As regular readers of my daily rants know, I’m not a fan of organized religion–quite the contrary. And I’m definitely not a fan of the faux “Christianity”– more properly identified as Christian Nationalism–that permeates the MAGA movement.
But I am a fan of some actual Christians–especially the members of the clergy desperately working to remind their colleagues and congregants of the basic messages of the Christian faith. I have several personal friends who fall into that category, and I follow a couple of others on social media. One of the latter is John Pavlovitz, and I was so impressed with a recent “sermon” he delivered via the Internet that I’m going to quote rather copiously from it.
The title of the piece was “No, I Won’t Agree To Disagree About You Supporting Trump. You’re Just Wrong.” The ensuing message did two important things: it underlined the ways in which MAGA Republicanism is inconsistent with traditional Christian teaching; and it explained what all those nice people who want to bridge American political disagreements fail to understand–these arguments aren’t political. They are deeply moral–and accordingly, unbridgeable.
As Pavlovitz writes, we can’t simply “agree to disagree” because that would be tantamount to a declaration that “we both have equally valid opinions, that we’re each mutually declaring those opinions not so divergent that they cannot be abided; that our relationship is of greater value than the differences”–and as he says, that really isn’t an accurate description.
We are not simply declaring mismatched preferences regarding something inconsequential. We’re not talking about who has the best offensive line in the NFL, or whether Van Halen was better with Dave or Sammy, or about what craft beer pairs best with a cheesesteak, or about the sonic differences of CDs and vinyl. On such matters (though I will provide spirited debate), I can tolerate dissension.
We’re not even talking about clear misalignments on very important things: how to best address climate change or what will fix our healthcare system or how to reduce our national debt or what it will take to bring racial equity. Those subjects, while critically important, still have room for constructive debate and differing solutions. They are mendable fractures.
But this, this runs far deeper and into the marrow of who we each are.
At this point, with the past few years as a resume, your alignment with the former president means that we are fundamentally disconnected on what is morally acceptable—and I’ve simply seen too much to explain that away or rationalize your intentions or give you the benefit of the doubt any longer.
Pavlovitz understands what allegiance to Trump and MAGA tells us about those loyalists: that they don’t value the lives of people of color or women, that they distrust/dismiss science, and that they are willing to distort and betray the faith they loudly profess.
I now can see how pliable your morality is, the kinds of compromises you’re willing to make, the ever-descending bottom you’re following into, in order to feel victorious in a war you don’t even know why you’re fighting.
That’s why I need you to understand that this isn’t just a schism on one issue or a single piece of legislation, as those things would be manageable. This isn’t a matter of politics or preference. This is a pervasive, sprawling, saturating separation about the way we see the world and what we value and how we want to move through this life.
Agreeing to disagree with you in these matters, would mean silencing myself and more importantly, betraying the people who bear the burdens of your political affiliations— and this is not something I’m willing to do. Our relationship matters greatly to me, but if it has to be the collateral damage of standing with them, I’ll have to see that as acceptable.
Your devaluing of black lives is not an opinion.
Your acceptance of falsehoods is not an opinion.
Your defiance of facts in a pandemic is not an opinion.
Your hostility toward immigrants is not an opinion.
These are fundamental heart issues.
As he concludes:
I believe you’re wrong in ways that are harming people.
You’re wrong to deny the humanity of other human beings.
You’re wrong to justify your affiliation with this violence.
You’re wrong to embrace a movement built on the worst parts of who we are.
Pavlovitz refuses to “agree to disagree” about such profound moral differences.
To which this atheist says: AMEN.