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World Association of International Studies

Post Living Between Two Kingdoms: Should Clergy Hold Elected Office?
Created by John Eipper on 01/09/21 3:53 AM

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Living Between Two Kingdoms: Should Clergy Hold Elected Office? (David Duggan, USA, 01/09/21 3:53 am)

I don't live in Georgia and wouldn't if you paid me. For my money Sherman didn't do enough damage on his march through that state.

But even though I don't have a dog in the fight who represents Georgia's citizens in Congress or its state legislature, I am deeply disturbed that two ordained clergy members--one an Episcopal priest--have been elected to the United States Senate and the Georgia Senate. It isn't their politics to which I object: it is the fact that they are forgetting their primary mission to preach the Gospel come hell or high water. That is task enough and if these persons of-the-cloth think that they can serve both God and their constituents, they're going to be in for a rude awakening.

The Constitution creates a right for churches and their members not to be interfered with by the elected government. It does not create a reciprocal obligation that members of religious organizations abstain from involvement in their governments. That is entirely fair. Christians (and I suspect most persons of faith) believe that governments are instituted to keep us from our baser impulses, and provide some measure of security, perhaps even comfort. That mission is entirely consistent with the Christian (and other faith traditions') ideal of living in harmony, each under his own vine and fig tree.

But it is a perversion of that ideal to have ministers of any stripe in elected authority. How could a minister in good conscience vote to declare war even if attacked, or authorize Islamic law to be enforced, even if his constituents favored it? Abstaining doesn't cut it: there is no Solomonic solution letting the litigants resolve between themselves who gets the baby rather than have it cleaved in two so that each would get half.

The parishioners of the congregations once served by these clergy will have to answer to their own consciences why they let their pastors take this path toward secular authority. While the parishioners may have no claim to these pastors' free time, allowing them to get another paying gig that would occupy them during normal business hours essentially makes them second-class citizens of their districts: the pastor couldn't trim his time allocation in favor of his parishioners and those not part of his flock always hold the Damocletian sword over their representative: You are favoring your flock over the other members of your district. No Christian, ordained or not, should have to make that decision.

"My kingdom is not of this world," said Jesus to the ultimate authority on this earth. "If it were my servants would fight to prevent my arrest." And when Pilate said to Him, "Don't you realize that I have power to free you or crucify you?" Jesus' response rings ever more true now: "You would have no power over me if it were not given from above." (John 18: 36; 19:10-11.)

Ministers of the Gospel should heed that before taking an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign or domestic.

JE comments:  David, I haven't spent a lot of time in Georgia, but I do know not to mention Sherman to the locals.  As for clergy in public office, the Rev. Warnock will not be the first or the only one in the Senate:  Oklahoma's James Lankford is also a Baptist minister.  And according to the source below, there are seven ordained ministers in the House of Representatives (including the Representative of my Michigan district, Tim Walberg, who I note with dismay was one of the objectors to the January 6th electoral vote count).

Preachers and politicians share several skill sets, with public speaking first and foremost.  I do agree with David Duggan that one should not try to serve two masters at the same time.  Has Rev. Warnock resigned from Ebenezer Baptist?  I did a quick Google, and couldn't find an answer.

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  • Trump, McCarthy, Hitler (Massoud Malek, USA 01/10/21 3:56 AM)
    With the help of German philosophers, physicians, and scientists, Adolf Hitler brainwashed almost the whole German population. Germany is the country that produced the greatest modern philosophers.

    In 2015, Donald Trump, who shares Hitler's philosophy of racism, started his presidential campaign by attacking Mexican immigrants and promising to build a wall in order to stop them entering the US.

    In Senator Joseph McCarthy's era, most of the GOP's leaders found excuses to avoid challenging conspiracy theories that they knew to be implausible. McCarthy didn't care about the lives he destroyed with his baseless smears as long as he benefited.

