Sunday, July 1, 2018

Politics and Religion, Progressives and Protestants, the Pope and the President

THE YEAR IS HALF OVER -- A GOOD TIME TO REFLECT. A close friend wrote to me about a week ago about a particular event, but his message was much wider and matched my own recent thoughts about what America is and where we're headed. He wrote : "If or maybe when the United States of America ceases to exists as our Founding Father’s planned and foresaw while creating this great Republic with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, the Rule of Law, it won’t be from the lack of a solid base, the lack of connection to their efforts and teachings. It will be because of our blind sense of fair play and our blindness to who our enemies are and their willingness to win at any cost to anyone. It could be that we have already crossed the ‘failsafe line.’ Who knows." • There's something going on right now -- in the human psyche -- something that sees the need to think about fundamental ideas -- to wonder whether "fair play" is still the right political approach. I think it's a symptom of the violent and often unhinged clashes of ideas -- if they all rise to that honorable level -- that we are being bombarded by every day. • • • THE AMERICAN 'PROTESTANT ETHIC.' We used to call it the Protestant work ethic. It was a driving force to explain much of what happened in America from 1776 until 1932. The Protestant work ethic, the Calvinist work ethic or the Puritan work ethic is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history that emphasizes hard work, discipline and frugality, which guide a person's actions in the belief that these Calvinist values supported by the Protestant faith generally, are keys to being a good Christian -- and politically, a good American. German sociologist Max Weber, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904–05), argued that the Protestant ethic was an important factor in the economic success of Protestant groups in the early stages of European capitalism, because worldly success could be interpreted as a sign of eternal salvation. For many of us who grew up in mid-20th century America, the phrase "Pray as if everything depended on God; work as if everything depended on you" synthesized this Calvinist-Presybterian marching order for success here on Earth and later, an entry into Heaven. • And, as with most life-defining ideas, this one, learned as youngsters, has never left us. It cropped up in neon when I read a National Review article in early June titled "Off the Shelf : When WASPs Sting," by Michael Brendan Dougherty. In the article, Dougherty wrote : "I’ve been thinking about Protestantism lately. Not so much high-octane Calvinism, which in its present form is a pursuit for bookish men who quite like fractious intellectual, I’ve been thinking about something you might call 'elite Protestantism' or 'Mainstream Protestantism.' A number of things have conspired to remind me that what is often called Progressivism is a mutation of Protestantism." • THAT idea was a SHOCKER that caught me completely off-guard. We, whose Protestant work ethic has often led us to be political conservatives, do not identify with Progressivism. Not at all. What did Dougherty mean? He cites Michael Doran discussing the theological traditions inherent in debates about foreign policy -- William Jennings Bryan with a populist-Evangelical tradition of Jacksonian nationalism, and H L Mencken with an urbane, Mainstream Protestant or secular tradition of international cosmopolitanism. Doran says : "The Progressive persuasion conflicts with its Jacksonian counterpart in crucial respects. Though both accord the government a vital role in protecting 'the common, everyday fellow,' the deepest concern of the Jacksonian is individual liberty, whereas the Progressive focuses more intently on destroying inequality. The Progressive, moreover, is eager to embrace 'collective' initiatives, which in practice means government initiatives. Though some of these will pass muster with the Jacksonian persuasion, the Progressives’ embrace of centralizing government power, even when legitimated in terms of the interests of the common man, often appears as a threat to individual liberty. For the Jacksonian persuasion, the Progressive vision quickly turns into the oligarchy of experts....When it comes to foreign policy, Progressives are internationalist in outlook. The Jacksonian persuasion, with its roots in the divine mission of America, conduces to nationalism. It assumes, moreover, that a resort to arms to protect American liberty is a regrettable but inevitable aspect of the human condition. By contrast, Progressivism emphasizes universal human brotherhood, which it believes is within the capacity of humans to achieve. As a result, the Progressive persuasion tends to emphasize peacemaking more than it does vigilant self-defense. One pole of the Progressive spectrum is an idealistic pacifism. The other pole can be very militant, for it accords the United States an exceptional mission in the world. This mission, however, is not Andrew Jackson’s notion of keeping the flame of liberty alive until Judgment Day. The mission of America is, rather, to use its military and economic power to nudge the world toward universal brotherhood." • Dougherty makes his central point, quoting Jody Bottum's book "An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and Spirit of America" : " 'The new elite class of America is the old one : America’s Mainline Protestant Christians, in both the glory and the annoyingness of their moral confidence and spiritual certainty. They just stripped out the Christianity along the way.' The connection is almost