James G. Gilmore

Ideologue. Polemicist. Episcopalian. Curmudgeon.

Irreligious Christians and Donald Trump

“Why did these religiously unaffiliated Republicans embrace Trump’s bleak view of America more readily than their churchgoing peers? Has the absence of church made their lives worse? Or are people with troubled lives more likely to stop attending services in the first place? Establishing causation is difficult, but we know that culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful.”


John Pavlovitz: “It’s Time We Stopped Calling Donald Trump a Christian”

“Jesus says that we can judge people. We should evaluate the things we can see. We can measure devotion to God by what is manifested outwardly. We look at the ‘fruit’.

What is the fruit of Donald Trump’s life, of his marriages, his business dealings, his campaign, of his young Presidency? […]

It’s rotten fruit, that’s what it is.

It’s exactly the kind of greedy, bloated, bitter, violent, self-centered, myopic existence that Jesus spent his life calling us to reject. So no, I don’t know the President’s heart or his inner confession of faith, but I have eyes and they see no love or benevolence or compassion—and that does matter to Jesus.”

Depressing Poll Numbers: A Failure of Church Leadership

“According to a Pew survey conducted before the election, about two-thirds of white evangelicals (67%) and mainline Protestants (65%) believe that America does not have a moral responsibility to accept Syrian refugees.

This represents a failure on the part of evangelical and mainline clergy.

In some cases (likely the bulk of mainline cases, in my opinion), it’s a matter of what is preached: the clergy know and understand that the Bible commands us to welcome the refugee and give shelter to those who are fleeing persecution, but don’t preach this truth to their congregations for whatever reason.

In other cases (probably more prevalent among white evangelicals), it’s because the clergy themselves hold unbiblical and heretical views, believing that God restricts that commandment to refugees of certain ethnicities or religions, and intends (or doesn’t particularly care) that we refuse shelter and safety to those of the “wrong” ethnicity or religion.

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” -James 3:1

Moral Leadership from Pope Francis

“You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian,” he said. “You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes. You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25. […] It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help. If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”

Concerning the Inauguration of Little Donnie

Just like our nation’s rituals, traditions, and customs for campaigns and elections, our nation’s rituals, traditions, and customs for the inauguration of a new president—the prayer services, the ceremony, the pomp and circumstance—make certain assumptions about the person who is being inaugurated.

Our rituals assume that the person being inaugurated at least believes that truth exists, and considers themselves in some way morally bound to tell it.

Our rituals assume that the person being inaugurated has at least some shred of concern for the country and its people rather than his or her own self-indulgence.

Our rituals assume that the person being inaugurated has at least some semblance of a moral compass, believes in the existence of good and evil, and believes that they are morally bound to do good.

And just as the moral wasteland of Little Donnie’s candidacy put the lie to the assumptions behind our nation’s campaign and election traditions, so too is the impending moral abyss of Little Donnie’s presidency putting the lie to the assumptions behind our nation’s inauguration traditions.

And so, we too must change our approach—particularly those of us who are part of the Episcopal Church, the denomination that has historically been most closely linked with many of those traditions and rituals.

We cannot uncritically laud someone who has demonstrated exactly none of the fruits of the Spirit, who proclaims himself a Christian while standing against everything Jesus Christ preached and lived, who has said countless hateful and vile things and repented of exactly none of them.

We cannot uncritically laud the rhetorical and civil structures of this country that so utterly failed in their moral duty to speak truth to the American people and challenge Little Donnie’s lies, omissions, pretensions, and falsehoods.

And we cannot uncritically laud a political system that would enable such a person to take power in defiance of the will of the people and give him such unfettered ability to sow hatred, cruelty, violence, and chaos in this nation and around the world.

No, we must change our approach. We must be prophetic, not just priestly. We must do everything we can to throw our bodies and our institutions in between Little Donnie and his henchmen, and the vulnerable children of God they would seek to oppress, harm, expel, or kill.

And we must loudly proclaim, in word and deed, the same message Jesus proclaimed in the Gospel of Matthew: The Kingdom of God is coming, when charlatans and tyrants like Little Donnie will be humbled and laid low, when the lowly and oppressed will be lifted up and honored.

To continue as we have, and pretend that all of this is normal, would be a profound abdication of our moral responsibility. The center has fallen and all of our assumptions and our patriotic pieties are laid waste, in the wake of Little Donnie’s earthquake of immorality.

We must repent, we must resist, we must reclaim, we must renew, and we must rebuild—or we will surely fall.

“The birth pangs of a Third Reconstruction”

“We can’t succumb to those who bought Christianity. Nor can we yield the moral high ground because we’re angry with them. Deep religious and moral values have been the backbone of every great progressive movement; prophetic imagination must come before we see political implementation. When the social gospel looked at children dying from child labor and people dying without labor rights and people in slums and poverty and not having a minimum wage and they asked, ‘What would Jesus do?'”

