An Honest Appraisal of the First Weekend

On Friday, I pledged to be an honest appraiser of the new president and his actions, praising good ones and offering a critique for others not so good. Over his first weekend in office, President Trump gave me the opportunity to do both today.

Let’s begin with praise.

First, just seeing a photo of the Oval Office without its previous occupant is a relief for many of us. Second, Trump’s action in this photo is the beginning of fulfilling a promise: dismantling Obamacare. He issued an executive order that lessens the stranglehold Obamacare put on the federal bureaucracy—an initial step that prepares the way for a full repeal by Congress.

To those who may say this is no different than Obama’s use of executive orders, I say that it’s a world of difference. Obama used them to impose his will unconstitutionally; Trump’s simply eased the burden Obama imposed. That’s called reining in the government, not extending its overreach.

What may be perhaps a small token of the attitude of this new administration is also welcome: the return of the bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office. One of Obama’s first slaps in the face to our allies was his jettisoning of that bust.

Welcome back, Mr. Churchill.

There is another bust present in the Oval Office, that of Martin Luther King. Some in the media reported that it had been removed. That turned out to be utterly false; it was merely blocked out in a photo due to the angle of the picture with someone standing in front of it. That’s an indication of what the typical media will try to do. Shall we call that one fake news? Sounds right to me.

If only Trump had allowed his Obamacare executive order to be the focus. Instead, he had his new press secretary, Sean Spicer, come out in a press conference and trump up (sorry, I’ll do my best not to overuse that phrase in the next four years) an accusation that the media was falsely reporting on the size of the crowd at the inauguration.

To be fair, the media does do that on a rather consistent basis. Every year, at the March for Life (which will occur again next weekend), the media either ignores the March completely or does its best to downplay the turnout. So, yes, I know that happens. For a comparison of the inauguration crowds, this picture was used as evidence:

One can always question the use of such pictures. At what point was the picture of the Trump crowd taken? Was it at the height of the ceremony or before? I don’t know.

But why make such a big deal about it and push it to the top of the news cycle within 24 hours of taking office? Was it a smaller crowd than at Obama’s inaugural? I have no problem believing that for a number of reasons: concern for security may have kept some people away, especially in light of the predictions of violence at the ceremony; conservatives not being as motivated to go to D.C, seeing it as an essentially liberal place; the fact that most conservatives have jobs on weekdays.

One commentator, I believe, captured the real problem here:

Trump, being a reality TV star, puts a lot of stock in popularity and TV ratings. . . .

It was a lot of attention paid to what is a non-issue.

Whether it was a million people or five people who showed for the inauguration, Trump is still president and there’s still a lot of serious work he needs to be addressing. This is a non-issue.

Spicer (and Trump later) alluded to the TV audience being larger. Well, here are the facts about that, according to the Nielsen ratings as reported by Bloomberg:

Trump’s nearly 31 million television audience came 7 million short of Obama’s 2009 inauguration, and had almost 11 million fewer viewers than when Reagan was sworn into office in 1981.

According to Bloomberg, Trump did attract a larger audience than former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Those are the facts with respect to the TV audience, and it would be dishonest for Trump or anyone else in his administration to say otherwise.

As an aside, I remarked to my wife while watching some of the inaugural parade, that the stands set up for viewers, at least at one place along the parade route, were conspiculously empty. I was surprised by that. Was I seeing the only empty portion of the stands or was that indicative of the entire route? Again, I don’t know.

But what does crowd size really matter? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

What matters is whether President Trump does his job, and does it well. Let’s focus on that, shall we, and leave ego about crowd size behind us.

The Bible & Race

This is Martin Luther King Day, so our thoughts ought to go to the way we treat one another in the one race that is grounded in Biblical truth: the human race. Scripture offers confirmation of that perspective.

After the Great Flood in Noah’s day (yes, I’m one of those who see that event as history, not legend or myth), we have a genealogical chapter in Genesis that shows where all of Noah’s descendants dispersed. At the end of that accounting, we are told the following:

These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, by their nations; and out of these the nations were separated on the earth after the flood.

All physical distinctions among mankind developed from this one family. We all have a common ancestor (and I don’t mean what an evolutionist would mean by that). Consequently, any ideology that claims the superiority of one branch of humanity or the inferiority of another is profoundly unbiblical.

In the New Testament book of Acts, we see the apostle Paul speaking on Mars Hill in Athens to a gathering of philosophers (and would-be philosophers). In the midst of his address to them, he makes this comment:

He Himself [God] gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth . . . that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist.

