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

#YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp Part 5 of 5

Today’s blog post wraps up my recent tale of woe. We pick up the story when the nurse was checking on the status of my shower chair/portable toilet and the woman at the other end of the phone call responds, “I’m on it.”

In case you missed Part 4 yesterday, here’s a link to it: #YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp Part 4 of 5. ­­­­

Home at last

I’m finally presented with my “throne” and Marie and I leave the hospital. We stop on the way home for some lunch at a fast-food restaurant’s drive-through window since we are now getting very hungry. (My breakfast had been interrupted no less than eight times by various hospital personnel, so I don’t remember what or when I ate it.)

My sister, Marie, is a very resourceful person. Not able to find a bridge threshold ramp that will work with our particular threshold, she goes to the basement and comes back with two wooden planks, a piece of 2-inch wide crown molding, and a piece of slick-backed insulation. She’s a genius!

Her plan works great! When I need to go for a follow-up appointment with my doctor, we won’t have to call the fire department to carry me out of the house! We are proud of ourselves, but mainly I’m proud of Marie. She figured this out!

An outing to see the physician’s assistant

I make an appointment to follow up with my primary care physician. When I explain to the lab technician how I broke my leg, she says, “You’re kidding, aren’t you? How did it really happen?” After I assure her that I’ve told her the real story, she says, “You can’t make this stuff up!”

I agree. I write some fiction, but I lack the imagination to make up the story you’ve read since Monday.

What next?

The other day I texted my friend, Kay, about the latest part of my tale of woe. Kay texted back, “LOL! What’s next?”

Less than an hour later, Marie is pushing me down the hall in my rollator. Suddenly, it becomes difficult to push. I can’t believe it when Marie says, “You have a flat tire!”

Who knew a rollator could have a flat tire?

I texted Kay. She responded, “I’ve used a rollator for years, but I’ve never had a blowout!”

My rollator is old. Marie bought it at a yard sale. It’s so old, replacement tires are not made for it. I could order one on E-Bay that might work, but for an additional $50.00 I could purchase a new rollator.

Since I won’t need the rollator forever, and I have a very resourceful sister, I don’t need to buy a new one. Marie repaired the tire with duct tape! It brought back memories of our father having tires recapped back in the day before the invention of radial tires.

Where things stand today

I can get in and out of the house in my rollator with Marie’s assistance. Of course, now we’re under a “Stay at Home” order in my county due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I can’t put any weight on my right foot for another three-and-a-half weeks, and it remains to be seen what happens to the physical therapy I’ll need in the coming months. I can’t imagine any physical therapists will be seeing patients in the coming months.

I expect to be on a blood thinner for the next three months, since the pulmonary embolism was the result of an accident and not due to an underlying medical condition. My lung continues to hurt if I lie down flat, so I’m sleeping nearly sitting up. I still run a fever most evenings. I’m trying to learn patience.

The phone still rings and it frustrates me when the caller ID box says, “SPAM” or “Fraudulent Caller” and I wonder why the phone company isn’t filtering such calls.

One caller left a voicemail. She claimed her name was “Sunshine” and that she knew I was an author. She said she represents “a hybrid company that also invests in French National Book Rights.” She asked that I call her at 302-770-____, Ext. 87, but I didn’t. I’m only an author because I wrote a vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and I doubt that anyone wants to translate it into French.

By the way, the burial insurance agent called again yesterday. That recorded caller doesn’t give up easily.

Until my next blog post

Take care of yourself. Stay home, if you possibly can. Listen to the medical experts and other scientists.

Write a note of caring and thanks to someone you know – maybe to the pharmacist, the nurse at your doctor’s office, or the cashier at the grocery store.

Be resourseful! Be like Marie!

Today concludes my tale of woe since fracturing my leg on January 27.. At least, I hope the “woe” part of the tale is over. On Monday I plan to resume my usual weekly blog post.

Janet

A thank-you note
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

#YouCan'tMakeThisStuffUp Part 3 of 5

In case you missed #YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp Part 2, here’s a link to it: https://janetswritingblog.com/2020/03/24/youcantmakethisstuffup-part-2-of-5/.

Something I forgot to include in Part 2 was when the triage nurse asked me, “Do you feel safe in your home?” (this being right after my sister has crashed into me in our kitchen and fractured my tibial plateau) and I responded, “I did until a few minutes ago!”