The Evangelical Church Has Lost Its Witness In Supporting Trump

“In their naked grab to be kings of the world, evangelicals traded the real Kingdom. The Good News was exchanged for a golden ticket. Cardinal church views on money, sex and power were rejected for a seat at the head table. Long after Donald Trump is inaugurated, long after his first presidential term and long after whomever will hold the following term, a closely watching world will remember, millennials will remember, and today’s children will remember the evangelical church’s disgraceful posture in the 2016 election: bowing to Trump, rather than bowing to Christ.”

Election 2016

My heart is aching tonight.

It is aching for the millions who will suffer when they lose the health care they need to survive, the LGBT people who may see their marriages voided and their identities denied.

My heart is aching for the people around the world who will live in greater fear that they might say or do something that sets off the great American bully.

My heart is aching for the Congolese refugee family that our local refugee ministry just settled here in New Bern, who escaped the dangers of a war-torn violent hell only to find themselves in a new hell of terror and fear, and the thousands of other families like theirs.

My heart is aching for the immigrant families who will be torn apart, for the Muslim Americans who will live in fear, for the people of color who thought they might be able to believe that things could get better but will now (rightly) view every white face with suspicion.

My heart is aching for the Church, so corrupted by love of money and the scourge of nationalism that we lacked the moral strength, wisdom, and faith in Christ to stand up as one and say “NO. We do not accept this.”

There is no victory tonight, only sadness and dread. We are entering a period of great darkness, and for the first time in my life, I am not sure that the country I love will make it to the other side.

How to Stop the Trump Gallop

Advocates for science are familiar with an argumentative technique called the “Gish Gallop,” a term coined by Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education.

Scott named the Gish Gallop in “honor” of creationist Duane Gish, who had a habit of laying out long strings of claims against evolution, one after another—all of which were either questionable, evidence-free, or simply dishonest.

If Gish had written just one or two of those claims, it would have been easy for the science advocates to point out exactly where he was wrong—but because he’d spew out a stream of them all at once, the amount of time and text required to refute his ridiculous claims made it extremely difficult to do.

I mention this because that’s what I see happening in the presidential election right now.

In the average day on the campaign trail, Little Donnie says at least ten things that would have been considered disqualifying from any other candidate—not just the racist, sexist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic stuff (which is utterly deplorable and disqualifying in its own right), but also things that would, by themselves, demonstrate that he is completely unsuited for the presidency.

But because he does these things all at once—rather than one at a time, bit by bit, piece by piece—our narrative-chasing “journalists” don’t know which one thing to fixate on. As a result, they do not subject Trump to the same high standards of intelligence, knowledge, or coherency to which they’d subject an ordinary presidential candidate (and to which they’re subjecting Sec. Clinton). Meanwhile, liberals and progressives like me notice that the “journalists” are treating Trump with kid gloves, and complain about that—sharing Trump scandal after Trump scandal in hopes that maybe our media will start doing their job.

When conservatives and liberals are both talking about one candidate, who is getting ignored? The other candidate.

The Trump Gallop not only lets him get away with a thousand lies and a thousand offensive things, said in sequence so that no one thing is picked apart—it also lets him suck all of the oxygen out of the room. He plays the media like a drum, making the whole conversation about him.

Recent polling has showed that younger millennials in particular, who were energized by Sen. Bernie Sanders’s candidacy, are increasingly supporting third parties, in part because they don’t believe that the two real parties’ candidates are speaking to their needs. And there’s evidence that Little Donnie’s recent rebound in the polls has less to do with his persuading more people to vote for him, and more to do with decreasing enthusiasm and increasing negativity among supporters of Sec. Clinton.

Earlier this week, Sec. Clinton’s campaign rolled out a new policy proposal on student debt and tuition—one that kept many of the good ideas from her original plan, but also rolled in many more of the good ideas from Sen. Sanders’s proposals during the primary.

But because the Trump Gallop was sucking all of the oxygen out of the room, that policy proposal didn’t get the attention it deserved.

Surrogates from the Trump campaign weren’t challenged to defend his (lack of) plan for college affordability or student debt. Surrogates from the Clinton campaign weren’t given the opportunity to present an agenda that would help millions of American young adults. We didn’t have a discussion on CNN or MSNBC or the Nightly News about why tuition costs are so high or how the candidates are addressing this issue. Social media streams (where many millennials get their news) were abuzz with the latest Trump atrocity, and not with Sec. Clinton’s plan to help young adults who are financially struggling.

And as a result, the American people—and particularly young Americans—lost a chance to truly evaluate which party considers their opportunities and their success a priority.

So if you’re a supporter of Sec. Clinton—like I am—you have one job:

Every time you share an anti-Trump article on social media, share a pro-Clinton article too. Every time you talk about how terrible Little Donnie is to your friends or family, turn it around and talk about what Hillary Clinton wants to do.

Hillary Clinton is a progressive, exciting candidate. The Democratic platform was the most progressive party platform ever. We have good reason to be excited about what she’ll do as president. But we need to share that excitement and give people a reason to vote for her. Let’s do it.