stronger than he realizes. It is as if the spirit of this religious orientation operates within and outside the Mainline Church simultaneously. It is also hard not to notice how the moral, doctrinal, and political developments within Mainline Protestantism anticipate legal and political developments in the United States. The United Methodist Church was an early supporter of abortion rights. The Episcopal Church raised to bishop a man in a same-sex marriage in 2004, when most of even the left side of America’s political culture was still making a case for state-recognized civil unions. Bottum notes that the physical descendants of Jews and Catholics assimilate to America’s Progressive class today, by adopting its political outlook. They do so for the same reason many of their ancestors may have joined the Episcopal Church, to signal their membership in the mainstream of America life." • Dougherty goes on to discuss the sustainability of post-Protestant politics in the context of the loosening of the ties to the scriptural, theological, and liturgical life that created it. But, that was not where his article led me. • • • POLITICS AND RELIGION. My thoughts turned to the compatibility of religion and politics. Are they the two faces of the same coin, in America as in all of human history? Dougherty's conclusion led the way : "When capital-P Providence has been replaced with capital-P Progress, there needs to be some form of prosperity that testifies to the regenerate nature of the Elect who lead society. The basis of their leadership is their ability to provide broad-based prosperity, ever-increasing social peace, and personal flourishing. At some point it will be impossible to credibly blame dark reactionary forces for the latest social and economic calamity. And if there is anything history guarantees, it is a punctuated return of social and economic calamity." • If we hear the name Donald Trump in those words, it is because his name is there -- what is Donald Trump if he is not the personification of the American Protestant work ethic turning his 'pray and work' upbringing and massive personal financial success to the political arena?? • And, then, on Saturday, I read the usually drole Jonah Goldberg, who this week devoted his column in National Review to the very un-drole "Dogma." Goldberg wrote : "Every day I hear people say that one shouldn’t be “dogmatic,” or that their political opponents are dogmatists, or some such. But as I have written many times, everyone subscribes to all manner of dogmatic convictions -- and they should. People not dogmatically opposed to genocide, premeditated murder, rape, etc. aren’t brave and pragmatic free-thinkers. They’re sociopaths. The accumulation of the process by which civilizations advance. In a state of nature, man is open to all possibilities if he can be convinced he will gain an advantage in a bid to survive. With no controlling moral authority beyond the basic programming of our genes, we were free to take the shortest route between any two points, so long as we believed it would work out well for us. Even after the Agricultural Revolution, civilizations defined morality largely according to what benefitted the rulers. Child sacrifice -- common around the globe for millennia -- seemed like a plausible way to get better crop yields, so why not go for it? Over time, though, the process of trial and error informed by reason and faith, we accumulated some conclusions about how society should operate. These conclusions became dogmas. Dogma is simply the word we use for settled questions we no longer want to reopen. Not all dogmas are good. Some are evil, to be sure : child sacrifice, slavery, etc. But the process of refining our dogmas is what makes us, if not human, then certainly humane. Conversely, the process by which we unthinkingly smash dogmas without understanding their function is the fastest route to barbarism. The Bolsheviks rejected the dogma of universal human dignity and slaughtered people with an abandon more closely resembling the Aztecs than anything resembling secular humanism." • Goldberg quotes GK Chesterton : "When [man] drops one doctrine after another in a refined skepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded." • • • CHESTERTON BRINGS THE TOPIC HOME. Religion -- or as Chesterton says, systems and finality -- ties people to consciousness, to human-ness, to order, to morality. • Nick Stirrett, a football coach and writer for Mic, published an article in 2011 about the relationship between Church and State. Stirrett calls the relationship "guarded and defined by skepticism," noting Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter explaining the necessity of “building a wall of separation between Church and State” to recent Supreme Court cases citing the First Amendment as a reason to prohibit everything from prayer in school to the public display of the Ten Commandments. Americans, says Stirrett, "have been cautious of the integration of these two influential institutions. Yet, while we guard this often blurry threshold, Americans create precarious mixings of religion and politics. Which begs the questions, how strict can this separation be? Is it possible? And, in the end, do we want separation?" • Of course, for us as for Stirrett, the topics that come immediately to mind today are abortion and same-sex marriage, "two social issues at the forefront of political debate. For many Americans, religious beliefs shape their opinions with regard to these issues; and, in-turn, during elections, voters align themselves with candidates who share their sentiments. According to a 2010 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 37% of all registered