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Making America Great Again?

If you haven’t heard, Donald J. Trump is a Republican candidate for president. And in the run-up to today’s Iowa Caucuses (which may give his candidacy a big boost) he secured the official and unofficial endorsements of two well-known Evangelical Christians, Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Robert Jeffress, respectively.

A thrice-married casino, real-estate mogul, and reality TV star who flouts private property rights, whose third bride posed nude, and who once joked about dating his own daughter, Trump claims to be the person best suited to “make America great again.” He even wears a baseball cap with those words on it to prove it.

Falwell, Jr. is the President of Liberty University, founded in 1971 by his late father, the evangelist Jerry Falwell, Sr. After years of struggling financially, the university hit the jackpot when it began offering online courses and degrees. According to a July 15, 2015 Washington Post story, “Fifteen years ago, Liberty had 5,939 undergraduate students and 735 graduate students. Last fall, the university enrolled 49,744 undergraduates and 31,715 graduate students.”

Virtually all of these students (“three-quarters of undergraduates and 97 percent of graduate students,” the Post notes) are taking courses through distance education. Although an Evangelical school known for its theological and political conservatism, “the exponential growth of Liberty University has been fueled by billions in federal student aid made possible by President Obama and congressional Democrats.”

[Author’s Note: I asked the editor to remove a paragraph at this point from the original version of this essay. I made an error in my depiction of the relationship of Liberty University to the federal student loan program. It was not my intent to disparage the many fine faculty, including several friends of mine, who teach at LU.]

In the 1980s, the elder Falwell filed a lawsuit against Hustler Magazine and its founder and owner, the pornographer Larry Flynt, “to recover damages for libel, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” What precipitated the suit was a parody interview of Falwell, Sr. published in Hustler, in which the faux-Falwell tells the story of his “first time”: in an outhouse with his own mother while both were inebriated. Although Falwell eventually lost the suit in an appeal heard before the U.S. Supreme Court, he and Flynt soon became friends, which is a testimony to the late Falwell’s spirit of generosity and his willingness to show love to those whose ways of life are contrary to Christian practice.

Trump points to Falwell Jr. (center): A sucker is born-again every minute.
Trump points to Falwell Jr. (center): A sucker is born-again every minute.

I suspect that Falwell, Sr. would have still filed the suit if Hustler had published a mock interview in which the late Liberty president was depicted wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap while insinuating that he is a thrice-married casino, real-estate mogul, and reality TV star who flouts private property rights, whose third bride posed nude, and who once joked about dating his own daughter.

Robert Jeffress is the pastor of First Baptist Dallas, a megachurch with a membership of 12,000. Although he endorsed Mitt Romney for president after the former Massachusetts governor had secured the 2012 Republican nomination, in 2011 he supported the candidacy of Texas governor Rick Perry, offering these memorable words in commendation: “Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person – or one who is a born-again follower of the lord Jesus Christ?” For those keeping score, Romney was the “good, moral person” while Perry was the “born-again follower.” One wonders what was going through Perry’s mind when he heard Pastor Jeffress describe him in contrast to “a good, moral person.”

Having settled for endorsing the “good, moral person” in the 2012 general election and coming up short, Pastor Jeffress has apparently concluded that his political fortune may now lie in a candidate who not only makes no pretense of being a “good, moral person,” but exceeds Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in the sheer volume of personal slurs issued against his critics – or even against those who simply question him. This should leave us with no doubt that Pastor Jeffress must be a man of tremendous faith, since he believes that this candidate will “make America great again.”

Trump has tapped into an anger that is very real in America. It arises from a frustration that our elected officials have largely abandoned the working class for the adulation of corporate America and elite culture. Thus, it is unsurprising that Trump on his website offers positions on only five issues: U.S. China Trade Reform, Veterans Administration Reforms, Tax Reform, Second Amendment Rights, and Immigration Reform. If you wanted to cast as wide a net as possible to capture the hearts and minds of the working class, Trump’s list is a stroke of marketing genius.

This explains the support of Falwell and Jeffress, both of whom have seemed to set aside their critical faculties in their assessment of Trump. For these are men who – reared on the cadence emanating from those old sawdust revivals – are suckers for good preaching that can move the pilgrim from his mercy seat.

And Trump is a damn good preacher. So much so that many evangelicals don’t seem to notice the un-Christian personal insults, slurs, arrogance, mendacity, and incoherence. Which just goes to show you that not only is a sucker born every minute; sometimes he’s born again.

Trump with supporters
Trump with supporters

Francis J. Beckwith

Francis J. Beckwith

Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies, Baylor University, and 2016-17 Visiting Professor of Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Among his many books is Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments relevant to columns that are civil, concise, and respectful of other contributors. We do not publish comments with links to other websites or other online material.
  • Dave Fladlien

    Since you opened the door on politics, I grant Trump has a lot to criticize, but check out the website of the candidate to be feared most of all: Bernie Sanders. Socialist, advocate of many sexual “rights” that even a moderately liberal Christian would oppose, and open opponent of allowing religious liberty to interfere with those rights.

    This guy (Sanders) is the real enemy. I too want someone other than Trump, and I’ll say who if someone replies here and asks, but most of all, let’s defeat Bernie.

    • RainingAgain

      To me, an outsider looking in, Cruz seems to have many fine qualities but I fear electability may not be one of them. Unfortunately, the virtuous are now very much a minority and in order to achieve success a candidate must have a broad appeal.

      • HMV

        He is no more virtuous than anyone else running.

    • kathleen

      I pray for America; I cry for America. What has happened? Who is your candidate?

      • Dave Fladlien

        First choice (by quite a bit): Rand Paul. Second choice (probably doesn’t matter now): Carly Fiorina. Third choice: Ted Cruz. If I have to go further down my list of preferences than that, I may just give up.

  • ForChristAlone

    Wrong on Muslims worshipping the same God as Christians; wrong on Trump. That’s 0 for 2.

    Now be even-handed and do a “moral degenerate” piece on ALL the candidates.

    • Craig Payne

      Not every candidate is openly bragging about his or her adulteries and seductions. But as long as we’re “For Christ Alone,” I suppose that’s okay?

    • Kurt 20008

      That Muslims, Jews and Christians worship the one true God is part of our Catechism and the teachings of the Ecumenical Council. If you disagree, you disagree with Catholicism, not any particular member of it.

