You’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above

You’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above April 24, 2024

Aid for the defense of Ukraine finally passed in the House of Representatives despite the objections of the MAGA “Freedom Caucus” led — if that’s the right word — by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. All 210 Democrats voted in support of the bill. Among Republicans, 101 voted for it and 112 voted against it.

That split among Republican members of Congress is also a split among white evangelical Republican members of Congress, which in turn seems to reflect a split among white evangelicals more generally. Some want America to support Ukraine. Some –particularly on the CharisMAGA side — want America to support Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The latter group are spitting mad at Republican Speaker Mike Johnson.

(There also seems to be a contingent of evangelical culture warriors who wanted the Ukraine aid to pass, and are happy it did, but who are still furious with Johnson because the bill only passed because he worked with the enemy — the Democrats.)

In general, establishment evangelicals and the legacy institutions of the religious right supported aid for Ukraine while cable TV and online evangelicals opposed it. Johnson and Greene serve as representatives of those respective factions.

I’m not sure this is a split in the white Republican/white evangelical bloc as much as just an internal power struggle, but I think this bit from Diana Butler Bass gets at why such fights among evangelicals always get so deeply personal and ugly:

There are two evangelical factions in the GOP — Greene’s pro-Trump, pro-Putin, populist MAGA, Steve Bannon group and Johnson’s pro-Trump, Russia-skeptical, establishment Washington, Tony Perkins evangelical crowd.

I know it is difficult for many Americans to find any daylight between these two groups, but there are real tensions here — occasionally in policy and always in style. But the rift was out in the open this week around Ukraine. And it wasn’t pretty. When evangelicals argue politics, it isn’t just about policy. It usually comes down to accusations about how good a Christian one’s opponent is — and excommunicating them from evangelicalism.

It works like this: If I support policy X it must be because I am a Christian who loves Jesus and has a good heart and longs to obey God’s Plan For My Life. Therefore, if you do not support policy X, it must be because you are not really a Christian, you don’t really love Jesus, you don’t have a good heart, and you are obstinately choosing to disobey God’s Plan For Your Life.

And when white evangelicals disagree, both sides are saying this. That makes these disputes go from zero to off-the-charts nasty really fast.

Not all evangelicals at all times, of course. But for many, “Christian politics” is assumed to be what any Good Christian with a Good Heart would want. And so any disagreement must come from Bad Christians with Bad Hearts.

Heck, this doesn’t just apply to politics. This is how evangelicals sometimes fight over the color of the carpet in the sanctuary or whether or not the praise band should have electric guitars.

• Tyler Jay is a 30-year-old rookie pitcher for the New York Mets. Well, he’s with the Mets’ AAA minor-league team at the moment, sent down during a flurry of recent roster moves. Here’s why I care about that:

The sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Twins, Jay never reached the big leagues with Minnesota. Injuries, most notably a 2017 thoracic outlet procedure, stopped the Illinois product from moving past Double-A.

It looked as if Jay would never get to the majors, but he reinvigorated his career in independent ball. Jay showed enough with the Frontier League’s Joliet Slammers between 2022-23 to earn a minor league opportunity from the Mets.

The Joliet Slammers are not a minor-league team or any kind of pipeline to the majors. Calling it “semi-pro” doesn’t convey the half of it. The base salary for players in the Frontier League is $500 a month. The maximum salary is $2,500 per month. And the season is only four months long.  Teams pay for travel and lodging for away games, but players pay for their own meals.

That’s where Tyler Jay was pitching last year. And then this year he put on a major league uniform and pitched four innings in the show, allowing only one run.

The last major league batter Tyler Jay faced before being sent down to AAA was the Braves’ all-star first baseman, Matt Olson. He struck him out. I hope every guy Jay ever struck out in the Frontier League — all those guys making $500 a month playing for the Evansville Otters or the Schaumburg Boomers — saw that too.

• There are interesting and important religious freedom issues involved in this story — “Beach Access Fight Involving Methodist Group May Not Be Resolved In Time For Summer” — and I don’t want to dismiss those.

But also the beach access at issue here involves the beach at Ocean Grove, N.J., and if you ever find yourself at the beach in Ocean Grove — whether or not it is open due to the Methodist Camp Meeting — what you really ought to do next is walk a few hundred yards up the boardwalk and go, instead, to the beach in Asbury Park. Same sand. Same waves. But with an actual boardwalk. And better history.

Anyway, since the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association is raising some First Amendment issues in asserting its religious freedom to shut down beach access, here’s some context for that from the group’s own website: “[The Great Auditorium] still features lighting systems quite advanced for their time, such as the parallel rows of incandescent bulbs that adorn the varnished wood ceiling paneling. Also novel is a large American flag (c. 1916) covered with light bulbs that flash in an undulating manner.”

I’ll take the Stone Pony over that any day. For religious reasons.

• The title for this post comes from Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love.” The video was shot half a mile from God’s Square Mile, in the Boss’s beloved Asbury Park, at the amusement park we’d sneak off to on fundamentalist youth group trips to Ocean Grove.

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