It was a generation ago, during his candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination that Jesse Jackson referred to Jews as “Hymies” and to New York City as “Hymietown” in January 1984 during an off-the-record conversation with Milton Coleman an African American Washington Post reporter. Jackson assumed the references would not be printed because of his racial bond with Coleman, but several weeks later Coleman permitted the slurs to be included in an article written by another Post reporter on Jackson’s rocky relations with American Jews.
A storm of protest erupted, and Jackson at first denied the remarks, then accused Jews of conspiring to defeat him. The Nation of Islam’s radical leader Louis Farrakhan, an old Jackson ally, made a difficult situation worse by threatening Coleman in a radio broadcast and issuing a public warning to Jews, made in Jackson’s presence: “If you harm this brother [Jackson], it will be the last one you harm.” There was mounting pressure for Jackson to end his presidential candidacy amid the controversy. It was strongly felt by some that no Presidential nominee should use such language when referring to another community, much less the Jewish community, a people who had suffered tremendous pain and anguish in their history. Jackson was being pressured to withdraw from the race.
Amidst this whirlwind Jackson decided to admit his misstep and publicly apologize to a congregation of Rabbis at a Jewish Synagogue in New York. With conciliatory words Jackson said, “In private talks we sometimes let our guard down and we become thoughtless,” “It was not in a spirit of meanness and. . . . however innocent and unintended, it was wrong.” With these words and others Jackson would ask for forgiveness. He would also deny that the words proved he was an anti-Semite: “I categorically deny allegations that there is anything in my personal attitude or my public career, behavior, or record that lends itself to that interpretation. In fact, the record is the exact opposite,” he would say.
Some Jewish leaders were willing to accept Jackson’s apology. They had found his remarks offensive, but had also been disturbed by the severity of the attacks on him. After all, they confided, Jesse Jackson isn’t the only one using those ethnic terms. But some would not forgive; they scoffed at the apology in the temple—an apology made “belatedly” that “doesn’t acknowledge the gravity of his language,” said Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. One who refused to accept the apology said, “He could light candles every Friday night and grow side curls, and it still wouldn’t matter.” Other comments were made about the apology by those who believed it was politically motivated and insincere but eventually the incident would be forgotten, the campaign would survive and Jesse Jackson’s run for the presidency would in many ways pave the way for the future aspirations of Barack Obama.
Thirty years later on December 2015 when discussing Hillary Clinton’s loss to now-President Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary race, Donald Trump told supporters at a Monday-night rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that “she was favored to win and she got ‘schlonged,’ she lost.” In case you didn’t know it “schlonged” is a vulgar derogatory Jewish term that is used to refer to the male gen—ls. I will not allow myself to use such language on my blog but you can Google the word for its definition and read how the term is used in the “urban dictionary.”
When Candidate Trump was confronted for his demeaning “publicly” spoken choice of words toward Secretary Clinton by the press, his response was not to apologize but rather to defend his remarks. “When I said that Hillary Clinton got schlonged by Obama, it meant got beaten badly. The media knows this. Its an often used word in politics!”
When Trump gave this explanation the press, instead of holding Trump’s feet to the fire, became his ally in excuse making by trying to find new and different ways to understand the meaning of the word “schlonged.” Here’s how one outlet tried to explain the word in Trump’s defense. “However, some believe that schlonged has a similar etymological status to that of words such as “screwed,” which has changed meaning over the years from having a sexual connotation to meaning ‘cheated’ or ‘conned,’ according to a Talking Points Memo report Wednesday.”
Another reporter remarked, “These phrases often get used with little conscious sense of their original meaning.” The reporter went on to cite a friend’s Facebook status that said he grew up in Long Island where the term “schlonged” was commonly used as a verb that meant “thoroughly beaten.”
Where were these minions when it came time to defend Jesse Jackson for his ‘Hymietown’ remark? Why weren’t they jumping to his defense to explain how certain ethnic groups sometimes use terms in casual off-the-record conversations and it is not always meant as a derogatory slur…
There was no chorus of voices calling for Trump to apologize. There was no cause for panic in his campaign. There was no sense that his presidential run was teetering on the brink of collapse or ruin, rather it was being defending by the press, who seemed to try in every way possible to bolster his presidential run and defend him.
How does one explain the difference in the treatment of Jackson when he used the word “Hymie” and the phrase “Hymietown” in a private off-the-record conversation with a Black news reporter that almost cost him his presidential campaign and Donald Trump who publicly said Hillary got “schlonged” by Obama when she ran for president in 2008? How does one explain the difference in treatment and the difference in the reaction of the Jewish community toward them when the remark was made? Has anyone heard any public excoriation from the Jewish community toward Trump for this vulgar remark toward a woman? What about the White community at large? Where are they in all of this? Imagine if any non-white candidate had made such a remark about Hillary Clinton. Could they possibly survive such a remark without even an apology? Let’s not even hazard suggesting an African American candidate saying it; we know the answer to that.
