LEAPFROG and The Immoral Majority

Two books I read in March worked hand-in-hand. I hadn’t anticipated that, so it was a pleasant surprise. I mentioned them in passing in last week’s blog post, https://janetswritingblog.com/2020/04/06/eight-books-i-read-in-march-2020/.

The two books are The Immoral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power over Christian Values, by Ben Howe and LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens, M.A.

I read Ben Howe’s book first. It addressed something that has dumbfounded me:  How can Christians come down on opposite ends of the spectrum about Donald Trump? How do many evangelicals continue to support him when his speech, Tweets, and actions are in total contrast to the teachings of Jesus Christ?

I took copious notes while reading The Immoral Majority and thought I’d write a blog post about it. Then, I read LEAPFROG, by Janet Givens. I was immediately struck by how the two books could work together. This is probably the longest blog post I’ve written. If the topic interests you, I hope you’ll have time to read it.


The Immoral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power over Christian Values, by Ben Howe

How can Christians see Donald Trump so differently?
The Immoral Moral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power over Christian Values, by Ben Howe

In the introduction to this nonfiction book author Ben Howe relates a story from 2012 when the Chick-Fil-A restaurant chain came under attack for its charitable foundation’s support of several organizations the Huffington Post labeled as anti-gay. Mr. Howe and a gay friend set out to make a video to show that Chick-Fil-A was a good company that did not discriminate against anyone due to their sexual orientation.

About the same time, a man in another state went to a Chick-Fil-A restaurant with video camera in hand to prove that Chick-Fil-A was a horrible company. A video he made of an exchange with the employee at the drive-through window went viral. Ben Howe more or less led a campaign to give that man “what he deserved.” The result of the campaign resulted in the man losing his job and having trouble finding employment for years to come.

In telling that story, Mr. Howe concludes: “It’s not really whether the punishment fits the crime; it’s more about the decisions of those who react to the crime and whether they are carrying out justice or simply joining the wrongdoer in being wrong.”

He asks the reader to imagine what happens when you put millions of self-righteous people together. An echo chamber develops.

“This is a book about what happens when the people who believe they have the moral high ground find themselves on the low road.” ~ Ben Howe

Feeling under attack, evangelical Christians in the United States had to decide whether to cling unflinchingly to Biblical principles or to act “according to Christ’s example.” As a group, they clung to principles and turned their backs on Christ’s example. The result was the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Mr. Howe theorizes that the shift started with Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s January 2016 endorsement of Trump for US president. Although a few evangelical leaders spoke out against Trump, Falwell held sway over the majority. Just as Jerry Falwell, Sr. had helped launch the “Moral Majority” movement in 1980, his son was instrumental in urging evangelical Christians to support Trump in 2016.

The difference was, in 1980 Christians were encouraged to influence politics, but in 2016 Christians were, in Mr. Howe’s words, “being forcefully changed by politics.” In his campaign, Trump played on people’s fears. He told Christians they were being persecuted by the government and the Internal Revenue Service, and he promised to put an end to it.

People like Dr. Ben Carson maintained that Trump was a chess pawn in God’s hands and we needed faith that God knew what He was doing. Franklin Graham also took the pragmatic approach, saying God had always used imperfect people to work out His plans.

Trump campaigned as the one and only person who could save America. He mocked (and continues to mock) people who follow Christ’s admonition that we should pray for our enemies. By offering such counter-Christian ideas, Trump was able to win the U.S. presidency via the Electoral College, even though he did not win the popular vote.

In his book, Mr. Howe presents a chronology of how the old “Moral Majority” lost their way and set their sights on the political power Trump promised them instead of the power, grace, and eternal life Jesus Christ promised them. They somehow – which still puzzles me – fell for Trump’s showmanship and voted for him by the millions. He was that new shiny object that sounded so appealing to so many.

Mr. Howe says the real shift happened on June 20, 2016 when Trump “held a meeting with a thousand value-centric conservative leaders.” Endorsed at the meeting by such respected Christian leaders as Mike Huckabee, Dr. Ben Carson, and Dr. James Dobson, Trump was able to silence his evangelical naysayers and capture the hearts and minds of enough Christians to put himself in the White House.

