Monday, April 25, 2016

Psychology Politics and Donald Trump

7 Reasons Why Donald Trumps

Anyone getting news in the last month knows the name Donald Trump and a few of his ideas. His outrageous statements got the focus on him. No other GOP candidate got near the publicity. Donald played offense (offensively) and Democrat Clinton was on defense —about emails. Of course a lot of others were playing defense too—people defending immigration, John McCain, and they’ll likely be more.

Trump says what his conservative fans want to hear. For the conservative group that’s fed up with politics as usual, lost freedom of speech, perceived threats from immigration, Trump shows he’s part of the tribe.

Trump gets “Us vs. Them” tribal thinking.

Check out the word “you” and “They’re.”

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems,…” (wsj)

Trump is a well-known brand name—that counts for authority in a nation where athletes sell sneakers and movie stars sell cosmetics. Take a sample of ad campaigns in the U.S. and you’ll likely find some celebrity touting the virtues of something unrelated to their education.

Authority is a commodity that can be created and sold. 

Publicity gets votes and votes create authority-even if not elected. 

Trump leads the polls.

Trump offers to protect the U.S. from harm—it doesn’t matter that the harm is a matter of perception or that the "Great Wall" on the U.S. southern border would cost billions. Most people respond to emotions not reason. People respond to threat. Why would we have immigration laws and border patrol in the first place if it weren’t for concerns about who gets in?

Trump knows what his conservative base wants to hear. It doesn’t hurt that an infamous Mexican criminal escapes from the most secure Mexican prison in July. And it didn’t hurt that a man deported five times killed a woman in San Francisco in July (CNN).

Check out the alleged threats from Mexico:

“They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” (wsj)

Now contrast this “harm alarm” with another candidate, Jeb Bush. Bush succeeds in scaring millions of seniors by raising the fear of cutting Medicare. What a headline! His explanation is lost—emotion trumps. Instead of “Us vs. Them,” Bush creates an “Us vs. Him” situation—at least for those worried that their last days may be horrible without the security of healthcare. (CNN)

Checking out a great wall

Trump intuitively knows how to trigger disgust psychology—that powerful feeling that causes people to recoil and protect against anything that might contaminate and destroy us. We don’t just need a wall—we need a powerful filter. 

So, back to the speech lines above—notice the need for a filter to protect us from “rapists” and almost a question that “some, I assume, are good people.” 

The thought that rapists might be coming across the border and we can’t tell the good folks from the rapists is an emotionally charged image evoking the psychology of disgust linked to tawdry, life-destroying sex. His timing is incredible in the context of recent widespread rape news of an actor and terrorists in Iraq.

The Republican way to freedom from oppression is often linked to employment—hard work is the way you get ahead in the U.S. What’s not to like in the following quote by a successful business man who claims to be the best at producing jobs. And a nice touch—Trump gets in a link to God and creation. 

Trump will be "the greatest job-producing president that God ever created." (Arkansasonline)

Trump offers a credible threat to any opposition. Trump’s poll numbers make it clear that he can attract more voters than any other GOP candidate. It's possible he will stumble given his track-record of alienating various groups. Of course, his competition can stumble as well. Regardless of the 2016 election outcome, Trump has stirred up politics in his party, the nation, and wherever U.S. leaders have influence.


Crime data. So how real are those threats from Mexico? The WashingtomPost reports Trump is wrong about immigrants and crime.

Branding. Many of us prefer generic products so Trump, as an expensive brand, may not attract a majority of voters. Trump has a niche market. And brand loyalty can be fickle. Brands stumble for many reasons and other brands can rise to become competitive. But he is a savvy businessman and may expand his market share by revealing new features.

Lessons. Those of you familiar with moral psychology will recognize several moral foundations that apply to politics and religion. In a sense, Trump has artfully captured a righteous constituency. A good summary of moral psychology can be found in Haidt's book, The Righteous Mind.

