Have We No Decency?
July 31, 2019 5:02 AM   Subscribe

 


I can't decide if I can really get all wound up about these specific thoughts and these particular prayers but, ya'know, I think I'll take 'em.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:11 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


> As faith leaders who serve at Washington National Cathedral ¬– the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance...

Sacred space, you say?
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:15 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


I can see the National Cathedral from my living room, and appreciate its graceful beauty and presence in a city often vilified by those who do not live in it. The leadership of the Cathedral often take stances on social justice, including displaying panels from the AIDS quilt and taking down windows that honored Confederate leaders.
posted by wicked_sassy at 5:21 AM on July 31 [29 favorites]


It's well and plainly said, and the kind of statement I expect from my religious leaders. Full disclosure: raised Quaker, became Episcopalian, my mother was a late-life convert who was called to the Episcopal priesthood, so I take core Christianity seriously in a world where Christianity has very little to do with Christ and a great deal to do with politics and misinterpretation of the hodge-podge of literature that makes up the so-called Old Testament.
posted by Peach at 5:22 AM on July 31 [18 favorites]


Decency? From this administration? Or for that matter, this current crop of Republicans? That's good for a sad laugh this morning.
posted by Catblack at 5:46 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


Surely this, etc.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:53 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


No, this will not convince a single right-wing christian, but yes, it is good and important nonetheless.
posted by sugar and confetti at 5:55 AM on July 31 [23 favorites]


Betteridge's Law. No, no we haven't.
posted by whuppy at 6:14 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


Am I overthinking the idea that they used the image of the Pences standing next to the Trumps on purpose?

Perhaps it's designed to take a microscopic chip off the wall that Pence has built between his faith (whatever that means these days) and his political reality.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:16 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


It'll be interesting to see if Trump himself goes on a tweetstorm over this or if he sicks his pet Christian, Pence, on them. For some reason, the idea of Trump loudly and publicly declaring who is and is not a "real christian" makes me want to grab some popcorn.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:25 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


One the one hand, good for them. I'm not aware of the Cathedral's leadership every having taking such a clear and public stand against a political figure's behaviour.

On the other hand, that first paragraph is so very carefully worded to the word "racist", and the whole thing avoids ever calling Trump what he is, a racist. We, once again, get "racial overtones," that Trump makes more explicit "dog whistles"' and that he "gives cover" to white supremacists.

I'm just so fucking tired of people tiptoeing around this obvious truth.
posted by Frayed Knot at 6:49 AM on July 31 [13 favorites]


While it's nice to see this, it's not likely to do anything to slow the accelerating race to (below) the bottom.
posted by tommasz at 6:56 AM on July 31


What this example of how to be may do is encourage low information wobblers who’ve heretofore kept the Catastrophe out-of-focus to sit up take notice and be the kind, thoughtful, public-spirited citizens they believe themselves to be.

More please.
posted by notyou at 7:03 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


There's some tiptoeing, but this is directed at the passivity of the American people more than the racism of the president. And the people are where it has to end. Red Team has shown such an utter and complete absence of moral standards over the past two years (Trump), ten years (McConnell), 25 years (Gingrich) that expecting anything from them is a joke. And Blue Team has been beating the same drum for so long that no one hears it anymore. The people, from the outraged left to the embarrassed right and the whole damn middle, needs to get past this resignation and numbness to a point where stuff like this isn't OK anymore. Now that health care coverage is above 90% I'm afraid it's going to take forever for these people to die off on their own so we're actually going to have to get off the couch to fix this.
posted by Cris E at 7:04 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


I doubt it makes any difference politically, but I think it's important if the Cathedral wants to survive as anything resembling a relevant institution. (And I don't think there's any guarantee that they're going to survive. They're in a sustained financial crisis, because Evangelicals don't think Episcopalians are really Christian, and nobody who isn't Evangelical is necessarily inclined to give money to a national church. The Cathedral is kind of a weird, throwback institution that really only made sense in an era of elite WASP ascendancy.) We're in a clear moment of national moral crisis, and there isn't any point to having a national symbol of Christianity if they don't respond to national moral crisis. I think this is a fairly brave thing for the Cathedral to do, but they're really doing it to ensure the state of their own souls, and with that their relevancy and legitimacy as an institution, not because anyone is going to think "oh, yeah, maybe Mike Pence does not have a monopoly on interpreting the political implications of Christian thought."
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:11 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


It is all too easy to imagine a narrative being pushed in the mainstream conservative media that the National Cathedral has been taken over by social-justice extremists who don't reflect “American Christian Values”. (The more sober outlets like the WSJ may drop meaningful-yet-ominous-sounding references like “1970s Marxist ‘Liberation Theology’”, while FOXNews and tabloids rant feverishly about “radical whackadoodle leftists who love MS-13 and Antifa more than they do America” or something, but the message would be the same.)
posted by acb at 7:15 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


Will this threaten the Church's nonprofit status? (Strongly suspect that this administration would jump at the chance to use it to do so, while they look the other way for the "conservative" megachurches.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:24 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I think they've been saying some version of that stuff since the Cathedral embraced (or at least refused to resist) desegregation in the 1950s.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:24 AM on July 31


It is all too easy to imagine a narrative being pushed in the mainstream conservative media that the National Cathedral has been taken over by social-justice extremists who don't reflect “American Christian Values”.

