It has been awhile since I posted a comment on this blog. This is because there has been nothing to report on developments of the schism in South Carolina. We are awaiting the hearing before Judge Edgar Dickson at the Orangeburg court house, on 26 November. No once can predict what the judge will do in the hearing. He has held two hearings so far. In the first, he did nothing at all but listen. In the second, he handed down two relatively minor decisions, one to recognize the independence of the eight parish entities listed in the state supreme court decision of August 2, 2017 as free of Episcopal Church ownership. The other was to order mediation. The two sides met a few weeks later to discuss differences and within a few hours the moderator declared an Impasse. So much for settling anything outside of court. The judge has said this hearing is open to any issue not addressed in one of the earlier hearings. This would, of course, mean discussion of the implementation of the return of the 29 parishes and Camp St. Christopher to the Episcopal Church side as stated in the SCSC decision. The other big issue that could be discussed is the Betterments suit, but that was supposedly the subject of the second hearing. At any rate, I still plan to attend the hearing on the 26th if at all possible and to make a report here asap afterwards.
Owing to unforeseen circumstances beyond my control, I will be unable to attend the diocesan convention on the 15th and 16th as I had planned. I shall miss visiting with the good people of the diocese, and thank God we can now call it for sure The Diocese of South Carolina! I know it will be a joyous gathering of the intrepid and faithful Episcopalians of lower South Carolina. It will be a time to celebrate.
I want to let you readers know too that I will be making some changes on this blog. I will still present news and make commentary on events of the schism in South Carolina. This will not change. However, the schism is really on its downward slope now since the two major legal decisions have been made, the ownership of the diocese and the ownership of the majority of the parishes. What is left now is the wrap-up of these, that is, how the courts are going to go about transferring the properties and other assets in question. The schismatics have adopted a rigid deny and delay strategy but this is doomed to fail sooner or later. The courts certainly will enforce the decisions that have already been made. It is just a matter of time before the Diocese of South Carolina repossesses the old diocesan assets and the 29 local parishes. So, I have said about I know to say about the schism in South Carolina between 500 blog entries here and my 300,000 word history of the schism.
Meanwhile, I want to turn to other subjects of importance to us all and interest to me. Since I am not a church official I get to discuss political topics. So, occasionally, I will make blog posts on topics not related to the schism in SC. My favorite other subjects are politics, history, gardening, train travel, books and movies. The first of these will be political. Our country is in a constitutional crisis. The election next year will be the most important one since the Civil War. Basically, the American people will be deciding between continuing with the evolution of democratic republicanism or diverting to fascist authoritarianism. President Trump is challenging the very foundations of the constitutional system we American have built up over nearly 250 years. If he wins reelection next year, the United States will fundamentally change, moving toward an authoritarian state where unlimited power will rest in the hands of the president. This fascist-style regime will be built upon racism, particularly focused first on brown immigrants. Once normalized, this racism will likely be applied to every other minority in the country.
As regular readers of this blog, or those who have read my book on the history of the schism know, my overall thesis is that we are in a great culture war in America and to some degree in the world. It is essentially between evolving liberal democracy and reaction. The schism in SC is part of this. The current political crisis in the country is also part of this. After the Second World War, the United States went through a great social democratic revolution in which African Americans, women, homosexuals, and others were given liberty, equality, and inclusion in our institutions. Then the backlash came when some people objected to and fought back against this revolution. They were counter-revolutionaries. In the Episcopal Church, people opposed to women in the clergy, the new prayer book, and equality for and inclusion of non-celibate homosexuals in the life of the church fought back. In five dioceses across the country, the majority declared separations from the Church. They went on to join socially conservative Anglican elements overseas to form a new block of fundamentalist Anglicanism. Moreover, they created a rival reactionary church, the Anglican Church in North America, with the aim of replacing the Episcopal Church as the legitimate branch of Anglicanism in America. The ACNA is explicitly devoted to the subjugation of women to male authority and the banishment of non-celibate gays from the church. So, the culture war in the Episcopal Church is crystal clear. This explains the schism in South Carolina.
In America as a whole after World War II, the country made massive reforms towards the equality for and inclusion of blacks, women, and gays in the life of the nation. The backlash began in earnest in 1968 and has been going on ever since. We have been locked in a national culture war for the past half-century. From 1968 to 1990 the war was papered over by a common external enemy in the Cold War. After the early 1990s, however, there has been no such outside threat forcing Americans together. This has left exposed the fracture lines of American social, cultural, and economic institutions. "Terrorism" has been the greatest threat of recent years, but this is too amorphous to identify. It fails to bring the country together as the Cold War did. Indeed, one could argue that "Terrorism" had exacerbated the internal tribal war. The culture war has steadily grown stronger since the early 1990s and is now at crisis point. The clash is between the democratic revolution and the anti-democratic counter-revolution.
President Trump has an innate genius for cobbling together dissident, anti-democratic forces in the country for this own personal interests. Basically he has unified two powerful tribes, Wall Street and the angry white working class man, particularly the evangelical Christians. They have thrown in their lot with him and will follow him off the cliff if he asks. For Wall Street he gave the largest tax cut in history, skewed heavily to the upper one-percent. This is accelerating a massive reorientation of wealth in America separating the very rich from the very poor. To the angry whites he gave promises, and some action, on banning brown immigrants and throwing out undocumented existing ones. The procedures used are shockingly reminiscent of a not-so-long-ago maniacal regime of personal destruction. Meanwhile, his administration has been busy rolling back one democratic reform after another throughout the federal government. Trump and his congressional cadre have packed, and are continuing to pack, the federal courts with young conservative judges who serve for life. The Evangelicals see Trump as their great hero for this because they think it will mean the end of legal abortion. Meanwhile, his allies support authoritarian-oriented Trump as he defies one established boundary of executive power after another. He has said there was nothing wrong with requiring Ukraine to dig up dirt on one of his political opponents in return for aid that Congress had appropriated. His supporters on Capitol Hill say this does not reach the level of impeachment. In other words, the president can do whatever he wishes. Such a notion would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. The founding fathers would be appalled at the naked destruction of their balance of power concept.
So, Trump is asking the nation to accept his version of virtual dictatorship. It is one based on racism, division, greed, and self-aggrandisement. It appeals to peoples' worst instincts. It will turn us against each other to self-destruction. This is the backlash to the democratic revolution of the post-Second World War period. Thus, next year, the American voters will choose whether to affirm Trump's vision of America, or retain the established democratic-republican system that evolved through history.
This Wednesday, the impeachment hearings will go live on television. This will kick off the year before the election. I predict that Trump will be impeached and put on trial in the Senate for abuse of power and obstruction of justice. He will be only the third president in American history to be put on trial in the Senate. No president has ever been removed by this process. Andrew Johnson missed by one single vote. Bill Clinton missed by a mile. Trump too is likely to miss being thrown out of office because his allies have a majority in the Senate and they are willing to go along with his wishes. The anti-democratic coalition Trump has built is likely to hold.
The biggest question now is whether Trump's coalition is large enough to win again, in the Electoral College. The unknown factor is foreign influence which he openly invites. Those people who believe we should stay on the road of democratic republicanism will have their greatest challenge next year in resisting Trump's reelection. Trump apparently will do anything to get reelected. Exactly what he and his various allies will do remains to be seen. Meanwhile, we Americans are in for a wild ride. We are in for the political choice of our lives.
Whatever happens, life goes on and we with it. The seasons change without fail. It is cotton pickin' time in the south just as it has been for the last 200+ autumns. Some things do not change.
(I took this photo today on a stroll through the countryside in Alabama.)