First, this is a confirmation of the Genesis account as to the origin of mankind. Second, it is a clear affirmation of the doctrine that God wants all men, of whatever ethnic background and no matter what external differences one group may have with another, to be brought into His kingdom.

In his letters, Paul reiterates this doctrine, as in Galatians when he writes,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

Some people might be confused by Paul’s words here. Yes, there is a distinction still between Jews and Gentiles, between those living a life in slavery and those who are free, between men and women. What he’s getting at is simply that all of those distinctions make no difference to God when it comes to our standing before Him. When we come to Christ, we are equally part of His family no matter the external differences.

Paul returns to that theme in the book of Colossians:

Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

What’s more important than what we see on the outside of people is what’s going on inside. Our hearts are being changed through Christ; we are being transformed into His image. And our “race” doesn’t matter.

In our nation, we look back on a history of slavery and segregation that never should have occurred. We do need a sense of proportion, though: slavery has existed throughout human history.

As a nation, we have taken steps to try to erase that blight in our treatment of our fellow humans. In my opinion, great progress has been made over the years. Others don’t see it that way at all. Unfortunately, some are more interested in hanging on to grievances and fomenting racial animosity—and that occurs on both sides of the divide.

Martin Luther King wanted a complete integration of man’s artificial racial classifications into the one race that has Biblical backing, the race that Jesus Christ died for, the race that includes all men and women regardless of those external differences so many want to emphasize.

We need to advance the Biblical perspective on the human race: we are all the descendants of one family, and we are all made in the image of God. It’s time to begin treating each other accordingly.

Selma & History

This weekend saw the commemoration of the Selma march in 1965. It was one of those pivotal moments in the struggle for civil rights for blacks in America. This is the kind of commemoration that should be free from modern-day politics, one in which all Americans can point to the positive changes that have been made in American society against racial animus.

That is the ideal. The practice was something else. First, it is a shame that Barack Obama should be the face of this commemoration. He has done more than anyone in the last six years to re-divide our nation along racial lines, turning every conceivable incident into a charge of racism.

I also watched a video of Obama giving a speech in 2007 in which he claimed that Selma is what gave rise to his father coming over from Kenya, marrying his mom, and giving birth to the man who would one day be president. There’s only one problem with that. Selma took place in 1965; Obama was born in 1961. I’ll let you figure out the problem.

There also has been a media theme that Republicans refused to take part in this commemoration. Not true. George Bush was prominent in Selma for this event. Here’s a picture showing his participation in the march.

Obama participates in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama

You can see him and his wife, Laura, on the right. Yet when the vaunted New York Times, the supposed newspaper of record, put a photo of this re-created march on its front page, Bush was cropped out of the picture. Subtle hint?

Tim ScottBut Bush was not the only Republican representative there. One of the co-sponsors of the event was Republican senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. Scott is a conservative black senator, elected in a state that once was the cornerstone of slavery and racism in the country. Isn’t that called progress?

A Republican congresswoman from Alabama was another co-sponsor. Others, including Republican Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, were also present. So the media theme is incorrect, and one can assume the inaccuracy was deliberate.

One also has to set aside history. The Republican Party began in 1854 as a result of disagreement with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which opened the territories to the possibility of slavery. The Republican Party led the charge for the Reconstruction amendments to the Constitution that abolished slavery and opened up voting rights for blacks. Republican Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to have dinner with him in the White House, outraging Democrats everywhere. And the Republican Party supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in greater percentages than the Democrats. It was the Democrats who controlled the Southern states during the time of segregation. Probably the most racist American president was Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

But all of that is not relevant, I guess.

A couple more points to make about Obama’s participation. I can understand why he wants to be associated with this historic event, but let’s be honest. His mother was white and not subject to any racial animus. His father was from Kenya and had no real experience with American racism. His stepfather lived in Indonesia, again with no direct connection to the Civil Rights Movement. Obama himself grew up with all the privileges a young child could have—private school, scholarships to Columbia and Harvard. I doubt he faced any genuine persecution.

Alveda KingHow about a different face for this commemoration? How about the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Alveda King? She suffered racism in her younger days. She remembers her uncle personally, unlike Obama. She is quite articulate. There’s a problem, though. Alveda King is a strong pro-life conservative. She doesn’t fit the current narrative. Too bad. She is more a representative of the Civil Rights Movement than Barack Obama ever will be.

We have come a long way. It’s time for those who continue to stir up racial strife to stop using the problems of the past for political gain today.

