No Faith & No Freedom

faith-freedom-logoEarlier this month, the nonprofit group Faith & Freedom Coalition released their voter guides for the 2016 election.  On their website, they offer free “nonpartisan”  information.  Simply click on the link for your state, and presumably, you receive information tailor-made for your ballot.  Interested to see what they had to say, I decided to check it out.  For Virginia, they listed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as well as their stances of a variety of issues.  However, here in Virginia, five candidates qualified to make the ballot for president.  In case you didn’t know, the other candidates are Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Evan McMullin (Independent), and Jill Stein (Green).  Would the Faith & Freedom Coalition really leave out over half the candidates?

I decided to try another state.  After all, only three candidates appear on every state’s presidential ballots, but some states feature candidates that others do not.  The results were the same.  They only included information for Clinton and Trump.  I tried another and another and another.  Each time, the voter guide for the next state was the same as the one which preceded it.  Why would the Faith & Freedom Coalition exclude a majority of the candidates?  Wouldn’t doing so intentionally cause them to be guilty of a sin of omission?  Check it out for yourself.

14642453_10154023403516705_7858503810550547758_nGiving them the benefit of the doubt, that they didn’t actually do their research about who was actually on the ballot in each state, I left a message for them on their Facebook page alerting them of their error.  When I went today to check if they responded, I discovered that they had deleted my comment and banned me from posting any further messages.  This response is particularly amusing and hypocritical, especially given that before posting their voter guide they put up the image you see to your right.

Unfortunately, as I’ve written in a previously piece entitled “The Fall of the Religious Right“, I am coming to the opinion that the Faith & Freedom Coalition may very well be one of these sham faith groups, claiming to be nonbiased and nonpartisan, but serving as a shill for the Republican Party to herd unwary Christians into supporting the GOP and their candidates even when these candidates, like Donald Trump, have held contrary opinions on almost every major issue, including abortion, and subscribe to a personal morality far removed from traditional Christianity.  After the tape of Donald Trump’s bragging of supposedly committing sexual assault emerged, Ralph Reed, the founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, became one of Trump’s most ardent defenders.

Given this effort by the Faith & Freedom Coalition to misled people into believing they only have two choices, I would strongly recommend that my friends and local church congregations not distribute these deceptive “voter guides”.  How is a group who engages in this sort of activity any different from the corrupt Commission on Presidential Debates?  Perhaps, if the Faith & Freedom Coalition were a little more honest about their efforts, they should call themselves the No Faith & No Freedom Coalition for it seems that with this voter guide they have no faith in the American people to make the right decision if properly and honestly presented with all of their options and that they have no desire to expand political freedom beyond the two choices that a growing number of American Christians find equally unacceptable.

Not Pretty Enough to be Assaulted

14666152_1149900021742063_6973398896478308030_nRecently, a few of my Facebook friends have been sharing the image you see at the beginning of this article.  As you likely know, an increasing number of women have been coming forward declaring that Donald Trump has sexually assaulted them.

Now, are these women telling the truth or it is simply an attempt for them to gain some notoriety and hurt Trump’s campaign for president?  The short answer is that I don’t know. Neither do you.

Is it true that sexual assault occurs?  Of course!  Is it also true that some people fabricate stories in the hopes of becoming famous or tarnishing the reputation of others?  Again, yes.

However, this photo dismisses the claim of the woman on the right using the following logic.  Donald Trump is married to an attractive woman (as pictured on the left), therefore, why in the world would he sexually assault a woman society would consider far less attractive?  She must be lying!

This is a horrifying rationalization and one that I hope all decent people would reject regardless of their opinion of Donald Trump and his candidacy for president.

From what I’ve read, sexual assault isn’t so much about sex but rather an expression of power.  Abusers enjoy the thrill of dominating another person, especially the unwilling and imposing themselves on others. It isn’t about two people sharing each others’ company and expressing this mutual affection physically, but one person asserting themselves as a dominate party, despite the wishes of the other.  It is an ugly reflection of a badly damaged soul.

When I was an undergrad at William & Mary, I was informed that one of my fellow students and political associates was sexually assaulted.  Never once did I ask myself, is she pretty enough to be assaulted?  Is her story believable based on her physical appearance?  No, this thought never entered my mind because it is absolutely monstrous.

