Consider” various aspects of how reality might change if gender were not viewed as a way to predetermine power structures:
Consider: Anyone can turn his hand to anything… Consider: There is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protective/protected, dominant/submissive, owner/chattel, active/passive. (100)
We’ll consider the implications of this below, but for now it is merely important to see the dialogue happening within the story. What are your views of gender? How do they impact your view of the “other”?
Fear and Politic
Gender may be seen as one way of viewing the “Other,” but fear is a powerful tool, and it applies to any duality or disjunct which allows one to see strict delineation between self and other. In a discussion with one of the inhabitants of Winter on politics, Genly is asked if he knows what it is to be a patriot:
[Genly responded] “I don’t think I do. If by patriotism you don’t mean love of one’s homeland…”
[The Gethenian replied] “No, I don’t mean love… I mean fear. The fear of the other. And its expressions are political, not poetical: hate, rivalry, aggression. It grows in us, that fear. It grows in us year by year.” (20)
Once again we see the recurring theme that the “Other” is to be feared and fought against. Whether that “Other” is a gendered other or an alien or simply someone from a different country, The Left Hand of Darkness forces readers to consider their own fears. How might one’s own feelings about the “Other”s in their own society shape their interactions with them?
The line quoted at the beginning of this post is echoed throughout the book: truth is what we make of it. We may choose a reality. But Le Guin’s portrayal of truth goes beyond relativism. Instead, truth matters in the telling. “Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive” (1). Thus, lies may come across as true or believable due to how they’re told, and they may “become true.” Of course, this means not that reality itself changes, but rather that one’s interaction with truth or falsehood may itself determine one’s belief in either one.
The Left Hand of Darkness is steeped in critical theory. Le Guin’s discussion of gender is perhaps the most obvious point of this: readers are forced to consider their own ways of thinking about male/female dichotomy through the eyes of a man who is struggling to force his categories onto beings which do not neatly fit into either bucket. Some may immediately critique Le Guin and suggest she is trying to blur gender lines and do away with any distinction between man and woman. That may well be what she was doing (I don’t know), but that should not prevent readers from acknowledging they have their own biases about what genders are or how male/female should act (or not?). The novel forces introspection and reflection.
Similarly, how does one’s view of the “Other”–whether made other by gender, country, kin, or belief–get shaped by one’s own presuppositions about what that “Other” should be? Here are dynamics of power, politic, and fear.
The Left Hand of Darkness is a highly reflective novel. By integrating literary criticism and critical theory into her fiction, Le Guin forces readers to examine their own views. Whether one agrees with the various aspects of feminist thought Le Guin includes in the work, one will consider these aspects with new light through the reading of the novel.
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (New York: Ace, 2010). Originally published by Ace in 1969.
I try to avoid straight-up politics on this blog, but I think it is important to discuss the election this year. Too often, as I’ve voiced my intention to not vote for Donald Trump, I’ve been told that we aren’t voting for a moral leader, but a President or something of the sort (a President, not a pastor… however you want to put it). But apart from the fact that separating morals from policy is impossible, the fact is that the reason I’m anti-Trump was, from the beginning, a matter of policy. Here are just a few of the policy-oriented reasons I’m not voting for Trump. Period. And they’re based, in part, on conservative values.
What is one of the most important thing for most conservatives? Freedom of religion. I find this a paramount part of our country’s greatness, myself. The fact that you may freely believe and practice your faith, whether it be Pentecostal, Calvinist, Lutheran, Hindu, or Buddhism is an ideal that is beautiful and necessary. Conservatives across the board point to the importance of religious freedom. Thus, with conservatives telling people they ought to vote for Trump based on policy, it is worth asking: do Trump’s policies support religious liberty?
The plain and clear answer is: no, obviously.
