Regarding two articles that appeared in last Sunday’s Star Tribune, one profiling the evangelical Christian community’s struggle to come to terms with the president’s behavior (“Tension between church, Trump”) and the other illustrating the problem that adult clubs have finding a legal address (“Feud puts Mpls. in a strip-club quandary”):
Evangelical Christians espouse certain values not shared by the current occupant of the White House. Members of these groups would appear to trade these values for a single-issue political stance. Chances are some of these pious evangelicals patronize the adult clubs that are having trouble finding business locations that do not lie within 500 feet of a church. In a world of multiple standards, it would seem that the city of Minneapolis is intent on protecting the sensitive eyes of these churchgoers from the corrosive effects of adult entertainment venues at the same time that these self-professed values-voters support a president who openly admits molesting women. I remain amazed.
George Hutchinson, Minneapolis
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Around 40 years ago, many of my fellow Christians fell in line behind some of their leaders who decided to make a sort-of pact with the GOP and its agenda in order to get support for anti-abortion efforts. Thus evangelicals were led under the pied piper’s tune of “abortion” down a road in which they were told to accept supply-side economics, hawkish foreign policy, no controls on gun sales, union-busting policies, the elimination of the economic safety net, anti-environmental policies and so on.
Now, the long road includes accepting coordinated efforts to gerrymander the political system toward one-party rule and glorifying a president who most Christians probably held in contempt for most of the past few decades — all for the goal of ending legalized abortion.
What is the connection between all these issues that make them so obvious that we hardly hear a word of dissent within the ranks of evangelicals? Nothing. There is no obvious connection between ending abortion to ending environmental protections and the economic safety net. What is the obvious connection between all these positions and Christianity itself? There isn’t one.
Rather, under the banner of abortion, many Christians have largely been tricked into embracing a package of goods that has no connection to the message of grace that is at the heart of Christianity.
Erik Pratt, St. Paul
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One person in the April 7 article hinted at the primary reason evangelicals struggle in separating President Donald Trump’s personal life from their political support of him when he said it was doubtful evangelicals would ever forgive a Democrat for Trump-like behavior. This underscores something for which my own research found substantial evidence, which is that evangelicals tend to be more political than religious in their support not only for Trump, but all politicians. Put another way, the evidence is clear that they are Republicans first and Christians second in how they vote.
But even that points to something beyond itself that explains support for Trump among evangelicals. It has to do with the kind of faith they have. Evangelicalism is a beliefs-based faith, in contrast with a values-based faith common among progressive Christians. This doesn’t mean evangelicals don’t have values or that progressives don’t have beliefs. It’s a matter of emphasis, of what matters most to each group.
What matters most for evangelicals are right beliefs, whether they relate to theological claims such as “Jesus is savior of the world” or moral claims such as “abortion is murder” or “homosexuality is a sin against God.” From an evangelical perspective, you can be a good person, but if you do not have the right beliefs you are lost to God.
At the other end of the spectrum are progressives, for whom actions matter most because they reveal the kind of values by which you live your life. They see people in the opposite way evangelicals do. You may not share their beliefs, or may believe things most Christians don’t, but if you live a life that demonstrates a commitment to compassion, justice and peacemaking, you are doing God’s will on Earth.
These differences in faith help explain the divide between evangelicals and progressives in regard to Trump. Trump’s words and behavior bother evangelicals, but they see him as an ally in supporting what they believe and believe in. Progressives see him as someone who does not share their values personally or politically, making him unfit to be president.
Whether these differences constitute an insurmountable wall remains to be seen, but they do help explain why the former continue to support Trump and why the latter continue shaking their heads in disbelief.
Jan G. Linn, Apple Valley
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In response to the article about the Minneapolis “strip-club quandary”:
When did we become a city that considered a “strip club” not opening to be a quandary?
When did we begin to believe a “Topless Tap House” was considered part of “businesses that serve a community purpose”?
When did we start to be embarrassed to stand opposed to these businesses and spin our comments to “it’s not that I want to get rid of strip clubs ...”?
The article reported that a generation ago, in 1985, a group of “150 angry neighbors flooded a City Council meeting” calling these businesses “pornography” and calling out their city leaders to do more to stand up to them.
In the wake of #MeToo, do we really believe businesses that have topless women serving their patrons meet a “community purpose”?
Are the residents of Minneapolis believing this business serves their community?
Will we surrender our convictions, if we oppose “sex-related business,” to the man who says if it bothers you, then don’t go where I am? This letter is to ask people to have the conversation. Start to raise awareness — where do we stand in all this? Is there an issue here worth fighting for?
Catherine Blomquist, Chanhassen
It’s not what to know but how to think that matters
The April 13 newspaper had a number of articles on the need for more social studies in the high schools. Among them, an editorial featuring state Rep. Dean Urdahl’s move for more civics; a letter suggesting that people are too easily swayed by myth, and a story stating that 22 percent of millennials are unaware of the Holocaust and 41 percent of them don’t know what Auschwitz was.
I think what’s needed is not more civics but more current events and a course in critical political thinking. I am not so concerned about whether people know that there are 435 congressmen or who is No. 4 in the presidential line of succession. I am very concerned, however, when a presidential candidate says something like “I’m going to give you the best health care ever” and doesn’t say one word about how he’s going to do it.
Kids need to be taught to evaluate ideas and vote for what they think are the best and not be taken in by pure hype, nonsense, celebrity or good looks.
David M. Perlman, New Hope
To laugh or cry?
Recently, wonderful weather forecaster Paul Douglas wondered whether if Minnesota meteorologists went on strike, anyone would care or even notice. Later, as yet another winter storm approached in mid-April, he wrote: “Looking at the weather maps I don’t know whether to laugh or weep.”
Whenever possible, I share what Kurt Vonnegut said: “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
Take heart, Paul, we’re wise enough not to shoot the messenger.
It’s a long slog to spring, but keep up your great blog.
Erik Roth, Minneapolis