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Anglo-Catholic Blogger Answers Questions about his Positions on the Culture Wars and Trump

Anglo-Catholic Blogger Answers Questions about his Positions on the Culture Wars and Trump

VIRTUEONLINE recently interviewed the Rev. Robert Hart, a continuing Anglo-Catholic priest. He is rector of Saint Benedict's Anglican Catholic Church in Chapel Hill, NC, a contributing editor of Touchstone, A Journal of Mere Christianity, accomplished musician and frequent contributor to The Continuum blog.

By David W. Virtue, DD
August 3, 2021

VOL: You are a member of the Anglican Continuum; orthodox in faith and morals; In your case however, not politically conservative. Are you an outlier among your brethren or do other Continuum members share your more democratic, dare I say leftist views?

HART: I'm not leftist, quite frankly; to be left-wing or to be right-wing would be to be ideological. The only wings I like are on birds, bats, airplanes, and certain insects. The only reason why some people might label me a leftist is because they've abandoned conservatism to become radically right-wing. Such people are very good at fooling themselves. This is why I am certainly not left-wing or right-wing. I avoid extremes. My temperament is certainly conservative, rather via media really. From my various writings over the years, people have been offended because they consider me too conservative. When I've written about marriage, or when I've written about the sexual revolution, and how the sexual revolution has produced murder in the form of abortion millions and millions of times over, people who are genuinely leftist accuse me of being full of "hate." They accuse me of wanting to "control women's bodies" because I'm pro-life. Of course, that's nonsense; to be pro-life is simply to acknowledge the sanctity of human life, and to reject the idea that we have the right to murder or enslave anybody. And indeed, I add the word "enslave" because the whole basis of the left's position on abortion turns the child into the property of the mother. And, as I say, it's murder that is championed to protect immorality, the sexual revolution and all of its inherent sinfulness.

But in the eyes of extreme right-wingers, I am now anathema because I'm very objective about facts. I will give you an example of how my adherence to objective facts has gotten me into trouble even with some conservative Anglicans.

Recently the presiding Bishop of the ACNA and the presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church released public statements condemning Critical Race Theory as "a false doctrine." This was posted in a Facebook group, and the administrator thought it was absolutely brilliant and wonderful that they had made these statements. Looking at the statements, I realized that those bishops had based them on misinformation from right wing propagandists. It is to the economic advantage of Fox News, in terms of ratings, and it serves the political interests of right-wing members of the Republican Party, to constantly feed misinformation to people, misinformation meant to create fear that is sold mostly to white people of the middle and lower economic classes. I am sad to say that it deceived those two bishops. As a member of that particular Anglican Facebook group, I weighed in and said that the two bishops' statements were most unfortunate. To condemn Critical Race Theory as a false doctrine is a serious mistake because it is not a doctrine at all. It simply is not under the purview of bishops as some sort of religious doctrine.

This new bugaboo of the right about Critical Race Theory is just their latest Chicken Little exercise of telling people "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" In comments on that Facebook group post, I presented the simple fact that Critical Race Theory is not taught to any children in K-12 schools, and that's because it is a graduate level curriculum. Nobody is being taught it in schools, except law schools to college graduates. Furthermore, as I proved with links to articles detailing the facts, Critical Race Theory is about how history has shaped laws and social practices that still have a detrimental effect on many people in our country; it is about problems in law and education that are very real and present.

I'll give you another example. We all know that there were protests in 2020 all over the country after the death of George Floyd. Constantly, on Facebook, I was seeing people claiming that cities were being burned to the ground, and that in every place, riots were breaking out, even months later when nothing was still happening. People like me, who stay informed, knew that 93 percent of all the protests after the George Floyd murder were peaceful protests. But peaceful protests are not entertaining, and don't provide high ratings on television, so those 93 percent of the protests received just about no attention whatsoever from the news media. However, Fox News along with other toilet-bowl outlets continued to constantly talk about the few riots and instances of burnings, and for months on end kept playing the same videos over and over after all of those things were no longer news at all. I was an investigator for several years, and even had some experience in journalism. I know how to look into the facts. So, I discovered something that is simply objective truth. After various investigations by local law enforcement, the people who were identified, arrested, and charged with starting fires and with turning protests into riots were individuals not associated with anything that can be called Black Lives Matter. Instead, the people that they actually arrested and charged were members of the Boogaloo Bois, a right-wing anarchist group generally recognizable by their Hawaiian shirts. Despite these objective facts that had been widely reported, the empty talking heads on Fox News kept on perpetuating the lie that this was Black Lives Matter and Antifa, and that cities were being burned to the ground.