voters cite religion as the most influential factor when talking about same-sex marriage while the figure is lower for abortion at 28%. When congressional and local elections are sometimes decided by hundreds of votes, percentages this high can have a major impact....budget battle(s) over funding for Planned Parenthood is a testament to the effect these beliefs can have." • Stirrett highlights the role of "the pulpit' in bringing about "social change."According to Stirrett : "It is a mistake to slate religion as strictly polarizing and something to be ushered away from the realm of politics -- at least completely. Though not all shape their beliefs through a respective faith, for many religion does provide the foundation for morality. And while political decisions based entirely on religious convictions can be dangerous, so are decisions void of a moral compass. In the end, can we separate religion from politics? It seems a complex but natural relationship in which there can be mutual benefit. But, like most successful relationships it is hard work. There must be healthy debate, balance, and the ability to compromise. No one said it would be easy." • • • SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. The Jefferson letter Dougherty refers to was written on January 1, 1802, to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut. Jefferson wrote : "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." Jefferson was echoing the language of the founder of the first Baptist church in America, Roger Williams who had written in 1644 : "A hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world." • "Separation of church and state" is paraphrased from Jefferson's letter and used in expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which reads : "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Article Six of the United States Constitution also specifes that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." This highlighting of religion was partly in answer to the Test Acts prevalent in the Colonies that required elected officials to be Protestant. • Jefferson's metaphor of a wall of separation has been cited repeatedly by the US Supreme Court. In Reynolds v. United States (1879), the Court wrote that Jefferson's comments "may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment." In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), Justice Hugo Black wrote : "In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state." In contrast to "separationism," the Supreme Court in Zorach v. Clauson upheld "accommodationism," holding that the nation's "institutions presuppose a Supreme Being" and that government recognition of God does not constitute the establishment of a state church as the Constitution's authors intended to prohibit. So, the Court has not always interpreted the constitutional principle as absolute, and the proper extent of separation between government and religion in the US remains an ongoing subject of passionate debate. The Supreme Court's interpretations of the "separation of church and state" doctrine contains three central concepts -- no coercion in religious matters, no expectation to support a religion against one's will, and religious liberty encompasses all religions. • Many early immigrant groups traveled to America to worship freely, particularly after the English Civil War and religious conflict in France and Germany. They included nonconformists like the Puritans, who were Protestant Christians fleeing religious persecution from the Anglican King of England. Despite a common background, the groups' views on religious toleration were mixed. While some such as Roger Williams of Rhode Island and William Penn of Pennsylvania ensured the protection of religious minorities within their colonies, others like the Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony had established churches. The Dutch colony of New Netherland established the Dutch Reformed Church and outlawed all other worship, though enforcement was sparse. • Because of the wide diversity of opinion on Christian theological matters in the newly independent American States, the Constitutional Convention believed a government sanctioned, that is, established, religion would disrupt rather than bind the newly formed union together. George Washington wrote a letter in 1790 to the country's first Jewish congregation, the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island to state : "Allowing rights and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it were by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support." • Some scholars and organizations disagree with the notion of "separation of church and state," or the way the Supreme Court has interpreted the constitutional limitation on religious establishment. These critics generally argue that the phrase misrepresents the textual requirements of the Constitution, while noting that many aspects of church and state were intermingled at the time the Constitution was ratified. These critics argue that the prevalent degree of separation of church and state could not have been intended by the constitutional framers. Some of the intermingling between church and state include religious references in official contexts, and such other founding documents as the United States Declaration of Independence, which references the idea of a "Creator" and "Nature's God," though these references did not ultimately appear in the Constitution nor do they mention any particular religious view of a "Creator" or "Nature's God." • KEY in these arguments today are the competing theories about how to interpret the Constitution -- originalism as championed by Justice Scalia