Update: I updated this after he became the official GOP candidate. The seven reasons are the same. The threat section is no longer focused on his GOP rivals-- since he won.

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Cultural Diversity

Microaggressions are the harmful acts of host-culture members toward people considered part of a different culture. The acts communicate negative attitudes, insults, snubs, slights, and rejection. The acts may be intentional or unintentional but function to restrict the progress and freedom of those who are considered not a part of the host culture.

Microaggressions accumulate and have the potential to cause significant harm. Therapists and organizational leaders need to be aware of common microaggressions.

What’s in a name?
A lot. Names are a primary component of one’s identity. Granted, when you first hear an unfamiliar name it can be a challenge to get the spelling and pronunciation right. Sensitive people make an effort. Perhaps you know someone whose name is often distorted?

Some of us give up and adopt a spelling that can be pronounced by those in the host culture. When I was growing up I went by "Jeff"... many still can't pronounce or spell "Geoff" or "Geoffrey." My friends from other lands and cultures have it far worse!

Making fun of people’s names is common among children. When teachers mess with your name you know you have a problem. Persistence is misspelling and mispronunciation is a constant reminder that you are an alien, stranger, outsider—not one of the group. Take time to learn the names of new employees and students.

How well you speak English.
This off-hand comment sounds like it should be a compliment right? I hear people say this to international students. Sometimes it’s said to a person from a minority culture.

About a year after coming to the United States friends took us to a Southern U.S. state to meet their family. “How long have you been here?” a relative asked. After learning the short time, a woman with a distinctly southern accent said: “My my, how well you speak English.” “Mother, they are English,” our friend explained. I remember working hard to learn "American."

But there are more serious situations than I encountered.

An acquaintance hails from a central European country and speaks with a slight accent. “He’s been here 20 years—you’d think he’d drop the accent,” said another. Some members of minority groups have been in the U.S. all their life but are made to feel like foreigners when their "English" is praised or corrected.

BTW: It's not easy for Brits to learn an American accent as British actors have found out.

What’s wrong with her?
In conservative religious cultures, women are expected to be married mothers. That’s changing slowly. But I still hear people wondering about the character of a single women approaching (or past) age 30. 

I haven’t heard the same about men. Cultural norms can be particularly strong in religious cultures. Any deviation from the norm is often met with challenging questions or comments. Dealing with people from religious cultures can be a challenge. The microagressions can go both ways-- host culture vs. religious subculture. But those in the nondominant position suffer the most.

Keep in mind, microaggressions toward women and sexual minorities don''t just happen in religious cultures- they appear in work and school cultures as well.

Silent treatment.
Silence can be hostile. You’d think that company leaders and educators would be more aware of the importance of inclusion to company or school morale. 

Some believe: “If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything.” But silence can mean a lot of things. In a context where others receive a smile, recognition at meetings or in company publications, invitations to after-work events, and so forth, being ignored sends a strong message. Silence keeps people at a distance.

Sometimes it seems that people who have been treated as outsiders expect to be treated as outsiders and act in ways to maintain social distance.

Silence is not always golden.

You need to be more assertive.
Some cultures value a quiet, reserved, and nonintrusive approach to social interactions.

Some of us attempt to assimilate to the dominant American culture as we perceive it. But it still feels awkward at times. I’ve learned that other cultures in the U.S. share this cultural reticence, which can be perceived by many Americans as being shy, intimidated, or weak.

U.S. Soldiers headed for England received booklets with advice about their hosts: "reserved, not unfriendly", and tough, even though they may appear soft-spoken and polite. They are not "panty-waists" (BBC)

I'm sure you can imagine the opposite-- people considered obnoxious, rude, and intrusive because of their cultural style of interacting.

Read  a lot more.
There are many more examples of microaggressions in a table (link), which is drawn from Derald Wing Sue’s 2010 book, Microaggressions in Everyday Life.