ON HEALTHCARE. I can think of only one other reason why I have been labeled left-wing. People who live in other countries cannot make sense out of this labeling because it is a uniquely American error. In 32 out of 33 developed democratic countries on earth, everyone has some kind of access to healthcare. It is treated as a human right. This began in a very conservative country called Great Britain, very conservative at that time in history. Clement Attlee said that the establishment of the National Health was because Great Britain was a Christian nation. Every single democratic nation on the face of the earth has what is often called Universal Healthcare. None of the people who live in those countries regard that as left-wing, or radical. It is perfectly conservative, a bit right of center. Many of them are amazed when they learn how backward America is regarding healthcare. They often react in disbelief.

Besides which, everyone who is honest knows that Americans really don't have any freedom of choice when it comes to healthcare. Your insurance company, if you're privileged enough to have insurance at all, controls all of the choices, not you, unless you are rich enough to pay for the care yourself. And nobody can pay for it except for the very wealthy.

This issue makes us a backward and underdeveloped country by the standard of the modern world. But I've been saying this for over 30 some years. In my work as a medical and legal investigator I was constantly on the frontlines with the poorest of the poor, and as a priest right now I find that I still am on the frontlines with the poorest of the poor. And as I say, thinking this to be left-wing and radical, due to labeling it as "Socialism," is a problem only in the United States, and nowhere else.

VOL: Why do people of orthodox faith also happen to be politically conservative. Is there an equation in your mind?

HART: It is a fact that most of us have to be social conservatives about various issues such as marriage and certainly, above all, I say the pro-life cause. I think it's in the nature of people who want to maintain orthodoxy also to be conservative in temperament. We should be the type who are not "blown about by every wind of doctrine," and we certainly want to "earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the Saints." If you are loyal to any political party or candidate, you will, sooner or later, have to betray Jesus Christ your King. You will have to defend injustice or champion atrocity at some point. If you must be in a political party, do not give it your loyalty.

The problem is what I said before; that conservatism has been drowned out by a new and radical right-wing. When I see continuing Anglicans embracing the new right-wing, it tells me that they no longer have a conservative via media temperament protecting them from new, radical, crazy ideas. It is they who are being blown about by every wind of doctrine, howbeit, in this case, political doctrine. But it spills over into the religious realm when it makes them compromise morality for this new radical right-wing, no less so than what the radical left-wing did to the moral teaching of the Episcopal Church.

The reason they don't see it is because the immorality of the new radical right-wing is buried and hidden from their sight by those who have all along used the language of the pro-life movement for their own political gain. Many of the Republican politicians, especially in Washington D.C., put on a superficial pro-life position which is really nothing more than a theatrical political costume. That is definitely what Donald Trump has been doing since 2015. Honest scrutiny reveals that the man is no more pro-life than any abortionist working for Planned Parenthood. Four years in a row he signed budgets that increased federal funding to Planned Parenthood. And during his first two years in office, when the Republicans had enough power in both Houses of Congress and the White House to make serious pro-life legislation, knowing that the President would have to sign it to keep his base, they did absolutely nothing. They avoided putting him on the spot because most of them are, as the record shows, just as phony as he is. Besides which, they do not want to do away with an issue that brings in votes and money. I was a straight-Republican ticket voter for several years and became a dissatisfied customer the first time they did nothing for the pro-life cause -- the first six years of George W. Bush.

VOL: You are a Never Trumper. What led you to that position?

HART: In 2016, I was both Never-Trump and Never-Hillary. It was a down-ballot year. There is quite a lot to say. I cannot ignore the truth about Donald Trump. His life story is not secret, and I cannot ignore who and what he always has been and, from all we can observe, still is. Every publicly documented fact about his life bears the evil fruit of a corrupt tree -- a conman, a bully, a thief, and one who is utterly amoral. I saw a post on Facebook by a man who accused Trump's critics of "hating" him "because he is a Christian and a patriot." First of all, I believe that many of us don't hate Donald Trump. I don't hate anybody. I pray for the man because I see clearly a very, very lost soul. I see someone deeply damaged. In line with advice from Professor Digory Kirke in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I would hate to be Donald Trump; so, I must pity him. No matter how financially rich he may be, he is mentally and emotionally impoverished. His entire life is defined by an inferiority complex combined with, at the same time, narcissistic personality disorder. To feel at once inferior, but to be sinfully proud at the same time, must itself be an inescapable hell on earth.

