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On mentors

July 28th, 2017 by Stephen Bauman

I promise I won’t indulge in this too often, but I feel the need to comment on the state of the national political scene, and in particular, the astonishing conduct of our president. Oddly, you might think, it was Mr. Trump’s performance at the national Boy Scout Jamboree that proved the proverbial straw that broke my camel’s back. It was so inappropriate (mind-blowing, really) that the Chief Scout Executive wrote a letter to the scouting family: “I want to extend my sincere apologies to those who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree… Trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness, and bravery are just a few of the admirable traits Scouts aspire to develop…” Indeed. In effect, he had to apologize for our president’s malignant character.

Here’s David Brooks today: “Do you ever get the feeling we’re all going to be judged for this moment? Historians, our grandkids and we ourselves will look and ask: What did you do as the Trump/Scaramucci/Bannon administration dropped a nuclear bomb on the basic standards of decency in public life? What did you do as the American Congress ceased to function? What positions did you take as America teetered toward national decline? … The Trump administration is a moral cancer eating away at conservatism, the Republican Party and what it means to be a public servant.”

Brooks identifies as right-of-center, so when he speaks of conservatism and the Republican Party, it’s personal. As you know, I have avoided talking about Trump per se, from time to time focusing instead on public matters of character, justice, and equality, matters that grow organically from Jesus’ admonition that our first order of business is to love as he loved.

But at some point silence becomes participatory in the national disgrace. I need to go on record. I don’t do this as a partisan. I do it as a citizen, a patriot, and importantly, as someone who aspires to, in the words of one of our nobler political mentors, listening to the better angels of our nature. Recall that Lincoln was our first Republican president to realize just how deep a chasm has opened.

I fear that our national character has been irreparably damaged. Yes, of course, corruption and political infidelities have always dogged our politics, as in our personal lives. But there has always been a concomitant public discussion and debate, if not exact agreement, about the common good that draws the best out of citizens and their representatives.

Virulent narcissism only cares about itself, the common good be damned. This needs to be clearly and firmly acknowledged so that we don’t diminish our own standards of conduct and character enhancing of human dignity.

Sometimes mentors arise as examples of what not to become. One of those currently resides in a big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C.

Stephen Bauman

Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Bauman is the Senior Minister at Christ Church.