    After becoming the most powerful man in the world, with millions of followers who accept and cheer his daily and self-serving lies, Trump became a cult leader like Hitler. Like McCarthy, he is cheered in public by almost all Republican politicians. After the US Special Counsel, Robert Mueller told Americans that charging Trump was not an option; Trump who has a narcissistic personality disorder with no leadership qualities, became a dictator and dangerous man. He separated the babies of asylum-seekers from their parents and put them in cages. By playing down the mortality of coronavirus, he made America a graveyard of COVID-19.

    For 1449 days until January 7, 2020, no world leader dared to criticize him in public.

    On July 27, 2020 Trump tweeted: "Anarchists, Agitators or Protestors who vandalize or damage our Federal Courthouse in Portland, or any Federal Buildings in any of our Cities or States, will be prosecuted under our recently re-enacted Statues & Monuments Act. MINIMUM TEN YEARS IN PRISON. Don't do it!"

    On January 7, Trump addressed a crowd of supporters before the riot and urged them to march on the Capitol (a Federal Building), then he returned to the White House and with members of his family and administration celebrated the riot at the Capitol that left five people dead.

    Here is a link to the video:


    JE comments:  In the Twitter thread above, former HUD Secretary and presidential candidate Julián Castro wrote, "If Trump is too dangerous for Twitter, he's too dangerous for the nuclear codes."  Hard to dispute that point. 

    Godwin's Law has been front and center since January 6th--in particular, the parallels with the Reichstag fire and before that, the Beer Hall Putsch.  The suggestion is that if Trump and Co. escape exemplary punishment or receive nothing more than Hitler's slap on the wrist after Munich, our democracy is doomed.  I'm not sure the comparison is a perfect one.  For one thing, Germany's democracy was still in its infancy in 1923, and more markedly, he (Hitler) claimed sole responsibility for the putsch.  It would be refreshing if Trump did the same for last Wednesday's rampage, but we can be certain he will not.

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    • Regarding Trump, Has WAIS Become a Kangaroo Court? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/11/21 4:15 AM)
      WAIS colleagues well know that I was a supporter of Bernie Sanders, far away from Trump.  Therefore I cannot be accused of being a Trump supporter. But now the WAIS Forum has become a kangaroo court against Trump and his supporters. Mao's Red Guards would be in admiration! No one found some excuse; even the Republicans of WAIS have chickened out, but the troubles of the Empire do not come only from Trump.  If the Empire does not change its approach to its internal and foreign problems, it is doomed.

      For sure the Empire will not solve its problem with Biden, Sleepy Joe the instrument of the Deep State. A complete change is necessary with new leaders.

      Finally, it is not a good show to attack mercilessly the defeated.

      JE comments:  Are we kicking a man when he's down?  That does show a lack of class.  But how "defeated" is Trump, really?  Monopolizing the public discourse (in WAIS and everywhere else) is a victory in and of itself.

      Please discuss:  should WAIS strive for more balance on the recent events in Washington?  Is "balance" even possible?

      And now, dear friends, I'm off to class.  After a six-week break, today kicks off the new semester at the College.  We'll be masked up and mostly face-to-face, with some students tuning in remotely.

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      • Is WAIS Kicking Trump While He's Down? (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 01/12/21 3:57 AM)
        Eugenio Battaglia (January 11th) accused the WAIS Forum of being a kangaroo court against Trump: "it is not a good show to attack mercilessly the defeated."

        There is a saying in Spanish that illustrates what Eugenio seems to mean: "Hacer leña del arbol caído" ("to make firewood from the fallen tree"). But it seems to me that he is exaggerating or misinterpreting what has been said about Trump after the assault on the Capitol. Being a severe critic of him is not "making firewood."

        From what I recall, Trump has always been criticized as an unfortunate accident in US politics. He has always been accused (here on the Forum and elsewhere) of being a demagogue, narcissist, sociopath, opportunist and unscrupulous politician. However, the matter has been aggravated by the events of January 6th, because undoubtedly Trump was its instigator and promoter, and it would be unforgivable not to condemn his actions.

        Eugenio is right about one thing: Trump is not the only problem the United States has, and probably he will unfortunately continue to be a protagonist unless he is punished through prosecution. He will continue to be a dangerous populist messiah for large sectors of society, and I would add that he is not and never will be a Fascist, though he is very close to the worst version of totalitarian fascist goals. Finally, I disagree with Eugenio's romantic socialist aspirations, because I believe Sanders would not have been the solution. On the contrary, he would have aggravated all the nation's problems.