The irony is that Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the 2016 presidential race, was and is a practicing Methodist. Trump supporters somehow believed that Trump was elected because God is in power; however, the same people believed the world would end if Clinton were elected. I can’t get my head around their belief that the all-powerful God would delight in Trump’s election but that same God would be held powerless if Hillary Clinton were elected.

All this and I’ve only touched on the introduction and first chapter of Mr. Howe’s book. I admit that I just skimmed through the rest of the book.

In subsequent chapters Mr. Howe writes about such topics as how Trump has been compared to King Cyrus of Persia in the 6th century B.C; people who criticized President Trump’s character; the influence of social media in the vitriol in today’s politics; the belief of many Trump supporters that you’re either pro-choice or you’re pro-Trump – there’s no middle ground; political correctness; desire for revenge; racism and the perception of racism; us against them; abortion; gun policy; defense of the indefensible; excusing the inexcusable; separation of church and state; and choosing between immoralities/the lesser of two evils.

On page 161, Mr. Howe states:  “By directly defying their stated desire, ignoring the character of Donald Trump, and creating a ‘Christian’ culture that has become divisively self-interested and bitterly self-righteous, these leaders have taught their flocks to value the things of the world, rather than the things of Christ.”

And on page 205:  “There simply is no pulling of a lever in a voting booth that will deny God His purpose when He pursues it, nor is there any pulling of the lever that will earn His allegiance to your ‘side.’”

Mr. Howe concludes that God will accomplish His plan regardless of who the U.S. president is. I agree.

“If you wish to be all that Donald Trump and his ilk are not, then the greatest service you could do for the world is to love them despite themselves. Love doesn’t require agreement. It doesn’t require compromise. It doesn’t require surrender or shedding of values. It only and ever required the simple truth that we are stuck together. And if things are going to get better, you cannot wait for others to do it first.” ~ Ben Howe

In the current political climate in the United States, the loudest voices to the “far right” seem to think, “If you don’t agree with me politically, you have no right to live.” This must stop!


LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens, M.A.

How we can learn to agreeably disagree.
LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens, M.A.

 “If it is our desire to live in a civil society, we must be willing to engage in a dialogue with those with whom we disagree.” ~ Janet Givens, M.A.

Ms. Givens titled her book LEAPFROG — an acronym of four verbs, Listen, Empathize, Assess, and Paraphrase that help us listen, while the nouns Facts, Respect, Observation, and Gratitude “guide us as we present our ideas in a way that will increase the likelihood that we will also be heard.”

Ms. Givens dedicated a chapter to each of the four verbs and four nouns. In a nutshell, here are snippets from the chapters about Assess, Facts, and Respect:

Assess – Ms. Given wrote, “Assess, as I’m using it here, simply means ‘pause and think’ while you ask yourself, “Is this a conversation I am able to have at this time?’ This is more important than you realize.” Are you and the other party coming to the conversation with curiosity and compassion?

Facts – Ms. Givens wrote, “… since understanding is our goal, we must ignore facts. For now. They have their place in any conversation, of course, but first, receptivity, a willingness to hear them, must exist. On both sides.” She gives “a question to ponder before moving on” at the end of each chapter. At the end of the chapter about facts she wrote: “Think back to your last political conversation. Or, your last Town Hall meeting. Or, your last family feast that ended badly. What went wrong?”

Respect – I love Ms. Givens’ chapter about respect. She wrote, “When we forget our common humanity, we create a chasm between us that is hard to bridge. Respect serves as a bridge to cross that chasm,” while “blame lets us abdicate responsibility for our discomfort by putting it on the other.” We’re all biased, whether we realize it or not.

In conclusion, Ms. Givens wrote about human beings’ need for social interaction. She calls difference “the source of all creativity. Indeed, think of difference as the beginning of all learning, Then, consider a disagreement as a difference of opinion that creates an enlightening and stimulating mystery, one which can be solved, together.”

She then lists her concerns about where our society is heading if we continue to be at such odds politically like we have not been since the American Civil War.

