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We want what we want

September 7, 2016

One of the most common, and most annoying, things about political campaigns is selective outrage.  For weeks now I’ve been hearing Donald Trump and his surrogates and supporters expressing outrage over the ties between the Clinton Foundation and Hillary when she was Secretary of State.  In response, Clinton and her surrogates and supporters have been giving responses essentially saying “nothing to see here.”

This morning I saw a report saying that (a) Donald Trump has a foundation too; (b) the foundation donated to a Florida politician; and (c) this was to buy influence that favored Trump.  Wonder of wonders, Clinton and her surrogates and supporters are expressing outrage while Trump and his surrogates and supporters are sure there is “nothing to see here.”

Sigh.

Meanwhile, over in the Christian corner of the internet, we are not immune to selective outrage.  One of our primary stomping grounds for this outrage is the subject of religious liberty.  For some time now conservative Christians have been outraged that their religious liberty is being abused by such things as forcing merchants to serve LGBT events.  Progressive Christians have just rolled their eyes over what they perceive as using Constitutional Amendment 1 (religious liberty) to deny the equal protection clause of Amendment 14.

But it now seems like selective outrage affects us too.  A Massachusetts church, First Parish of Bedford, a Unitarian Universalist church, has sued the Bedford Historic District Commission for allegedly violating its religious rights when the board denied a permit application to install solar panels atop the 1817 meetinghouse.  Progressives are outraged, citing the 2006 Unitarian Universalist Association statement urging its members to “instigate sustainable alternatives” to practices that fuel climate change.  To nobody’s great surprise this is triggering a great deal conservative eye rolling.

This would be hilarious were it not so distressing.  The reality is that our evolving culture has to come to grips with the whole question of religious liberty in new and difficult ways.  In particular the clash between religious freedom and equal protection, two long-cherished amendments, gets greater every day.  If my religious freedom infringes on your equal protection, particularly when an entire class of people, like the LGBT community, is impacted this is not an easy-to-resolve matter.  Of course, the selectively outraged like to pretend it is; telling us we can just ignore that other amendment.  Equally of course, they reserve the right to switch sides on whether outrage is the correct response on the next issue.

Political outrage is cynical and self-serving.  Wouldn’t it be great if we Christians were just as outraged about things that don’t affect us as we are when we perceive our rights and causes are infringed upon?

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