The three ways of looking at Thomas's piece that immediately occurred to me were "tepid," "wrongheaded" and "desperate," but really, I didn't give it much more thought, as I had pay-the-bills writing to knock out, as well as some other life obligations.
Still, it grated on me when I did think about it.
So it was gratifying to see Heather Wilhelm's piece at NRO today that deals with it head-on:
Cal Thomas, a Christian syndicated columnist, is the latest in a long line to crack. I met Thomas years ago, around the time of his 1999 book, Blinded by Might, which was written with Ed Dobson and — forthcoming irony alert — cautioned against Christians’ attempting to find salvation in politicians or the Republican party. I wove my way to the front of the event, which was at a church, and cheerfully introduced myself. “Mr. Thomas,” I said, bright-eyed, “I want to be an opinion columnist!”
“Oh,” he chuckled. “You poor thing.”
Boy, was he right! He must have seen 2016 coming. Fast forward to today, past Clinton and Bush and Obama to the current Clinton/Trump horror show, and witness Cal Thomas writing his September 27 column, in which he endorses Donald Trump. It’s a doozy.
“All analogies break down at some point,” Thomas writes, “but let’s engage in a theological stretch. When Jesus overturned the money changer’s tables in the Temple, he said that instead of a house of prayer, the elites of his day had turned the Temple into ‘a den of thieves.’ This increasingly applies to Washington.”
I’ll pause here to note that the co-author of Blinded by Might just compared Washington, D.C. to a house of worship. But wait! It gets better: “Only one candidate for president is capable of overturning ‘the money changers’ in Washington. The political, governmental and media elites have had their chance to turn things around and they have failed. Now it’s time for Trump.”
Let’s ignore the fact that Thomas just used an analogy in which he compared Trump to Jesus. Let’s also ignore the fact that amidst all this talk about corrupt money-changers, Thomas just endorsed a candidate who literally bankrupted businesses involving seedy money-changing tables, stiffed people who worked for him, and has applauded the abuse of eminent domain, in which the government can plow over poor people’s homes in order to build things like casinos and fancy hotels.
Yes, forget all that. Trump is going to be “our jerk”! Trump, Thomas argues, is the only candidate who can stop the “secular progressive agenda,” which seems odd, if you actually listen to what Trump says. Trump will fight for “Christians who are tired of being called homophobes,” Thomas tells the world; meanwhile, the real Trump recently called for immigrants to be questioned about their approval of gay rights. Trump, despite Thomas’s protestations, offers incoherent and conflicting paragraphs on transgender bathrooms. His history of abortion flip-flops is almost awe-inspiring.
When it comes to Christians, in fact, Trump seems passionate about just two things: (1) making everyone say “Merry Christmas” on command, and (2) manipulating what he has repeatedly called a “powerful” Christian voting block.Why am I compelled to get a bit in the weeds here and write about what another writer wrote about yet another writer? (It brings to mind Norman Podhoretz's reminiscence in Breaking Ranks about a 1950s dinner party of New York intellectuals at which guests stood around singing a tune called "I'm the Guy Who Wrote the Piece About the Guy Who Wrote the Piece About David Reisman.")
Because it's important to say that Christian attempts to shill for Squirrel-Hair have yet to rise above what, as I call it above, the desperate, wrongheaded and tepid.
Wilhelm has it right when she reiterates the truism that must be stated as often as necessary but must never become cliche: culture is upstream from politics:
Many of the problems that face our nation have nothing to do with politics. The government can’t fix the spiritual vacuum behind the growing heroin epidemic. It can’t magically fix frayed race relations. It can’t help broken families or hurting kids.
Can a Christian vote for Donald Trump? Sure. I won’t, but I can understand why someone would. But please, don’t do it in the name of Christianity.In short, don't make excuses for the guy. There are none.