      • lwhite

        Clearly, if you read the history of the teachings of the Catholic religion, those of us who disagree with the teachings of a merely “pastoral” Council, ecumenical or not, do not disagree with Catholicism, as the Catholic Church never in Her 19 centuries of teaching prior to Vatican II, ever taught, nor could She, teach that Muslims, Jews and those outside of the only true religion and Church instituted by Christ, the Catholic Church, worship the “one true God”, for if that were true, it denies the entire Christian religion, (Muslims and Jews deny Christ as God and Savior),makes Jesus Christ a liar and a fraud, (non-Catholics deny He instituted one church with one head and one, Sacrificial Mass), and not only implies that it makes no difference what one believes, but demands a total indifference to the Truth.

        • Kurt 20008

          Did Abraham not worship the one, true God?
          I’m sorry, but on this, I accept what is in the Catechism.

          • lwhite

            As a pre-Vatican II Catholic, I must say that I never heard the claim that Jews and Muslims worship the same God as Catholics. Nor in any of the other Ecumenical Councils, writings of the Doctors and Fathers, Popes, or Saints, or the Baltimore Catechism have I ever found this statement. That is why I sincerely question its validity.

          • Kurt 20008

            I would refer you to the interactions of St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan, as they dialogued about the one true God they both worshipped.

          • lwhite

            Nice try. However, all accounts of this encounter that I have read say that no one knows exactly what St. Francis said nor what his true intent was in seeking an audience before him. Can you confirm that he told the Sultan that Catholics and Muslims worship the same God?

            Secondly, if he did believe Muslims and Catholics worship the same God, it would be an opinion, not a doctrine of the faith which all Catholics must believe.

            If you can cite any Church teaching prior to Vatican II that Muslims and Catholics worship the same God, I would be happy to read it.

      • barnabus

        The Catechism is not an infallible document, nor were any new dogmas declared at the 2nd Vatican Council. Cardinal Kasper (a notorious liberal) even admitted many of the documents of the Council were purposefully ambiguous in order to appease the librul faction. How are you going to reconcile that with your demand to consent? Nostrae Atatae has been nothing less than a disaster in the last 50 years of the Church, it’s false ecumenism. In light of 2,000 years of Church teaching and Tradition, I prudently reject that Council’s non-infallible statement that a pedophile war-mongering false prophet, responsible for the murder of millions, was sent by the the God of Abraham, much less worshipped Him.

  • PCB

    ” Un-Christian personal insults, slurs, arrogance, mendacity, and incoherence.” – Sadly how often this can also be said of some of the responses in this and other Catholic blog comment sections.

  • Nancy Lynne

    Whoa! Who are you to judge? No mercy here for Trump and his Evangelical supporters. And as long as you’re seated on your high horse, why did you not
    judge and show no mercy to the Democrat front runner?

  • DKMayer

    Perhaps inspired by the vulgarity of its subject, this piece superficially inveighing against certain Evangelicals has little connection to a reasoned argument bearing on Catholicism. If further columns address political matters, let’s hope they embody more thoughtful reflections worthy of this website.

  • grump

    Machiavelli famously said, “politics have no relation to morals.” The author’s disparagement of Trump hypocritically leaves out the fact that EVERY other presidential candidate is taking bribes, euphemistically “political contributions,” to win the White House while Donald self-funds his campaign. That alone qualifies Trump as the best, most honest candidate.

    Perhaps the author of this essay prefers a president and his Democratic Party that solidly supports taxpayer-funded Planned Parenthood, which is chiefly responsible for the murder of 55 million human beings in the womb and the sale of their body parts over the past four decades. Or a president that lights up the White House in rainbow colors to “celebrate” homosexuality.

    Perhaps the author prefers a lawless president and administration that increasingly spies on its citizens and sics the IRS on its political opponents, that ignores the laws it doesn’t like and invents new ones with a “pen and a phone”?

    No one should be surprised if the plain-talking Trump, reflecting the sentiments of millions of Americans fed up with this country’s “transformation,” defeats that dirty old hag with tons of baggage and her rapist “husband”. If Trump is elected president, just imagine an Inauguration speech in January 2017 without a TelePrompTer while Obama sits and squirms in his chair.

    • Craig Payne

      Or perhaps the author is just telling the truth about Trump?

      • HMV

        The difference between Trump and the others is that Trump is upfront about his immorality. He does not hide it. The others hide it. Which is worse?

        • Craig Payne

          “The others hide it.”

          Proof?

          • 3C4

            Joking? Public knowledge. Take just Cruz for example. Among other things this man takes cash from homosexual ideologues while claiming to be Christian and against homosexual pairings.

            That flaw is a serious one. He will be bought off easily. A divided mind and personality is evidence of fraud.

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      The question for me grump is if the Prince listened would he have succeeded, and if so contributed to the same Machiavelian principles that have plagued Italian politics since 1864. There is difference between maintaining power and advancing the integrity of a culture. Even there Italians have held a surprising degree of cultural integrity despite corrupt politics, probably due to historical Christian religiosity.

      • olhg1

        The Italians have given the Roman Catholic Church some of the greatest Saint-Popes. Some of the Italian Popes have been the vilest human beings. Why was Italy brought into this discussion?

        • Brad Miner

          Because Grump mentioned Machiavelli.

      • grump

        @ Morello. We Italians, bless our hearts, have never taken politics seriously, as attested to 40-something changes of government since WWII. By the way, Trump could be America’s Berlusconi, who once said, “Only Napoleon has done more than I have done. But I am definitely taller.”

  • Thomas

    If anyone claims the mantle of Christ in an election, they need to show care for and give hope to the “anawim”, those who are utterly dependent on God: the poor, the lonely, prisoners, the sick, the unborn, refugees.

  • Bereishis

    With sincere respect for the author and this site, do we not commit detraction in suggesting that Rev. Falwell, Jr has corrupt motives; and should the word “d—” appear on this site except in its proper usage; and, further, should such a photograph be displayed, even in pursuit of a just cause? Thank you for the consideration.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    As I arise I am 35. As dawn breaks cold hard reality sets in. Consolation. I’ve gained some knowledge. Inside the confessional with gift of grace I distinguish between fiction and truth. Compelled by my office I judge. Outside I judge ideas at times strongly. As to the person I’m hesitant. I’ve learned the human heart and mind are very complex. The candidate you castigate is not my choice for similar reasons whereas others indicate a different amenable even charitable side to him. As to the unknown we can only hope for the best.

