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Matthew 7:1-3 King James Version

7 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

I’ve always taken that passage to mean, most specifically, we’re not to judge each other’s relationships with God, though it can certainly be applied to less divine matters, as Mark Twain observed:

Nothing so needs reforming as the habits of others.

Carla Pestana

Apparently, the education of UCLA Professor Carla Pestana, despite her attainment of a Ph.D in history, and her publication—according to her official bio—of several books on religion, did not include either Matthew or Twain, as her recent article in the Huffington Post suggests: 

Mike Pence, the fundamentalist Christian whose views are so extreme that he cannot be alone with a woman other than his wife, and Donald Trump, who brags about sexually assaulting women and famously stumbled over an attempt to quote a biblical passage while on the campaign trail, seem to hold wildly divergent religious views. Yet both adhere to variations of Christianity inflected with arrogance. Together they represent two troubling trends in American Christianity, trends which appear to prove all the complaints secular liberals ever leveled against Christians.

Presumably full, tenured professors at major American universities have, at some point in their educations, been taught hyperbole does not well become them, nor does making assertions unsupported by verifiable fact. But as we know, gentle readers, it’s different when progressives do it.

Rev. Billy Graham
credit: christianpost.com

Pestana badly misrepresents Vice President Pence’s known comments on his associations with women. Like Billy Graham during his active ministry days, Pence is careful never to put himself in potentially compromising situations. He does this not because, as a man, he is unable to control his unbridled lust–that’s an essential skill of actual manhood–but because he knows men of prominence are, even more than most men these days, uniquely vulnerable to false charges of sexual harassment. Such charges have been elevated to the level of political weapons, and their mere lodging, regardless of any evidence or lack thereof, is often enough to end careers. Pence never said what Pestana asserts.

In a long—thus far—and adventurous life, I’ve actually been accused of sexual harassment twice. On both occasions, the accusations were made by third parties, not the supposed victims, and were made for political—office politics—reasons. On both occasions, all charges were dropped because there was less than no evidence to support them. Reading the transcripts of witness statements was actually hilarious. One read, if memory serves, like this:

Interviewer: “What did Sgt. McDaniel say that upset you?”

Witness: “Nothing.”

Interviewer: “Nothing?! Uh…nothing? Uh, but…did he ever say anything that made you, um, you know, uncomfortable…or something?”

Witness: “No.”

Interviewer: “Uh…no? Uh…”

I raise this issue not to laud my virtue, but to point out I was fortunate. I never quite went to the lengths of VP Pence to protect myself, at least not before those two experiences, but they certainly taught me how easy it is for false accusations to destroy careers and lives (note what’s happening to young men on college campuses these days). Even today, I do not spend time with women alone—which I do very seldom in any case—unless I know them very well indeed. Were I in VP Pence’s shoes, I would do no less than he has done.

credit: footwear news.com

Let’s also clear up one other issue: Trump has never, to my knowledge, bragged about sexually assaulting women. The one incident that became, through the efforts of a hostile media, public, showed Trump telling another guy, privately (he thought) women tend to be sexually accommodating to wealthy men. He made his point crassly, to be sure, but a private conversation about the opposite sex between two guys falls somewhat short of bragging about committing multiple sexual assaults. I’ve been privy to a few similar conversations between women that would make the hair of any guy stand on end.

Pestana just knows Pence and Trump “hold wildly divergent religious views, and both “adhere to variations of Christianity inflected with arrogance.” How exactly, does she know this? Has she actually asked both men to expound upon their religious views? Does she have religious utterances or writings from both men to which she can point that reveal a particularly religious arrogance? If she is right about Pence, how did she ever get close enough to him to ask such questions?

Pence adheres to biblical literalism. Put simply, this view asserts that the Bible is a transparent document, one that prescribes specific behavioral guidelines… Christians confidently declare that the Bible provides clear guidance for every Christian…Cutting through the complexities and the need to make choices, literalists declared all choice to be false and all discussion to be error.

Christians do believe the Bible “provides clear guidance for every Christian.” Imagine that. Who believe the holy texts of their faith to be inherently flawed and to provide no guidance? Christians believe the Bible is correct and accurate, because men inspired by God wrote it. It’s a matter of faith, which is what God asks. All are free to believe, or not. This is somehow bizarre or harmful? It takes a professor of history and religion to provide such brilliant insights? Even though the Bible does not specifically address every contemporary moral issue, Christians believe the Ten Commandments, as well as the new Testament, do provide necessary and pertinent guidance for living. Again, it’s a matter of willing, conscious faith.

As to making choices and holding discussions about faith, one wonders in which branch of Christianity Pestana has experience? If she is right, what do we make of the innumerable books published over the centuries arguing every aspect of Christian faith? What do we make of the never-ending discussions of such issues today? A visit to any Christian bookstore, indeed, even a Barnes and Noble’s religion section, entirely refutes Pestana’s view of a monolithic interpretation of Christianity.

Certainly, some Christians tend to be inflexible regarding such matters, but to suggest this applies to all Christians, or even to Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence, to whom Pestana has apparently never spoken, is deceptive at best.