Ms. Givens asks many questions for our consideration throughout the book and at the end of her book. I think most people would benefit from reading LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era. I’ve just hit a few high points in my blog post. For more information about Ms. Givens’ work or to contact her, go to https://janetgivens.com/.


How the two books helped me

I approached The Immoral Moral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power over Christian Values, by Ben Howe with the following mindset: I’m a Christian, a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and I have been guilty of being critical of Christians who continue to support Donald Trump. I wanted the book to explain their rationale to me. I’m still trying to understand it.

While I was still contemplating the theories, Mr. Howe gave in his book, I read LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era, by Janet Givens, M.A., and it really opened my eyes and made me evaluate my opinions.

It helped me see that I tend to listen to the cable news channels I agree with. When I read or listen to “the other side” I approach them with a biased ear and eye. Ms. Givens’ book helped me acknowledge my biases. Overcoming those biases is a work in progress.

If you disagree with my politics, that is your right. I respect your right to disagree; I just don’t understand it. As an American and a Presbyterian I will defend your right to believe what you believe and vote as you feel led to vote. That doesn’t mean I understand how you got there. When the Trump presidency is over, I hope we, as Americans, will once again be able to agreeably disagree.

In the current political climate in the United States, the loudest voices to the “far right” seem to think, “If you don’t agree with me politically, you have no right to live.” This must stop!

I still haven’t had that difficult conversation with anyone whose political views are far from mine, but I will read and re-read Ms. Givens’ book so I’ll be better-equipped to Listen, Empathize, Assess, and Paraphrase when that opportunity presents itself. I’ll have that conversation someday, when the other person and I are ready to approach it with Facts, Respect, Observation, and Gratitude.


Since my last blog post

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my next appointment with my orthopedic doctor has been rescheduled for a week later, which means I’ll have 13 weeks without putting any weight on my right leg instead of 12. I’m disappointed but that’s a small price for me to pay.

Until my next blog post

Please rest your eyes. If you read this lengthy blog post of mine today, you need to rest your eyes.

I hope you have a good book to read.

I hope you have some creative time.

I hope you stay safe and well. It has been a year like most of us have never seen before and it will, no doubt, continue to be so. I hope you will find something positive to do as we all journey through this pandemic.

Let’s continue the conversation

Have you read either of these two books? How did they affect you? Have you acknowledged your biases? Have you had that difficult conversation with someone? How did it go? Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your thinking about politics and your fellow citizens whose views are very different from yours?

Janet

25 thoughts on “LEAPFROG and The Immoral Majority

  1. You’re welcome, Janet. LEAPFROG made an impression on me. I couldn’t have read it at a better time. It can be applied to so many situations.

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  2. Great post Janet! And both books are very interesting…I sometimes feel the same way, that I tend to listen to the news channels that are more closely aligned with my way of thinking and when I turn to Fox, I do it with the intention of listening to the “enemy”. You are on the right path, we have to understand each other’s points of views and respect each other’s opinions. However, I do not think that we are on equal grounds with those who, like you said, think that if you do not agree with them you’ve no right to live! With those people a civilised discussion is impossible! I hope that, if anything good comes out of this pandemic, it will be the downfall of the Trump presidency and that Joe Biden wins. I think the US deserves a better leader during these times. The world is navigating in uncharted waters, for the first time, and we need (here in Spain as well) good, intelligent leadership. But the fact that in the US the born-again Christians support, admire and practically call Trump a prophet, is something I cannot understand. Here in Europe, most of us are Roman Catholic (our own way) and we are not in favour of Trump and most of us wish he would lose in November. We will all keep our fingers crossed.
    A very in-depth article with very interesting information. Very well written. All the best to you Janet and I hope you tolerate that extra week safely and relaxed at home.
    Francisco

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Francisco. I’m glad you got so much from my blog post. I hesitate to share my political opinions on my blog, but I felt compelled to write about the Immoral Majority book. I’m sure I “stepped on the toes” of some of my friends and relatives with this post. It is a difficult time here. I never thought I’d see Americans so deeply divided, and Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened those who share his opinions to be more vocal than they would have otherwise been. His ignorance of democracy in general and the responsibilities of the office he holds is mind blogging. I tried to come across more optimistic in my blog post than I am in my heart. I think it is impossible to have a productive conversation with a Trump supporter. It is as if they have been brainwashed.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!
    Janet