    • PCB

      Nice prose, Father – the first nine sentences would make an excellent first paragraph for an autobiography or novel/short-story – I exclude the last two sentences only as they are more germane to this current commentary. But, well said on all counts!

  • Craig Payne

    For all the posters here who are missing the point: The point is not whether or not we should “judge” Trump (although according to the Bible, the spiritual person judges all things). The point is, should Christians be ENDORSING him? The answer is obviously no.

    How can we speak against same-sex “marriage”–how can we speak on marriage at all–if we ignore Trump’s bragging about his numerous adulteries and seductions of married women? It’s one thing to acknowledge these things in repentance. It’s quite another to be proud of them, as Trump is.

    This tells the Republican party that Christians are “in the bag” no matter what handful of mud gets thrown against the wall (as long as it bears the label “Republican,” I suppose we’ll vote for it?). It also tells the world that our moral witness is not to be taken seriously.

    • HMV

      All the candidates are corrupt. No saints are running.

  • Craig Payne

    One good point, for those of us who live in Iowa, is that after today’s caucus we’ll be ignored again for four years. Can’t wait.

  • Christophe

    Prof. Beckwith thinks we are electing a pastor-in-chief. His article is rather quaint and naive.

    • No, I was aiming a bit lower: a decent-human-being-in-chief. I was thinking of an individual who does not believe that taking the wives, properties, and reputations of others is subject to his capricious will and that resistance to his machinations must be met with nothing more than insult and crass demagoguery.

      • chrisinva

        Well, here are some facts to consider, without an endorsement:

        George W. Bush was known (advertised?) to be a decent human being, the “non-Clinton.”

        He got us into two disastrous wars that no one but Trump will admit. Those wars have led to the virtual eradication of Christianity in large parts of the Middle East. Mr. Bush has never admitted his mistakes, and certainly hasn’t apologized. This “wonderful Christian” is silent in the face of this disaster.

        He opened the door to exporting American jobs by the millions.

        He inaugurated “Big Government Conservatism.”

        He did nothing to enforce existing law on immigration.

        He bailed out the biggest banks to the tune of a trillion dollars, rather than giving the money to mortgage holders who could then have given the same banks the same money to pay off their mortgages.

        And he opened the door to Obama on a silver platter (pardon the mixed metaphor).

        Those facts also constitute the particulars that Trump fearlessly addresses, **while no other candidate – good, decent, or otherwise – of either party will.**

        Those are facts. Whom to vote for? Draw your own conclusions.

        • Quo Vadis

          I find your comments interesting. Would you have not gone into Afghanistan to attack those who were responsible for 9/11 ? And what role has Obama played in the middle east after Iraq was stable and he pulled all the troops out and abandoned the country against the advice of his military ? He more than anyone led to the rise of ISIS and the deaths of Christians and the problems in Syria.

          Furthermore, what role did those mortgage holders you are fond of giving money to who applied for those mortgages, many which were no income verification types, and then could not pay them ? Were they not responsible for their mortgages ?

          And jobs have been exported for decades. Have you heard of NAFTA ?

          • chrisinva

            Thanks for your note. Unfortunately, we did not go into Afghanistan to attack those who were responsible for 9/11, we went in to establish a glorious democracy in one of the most corrupt countries in the world(But Afghanistan was not alone: I wreck was and is also labeled as one of the five most corrupt countries in the world by transparency international)

            You also err regarding Iraq after Bush: look to the Christian patriarchs in the middle east, all of whom blame Bush, not Obama, for the disaster which the”Christian” Bush has never apologized for, much less admitted. Instead, he is in hiding while millions of his fellow Christians are being displaced, tortured, and killed.

            That the “surge,” Which merely poured billions into corrupt Sunni pockets in order temporarily to sidelined them, actually left Iraq Stable and pacified would be hilarious if the situation were not so tragically pathetic.

            Apparently, the only Bush war party members who have not committed their mistakes are those whose careers still depend on those who’ve profited, in power or in gold, from the war– which, By The Way, Obama has expanded into new and profitable territories for those who plunder.

            It is a noble sentiment to be loyal to a political leader, but to disguise or even to lie about his record violates A more fundamental law than loyalty – namely, the truth.

            Kind regards

          • Quo Vadis

            Nonsense ! Osama and his killers had training bases and their HR in Afghanistan. That was the reason for the attack. Did you forget that President Bush warned the government several times to turn them over BEFORE the war began ? I guess you left the little fact out..

            The “surge” left Iraq, in a stable situation and Obama did walk away. He claimed “victory” and walked. President Bush warned against this, his generals warned against this, and he failed to negotiate a status of forces agreement.

            And unlike former democrat classless presidents, President Bush has kept silent on actions of his successor. That is why he has not comments on Obama. Unlike Clinton and Carter.

            And the Christians who blame Bush, I wonder what they will say of Obama once he leaves office. What has he done to help them ? NOTHING as their heads have rolled off.

          • chrisinva

            We disagree. One point only: Bush was warned by St. John Paul II that his invasion would cause “chaos” in the ME. It did. Bush thought he was Jesus – “If you’re not with me, you’re against me” — He stands next to Tony Blair and brags that “history will vindicate us — and when he was proven disastrously wrong, he hides.

            Shameful.

            Your loyalty does not absolve you from the truth.

  • Diane

    Trump is not a real conservative. He will likely be a liberal President. He says he has changed his mind on abortion and other issues, but was it done for political expediency or is it real? My biggest fear is that if we do not nominate him that he will run third party and we will have the Clintons as our Presidents again and I can’t think of anything worse than that. Most politicians say things to get elected. I for one would prefer Santorum, but I know that is not possible. I pray that Rubio is the nominee.

    • Rubio is for continued mass migration of the third world into our country? How does that help us economically or in keeping our system of government? Do you see what is happening in Europe? Do you wish that here?

      • Diane

        Since the refugee crisis and the possibility of ISIS getting here through that path. All of the nominees, including Rubio, are foremost worried about the Border and how we must secure the border first. If we don’t do that and let all of the refugees in, that is what will make us like Europe. Rubio is not for that.

