In a 60 Minutes segment set to air on Sunday, California Governor Jerry Brown reportedly laments that President Trump lacks fear of God, and doesn’t have proper regard for His wrath or for “existential consequences.”
According to The Hill:
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) says President Trump‘s stance on climate change demonstrates that he does not appear to fear the “wrath of God” or have any regard for the “existential consequences” of his environmental policies.
“I don’t think President Trump has a fear of the Lord, the fear of the wrath of God, which leads one to more humility … this is such a reckless disregard for the truth and for the existential consequences that can be unleashed,” Brown said in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” which is set to air on Sunday.
I don’t know that there’s anything terribly profound that needs to be said about this. Fulminating against Brown is a bit tiresome. Just as tiresome as Brown versus Trump, in fact.
Maybe it’s worth noting that Brown has his own disregard for “existential consequences,” like the ones that kicked in for Kate Steinle after years of Brown’s sanctuary-style policies on illegal migration. It seems like only months ago Brown was invoking God to harangue Trump on that head:
Brown brought up Christianity while explaining his opposition to constructing a barrier to secure the border and address the inflow of illegal immigrants.
“We are going to do the right, humane, and I would even say the Christian thing from my point of view [to oppose the wall],” Brown said. “You don’t treat human beings like that. Trump’s supposed to be Mr. Religious Fellow, and I thought we had to treat the least of these as we would treat the Lord.” …
The California governor compared Trump’s proposal to the Berlin Wall built during the Cold War.
We could go into chapter and verse on why Brown doesn’t have the high ground on much, if anything (e.g., calling California taxpayers freeloaders because they don’t want their taxes raised, while giving himself and other state officials a raise every year).
And that would all be very conventional, and relatable to many. The guy’s in no position to be talking about God, wrath, and existential consequences, right?
But, like the Navy field goal attempt that missed the uprights by just that much on Saturday, this line of criticism is, in my view, a bit off the mark. Without saying that it’s wholly misdirected, the real issue is not that Brown is in no position to use God’s name to lay guilt on people over public policies. The issue is that this isn’t how we’re supposed to use God’s name at all.
To be extremely frank, that goes for everyone out there, whether they are calling down cataclysm on climate-change-narrative skeptics, or proclaiming fire and brimstone — from the right as well as the left — at the voters of Alabama.
There’s way too much to unpack on a point like this when it’s so late at night. So I’ll just suggest one aspect of it to think about. If you’re a partisan of the finger-shaking mode on these or other topics, the key question is, How’s that working out for you? Is it making anything better? Is it getting people to change their ways? Is it improving the tone of the public discourse, or inducing people to revise their thinking to suit you?
Realizing that not everyone is a Christian, I will nevertheless — because I am one, and there are plenty to address out there — look at this from a Christian perspective. The whole point of Jesus is to remove the guilt. If you step over that line and say, “Yes, Jesus, I am yours,” it’s not about guilt anymore, and it never will be again. Whatever you’re guilty of is paid for. God will not deal with you thereafter on the basis of guilt. That doesn’t mean you’re never wrong before Him, or never in need of correction. It means the economy of guilt and atonement no longer rules your spiritual condition, and your relationship with Him.
Politics doesn’t have the power to vacate that assurance for mankind. It only wants to. But chasing other people around with the guilt stick is not what we’re here for. If God’s not using it against us, who are we to use it on each other?
Yet here we are. It seems to be all anyone does in public discourse now. (Obama, in fact, was far better at it than Trump, because he didn’t sound like such a doofus when he was, nevertheless, forever doing it.)
We’re very, very good at pointing out the outlines of flaws. We can describe flaws, errors, sins, and wrongdoing like nobody’s business. If I went by the cultural tone of the last few years, I’d think we’d rather do that than be at peace or be happy. We’re so committed to it that we don’t care who gets hurt, or whether we might be wrong, especially about other people’s guilt: might not know everything as surely as we think we do, or see everything as clearly.
Is this getting us anywhere we want to go? Just something to think about. Think about this too: guilt and a sense of desperation are endlessly exploitable for political purposes; in particular, for getting us to agree to things we’re dubious about. Peace and hope are not exploitable that way.
There is nothing wrong with pointing out where assumptions or arguments about policy — or any political decision — are flawed. You can’t talk policy without doing that. Expressing opinions and saying one thing is right and another wrong are the meat and potatoes of talking policy. Doing that is not laying guilt on people.
But proclaiming that others have no fear of God, or that they’ve lost their moral compass, is laying guilt on people. And trying to provoke a sense of guilt in other people over public policy matters is political, not compassionate or altruistic.
As always, we could eliminate much of this dysfunctional dynamic by limiting government’s power. You’d have to worry far less about your neighbor’s moral compass on disputable matters, if his vote didn’t always carry huge implications for the future course of your life.