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Letters to the Editor: There’s so much wrong with blaming Calvinism for Trump’s rise

President Trump holds a Bible outside St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House on June 1.
(Associated Press)

To the editor: As someone who earned a doctorate in divinity and is an acting church pastor and U.S. Navy chaplain, I take serious exception to Richard T. Hughes’ op-ed article tracing Donald Trump’s raucous presidency to Calvinism.

First, the term “Calvinism” across theology and ecumenical life has always referred to 16th century theologian John Calvin’s doctrines regarding salvation. Only among the uneducated or politically motivated do we find people define Calvinism as embracing everything Calvin ever taught.

Although Calvin believed firmly in the idea of “magisterium” — an authoritarian sharing relationship of church and state — I have met no self-labeled Calvinists who agree much with his political views.

Second, even a brief overview of American history reveals that the press for the separation of church and state came from none other than Calvinist Baptists Roger Williams, John Clark and John Leland. Also, these men and their followers were, with few exceptions, abolitionists. Only in the 19th century did Southern Baptists divert from their roots and widely accept and defend slavery and racism.

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Finally, patriarchal ordering of family and culture can hardly be blamed on Calvinism; such systems can be traced in almost every culture and religion.

We need peace, we need racial reconciliation, and we pray that President Biden will bring us to that tranquility. The last thing we need is to find yet another group to hate.

Jonathan Elliff, Kapolei, Hawaii

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To the editor: For the reasons clearly articulated in Hughes’ article about Christian America, as a man of faith, I often refer to myself as a follower of Jesus rather than a Christian.

I am sadly reminded that white supremacy got its devious start in the Americas in the 15th century by papal decree, which empowered Christopher Columbus to claim and exploit our land and us Indigenous people in the name of God.

This devaluing of people of color became known as the doctrine of discovery, and it was used by King Henry VII of England to justify colonizing North America. Later in 1823, the doctrine was validated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a Native American survivor of that doctrine, I ask: Is it any wonder that systemic racism exists today?

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Harold Printup, Los Angeles

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To the editor: I am neither a Christian nor a nationalist, but I am troubled when Hughes writes that the “ultimate concern” of Christian nationalists is to preserve racist and patriarchal power.

I believe people are entitled to identify their own ultimate concerns without their critics and opponents reading their minds and divining the contents of their hearts. How is what Hughes is doing different from evangelicals characterizing the “ultimate concern” of the gay rights movement as the destruction of the family?

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I think we will all get along better if we engage in good faith and let others speak for themselves.

Peter Marston, Glendale

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To the editor: I am a member of a church in Woodland Hills. We voted to call ourselves progressive.

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Our minister is openly gay, a white man who came to us with his Black partner. We used to have a Jewish congregation renting our facilities on Friday night. Their rabbi spoke to us about the seder that Jesus was celebrating, which is the basis of our communion.

Christianity is strong enough to survive. Many atrocities have been committed in the name of Christianity over the centuries. Evil eventually dies, but the heart of Christianity does not.

Lake Nofer, Woodland Hills


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