Opinion | The Forgotten Radicalism of Jesus Christ – The New York Times

Contributing Opinion Writer

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“Get used to different.”

That line comes from a marvelous new TV series on Jesus’ life, “The Chosen,” in which Jesus, played by Jonathan Roumie, invites Matthew to become one of his disciples. Simon Peter, already a disciple, registers his fierce objection. Matthew is a tax collector, who were viewed as tools of Roman authorities, often dishonest and abusive. They were therefore treated as traitors and outcasts by other Jews.

“I don’t get it,” Simon Peter says to Jesus about his decision to invite Matthew, to which Jesus responds, “You didn’t get it when I chose you, either.”

“But this is different,” Simon Peter answers. “I’m not a tax collector.” At which point Jesus let’s Simon Peter know things aren’t going to be quite what his followers expected.

First-century Christians weren’t prepared for what a truly radical and radically inclusive figure Jesus was, and neither are today’s Christians. We want to tame and domesticate who he was, but Jesus’ life and ministry don’t really allow for it. He shattered barrier after barrier.

One example is Jesus’ encounter, in the fourth chapter of the gospel of John, with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus and the woman talked about Jesus being the Messiah, why he was even deigning to talk with her, and the unnamed woman’s past and present, which she initially sought to hide from Jesus. (It included her five previous husbands, according to the account in John, and the fact that “the one whom you now have is not your husband.”) Yet not a word of condemnation passed the lips of Jesus; the woman felt heard, understood, cared for. Jesus treated her, in the words of one commentator, “with a magnetic dignity and respect.”

The encounter with Jesus transformed her life; after it the woman at the well became “the first woman preacher in Christian history,” proclaiming Jesus to be the savior of the world to her community, according to the New Testament scholar Kenneth Bailey.

This story is a striking example of Jesus’ rejection of conventional religious and cultural thinking — in this case because Jesus, a man, was talking earnestly to a woman in a world in which women were often demeaned and treated as second-class citizens; and because Jesus, a Jew, was talking to a Samaritan, who were despised by the Jews for reasons going back centuries. According to Professor Bailey, “A Samaritan woman and her community are sought out and welcomed by Jesus. In the process, ancient racial, theological and historical barriers are breached. His message and his community are for all.”

This happened time and again with Jesus. He touched lepers and healed a woman who had a constant flow of menstrual blood, both of whom were considered impure; forgave a woman “who lived a sinful life” and told her to “go in peace,” healed a paralytic and a blind man, people thought to be worthless and useless. And as Jesus was being crucified, he told the penitent thief on the cross next to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus was repeatedly attacked for hanging out with the wrong crowd and recruited his disciples from the lower rungs of society.”

Opinion | Trump Lives in a Hall of Mirrors and He’s Got Plenty of Company – By Peter Wehner – The New York Times

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Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

If Donald Trump loses his re-election bid, there will be a lot of ruin to sort through. But his most damaging and enduring legacy may well turn out to be the promiscuous use of conspiracy theories that have defined both the man and his presidency.

The president’s cruelest policies, like intentionally separating children from their parents at the border, can at least be ended, although their devastating effects will reverberate for decades. It’s less clear what the half-life is for his conspiracy theorizing, which fundamentally distorts the way people think about politics, our country and reality itself.

There have been so many conspiracy theories it’s easy to forget some of them, and this list is hardly exhaustive, but it includes Mr. Trump claiming that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and that Bill and Hillary Clinton were behind the death of their former aide Vince Foster; suggesting that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of President John Kennedy and that MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough was involved in the death of a staff member nearly 20 years ago; retweeting claims that SEAL Team 6 didn’t kill Osama bin Laden in 2011; insisting that Ukraine was hiding Hillary Clinton’s missing emails and that Mr. Obama wiretapped Mr. Trump’s phones; and promoting QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory that believes, as Kevin Roose put it in The Times, that “the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring.”

There was a time when popularizing such crazed machinations would have caused one to be cast to the outer fringes of American politics; in the case of Mr. Trump, it helped elect him and has created a cultlike devotion among tens of millions of his supporters. And because of Mr. Trump, conspiracy theorizing is now a central feature of the Republican Party and American politics.

Opinion | For Conservatives to Have Any Hope, Trump Has to Lose – By Peter Wehner – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; Photograph by Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

” “You’re a traitor to the cause.”

In one form or another, that’s the charge most often made against so-called Never Trumpers, a group of which I consider myself an early and unofficial co-founder. The well-being of both the Republican Party and conservatism, according to this line of thinking, requires supporting Donald Trump. To be against him is to be an apostate.

Now it is certainly true that in the short run, and possibly in the long run, too, many of us no longer consider the Republican Party our political home. But for me, at least, a conservative approach to politics continues to lie at the core of my political being — and it is for that very reason that I believe even more strongly now, after what we have seen during Trump’s first term, that any true conservative should be appalled by the prospect of a second.

Put another way, to be anti-Trump is not to be anti-conservative; and to be pro-Trump is not to be pro-conservative.