  • maineman

    On the other hand, there is something to be said for a man whose pride is based on a history of actual accomplishment, rather than what we have now: a man who has never accomplished anything and has no inkling of that fact.

  • Rick

    May I remind everyone here, we are not voting for someone’s sainthood or for someone to be the next Pope. We are voting for someone to protect our constitution, our security, our economy, and our quality of life.

    • Gold_Star

      So in the 1990s, I take it you were cool with Clinton’s dalliances?

      • Rick

        I felt the same as I did with Kennedy’s dalliances.

  • chriscas

    “All of these people just can’t wait to fall right into their big mistake”.

  • Farmer EightThirtyOne

    I didn’t subscribe to this publication to read snobbish political propaganda for or against Donald Trump or any other political candidate, and if the editors of this publication choose to publish any more political tracts by this clown Beckwith, I shall be unsubscribing. A Catholic publication ought to address more important issues than the daily political muck-slinging of the U.S. Presidential primary season and a tenured Catholic university professor ought to have the intellectual forte to address something more meaningful in his columns.

    • Character is not meaningful. Is this what the Church teaches?

      • Dave Fladlien

        Professor Beckwith: as I indicated below, I partly agree and partly disagree with the content of your article, but I strongly believe you were right to write it and TCT was right to publish it. While I agree with Rick (just below) that we are electing a President, not a Saint or a Pope, I also agree with what I think you are saying here: we cannot, must not, divorce our Christian beliefs from our politics, or from our business, our sports, or anything else that is important. That kind of “separation” is what the militant secularists — to whose position I am deeply opposed — want us to do.

        To me the very presence of your article here stands as a refutation of that secularist position. Thank you for having the courage to write it, regardless of whether I agree or disagree.

      • olhg1

        Should have put that first sentence in quotation marks.

    • Brad Miner

      Prof. Beckwith is one of our most valued contributors, and we are honored to have his columns at TCT every fortnight.

    • Rick

      I disagree with your reaction. None of us should be afraid of other’s opinions or to discuss anything.

    • Cheryl Jefferies

      I suppose I’m crazy, but, I think, as I believe the Archbishop of Springfield said in 2012, that when we stand before God, we will have to answer for everything we’ve done. Including, how we’ve voted. We think God won’t be bothered with such “minor, petty things.” But, when a vote means choosing between good and evil…well, it sounds like hyperbole, but, I have enough in my life that will embarrass me before God. I want my vote, at least, to indicate that I at least tried to think of God when I voted. I may not have succeeded or made the correct decision, but, at least I tried to think about my soul when I pulled the lever. Some will say that is ridiculous, but, it’s how I think. Trying to separate God from government or politics is one reason we’re in the mess we’re in right now. I’m glad The Catholic Thing shows an interest in the political process. It’s part of life, like it or not.

    • augury

      Prof Beckwith’s insight into Liberty’s reliance on big government provides a valuable antidote to a leading “evangelist’s” use of his prominence to green light Christians voting for Trump. The reality is that Trump made his fortune using “eminent domain” to sieze private property in order to run gambling enterprises that prey on the near indigent. Will never forget seeing the lines of poor elderly in my working class Brooklyn neighborhood waiting for the bus to take them to AC, where they squandered their limited means in Trump’s palaces. Trump should be more anathema to Christians than Obama, who at least makes a credible case for being sincerely, albeit misguidedly, concerned for human welfare. Our voting is unquestionably part of our examination of conscience and Prof Beckwith makes a strong contfibution to forming our Christian conscience as it relates to this election.

      • Rick

        How many gambling palaces has the state of Maryland opened under Governor Martin O’Malley (a “Catholic”)? OR any state for that matter…lottery tickets anyone? How many gambling casinos have these other politicians supported/backed/promoted?

      • Michael DeLorme

        “…Obama…at least makes a credible case for being sincerely, albeit misguidedly, concerned for human welfare.”

        Yes, our president’s policies are sincere and misguided—like the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.

  • I would add that those who think Mr. Trump is actually a conservative may also be outed as suckers. Just because he is fighting the correct foe does not make him the correct candidate.

    • Kathleen

      The Character of the “leader of the freeworld” is very important to Catholic’s everywhere.

  • augury

    Trump is a terrifyingly insecure narcissist whose only skill is to pander to the lowest, most vulgarian element in our crass, pornography soaked society. What an eye-opener to see so many self- described “Christians,” including paragons like Jerry Falwell, taken in by this patently evil buffoon.

  • Jill

    Call me crazy, but google “trump hitler” and I realize I’ll have plenty of company in the asylum. He scares the snot out of me. He is too powerful, too persuasive, too ruthless, too unprincipled (unless it involves his money).
    THINK!!! THINK!!! THINK!!!!

  • Kurt 20008

    There is much to be said about an authentic ecumenism and I encourage as much engagement with evangelical Protestants on theological and pastoral matters as possible. On social concerns, some of their leadership has also shown a surprisingly positive view on immigrants and refugees.
    But increasingly it is clear that there is a wide gulf between evangelical Protestants and Catholics on many matters and a real lack of respect for us by them. Since the election of Pope Francis I have been frankly shocked by the resumption of assertions I had not heard since the election of John F. Kennedy.

  • Cheryl Jefferies

    Thank you for writing some hard truths, Prof. Beckwith. I see two parallels in history with recent events in America (there are more, but, these are the first two that come to mind): 1. Germany after WWI and during the Weimar Republic; and, 2. In the Bible, the end of Samuel’s reign/life, when the people demanded an earthly king “like all the other nations.” In both instances, the people got what they wanted, what they demanded. And, it cost them everything. Obama has been one manifestation of the people wanting an “earthly king.” I believe Trump is another. But, trying to get folks to see the parallels is like whispering into a hurricane and hoping you’ll be heard. Mission Impossible.

  • edith wohldmann

    thank you for shedding more light on the issue. This time it is not politics as usual. I do feel this election might be the most important one ever. Not only freedom prosperity, peace, the whole existence of this republic is threatened. Through history kings were anointed and crowned and inaugurated by bishops. We should choose our leaders with prudence and obtain as much info about the candidates as possible. In the end I believe we want a conservative, moral man, but should settle for one that has the best chance to defeat the greater evil. I pray we are not ready for a demagogue.

