When this post was published on Patheos last June, it clearly hit some nerves. The reason I wrote that post was because I wondered if what upsets us, makes us angry, was possibly a truer and more accurate gauge of who we are, than what we might formally articulate if asked. We don’t all laugh at the same things or find the same things funny and it is the same with things that upset or make us angry. Is this where our mask’s slip, and our true thoughts and feelings are made evident?
I was stuck again recently with the dissonance so evident in our current political, religious, and cultural moment. What we seem fine with and what we get upset over. Probably the best examples have to do with the ongoing love affair, or better, marriage of convenience between evangelicals and Trump.
Here is a man who bragged about grabbing women by their (cough)…and has been heard to call women “pigs” the “c” word and other shameful comments. He’s called other countries derogatory names and his supporters seem to admire this idea he isn’t, “politically correct.” Putting aside the fact that being against “political correctness” (whatever that even means), doesn’t give anyone the right to be an ignorant jerk, normally these types of remarks would generate outrage on the part of evangelicals.
However, we recently were made aware of a comedian (Samantha Bee), who used a crude term to describe Ivanka Trump. Amazingly, we now have the same people crying foul and upset at Bee’s remarks, who were silent or supportive when it was Trump, or his supporters, being crude. Remember, Trump invited Ted Nugent to the White House (who used the “c” word to describe Hillary) and some of Trump’s supporters wore shirts to his campaign rallies that used the “c” word to describe her as well.
Bee is a comedian/entertainer (for context to the Bee story see here). She doesn’t present herself as a civic leader or role model. She isn’t an elected leader. She has no power as to law and policy. Trump on the other hand, does. Thus, if we are upset by the words of a comedian (or an actor) rather than the actions and words of the President of the United States or candidate for high office, we are upset over the wrong things.
Let’s be honest. This isn’t about crude or foul language. This is about who uses it. It’s not about principle; it’s about power. We don’t mind when our guy/gal does it—just the if the other guy/gal does. For instance, we were told that Trump’s comments were “locker room” or “kitchen table” talk. Those defenses prompted this (coarse terms warning) response .If that response offends or upsets those who remained silent or defensive of the President’s comments, why the offense now? How is language the issue, when both sides use it? We would all, I hope, like for our political discourse to contain less outrage, anger, and personal attacks—less crudity and coarse language. Regardless, if we are upset over the language used here but not the hypocrisy on display, we are upset over the wrong things.
This prompts similar observations:
If we get upset over the use of a crude term but not over the official government policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, we are upset over the wrong things.
If we get upset over an NFL player kneeling during the National Anthem, the timing and manner of protest, but not over what is being protested, the treatment and killing of unarmed Black men, we are upset over the wrong things.
If we get upset over how the next school or church shooting event might be, “exploited,” by those we disagree with as to gun laws, or our supposed gun rights, but not over the loss of life or the grieving families, we are upset over the wrong things.
If we get upset over a Civil War monument being torn down, monuments that many see as celebrating treason and slavery, if the destruction of stone is more upsetting to us than the destruction of the lives those monuments bear witness to, we are upset over the wrong things.
If we get upset when the so-called Main Stream Media makes a mistake or gets a fact wrong (even after they admit it and correct it) but are willing to completely overlook when Fox News traffics in conspiracy theories and pure propaganda, we are upset over the wrong things.
Like with my prior essay, I know the quick response might be: “Why can’t we be upset at both?” Well, we could. But, again, such misses the point entirely—even makes the point. These are not dichotomies. Again, it is a matter of scale.
To be upset over the one, but not the other, is to reveal a deep moral cluelessness—a poverty of ethical sensibility. Imagine King David responding to Nathan’s story (2 Samuel) with: “I see your point. He could have at least invited the poor man to dinner.”
The shocking thing is that if Nathan had been a modern-day evangelical, he would have agreed with King David and went inside to have dinner with him—a dinner probably consisting of some other poor man’s lamb.
That is where we are in America, right now: still upset over the wrong things and it is very revealing.