Published in The Covington News ~ February 8, 2020.
Studies and polls have confirmed that in the United States a good number of people do not trust national journalists. Well, here in Newton County I am about as local as you can get. Heck, y’all know I ain’t even a journalist; I’m just a small town essayist who employs a semicolon now and then just to show off.
Let us also establish that I am – and will most likely remain – a backsliding Methodist. And most notably, I am a wretched sinner. I covet your prayers.
In February of 2018, I was performing at a festival in Ogdon, Utah. As it is when one performs out in the Mountain West, a good many of the folks in my audience were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, people that I grew up calling, “Mormons.” For our purposes here, I will refer to these good folks as LDS. I am rarely political from stage, and I honestly cannot remember the entire situation, but on that day, our nation’s most infamous TV-reality-show personality / failed casino owner / multi-bankrupted mogul … had tweeted and/or said something jaw-droppingly shocking. Our nation was thirteen months into his administration, so such astonishing and inappropriate behavior was becoming commonplace (and much applauded by his base). My fellow performers and I were talking about just that when it was my turn to go on stage. I had an idea and I began a slightly dangerous extemporaneous riff.
I said, “I sure do miss LDS political gaffes.” I let that opening line sink in to that mostly LDS audience. Then I pointed at some teenagers in the crowd. “Y’all don’t even know what a political gaffe is, do you? Well, young people, in the olden days, a political gaffe was something a politician said that was so whack, it was completely inconceivable! You know, like Mitt Romney saying, ‘Corporations are people, my friend.’ Whoa! Now, that was some befuddling stuff, back in the day! Or Senator Jeff Flake’s open-mic moment: ‘If we become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump, we are toast.’” I scanned my audience and said, “Oh man! Can you believe Flake said that? I mean ‘TOAST’ is LDS cussing!”
(Just in case you are wondering, I did receive the raucous laughter I so richly deserved. Yes, yes, I know: he who exalts himself shall be humbled.)
Of course, we all know that Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona did not run for re-election. He knew he could not win if he didn’t support the President. The President likes to remind folks of that – he only respects winners. (Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill each lost their last elections, but please don’t tell the President; I don’t think he knows.) Trump loves beating a dead horse. (And insulting dead people, as with John McCain.) In a courageous op-ed in The Washington Post, Senator Flake wrote, “Our country will have more presidents. But principles, well, we get just one crack at those.”
It has been a busy week for the President. Tuesday he gave the State of the Union address, chockablock with made-for-TV moments of tokenism. Then Wednesday was the Senate vote securing Trump’s acquittal.
But before the vote, something outrageous and courageous happened. Senator Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for the office of President, came before the Senate to announce that he would render a guilty vote on the first charge of impeachment: abuse of power. In his speech, Senator Romney said, “…my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and political biases aside.” He continued, “I’m sure to hear abuse from the president and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe that I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?”
Can you imagine the bravery that took?
And it did not take long for that abuse to begin.
At the National Prayer Breakfast, the keynote speech was given by Arthur Brooks, a Harvard faculty member and past president of the American Enterprise Institute – a conservative think tank. Professor Brooks recited scripture and reminded everybody to, “Love your enemies.”
Then, Trump took the mic. “I don’t know if I agree with you.”
One wonders who it is the President doesn’t agree with: Professor Brooks or Jesus.
The President went on to say, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.”
Many is the time our country has been rescued by courageous statesmen and stateswomen who have had to stand alone. I am grateful for them.
And I pray for all of the above.