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Just Say the Words 

Taking a Gander: Christian leaders can help heal the nation

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The ongoing events of 2020 and 2021 are unimaginable. For the first time since the Civil War, Americans have been forced to question the durability of our political system.

As someone who's an example of the American Dream, I am more than just alarmed. The current situation has filled me with apprehension and fear. I along with many other Americans, have had my very first, scary preview of how even the greatest of nations can descend from greatness, stumble and fall.

My parents were both first-generation Americans. My grandparents all came from Europe. On my mother's side, they left the old world for adventure, romance and opportunity. Those on my father's side were forced to abandon their childhood homes because the mad-dog forces of discrimination were destroying the possibility of a happy and prosperous future.

Now, years after my grandparents' deaths, I can't help but wonder how they'd view the current situation—an incumbent president who refuses to accept the fact that he lost the national election by a substantial margin and who's been spewing hateful rhetoric to mobilize his ignorant groupies in a relentless attempt to invalidate the people's voice.

Even in my neighborhood—months after Biden's election—I see a few of the misguided, flying Trump flags. Had my grandpas and grandmas ever imagined that this could happen, they likely would have chosen a more stable country instead. (Canada crosses my mind.)

There was never any question that Trump's divisive use of social media presented a precipitous hazard to our democracy. Luckily, some of social media misinformation has been temporarily halted, but much of that will return.

I'm angry, but I also understand the mentality and motives of the insurrectionists—yes, that's the correct word. If America's outgoing leader presents a poor-me description of how he's been cheated out of a landslide victory, it's natural for his followers to stand up in his defense. With a badly damaged flow of accurate information, caused almost entirely by the president's slander of legitimate news organizations (and the creation of his own, alternative purveyors of a fabricated "truth"), it's not hard to understand the "righteous" indignation of his followers.

Believing that massive corruption had derailed an honest election, and that their boy had won, hands-down, the idea of a mini-revolution is not so difficult to understand. Unfortunately, the vicious attack on the Capitol must be seen—no matter how evil it was—as the actions of misguided would-be patriots seeking to right the wrong of a system that had failed. It's easy to label those who participated as monsters, but the reality is that there were many contributors to the ignorance that drove their violent assault on our Capitol.

It was bad enough that the uneducated and dim-witted were easy prey for Trump's delusions. But, senators, representatives, lawyers, churches? Really! It's easy to see how it happened. Without faith in the watchdog function of the media, a group delusion hijacked the minds of millions of Americans.

It didn't matter that judges—mostly Republican appointees—rejected the scores of lawsuits filed to perpetuate the lies; it didn't matter that the possibility of corrupted election results had been repeatedly investigated and debunked; it didn't matter that supporters had listened to Trump's extortive attempts to have election officials lie about the votes. Even after most of his social media facilitators have gone into hiding, the diarrheal leakage continues. Sadly, a horrifying number of legislators have continued to parrot the same lies that threatened our democracy. One must ask the question: How do we move forward, when people like Hawley, Boebert, Owens, and Cruz—and many others who also know better—continue to tear at the fabric of America.

Actually, there was probably nothing that could change these people's minds. The plague of nonstop misinformation is a powerful epidemic, and, as some of us suspect, like rabies, there may be no cure. Trump has infected a large sector of America, and, despite overwhelming evidence, the tenacity continues. Somehow, Dr. Joe will have to come up with a way through; healing is essential.

I believe there's something that could end it now, but those, with the power to do so, still consider their selfish agenda more important than the truth. Other than the family and home, religions still have a powerful hold on many Americans. Since those religions have taken much of the responsibility for teaching moral and ethical behavior, they now have a distinct opportunity to move their adherents in the right direction.

Frankly, America's so-called Christian religions have failed their members and facilitated the spread of lies—all because they would not say the simple words: "This is wrong." Some religious leaders will sidestep their moral responsibility, claiming that politics is outside religion's realm. That is reprehensible. Where were Russell Nelson, the Pope, the Methodists, the Lutherans, the Baptists, and others when people needed some healthy moral direction? A word—just a word—from religious leaders is all if would have taken to end the madness.

Instead, the so-called Christian Right, and its many loosely related churches have been complicit in Trump's crimes. If they would have just spoken up—made the choice to support honesty and facts—this whole debacle would have been immediately over. Instead, they and their officially misguided supplicants effectively participated in the grandest-scale fraud ever attempted on our country, and there's really no excuse.

It's an unfortunate truth that silence, in the face of injustice, is as real an act of sedition as the overt actions of those who acted violently to overthrow the voice of the people.

The author is a retired novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.

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