Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Trump Talk with Jared Wilson

Twitter is an odd thing to me. It seems as if all the people who care the most about expressing their opinions on controversial issues decided to pick the social media platform that is least suited to that end. Sometimes we’ll see people stringing together ten tweets in order to make a single point, which is odd. Why not just let us type more than 140 characters? For all of the hate that Facebook gets, it’s vastly superior to Twitter in this regard.

Nevertheless, the other night, I gave in to one of those irksome retweets that occasionally find their way into my feed through some friends of mine. It was this tweet from Jared Wilson:
The moral contortions evangelicals are doing to demonize HRC while defending Trump are breathtaking. The butt fumble of political discourse
There’s nothing particularly unique about this tweet. It’s pretty much par for the never-Trump course. It’s just that sometimes all of the anti-Trump rhetoric reaches a breaking point, where I can’t seem to resist the urge to fire back. And that’s what this tweet happened to be for me. I’ve already said that Twitter isn’t built for thoughtful dialogue, and the debate that ensued between myself and Wilson proved no exception. So I’m writing this post in order to say everything that I wanted to say during that exchange.

Here’s the first part of our exchange:
@jaredcwilson Trump’s flaws don’t even begin to compare with Hillary’s evil. This choice is not the least bit difficult.
@JoelGriffis You’re right. And it begins with soberly realizing that Trump’s “flaws” are equally evil.
@jaredcwilson Please write a blog post explaining how Trump’s flaws are just as evil as promoting and celebrating infanticide. Please.
So my request was for Wilson to explain how Trump is just as bad as Hillary. And I was looking for some detailed and thoughtful ethical comparisons. So Wilson linked me to a post he wrote back in June. In that post, he repeatedly asserts, in variously smug ways, that Trump is just as bad as Hillary and that evangelicals who vote for him are morally compromised. So of course, I was still left with my original question: How is Trump just as bad as Hillary?
@jaredcwilson That’s just a frustrated rant. You make the same assertion in half a dozen different ways. It doesn’t answer my question. 
@JoelGriffis If you are familiar with Trump’s career and lifestyle and cannot call it evil, I’m sure I can’t help you.
I’m perfectly willing to say that Trump is evil. That’s the whole point of voting for the lesser of two evils. But the reason I tend to refer to Trump’s problems as “flaws,” and Hillary’s problems as “evil,” is because I think there’s a vast difference between the two as it relates to their potential roles as president, and I want that to be reflected in the language that I use. Wilson, on the other hand, likes to simplistically refer to both Hillary and Trump as “evil,” without any distinction of language, because that plays better into his insistence that Trump and Hillary are equally evil. But that’s the whole debate.
@jaredcwilson You can’t seriously place “race-baiting” alongside abortion-celebrating. Wake up man. 
@JoelGriffis His serial adultery, pornography, *and* ambiguous abortion views are very much on par. I am awake. You’re a relativist
To give some context to these remarks, let me quote something Wilson said in his June post:
“You want me to avoid the race-baiting, womanizing, greedy and boorish dullard by voting for the abortion-consecrating, national security-compromising, rapist-supporting liar? Or vice-a versa? No.”
It truly does surprise me that when Wilson wrote this sentence it didn’t hit him like a ton of bricks just how vastly more egregious Hillary’s flaws are than Trump’s. And that’s even assuming the ones he listed for Trump are accurate, though I don’t think all of them are. I’m afraid the whole race-baiting thing is something I just can’t take seriously. Boorish means he’s bad-mannered, which Wilson apparently thinks is morally comparable to abortion-consecrating. And to call Trump a dullard – a stupid person – is absurd. You don’t become a billionaire by being stupid. Lacking personal morals and manners is not the same thing as lacking intelligence. Trump is far more intelligent than the majority of his critics.

Note also that Wilson called me a relativist, which I found odd. A relativist is someone who thinks that moral laws are subjective; that what’s immoral for one person may not be immoral for someone else. But where did I even vaguely communicate such an idea? Trump’s womanizing is just as morally reprehensible as anyone else’s womanizing. But if you’re accusing me of thinking that there are in fact degrees of sin, and that some sins are more relevant to the task of presidency than others, then I’m happily guilty as charged. Only that’s not relativism.
@jaredcwilson But they’re not on par at all. How can that be obvious to you? 
@JoelGriffis Unsurprised it’s not obvious to you. He’s GOP, ergo his evil gets a pass. Porn/adultery directly related to abortion culture
Wilson truly went out on a limb insinuating that I’m a blind follower of the GOP. I couldn’t care less about the GOP as such. But I do pay enough attention to notice that the GOP consistently produces the most conservative electable candidate, so that’s the candidate I vote for. But if Hades freezes over one day, and the democrats produce that candidate, then I’ll gladly abandon the GOP.