And while the press, the so-called “4th Estate,” should be taken to task for its soft ball spineless irresponsibility when it came to holding Donald Trump accountable, my greater concern is with Christians and specifically Christian Conservatives. Where is the Christian Right in all of this? What do they have to say about Trump’s rhetoric? Why have they been so silence since his campaign has begun? He claims to be a Christian, saying publicly that the one book greater than his own, “The Art of the Deal,” is the Bible, yet he seems to ignore what the Bible says while conducting his presidential campaign.
The Bible says in Matthew 7:12(NIV)—“ So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” We know this text to be the “Golden Rule.” However, Trump says he does not believe in ‘political correctness’. He feels he can say whatever he wants. How does that square with the “Golden Rule? Is that doing unto others, as you would have them do unto you? Or how does that equate with the words of Jesus in Mathew 12:35-37(NLT). Jesus said, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” The Message Bible renders verse 37 like this. It says, “Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.” Trump on several occasions has said he would bomb ISIS and has used vulgar language that I choose not to repeat, in describing how he would do it. But Proverbs 12:18(MES) says, “Rash language cuts and maims, but there is healing in the words of the wise.” I would say further, no Christian who has read the scriptures about the power of the tongue would agree with ignoring political correctness. James 1:26(CEB) says, “If those who claim devotion to God don’t control what they say, they mislead themselves. Their devotion is worthless.”
The Christian Right has not only remained silent, some of their most prominent and well-know personalities have endorsed Trump’s candidacy. Jerry Falwell Jr. has given his endorsement to Donald Trump and several prosperity preachers have spoken at Trump rallies advocating his financial philosophies. Ralph Reed, the onetime executive director of the Christian Coalition has jumped on the Trump band wagon with his endorsement and hosted a conference in June of some 2,000+ activists of Faith and Freedom Coalition supporters for Donald Trump. Like the Prophets of Baal who supported the throne of Ahab, it seems that some of today’s Evangelical ministers blindly support the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, without question or rebuke. And while they have nothing bad to say about Trump, they seem to have nothing good to say about President Obama.
Why has the Religious right brought little or no attention to the Christian model of the Obama family? Why no recognition of their exemplary marriage, their parenting or their children who have displayed a dignity and decency that has been a model for all American youth and teens. If they are such advocates of family values, why haven’t they taken the opportunity to praise the “First Family” for the dignified grace and virtue they have exemplified for all Americans? They were quick to praise Ronald and Nancy Reagan though theirs was a second marriage. They praised George W. and Laura Bush, though one of their daughters had an incident of indiscretion while a resident of the White House. I’m not suggesting anything untoward about either couple or family, just that their flaws did not exclude them from the Christian Rights praise. So why the silence when it comes to the Obama’s? Is it political or racial? When President Obama was criticized for making the decision to have dinner every night with his family instead of nightcap drinks with members of Congress, why didn’t the “Family Values” Christian Right come to his aid and defend his decision for his family? Are they really that partisan, or is it prejudice? Which?
Why is the Christian community as a whole so silent when it comes to the outrageous behavior of Donald Trump? Why no mention of his incendiary comments that are spoken publicly without any filter or apology. Some in the Christian community are never hesitant to speak about President Obama in negative terms. Some have called him the anti-Christ and presently are predicting that President Obama will declare marshal law, suspend elections and remain in the presidency using the 22nd amendment of the constitution. Others are claiming that he will use an executive order to remain in office. They are predicting evil from President Obama, but are seeing no evil from the divisive diatribes and dalliances of Donald Trump. They have the energy to speculate and pronounce outlandish prophetic conspiracies about President Obama, but remain silent when it comes to Donald Trump. How does one explain this uneven analysis from Christians of the Religious Right?
The Bible is clear about where our trust should be placed. Psalm 118:9 (GNT) says, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to depend on human leaders.” Psalms 146 (CEB) is even more emphatic. It says in verse 3, “Don’t trust leaders; don’t trust any human beings— there’s no saving help with them! Proverbs 29:26 (CEB) reminds us, “Many seek access to the ruler, but justice comes from the LORD.” The Bible gives clear guidance on where ones loyalties should be when it comes to the endorsement and selection of leaders and Christians must always maintain a prophetic voice representing God’s directives in all matters of government. No political party or leader is entitled to the support of Christians without the consent of God and the endorsement of scripture and Christians must always use scripture to determine the direction they should take in political matters.
One final point, what we do know in scripture is that God is a God of justice. The Psalmist says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; grace and truth attend you.”(Psalms 89:15 Complete Jewish Bible) It is also clear that God is particularly concerned for the justice of the poor and oppressed. Proverbs 22:22—23 say, “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush he needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life. God identifies with the poor with these powerful words, “Those who are kind to the poor lend to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.”(Proverbs 19:17) Finally, God gives this promise to those in political office who show favor to the poor. He says, “If a king steadfastly gives justice to the poor, his throne will be secure forever.”(Proverbs 29:14 CJB)
So how are we to determine whom we should support for the presidency? Let me share this starting point as a litmus test. God sends a clear message to all of the candidates who aspire to the presidency, who seek His favor and endorsement. It is simple and concise. “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40 NKJV)