Blog Pic

Blog Pic

Monday, March 28, 2016

My Easter Flannel

When I was a kid I hated, with a passion, dressing up. Of course, the main thing I had to dress up for was church. Where else do “church clothes” come from? I had to wear pants that never fit right and that you couldn't play in – certainly not like jeans – and I had to wear button-down, long-sleeve shirts that were stiff and terribly uncomfortable. And to top it all off, once you got dressed up, church was where you went and were constantly told, “Stop squirming! Sit up! Pay attention! Be quiet!” It made going to school seem like vacation and that’s pretty bad when you are eight years old.

If I hated dressing up for normal church Sundays, you can guess that there was nothing I hated more than dressing up extra special – with new church clothes – for Easter Sunday. Ugh! Easter Sunday clothes were the absolute worst. New pants and a new shirt meant that they were stiffer and more uncomfortable than ever! Just remembering those feelings of having to wear new Easter “church clothes” makes my skin crawl.

Despite all of the squirming and fidgeting that I did, and that made my parents go nuts, I actually did pay attention to what happened in church; especially the messages. I got the message early on that God was a God of love; that God so loved the world God sent us God’s son Jesus so that we might intimately know and live in God’s love as we entered into relationship with Jesus the Christ. That touched something in me in spite of the tortuous “church clothes” I had to wear.

But it also led to me to see a stark hypocrisy in the church. I heard Sunday after Sunday the preacher talk about God’s love for all people throughout the world no matter who they were, no matter what color they were, no matter what they had done, no matter what they owned (or didn’t own)…no matter what they wore. That last one was mine. It just made sense. God has unconditional love for all people no matter what. Therefore, it doesn’t matter to God what we wear – new clothes, old clothes, no clothes. God loves us.

Well, if God loves us despite what we wear, why in the hell do we insist on people dressing up to worship God? If God loves us no matter what we wear, why in the hell have we invented “church clothes”?

It not only didn’t make sense to me, it angered me. Frankly, it still does because it seems so obviously hypocritical. So, this Easter, like the past several Easters, I have opted – over the protests of my wife – to wear one of my old flannels with an old pair of jeans. It’s comfortable, definitely not new, and it is a subtle message to all I see that I did not go shopping for new clothes to celebrate a risen Savior who was handed over to Romans to be crucified because, at least in part, he refused to obey all of the tired, worn out rules that the religious leaders of his day were using to justify their worldviews and place in society.

You see, “church clothes” became, for me, something more than just having to be uncomfortable for a couple of hours every week. “Church clothes” became yet another way for those who run the institutional church to maintain their societal and cultural control over people; to ensure our distraction from the real work of loving people, ministering God’s grace to all people (regardless of what they wear), and fighting for justice for the most vulnerable in our communities. Indeed, I have long envisioned churches that intentionally dress down for church and especially for Easter Sunday so that those unable to afford “church clothes” or who simply hate having to dress up would feel at home coming to worship a Savior who was born in a barn and raised simply as a carpenter’s son. Praise God that increasingly, more churches are experiencing the freedom that accompanies a relaxed atmosphere with relaxed attire.

Well, my passionately held belief of rejecting the culturally-influenced practice of dressing up for church was shaken a few years ago by a lovely woman who challenged me after I preached on this one Sunday. That Sunday, an African-American woman came up to me to tell me why she had always dressed up for church and considered it an important part of her worship experience. Indeed, she was immaculately dressed and she explained it had nothing to do with the hypocrisy I had encountered in my life. Instead, she told me that she had been raised to believe that dressing up for church was both a way to respect God – going to church meant you were going to encounter genuine royalty and so we needed to dress as though we were in the presence of a King. But even more, dressing up for her as she was growing up during the civil rights movement was a statement to the world – especially the white world – that African Americans had pride and dignity, integrity and class; that they shouldn’t be looked down upon or condescended to. It was a statement for her that though her community was often dehumanized or brutalized, wearing their “Sunday best” meant they were humans, they were somebody’s. Indeed, they were children of God and would demand that others treat them accordingly.