Think about it. Suppose Donald Trump had come out saying “We need a total and complete ban of all Christians entering the United States.” How do you think conservatives would have reacted? As they should have: by exploding. Such a statement would be a direct violation of religious freedom. It would be seeing someone’s faith as the sole reason for denying them entry into our country. But because he said it about Muslims, suddenly it’s seen as okay. Here’s the thing: religious liberty is, and always has been, religious liberty for all religions. Yes, if someone decides that their religion is to kill everybody, that would be a religion that could not be allowed liberty, but Islam is demonstrably diverse, with several distinct factions and offshoots, many of which denounce violence in the name of their faith. It’d be like banning all Christians because of the Branch Davidians or banning all Lutherans because the BTK killer happened to be, ostensibly, Lutheran.
But the point of this is not to debate whether Islam is violent or not (it’s not, inherently; with 1 billion Muslims in the world, if Islam was automatically violent, why are not all of these 1 billion Muslims killing people?). The point is that Trump explicitly made a statement in which religion was the single reason for exclusion from our country. That is a terrifying reality to think about, because as many conservative beliefs begin to be seen as oppressive, it is not very hard to see how conservatives could be next on the list of those banished from the country.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
-Pastor Martin Niemöller speaking of the Nazis
*Note: I realize Trump has somewhat scaled back this talk to having “extreme vetting,” but it is important to take into account the fact that his initial position of simply banning people based on religion.
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech and the freedom of the press stand alongside religious freedom as some of the most important parts of our constitution and, frankly, our country. Yet, once again, we find that Donald Trump is no defender of such a freedom–a freedom that is put forward by conservatives as vastly important.
Donald Trump, frustrated with the media coming after him, Tweeted his frustration suggesting that “It is not ‘freedom of the press’ when newspapers and others are allowed to write whatever they want even if it is completely false!”
Um, yes it is, actually. That’s one of the things freedom of the press explicitly permits. Moreover, Trump has suggested libel and slander laws ought to be opened up to allow him to more easily sue and defeat others who speak badly of him. This is a terrifying reality in which we have a candidate who doesn’t respect freedom of speech because he doesn’t like what others say about him.
So here we have a Presidential candidate who believes it is acceptable to suggest changing the Constitution because he doesn’t like when people speak ill of him. I think that’s a real problem, and would suggest freedom of speech is yet another policy that should have conservatives fleeing from Trump, not flocking to him. For more on this topic, see this article from Red State, a conservative web publication.
“The free market works–it just needs leadership, not dictatorship… We need legislation that gives American companies the tax priorities and financial support to create more of their technology and redirect more of their manufacturing here at home.” –Donald Trump, “Crippled America,” 81, 86-87.
“Nobody can build a wall like me. I will build a great wall on our southern border… Construction of the wall needs to start as soon as possible. And Mexico has to pay for it… Mexico will pay for it. How? We could increase the fees on temporary visas. We could even impound remittance payments derived from illegal wages. Foreign governments could tell their embassies to start helping, otherwise they risk troubled relations with America. If necessary we could pay for the wall through a tariff or cut foreign aid to Mexico…” – Donald Trump, “Crippled America,” 23-25.
Each of these quotes demonstrates that Trump is by no means a conservative when it comes to fiscal policy. One of the cornerstones of conservative fiscal policy is free trade. Yet in the first quote, Trump encourages protectionism in economics, which is the opposite of free trade. In the second quote, he supports tariffs as a possibility for paying for his projects. Again, raised tariffs are the opposite of free trade. Moreover, Trump has been vocal in opposition to NAFTA and other free trade agreements. Each of these shows beyond any question that Trump is not a conservative when it comes to fiscal policy.
“If we’re going to continue to be the policemen of the world, we ought to be paid for it. …There is another way to pay to modernize our military forces. If other countries are depending on us to protect them, shouldn’t they be willing… To pay for the servicemen and servicewomen and the equipment we’re providing? …We defend Germany. We defend Japan. We defend South Korea. These are powerful and wealthy countries. We get nothing from them.” –Donald Trump, “Crippled America,” 32, 34.