Obama’s Inconvenient Problems

I know President Obama wants all the problems he and his minions have created just to go away; they’re too inconvenient to his goals. He’s doing his best to act as if they’re inconsequential, but the news doesn’t really get better for him as time passes. Take Obamacare, for instance. This past week, the Congressional Budget Office—always referred to in the news as the nonpartisan CBO—revised its figures of the impact of Obamacare on jobs. It seems it will be instrumental in the loss of about 2.3 million fulltime jobs in the next few years. That’s not what the CBO said when the legislation was pending. Have you noticed how economic and jobs figures are seemingly in constant revision?

Let’s review the myriad disruptions to normal life caused by Obamacare:

Side Effects

But when these side effects are presented to the president, he makes light of them and declares his signature legislation to be a resounding success:

Light Dusting

Then there’s the IRS controversy, the ongoing investigation into the unfair targeting of conservative groups, representatives of whom testified yesterday in Congress as to the strains and pressures they have faced from that federal agency. Obama’s claim that there’s not even a smidgen of corruption connected to the scandal is becoming as infamous as Bill Clinton’s “it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.” Will this fly with the informed part of the public?

Not Even a Smidgen

The president’s constant fallback when confronted with these issues is to blame others. For years, he has solemnly asserted most of his economic hiccups were caused by George Bush. Now, five years into his presidency, that’s got to be wearing thin with anyone who possesses even a smidgen of brain power. Another favorite scapegoat has been Fox News, which is merely following the evidence on these various scandals and not allowing them to be swept under the rug. Obama’s tendency to blame Fox surfaced again this week in his interview with Bill O’Reilly:

Fox News

And then there’s the always-reliable excuse of racism. Who can ever counter that one? Well, perhaps Martin Luther King, were he still with us today, might have a few choice words about using that excuse:

Content of Character

Amidst all the controversy, though, Obama has one faithful ally that will always do its best to come to his rescue:

Swan

And that’s what makes it so difficult to have an informed public.

What Islamic Terrorism?

A couple of developments on the radical Islam front: pressure on one radio host to stop talking about it, which led to a resignation, and congressional hearings on the dangers associated with Muslim extremists that has sparked protests [what else is new?] and death threats [another “what else is new?”].

Former congressman Fred Grandy, who before his congressional career was a fixture on the TV series The Love Boat, resigned from his popular radio talk show in the Washington, DC, area last week. He and his wife had used the show to warn about the radical Islamic threat. The station said his wife couldn’t return to the show due to her outspoken comments. In return, Grandy resigned. Both he and his wife suspect pressure came from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which the government has indicated continues to support terrorist groups.

In Congress, New York Representative Peter King has begun hearings on Islamic radicalism and its threat to the nation. King chairs the Homeland Security Committee, which means an investigation of that type should not be controversial, given that 9/11 [anyone remember that?] was inspired by Islamic radicalism, and every major threat since then—whether the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, the Times Square bomber—have all been Muslim terrorists. Successful attacks—Ft. Hood and the killing of U.S. soldiers in Germany last week—again were by such extremists.

Yet Rep. King is now receiving death threats and must have added personal security.

And what are Obama and other administration spokesman doing in the meantime? Warning against undue suspicion against Muslims, decrying the investigation, and refusing to call Muslim terrorist acts Muslim terrorist acts. Gives you a lot of confidence in our leadership, doesn’t it?

I plan to deal more with this issue the next two days, as I offer once again some choice analysis from Mark Steyn’s groundbreaking book America Alone. His comments will be worth your time, so stay with me.

Radicals within the Nation

They dubbed it the “One Nation Rally.” It was supposed to be the progressive equivalent of the Restoring Honor Rally held on August 28th. It wasn’t exactly an equivalent.  On the One Nation website, as they urged people to register for the rally, here’s the picture they showed:

Pretty impressive crowd from some earlier rally. Was this supposed to be the famous 1963 event where Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech”? I’m not sure, but whatever, it was intended to ramp up enthusiasm.

I then searched the Internet for an aerial photograph of the One Nation Rally. Here’s the best I could find:

If that’s the extent of the crowd, it’s somewhat underwhelming. I have a feeling that a lot of the people at the WWII Memorial in the foreground are just typical tourists, and not part of the rally. Note the large grassy area to the left; that was jam-packed on August 28th. Not so on October 2nd.

Primarily, this was a union-organized event. Labor unions such as the AFL-CIO were the muscle behind it. It had a myriad of cosponsors. You can see some of them in the picture above: notice the National Education Association on one sign; another is the Answer Coalition, which consists of doctrinaire communists. Not to be left out, the actual Communist Party of the United States also was on hand as an official sponsor.