It was one of those wonderful rebukes you get when you think – as much as the Pharisees thought I am sure – that you are right about something and cannot be shaken. Of course, if our passionately-held beliefs are never challenged then wouldn’t not dressing up for church become as Pharisaical as dressing up has become? This is what I discovered. I have thought often about what the woman told me. I still wear one of my old flannels on Easter Sunday (if not every Sunday!) but I rejoice when I see people, particularly people of color, dressing in their Sunday best. Because either way, what we celebrate is that Jesus died and rose again to free us from the societal, political, economic, or even cultural oppressions that keep us from knowing and living out the truth that we are children of God and are dearly loved. Easter is about a risen Savior who has overcome sin, death and all injustices. Indeed, regardless of who we are, what we have done, where we live, what we own (or do not own), and regardless of what we wear, Easter means we are loved and we are free. Glory to God.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Problem of Non-Negotiable Support

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to the powerful Israel lobby group in Washington DC, AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee) and she made some stunning comments. Her most quoted comment was that Israel’s security was “non-negotiable.” This is remarkable for the simple fact that this qualifies as unconditional support for another nation. I am most definitely not an expert on Israel or the Middle East, but I do not know of any historical example of one nation having such unreserved and unconditional support for another, regardless of any actions that nation might take or any human rights atrocities that nation might commit now or in the future. This seems potentially dangerous for both countries.

In an already bizarre election season, Clinton has now positioned herself on one of the most significant foreign policy questions to the far right of anyone running for president, including her Republican competitors who are as far right as anyone who has run for the office since Barry Goldwater (who did not offer unqualified support for anyone).

Clinton’s statements were troubling because, in addition to offering unconditional support for Israel, Clinton went all out on how specifically she will support Israel, and it seemed to center on militarization. "As president, I will make a firm commitment to ensure Israel maintains its qualitative military edge," she said. "The United States should provide Israel with the most sophisticated defense technology so it can deter and stop any threats. That includes bolstering Israeli missile defenses with new systems like the Arrow Three and David’s Sling. And we should work together to develop better tunnel detection, technology to prevent armed smuggling, kidnapping and terrorist attacks."

Her comments raise so many questions for me, one of which is how does she make sense of her extreme warrior mentality towards Middle East questions with the recent moves she has made to the political left on other issues? Her comments at AIPAC brought to mind her willingness to tamp down on the militarization of the US southern border while promising to stop the excessive deportations that have broken up families. Does she not know that Palestinian families have been split a part between those who live in the West Bank and those who live in Gaza?

Secretary Clinton recently traveled to Flint, Michigan for a Democratic debate with Senator Sanders. Both she and Sanders rightly called for Governor Snyder to resign from office due to his horrific handling of the Flint water crisis. Surely, as media has reported, Secretary Clinton knows that drinking water in Gaza has been undrinkable for some time. Unemployment for Palestinians has reached 30% and life there is regarded by many as hellish. With this in mind, shouldn’t Secretary Clinton hold Israeli authorities to the same standard she holds Governor Snyder and thus demand either their resignation or immediate action on their part to solve the many crises that plague the residents of Gaza in particular?

It is impossible to hold anyone accountable when security and support for another nation is believed to be “non-negotiable” and thus, beyond question. It is time for the United States to move beyond being held hostage by not just an Israel-first foreign policy in the Middle East, but rather, an Israel-only foreign policy. Promoting only Israel’s security and safety at the expense of the Palestinians and other neighbors has actually been counter-productive in bringing any real or lasting peace to that area of the world. This isn’t to say that extremist elements are not wreaking havoc from the Palestinian side in terms of lasting peace, but foreign policy that seeks to score political points in the US with powerful lobby interests have never been helpful in promoting the long and difficult work of diplomacy and dialogue, both of which are sorely missing from the current state of relations in the Middle East.