I'm an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Washington and I used to be a regular worshiper at the cathedral, and this is pretty much already the case. I'm proud of my church for taking stands like this, but coming from the church that ordains and marries out gay and trans people, I don't really expect it to change many minds on the other side.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:24 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


“Decency”
“Honor”
“Liberty”
“Dignity”
“Freedom”
“Fairness”
“Humanity”
posted by growabrain at 7:36 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


I'm an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Washington and I used to be a regular worshiper at the cathedral, and this is pretty much already the case. I'm proud of my church for taking stands like this, but coming from the church that ordains and marries out gay and trans people, I don't really expect it to change many minds on the other side.

Yeah they already think we*'re fake Christians because we care more about, e.g., supporting immigrants and LGBTQIA+ people and feeding those who are hungry than like shaming people who need abortions so while I agree this is a good and worthwhile and important thing it's unlikely to change the narrative on the other side.

*Bulgaroktonos and I go to the same church largely on account of being married to each other
posted by an octopus IRL at 7:50 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


Until churches are willing to state publicly, "that person is not a Christian," or at the very least, "that person is not welcome in any Christian church until they have repented their sins with as much fervor as they put into their greed and cruelty," I'm stuck with the belief that the current crop of politicians are displaying Christian values and taking Christian actions.

I get that they're talking to their base, who are moderate/progressive Christians, and don't want to believe that anything at all could remove someone's "Christian" badge. But as an outsider, all I can tell is that Christianity is more interested in spreading its label than any of its often-contradictory values.
When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president’s sense of decency, but of ours.
If you're really not sure where that line is, the easy answer is, "when he started locking children in cages." Any "Christian leader" not declaring loudly, "no Christian would do such a thing; anyone in this administration who's not actively fighting to end this policy is not Christian," is supporting using the bible for evil.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:50 AM on July 31 [7 favorites]


No one Christian church has a monopoly on Christianity, and so can't unilaterally decide a universal definition of Christian. They could (some could, anyway, depending upon their doctrines regarding membership) excommunicate members who fail to uphold their values, but a Catholic declaring a Baptist to be not a Christian carries less weight than the morally-based (as opposed to identity-based) argument the National Cathedral makes.
posted by pykrete jungle at 8:24 AM on July 31 [7 favorites]


I'm not Christian, but my understanding is that a central tenet of Christianity is that all people are sinners, and part of being a Christian is struggling against your sinful nature, failing, and continuing to struggle because that's what Jesus wants you to do. So I don't think it makes sense to say that people are not Christians because they're committing a serious sin. They're failing to live up to their responsibilities as a Christian, and they need to struggle harder and do better, but a Christian who is sinning is still a Christian.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:36 AM on July 31 [8 favorites]


I don’t think those sorts of theological questions matter to most of Trump’s Christian supporters. He’s a hammer, and the things and people they hate are nails.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:49 AM on July 31 [8 favorites]


> Until churches are willing to state publicly, "that person is not a Christian," or at the very least, "that person is not welcome in any Christian church until they have repented their sins with as much fervor as they put into their greed and cruelty," I'm stuck with the belief that the current crop of politicians are displaying Christian values and taking Christian actions.

That's more or less contrary to the mission of most mainstream modern Christian churches, which is to provide a place of spiritual refuge. Even the excommunicated often can be* welcome back after appropriate displays of repentance and renunciation of whatever got them in trouble.

The National Cathedral can refuse to host events requested by Trump, but unilaterally blocking him from entry to the church would be problematic for reasons essential to their faith, way beyond the political shitstorm that'll be launched by doing it.

*(I'm hedging my words here because that's how the Catholic Church rolls -- when you're excommunicated, you're not only told why you're kicked out but what you have to do to be let back in -- but I'm less familiar with the major Protestant churches' doctrines.)
posted by at by at 9:27 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


They're failing to live up to their responsibilities as a Christian, and they need to struggle harder and do better, but a Christian who is sinning is still a Christian.

I think this is correct, but, at the same time, the concept of heresy exists for a reason. I think it would be reasonable for progressive theologians to argue that the doctrine of many protestant evangelical churches is heretical, and that it is this explicit refusal to accept the word of God that gives rise to the sins of their followers. I guess a political advantage of this is that it allows one to criticise church leaders while remaining open to those whom they have led so badly.