Its arrogance lies in the hubris of those who believe that only their chosen answers are correct. Its potential to harm others comes when adherents gain political power and force their mandates on nonbelievers. One of the many dangers emanating out of the Trump White House is the power of Pence to impose not his religion but the behaviors his religion dictates onto the rest of us. Women’s rights and gender equality are on Pence’s hit list.

And the evidence for any attempt, or even desire, to impose religious orthodoxy on anyone is? Not since the days of the Moral Majority have Christians banded together to write their religious doctrine into law. Cal Thomas, who was the Vice President of that movement, has long since repudiated it, clearly understanding the necessity of the separation of church and state, and the primary role of spreading the gospel. In fact, Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence are working assiduously to restore the rule of law, and fidelity to the Constitution, including separation of church and state. If Ms. Pestana could point to a single attempt to write religious doctrine into law by either man, I’m sure she would, yet her article remains devoid of such evidence.

Trump’s religion, although very different, is similarly alarming. Unsurprisingly Trump accepts a religious viewpoint that tells him he is uniquely awesome…This religious position, known as Prosperity Theology, is newer than Pence’s literalism. It preaches that God wants the rich to be not only rich but selfish. Its attraction to a man like Trump—born to wealth, selfishly guided by his own desires, endlessly demanding that others adore him but never judge him—is transparent.

Pestana’s presentation of Prosperity Theology is at once hyperbolic and misleading. A small offshoot of pentecostal and charismatic movements, it preaches instead that the wealthy are made so by God’s will, and that making donations to God’s work will tend to increase one’s material wealth. In fact, this theology, to which most Christians do not subscribe, is rooted in traditionally Jewish interpretations of the scriptures. Again, Pestana provides no actual support for her assertions, but asserts that Trump, by virtue of his wealth, is a poor candidate for heavenly reward.

Pence’s arrogance leads him to believe that he knows exactly what God wants us all to do and that he ought to force that on us if he has the power to do so. Trump’s faith simply endorses his own self-regard, elevating his personal whims to God’s desires.

Again, Pestana fails to provide any evidence of her assertions, relying instead on her projections of what Trump and Pence must be thinking and intending to do. One can, for example, oppose Roe v. Wade, or government mandated “equality” in wages between men and women, for reasons that have nothing whatever to do with their faith, and since Christianity teaches one does not make converts by coercion or force–Christianity is entirely voluntary–that’s usually the case. Pestana’s conclusion continues her exaggerations and deceptions:

Little wonder that the pope has been modeling Christian humility and singing the praises of Christian charity, or that the supporters of these two find his lessons in what it means to be a Christian so infuriating.

By all means, let us see any evidence of Trump supporter’s fury at the Pope for modeling humility and praising Christian charity. To whatever degree Christians, particularly those that support the Constitution take issue with the Pope, such concern tends to be a result of his Liberation Theology tendencies and pseudo-socialist sympathies rather than any orthodox Christian teachings.

Of course, progressive thinking–such as it is–is a substantial causative factor, as Ammo Grrrll explains: 

But you can see why it would upset Democrats. They inhabit a world in which a kinda-sorta married ex-President flies off on a private plane called ‘The Lolita’ to a private island of underage girls. They are not shocked when Hillary’s galpal’s husband sends repulsive pictures of himself in his Underoos to teenage girls while lying in bed with his toddler. Clearly, in Democrat World, the bar for decent behavior is set too low for even the most skilled limbo dancer to navigate.

So along comes a very intelligent, religious man who just says ‘No.’ And the commentariat explodes with the usual unhinged criticism of someone who had the audacity to own a principle. Besides the utterly predictable charges of sexism and bigotry, an employment attorney asserted that not dining alone with a woman could ‘harm the professional development of women. ‘Oh, cry me a river! Find another way to ‘develop,’ ladies. Maybe, oh, I don’t know, just by being extremely competent, loyal, smart, and indispensable?

Karen and Mike Pence

Pestana obviously has her own issues with Christianity, and one need only read her writings to see the evidence thereof. Christianity forces no one to accept Christ, in fact, it specifically inveighs against it. One must accept Christ on faith alone. Christianity also teaches to love the sinner—that’s all of us—but to hate the sin. If Trump and Pence are such besotted Christians, how is it they seem to have missed this fundamental doctrine?

Unlike Pestana, I have no idea of the beliefs of Mr. Pence or Mr. Trump, nor have I seen any attempt, or intention, to enshrine any religious doctrine in law. Similarly, I have no idea of the beliefs of Ms. Pestana, though I do have a reasonably good idea of what she hates—pretty much Christianity and Christians—because she has taken the time to pour out that hatred, in this, and other articles. Her relationship with God? I’ve not a clue.

She might do well to practice the same moderation, or at the very least, to be able to support her assertions about men she has apparently never met. This weekend in particular, it might be wise for Pestana, and all of us, to reflect on the fact that the true nature of Christianity is love, given freely and voluntarily.