I for one refuse to believe that genuine peace – shalom is a good word that comes to mind – can be achieved through promising one nation unconditional support and completely ignoring the needs and abuses the other people are experiencing. Friendship with Israel is essential, yet why is friendship with Palestine and Israel’s neighbors no less necessary? Regardless of whether we want it or not, the mantle of brokering peace in that troubled area of the world falls in part on the shoulders of the United States. It is disappointing, to put it lightly, that those running for the highest office in the United States are falling all over themselves in promising absolute, unconditional support for the security of one nation and not for all who are impacted by the violence. This kind of approach only will result in continued generations of violence, unrest, and a total lack of security for anyone.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lagging Behind John Kerry

It is always fascinating to me when the society-at-large gets out in front of the church in speaking or acting against injustice. When Vice-President Biden and then President Obama came out in favor of marriage equality while such churches as the United Methodist Church (not to mention many other church bodies) continue to be mired in bureaucratic inaction and prophetic timidity (and some leaders are stuck in out-right condescension and discrimination), what does that say about the relevance and power to implement social change by the church?

I am afraid it says a lot. It says that far too many denominations and church bodies seem far more concerned with fighting internal battles for institutional control than with fighting for the welfare and dignity of people who suffer discrimination and violence. It says that people looking for their relationship with Christ to direct them towards being a part of creating just and meaningful change in the world and who want to affiliate themselves with larger bodies who share these crucial values should look elsewhere. And they are looking elsewhere.

And, sad to say, it has happened again.

On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry came out with a statement naming ISIS’s campaign against the region’s ethnic and religious minorities, including the persecution of Assyrian Christians, Shia Muslims, and Yazidis, “genocidal.” This of course was preceded by formal declarations by the United States National Holocaust Museum and the European Parliament that the actions by ISIS against these religious and ethnic minorities constitute genocide. Interestingly, the vote by the European Parliament was unanimous and the first time a conflict was so labelled while the conflict was actually happening in real time. The State Department’s announcement also follows the action by the House of Representatives earlier this week which also voted unanimously to designate ISIS’ crimes “genocide.”

ISIS will hardly be fazed by such announcements or actions by the United States or European countries. They will continue their deadly scourge in the Middle East and other places in the world. The implications of these actions for U.S. action are of course enormous, however. Some people will use these announcements as a way to step up U.S. military engagement in the region, including putting boots on the ground. The positive impact of those actions in stopping the genocide being undertaken by ISIS is certainly debatable. But it is a debate worth having since real people are suffering unbelievable violence. Judging from the past U.S. military incursions though, it does seem that success in stopping genocide through military action is anything but guaranteed. Genuine peace is never gained through killing your enemies. But naming the violence against these religious and ethnic minorities as genocidal could also provide greater support for necessary humanitarian aid, which is most certainly needed.

But to my concern initially stated, why is it that churches and church leaders are lagging so far behind in speaking and acting on these issues? When the State Department and the European Parliament – hardly examples of institutions rushing to judgment – are out in front on issues of justice, especially those issues that should be of greatest concern to the Church since it directly impacts our sisters and brothers in Christ, why are US church bodies so slow to speak out?

What is sad is that speaking out against such blatant cruelty has often fallen victim to the politics that divides the church today. I have seen far too many conservative religious organizations and church leaders all too eager to speak out against ISIS because it provides good cover for their pre-existing and deeply disturbing anti-Muslim biases that should make their voices irrelevant to any constructive discussion on how to authentically eliminate acts of cruelty against vulnerable groups and establish peace.

But equally at fault are those on the other side of the political and theological aisle, who seem much more concerned about not offending groups than in standing up for religious minorities who are experiencing unbelievable suffering. This is just as great an abomination as speaking out of religious and ethnic bias. I lose patience (not to mention respect) for those bodies and leaders supposedly committed to speaking out against human rights atrocities when they seem much more preoccupied with defending institutions like the United Nations than in advocating for the UN to actually (and at long last) do something about what it loudly professes to hold dear.

The hypocrisy of empty professions of concern for the poor and the weak by our religious institutions becomes blatant when we lag so far behind typically cautious and restrained social and political institutions like the State Department and Congress. There are people who are looking for leadership on these issues and leadership means speaking out against the brutal cruelty of ISIS while refusing to fall into the unnecessary anti-Muslim vitriol that drips from the mouths of bigots who hide behind clerical titles and fancy organizational names.