That doesn’t mean that Mr. Trump doesn’t have any conservative policy successes he can claim. He does, though even here Mr. Trump’s record is not nearly as strong as his Republican defenders claim it is. From a conservative perspective, he’s gotten some things right and many things wrong.

The president is reshaping the judiciary in a conservative direction through his court appointments, but he has also given up on core conservative beliefs in limited government and responsible entitlement reform. He’s shredded federalism and embraced protectionism, both of which cut against conservative principles. It was also on Mr. Trump’s watch that, even before the pandemic hit, the United States set record annual deficits and exceeded $22 trillion in debt. (If Joe Biden becomes president, prepare for Republicans to rediscover a rhetorical commitment to fiscal discipline.)”

Opinion | What’s the Matter With Republicans? – By Peter Wehner – The New York Times

Peter Wehner

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

.CreditCreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

“In a sane world, the reaction of Republicans to the “memorandum of telephone conversation” between President Trump and the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, combined with the whistle-blower complaint filed by an intelligence officer describing a White House cover-up, would be similar to the response of Republicans after the release, on Aug. 5, 1974, of the “smoking gun” tape that finally broke the Nixon presidency. Republicans would begin to abandon Mr. Trump, with senior figures urging him in private and in public to resign.

This may be asking too much of Republicans, who have lost their way in the Trump era. One might hope that some of the party’s elected officials would forcefully condemn the president on the grounds that there is now demonstrable evidence that he had crossed an ethical line and abused his power in ways even beyond what he had done previously, which was problematic enough.

But things are very different today than they were in the summer of ’74. Mr. Trump was on to something when he famously said, during the 2016 campaign, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, O.K.? It’s, like, incredible.” What most people took to be hyperbole turned out to be closer to reality.

This isn’t to say that some Republican members of Congress aren’t deeply uneasy with Mr. Trump’s conduct. A few, including Senators Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse, have expressed their concern. But many others, from Senator Lindsey Graham to Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, are aggressively defending Mr. Trump, going so far as to argue that the notes from his July 25 conversation with Mr. Zelensky are exculpatory.

They are hardly that. Not only did the president ask a foreign government to intervene in a presidential election by digging up dirt on a political opponent, as he did in 2016 when he invited Russia to search for Hillary Clinton’s emails; this time, invested with the enormous power of the presidency, Mr. Trump appears to have used hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to pressure a foreign leader to act as the head of his opposition-research unit.”

Opinion | Republicans Sink Further Into Trump’s Cesspool – By Peter Wehner – The New York Times

I watched several hours of the Michael Cohen hearing yesterday, and the behavior of the Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform turned my stomach into knots. Here is Peter Wehner, a magnificent and articulate conservative Republican, carefully explaining what was so disgusting about the behavior of thesed Republican congress people.

By Peter Wehner
Contributing Opinion Writer
Feb. 27, 2019, 626 c
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A check from President Trump to Michael Cohen on display at the House committee hearing at which Mr. Cohen was testifying on Wednesday.CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress on Wednesday revealed as much about the Republican Party as it did about President Trump and his former lawyer. In the aftermath of Mr. Cohen’s damning testimony, several things stand out.

The first is that unlike John Dean, the former White House counsel who delivered searing testimony against President Richard Nixon in 1973, Mr. Cohen produced documents of Mr. Trump’s ethical and criminal wrongdoing. (Mr. Dean had to wait for the Watergate tapes to prove that what he was saying was true.)

Mr. Cohen’s most explosive evidence included a copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account, while he was president, to reimburse Mr. Cohen for hush money payments. The purpose of that hush money, of course, was to cover up Mr. Trump’s affair with a pornographic film star in order to prevent damage to his campaign.

Other evidence produced by Mr. Cohen included financial statements, examples of Mr. Trump inflating and deflating his wealth to serve his interests, examples of charity fraud, efforts to intimidate Mr. Cohen and his family and even letters sent by Mr. Cohen to academic institutions threatening legal actions if Mr. Trump’s grades and SAT scores were released. (Mr. Trump hammered President Barack Obama on this front, referring to him as a “terrible student, terrible,” and mocking him for not releasing his grades.)

Yet Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in their frantic effort to discredit Mr. Cohen, went after him while steadfastly ignoring the actual evidence he produced. They tried to impugn his character, but were unable to impugn the documents he provided. Nor did a single Republican offer a character defense of Mr. Trump. It turns out that was too much, even for them.

In that sense, what Republicans didn’t say reveals the truth about what happened at the hearing on Wednesday as much as what they did say. Republicans showed no interest, for example, in pursuing fresh allegations made by Mr. Cohen that Mr. Trump knew that WikiLeaks planned to release hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in the summer of 2016.

In a sane world, the fact that the president’s former lawyer produced evidence that the president knowingly and deceptively committed a federal crime — hush money payments that violated campaign finance laws — is something that even members of the president’s own party would find disquieting. But not today’s Republican Party.”