Wilson does make a decent point about the inter-relatedness of sexual immorality and abortion culture. I’ll readily agree that those two issues, generally conceived, are related on a macro level. Although I’m not sure we can say definitively which problem facilitates the other. Does sexual immorality facilitate abortion culture, or does abortion culture facilitate sexual immorality? Be that as it may, it seems obvious to me that Trump’s personal promiscuity, while morally reprehensible, is not a direct contributor to the institutional slaughter of millions of unborn babies. But Hillary’s personal “abortion-consecrating” values, on the other hand, would be a direct contributor if she became president.
@jaredcwilson Don’t give a rip about the GOP. I’m after the candidate who will do better things for our country, and its unborned citizens. [edit: unborn, lol]
@JoelGriffis If you’re convinced that’s Trump, like I said, I can’t help you. Too many wrong paradigms leading to that relativistic choice
The “paradigms” leading me to conclude that Trump would aid the pro-life cause are the same “paradigms” leading me to conclude that Hillary would hinder it. Is Wilson even sure that Hillary is pro-abortion? If so, how does he know that? Is it not based on what Hillary says and does? What else does he have to go on?

Someone else in the Twitter conservation made the oft-repeated point that Trump described himself as pro-choice in 1999, which should make us suspicious. But what kind of sense does it make to assume that someone is probably not pro-life today if he was pro-choice 17 years ago? By the same logic, we can’t be too sure that Hillary supports gay marriage today, because at one time (very recently actually) she didn’t support it.
@JoelGriffis There is zero evidence to point to Trump as pro-life and a lot that points the other way. Racism, misogyny are pro-death too
Let’s review some of the evidence that Wilson says isn’t evidence: Trump picked an unquestionably pro-life vice president in Mike Pence. Trump has repeatedly vowed to appoint conservative, pro-life, Scalia-like justices to the Supreme Court, and has released a list of potential appointees showing that he knows what kind of people to look for. Trump has repeatedly denounced the horrors of Planned Parenthood, and has consistently supported defunding the organization. Trump also created a pro-life coalition within his campaign, headed up by Marjorie Dannenfelser and a number of additional pro-life leaders. In light of all this, it’s no surprise that pro-life organizations keep endorsing Trump. He has even caused fear and trepidation within the pro-choice camp, who seem to be taking him far more seriously on this issue than they’ve taken previous GOP candidates.

So I have to confess that if people like Wilson continue to insist that none of this stuff really counts as evidence that Trump will aid – or will even likely aid – the pro-life cause, then I’m not sure what else to say. The commitment to #NeverTrump seems to have reached a level that’s impossible to reason with.

I hesitate to comment on Wilson’s remark about racism and misogyny, because I find it so completely unfounded. If Trump were a racist, why are there a large number of black people who don’t think that’s true? Why doesn’t Ben Carson think that? David Clarke? Perhaps Don King is a little off the wall, but what about all those other people in that black church? Why don’t any of these individuals think that Trump is a racist? I would submit that it’s probably because Trump is actually not a racist, and that the people who view him as such have an extraordinarily poor understanding of what racism actually is.

And I would say the same as it relates to misogyny. Trump has certainly been nasty to a number of his female critics, but he isn’t any more or less nasty with his female critics than he is with his male critics. There’s no reason to think that he harbors some kind of particular animosity toward women in general.

But here’s the fundamental problem with Wilson’s remark in my mind: It’s one thing to maintain, for bad reasons, that Trump is a racist and a misogynist; but it’s another level of absurd to claim those problems are as equally life-destroying as the pro-death policies that are explicitly written in to the party platform that Hillary proudly represents. I simply can’t take that seriously.

Another stream of the debate went like this:
@JoelGriffis I for one cannot bend biblical morality to fit my preferred political party. 
@jaredcwilson David and Solomon were womanizers who were celebrated in their role as kings. 
@JoelGriffis Oh brother. Now he’s King David. Evangelicals have lost their minds, traded in morality for political soup
With what little bit of a mind I’ve got left, I’d like to respond to this. Wilson made as if I was claiming Trump would be the next king David, as if I was saying Trump is a man after God’s own heart or something, which I obviously wasn’t saying. I was pointing out that if Wilson wants to present himself as a champion of the Bible’s civil leadership standards, then he should probably pay attention to the fact that a number of celebrated kings in the Bible were womanizers to a degree that makes Trump look like a one-woman man.

Wilson’s correct in that the Bible makes no excuses whatsoever for their immorality, but it does celebrate them in their role as kings. So if a womanizer could be a good king (who has total power) in Old Testament Israel, where godliness was far more expected of the leadership; then surely a womanizer could be a good president (who has limited power) in these pagan United States, where godliness has virtually no place in the political realm.