Of course, the reality is that the racism and misogyny that underpins the Evangelical worldview is not a theological phenomenon but a cultural one, but it borrow legitimacy from religion in a way that I think it would do Christian leaders credit to explicitly decry as unchristian.
posted by howfar at 9:30 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


I'm too lazy to Google it, but on those rare occasions when Trump has deigned to darken the doorstep of any church in DC (as opposed to professing faith at White House "Prayer Breakfasts" and whatnot), where has it been? I would like to see more and more settings where organizations (governments at the non-federal level, churches, etc.) stand up and say "you are not welcome here." Even if we fail to "de-legalize" his presidency, we can certainly do more to de-legitimize it.
posted by drlith at 9:36 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Can we keep in mind the very ugly American history of discrimination against religious minorities like Catholics and Mormons, too? Theological and moral arguments about what's more or less adherent to Christian principles are one thing but categorically defining people as not Christian is really not a great thread to pull on in pursuit of combatting bigotry.
posted by XMLicious at 9:38 AM on July 31 [8 favorites]


Resentment and distrust towards "liberal" mainline Protestantism is already simmering in Evangelical-land. The current point of argument is the willingness of some mainline denominations to welcome and even ordain LGBT Christians, which many Evangelicals consider heretical. If prominent mainline religious leaders threw out a broad accusation of heresy, I'm certain the response from Evangelicals would be something like "I think you're the fake Christian around here," reinforcing the divide and removing any leverage mainline organizations might have had towards Evangelicals. (Then again, if that lever isn't worth pulling now when will it be?)
posted by skymt at 10:00 AM on July 31


That's more or less contrary to the mission of most mainstream modern Christian churches, which is to provide a place of spiritual refuge.

For whom?
This sounds like, "we can't possibly kick out the Nazis; that would make us just as intolerant as them."

blocking him from entry to the church would be problematic for reasons essential to their faith

Their faith requires welcoming people who openly, unapologetically advocate torture of children?

I get that a core doctrine of Christianity (or most forms of it) is, "anyone, no matter what they've done, can repent and be saved." The question is whether people who absolutely don't repent, because they don't believe they've done anything wrong, are welcome in the community, and are considered members of the faith because they say they are. "As we say in Germany, if there’s a Nazi at the table and 10 other people sitting there talking to him, you got a table with 11 Nazis."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:52 AM on July 31 [11 favorites]


and taking down windows that honored Confederate leaders.

Is it still possible to kneel on a prayer cushion embroidered to commemorate "General William Sherman, Father of Modern Warfare”?
posted by straight at 11:12 AM on July 31


Until churches are willing to state publicly, "that person is not a Christian,"

This brings back a vague memory of Candidate Kerry being possibly denied communion in 2004.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 11:36 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


The (Episcopal) Book of Common Prayer allows a priest to deny communion to someone known to be "living a notoriously evil life" until they show proof of repentance and amendment of life. At least one priest in the Episcopal Church has written that he would deny communion to Trump (it sparked a lot of conversation in the internet Anglican circles I follow), but it's not something that's actually happened (barring something happening that's been actually private, like the BCP provision intends, but I feel like if Trump attended church and got a blessing instead of receiving, I'd have heard about it).
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:22 PM on July 31 [4 favorites]


If prominent mainline religious leaders threw out a broad accusation of heresy, I'm certain the response from Evangelicals would be something like "I think you're the fake Christian around here," reinforcing the divide and removing any leverage mainline organizations might have had towards Evangelicals

Well, yes. But decrying a monstrous perversion of the word of God is clearly a Christian religious duty whether it's politically expedient or not. (See under "Jesus, his life and work")
posted by howfar at 2:22 PM on July 31 [4 favorites]


In his first public statement, Washington’s new Catholic archbishop slams Trump for ‘diminishing our national life’
Washington D.C.’s new Catholic leader — the country’s lone black archbishop — on Thursday issued his first public statement since his installation, lambasting President Trump’s recent tweets about members of Congress of color as “diminishing our national life.”

Wilton Gregory, who came to Washington in May, is known through his long, prominent career for being nonconfrontational on hot-button issues in public, but working quietly behind the scenes — a model similar to the man he replaced, Cardinal Donald Wuerl. But on Thursday, Gregory signaled that he wants to use his higher-profile perch in the nation’s capital to challenge the use of identity — racial, national origin or otherwise — as a tool of attack.

“I have stressed that I am a pastor and fellow disciple of Jesus, not a political leader. There are, however, sometimes, when a pastor and a disciple of Jesus is called to speak out to defend the dignity of all God’s children,” he said in the statement.
posted by peeedro at 4:04 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


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