THE EXCOMMUNICATION OF DONALD J. TRUMP
You Gotta Love It Baby, Watercolor, 42.5" x 51", 2000, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
I recently posted this question on Facebook: “If the House impeaches Trump and the Senate convicts, will Evangelicals reinstate The Ten Commandments?” One gentleman took me to task for “mocking” and “belittling” others’ “religious/moral compass.” According to him, they and I should be “thankful [we] have something in which to be grounded.” One of us may have missed the point. Probably me.
The question wasn’t meant to be entirely sarcastic or rhetorical. Even Fox News is scrambling to reconfigure a future without Trump. The religious organizations that are heavily invested in the Trump presidency—the ones making exceptions for nearly every so-called religious principle that informs their “moral compass,” presumably—are likely doing the same in anticipation of his becoming of no more use to them.
The United States Constitution clearly protects sincerely held religious beliefs and most religious practices. I’m all in favor. And the gentleman’s criticism of me enjoys full First Amendment protection from government intrusion as does my reputed “mocking” or “belittling” of others’ “religious/moral compass.” My criticism isn’t so much the religious beliefs themselves, although I take issue with testimonials of fantasy and myth as fact or truth. My criticism is the rationalization, the bending around or the outright abandonment of foundational moral principles, the hypocrisy, and the use of religion as a pretext for bigotry and discrimination. When religious leaders—self-anointed pastors, money ministers, Evangelical preachers and those who assumed the helm of churches their fathers built—choose to interject their religion into politics, geopolitics, public discourse, economics or science, they willingly enter the fray. And they do so with some frequency. Of course, the politicians and candidates for office welcome the mutual pandering. Many Establishment and Free Exercise Clause legal cases come from the intersection of purported religious beliefs and use of public resources or abuse of protected classes of people, or the attempts to blur the lines between religion—though not just any religion—and government.
My reputed mocking or belittling in connection with The Ten Commandments isn’t directed at the Decalogue itself. I’m all in favor of most of the commands which, as it turns out, were common sense, foundational precursors of and found their way into western law. I fought that fight years ago while representing a municipality that was sued for having a Ten Commandments monument in a public park. And I successfully argued, at the trial level at least, that the substantive mores exist independent of any supernatural lawgiver. My issue, instead, is with the politicization and manipulation of religion to achieve pre-determined ends. Following Christ’s admonition in this instance they withhold judgment of another who, in exchange for their support and that of their followers, will fight to preserve their tax-exempt status; block the infestation of Mexican sub-human/criminals; preserve their god given right to own, possess, openly carry and use semi-automatic rifles with extended magazines; discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community; deny climate (and other) science or mock it because Christ will soon be on his way in an apocalyptic, rapturous blaze of glory; blur the lines between government and religion—though not just any religion; eliminate any right of women to receive contraception though insurance provided by their faith-based employers; overturn Roe. The list goes on.
So my question was meant for those who have abandoned their moral bearings, religiously-inspired or otherwise, in exchange for this coming, second coming, incarnation or reincarnation of what has always been the head of an evil, immoral criminal enterprise.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com
**Richard’s list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers