Thursday, July 27, 2017

troll theology | our bigot in chief | keep your eyes on the pearl

So let's be really clear. The president of the United States of America is trolling the American public, distracting us (quite successfully) by blowing a very loud dog whistle.

His goal: displace headlines on the collapse of the ACA repeal and collusion with Russia.

His dog whistles: transphobia, the culture war, anti-government propaganda, and religion.

If it were pure politics, I might not enter the fray. But this kind of politics gets up into my space, the space of religious faith. It also uses messaging about a community I love (the queer community) as a tool.

When you use bigoted language for your own power purposes, you are yourself a bigot. Pure and simple.

What we now know is that the tweets Trump threw up the equivalent of pyrotechnic chaff. They're either a profound misunderstanding, or an actual lie. But they're posted as a tool of distraction.

Trump wrote in a series of three tweets,
"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."
This precipitated a statement from chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff,
"There will be no modifications to the current policy [on service of transgender people in our military] until the President's direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance. In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect. As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions."
See how this works? The military has no current plans to make any changes to policies around transgender personnel, but the president posted three long tweets about it, and all hell broke loose.

Which then makes you wonder... after a dog whistle on transgender, what's the next topic.

Of course, the answer is religion.

Just as many of our largest Christian organizations in the United States make sure they publicly express exclusion of the transgender community in order to maintain their base, so too Trump knows that after the culture war, the biggest focus of his base is "God" as they understand it.

In other words, Donald Trump has learned from the Christians their two main goals: worship God, and hate on queer people.

It has been good to see many religious organizations go public immediately after Trump's bigoted tweet, expressing support for the transgender community. It's essential. One of the best came from the UCC:

The United Church of Christ and the Open and Affirming Coalition stand today with our transgender members, neighbors, friends and family throughout this country.
This morning, President Trump imposed a total ban on service by transgender Americans in the United States Armed Forces. The action was announced less than 24 hours after the Texas Senate voted to bar transgender people from public bathrooms that conform to their gender identity.
Our transgender neighbors live in a climate of fear. Transgender women of color are dying on the streets of our cities, and 30 states fail to provide any legal protection for transgender citizens from discrimination in housing, employment or public services. The President has now banned transgender Americans from military service “in any capacity,” including more than 15,000 who are currently serving their country on active or reserve duty.
Discrimination in any form violates our values as followers of Jesus Christ and as Americans who believe in liberty and justice for all. Transgender citizens in uniform have proven time and again their dedication to this country. They deserve our support and respect.
In 2003, General Synod affirmed “the participation and ministry of transgender people” in the United Church of Christ and pledged support for “their civil and human rights.” Acting on this resolution, the UCC’s national officers and the Open and Affirming Coalition urge congregations and other settings of our church to stand publicly with our transgender members and neighbors in this urgent time, and whenever and wherever their dignity as human beings and their basic rights as citizens are threatened.
Together, we strongly affirm the work of United Church of Christ chaplains in the armed forces, who are faithfully serving our transgender neighbors in uniform. Their ministry is needed now more than ever.
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
The Rev. Mak Kneebone
Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ
I wish my own denomination, the ELCA, had a public statement up already, but alas, they do not. A major ELCA affiliated ministry, Reconciling Works, does have something up, though, which is good.

They write, "ReconcilingWorks’ celebration of the 750th Reconciling in Christ (RIC) community comes in the midst of this morning’s announcement to discriminate against transgender people by banning them from serving in the military. As transphobia increases at the local, state, and federal level, your faith community’s voice is needed to speak a truth of love and inclusion. It is holy work for Lutheran communities to make a public commitment to see, name, and care for LGBTQIA+ people and their families."

When the leader of the free world trolls the American people, abusing the trans community in the process and flashing the "worship God" card to justify it, communities of faith find themselves in a difficult spot. They of course need to directly respond to the messaging itself, and express in very clear ways their continuing love and support of communities who contribute so much to our shared life and faith.

They also need to keep their eyes on the prize. Religion is here dredged up for a completely nefarious purpose: distraction from real and legitimate issues. While we talk about Trump's tweets, the Republicans are eviscerating health care coverage.

Providing quality health care for all people is a moral imperative. It's our responsibility. Christians of good faith need to be at the front lines of the conversation, not with libertarian agendas assuming each person for themselves, but rather with a kingdom ethic of shalom for all.

We are called in a moment like this, as much as we are being trolled, to love and protect and stand with those who experience collateral damage from the trolling, and then also keep your eyes on the prize, which is health care for all, and the maintenance of the integrity of our democratic system.

Religion (in my tradition anyway) isn't there as a tool for bigotry. It's not a rigid structure that enforces discrimination. It's there as a calling back to the ethics of Jesus, and the vision of the kingdom he articulated.

Matthew 13:44-46: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in their joy they go and sell all that they have and buys that field. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, they went and sold all that they had and bought it.

1 comment:

  1. Bishop Eaton issued a statement on the healthcare debate, which may be in part an effort to keep attention focused on the consequential issues (the main part being the statement itself, of course)