  • CadaveraVeroInnumero

    Looks like it may come down to choosing between Trump’s personal failings and immorality and those of Mrs. Clinton.

    Clinton;s personal immorality (will not detail here) is much intertwined with very dangerous ideologies and persons. She has, in short, slept with the enemy.

    If the choice is thus, I will trumpet a prayer for our nation’s safe conduct (through the war rounding the corner) and make my mark for Trump.

  • Evangelicals and Protestants aren’t suckers, but they are state-worshippers. They have been, ever since Luther fled to the “safety” of Wartburg Castle and the protection of the Elector of Saxony. They have been, ever since the bishops of England, almost to a man, pledged loyalty to Henry VIII in violation of the spirit of their existing promises of fidelity to the Church. They have been, ever since John Calvin thought he could definitively erect the City of God in place of the city of Geneva. State-worship and drifting with culture, even if a step or two behind culture, are built into the DNA of the Reformation. Evangelicals and Pentecostals are probably some of the most vociferously patriotic Americans you’ll meet, and probably the groups most likely to carry healthy patriotism into the realm of diseased nationalism.

    Trumpism manifests this diseased over-attachment.

    • James

      Very insightful comment. It is a pedagogical scandal that so few well educated secularist as well as those of a religious bent have no concept of the connection the protestant revolt has with the rise of the secular state. Protestantism is essentially a movement hijacked at its conception for the purposes of the secular elite, this its current status as a shipwreck. A pattern Roman ecclesiastics seem anxious to follow. Why?

    • MuDdLe

      I’m glad to see that you acknowledge–if incidentally–that there may be such a thing as healthy patriotism.

      For my part, I am inclined to think that there are clear criteria that mark the difference between such health and disease, and such criteria seem indifferent to concerns arising from the Catholic-Protestant divide.

  • we are 20 trillion in debt and will face an economic crisis in the near future, so perhaps we should elect a businessman who understands the big picture and also will look out for our interests vs other areas of the world, since we need jobs here for our citizens. We have a federal government that is completely out of control and tyrannical in many aspects, especially in going after conservatives and Christians. Most of the so called “conservative” politicians have sold their souls for a few bits of silver. We are funding planned parenthood and that is because our so called republican leaders are complicit.
    Trump is merely a figurehead and symbolic of the level of anger and fury of the people against a totally corrupt and immoral government. No other candidate has taken a stand except for communist Bernard Sanders, and he too is leading amongt liberal democrats.
    I would like to add that church, inc. of which the U.S. Catholic church is apart, has happily taken on the role of federal contractor in regards to “refugee resettlement”. To the tune of 1.5 billion dollars in tax dollars funding these supposed charities who are bringing in millions of people from the third world. Why these supposed charities are bringing in only 3% Christians from the holy lands vs. 97% Muslim is beyond me. Sorry if you think that Donald Trump is scary. I think that we are lucky to have someone who will stand up for borders, language and culture. Just look at Europe, do you want what is happening there to happen here?
    It will be interesting to see if this so called conservative blog will publish my comment. And I also give to charitable institutions, specifically those that help Christians.

    • Thomist

      It’s hard to tell where to turn for solace in these days of perdition. I concur with your assessment of the current state of affairs in this country and the world. All I can do is gather my information from as many sources as I can find and make an educated guess as to who will best lead us in the right direction. Trump is flawed, but so am I. I understand what he says, when all others are throwing “bafflegab” at me. So I continue to pray as I cast my vote towards this flawed candidate. Would that the Lord, Jesus Christ could run, then I would have no doubts about my vote. Until that day happens, I continue to muddle through with imperfect knowledge…and prayer.

    • Quo Vadis

      “Church Inc.” is very appropriate. At mass on Sunday we were hit up 5 times for money: 2 collections, the annual Bishop’s appeal, the “festival raffle” and K of C at the exits for children.

      For crying out loud !

  • Phillip

    Hmmmm…abortion…last summer the United States majority signed up for not just abortion, but Trade, in Baby.Parts.

    Homosexuals can now get married, and you can lose your job–if you’re lucky enogh to have one–if you say the wrong thing about them, transgenders, or what have you.

    The Republican Party has been winking at the Democrats for decades now, as they sold and continue to sell conservatives down the drain.

    It is exceedingly funny to see traditional/conservative Catholics still believing that one of the establishment candidates is somehow better than Trump; that somehow, this time, it’ll be different.

    As a Catholic I do not believe nor do I any longer take part in, Democracy. Trump is the most perfect candidate democracy has ever produced, if he is not fully reflective of The People, I sure don’t know who would be.

    The idea that Trump would or could do any worse than any one of the other idiots in the farce that is this election, is laughable in the extreme.

    • 3C4

      Very well stated. That people are still being conned by these guys is really funny and scary at the same time.

    • MuDdLe

      “As a Catholic I do not believe nor do I any longer take part in, Democracy.”

      Funny. I was just reading Chesterton, who not only believed in democracy but believed that its very foundation was to be found in Christendom.

  • olhg1

    Well, when one puts things THAT way, yes, it does seem ridiculous for someone like Mr. Trump to be considered for President of the United States.

  • kathleen

    We should all be fasting and praying that our good God will have mercy on this nation. 2 Chronicles 7:14 – ” if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, AND TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS, then I will hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin and HEAL THEIR LAND”. This scripture passage applies to all of us personally, our Church, and our country. In this Holy Year of Mercy proclaimed by our Pope Francis this scripture passage should be part of any reflection on this extraordinary year. God is speaking to us – are we listening? Google Akita – messages from Heaven in the 1970’s approved by the local ordinary. I am not one who subscribes to most of the prophetic messages and private revelations that are all over the internet. Akita is worthy of your time to investigate. Very timely. Sr. Agnes is very believable. It seems to me that Akita is very much in line with the Fatima message (1917) that has full Church approval.

  • Craig

    That last line is priceless. I literally chocked on my lunch when I read it!

