Les Déplorables

You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right . . . The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now how 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.

– Hillary Rodham Clinton at LGBT for Hillary Gala – Sept 9, 2016

If I was to be grossly generalistic, I’d say that you can take Trump supporters and put them in two big baskets. There are what I call the deplorables. They’re racists, and the haters, and the people who are drawn because they think somehow he’s going to restore an America that no longer exists. So just eliminate them from your thinking because we have always had a paranoiac and prejudicial element within our politics.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Interview with Yonit Levi, Israeli TV – Sept 8, 2016

There are knock-out zingers or gaffes which make or break a public persona. Certainly, Mulroney’s “you had an option, sir” comeback qualifies as the defining and determining moment in a 1984 Canadian Federal Election debate; or Reagan’s folksy “there you go again” in a 1980 U.S. Federal Election debate; or contrariwise, Rick Perry’s infamous “Oops,” after an early stage senior’s moment.

While lacking the virtue of hindsight or empirical polling date, it seems virtually certain that a politician, publicly denigrating a quarter of the electorate of one’s nation as a basket (with intimations of “basket case”), as deplorables, as irredeemable, and as un-American, more than qualifies as such a defining and determining moment.

Such intuitions arise not merely from the amount and duration of play that these terms have generated in the media, including the foreign press and the now nakedly partisan mainstream media (MSM), who normally protect their Champion from self-inflicted wounds through non-reportage and other media contrivances. But such disparagements as Hillary Clinton’s are sufficiently over the top that they cannot be ignored.

It is rather because such sentiments speak directly into the zeitgeist of the moment; namely the disrobing of a hitherto veiled contempt by the cosmopolitan elite for the commons, the unwashed masses, the ignorant rubes of the hinterland, and the vengeance that such disdain would naturally provoke in the latter. It is open class warfare in a nation whose civil religion has hitherto repudiated and denied the existence of class in America. And Hillary Clinton has successfully auditioned for the starring role of that horror film.

Many among Clinton’s allies have condemned her remarks; a meritorious few among them out of genuine concern for the public good. “We believe in redemption, not just because you’re a liberal but you’re American. When you right off people and blame the customer; that is really bad.” – Mark Shields)

But a surprising number have thought it prudent and shrewd to embrace her sentiments, to violate the politically correct nostrum of modern democracy concerning the decency and virtue of the common man.

Partisan Considerations

Having no direct skin in the U.S. election, I have little interest in the Stock Ticker of partisan gamesmanship. Nevertheless, it seems quite evident to me that this ‘basket of deplorable’ motif exhibits a dearth of political acumen which plunges well beneath the lowest bar of expectations for a veteran politico and a major political party. It is unfathomable how such an indiscriminate and amorphous insult against one’s own electors could produce a net partisan gain. The stings of verbal assault linger far longer in those against whom they were directed than with those who enjoy a momentary glee.

Certainly, the optics of declaiming, at an LGBT gala, the theists and moralists, who do not buy into the LGBT agenda (and thereby summarily qualify as a homophobic heretic in an LGBT moral universe), is supremely rich in irony and dissonance from the latter’s perspective (Isaiah 5:20). It is well reported that many among the theists and moralists have been having a crisis of conscience in voting for Trump; these, who have hitherto dutifully supported whatever Champion the Republican Party proffered. But in that such malevolent attitudes permeate the soul of Clinton and her allies towards them, those, who may have otherwise sat on their hands, may find it a compelling existential necessary for their own welfare to effectually vote against Clinton.

The evident general contempt for the unwashed masses and ignorant rubes of the hinterland by this member of the cosmopolitan elite may arouse even more nativist rubes, who have never or rarely voted, from their apathy in a singular display of defiance. One would have thought that someone within the Clinton coterie would have picked up on the political blunders of the Remain side on the Brexit referendum.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus – The New Colossus (1883)

It is also rich irony in a nation whose founding myth includes America as refuge for the many who were deemed the social outcasts, the deplorables, within their native homelands. This is an attitude that many first generation immigrants, residing in the United States, would have first-hand knowledge. The myth of the immigrant is celebrated more by the progressive liberal set than their political adversaries; a myth which includes a new start for those who had been considered irredeemable. Yet the would-be governor of America has inadvertently positioned herself, in her updated version of wretched refuse against a large swath of the governed, as an instigating agent of emigration.