Imagine, if you will, that a friend, neighbor, or perhaps even your own daughter came to you and confessed that she had been sexually assaulted by some rich and powerful individual.  Would you dismiss the claim out of hand declaring, “Honey, I’m sorry, but you just aren’t attractive enough to be assaulted.  This man you are accusing could do so much better than you.”

Along those same lines, what if this kind of defense could be used in a court of law?  Regardless of the merits of evidence, a person could be acquitted simply on the basis that the supposed victim isn’t attractive enough to be sexually assaulted.  What a horrible perversion of justice that would be!

Now, we know from a recent audio recording that Donald Trump has bragged about sexually assaulting women.  And no, that should never be considered mere “locker room talk”.  Sexual assault is a serious violation of a person’s rights and it shouldn’t be swept under the rug simply because the person doing the assaulting is rich and/or powerful.  Everyone should have equal rights and equal dignity under the law.

I’m not saying that these recent allegations of sexual assault against Donald Trump are true or false or that some are true and others are false.  Again, I don’t know and, chances are, you don’t know either.  However, to dismiss claims of sexual assault based upon the appearance of the supposed victim is ludicrous and anyone who promotes this line of thinking ought to be ashamed.  I never want to hear the line “she isn’t pretty enough to be assaulted.”

The Fall of the Religious Right

Image from Jerry Falwell Jr's Twitter page
Image from Jerry Falwell Jr’s Twitter page

One of the more peculiar aspects of this election season is the fact that many evangelical leaders of the Christian right seem to stand steadfastly behind Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump regardless of the overwhelming evidence that he is a bigot, a racist, and a misogynist.  Then again, many of us surmised as much when he first announced his candidacy declaring that Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists.  In addition, although paying lip service to Christianity, Trump’s speeches and comments clearly demonstrate a very shallow knowledge of the Bible and gloss over or outright contradict the important tenets of the religion.

So, why do some important Christian leaders continue to stick with Trump?  After all, back in the 1990s, many of these very same people condemned Bill Clinton for his moral indiscretions such as his adultery, mistreatment of women, and his deception regarding the whole affair.  And now, after all of the evidence, both past and present, isn’t it abundantly clear that Donald Trump shares Clinton’s questionable (or downright immoral) moral character?  When you look at it objectively, what is the real difference between Bill Clinton and Donald Trump?  And yet some ignore, forgive, or even defend Donald Trump’s moral failings.  If our religious leaders won’t defend the dignity of women and the rights of minorities, what does that tell us about their view of God?

Image from Pathos.com
Image from Pathos.com

I worry that many years ago quite a few Christian leaders made a Faustian bargain with the Republican Party.  These people have such a desire for power that they were willing to downplay or even sanctify the moral failing of Republican politicians while condemning their opponents in exchange for political influence.  Only now, with a man like Donald Trump, does this pact become undeniable.

It is becoming painfully obvious that Donald Trump was right when he said the following.  “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.  Okay?  It’s like incredible!”  This maxim seems to be especially true regarding the support of the Religious Right.  Unfortunately, with each new revelation about Trump, there is little doubt that some of our so-called moral leaders suffer from a broken moral compass.  Even worse than that is the fact that they use their influence and supposed holiness to delude their followers into following their poor example.

This whole affair reminds me of something Jesus said. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.” -Matthew 23:13 NLT.

I’m certain that these same leaders would not hesitate to condemn Donald Trump if he were the Democratic nominee for president instead of the Republican one.  They would declare that his moral character is deficient and is unworthy to be president.  Yes, I support there are some reasons to vote for Trump, but none of them include his character or morality.  Therefore, how can this behavior be considered anything but gross hypocrisy?

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XL)

img_0392On Wednesday, October 5th, Andy Schmookler and Joshua Huffman appeared on WSVA, 550 AM for their 40th radio hour.  The main focus of their discussion was the previous night’s vice-presidential debate between Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia (D) and Governor Mike Pence of Indiana (R).  Toward the end of the program, with one month to go until the election, they also offered their predictions of how things will turn out.

As always, if you missed the program live, you can find it here.