Five Keys to Effective Psychotherapy

Power of Psychotherapy

I was a psychotherapist for many years. Like others of my era, we went to conferences, watched demonstrations, and read books in an effort to become better therapists. Many of us had years of supervision during school and after graduation. We believed that new research would uncover effective treatments or new components of treatments that would help our clients get well.

Several other factors came into play: medications and managed care.

As medications became more specific for the treatment of common conditions like depression and anxiety, I and others began to wonder about the value of psychotherapy- especially if medication was better or equal to psychotherapy and cost less. In this light, I began to take courses in psychopharmacology in the hope that psychologists could prescribe medication. I worked with others to pass legislation before I decided to retire from psychotherapy.

The second factor was the emergence of managed care insurance companies that gained control of approving psychotherapy visits. Approvals required increasing amounts of paperwork and the payment to clinicians was drastically reduced. For therapists trained in cognitive-behavioral approaches like myself, it was no big deal to provide treatment goals, document interventions, and provide data. Indeed, we considered this "scientific approach" the only way to do psychotherapy. The hassle was mostly dealing with approvals and different forms from different insurance companies.

Psychotherapy Works

On average, a person who participates in psychotherapy is better off than about 79% of people who do not get treatment.

This statistic is based on an average effect size of .80 in treatment studies reported by Bruce Wampold, “The research evidence for The common factors models: A historically situated Perspective.” 2010, p. 55.

Psychotherapists still care a lot about effective interventions. But what we have learned is that there are other factors at work when people get well. Psychotherapy works. Psychotherapy can be powerful. But it's not always a particular treatment technique that works. Instead, psychotherapy works based upon several interactive components.

The secret sauce in psychotherapy is the whole package consisting of five active ingredients.

Remembers the five factors by the acronym PRICE.

PRICE =  Psychotherapists, Relationship, Interventions, Clients, Extratherapeutic.

Psychotherapists: The fact is, some clinicians are better than others. We know that and yet you do not hear much about it. It's difficult to isolate specific factors. But in common experience we know people who are warm, inspiring, and full of hope. Their enthusiasm can be catching. We also know people who are dull and boring or who appear cold and aloof. Some psychotherapists are also brilliant and full of creative ideas-others not so much.

Findings from the work of Carl Rogers still make sense about the need for a warm and caring psychotherapist. Psychotherapists are also responsible for setting expectations. Expectations are important to outcomes. Psychotherapists are not equally effective. More research is needed on the therapist as a highly important factor.

Relationship (therapeutic or working alliance): The relationship between a psychotherapist and a client is a critical component in treatment. Many effective outcomes can be traced to the connection made at the first session. As in any endeavor in life involving two or more people, a working relationship is important to success. Research suggests that an effective working alliance depends on the therapist and agreement on the treatment goals and procedures.

Interventions/Treatment: Treatment does matter in the context of the other factors. But often a specific type of treatment can be as good as another if the therapist is skilled at the intervention and an organized approach is employed. It's also important that both psychotherapist and client collaborate in the process. The fact that different interventions work suggests there is something about the confidence therapist and client place in the explanation and activities.

Clients: More research is needed about the role of clients in successful outcomes. But we do know that some client characteristics are important. Level of motivation, personality factors, and attachment history are a few factors linked to outcomes. What's highly important is their participation according to Orlinsky and colleagues. Clients are agents who actively shape therapy as they interact with a therapist.

Clients are better at determining successful outcomes than are therapists. Getting client feedback is important to evidenced-based practice.

Extratherapeutic factors: This is a catchall term for things that happen in life, which can be linked to outcomes. Changes in general health, jobs, relationships, and many other aspects of life can make a significant difference in how people fare during a course of psychotherapy. These factors are beyond the control of the psychotherapist but must be kept in mind if we are to be honest about the role of psychotherapy.




Perspective on Medicine

I continue to be in awe of the advances made in modern medicine. I am glad for the progress that helps so many of us live better and longer lives with less pain than in the recent past. There is no reason to detract from the medical model.

