LUKE MOON (Evangelical Christian): I read an article this week about a bunch of artists, musicians, restaurant owners, and performers who have refused to perform for Trump or even serve people who voted for Trump. Simultaneously there was have been cake bakers, florists, and wedding photographers that have been sued by states for refusing to participate in same-sex weddings. So my question for you is this: As an artist, should you be forced by the State to create art that is contrary to your belief? Is denying service to Trump voters different from denying service to a same-sex wedding?
FRANK SCHAEFFER (former Evangelical Christian): I think there is a big difference between refusing to perform for a political leader you hate (everyone’s right) and refusing service to someone who voted “wrong.” BTW I don’t know of any story of that happening in any media I read. I do know no one in the arts will ever work for Trump unless they are a hack or has-been. And no one wants to sing for him at the Inauguration. But I agree: saying you won’t serve someone who voted “wrong” is no better than refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple. Look at me — you are a horrible Trump voter and we seem to get on! We’re even blogging together (though I am wearing garlic and have a large silver cross on my desk next to the wood stake and mallet).
MOON: Strange. Every time we blog, I’m chillin’ with my seat back, drinking a glass of wine.
I’m a firm believer that everyone should be allowed freedom of conscience. If an artist doesn’t want to perform for Trump or anyone else, they should not be forced to. So maybe there is already a silver lining to the Trump election. The Progressives rediscovered the First Amendment.
FRANK: Here’s where we might even agree up to a point. I can’t stand all these “safe spaces” on campus, let alone “trigger” warnings for material someone might find offensive. It’s sure not where I cut my teeth in raging arguments in the 1960s – 70s. The problem the Left and Right face is that with everyone retreating to ideological bubbles, you have a sort of health and safety regulation softness when it comes to even hearing contrary opinion.
MOON: It’s happening on both the Right and the Left. The siloing of information around ideology is super unhealthy for our society. Apart from stuff like we are doing here, how do we (America) move forward?
FRANK: I have a question for you: Do you think this is happening because of the internet and all that goes with social media? Is it a function of the decline of old media? Aside from the ideological differences why are we stuck with Huffington Post or Breitbart? This is not a trick. I’m really trying to figure out how we got here. There used to be a baseline of facts more or less everyone agreed to about say economics or big strokes politics. Then they could disagree on how to do and what to do about those facts. Now there is no baseline at all in politics and social issues. I fault the right more, then I would but in this question I just want your opinion on how we got here? I tend to think that the unintended consequences of the online information age have yet to be reckoned with.
MOON: In his book Coming Apart, Charles Murray describes this phenomenon. He describes how people basically stopped mixing. Neighborhoods became increasingly politically, ideologically, economically homogeneous. I think social media has played a big role in this. My wife’s Facebook feed is very different from my feed. I share political stuff, she shares family stuff and funny videos. Her high school friends are mostly liberal, whereas I hardly have any left because I started having strong political opinions.
When I left the mission field and became more politically active, I lost over 500 Facebook friends in just a few months. I do not think the Right is to blame. I saw a report a few months ago that showed the Left is more likely to unfriend people over politics.
FRANK: I believe that report re the Left. Where I really see it is in my blogs opposing Trump. Trust me on this: Out of the hundreds of angry responses to those posts I got from Trump supporters, it was clear not one had ever read anything else of mine or seen or heard me on anything but the one blog or quote that must have been picked up by some right-wing site as an example of how bad the Left is. They would quite literally just tell me to get fucked and leave it at that.
Here’s the point though: Even though I have a pretty nice bunch of mostly left-wing people who “like” my FB page, I saw some of their responses to anyone on my page disagreeing, and some were as off the wall as the Right — more literate, not so much fuck-you stuff, but plenty rude. As they say “Houston, we have a problem.” I wonder if you admit that Trump’s rather mean (to put it mildly) spirit and ego isn’t helping this?
MOON: It doesn’t surprise me at all. I recently live-tweeted from a conference on combatting anti-semitism. It takes about 30 minutes before the Nazis show up on my Twitter feed attacking me. I said a couple weeks ago that the old gatekeepers are gone and the hordes have breached the walls. Social media puts a rabid Nazi in his wife-beater tank top on the same platform as a Ph.D. graduate who is an expert on a topic. It will be a while before the gates have been reestablished. The institutions of society are being destroyed too. We will eventually find our way out of this. I think the Church will be helpful in this endeavor.
Trump is mean. I don’t like that about him. But he’s being a bull in a china shop right now, and I think we need to get this populism out of our system so we can rebuild a unified nation once more.
FRANK: If he was bright enough to have chosen the role I’d go with that. I don’t think that’s the case. But I agree on the rest.
Schaeffer & Moon is written on the fly in a real-time chat room format and lightly proofed by Patheos editors.
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