  • James

    As I’m sure some wise commenter has contributed, the Republican party is merely the moderate wing of the Democrat party. There is little solace in voting for any of them, but they are the piece of wreckage floating by, at this moment, to at least delay catastrophe. Maybe — maybe — it will buy us a few more years. Maybe — maybe, advert the inevitable deconstruction of our republic. Maybe — maybe — avoid the entire dismantling of the integrity of the courts. But only maybe.
    Maybe is all we got. Go for it.
    Less hope is held for the Bergoglian pontificate.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    Republicans have choice of a Megalo Narcissist, a Canadian Carpetbagger, a bright boyish looking Opportunist, a Decent Man uncomfortable in his own skin, a security deficient Libertarian, a JerseyBoy constantly paying homage to himself, a Governor entirely enthused of his reputation. Matched against Advocates of the Party of Death and Oppression of Religious Rights do we really have a choice?

    • 3C4

      All true except the part of the “decent man” looking uncomfortable. Unless decent is used in a very liberal way.

      We have the lot we are given. That are all deficient in severe ways.

    • grump

      @Fr. Morello. We could always destroy a new batch of tea and start all over again : ) Realistically, I’d hold nose, vote for Trump. At least we’ll have a good-looking First Family in the White House and a new Wall.

    • John Carter

      By decent, I presume you mean Jeb Bush the candidate and not the former governor and apologist for endless neocon warmongering. Trump’s virtue is that he’s not double-minded but unapologetically corrupted.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        Yes. And correct about his tragic flaw of not disassociating himself from his brother’s international policy and in retaining as advisor one of the chief proponents of the Iraq disaster Paul Wolfowitz..

      • Quo Vadis

        “Endless neocon warmongering” ? Was that Afghanistan and Iraq ? Were we to do nothing about the people who attacked us who used that country as a base ? And now what have we got with Obama ? Tens of thousands dead with fantasy red lines. Christians being beheaded because he pulled us out of Iraq and abandoned the country military and politically .

        All presidents have to work with the hand they are dealt and face the reality of the situation regardless of their promises and ideology . Obama has not done that and the result has been death and destruction across the world.

    • Robert A Rowland

      We better have a choice.

  • Veritas

    The discouragement and anger of voters is with both the dishonesty of the national politicians, now to the point of lying to their faces while knowing that the voters are aware they are being lied to, vs those who outwardly oppose and mock the concerns of those same voters while asking for their vote.

    At least Trump calls out the baloney they spout, even if he is a little full of it himself.

    Not much of a choice, so people opt for the baloney they know…

    • The only thing I am certain of is that with Hillary and The Donald as front runners, the trend of my life on Presidential quality will continue, and we will have a president measurably less moral than Obama. Just as we have with every President since Eisenhower.

  • Michael DeLorme

    I’m far more concerned with the fact that 54% of Catholics voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Call it misplaced optimism; but that 50% of Catholics voted for him, again, in 2012 is infinitely more outrageous to me than anything Donald Trump has done in his life.

    This current moral clodhopper’s very second executive action—three days after taking office!—in 2009, was to reverse the so-called “Mexico City policy” first put into place by Ronald Reagan in 1984, cancelled by Bill Clinton and re-instated by George Bush in 2001. This was the ruling
    that prohibited “U.S. money from funding international family-planning clinics that promote abortion or provide counseling or referrals about abortion services.”

    Not even Bill Clinton was as bloodthirsty as our current president in his pursuit of unlimited abortions and the funding of baby-parts ghouls—though he was pretty darned close. Hillary will be no different.

    Trump is not my ideal choice—but he’s far and away a better choice than anyone the other party will nominate. Any Catholic who knowingly votes for a pro-abortion candidate—“because other issues matter”—ought to hang their heads in utter shame.

    • maineman

      Let’s, while we’re at it, put to bed the canard about Trump harnessing anger. Pure drivel. With all due respect to the author, I’m sorry to say that anyone who goes there is discredited at the outset.

      The contemporary version of the “silent majority” is, indeed, angry but not vindictive. Not yet. Support for Trump is a commitment to the current system, which means that he is not seen as an instrument of revenge but as a lawful means of righting the ship.

      What he conveys is confidence, in himself and in the rest of us. That is not anger but real hope, and it follows almost a decade of being marginalized, beaten down, and despondent. He is an antidote to the cynicism and nihilism that pervades the establishment.

      • Michael DeLorme

        It’s not any righteous anger that bothers me; it’s that Mr. Trump’s responses are often juvenile, intemperate and seem to lack a sense of proportion: all “enemies” seem to carry equal weight with him.

        Having said that, though…dredging up detritus about who Jerry Falwell’s godson’s chiropractor supports seems to verge on the kind of mudslinging one expects from Karl Rove.

        [Anyone remember Rove’s smear campaign against Delaware tea party “and former witch” candidate Christine O’Donnell, in 2010?].

        As a Catholic, I want to know how my fellow Catholics are trending, not who some displaced nomad from the Moral Majority supports.

    • Robert A Rowland

      With 75 percent of those who say they are Catholic apostate, what did you expect?

  • Florie Hintze

    People change mostly for the better as they age… Who are we to judge…that is God’s privilege alone . We need someone to fix economy for everyone, Trump will try to do it, that is all Iexpect and want him to do, spread the wealth a bit to trickle to the most needy.

    • MJ Anderson

      But, Florie, you judge each time you pull the lever for one candidate over the other– you judge which is the better ( or, which is the least harmful).

    • Robert A Rowland

      We don’t need our judgment, we can use God’s.

  • Florie Hintze

    I am with you John, God knows who He wants, I trust in Him. I don’t really see or know anyone better than Trump; I trust he will work harder to prove to his detractors playing God, that he wsnts to try to help America and its people.

  • Murray

    Democracy is dying, as it invariably does once citizens lose all sense of probity and realize that they can vote themselves benefits at the expense of others with no concern for the common good. Americans have an effective one-party liberal state in which individual self-determination is held by all to be sacrosanct, they just disagree on the best means to achieve that end: state-enforced equality for the left-liberal Democrats, markets and property for the right-liberal Republicans. No-one on either side bothers to ask whether we should aim at anything higher than existence as an atomized individual unit of self-pleasuring consumption; it’s just taken for granted that that’s all there is.