Higher Considerations of Statesmanship

As intimated elsewhere, I have been of the studied opinion since the late 1980s that United States has been sleepwalking (and now hurtling) towards civic conflagration, barring a preemptive coup d’état. There are seminal causes, which underlie the accelerating polarization and schisms since especially the 1960s, whose crosscurrent dynamics are now in abundant display. But the flurry of empirical evidence of imminent civic tumult is now rushing faster than one can countenance it all.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties (factions) in the state . . .

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is  itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

George Washington, Farewell Address (1797)

One might wish that some American Cincinnatus or Scipio, with substance and natural nobility, might emerge from the culturally gated communities of the American optimates or the subterranean swamps of the populares, who recognize the present peril and demonstrate genuine will to forestall such civic conflagration. However, not only have recent politicos been blissfully oblivious to the dangers, but they have exacerbated and contributed to this hurtling vortex. In that none exists among the representatives of the American populace, with the wisdom to recognize, acknowledge, and address the present peril, it may be indicative of America’s ethical and intellectual depletion.

It is within this context that Hillary Clinton’s “basket case of irredeemable deplorables” must be framed. The underlying attitude, and the brazen shamelessness in publicly expressing it, makes her an active agent of civic division and conflagration and a contributor to the imminent ruin of the free civic polity and public liberty. Beyond the mendacity, the venality, the greed and self-aggrandizement, the corruption, the lack of core convictions and dedication to a transcendent vision beyond that of mere self-interest; Clinton’s arrogant contempt towards large swaths of the populace and her divisiveness makes her intrinsically unfit to lead her nation.

What a woeful state of affairs! For in Donald Trump, the Americans have an ignorant and unprincipled yet politically shrewd operator, the first edition of many demagogues, who provides a partial template for future authoritarians in the ashes of the American Republic’s demise. And in Hillary Clinton, they have an equally unprincipled but politically dim-witted Marie Antoinette (“What difference, at this point, does it make?”), whose schismatic attitudes and the policies and actions/reactions, which invariably would emanate from those attitudes, will quicken that demise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Mendacity of American Journalism – Yet Another Flagrant Example

One of the thematic lessons, to be derived from study of Hitler’s Nazis and their all too easy and rapid overcoming of the impediments to autocratic rule normally posed by civic institutions and independent social organizations, was the role played by pre-existing public distrust and contempt towards those entities. In view of a similar present and persisting repugnance in the U.S. for its islands of tyrannical resistance, including its news media, the peril of demagogues and warlords can be sighted on the horizon. One would think that a modicum of prudence might, at least, infect the veteran sages within those social/civic entities. But alas, wisdom has likewise “caught the last train for the coast.

One of the devices, deployed by Satan in the Temptation of Christ, was to cite scriptural text while omitting key phrases which substantively alter the meaning of that text (Matthew 4:5–6). It seems that our modern Wormwoods understand the lesson, although less subtle practitioners.

James Fellows, veteran national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, excerpted a speech from Trump’s recent Miami political rally (September 16, 2016), and thereafter suggested that the presidential candidate hinted at “bodily harm against his opponent.”

I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons,” Mr. Trump said at a rally in Miami. “I think they should disarm. Immediately. What do you think. Yes? Take their guns away. She doesn’t want guns. Take them. Let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, O.K. It will be very dangerous.

The cadence of that quote suggests that it was originally part of a larger argument. And lo and behold, such intuitions are well founded as these “incriminating” sentiments were preceded by . . .

You know she’s very much against the Second Amendment. She wants to destroy your Second Amendment. Guns, guns, guns, right. I think that what we should do is she goes around with armed bodyguards like you have never seen before.

. . .  highlighting the hypocrisy of such a political stance; or alternatively, another example whereby Hillary Clinton considers herself above the rules that she would exact upon others.

