FRANK SCHAEFFER (former Evangelical Christian): If Billy Graham was his old self, say as I knew him from the 1960s to the 1980s when he was working to desegregate churches, was pro-choice and not by any stretch a forerunner of the Religious Right — if that man was here now, I wonder if he’d be going along with his son Franklin’s slide to the far right. The man who was a friend of my father was to the left of my dad. What would he say to his son now, post Trump?
LUKE MOON (Evangelical Christian): I don’t think we can know. It’s like saying, I wonder what George Washington would say if he were alive today? I’ve heard this week in two different settings that Reagan could not get elected as a Republican today and that Kennedy could not get elected as a Democrat. The polarization is on so many levels. We are polarized on Religious Liberty, Free Speech, Free Press, Environment, LGBT, Abortion, etc. etc. etc. Heck you and I are probably very far apart on most of those issues and yet once a week we hang out here. But could we handle more? I don’t know. I lost 20 FB friends this week. Not because I said anything more outrageous than normal, but because they just quit FB because it was too political and divisive.
SCHAEFFER: I think Billy would have hated and feared Trump. He backed way off politics after getting close to Nixon. And Nixon was a Sunday school picnic compared to Trump. Also Billy never changed his mind on choice. Now Franklin may want to rewrite that history just as he’s put words in his dad’s mouth on lots of things recently but I was there arguing with Billy about abortion. Dad told him he couldn’t call himself a Christian unless he was pro-life and Billy wouldn’t budge—even when his wife Ruth begged him to. I think that I can safely say that if Billy Graham — in let’s say 1970 — was as close to the definition of what the word evangelical means that today he’d no longer be considered one– if the 81 percent of Trump voters in the white evangelical world had their way. His entire outlook was just far too generous and empathetic. Franklin would be his sworn enemy… family aside.
MOON: I don’t know whether he would have or not. I do know that we make the most of the time in which we live. For me that meant choosing between two morally impoverished people, one of which was going to be my president. I still think I made the right choice. .. I had to say that…cause we are being boring.
SCHAEFFER: Luke, this is not a trick question… but if Hillary had been herself on everything but abortion and had always been pro-life but the same on what you call morally impoverished character… would you still have voted for Trump?
MOON: I was thinking more of her defense of her husband’s sexual abuse. I would have had a harder choice if it was Tim Kaine or someone like that. Again that was not the choice I was given.
SCHAEFFER: My theory is that the pro-life mantra is like code for generating a Pavlovian response. The evangelicals react to words like “Life” and “Choice” like puppets on a string… Divorce? No problem! Adultery? Fine! Pastors stealing money and molesting kids? Forgive! Racism? Okay! But abortion… circle the wagons! I think it’s a phony issue now. It’s the big distraction that makes evangelicals totally malleable in the hands of frauds. I think evangelicals are so stuck on this that the nation could be crashed into a ditch, but as long as it’s done by leaders paying lip service to “Life Issues” that’s fine. Hillary could have won if she’d even been slightly more nuanced on the issue and thus pried away just a small percentage of that 81 percent. Suddenly she wouldn’t have been a “criminal” etc.
MOON: I don’t see it that way at all. The pro-life issue is super easy and uncomplicated. The signing of the Mexico City Policy EO meant that maybe a few more kids will live. That matters to me. I might not be able to save the world, or even stop Trump’s overreach, but maybe I can save one life. It’s personal for me. My daughter is adopted and the nephew was going to be aborted if it had not been for an ultrasound machine. I love them both. I’ll gladly circle the wagons for them.
SCHAEFFER: Too bad for the literally hundreds of thousands of born children refugees from Mexico, Central America and Muslim nations Trump’s racist policies will condemn to death. I don’t see life as theological. I see it as consciousness defined by awareness. A three-year-old little girl and her mom stuck in Iraq because Trump closed the door to them even after they had visas, even though their husband and dad worked at great risk with the US Army, are suffering a hell of a lot more than a zygote defined as human life theologically suffers in abortion. And your three-year-old little girl isn’t going to like the misogynistic backward world Trump is creating. She would have done lots better with a liberal Democrat going to bat for her rights.
MOON: Really, pit refugees against unborn babies? I prefer to defend both. I guess neither candidate would have given us both though. I wrote about refugees this week on the Philos Project. I don’t like it when they are used as political pawns and I think it’s the obligation of the church to stand up for the widow, orphan, and alien. I don’t want to pit babies against refugees, so I won’t. Period.
SCHAEFFER: I don’t defend or attack. I say life and empathy demand trying to minimize suffering, and there is no question that on that ground Trump is evil. He is causing global anguish. There is no way to “balance” whatever babies might be born or not with this fact. And if history is any guide, the number of abortions won’t go down if Roe is reversed, just be driven underground and to states that allow it. It’s all window dressing. The facts of abortion won’t change.
But refugee policy actually does change lives. It isn’t as if turning refugees away will happen anyway if Trump let them in. With abortion after the evangelicals are done posturing women will still have them. With a moral person as president and a moral population, the lives of these “least of these” could be entirely different with a compassionate policy. Laws won’t stop abortion, just kill women. Laws do destroy refugee families.
MOON: Sure refugee policy changes lives, but so do babies. Trump has reduced the number of refugees from 85,000 to 50,000. I don’t see how this is the most existential crisis facing the world. There are literally millions of refugees. 50,000 or 85,000 is a tear in the ocean. Seriously, progressives need to figure out which battles they want to fight because the constant protests is becoming white noise (no racial signaling intended, I’m a Conservative so I don’t fully understand microaggression :- ) ). Every issue is taken equally and then turned to 11.
SCHAEFFER: The climate created by the Republican Party as they tried to obstruct everything President Obama did set the stage for Trump. The Democrats would have long since done far more for refugees, for undocumented migrants and all the rest. And I wasn’t talking about babies changing lives but the hardness of the Republican heart for all but the white and privileged… a bias that Trump is now setting in concrete… did I get the last word?
MOON: Sure. Have a good weekend. Shabbat Shalom.
SCHAEFFER: Same to you!
Schaeffer & Moon is written on the fly in a real-time chat room format and lightly proofed by Patheos editors.