    Nobody in the race will make the slightest difference to the relentless drift of the country towards ever-greater license and degeneracy. “Conservatives” have conserved exactly nothing over the past 60-plus years, and they’re not about to start now. They will continue to fund Planned Parenthood, make their peace with abortion, allow American workers to be underbid by an endless stream of low-wage immigrants, and only put up token, feeble objections to whatever new horrors leftists come up with. Then, after a couple of years have passed, they will write chin-stroking think-pieces on how polygamy is really a “conservative” value when you think about it. They are entirely worthless, and it is beyond foolish to think that you can fix anything by voting for them.

    To be clear, Donald Trump will be no better than his rivals on the catastrophic problems facing America, except perhaps immigration–and even that would be a vast improvement. But his very presence in the race has widened the scope of public discussion to include issues previously deemed off-limits by our betters in the academy and the media. And alone of all the candidates, he holds out the possibility–however remote–of destroying the hold of the corrupt oligarchal elite currently in control of the Republican Party. These people have used their power to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary citizens while giving way on every single item on the leftist agenda–or at least, every item that does not threaten their prosperity and hold on power.

    But I am no democrat. It seems to me that the Catholic Church has rightly been skeptical of popular government over the centuries, since it inevitably dethrones God as the transcendent source of order in society and puts Man in his place:

    Because men have forsaken God and Jesus Christ, they have sunk to the depths of evil. They waste their energies and consume their time and efforts in vain sterile attempts to find a remedy for these ills, but without even being successful in saving what little remains from the existing ruin. It was a quite general desire that both our laws and our governments should exist without recognizing God or Jesus Christ, on the theory that all authority comes from men, not from God.

    – Pius XI, Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio, 28

    No matter who wins, whatever follows democracy in the Western world is likely to be quite unpleasant, at least for several decades. So choose your poison: vote for any of the mainstream candidates and resign yourself to the continued unopposed march of leftism toward a totalitarian anti-Christian dictatorship. Or vote for Donald Trump in the slender hope that whatever arises after him provides some breathing space for ordinary people.

    • Robert A Rowland

      It is the republic that is really dying.

  • ForChristAlone

    Let’s face it, America is not famous for having statesmen run for high public office. Name the last statesman who occupied the Presidency of this republic.

    As for adulterIng presidents we have: Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, Carter (“in his heart), and Clinton.

    Among the liars who have occupied the office, we have Johnson, Nixon, Bush #1 and Obama.

    Among those who support(ed) abortion we can name Ford, Carter, Clinton and Obama.

    So here we have violations of the 5th, 6th, and 7th commandments.

    I am sure that the historians among us could add to the list. It seems that Trump is eminently qualified to occupy the Oval Office.

    • HMV

      The only difference is he does not pretend.

      • Margaret

        You are right. He does not pretend. He seems to revel in it.

    • Michael DeLorme

      Reagan, an adulterer? Prove it!

      Every one of us is a sinner. Some of us are ashamed of our sins; others wear them as a badge of honor.

      If you’re going to vote For Christ Alone, you’re gong to be waiting a long, long time. When saints start running for office, I’ll start voting for them. In the meantime I’ll settle for the best among those candidates who, in my judgment, give evidence that they at least aspire to plain decency.

    • Robert A Rowland

      Since when?

  • Quo Vadis

    I don’t believe the characterization of “flouting property rights” accurately describes Mr. Trumps position. He believes that private property should be taken for the greater good of society. Now as a developer, that would be a profit for him, but that will also mean jobs in the end for many people. From “National Review Magazine”:

    “He first used the example of a government seizing land for a road or highway — generally the least controversial and most broadly supported use of eminent domain. But he quickly broadened his argument, insisting that government should always be allowed to take private land for development projects if the promised public benefits are big enough. “If you have a factory, where you have thousands of jobs, you need eminent domain, it’s called economic development,” Trump said. “Now you’re employing thousands of people and you’re able to build a factory, you’re able to build an Apple computer center, where thousands of people can work. You can do that, or you can say, ‘Let the man have his house.’” Trump added that he thinks “eminent domain is wonderful,” and contended that those who are forced out of their homes often end up better off. “The little guy sometimes gets a lot of money. Sometimes they’ll get four or five times what their property is worth.”

  • pt8685

    How can any Christian support a man (Trump) so shamelessly bereft of humility, piety, or charity?

    • HMV

      Probably because he seems to be the most honest of the group.

      • He’s flip flopped on dozens of issues just to be able to run as a Republican. That’s not honest.

        • HMV

          Which establishment candidate is not a hack who would sell his mother to get ahead?

          • All politicians are hacks. But Trump is a farce.

    • Robert A Rowland

      The truth is that he can’t.

  • It has astonished me that Trump has taken over the Republican Party. Let’s hope it’s a flash in the pan and he doesn’t win. Sigh.

  • Margaret

    Prof. Beckwith has provided a timely reflection for all voters at the start of the primary voting season. I will not vote for Trump in the Republican primary for reasons Prof. Beckwith enumerated. There are many other, more principled candidates, and I will vote for one of them.

    However, if Trump is the Republican nominee, I will very reluctantly vote for him over any Democrat because I believe (hope?)Trump is the lesser of two evils.

    If disaffected voters don’t support a flawed Trump—if he is the nominee—they will give the presidency to the Democrats who are the proven party-of-death.. At the very least with Trump, there is some semblance of hope that he can be reminded to keep the principles he has newly professed—however newly he has embraced them.

    In the meantime, we have time to hope, pray, fast, and vote for a Republican candidate with a better character and track record of supporting Judeo-Christian virtues on which this country was founded and must have to survive.

    • Sally Wilkins

      “The proven party of death” – even though abortion rates drop under Democratic administrations and rise under Republican ones?

      • ForChristAlone

        Name one Democrat whose political influence resulted in a reduction of abortions?

        • Robert A Rowland

          You can’t.

      • Michael DeLorme

        What exactly are you trying to suggest? That pro-abortion policies and electing pro-abortion candidates has a salutary effect on the lives of the unborn? Really?

        Or that, under Democrat presidents a pregnant woman reasons: “I’ve got
        this baby I would otherwise abort; but because Jimmy/Bill/Barry are so
        open-minded and willing to give me the choice, I’ve decided to carry it to term?

        The Democrat party is not just the party of death; it seems increasingly to
        be the pro-sin party. Anything aberrant, they support it.

        Yet, “where sin abounds, grace abounds even more;” I suggest it is the increased
        prayers of pro-life Christians, among others, under a pro-abortion president, which are the real cause of any putative decrease in abortions.