Whatever Trump has said about nuclear missiles and the like aside, this quote shows that Trump has very little grasp of foreign policy. He sees the United States as a mercenary that hasn’t been paid. He sees our military forces as dollars and cents. More astonishingly, he sees American lives lost defending allies as price tags. How much is the life of one soldier worth? Trump would put a price on it, and then sell that to the highest bidder. I’m not making that up: just read what he himself wrote in his election book!
Later in the same chapter he asks rhetorically why we didn’t make a deal with the leaders of Kuwait “that outlined how they would pay for us to get their country back for them…” (35) before Desert Storm.
Effectively, Trump here suggested we should have extorted money from the leaders of another sovereign nation before we went into military action. Thank goodness he wasn’t in charge of our country during World War 2! We would have had to negotiate with the Allies on the price of our help before we sent our brave soldiers to the shores of Normandy!
Trump has also been vocal about his opposition to NATO, an immensely important military alliance. The dismissal of many of our closest allies by Trump, often accompanied by accusations that the United States must pay too much money, once again shows that Trump’s foreign policy is based upon nothing but the bottom line. But of course foreign policy based purely on flawed economic theory (see “Fiscal Policy,” above) is not the best way to practice foreign policy. Neither is dismissing allies as though they have done “nothing” for us (see his quoted comments above on Germany, South Korea, and Japan).
Time and again, we see Trump’s foreign policy largely can be summed up by dollars and cents. When those dollar signs are set alongside the lives of Americans, as they clearly are in Trump’s mind, there’s a huge problem with his foreign policy.
Look, simply appealing to the Supreme Court as the reason to select a President shows already how broken the system is. First of all, one’s alleged Supreme Court nominee list is not a “policy,” per se, so I’m confused by my conservative friends continuing to say that policy is the reason, and then citing SCOTUS as the only reason. That said, I don’t for a minute believe that we, conservatives or not, want Donald Trump selecting SCOTUS nominees. For one thing, as already mentioned, Trump believes the constitution should serve his whims when it comes to freedom of speech. Think he doesn’t know that the Supreme Court could help him achieve that if he can appoint judges he wants? Think again.
Of course, Trump has also said his pro-choice sister would make a great Supreme Court justice. He may have changed his mind about that–and it seems some are very willing to believe anything that Trump has changed his mind on–but for conservatives, that should have warning sirens blaring at full.
This article explores this difficulty further.
It’s no secret that Trump is repeatedly on record voicing pro-choice ideals throughout his life. Only once he began to run for President–ostensibly as a conservative Republican–did Trump begin to say he was pro-life. But time and again, Trump has been blindsided by pro-life basics. When asked about what should happen if abortion were made illegal, he waffled his answer, saying there should be “some kind” of punishment for women who have abortions. More recently, in the third Presidential debate, he botched an explanation of partial birth abortion and failed to nail Clinton to the wall for her radically pro-choice perspectives that go against both science and logic.
Let’s be honest here, anyone who is truly convinced of the pro-life position ought to be able to articulate it, right? But Trump has demonstrated time and again that he cannot do exactly that. It should be extremely easy to expose Clinton’s talk about abortion for what it is: euphemism. But Trump could just repeat what seemed a memorized piece of rhetoric.
So we have an allegedly conservative Presidential candidate who can’t even articulate and defend the pro-life view beyond some catch phrases, and who fails to press the attack against what should be a fairly easy target.
There are many other reasons I would refuse to vote for Donald Trump, but I hope this post makes it clear that policy is one of those reasons. If my conservative friends and family and acquaintances–and I love you all, don’t let this sound any different–really, truly are conservative, they need to provide for me answers to all of the above. How is it that any of the above policies are conservative?
Grace and peace.
I hope you’ll enjoy the latest round-up of really recommended posts for you, dear readers! This week, we have Aquinas on faith, a response to a claim about Jesus’ view of women, church and state, and Syrian refugees as topics. Let me know what you think, and be sure to let the authors know as well!
