There’s some disagreement among religious scholars over the phases of the Great Awakening, which are periods of Christian revival that began in the early 18th century. But according to Donald Trump, he may be responsible for helping usher in the latest phase.
“I was called by the great pastors of this country in a call about a week ago,” the president told Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro over the weekend, “and they said they have never seen electricity in the air, enthusiasm in the air. Churches are joining. People are joining the church.” Trump added this Christian revival is the result of “everybody” knowing that “the Russian witch hunt was a faux, phony fraud. And we got rid of that. And then they came up with this Ukrainian story that was made up by Adam Schiff.”
Evidently, this politically inspired Great Awakening is necessary, at least according to Attorney General William Barr, who spoke a day earlier at Notre Dame’s law school and condemned societal ills on conspiring American secularists.
“We see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism,” he said. “Basically every measure of this social pathology continues to gain ground.”
He described several social issues as “consequences of this moral upheaval.”
“Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence and a deadly drug epidemic.”
Bill Barr, with a conspiratorial flare, added, “This is not decay. This is organized destruction. Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry and academia, in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”
I can appreciate the fact that Barr is “neck-deep” in the scandal that’s likely to lead to the president’s impeachment, and perhaps his bizarre tirade against non-religious Americans was intended to solidify Team Trump’s support among Christian conservatives.
But that’s not much of an excuse for the attorney general’s offensive speech.
For one thing, it’s factually wrong. There are complex factors that contribute to problems such as drug abuse, gun violence, mental illness, and suicide, but to assume these issues would disappear in a more religious society is absurd. There are plenty of Western societies, for example, that are far more secular than the United States, and many of them are in better positions on these same social ills.
For that matter, if Barr is concerned about “the doctrine of moral relativism,” he may want to consider the broader relationship between his boss and his social-conservative followers – many of whom have decided to look the other way on Donald Trump’s moral failings because they approve of his political agenda.
But even putting aside these relevant details, it was the circumstances that were especially jarring: the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer delivered public remarks in which he alleged non-religious citizens of his own country are conspiring to advance a sinister “social pathology.”
Roughly one-in-five Americans considers themselves atheists, agnostics, or lacking in any specific faith affiliation. The idea that their attorney general sees them as part of a nefarious force, conspiring in the shadows to undermine morality, isn’t just ridiculous; it’s at odds with the country’s First Amendment principles.
Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, described Barr’s comments as “repugnant,” adding, “His job is to defend the First Amendment. But this immoral, unpatriotic, borderline monarchist and defender of corruption has other ideas.”