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The two best op-eds of the weekend

As is so often the case, one of the weekend’s best opinion essays came from the gifted Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer. In “In NC, Russians won’t find much democracy left to disrupt,” [1] Barnett skewers our state’s Republican legislative leadership with the painfully funny observation that its assault on democracy during the present decade has left little for Russian troublemakers to tackle. Here’s Barnett:

“I know we’re supposed to be concerned that Russian operatives took actions in North Carolina when they tried to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. An indictment [2]brought by special prosecutor Robert Mueller says the Russians instigated protests in Charlotte and posted falsehoods on social media to divide the public, undermine faith in the democratic process and discourage voting.

But anyone who’s paying attention to North Carolina politics knows that type of disruption here is hardly new nor foreign. The Russians are pikers in such pursuits compared to the Americans who run the state legislature. Potemkin protests or social media disinformation couldn’t create more chaos and distrust than what’s already been done by the majority that rules the General Assembly.”

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Observer’s Issac Bailey had a similarly insightful takedown of the religious right’s serial hypocrisy on the question of Donald Trump in “Mike Pence’s selective piety.” [3] Here’s Bailey in response to Pence’s recent sanctimonious attack on a TV personality/comedian who took a poke at some religious conservatives:

“Pence had a lot to say about a religious joke by a comedian who is paid to say such things, but nothing about the immoral example his boss has set. It’s in stark contrast to when Pence presented himself as deeply devout Christian on a talk show he hosted years ago and declared adultery a serious offense that said something disturbing about leaders who commit such acts.

It’s why Pence’s words about his faith ring hollower by the day. They sound hypocritical, situational, unprincipled. They also illustrate just how much damage white evangelical Christians have done to the religion they profess to love. They’ve created a new reality, one in which leaders’ actions don’t matter, so long as they have the right ideology and can help secure a few long-sought political victories. It underscores why liberal Christians in the South are going to have to lead the flock out of this self-imposed spiritual wilderness.

For too long, Christianity has been presented as the domain of white conservatives, particularly in the South. Their interpretation of the Bible has been taken as the most genuine kind, even when other Christians find no incompatibility with gay marriage and the faith. Journalists and political scientists deemed these conservatives the true values voters, even though black voters cherish Christianity just as much and frequently vote for Democrats.

If religious leaders can make God-centered arguments in favor of an unrepentant man like Trump – and plenty of high-profile white Christian conservatives have – no behavior can be deemed out-of-bounds. It has put a stain on the religion that won’t be easily washed away, no matter how piously people like Pence speak about the faith.”

Amen to that.