Response to Kevin DeYoung’s “Our Pro-Woman, Complementarian Jesus”– Philip Payne is a fantastic biblical scholar, and here he dismantles an article from complementarian Kevin DeYoung in which the latter argued that Jesus would agree to the subordination of roles for women. Also check out Part 2 of the response.
Aquinas on Faith and Reason– Thomas Aquinas had some intriguing things to say about the relationship of faith and reason. So often, people dismiss faith as patently absurd or against reason. Is that the case? Check out this post to see Aquinas’ insight.
The Church is Not the State– Some timely words regarding interpreting Scripture in light of our own nation.
The Syrian Refugee Crisis Moved Into My Neighborhood– Sometimes the best way to discuss controversial topics is to look at case studies. Here is a specific story from someone who had Syrians move into her neighborhood.
The purpose of this blog is to discuss things related to the Christian worldview. I tend to try to avoid political issues, but I recently saw a number of friends sharing an article entitled “Workers in Seattle Have Their Precious $15 Minimum Wage. But Now They Want Fewer Hours” and I wanted to respond. I will be analyzing the article from the Christian worldview perspective.
Summary of Article
The article in question points out that Seattle’s minimum wage was raised, but some who are working minimum wage have asked to work fewer hours so they do not lose their government benefits. The author writes:
[E]mployees of a non-profit group in Seattle who’ve achieved their glorious goal of the $15 minimum wage are actually asking their employers for FEWER hours. The reason? Now that they make more money, they no longer qualify for subsidized housing. So they figure if they work fewer hours, they’ll make less money and they can stay in their government-provided cheap apartments –
After sharing a few quotes, the author comments:
HOLY SOCIALISM, BATMAN!
Basically, they want a “living wage” (whatever the heck THAT means) AND they still want all the freebies the government gives them. Because that’s TOTALLY the point of working hard and being independent.
First, I ran the numbers given in the article regarding minimum wage and cost of living in Seattle. It’s fairly straightforward, as the author shared a quote (without disputing it) of the prices involved. According to the article, the cost of a one-bedroom apartment is 1200$ a month. The cost of child care was about 900$ a month. That adds up to 2100$. Now we do the math on the wages. $15 an hour, 40 hours a week, about 4.5 weeks per month = 2700$. Now this is basically granting the most possible money because some months do only get 4 pay checks, but we’ll go with it.
The math therefore shows that, ignoring any taxes whatsoever, there would be 600$ left over a month for utilities, food, auto/renters/life/health insurance, transportation and related costs, and the like.
Whatever else might be in question here–whatever economic theories one favors–these are the numbers the article itself acknowledges. For Christians, this is the kind of data that we should seek out and try to form our opinions around. Of course we need to have economic practices which are sustainable, but as Christians we must also keep in mind the demands on our conscience towards the “other” in need. We should seek more information and be cautious about making broad statements on either side; whether we agree or disagree. Misrepresenting liberals is just as bad as misrepresenting conservatives.
A Christian Moral Response
The bottom line is that there is absolutely no way around the biblical teaching about caring for the poor and needy–even if we don’t like their “life choices.” Thus, the tone of this article is highly inappropriate as it mocked those who were in need throughout with phrases like “I’m not addicted to government welfare…” thrown in as snide remarks towards those who are on some kind of welfare.
A Christian response to this should be to immediately shut down any kind of mockery of other persons, period. There is no space in the Christian moral system for carelessly decrying those who are in need. Regarding the exact phrase in question, suppose we take it literally–what is the Christian response to addiction? Should it be to point out how we ourselves are not addicted and move on from the one who is? I don’t think so. I believe that we must continue to help those in need–even if addicted. That said, the dubiousness of taking the meaning literally is of course clear. It, like the rest of the article, was directed as mockery of those in need and those who have rival economic theories trying to help them.
I’m not trying to favor one theory over another–whether pure capitalism or pure socialism or some mix is best is a topic for a completely different day and post–the issue involved is rather the tone we should carry even in disagreement. Rather than mock, should we not aid and instruct as needed?
