Forty plus years ago two men sat in the Café Du Monde in the French Quarter of New Orleans and plotted to overthrow the Southern Baptist Convention. It was too open, too educated, too progressive, too liberal, too ecumenical, too everything they saw as an affront to their values.
These men saw a weakness in the organizational structure, one they could exploit for their purposes—appointing people to places of power and push out any person who did not march to the beat of their right wing drum.
I was a seminary student at the time, and we thought it could not be done.
We were wrong.
Even though those two men (a judge and a preacher) were later discredited by charges of sexual misbehavior, the movement they launched did exactly what they dreamed. It took 15 years, but eventually the Southern Baptist Convention lurched to the right, joined up with other preachers and politicians, and launched what they called a Culture War. They wanted to do to the country what they had done to the convention.
Before they could take the country, though, they needed to take a political party. They needed to do to some political organization what they had done to their own religious organization.
They tried and failed a decade ago under the banner of the Tea Party.
Then five years ago, Donald Trump set in motion an effort to take over the Republican Party. He would do this by seeking the nomination of the Republican Party for the 2016 general election for the Presidency of the United States.
We thought it could not be done.
Trump was an outsider, a novice in politics, and a person with no moral or political convictions. He was competing with 16 other Republican stalwarts, such as Jeb Bush of Florida. Ted Cruz of Texas, and John Kasich of Ohio.
Trump was rude, crude, and totally unacceptable to the values and ideas of the Republican faithful. But one by one the others fell by the wayside and, in the end, Donald J. Trump did what no one thought he could do—he secured the nomination of the Republican Party. He took control of the Republican Party.
Could Trump win the presidential race? We thought it could not be done.
His opponent was former First Lady, former Senator from New York, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She was articulate and he was crude. She was knowledgeable and he was uninformed. She was organized and he was not.
But the most improbable presidential contest in modern American history ended shockingly with Donald J. Trump winning the election. We thought it could not be done, but it was.
What happened, first, to the Southern Baptist Convention, then, to the Republican Party is now underway in the United States as a whole.
You think it can’t be done?
Trump and his party of Republicans (after cleansing it of any moderate members) have become a well-funded, well-organized juggernaut intending to create of these United States the white Christian nation of their dreams: low immigration and no refugees; no contraceptives, no abortion, and no welfare; no Department of Education, no Department of Health and Human Services, and no Department of Labor; no Obamacare, no Medicare, not even Social Security; no Post Office, no National Parks, and no public lands; no homosexual marriage, no homosexual rights; no regulation of workplace safety and no regulation of product safety; no NATO, no United Nations, no Climate Change Agreement; no accountability, no transparency, no checks and balances—nothing but a ferocious and fervent crusade to build a kingdom of enterprise without restraint and religion without reason.
This can’t be done we say to one another.
No way Trump and his Republicans can disrupt all these national norms and public programs. It cannot be done, we mutter to ourselves as day by day we watch in shock as they disregard established law and protocol and usher in the administration of privilege for the strong, the wealthy, and the religious whose faith is looked upon with favor.
We think it cannot be done.
Surely the governors, the senators, the judges, perhaps even the soldiers will step in to prevent this campaign to remake these United States of America. Surely the people themselves will rise up and demand an end to this outrageous distortion of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
We think it cannot be done…but—