      • Margaret

        I don’t know what statistics you are looking at, but surely you are aware that the Democrats very aggressively support the gruesome and barbaric practice of abortion where a fully living baby is scalded in saline solution and/or dismembered in his or her mother’s womb, or has a pair of scissors stabbed in his or her head as they are about to be born.

        The voices speaking out against this outrageous murder of children are overwhelmingly Republican. If there should be any truth to the statistics you claim, it is not because of any good thing that Democrats have done to stop this barbaric and inhumane practice, it is because more people in this country are beginning to identify themselves as pro-life, as they begin to understand that abortion is horrific and violent murder of a defenseless little baby.

        • Robert A Rowland

          The Democrat Party is destroying our Nation. It should be outlawed.

      • kilbirt42

        Remind Hillary that the slogan was “safe, legal and rare.” Now it’s all Planned Parenthood all the time.

  • Aqua

    I couldn’t agree more. That really needs to be said. Loudly and insistently. Stop Trump! Anyone else on that stage would be better.

    Don Trump is a showman; more a comedian than a sober and wise orator or leader. As a good, crude comedian, he’s figured out what the audience wants to hear and delivers it with crude, humorous style to an appreciative audience. Comedians love to insult people, Trumps stock-in-trade.

    As the leader of the free world, he would make the perfect President to preside over the decline of America and the end of Western leadership.

    He is a crude, course, vain, liar of a man. The lyingist of liars and the most liberal and immoral man running for the R nomination. His plan is to get elected on a wave of anger, that potent emotion obscuring the clear fact of his liberal, immoral, egotistical, self-serving past as we indulge in his angry emotives.

    And he may succeed. With conservative accomplices! If he does, he will complete what Obama so ably started: the destruction of our Constitutional system of government through the cult of his personality coupled to his disdain for our delicate, ingenious system of checks and balances which operate within a carefully constructed Constitutional framework of liberty and self-rule.

    Il Duce. That’s how I see him. He really must be stopped.

  • Marybeth Davis Baggett

    I was profoundly disappointed with this article’s characterization of LU and was working on a defense in light of Beckwith’s disparagement of them as having shady and mercenary dealings with their online work and use of the student loan program (I refer to the original paragraph that talked about the school offering a “carnival barker’s promise of secure employment” and how LU gleefully “saddl[es] college graduates with enormous debt.”).

    That paragraph seems to have been removed, but I don’t see an editorial comment explaining that removal or–more appropriately–an authorial apology to the institution he derided.

    What remains in the post is a claim that LU “hit the jackpot” with its online offerings, a statement that dismisses the school’s growth due to chance and fails to take into account the hard work of building both the residential and online arms of the school and the very real good Liberty offers its students. Finally the ambiguity of the statement that the majority of the students take online classes suggests that Liberty is somehow little more than a correspondence program.

    In this article, I found troubling both Beckwith’s bootstrapping of LU’s standing to Falwell’s endorsement and his many unfair and misleading attacks on the school’s practices and programs, both overt and implicit.

    If the removal of that paragraph by either the editor or the author was due to a realization it shouldn’t have been there in the first place, it would be only right for such a statement to be amended to the post.

  • Steven Barrett

    While I’m sure lots of you will bolt upright in your seats while reading this, the only presidential candidate LU invited this past year with any amount of real integrity happened to be Sen. Bernie Sanders. Don’t let your view about abortion blind you to the fact he’s been far more consistent in fighting for programs that have been geared to help poor young mothers become better prepared to care for their children; a far cry from what the GOP has continually pulled in terms of austerity cuts one after another all the while they insist upon more tax breaks for the so-called job creators. These cuts have to be paid for and guess who winds up paying the real tab in the end, though you’d never learn this from the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and Washington Times, National Review, etc. in right wing world: the poor, and yes, the unborn because sadly so many young mothers are often “persuaded” by their mothers, older sisters, aunts, family friends of how rough they’ll have it once their child is born. It won’t be easy, true; But why do we keep creating excuses for more people to turn to the abortion mills when for a few more bucks to help the poor, we can save lives and be able to face our Maker for the good programs we chose to defend.

    • Aqua

      In the 19th century they defended slavery in the South and West as essential to the economic well-being and lifeblood of society. The rights of blacks irrelevant.

      In the 20th century they defended ethnic annihilation (Shoah) as essential to the economic and social well-being and pure lifeblood of society. The rights of Jews, the degraded and the deformed, irrelevant.

      In th 21st century abortion is defended on economic grounds; essential to the economic well-being of society, an underclass of women and the leisurely convenience rights of all women. The rights of the defenseless unborn, irrelevant.

      That is just not acceptable.

      There is no issue that compares. Abortion stands on its own as uniquely horrible. God gives the gift of life; He knows and deeply cherishes every baby that is conceived. He cherishes each and every one of them …… And we take a vacuum to them and snuff them out, limb by precious limb. A Christian who compares this heinous mass murder to economics has a lot to answer for.

      Then from the Christian perspective on economics: charity is a personal matter; not a matter for the “Roman” or U.S. government. Jesus judges persons individually before His Throne, not governments. And he will judge us, you or me, on whether YOU or me, PERSONALLY, cared for the poor and LOVED them personally. NOT, whether you voted in favor of OTHER people picking up the tab for some faceless, heartless, enslaving welfare program. And He will ALSO judge us on how we helped end the worst moral travesty in history, abortion, which slaughters innocent babes growing in their mothes’ wombs.

      Trump, if he cares at all, is pro-abortion. Disqualified. Sanders!? No Christian can vote for such a man and keep his conscience clean. Impossible.

  • Deacon Toby

    Those of us old enough to remember JFK, might agree we have a young catholic candidate, not afraid to profess his faith in the public square. That for me overtakes any stump speech or debate argument. My view of national & world events only brings to mind ‘this kind takes much prayer and fasting.’ Short of that all the hyper ventilation and verbiage will be for not. I’m tired of hearing of all the evangelical prose, like we Catholics don’t exist. Let’s turn some attention to Fox News and let them know where out here, and fed up like part of this nation we are. Difference being we have the truth of two thousand years, the Eucharist and the rosary, an arsenal like no other. Use it or continue to loose it. It’s really not rocket science, just a change in focus.