I pray that U.S. denominations and perhaps even our church leaders (yes, I dare to dream) will not wait to find their prophetic voice until after Secretary of State John Kerry finally finds the gumption to name genocidal actions for what they are: genocidal actions. I pray our churches and church leaders will find our voice from the God we follow and who gives refuge to the vulnerable, and who tells us,

Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute.

            Speak out, judge righteously defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:9-10)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Responding to the Distraction of General Conference

I had a thought the other day that I would love to make real if I had a few thousand dollars burning a hole in my pocket. You remember the movie with Bill Murray a long time ago called Meatballs? I won’t describe the plot – there really isn’t one to be honest – but suffice it to say that in one scene I am including below, Bill Murray leads the campers in a rallying cry, “It just doesn’t matter!” as they prepare to take on another camp in some game.

I tried to embed the video link but it wouldn't take so here is the link.

So, here’s my idea. What I would love to do is gather a group of folks to show up in Portland outside the convention center where General Conference is being held and as the General Conference delegates walk in we would chant over and over, “It just doesn’t matter, it just doesn’t matter, it just doesn’t matter!!!”

Oh yes, if boredom and some good financing ever find each other we are in trouble.

But something tells me, since stupidity seems to be the rule and not the exception at General Conference we would get some folks cheering with us. Anyone wanna go?

I get the feeling that there is a sense of resignation about General Conference. There is a sense of resignation about the future of the United Methodist Church in general. There is a sense that no matter what happens, the same groups will be fighting the same battles with absolutely no end in sight. The same people will be left entrenched in power while the same people will be left out and forgotten. And more than anything, more money than ever will be poured down the drain, doing absolutely nothing redemptive, except maintaining the same power structure, geared up for the same fights four years down the road.

God, even writing this makes me tired.

So, because I hate to just razz on something and walk away, I wanted to add to what I wrote earlier on the Distraction of General Conference. You see, like many who feel resigned by the state of entrenchment in the United Methodist Church, I really do believe in the church – not the institution, but the church; small groups of committed Jesus-followers in local contexts, particularly situated in places where there is suffering and injustice, who love others and are busy redemptively utilizing their access to resources to gain that same access to those same resources for those whose access has been restricted or denied – yeah, THAT’S the church I believe in. Because I believe in the church, it is absolutely imperative that we not lose heart; that we not just simply cave in to the institution as it is, but that we work for the Kingdom that is to come.

Now, life is all about choices and one of the things we learn early in ministry is that we simply cannot do everything. So, I want to encourage those of us who care about the church as I described it above that we continue to develop networks of folks who care about the welfare of the church and that we focus intensely on our local contexts. Let’s celebrate the many miracles that are taking place every day in local churches.
  • Undocumented immigrants are finding safe spaces to find help through Justice for Our Neighbors sites throughout the United States
  • Local churches are discovering new ways to connect with people and with God through the creativity of arts and music, empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit,
  • Returning citizens coming back to their families and communities after having been incarcerated are finding United Methodist churches, especially in places like the West Ohio Conference, mobilized by other returning citizen leaders to help churches made the reintegration process a smooth and successful one, and
  • More networks of churches and clergy unsatisfied with the typical conference and church leadership, or lack thereof, are turning towards peer-led networks to find resources, wisdom and the necessary encouragement to grow their churches and create change in their local contexts (there may be more than this but two leap out at me: Vaguely Progressive UnitedMethodists on Facebook and the teams emerging through Methodist Federation ofSocial Action).
So much cool stuff is happening that it really frustrates me that so many give General Conference more attention than what it is worth. I am not calling for a dismantling of the institution, but simply a more healthy perspective of the place that it truly plays in the life of a local church, which, to be quite frank, is quite small. Not too long ago I had someone tell me that I was too focused on local churches. I honestly thought they meant to give me a compliment – I couldn’t have agreed with them more! But alas, they didn’t mean it as a compliment. But I honestly believe this is where our focus must be.