that takes the Constitution as written vs Progressivism that describe the Constitution as the Living Constitution serving as a guideline but not to be followed closely in the 21st century. YET, while sometimes questioned as possible violations of separation of church and state, the appointment of official chaplains for government functions, voluntary prayer meetings at the Department of Justice outside of duty hours, voluntary prayer at meals in US armed forces, inclusion of the (optional) phrase "so help me God" in the oaths for many elected offices, FBI agents, etc., have been held not to violate the First Amendment, since they fall within the realm of free exercise of religion. Relaxed zoning rules and special parking privileges for churches, the tax-free status of church property, the fact that Christmas is a federal holiday, have also been questioned, but have been considered examples of the governmental prerogative in deciding practical and beneficial arrangements for the society. The national motto "In God We Trust" has been challenged as a violation, but the Supreme Court has ruled that ceremonial deism is not religious in nature. • • • DO RELIGION AND POLITICS CO-EXIST IN SOCIETY? Mark Koyama, writing for the Hoover Institution last Tuesday, noted a quotation : "In the late fourth century, the Roman senator Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, a pagan, issued a plea for religious pluralism : 'We gaze up at the same stars; the sky covers us all; the same universe encompasses us. Does it matter what practical system we adopt in our search for the Truth? The heart of so great a mystery cannot be reached by following one road only.' ” Koyama says that : "Today, Symmachus’s words resonate. They appeal to our society’s fundamental liberal values. They are a statement of religious freedom. But these words failed to persuade Symmachus’s contemporaries. In Symmachus’s last years, the Roman state made paganism illegal. Not until the Reformation would anyone again put forward as eloquent a case for religious pluralism in Europe. Why did the case for religious liberalism fall on deaf ears? Why was religious compulsion so prevalent until modern times? Why did religious liberty eventually emerge in the West after around 1700? And what factors were responsible?" • Koyama states : "Numerous historians have documented the rise of the idea of religious liberty following the Reformation. Pride of place is often given to John Locke and his Letters Concerning Toleration....Locke’s arguments helped to shift the conversation against religious compulsion. By the mid-18th century, writers like Voltaire were satirizing the Catholic Church, and by the end of the century, elite opinion had shifted in favor of religious liberty." Koyama asks an interesting question : "Why were Locke...and Voltaire so much more persuasive than Symmachus? We argue that institutions were critical. The institutional environment of the late Roman empire and medieval Europe was simply not hospitable for religious liberalism. This changed in Western Europe, at first gradually, and then decisively following 1700. Prior to that time, religious authorities such as the Pope provided rulers with legitimacy. In return, rulers enforced religious conformity. It was a quid pro quo. A second plank in the political order were identity rules. These are rules that target the social identity of the parties involved, i.e., their religion, race, or language." Koyama reminds us : "For example, criminal procedures varied according to social status. In ancient Rome, the testimony of slaves was extracted under torture. In medieval England, commoners guilty of treason were hanged, drawn, and quartered, but the nobility were spared such a degrading punishment and simply beheaded. Churchmen enjoyed the benefit of clergy, exempting them from secular punishments for many crimes....In Europe, Jews were restricted from particular occupations, prohibited from hiring Christian servants, and sometimes forced to wear badges or hats to distinguish themselves. In the Middle East, both Christians and Jews paid special taxes and proselytizing to Moslems was punished by death. Why were identity rules so ubiquitous? One reason is that they were a cheap solution to the problem of political disorder. They are cheap to enforce because they leverage pre-existing social identities. They do not require a sophisticated bureaucracy to enforce." This mattered because of what Koyama calls "a lack of state capacity. In contrast to modern states that collect between one-third to one-half of GDP from citizens in the form of taxes, premodern states were small. Before 1700, European states seldom took more than 5-10% of GDP as tax revenue. What we think of as public goods such as schools were mostly privately provided. Until the Reformation, welfare provision was the responsibility of the Church. These planks reinforced one another. The weakness of premodern states encouraged reliance on religion as a source of legitimacy. The states were unable to provide the public goods that would provide an alternative source of legitimacy. Their weakness meant that they lacked the capacity to enforce general rules and hence tended to rely on identity rules to govern. In particular, they lacked the administrative and legal capacity to enforce general rules and legal equality." But, by the end of the 17th century, most European rulers realized that the costs of enforcing conformity outweighed the benefits. And, at the same time, European rulers were creating tax and administrative bureaucracies that meant they could dispense with many of the old institutions. Welfare and education did not have to be provided by