But there is reason to realize the important role of psychological factors in wellness overall and in the treatment of those conditions considered psychological (e.g., depression, anxiety). The fact is, at this point in time, psychotherapy is more effective than some medications. And that relationship factors between physician and patient are important for outcomes in general health as well.


I no longer provide psychotherapy. I write, speak at conferences, and consult on research projects.


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To read more, see the edited work by B. L. Duncan and others The heart and soul of change: Delivering what works in therapy (2nd ed.).  Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

For an important summary:

Orlinsky, D. E., R0nnestad, M. H., & Willutzki, U. (2004). Fifty years of psychotherapy
process-outcome research: Continuity and change. In M. J. Lambert (Ed.),
Bergin and Garfield's handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change (5th ed.,
pp. 307-390). New York: Wiley.

Six Keys to an Effective Apology


What Works?

Individuals and business leaders often find themselves apologizing or dealing with requests for an apology. Most are seeking forgiveness and many wish to make things right. But correcting mistakes is not always easy.

Having an affair destroys most romantic relationships. Some partners do forgive and reconcile. Many do not. In an age of ubiquitous cameras, high speed internet communication, and hackers, odds increase that cheaters will be revealed to a wide audience. Of course, it’s not just the spouse or partner who suffers—children, relatives, and close friends hurt as well.

Usually the small stuff can be handled with an “I’m sorry” as long as it appears genuine. When the offense causes some difficulty, reputable businesses make amends. For example, after incorrect ticketing in China, I was moved to business class–too bad it was only an hour flight! Larger offenses cause more distress and law suits are costly.

Church leaders know a lot about public apologies too. Canadian leaders apologized for the way early Canadians ill-treated First Nations People in residential schools. Many of the schools were religious. Catholic leaders apologized for clergy sexual abuse of children and cover-ups. From time to time religious leaders admit to sexual infidelity.


FIRST with TRUTH is an easy way to remember six effective components of an apology. The letters in the word "TRUTH" refer to five ideas linked to research. Add the concept of being "FIRST" and you have my six suggestions.

  Apologies usually work as a package. People receiving an apology often need several items to be present to forgive the offense. Keep in mind that apologies do not always work. And the setting needs to be safe for all involved. Finally, in serious matters, consult an attorney.

1. Be FIRST in telling the truth. Apologies are more effective when people and businesses do not wait until they are caught. Reputable businesses recall their faulty products when they discover something is wrong. Hiding the truth can look like a "cover-up," which victims despise. Covering up the truth has serious negative consequences. Consider the plight of churches that covered up clergy abuse.

People who want a trusting relationship apologize for events likely to have an impact on their partner or spouse. If you damaged the car or broke something meaningful it’s usually good to confess before your partner finds out.

But, some acts like an affair evoke strong emotions such that the victim needs to be prepared to receive an apology. If in doubt, ask a third party like a counselor or mediator to help. So apologizing before being caught is a general rule but exceptions exist when a confession can lead to harm.

2. Tell the TRUTH. A complete and truthful apology is important. Clearly state, “I apologize.” And clearly state what you apologize for. Provide sufficient details so it’s clear that you recognize the problem you or your business caused. If you’re not good at expressing yourself, ask for help.

3. Take RESPONSIBILITY. “I was wrong.” Admitting fault is often a key to an effective apology. Leave off excuses and explanations that can sound like excuses. Giving reasons for what you did can sound like it’s not your fault, which discounts the effectiveness of your apology.

4. UNDO the harm. Undoing the harm can be impossible in some cases but a sincere and generous offer can go a long way toward making amends. When my wife and I had problems with work on our house, the business apologized, refunded our final payment, and hired a professional to make it right.

In personal matters, it may take a third party to mediate a settlement. Counselors, clergy, and professional mediators can sometimes help.