To give a more modern example of the same kind of thing: I suspect that most people would speak positively about the presidency of JFK, even though by all accounts he was a serial adulterer. As morally inexcusable as his adultery was, it didn’t keep him from being an effective president who did good things for the country.

And once again, none of this is said in order to excuse womanizing even a little bit.
@jaredcwilson Why are you shallowly deflecting my point? I didn’t say he was David. I said womanizers can be good kings. It’s in the Bible. 
@JoelGriffis You are the one who calls such things “flaws.” The Bible calls it evil. David was a murderer too, so I guess HRC is exonerated
So if David was also a murderer, then maybe Hillary gets a pass too? That’s a fair reductio, although I’d say an isolated instance of purposefully facilitating the death of a military commander by means of a particular battle formation (evil as that is) hardly compares to authorizing and celebrating nation-wide policies that lead to the destruction of millions of babies. I’ll let the point stand regardless.

It was Wilson who wanted to paint himself as the one who’s being most faithful to the Bible, so I simply offered a biblical consideration. But all he did was run a reductio on it, like I was being silly to talk about biblical kings and such. So I guess all I’ll say is that if Wilson doesn’t think biblical civil leaders are relevant to a debate concerning the Bible’s view of . . . civil leaders, then that’s fine. Let’s talk about some other part of the Bible that Wilson thinks is relevant. (And I’m only being a little bit facetious, because I do think it’s reasonable to question the relevance of Old Testament monarchy to our present-day American experience.)

Let me try to make some concluding remarks now.

I’ve said often that Trump’s promiscuity is easily the most regrettable thing about him for me, and it’s something for which he should be deeply ashamed. But as the old saying goes, I’m voting for a president, not a pastor. And despite how much scorn has been heaped up against that sentiment during this election cycle, it remains a perfectly valid consideration. Your auto-mechanic can do a fine job fixing your car regardless of what his personal morality looks like.

I anticipate that here someone might respond by saying that the president’s job is much different than the auto-mechanic’s. It’s the kind of job where character really matters. I think that’s a fair point, and very true to an extent. But let’s chase that thought further.

What kind of character matters? Would never-Trump evangelicals be willing to vote for a candidate who was not a Christian? I assume that most of them would say yes. But what does a candidate’s unbelief say about his character? Well, he presumably is someone who thinks he has no need for Jesus, so he’s self-righteous and prideful to some degree. That’s a character flaw. But is it the kind of character flaw that matters? If not, then what kind of character flaw does matter?

To bring it right down to the point: Which one of Trump’s character flaws will render him incapable of putting policies into place that are going to be good for the country as a whole? How will sexual immorality, for instance, keep him from being able to defund Planned Parenthood, or reform immigration, or fix the economy, or keep the nation secure? Do that math for everyone, and show your work.

But now let’s see if there are anywhere near as many steps in the math when it comes to Hillary and her flaws. Wilson described Hillary as “national security-compromising.” So how will Hillary’s tendency to compromise national security keep her from being able to maintain national security? You see how the question sounds silly, because it basically answers itself? You see how there’s a direction correlation between Hillary’s flaw and her role as president?

And how will Hillary’s consecration of abortion keep her from being able to fight against abortion? Once again, no math required. The question answers itself, because there’s a direct correlation between Hillary’s flaw and her role as president. Only this time, it really is wildly inappropriate to use the term “flaw,” because we’re talking about the destruction of millions of unborn lives.

A good friend of mine recently told me that he can’t bring himself to vote for Donald Trump, because he would view such a vote as an endorsement of Trump’s character. But if you vote for a non-Christian, is your vote an endorsement of their unbelief? If you voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, was your vote an endorsement of his Mormonism? If you voted for George Bush or John McCain, did that mean you endorsed everything they supported? Did it mean you endorsed everything they ever said or did? If not, then why does voting for Trump have to be seen as an endorsement of his personal character? Why are only certain kinds of flaws, and not others, seen as being practically endorsed by a vote?

Regardless of how these questions get answered, at the end of the day, if my friend simply can’t vote for Trump in good conscience, because he would view his vote as an endorsement of Trump’s character, then I sincerely respect that. I do wish he thought differently, but I’m perfectly willing to respect his conscience in the matter, and I have no intention of demonizing him. And I feel confident that this friend would say the same back to me. That’s the kind of #NeverTrump I can live with.

But speaking for myself, my conscience refuses to let me sit this election out, when I’ve been privileged with a vote that can help put someone in office who will be far more likely to make this country even just a little bit safer for its unborn citizens. My conscience also refuses to let me sit this election out in a different way by voting for a candidate who has about as much chance of winning as my grandma does.

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