A Saintly Warning: ‘Never Drive an Enemy to Despair; it Makes Him Strong’

Evangelicals and Catholics took sober note of attacks on their religious liberty, and they pushed back hard at the ballot box.

Master Francke, “Saint Thomas of Canterbury” (c. 1424)
Master Francke, “Saint Thomas of Canterbury” (c. 1424) (photo: Public Domain)

Secular journalists have given various reasons for Donald Trump’s shocking upset victory over Hillary Clinton. I flipped between several networks as the remarkable story unfolded Tuesday night, and I saw pundits speak of opposition to the status quo, concerns about Hillary Clinton’s honesty, and non-college-educated and/or rural-living white males, who were feeling marginalized by job losses and thinking Trump would be a better advocate for them regarding trade deals and job growth.

Each of these arguments for Trump’s victory has substance, but I would argue there’s something deeper, including in my native Michigan, where Trump has won, though not yet officially, by a mere 12,000 votes, garnering 47.6 percent to Clinton’s 47.3 percent.

After the election, CNN commentator Van Jones attributed Trump’s victory to “a ‘white-lash’ against a changing country . . . against a black president in part. And that’s the part where the pain comes.”

Meanwhile, Detroit Pistons Coach Stan Van Gundy angrily denounced Trump as “openly and brazenly racist and misogynistic,” and wondering, regarding Evangelical Christians who embraced Trump, “[W]hat the hell Bible are they reading?”

I will attempt to answer that question. Ironically, early on during election-night coverage various commentators, including Fox News’ Shepard Smith, made a point to say that Evangelicals were not being spoken of as a factor this time around, in contrast to previous Presidential elections. I would argue that they were, and that they were joined by committed Catholics, i.e., those who participate in Mass each Sunday. And I would submit that this informal but resolute coalition of committed Christians had big numbers among the aforementioned rural and non-college-educated white males, and that they were also represented in every other demographic group to one extent or another.

In any event, there is no doubt that Trump won among committed Evangelicals and Catholics.

And I would argue that the real backlash against President Obama and his would-be successor and former cabinet member, Hillary Clinton, resulted from their attempt to impose cultural change on American Christians and others who affirm moral absolutes. One might call it the political-cultural version of “poking the bear.”

However, I think much greater insight can be gained from the acclaimed movie “Becket”, in which Thomas Becket (played by Richard Burton), prior to the future saint’s conversion, gives political advice to King Henry II (played Peter O’Toole).

Becket: The bishop is waiting.

King: As if it mattered what I do
with a bishop whose city I've taken.

Becket: It matters.

King: Am I the strongest, or am I not?

Becket: You are today. But one must never drive one's enemy
to despair. It makes him strong. Gentleness is better politics.
It saps virility [i.e., “manhood,” an apt word for our discussion]. A good occupational force
must never crush. It must corrupt.

European Communists learned this lesson the hard way. And so now have our President and his heir apparent. Obama and Clinton were not simply content to change the culture and seduce others into willingly embracing it. That is, the gradual corruption of American citizens wasn’t sufficient. Rather, they wanted to crush the opposition into submission. They wanted to force their opponents to embrace moral evil.

A classic example is Obamacare. It wasn’t enough to provide federal funding for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization. They wanted religious entities like EWTN to formally participate in such moral evil—by providing and funding these “medical services” to their employees. And to endure lawsuits and face exorbitant fines if they didn’t.

Then there was Clinton’s promise to nominate U.S. Supreme Court justices who view abortion-on-demand as settled law, and her harsh criticism of Trump for saying he would nominate justices who would vote to overturn the 2015 Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex “marriage” throughout the country.

There was also the 2012 email from longtime Clinton ally John Podesta, who would become her campaign chairman, in which he affirmed that the dissident groups Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United were set up to help foster a “Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church.”

And Clinton herself pledged to formally abolish the Hyde Amendment, which bans the federal funding of abortion. She also ominously stated in 2015, regarding the U.S and other countries, that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed,” even though the folks at Snopes can’t seem to grasp the significance of that.

Evangelicals and Catholics took sober note of these and other attacks on religious liberty, and they pushed back hard at the ballot box. They recognized that some of Trump’s treatment of women were undeniably reprehensible and opposed him when he made bigoted remarks. (Indeed, Trump can be convicted of bigotry, but actual racism, which is certainly worse, is the domain of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, which Trump has repudiated on more than one occasion.)

But as problematic as some of Trump’s personal actions have been, Catholics and Evangelicals were much more concerned about the public policies Clinton planned on implementing. She and President Obama have a knack of not only calling moral evil good in a way that appeals to the masses—e.g., “women’s reproductive rights” and “marriage equality”—but they are also zealously committed to implementing as public policy these and other social measures.

So despite some of his personal behavior, the election of Donald Trump is undoubtedly a victory for religious liberty, as the President-elect, for example, has pledged to undo the onerous requirements of Obamacare, nominate Supreme Court justices who understand and support the natural moral law, and provide greater support to parents re: school choice for their children.

American culture remains in much need of reform, but there is renewed hope for our future.

Let us pray for our President-elect, that in both word and deed, he humbly seeks to honor God as a public servant and thereby advance a genuine civilization of love for all.