My encouragement to those of us who truly feel that the United Methodist Church has become lopsided – and I don’t mean too liberal or too conservative, but rather, too top-heavy – is to regain our focus on the local. We should fiercely celebrate the many miracles similar to which I described above and share those in the peer-led networks I mentioned above (and many more networks!) as much as we request ideas for resources or programs. We should take it on ourselves to recruit people in our congregations as well as younger clergy and lay leaders and disciple a new generation of leaders who are hungry for more than simply religious career advancement or attaining positions of power. Ordination or not, we need leaders in the local church context!

More than anything, we must recognize that entrenched power remains entrenched because it feeds off the attention and money that it draws from its adherents. We have to not only be willing to turn off the spigot that gives it its sense of power, we also must pour those resources into something that deserves both and I believe that that is small groups of committed Jesus-followers in local contexts, particularly situated in places where there is suffering and injustice. This is where real liberation is attained and where justice can best be experienced. Everything else, in my humble opinion, just doesn’t matter.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Distraction of General Conference

I remember the first General Conference I went to in 2008 in Ft. Worth. Yeah, not that long ago. I have only been to two and for me, that is two too many. Out of all of the work I have been involved in for the United Methodist Church for well over two decades, it is the two General Conferences I went to that are by far the worst church experiences I have ever had.

I am sure there are others out there who for some odd reason love General Conference and who are wondering how I could not, so here are a few of my “highlights”:
  • Overt spitefulness between people who disagree on church or political issues (and usually both),
  • Overt ass-kissing by those wanting to move up in the church in their position or power; the ass-kissing is so constant you find yourself suspicious of everyone’s motives,
  • Decisions on resolutions are often made absent any factual knowledge of the issue or absent any personal experience with those directly impacted by the issue (I overheard one delegate from Mississippi vote no on a climate-change resolution and then state loudly, “facts don’t sway me none!”),
  • Non-stop meetings to discuss strategery, and
  • One of my favorite memories was a dude I thought I knew and liked who ran into me in the middle of a crowded room, but quickly looked around to see if anyone had seen him talking to me and then quickly turned and walked away because he wanted to become a bishop and did not want to get tainted as “too liberal” by being seen with me (and yep, he became a bishop).
Ahhhh, “behold and good pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity” (insert sarcastic snickering here).

One thing that immediately jumps out at you as you walk around for any length of time is the unbelievable amount of money spent on General Conference – and I am not just talking about the millions of dollars that have been allocated officially by the United Methodist Church to bring in thousands of church delegates from around the world. No. I am talking about the millions more that groups within the church and from outside the church will spend to sway votes on specific issues coming before General Conference. The amount of money groups are spending to lobby delegates is frankly grotesque. Meals, swag, even phones with sheets telling delegates who to vote for regarding certain positions in the church are handed out like candy. Groups even hire consultants to tell them what will make the most impact in terms of what they give out and what their exhibits look like. And the exhibits! Man, the exhibits put together by organizations and agencies cost unbelievable amounts of money.

And, to be honest, both of the times I was there I heard scarcely a word of concern about the money being spent. Even though there are some amazing people who are there who care deeply about issues of justice, I cannot remember hearing one word of unease regarding the amount of money being poured into the events surrounding General Conference, especially by outside advocacy organizations. And if you have a heart for justice at all, you HAVE to ask yourself, what could the literally tens of millions of dollars being spent to sway the votes of delegates actually do to address root causes of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, domestic violence, or any untold number of issues facing our world. It is nothing short of sinful to see such waste against the backdrop of such immense need.

This brings me to my biggest complaint about General Conference; something far more sinister than just the phoniness of the relationships that are there, something even more than the millions of dollars being wasted. What makes me hate General Conference so much is that I believe it is a distraction. GC is a total distraction from the real work of loving and transforming a broken world that is happening every day in most United Methodist churches, and that would continue to happen and would even flourish if, by some miracle from God, they decided not to have it at all. (Hey, I can dream can’t I?)