The most frequent response I received when I shared concerns related to the article was that I needed to be instructed on economic theory.
Note that I have not commented on whether we need to raise minimum wage or whether we need to make it a “living wage.” I don’t particularly want to enter that debate and the quagmire that follows it. My comments have been on the ethical concerns with the article and its tone. We have looked at the numbers involved, and I suggested those should be a consideration regarding a Christian response to such issues. Other than that I think that we must at all costs avoid the kind of tone present in the article. We ought to treat others as we would be treated.
Finally, as a practical concern, would not a reasoned response sharing one’s own disputes about the economic theory(ies) involved in the article be more convincing than poking fun at the specifics of another’s situation? I believe so. I certainly don’t respond well when the beliefs I hold are mocked. That is a surefire way to shut down conversation rather than spur it forward. If the intent is to convince, would not a winsome approach work better?
Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Secularism in International Politics
The quote this week is from Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, The Politics of Secularism in International Relations, a book which makes me reminisce upon The Myth of Religious Violence by William Cavinaugh. The book is about how secularism comes into play with international relations, and how secularism is often turned into the wielding of power of the secularist over the religious other. Here’s a juicy quote explaining one of the products of secularism:
“[T]he objective of laicism is to create a neutral public space in which religious belief, practices, and institutions have lost their political significance… The mixing of religion and politics is regarded as irrational and dangerous. For modernization to take hold, religion must be separated from politics… Laicism adopts and expresses a pretense of neutrality… This makes it difficult for those who have been shaped by and draw upon this tradition [laicism] to see the limitations of their own conceptions of religion and politics.” -Elizabeth Hurd, “The Politics of Secularism in International Relations,” 5.
What do you think of the concept of laicism based upon this quote? Have you heard of it before? What are your thoughts on the possibility of the presumption of secularism in politics?
Book Review: “The Myth of Religious Violence” by William T. Cavanaugh– I review the book which has led me to discuss the ways the category of religion is used to stigmatize the other and also forced me to rethink a number of issues. I highly recommend this book.
Another search of the internet has turned up a number of excellent posts. I have found another diverse array of topics for you to browse at your leisure. This week, we’ll look at dinosaurs, Ray Comfort’s Evolution vs. God, cave diving, preterism, design, the economy, and Mumford and Sons!
Dinosaurs, Dragons and Ken Ham: The Literal Reality of Mythological Creatures– Often, the claim is made that legends about dragons sprang from humans living alongside dinosaurs. Young earth creationists cite this as evidence for their position. Here, the Natural Historian sheds some light on these claims in a well-researched post with plenty of pictures for those of us with short attention spans. I highly recommend following this blog as it remains an outlet for great analysis of young earth claims.
Evolution vs God– Another issue which has been making the rounds on apologetics/Christian sites has been the recent video by Ray Comfort, “Evolution vs God.” The video is available to watch for free on youtube. Feel free to check it out yourself (you can find a link to it here). My good friend over at No Apologies Allowed seems to endorse it to a limited extent (see his comment on this post), and his comments have touched off a great discussion: [DVD] Evolution vs. God. On the other hand, the Christian think-tank Reasons to Believe has offered their own brief video review (the link will stat playing instantly) of the movie which has a very different perspective. What are your thoughts?
Some Questions Concerning my Preterism– I am not a preterist, but I appreciate well thought out positions and the insights they provide into their positions. Here, Nick Peters shares a number of question-and-answers related to his preterist views. Preterism is the view that the majority of the prophecies found in Revelation and the like have been fulfilled, usually in the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.
The theory of intelligent design (Video)- As one friend sharing this video put it: “A video on MSN featuring Michael Behe narrated by Morgan Freeman? What world did I wake up in?” My thoughts exactly. This video is a very basic exposition of the theory of intelligent design. Check it out.