Here’s a partial list of some of the other groups associated with it—radicals all: SEIU; Rainbow Push Coalition; National Council of La Raza; American Federation of Teachers; Children’s Defense Fund; Climate Crisis Coalition; the Green Party; People United for LBGT Equality; Planned Parenthood; People for the American Way; Democratic Socialists of America; Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network; Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; Americans for Democratic Action; Queers for Economic Justice; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; and Human Rights Campaign.

There are a number of religious organizations as well, some of whom claim to be Christian. You might be surprised to realize the United Methodist Church is one of the cosponsors; then again you might not. Sojourners, which tries to say it’s an evangelical organization, also was on board, making common cause with communists and homosexual activists.

The most disturbing aspect for me is the mingling of those who claim the name of Christ with those who promote the most anti-Christian policies. As a recent study has shown, a large number of Americans know little about religious doctrine overall, and even not much about the denomination to which they belong. Contradictions abound:

We are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

The Restoring Honor Rally: A Reflection

I wasn’t able to attend the Restoring Honor Rally in D.C. last Saturday, but I know a couple of people who did. They were deeply impressed by what they experienced. The crowd easily exceeded expectations, with estimates running as low as 300,000 [how’s that for a “low”?] up to more than 500,000. The central stage was the Lincoln Memorial.

In this picture, you get only some idea of the size of the crowd. A bird’s-eye view provides a better perspective:

That’s the Lincoln Memorial in the distance. Up close is the WWII Memorial. The crowd filled the entire space between the two, and even went further back than this picture shows, all the way to the Washington Monument.

Impressive, to say the least.

What inspired people to make this journey? Well, there certainly were some attractions. For one, Sarah Palin was a key speaker, and undoubtedly a drawing card for many. She, and all the other speakers, set aside partisan politics for the day and spoke instead about honoring those who have served in the military, remembering another speech at this spot in 1963—“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King—and calling for a return to faith in God.

Of course, the main organizer for this rally, Glenn Beck, was on hand as well. His stated goal was to bring together people of all faiths for a common purpose, what he and others termed a spiritual revival.

This is where it gets controversial. Before going any further, let me say that I am in complete agreement that a spiritual revival is essential to bring this country back from the brink of an untold disaster. I understand Beck’s desire and support him in that quest. The real question is whether there can be a genuine spiritual renewal if Jesus Christ is not central to it.

I have watched Beck’s television program on a consistent basis. I applaud most of what I see. He has provided a valuable service in exposing the roots of progressivism, in upholding the authority of the Constitution and the rule of law, and in telling people that faith in God is the most significant factor for any restoration of the Founding principles. Building a coalition of groups who have that same vision is a good thing. Therefore, I do support the intent of the rally and I know that it was a force for good in the country.

The key, though, is whether this movement, as it goes forward, is going to be a Christian-based endeavor. Beck is a Mormon. I have some knowledge of Mormon theology, and it is decidedly not Christian. I know it is politically incorrect to say such a thing. I can never now run for office. That’s okay—I never planned to do so. The Mormon concept of the nature of God and Jesus is not compatible with orthodox Christianity. The theology of salvation for Mormons is not the same as the Christian explanation.

Now, as I’ve listened to Beck, I’ve wondered just how much he really understands Mormonism because his words, at least as he explains his view of salvation, sound as orthodox as any Christian’s. I can safely let God be the judge of his heart. However, a clear line does need to be drawn between what is definitively, uniquely Christian and that which is not.

In the political world, as I’ve noted, coalitions need to be formed. I can unite with Mormons, Jews, and anyone else who wants to see the same political result as I do. But a government is not the church. Salvation will never emanate from any government. The message of individual salvation remains in the Christian faith, which proclaims that Jesus is the only way, truth, and life.

I’ve read some critiques of the rally that have been rather censorious of it due to its mixed leadership—the attempt to meld all religious beliefs into one. I understand that. However, we should keep in mind that the movement, such as it is, does promote basic Biblical attitudes and principles, even if some in the movement are not personally Christian. Anything that nudges us closer to the truth is welcome.

When I teach about the American Founding, I make it clear that not everyone was a Christian at that time, yet nearly everyone operated on a consensus that was formed from the Biblical worldview. We could be seeing that same development today.

I think it is highly likely that the majority of those who attended the Restoring Honor Rally did so as proponents of the Biblical worldview. If the rank and file is made up of that type, there is hope for our future. We certainly could do worse than return to the status of the Founding, where even those who were not Christians still understood the world through the Christian prism.

Therefore, I urge my Christian brethren not to be too critical at this point. Let’s see where this leads. God works through His people, but He also works through those who don’t always realize He is doing so.