National Commentary

Reclaiming Moral High Ground, Part 1

nfbenton-mugThat this is a U.S. presidential election season of massive contrasts is obvious. But what is at the core of those contrasts? This election season represents a unique opportunity to get a handle on these, a teachable moment for going deeper than the usual partisan divides to something more fundamental and potentially paradigm-shifting.

The powerful words of the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, the head of the North Carolina NAACP, speaking at the Democratic National Convention last week hearkened to this in a unique and poignant way. Others have subsequently caught on.

“Jesus, a brown Palestinian Jew, called us to preach the good news to the poor, the broken, and the bruised, and all those who are made to feel unaccepted,” he intoned. “Our constitution calls us to commit our government to establish justice, to promote the general welfare, to provide for the common defense, and to ensure domestic tranquility…This ought to be the goal at the heart of our democracy.”

The key word he struck was “heart.” “There have always been forces that want to harden and even stop the heart of democracy…They tell me when the heart is in danger, somebody has to call an emergency code, and somebody with a good heart will bring a defibrillator to work on the bad heart…In this season, when someone wants to harden and stop the heart of our democracy, we are being called like our foremothers and forefathers to be the moral defibrillator of our time. We must shock this nation with the power of love.”

The Rev. Dr. Barber thundered, “I say to you tonight, there are some issues that are not Left versus Right, Liberal versus Conservative, they are right versus wrong. We need to embrace our deepest moral values and push for a revival of the heart of our democracy.”

Hillary Clinton, he said “is working to embrace our deepest moral values.”

Subsequently, Donald Trump’s shocking lack of empathy in his crass insults directed at the Khan family have stunned millions and done more to bring his ill-conceived campaign to the brink of self-immolation than anything even as bad as his insults have been throughout the last year.

In this tell-tale case, it was not an attack on a political enemy, fair game as tasteless as it may be, but the mourning Gold Star family of a slain war hero.

Trump exposed himself as a downright mean and cruel person, devoid of and the antithesis of anything akin to what Barber called “heart.”

So it is time to call the callous and cynical attempts by not just Trump, but the GOP establishment writ large, to disenfranchise voters – struck down and called out as calculated efforts to deny ballot access to citizens by the courts – as not just partisan, but downright immoral. This is done by people who call themselves righteous, but they are immoral scum.

“Morality” in the U.S. was mugged in the late 1960s by the evil false prophets of postmodernism, who sought to defuse the morally-charged civil rights movement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with an angry worldview that peddled “morality” as the superimposition of authority against the individual.

It was a devious and insidious movement aimed at corrupting the values behind the civil rights and antiwar movements by claiming “morality” as the enemy of “freedom.” There is a ton of documentation.

Those who orchestrated such social currents, gave over “morality” as a concept to the bigoted anti-civil rights currents of the so-called “moral majority,” which defined morality as an authoritarian laundry list of do’s and don’ts aimed against the pro-civil rights currents.

In this altered paradigm, progressives, including progressive churches, felt they had to cede the concept of “morality” to the right.

But the right’s morality is so blatantly immoral, and finally progressives are catching on. So comes the importance of the Democrats’ choice of Tim Kaine, a clearly religiously-motivated missionary and civil rights lawyer who found a pathway to the political top without compromising those values.

Take heed. It’s time to reclaim the moral high ground and to make that the clarion call.