A Christian? No. He has never brought forth what John the Baptist called "fruit meet for repentance." For all of his life, both in business and in his term as President, he has been obsessed with himself above all else. His treatment of women, some underage, has been a disgrace. He is a bully who demands absolute loyalty from everyone. But he is never loyal to anybody in return. Look at all the men, loyal to him in his four years, who he immediately threw under the bus when they were no longer convenient to him. And I am not impressed by unverifiable election year anecdotes that he, once upon a time, did something nice for a black cab driver, or some other internet tale. The facts we know about the man are simply appalling. There is absolutely nothing from the record of his life that is to his credit. It is all bad. In recent years, despite the claims of some of the most odious Televangelists that he "Accepted Christ," no one has seen any "fruit meet for repentance."

Finally, a patriot? Absolutely not. Indeed, he is the very opposite of a patriot, as he proved by all that we saw him do after the election. No President or candidate has ever before, having lost an election, been so selfish and ego driven as to make the whole country suffer. His Big Lie fell apart in court. His lawyers went to court, and they won one small procedural victory the morning after the election. But after the election was called and certified, they challenged the outcome, alleging massive voter fraud in 64 cases throughout various states. Three were dismissed for Lack of Standing, four for Lack of Cause, and fifty-seven for Lack of Evidence. Most of those fifty-seven were withdrawn by Trump's lawyers. Many of the judges were Republicans, some even Trump appointees. When you lose every case alleging massive voter fraud, it should be over. If you cannot accept the ruling of the court, then going to court was an act of bad faith (during those court challenges he raised millions of dollars from his loyal supporters to pay for the court cases; but he has pocketed all the money himself - again, never loyal to anybody in return. He scammed his own supporters, and they loved it. They should all walk around with "kick me" signs on their backs).

In every way, from deranged daily tweets to trying to overturn the Rule of Law and the Constitution, Donald Trump lived all the way down to every observant person's worst expectation. While in office he had even wanted to start a war with Iran; he had betrayed our Kurdish allies, getting many of them killed, obviously for business reasons; and to top everything off he even tried to steal the election by force. Thank God the coup failed, and we still have our Constitution.

The whole political history of mankind should make that danger very obvious. When you lose liberty, it is gone. I say that because what happened that day was the blatant, obvious, and visible demonstration of a very radical new right-wing movement, and there is certainly nothing conservative about it. If orthodox believers are defending it, then they are no longer conservative at all.

VOL: What is it about Trump that angers you so much and why do millions of evangelicals not share your view of Trump?

HART: The answer to the second part of your question is that, once again, it has been proved that it is possible to deceive the very elect. My two majors in college were music and history, and I am very much aware of the absurdity of Reductio ad Hitlerum. It is ridiculous when anybody compares their favorite bogeyman to Hitler, or their opponents to the German Nazis. For example, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene recently made a fool out of herself by comparing COVID masks to the Holocaust. So, we want to avoid Reductio ad Hitlerum. But how can I ignore, with my degree in history, that I am confronted by very real historical parallels? Do I believe that Trump would try to commit genocide or achieve world domination? Probably not. But he kept a copy of Hitler's speeches by his bedside for nighttime reading, according to his first wife. And from what I can tell, he learned from it. An obvious historical parallel is how he built and maintained a base of followers. In speeches at rallies, he appealed to the hate and fear, indeed the xenophobia, of his audience. He built on their fears by deceptively lumping together various different kinds of immigrants, conflating the comparatively small number of violent illegal immigrants with the larger number of peaceful, undocumented workers (mostly agricultural), asylum seekers, and even refugees. His message was that all of these brown-faced people were here to rape your wives, murder your children and steal your money. It was just hateful, bigoted nonsense. But his crowds ate it up. I did a study in which I saw that we could replace the word "Jews" with the word "immigrants," and found that portions of Trump's speeches were, while not translations, paraphrased passages from Hitler's speeches that he had given at his rallies in Germany. What is a student of history to do with this realization? The tragic thing is, it worked here in America, in the 21st Century, just as easily as it worked in 20th century Germany.

VOL: A recent paper you sent me outlining some of your Biblical views might seem disturbing to some readers. For example, you say "I think it must be true that the Church had a Quelle ("source" in German) document, or "Q," simply because it makes no sense to believe that the Church would have failed to put into writing the most important words ever spoken. The Church's resources were never limited to complete dependence on nothing other than an oral tradition because it was never populated only by illiterates. That Mark and Matthew drew from this "Q," and that Luke drew from it and other sources when addressing each of us as a "friend of God (Theophilus)," is indeed quite logical, indeed, obvious. We do not have the "Q," but we do have the Gospels. In fact, in the seventh chapter of First Corinthians, Paul makes a distinction between the teaching of the Lord, and his own merely human, but likely reliable judgment; the implication is that Christ's teaching had been preserved faithfully, and that his readers knew what was in it." A few readers might think the Q source has been discredited. Why do you hold to this?