And it’s not just a two week distraction every four years. The problem is that General Conference is all many in the church can think about, strategize around, build toward, or reflect on every day of the year, every year of the quadrennium. The most disturbing part of GC is that it literally never ends. For far too many, particularly among our leaders, General Conference has replaced the missional work of joining God in God’s transformation of the world.

I know I will hear from folks who tell me about the important resolutions or social principles that are passed at GC. Let me say this, in all of my years of working in paid or unpaid positions in local churches, I can say I have never met anyone who started a ministry in an immigrant community, or a ministry among returning citizens from prison, or a homeless shelter for the chronically homeless in our community because of a resolution that passed General Conference. Nine out of ten never knew there were resolutions. United Methodists engage in missional relationships with people directly impacted by injustice not because a book of discipline tells them to, but because they have been changed by the love of God and they want to share that love with others.

Now, I have written my share of resolutions and the like, and I have seen how they can be used effectively to advocate Congress on specific issues, but let’s be honest, the decisions made and the resolutions or principles passed at General Conference are thermometers, not wind-changers. They take the temperature of the institution on where it stands on a particular issue at a particular moment in time. They do absolutely nothing to change the direction of the wind. And considering the suffering that people are experiencing right now in the world; the continued deportations of undocumented immigrants, the increase in discrimination against LGBTQ persons, the increasing chasm between the rich and the poor, mass incarceration still unchecked, widespread persecution against Christians throughout the world, etc. When all that is happening right now, we have to ask ourselves, do we want to spend our precious time and resources on taking institutional temperatures or on changing the direction of the wind?

This is not written with an attitude of let’s ignore the conflicts within the church and hopefully they will go away. I am not one to run away from conflict. But let’s be frank, we are having the same fights we always have and we will almost assuredly come out with the same results we have been getting and we are losing precious time, energy and money that could be used to create real change around real issues that are harming real people. General Conference will likely be a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

And considering all of the attention that has been spent looking towards this time in Portland, and all of the enormous sums of money being spent by so many organizations in their attempts to shape the United Methodist Church more into their image, whatever that might be, when no change ever really happens, this is the definition of a distraction. An expensive, never-ending distraction.

I believe undergirding much of this is a tension within the church that has nothing to do with left vs. right or marriage equality vs. “traditional” marriage, or any of the other obvious clashes we so often read and hear about. I believe the unspoken tension is between those who believe that the locus of God’s transformational work in the world happens first among the leadership of the church – principally at places like General Conference, as well as among bishops or the general agencies – and on the other hand, are those of us who believe – and I have believed this for years – that the locus of God’s change and transformation in the world happens in local churches. Local bodies of believers sharing life, loving our communities, serving the poor and the most vulnerable, advocating for justice, just doing the stuff of church. For those of us who believe that the locus of God’s transformational change in the world happens through local bodies of believers, the time, energy, money and passion being poured into General Conference means that those resources are not being poured into the work that really will change peoples’ lives.

Now, there will be some who want to play it safe (we’ll call them our “leaders”) and who will say they believe the locus of God’s transformational change in the world happens both in local bodies of believers as well as in the leadership of the church. Fine, play it safe. But let me ask you this, if it happens in both areas, then where is the equivalent of the massive amounts of money, time, and energy that is poured into General Conference being poured into the work of local churches, especially ones that are situated in communities of color facing all kinds of injustices? Show me how the United Methodist Church is making that same kind of effort and I will shut up.

Sorry, it ain’t happening.

I am not saying General Conference is without significance. But I am saying it has come to occupy a place in the life of the United Methodist Church that is unhealthy and benefits only a few at the expense of real service to the world. General Conference could regain relevance if it limited the amount of money groups within the UMC could spend and if it banned entirely money groups raise from sources outside the church to influence delegates’ votes.