I know that was a very serious question, and I’m glad ER triage nurses are required to ask it, but I just couldn’t resist having a little fun with it.

Today we pick up my tale of woe just as our friend, Carol, arrives after 1:30 a.m. with a key to our house.

We thought we’d hear from you again tonight

Once she’s in the house, Marie calls the fire department and requests lift assistance. The same crew is still on duty. One of the firemen says, “We thought we’d hear from you again tonight.”

The firemen marvel that I have a fractured leg. They carry me up the porch steps and into the house in the handy-dandy rollator.

Marie and I eat I don’t remember what, but it tasted good, and we went to bed. I’m armed with a bell to ring if I need her during the night – and my cell phone so I can call her if she doesn’t hear the bell in her bedroom.

Do you need burial insurance?

The next morning we start getting daily robocalls offering us burial insurance. I don’t know if the hospital gave them my phone number or if someone told them the next day was my birthday. Either way, I wasn’t in the mood for that. In fact, the calls continue. I’m still not in the mood.

Happy Birthday to me!

Happy Birthday!
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The next day was my birthday. Marie and I usually take each other out for dinner on our birthdays. Like many such celebrations in 2020, that celebratory meal will have to be postponed for a few months or longer.

We need a handicap ramp

When I had my follow-up appointment with an orthopedic doctor, I learned that my fracture “isn’t quite bad enough to require surgery due to your age.” He could have talked all day without referring to my age! I’m fitted with an industrial strength thigh-to-ankle leg brace that has big dials on either side of my knee and four Velcro straps that have a tendency to stick to everything except where I need them. I’m told not to put any weight on my leg for a total of 12 weeks from the date of the accident.

In light of what we learned at the orthopedist’s office, we go home and start looking for someone to build a handicap ramp at our porch. A neighbor up the road has a landscaping business. He makes time in his busy schedule to construct and install a permanent treated-wood handicap ramp for us, finishing the job literally in the red mud while sleet was falling. (I don’t know if Billy wants to go into the ramp-building business or not but, if you live in the Charlotte area and need some landscaping done or a retaining wall built – or possibly, a handicap ramp – I can vouch for Reedy Creek Lawn and Landscape in Harrisburg, NC.)

To be continue . . .

Since my last blog post (24 hours ago)

I was scheduled for knee x-rays yesterday. I wasn’t too keen on going into a doctor’s office during this coronavirus-19 pandemic, but the nurse assured me all necessary precautions were being taken.

My sister and I continued our “Lucy and Ethel” ways. While I brushed my teeth, I thought about my leg brace. I didn’t think about it again until I was sitting in the passenger seat of my 1991 pick-up truck (because it’s easier to get in and out of than Marie’s car.) She had to go back in the house to retrieve my brace. Do you know how difficult it is to put on a full-leg brace while sitting sideways in a pick-up truck? If not, I can tell you on a need-to-know basis.

When we arrived at the orthopedic doctor’s office, I called the nurse from the truck. I hopped to the door with my walker and the nurse met me there. She grabbed a wheelchair and whisked me through the deserted waiting room and straight to x-ray.

Do you know how difficult it is to stand on one foot and hold your own lead x-ray apron long enough to have two x-rays made? I can tell you, if you really want to know.

The x-rays showed that my tibial plateau fracture is healing just fine. Calcium is starting to fill in the fracture, which is a good thing. Everything looked great! Just four more weeks of not putting any weight on my right leg. I can do this! I don’t have to leave the house again until my next doctor’s appointment in April.

The day’s fun wasn’t over yet, though. At 5:00 p.m. I went on my tablet to see and hear my pastor’s devotional on Facebook Live. Facebook Live is a new thing for me. A very new thing for me.

I learned something today at 5:00 p.m. If you go to the church’s Facebook Live broadcast and hit a red button (it either said, “Video” or “Live” or something else)… anyway… I hit the red button and instead of tuning into Neal’s devotional, I recorded an 11-second video that broadcast live on my Facebook page. Fortunately, most of the 11 seconds only showed the inside cover of my tablet. That flash at the end was my lap covered by a blanket. The moral of the story is:  Never hit the red button. (My apologies to Staples and their Easy Button.)

Until my next blog post

Take care of yourself and those you care about. Check on your neighbors and people who live alone. Support local small businesses like Reedy Creek Lawn and Landscape as you can.

Tune in tomorrow for #YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp Part 4 of 5.

Janet