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We’re hearing that things are improving in Spain. Locally, most people are obeying the stay at home order. The hospitals have been able to keep up. Lack of supplies and lack of testing are the main problems in this area. People are making face masks in their homes for use in hospitals because States are having to bid for masks and other medical supplies. State governors are having to bid against each other and compete with the federal government for medical supplies because Trump has refused to take responsibility. He tried the “I am king” approach early in the week. When that didn’t go over so well, he went to the other extreme of washing his hands of the situation and blaming the governors for not being prepared for the pandemic. He’s gone so far as to encourage people to take part in civil disobedience in the capitals of the state’s with Democrat governors. Unfortunately, he is exactly the same person he was when he was running for office. Arrogant, a bully, uncaring, shallow. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. I hope you are having a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Everything in my little world is peaceful and silent this morning. Take care, Francisco.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you Janet, and yes, it is quite better, yesterday we had our best day, fewer deaths and more people getting cured and released from hospital. We will probably have to go through another 15 days of quarantine, so we probably won’t begin the de-escalation of the confinement until 09 MAY. We have to strive for the same results and procedures all over Europe…
    It really angers me to see the things that Trump is doing and the things he is encouraging others to do. What they did in Michigan is not only reprehensible but criminal! I have always admired the US as a country with political maturity and good leadership. I lived there for many years. I served under Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan (US Army) and I tell you, I would not serve under a Commander in Chief as Trump! His arrogance, narcissism and total disdain for anyone not on his side is unacceptable in the position he holds. He forgets that he is the president of all the Americans.
    In any event, Janet, what’s the use in getting frustrated. We all have to vote, I am a US citizen as well as a European citizen and I will go to the embassy to vote!
    Take good care and enjoy your beautiful Sunday, it is raining here. Stay home, stay safe,
    All the best,
    Francisco

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Janet. Great post. I read it to the end because it was so engaging. Both books are great and compliments each other.

    We are living in a world filled with deception and the bible said that the devil will fool most people except the elect. I personally do not get involve in politics, but I like to listen to both sides and keep an open mind. Thank you, for taking the time to read these books and tell us about them. I will be honest with you, I cannot find the time to read so I look forward to your reviews. Have a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for sharing that, Beverley, and thank you for complimenting my writing.

    I’ve never been active politically or aligned myself strongly with either political party until the last decade or so. I liked President Obama very much and felt that his heart was in the right place. He served our country with grace, intellect, compassion, and enthusiasm. Trump, on the other hand displays none of those qualities. I do believe the devil delights in Trump’s chaos. I know that God will see us through his presidency. I pray it will end after the election in November. It really steams me when he mocks people who pray. I pray that he will accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Only Jesus can turn his life around.

    Have a wonderful evening and I hope you have a week filled with blessings.

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  8. Hi, Francisco. Thank you for your long note. I had no idea you had dual citizenship. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that you’ll get to vote in the presidential election in November! We need all the help we can get over here! I agree with what you said about Trump as Commander in Chief. A young woman from my church went to West Point and is making the army her career. I think of her often and how disgusted she must be to have to serve during this administration. I know her well enough to know she is unhappy with the situation.

    We had a beautiful day here, but thunderstorms and a chance of tornadoes are in the forecast for tonight and into tomorrow. The Deep South has been taking a beating with tornadoes the last couple of weeks. We’re pretty fortunate in NC when it comes to weather.

    Take care, and have a beautiful week!

    My best,
    Janet

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you Janet. I am averse to politics, but during this time in our history it is difficult to be dispassionate and try understand what happens to people that they believe ardently what they should oppose. Best wishes.

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  10. My dear Janet, the evangelical christians love Trump and they believe he is God’s gift to humanity. I am afraid I have to disappoint you, but I do believ e that the stage

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I know, Beverley. They even think he’s handling the response to the coronavirus well. I will never understand it. Christians should be the last people to support him.

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