churches. Identity rules were increasingly viewed as sources of inefficiency and injustice. This institutional transformation was crucial to the success of the classical liberal ideals of equality before the law and freedom of religion after 1750. And of course, the establishment of liberal modern states had consequences beyond religious freedom. It was part of a general transformation of society which helped to lay the foundations for the modern world. AND, it was the begining of the nanny state that conservative Americans chastize for repressing individual responsibility and independence • So, we may ask if the separation of church and state means that there is no religious dimension in the political society of the United States. Robert S. Wood, a leader and advisor to senior civilian and military officials of the US government, has argued that the United States is a model for the world in terms of how a separation of church and state -- no state-run or state-established church -- is good for both the church and the state, allowing a variety of religions to flourish. Wood says the freedom of conscience and assembly allowed under such a system has led to a "remarkable religiosity" in the United States that isn't present in other industrialized nations. Wood believes that the US operates on "a sort of civic religion," which includes a generally shared belief in a creator who "expects better of us." Beyond that, individuals are free to decide how they want to believe and fill in their own creeds and express their conscience. He calls this approach the "genius of religious sentiment in the United States." • But, modern states, like older ones, seem to need some form of shared ideology about the true and the good -- often called the "Moral Compass." In the US, this took the form of a kind of civil religion that was respectful of more traditional religions and made possible a fair degree of pluralism in other areas of life. Americans could be Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish, a gentleman farmer, a day laborer, or a financier, but all believed in the American experiment of ordered liberty. • • • DO AMERICAN PROTESTANTS AND PROGRESSIVES AGREE? I suspect that argument will go on without a definitive answer for as long as there are Protestants and Progressives in America. • It raises the current set of issues -- basically religious in nature -- often shorthanded as "baking same-sex cakes" questions. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the baker who was opposed, for reasons of religious conviction, to baking a wedding cake for a same-sex couple's marriage. It was a 7-2 decision -- rather unusual in its pulling together of both liberal and conservative Justices, who set aside a Colorado court ruling against the baker -- while stopping short of deciding the broader issue of whether a business can flat-out refuse to serve gay and lesbian people. The opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the swing justice in tight cases, and it focused on what the Court described as anti-religious bias on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission when it ruled against the baker. "The Commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion," Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion. The Trump administration backed the baker, who was represented in court by a conservative Christian nonprofit organization. By wading again into what are seen in America as culture wars, the Justices had to confront recent decisions on both gay rights and religious liberty : a 2015 landmark opinion legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide and another 2014 decision affirming the right of some companies to act on their owner's faith by refusing to provide contraception to its workers. And, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had, last October, issued broad guidance to executive branch agencies, reiterating the government should respect religious freedom, which in the Justice Department's eyes extends to people, businesses and organizations. But civil rights groups were concerned the conservative majority on the court may be ready to peel back protections for groups with a history of enduring discrimination -- and predicted that giving businesses the right to refuse service to certain customers would undermine non-discrimination laws and hurt minorities. In the oral arguments before the Court last December, Justice Kennedy was bothered by certain comments by a commission member. The commissioner seemed "neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips' religious beliefs," Kennedy said in December. • As American Thinker put it : "Demanding that the one person whose religious beliefs say that he should not support a gay 'wedding' do so when there are so many others to choose from is prima facie evidence that the authority is hostile to the person’s religious belief. A key aspect of modern law is that the state, businesses, and individuals must provide reasonable accommodations to people based on their religious beliefs. For example, allowing Moslems to pray during the work day. Now if the accommodation is too demanding, then it does not have to be provided; allowing a Moslem cashier at a liquor store to not ring up liquor purchases. But asserting that some other baker who doesn’t object to baking a cake for a gay 'wedding' provide a cake instead of forcing the one baker whose religious beliefs preclude his participation is a very reasonable and nonintrusive accommodation. After all, if an Orthodox Jew and a Catholic work at a business that is open on Saturday and Sunday, wouldn’t it be a clear sign of hostility if the owner refused to let them switch work