        Let's give Biden and the Democrats a chance and see what are they capable of achieving amidst these unfortunate inherited circumstances, particularly because of the damage done by Trump to the Democratic institutions of the US.

        JE comments:  The urgency of condemning Trump is not so much for what he's done, but for what he still might do.  He used to be merely obnoxious; now he's become a genuine threat to the 245-year-old fabric of American democracy.

        Surprise--my inbox is overflowing with comments on the events of last week.  He may have been booted off social media, but Trump is still very much dominating the news cycle.

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      • Against Trump, We *Must* Draw a Hard Line (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 01/12/21 4:30 AM)
        In response to Eugenio Battaglia (January 11th), I think that what Trump has done with regard to the election results, and especially with stirring up a deadly mob attack on the Capitol, is so harmful and so dangerous that it is absolutely worth "mercilessly attacking"; whether Trump is defeated or not is beside the point. We need to draw a clear line against such behavior, and doing so does not constitute "chickening out." Comparisons with Mao's Red Guards are ridiculous.

        And none of this in any way contradicts objecting to Biden as a warmonger, which I do, and a representative of the "Deep State," which I do actually think is a thing. Eugenio's call for a "complete change with new leaders" is a great idea--I'm all in favor of it--but it must not be achieved through mob violence and attacks on democratic processes. We must draw a hard line against this approach, including the strongest possible condemnation of the main instigator of it, our soon to be ex-president.

        JE comments:  Ironically, the goal of a "complete change with new leaders" is what got us Trump in the first place.  Biden's election reflects conservatism in the literal sense:  a return to the status quo ante of the pre-Trump era.  At least since November I've been mulling over a hypothesis:  with Trump, and except for the superficial trappings of social and religious "conservatism," the concepts of "conservative" vs "radical" have been completely reversed.  The putsch of January 6th was many things, but "conservative" is not one of them.

        Cameron, when time allows, could you share the general contours of how you understand the Deep State?  Is it global capitalism and the multinational corporations, bolstered by the Coastal Elites (let's say, Davos et al.)?  The fabled Military-Industrial Complex?  Or is it something less obvious?

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    • Trump and Mussolini (Massoud Malek, USA 01/12/21 10:15 AM)
      Lately on the Forum, I am reading about the kangaroo court against Trump, that Trump is not a fascist, and finally, that Trump followers are the impoverished Americans who finally found a voice.

      Since 2016, Donald Trump refused to accept any result that made his opponent the winner of an election. He repeatedly and clearly explained that he will never commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

      Combined with Trump's relentless disinformation campaign, his celebration of violence against journalists, and incitement of armed militias, historians and experts on fascism warned that Trump is behaving like Benito Mussolini who introduced the Blackshirts in 1919.

      In her book, Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University historian, wrote:

      "From 1922 to 1925, Mussolini was prime minister of a democratic coalition government. But he slowly chipped away at democratic institutions, insulting the press, using violence against the left, joking that he would be in office for 20 years, establishing a militia and a legislative body (the Grand Council) loyal to him."

      Jason Stanley, a professor of philosophy at Yale University, defines fascism as "a cult of the leader who promises national restoration in the face of humiliation brought on by supposed communists, Marxists and minorities and immigrants who are supposedly posing a threat to the character and the history of a nation." He told NPR's All Things Considered: "The leader proposes that only he can solve it and all of his political opponents are enemies or traitors."

      This time, there is no way to accept the quantum universe about the future or the argument of Newton's third law. The argument that Trump has about 88 million Twitter followers is irrelevant. Donald Trump must be punished harshly. The American democracy is much more important than a man who told the impoverished Americans that you should destroy the symbol of democracy.




      JE comments:  Eugenio Battaglia must be rubbing off on me:  With the (enormous) exception of leading his country into a suicidal war, Trump is in many ways worse than Mussolini.  For starters, Il Duce delivered infrastructure and many social benefits to the Italian people.

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