Cave Diving and Apologetics– I like caves, though I have never done cave diving and almost certainly never will. I found this post to be fairly helpful in regards to drawing out some of the dangers of apologetics and going everywhere at once. I wasn’t terribly appreciative of the explicit appeal to defense of Catholic dogma, but apart from that the post is pretty solid.
Mumford & Sons: Five Songs With All Sorts of Christian Undertones– A really excellent look into several Mumford & Sons songs. I admit I’m not a big fan of the style of music, but I found this post fascinating nonetheless. Check it out.
What happened to the economy after Democrats won the House and Senate in 2007?– People who know me personally realize that I am a complete mishmash of political views. I frankly despise both major political parties because I think they are both ridiculously partisan and do little correctly. That said, I found this post to be a pretty interesting look at the economics of policy. Let me know what you think.
The U.S. election in 2012 is just around the corner. I think it is a monumentally important election for a number of issues. I have surveyed the ‘net for Christian perspectives on varied political issues and presented them for your browsing pleasure. We are all biased, we cannot deny that, so please don’t bother accusing me of being biased one way or the other. I’ll talk issues, I won’t debate whether or not I’m biased (I am, and so are you).
Natural Law and Christians in the Public Square– One of the most difficult questions for Christians in politics is “How do we interact in the Public Square?” David VanDrunen provides a way forward by viewing Natural Law as a way to interact in the public square with people who don’t share our beliefs. It is an extremely lucid article, and I highly recommend it.
A Mormon in the White House?– One area that many Christians have expressed concern about has been whether we can vote for a Mormon without violating our conscience. Nick Peters over at Deeper Waters has a fantastic article that approaches this from a unique angle. Here’s one choice quote:
What we have to ask [in regards to the President] is not “Who believes like me the most in religion?”, but “Who is more capable of doing the job?”
If there is one area we should be concerned about, it’s that Christians unfortunately are not producing the best candidates. Christians are shying away from politics when we shouldn’t. There are several brilliant Christian minds that could make a difference in the world if we will allow them to do so.
Are Reproductive Rights Civil Rights?– Another area of major importance in the election concerns reproductive rights. Paul Rezkalla discusses this hot issue from a unique perspective: whether it involves civil rights. I have written a great deal about abortion specifically on my pro-life page.
California: Obamacare exchanges will raise health insurance premiums up to 25%– Obamacare is supposed to make life easier on those without health insurance, and even on those with health insurance. Does it actually do that? This case study in California suggests otherwise. Wintery Knight’s site is awesome in general, so I would recommend you browse it.
Should we vote for 3rd party candidates?– A pragmatic argument for voting with the major parties in order to bring about the most possible good. There is an alternative view on why we cannot compromise offered below, the post with a title starting “Abolitionist’s Voting Guide.”
Abolitionist’s Voting Guide addendum, or more info on how we will note vote Romney– Abolish Human Abortion, a movement I wholeheartedly support, offers this post on why we cannot vote for compromise regarding the abortion issue. Equally important is their “Abolitionist’s Voting Guide” which argues against any type of compromise when it comes to one’s vote. I highly recommend reading this along with the post above on whether we should vote 3rd party. It will help give you a balanced perspective.
Your Vote in this Election– Tom Gilson at Thinking Christian urges Christians to vote and to use discernment in their voting decisions. Some great advice in a concise form here.
Freedom of Religion and the HHS Mandate– I write about HHS Mandate and the fact that it is not so much the issue of contraception or abortion that is at stake; rather it is religious freedom that is under attack.
Modern Secularism and its Disdain for Conscience– Are Christians imposing their religion on others? Can we vote for what we believe? A number of tough topics are tackled in this great post.
A Pre-Election Post: Abortion and the Right of Conscience– Matt shares some insight into the right of conscience in the medical field. He explores how the topic relates to the coming election.
For the Roman Catholics out there (and those interested, like me!), check out Disciple’s post on the Vote which features a number of Catholic resources for voting discernment.