But more than anything, I pray that more people within the United Methodist Church would simply remember that God has almost always chosen the smallest and seemingly most insignificant ways to change the world and those ways almost always include small groups of committed believers in local contexts loving people who are suffering. Perhaps God still works that way. And perhaps we just haven’t seen it lately because we are too distracted.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sometimes You Do Indeed Reap What You Sow

I have been quite amused by the number of Republican leaders who have been coming out publically saying they cannot support Donald Trump as the presidential nominee for the Republican Party. They are genuinely shocked that the members of their party would vote for someone like Trump. There are many people who, of course, agree with that sentiment. I am not here to defend the Trumpster – not at all. But it would be a grave mistake if folks did not publically point out the hypocrisy of the Republican establishment showing such discomfort with Trump’s statements and actions when they themselves have been advocating for policies which fall right in line with where Trump is. Here are just a few examples.

The Trumpster opened his campaign with a clarion call to seal the southern border, calling Mexicans “rapists and criminals.” I am not sure exactly what the Republican establishment finds so troublesome since they have been advocating and passing legislation which would build a massive wall while militarizing the border, giving billions of dollars to defense contractors whose wells had dried up with the slowing down of invasions of other countries in recent years. Now, Democrats are not good on immigration either – President Obama hasn’t needed any help from across the aisle as he has deported undocumented immigrants in record-setting numbers. But Republicans are so bad on this issue that those deemed “moderate” want to lock undocumented immigrants into a permanent second-class citizenship!

For over a decade, at the state and federal level, Republicans have been leading the charge to militarize and seal the border, deny immigrants access to crucial social services, penalize all people and organizations – including churches – who offer aid to immigrants, and to tear apart families who have an undocumented member. So, I am not exactly sure how Republican leaders could be so dissatisfied with someone who so clearly carries forward the message they themselves have been enacting into actual policy.

The Trumpster made more headlines when he called for a complete ban on all Muslims from entering the country. While calling Trump outrageous, numerous – and I mean numerous – Republican leaders have repeatedly used the name, “Islamo-Fascists” to describe their hatred for terrorists who are Muslim. When a group of extremists took over a government building on the Malheur National Wildlife refuge beginning in early 2016 for a vague list of demands, I never heard any Republican leader call them terrorists, or “Christian-fascists.” Republican leaders have often called for renewed use of racial profiling in airports, which would be aimed principally at Muslims. The Trumpster’s vitriol against Muslims is evenly matched by the ire leveled against Muslims whenever there is an act of violence. The rule without exception seems to be if a white person commits a crime using a gun, then it is the action of a lone nut, while if a Muslim commits a crime with a gun then they must be a terrorist. Trump’s hate speech seems to fit in well with his Republican colleagues.

When it comes to women’s issues, it does seem no one can get worse than Donald Trump, though the Republican establishment has tried to keep up. His spat with Rosie O’Donnell is legendary though I have no idea why it started (nor do I want to know). He claimed he was treated quite unfairly by Fox News star Megyn Kelly when she had the temerity to actually ask why he was so derogatory in his treatment of women. Of course, the Trumpster will likely be representing the party that fought tooth and nail against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which better protects the ability of women to be paid on a more equal basis (though on average, women’s compensation still lag far behind men’s). And nothing the Trumpster can say can equal the number of times Republican candidates during the 2012 elections tried to qualify how and if a woman could get pregnant as a result of rape.

Even more, the refusal of the Trumpster to accept blame for any disagreement he has with another person or his constant protests of unfair treatment by everyone under the sun is matched by the shocking response George W. Bush gave when asked, during the 2004 campaign, if he had ever made a mistake in office. While everyone in the world was waiting for him to admit his rush to invade Iraq had costs hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars, he fumbled around for several minutes before he stammered something about appointing judges he wasn’t sure about.

My point in all of this is to drive the point home as hard as I possibly can that I believe it is dangerous to think of the Trumpster as an outlier from the rest of the Republican establishment. The problem with the Donald is that he is not as subtle as his Republican brethren (and yes, it is mostly brothers) in his comments about immigrants, Muslims, women, or any other number of issues. It is wrong to make too great a differentiation between Trump and the GOP leaders simply because he is cruder in his remarks while the rest of the party has been advocating for policies which line up quite nicely with Trump’s rhetoric.

The Republican leaders can holler and scream about Trump being the face of their party. But they need to realize that he is what they have been working towards for years now. They just need to wake up to the fact that sometimes you do indeed reap what you sow.