But there is another Christianity. I believe with all my heart that in these times of rank intolerance, other Christians can recover the strength of their faith and refuse to tolerate what has become a roll out of intolerable speech and acts by Trump and his administration.
Dorothee Soelle argues this well, and complexly, in her book The Strength of the Weak: Toward a Christian Feminist Identity. As a German, Soelle knew well that the most ghastly corruptions of a society can occur when massive intolerance for the sheer existence of other people takes hold in law and custom. Often, however, violation after violation is “tolerated” because, after all, ‘what can we do about it?’
Against this counsel of despair, Soelle argues for a “militant” Christianity that cannot help but keep comparing this world with its rampant injustices to the Kingdom of God. And this Christianity will not surrender one wit to the hell on earth that is the life and death of so many. “If we love heaven, we find ourselves less and less able to tolerate hell.” (pp. 69-70).
You might think “hell” is too strong a term for what such intolerance means. It’s not. Hell is obliteration, the opposite, in fact, of creation.
The root of Trump and his administration’s posture of intolerance is, in my view, hostility to the very existence of others and their rights to an independent existence of equal value to oneself. It is, as literary critic, W. R. Johnson wrote, “The rage to uncreate whatever is not itself.”
This kind of raging intolerance, its drive to “uncreate,” is systemic violence. Let me state again that it’s basis is contempt for the sheer existence of other people different from oneself. This attitude often plows the field and makes it fertile ground for physical violence.
I will give a couple of examples from our current context, but there are many more.
At a February 16, 2017 press conference, Trump asked an African American White House Correspondent, April Ryan, to “set up a meeting” with the Congressional Black Caucus, after she asked him about whether he planned to meet with the group to help craft his urban development policy.
The journalistic credentials of April Ryan were ignored, the point of her question was ignored, and Trump attempted to make her into his servant.
This cannot be tolerated. It sends a signal from the highest levels that African American women are not of equal dignity and worth to a white man. They are ‘other.’ They exist not for themselves, but to do the bidding of that white man.
This is why the #BlackLivesMatter movement is so crucial in the face of white intolerance. When an African American woman’s life and work is disrespected, this sends a clear message that she, and other Black women, do not matter. Is it a stretch to see how this kind of intolerance for the basic human dignity of African American women can sow the seeds that lead to the arrest and ultimately to the death of Sandra Bland?
At this same Trump press conference, Jake Turx, a reporter for the Orthodox Jewish weekly Ami Magazine, was called on by Trump because he was looking for a “friendly reporter.” As The New York Times noted, the “young correspondent received a tongue-lashing from the president” after he told Trump, very respectfully, that he was concerned about “an uptick in anti-Semitism” and wondered what the government would do about it. Trump raged at him, and anti-Semitic writers got the point. They “praised Trump’s press conference and used his refusal to condemn anti-Semitism as an indication that ‘everyone is pretty damn sick of Jews.’”
Get it? This is the “rage to uncreate that which is not itself.”
This press conference was a performance of intolerance, a demonstration that there are some classes of people who need not be treated with equal dignity and worth.
Do I have to tell you how dangerous this is for a pluralistic democracy?
Another public performance of this drive to “uncreate” can be seen in the deportations in city after city of residents of the United States who are called “undocumented.” They do not have documents, let us remember, because of years and years of failed American immigration policy to sensibly craft a legal path to citizenship for them.
Instead, the same week as this press conference that was a performance of intolerance, raids began across the United States.
An immigration lawyer in Atlanta said she had heard that the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents were going “door-to-door” in the immigrant community, asking people in a largely Hispanic neighborhood, to present their papers. It was creating “mass confusion” and widespread fear. “People are really, really scared.”
So tell me, do you think a German like Dorothee Soelle would recognize what is happening when racism by the country’s leader is rampant? When anti-semitism is literally performed from behind a podium by this same leader? When agents go door-to-door, rounding people up and taking them away? Do you think she, as a German, would know what it did to a society for such intolerance to be the norm? Do you think she knew what happens to the children who witness these acts?
As with the “Muslim ban” executive order that is very likely illegal, these performances of rage at the sheer existence of others are deliberately chaotic, designed to create fear in the target communities. Equally intolerable, these performances increase and validate hatred among those who are hostile to diversity.
As a Christian pastor and theologian, I agree with Dorothee Soelle. I teach and practice a Christianity that has a prophetic leader in Jesus of Nazareth and this Christianity will not tolerate speech and acts that denigrate the equal dignity and worth of other people. Many other religions, it should be emphasized, also make human dignity and equal worth a core value.
Jesus did not tolerate injustice and oppression in the communities of his time, and I will not tolerate it either.
This is not right, Trump. Stop it.