HART: I remember my first ever Christian History professor, Arsteides Papadakis saying, in 1980, that there absolutely had to have been a "Q." I am not aware of anybody who considers this to be controversial. But what is controversial, and rightly so, is the attempt by modern scholars to try to recreate a "Q" based on their own ideas or concepts. It is simply not possible to do so. What seems more unlikely is that the Church, born among literate people, would have relied solely on an Oral Tradition. That really just does not make sense.

VOL: A number of Canadian and European evangelicals and scholars I talk with are bewildered by the alliance of North American evangelicals with Trump? Why do you think they have a different perspective and see things differently?

HART: For the same reason that American Evangelicals in minority communities see things differently. The Canadian and European Evangelicals do not feel as directly threatened as our black and brown fellow Americans do, but like them they are detached from the hysteria that is the Trump brand of American Populism. I know that some Republicans simply got caught up in partisan considerations and could not admit to themselves the bitter truth that Trump had not joined their party, but instead had conquered it. It reminds me of how right after World War II, the Japanese initially treated General MacArthur as an equal to the emperor. The conqueror is the new boss. It also helped Trump that he was running against the least popular Democratic candidate possible. For good reason, many Americans were also appalled by Hillary Clinton. I myself am still appalled at her. Her incompetence concerning Benghazi was only one reason among many why she wasn't fit for the office either. In 2016, I was saying that the contest is between Bozo on steroids and Cruella Deville.

I believe everyone who sees things differently from the Trumpvangelicals is easy to understand. It's the people in his cult-like band of worshipers who are impossible to understand, unless one considers both insanity and demon-possession. This is especially true of the lunatics who believe in QAnon. The Canadians and European Evangelicals who see things differently are sane. They have not chosen to worship a golden calf. It is that simple.

The Trumpvangelicals had been people afraid of their own shadow. Instead of seeing themselves as an occupying force ("Occupy until I come"), instead of realizing that it is the powers of darkness that tremble because we are "terrible as an army with banners," that we, armed with the Gospel, are the superior force, they chose to live in fear of unbelievers. They might think they need a "Messiah like Cyrus" to save them. But I don't need any Messiah other than Jesus. I guess that makes me more like the Canadian and European Christians, and more like our minority Christians.

VOL: One conservative evangelical commentator, Michael Giere, who attended the recent Promise Keepers rally in Dallas talked to a number of evangelical pastors and headlined his story, "My Search for the Elusive White Nationalists and Supremacists in the Church". Here is a sample of what he wrote: "The Church, we're being told, is being overrun with white, Christian nationalists and white supremacists! These nationalists and supremacists are demanding fealty to -- you knew it was coming -- Donald J. Trump! Some claim that "It's a 'war' for the faith, tearing the universal church apart!" Backing into these arguments are the "Never Trumpers," a cadre of self-proclaimed "conservative" and "Christian" talking heads, writers, and politicians who wear their self-anointed moral superiority like a teenage girl does her first prom dress." I take it you do not share his views. Elaborate.

HART: There was and is nothing elusive about the White Nationalists and Supremacists in the Church. One has to close one's eyes not to see them, and to hold hands over one's ears not to hear them. They are everywhere apparent. It's the Trumpvangelicals who are wearing their all-too visible moral inferiority "like a teenage girl does her first prom dress." From what you quoted, I must conclude that Giere is just parroting the party-line, indeed, the doctrines of the new cult. He is deceived and has joined the ranks of those who spread deception. May God soon open all their eyes and deliver our nation from this evil and darkness. So much of the salt has lost its savor. They are no longer witnesses for Christ. They have snuffed out their light. I refuse to join them in that error. As for me and my parish, we will serve the Lord.

VOL: Who stands to gain if Americans lose confidence in our elections? Who stands to gain if Americans are still fighting the COVID-19 variants because of vaccine hesitancy? Who would have gained ground if the Capitol Insurrection had paid off?

HART: The answer should be obvious. The United States is the major super power on earth. Trumpublicans need to get this through their heads: It is Vladimir Putin who stands to gain from all their foolishness. They are actually aiding the imperial ambitions of Russia against America.

VOL: Thank you, Fr. Hart.

PS. The Views of the Rev. Hart do not necessarily represent the views of VOL.

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