The battle over a proposed sale of American evangelism’s ‘Missions Pentagon’ raises questions of missionary strategy and nonprofit accountability. What responsibility do ministries have to their founder’s vision—and to those who sacrificed to fund it?
“February made me shiver / With every paper I’d deliver.” That’s what Don McLean sang in his classic “American Pie,” and the first two cold Thursdays of February 2018 showed why most evangelicals voted for Donald Trump and still support him.
Feb. 1 brought “Life Is a Living Nightmare: A Telethon to Fix It,” located at the ladypartsjustice.com website (unless its creators have removed the video record of their horror show). I knew Lady Parts Justice describes itself as “a cabal of comics and writers exposing creeps hellbent on destroying access to birth control and abortion.” But when I read an account about the telethon on the conservative website NewsBusters, I thought the report must be exaggerated.
After all, would even crass comedian Sarah Silverman say a pro-life law “would make her want to eat an aborted fetus”? So I watched, and saw people laughing at that callous remark. When the hostess moaned about those who wanted to bury or cremate aborted children, Silverman ranted, “[Obscenity] funerals for [obscenity] aborted fetuses? I would like to speak at those funerals. He lived the way he died. He died the way he lived. The size of a sesame seed.”
OK, I know comedians are often angry, and Silverman has been clinically depressed (it’s now under control with Zoloft) and may still have pain from her parents’ divorce. On the other hand, she is privileged enough to have won a Creative Arts Emmy for writing and recording a song, “I’m [obscenity] Matt Damon.” If she wants to attack big men like Donald Trump, OK, but why pick on those who are small and helpless?
If Silverman doesn’t want to calm down on principle, she should do so pragmatically, because every creepy joke makes even Trump critics more likely to say, as John Dos Passos wrote in his 1936 novel The Big Money, “all right we are two nations.” Pronouncements from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, whose positions on abortion are Silverman’s without the expletives, have the same effect.
Dos Passos during the Depression defined the two nations in Marxist “class struggle” terms. He berated the rich and powerful “who have taken the clean words our fathers spoke and made them slimy and foul.” He learned life was more complicated: By the 1960s Dos Passos was a conservative. That was the decade our major arguments became social, not economic. That’s when clean words like “clinic” and “women’s health” and “choice” became, in the mouths of abortionists, slimy and foul.
The following Thursday, Feb. 8, was a good day for Trump supporters. At the National Prayer Breakfast he reminded attendees of important truths: “Our rights are not given to us by man; our rights come from our Creator. … No earthly force can take those rights away. … When Americans are able to live by their convictions, to speak openly of their faith, and to teach their children what is right, our families thrive, our communities flourish.”
He pointed out the American nation of which we can be proud: “When catastrophic hurricanes struck, first responders and everyday citizens dove into rushing waters to save stranded families from danger. And they saved them by the thousands. Neighbors opened their homes to those in need of food, clothes, shelter. Firefighters braved blinding smoke and flames to rescue children from devastating wildfires. … Families have adopted babies orphaned by the opioid epidemic and given them loving homes. Communities and churches have reached out to those struggling with addiction, and shown them the path to a clean life, a good job, and a renewed sense of purpose.”
All right we are two nations. We have an America of compassion toward the very young and the very old, and a United States of callousness that promotes abortion and euthanasia. We have an America of individual initiative and community effort, and a United States where supplicants wait for governmental largesse. We have an America of religious liberty and free speech, and a United States of trigger warnings and safe spaces.
Since this story is published on Valentine’s Day, here’s a heart for the only president we have. After State of the Union and National Prayer Breakfast talks that moved away from callousness, President Trump has another opportunity to reset his presidency. And, although Trump tweets are often counterproductive and downright embarrassing, they do distract liberal propagandists from his deregulatory moves and reversals of overreaching Obama-era executive orders. Even The Washington Post has limited bandwidth, and every article complaining about a tweet is one less article attacking a needed policy change.
Don McLean’s February assessment was “Bad news on the doorstep / I couldn’t take one more step”—and adding another half-trillion dollars to our soaring national debt is certainly bad news. Still, Christians familiar with the Good News take a long-range view. In dealing with the domineering Romans of his time, Jesus said, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” We don’t know what will happen on that second mile. We do know we have many steps to go before we sleep.