days so that the Jew didn’t have to work on Saturday and the Catholic didn’t have to work on Sunday?" • • • ACCOMMODATION. This is one of the things the First Amendment has come to signify -- any government authority that rejects the reasonable accommodation of religious convictions or practices is clearly hostile to the person whom they refuse to accommodate and to the religious rationale that person is using to ask for an accommodation. • The First Amendment does not require every American to subscribe to gay-ness or to the LGBTQ agenda. What the First Amendment does require is that Americans should try to accommodate the LGBTQ community, except when religious conviction prevents it -- and then, only when there are alternative solution for the LGBTQ problem at hand. Declaring that 2% of Americans, the LGBTQs, have the unrestricted right to impose their beliefs on 72% of Americans, who are Christians, is clearly hostile to Christians AND to the First Amendment. Many Christians believe the Court should have ruled that a person’s religious liberty is not up for discussion given the clear wording of the First Amendment, BUT, the reality is that in America today, even in the Bible Belt, there is no shortage of individuals willing to provide every imaginable service for gay 'weddings.' So, why force one baker with strongly held religious convictions against gay marriage to provide the cake. It is what Wood called the "genius of religious sentiment in the United States....a sort of civic religion, which includes a generally shared belief in a creator who 'expects better of us.' • BUT, the Supreme Court answer for gay wedding cakes does little to help America with the question of abortion. It isn't possible to organize direct resistance in the pro-life cause because abortion is a private and secretive deed that does not require active participation by Christians who are opposed to it. The Supreme Court decided in favor of a woman's right to abortion in Roe vs Wade. The Progressive side of America now fears that another conservative justice -- to replace the retiring Justice Kennedy -- will un-do Roe vs Wade. Frankly, I will be surprised if that happens. I think the Court, if faced with the issue, will try to find an "accommodation" that preserves individual rights while not destroying Christian-based moral repugnancy to the idea of killing unborn children. That the Court will be trying to thread the needle in the dark is what makes me think the Justices, both liberal and conservative, will try to stay out of the argument and let federal and state legislatures wrestle with finding a solution to a nearly intractable problem. • • • DEAR READERS, the constant tug between religion and politics is fairly easy to manage in America, except when deeply held beliefs are involved. Abortion is the most deeply held of these beliefs. Yet, abortion is one issue on which President Trump -- the leader of the Protestant work ethic America -- and Pope Francis -- the leader of the Progressive world -- agree. Austen Ivereigh wrote recently in American Thinker that : "The world’s two most compelling populists, as we might call Trump and Francis, have more in common than some might admit -- their extraordinary capacity for connection, bypassing traditional methods; their defiance of convention, even their iconoclasm; or their delight in challenging existing elites on behalf of the people. Both seem energized by opposition. Politically, too, they share a distaste for globalism. Both, in the broadest sense, are nationalists. Pope Francis is no mere liberal....both the Pope and the President are critics of a neoliberal globalism that weakens local ties and benefits educated elites at the expense of the common man" and, says Ivereigh, this highlights their diametrically opposed visions of the world in other areas, for example, open or secured borders. According to Ivereigh : "That said, the kernel of the rift between the Pope and the President is ultimately religious....Pope Francis’s arch-critic, Raymond Burke, an American cardinal based in Rome, share(s) [with Trump] the conviction that “Christian culture" is engaged in a deadly rivalry with enduring “clash of civilizations.” Pope Francis abhors this notion and rejects it at every turn. Religion, which is universal (because God is), can never be captured by a national culture; nor can true religion ever be the cause of terrorism and violence, accroding tothe Pope. Yet, Trump would say -- rightly -- that Americans are not opposed to immigrants, only to illegal immigrants who violate the innate American sense of Rule of Law, and to terrorists, lurking in immigrant groups, who seek to destroy America. • And, that brings us back to the question whether religion and politics co-exist in America. They certainly do. And, their co-existence shapes the national character and provides the tolerance that gives America a particular strength devoid of identity, or religious, tests. It is what separates Trump and the majority of Americans from the divisiveness of today's Progressive-Democrat radical notion that identity should be used to divide and control American politics. It is a poison that will destroy America if allowed to continue. It is what, at bottom, makes President Trump so important. He is fighting against the Progressive idea that rejects the constitutional truth that "All men are created equal." And, in that context, there is nothing similar about American Protestantism and Progressivism. But, that is a lesson that Americans are still learning. And, as Edmund Burke so correctly understood : "Example is the school of mankind, and he will learn at no other.”

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