Trump and Albert Mohler

A piece at The Bulwark takes-up the incandescent hypocrisy of Albert Mohler’s recent endorsement of Donald Trump.

Most of Trump’s association with evangelicals has been dubious; he has spent time with prosperity-gospel preachers who dabble in outright heresy, such as Paula White, while also courting megachurch pastors within established denominations, like Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas.

More recently, though, Trump has earned a backhanded endorsement from a far more intellectually and morally serious evangelical figure: Albert Mohler, author, radio host, and president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

It pains me to take public issue with Al Mohler.

I’m already tuning out, because Albert the Pious is neither intellectually nor morally serious. If he were intellectually serious, he would not be a theologian and would not lazily presuppose the foundations of his beliefs; No, he would undertake to prove them.

As it says in — What do you know? — the Good Book.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

Matthew 7:24-27

A man who insists that the well-being of his club should have precedence over marriage is not morally serious; he is merely a cult-leader.

Evangelicals mistake a certain gravitas for seriousness, and it sets them up for plucking.

You might argue that religious anti-liberalism has a certain nihilistic bent, but you’d hardly get that impression from Mohler, with his three-piece suits, rep ties, and cleanly polished Allen Edmonds shoes. Still Mohler’s position creates a framework that allows him to take public positions that leave him vulnerable to a variety of criticism.

[ … ]

Consciously or not, when Mohler recently pledged his support of the Republican party, he gave theological cover to the party, from Mitch McConnell’s cunning Senate moves all the way up to President Trump’s troubling rhetoric.

This is a valid criticism. Though Mohler doesn’t deserve the high regard accorded him, he does enjoy a certain standing amongst pious morons, and now the left-behind, malice-eaten fools in the pews can point to Mohler to validate their support for Trump. It’s a sort of argument from authority — even if the authority is bogus and convincing to only the poorly-educated.

Soon after Trump’s election, I predicted that the consequence of their support would be devastating to evangelicals.

Third, 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, and that will eventually sink into public consciousness, as in, Wait a minute! What are you saying? The church people gave us that piece of sh*t p***y-grabber?! Yep, they did — and that will be the tale of how the Evangelical Right and ‘movement so-called conservatism’ committed political suicide. They might make some noise, occasionally score a small victory … but they are done. The Trump administration, with its inevitable serial indecencies and corruptions, is their achievement, and they will never live it down.

Few people actually pay much attention to evangelicals or have any idea who Mohler is. For those who do, and haven’t surrendered their common decency, Mohler’s support for Trump must have them wondering whether there is a scintilla of decency to be found anywhere on the Evangelical Right.

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Cui bono?

The lead editorial in a recent issue of Science magazine takes-up something I’ve written about often through the years and, as Covid-19 continues its relentless march across the country, is now exacting an awful price: the anti-science mindset of so many Americans.

It’s baffling that as the world struggles to tame coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a large portion of the population ignores the fact that wearing masks and practicing social distancing dampen the spread of the pandemic. Even when a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available, the benefits of achieving herd immunity will be endangered if growing antivaccine sentiment leads some folks to refuse to get vaccinated. American science denialism, in particular, persists, even at the highest level of leadership, with a president who denies climate change and a vice president—a devout creationist—who believes that Earth is only 6000 years old.

I entered kindergarten soon after Sputnik alarmed the free world with its insolent beeps, and was part of the Sputnik generation of schoolchildren — STEM 1, so to speak. The space race was on and astronauts and scientists and engineers were public heroes, admired and celebrated.

The year I left college with 2-engineering degrees is the year that the blowback began, the year that Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority and the year that the so-called Conservative Resurgence — a sharp turn toward the most backward-looking fundamentalism — began in the Southern Baptist Convention.

I hear a lot from our readers and stakeholders about how to solve this problem of science denial. Most of them suggest that Science and science “need to do a better job at telling its stories.” I don’t buy it. For more than a century, this journal has been delivering insightful and reliable scientific information; today, our articles have the highest readership ever. Sure, we can do a better job of simplifying messages and making them accessible to more people. There is always room for improvement. But is this really the crux of this dangerous problem?

The scientific community is up against a sophisticated, data-driven machine that is devoted to making sure that science doesn’t fully succeed, and the history of this is quite clear.

Yes. And as the lawyers ask, Cui bono? Who benefits?

I see three groups.

  • Religion   Every clearheaded, well-educated adult knows that the Christian narrative is false; there is simply no educated, intellectually serious conversation to be had about it. Naturally, then, Pastor Bubba regards a good education as a threat, and that’s the reason he constantly disparages reason and science and encourages vacation trips to Ken Ham’s ridiculous amusement parks.