Such rhetoric by Trump is hardly new. In a tweet earlier this year, Trump wailed, “Hillary said that guns don’t keep you safe. If she really believes that she should demand that her heavily armed bodyguards quickly disarm!” The integrated compactness of that tweet might make selective parsing a harder enterprise for our modern day Wormwoods.

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What makes this particular dabble in sophistic deceit by the veteran journalist such a lark is the irony of The Atlantic concurrently publishng “Why Do Americans Distrust the Media?”; or in the piece “Why Americans Hate the Media,” written by this same James Fallows in his prime. But one hardly need thrash the sociological bushes to uncover the reasons. The answer lies spread-eagled like a cheap tart on the pages of the same website; loss of intellectual integrity.

The “members of the punditocracy” are perplexed by the inability for Trump’s lies, blatant in their obviousness and childish in their silliness, to sink his candidacy. Certainly, an outside observer, with little skin in the partisan games, might cite the lack of evenhandedness in this regard by the media; neglecting, dismissing, and excusing the lies of Trump’s opponent, which are more serious in nature in that they have directly involved the public interest. But a simpler answer lies in the conundrum of veteran practitioners of the arts of partisan spin, lies, and sophistic deceit, calling another out for mendacity. The Fifth Estate has so debased their currency of influence that they can no longer credibly act as checks against the ambitions of potential demagogues and warlords.

The Latest Changes in the ESV

Every Christian is entitled to his own interpretation, but not to his own translation.[1]

My pathologically precisionism and scrupulosity becomes easily incensed by mistranslations of the Bible. It is not the honest errors that irk, but rather the ones which I know emanate from pre-existing theological prejudices and speculations. There are days in which I would like to disparaging proclaim that the dishonesty of the Biblical scholars is so great that one must read the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek.

While I use the ESV translation and will cite from that version, I am always wary of intentional translative massaging of the Greek text, such as occurs in the Romans 5:12–21 passage which New Calvinists/Reformed types use to validate the notion that all humanity are deemed guilty for Adam’s sin. This is obviously against the principles of divine (Deuteronomy 24:16, 2 Kings 14:6, Ezekiel 18:20) and human justice. The validity of Christ’s imputation is judicially dependent upon the free consent of the One who sacrificed (John 10:17–18) and paid the penalty on our behalf. There has been no such free consent given by Adam’s descendants.

Another example is from 1 Timothy 2:12 – “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” My suspicion of the meaning behind the first prohibition is that men generally learn differently from women. Many, observing the current state of schoolboy’s performance in the public schools, suggest that a chief cause lies for their failure, relative to schoolgirls, is in the overwhelming predominance of female teachers.

However, the second prohibition is imprecisely translated in most of the English versions. The Greek word translated into ‘authority’ in this verse differs from the norm. Whereas ‘authority’ generally derives from exousia (ἐξουσία), which denotes conferred/delegated, legal, and/or moral authority; the Greek word used in the Timothy passage is authentein (αὐθεντεῖν), which literally translates as self-arm (or unilaterally take up arms), which abstractly infers a self-appointed, non-delegated authority. Therefore, a woman can have a position of authority as long as it is rightfully conferred/delegated.

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Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. – Genesis 3:16b

A passage in Genesis 3:16 has been re-interpreted since the 1970s by the CBMW (The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) crowd that has differed from its historical understanding. In response to the feminist movement and Evangelical egalitarians, these CBMW “complementarians” have suggested that the passage infers a wife’s attempt to overrule the rightful authority of her husband. At one time, I held to the same misunderstanding. But while there is no doubt that some women do make such attempts, one cannot honestly derive that interpretation from the translation.

No problem! Let us just change the translation to conform to a preconceived theological understanding! Thereby, the translation of that passage in the ESV has been modified.

Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you. – Genesis 3:16b

If it be true that “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20), then neither should any single translation be so inconsistent with every other translation. The general sense from other English translations is along the same lines as it originally was in the ESV.

Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. [NIV]

Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you. [NASB]

and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. [KJV]

and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you. [AKJV]

and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. [ASV]

The standard Jewish translation states “and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (JPS Tanakh 1917). The Jewish scholars of the non-canonical Septuagint (3rd century BC) translated the passage into the Greek as:

καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα σου ἡ ἀποστροφή σου καὶ αὐτός σου κυριεύσει

kai pros ton andra . . . apostrephó . . .

And towards the man [of] you turning away from you . . . (or turning back)

One presumes that the Jews should be better authorities concerning their own language than Christian Gentiles, presuming intellectual integrity on the part of the Jews.

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In the 332 instances of the exact Hebrew term wə-’el-, there is no other case whereby it has been translated to “contrary to.” That is until now! There are occasions when the Hebrew term has been translated to “against.” However, that understanding (“Your desire shall be against your husband”) would make one wonder why a woman would ever want to get married in the first place.

The revision in the ESV is semantically silly. It might make semantic sense if the passage declared that the woman’s desires (in the plural) would be contrary to that of your husband. What specific but undisclosed singular wifely desire could it be that is contrary to that of the husband?

And how would this curse be particular to woman only? Do sons not have desires contrary to their fathers, male employees contrary to their employers, and male subjects and citizens contrary to their governors? Is not rebellion a general condition of humanity?

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Another passage revised in politically necessary sympathy with Genesis 3:16 verse is Genesis 4:17. The ESV has been changed from:

And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. – BEFORE

And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it. – AFTER

This rendering is semantically disjointed. The notion of sin crouching at the door infers an adversary laying a snare to bring a person under its bondage. This understanding of enslavement by sin is consistent with Romans 6 and 7.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. – Romans 6:12

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. – Romans 6:16–8

but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. – Romans 7:23

A Profound Revision in Understanding

Rebellion of the wife against the authority of the husband may indeed exist. However, in blatantly revising the translation to match contemporary concerns of CBMW complementarians, it deliberately neglects another existential and historical reality; namely, that woman have often found their longings for their husbands unfulfilled as the latter seeks satisfaction away and apart from the spouse, children, and household; whether in pursuit of accomplishment and leaving a legacy (a.k.a. material and occupational success or even ministry); or in hedonistic pleasure at gaming tables and horse tracks, drinking tables, or in the arms of another woman; or in sheer abandonment.

A similar notion of material and/or effectual family abandonment by the husband and father is implied elsewhere.

Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. – Malachi 2:14–6

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. – Malachi 4:5–6; cf. Luke 1:17

And God as Father and Christ as husband declares a dedicated faithfulness contrary to this human propensity. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). “Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Which is the ontological curse for a wife? Being contrary to one’s husband (which seems, in my mind, to be more an ontological curse for the husband); or the ever pressing threat of abandonment and resulting material and psychological impoverishment? It would seem that egocentric male concerns have corrupted the Biblical scholars who translated the ESV.

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I am a complementarian, but not of the CBMW variety. The nature of Biblical complementarianism is not that of gender-based roles. Anyone, who has meditated upon Proverbs 31:18–31 and other Scriptural passages with intellectual and interpretative honesty, will not find the notion of “roles” in Scriptures, whether explicitly or implicitly. There are a very few functions which are delegated to males and females. But these can be explained upon other rational foundations (e.g. orderliness – “For God is not a God of confusion/disorder but of peace” – 1 Corinthians 14:33).

Rather, I would suggest that Biblical complementarianism is based on probabilistic differences in gender propensities and approaches to life, as well as distinctive physical attributes. This makes some of life’s functions more amenable to one gender or the other. But both Scriptures are, and real life must be more flexible than the patriarchal, cum “complementarian” notions of the CBMW crowd. And in reducing the gender differences to roles rather than to natural propensities, the CBMW crowd become intellectually incapable of presenting a credible rational defense against same-sex relationships and marriage.

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It is never a good occasion to translate a passage in the midst of controversy; or to trust such translations. Even beyond that; the blatantly deceitful and unconvincing manner of this latest ESV revision makes one averse to utilizing the ESV Bible, invokes greater distrust of the Christian intelligentsia, and discredits the cause of Christ.

 

 

 

[1] This is a variant on Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous quip, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts” as it relates to texts.