  • America’s geopolitical adversaries   A nation of ignoramuses — the sort of people who can’t recognize that Donald Trump is a moron, say — works to Russia and China’s advantage.

  • The left behind   Remember that high school kid who was so cool and went to work at the hardware store right after graduation and didn’t bother with college? He’s discovered that he made a bad mistake and the geeks have left him behind — and he’s pissed-off about it and not going to miss an opportunity to disadvantage the educated.

Rightly or wrongly, Sputnik was perceived as an existential threat and the American public rallied against it; there was a corresponding cultural shift toward the importance of education, especially a technical education — the hard stuff, that Periodic Table thingy that hung on the wall of the science classroom.

Will Covid-19 have a like effect on American culture? Beats me, though I don’t mind admitting that I’m not very optimistic. The good news is that it has become a subject of discussion on cable news and by people like Dr. Fauci, not just out-of-the-way blogs like Civil Commotion. The all-important next-step is going to be hard, though: the well-educated have to confront the morons head-on at the dinner table and stand-up for the importance of education and against the cost of ignorance.

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Superspreading

Apparently, and more than many other viruses, Covid-19 profits from superspreading events.

The evidence about superspreading activities has led researchers to believe they are responsible for much of the new coronavirus’s transmission. “All of the data I’m seeing so far suggest that if you tamp down the superspreader events, the growth rate of the infections stops very, very quickly,” Scarpino says. “We saw in Seattle that there were at least a couple of introductions that did not lead to new cases”—implying that the virus can fade out if it is denied circumstances for spreading.

But in the U.S.—where there have been nearly 2.16 million cases and more than 117,000 deaths—those situations may be on the rise. States are reopening businesses and activities, which means more people are coming in contact with one another in larger groups. So minimizing conditions that allow superspreading events to happen will be crucial for keeping COVID-19 in check.

The gist of it seems to be that gathering in close association with a large group for a protracted period — classroom, church, a political rally, and similar — is more dangerous than a brief encounter. Wear a mask and avoid large gatherings, in other words, but don’t freak-out because you have to detour through the grocery store.

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Church: Bad for your health

Everybody who pays attention knows by now that some church or other is the locus of countless Covid -19 outbreaks. Go to church, breath in that air swirled around by a bellowing pastor and mediocre choir, and hope you don’t make the obit section of your local newspaper (if one is still published in your area, I mean).

So religion is not merely bad for your mind, and your character — it can kill you.

Even so, here is a Holy Man who is shaming non-attendees.

I’m very happy that each one of y’all are here this morning, but here’s where I’m not happy this morning. I want you to look around. Look around this morning. We have Sister [redacted] and Sister [redacted], they’re gone on vacation. [Redacted] and [redacted] and their family is not here. [Redacted] and [redacted] and their family is not here. Sister [redacted] is not here. [Redacted] and [redacted] is not here this morning. Miss [redacted] is not here. Sister [redacted] is not here. [Redacted] and his family is not here. Sister [redacted] and [redacted] and some of the children’s not here. [Redacted] and [redacted] is not here this morning. Sister [redacted] and her children is not here. [Redacted] and [redacted] and [redacted] is not here. [Redacted] and [redacted] and [redacted] is not here. [Redacted] and [redacted] and their family is not here.

Well, good for [redacted] et. al. If they know what’s good for them, they’ll stay away.

And here is a church where there’s no need to worry about the family next to you; the pastoral team is infected and, if you don’t get it sitting innocently in the pew, you’ve got a good chance of being infected when the pastor shakes your hand and insists upon a few moments of polite chit-chat on the way out the door.

Grace City Church, a fast-growing Hillsong Family church in Lakeland, Florida, waded into the divisive issue of mask-wearing in Florida Sunday when it announced that it would ask members to wear masks after the church’s husband and wife team of lead pastors revealed they had been infected with the new coronavirus.

During an online service Sunday, the pastors of the church, Andrew Gard and his wife Christina, confirmed their “mild” infection with COVID-19. The confirmation came after they gathered for the first time in person since the lockdown began for a church prayer night on June 14.

Well. That puts a new and interesting spin on the “Good News,” don’t you think?

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WH knew of bounties in 2019

The Associated Press is reporting that the White House knew in 2019 that Russia was paying bounties to the Taliban for the death of American soldiers.

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.

The Trump Administration will lie about it, and the GOP will protect them; it’s just another bad headline that will be overtaken by some other of Trump’s serial indecencies.

#AnnihilateTheGOP.

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