5. Demonstrate REMORSE. Most people need to see evidence of remorse-sometimes it means seeing an emotional response consistent with remorse. This is a tough one. Some offenders cry easily and others have difficulty showing emotion even when they feel remorseful. In contrast, some victims have been burned so badly that they do not trust displays of emotion as genuine, whilst others are quick to accept an apology and forgive with any reasonable sign of remorse. When you can see the offense from the perspective of the victim, you are likely on your way toward an empathy. Empathy is a key to feeling remorseful.

6. HUMBLY explain the HISTORY of the events leading up to the offense in response to questions. Many people want answers. They want to know why you or your business did such a thing. People want satisfactory answers but what satisfies one person may not satisfy another. And, as noted above, keep in mind explanations can sound like excuses.

Perhaps humility is a key here. All honest people can do is share their version of events leading up to the offense. In some cases you may need to verify relevant facts or events. Even when things cannot be undone as in the case of a death as a result of an accident, families still want to know the details of what happened.



Kirchhoff, J., Wagner, U., & Strack, M. (2012). Apologies: Words of magic? The role of verbal components, anger reduction, and offence severity. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 18, 109-130.  doi 10.1037/a0028092

Thomas, E. K. & Sutton, G.W. (2008). Religious Leadership Failure: Forgiveness, Apology, and Restitution. Journal of Spiritualityin Mental Health, 10, 308-327.

Thomas, E. K., White, K., & Sutton, G.W. (2008). Religious leadership failure: Apology, responsibility-taking, gender, forgiveness, and restoration. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 27, 16-29.

Wilkinson, M. (2010). Public acts of forgiveness: What happens when Canadian churches and governments seek forgiveness for social sins of the past?  In M. Mittelstadt & G. W. Sutton (eds). Forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration: Multidisciplinary studies from a Pentecostal perspective. (pp. 177–198). Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications.

Psychology of Politics and Enemies for Votes

Mexican arrested by border patrol, from capsweb

On the Psychology of Politics

“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The forgoing quote is from John Ehrlichman in 1994. Dan Baum includes it in his April 2016 Harper's article: "Legalize It All: How to win the war on drugs." I came across the piece posted on Facebook by my friend, Doug Olena. The drug issue is interesting in itself, but my focus is on the psychological principles within the quote.

Here's my three points.

1. " getting the public to associate..."

For decades psychologists have demonstrated people and animals learn new things by association. This can be used for good when you want to teach new skills like learning to count or say the alphabet while laughing at funny characters.

Marketers sell whatever to men linking a beautiful female model draped on some product like a truck or motorcycle. Women are shown luxurious hair next to a picture of shampoo. Just watch commercials.

In the quote we see the evil side of association. Link any group of people with something evil or fearful and you can stir up hatred and rejection. Repeat the message until it is learned. Portray your product or yourself as the one who can fix the problem. Link and repeat. 

Some may not know the psychology behind this approach, but they know it works. Motivational speakers use this all the time. For example, think of any contemporary outgroup based on religion, ethnic identity, or gender identity. Link that group to trouble, crime, or anything considered evil. It won't take long before a lot of people get the message.

Can you name any groups vilified by politicians or religious leaders lately?

2. "...vilify them night after night on the evening news."

Repetition is a key to learning anything. When a deceptive association is tagged with emotion--especially fear or anger--it just needs to be repeated over and over again. We naturally pay attention to threats, which is why negative news fills the media. It is obviously good to know if bombers are heading to our city or conditions suggest a risk for a tornado in the next few hours.

As Baum writes, politicians have often harped on drugs as evil. Religious groups do too. The facts don't seem to matter. War language is not just a metaphor when you use real weapons and kill real people or throw people into prison for possessing small amounts of a substance declared illegal. Dependence on alcohol and other drugs is a real problem for some people but the solution is to help those who suffer from their substances. 

Evil associations linking people to drugs, disease, and depravity produce income for politicians (if they win an election), companies with products that protect, gurus with programs that cure, and religious leaders offering healing or deliverance. Buyer beware. Who benefits from any scary association?

3. "Did we know we were lying...?"

We rarely find out the lies told by government officials or corporate leaders in their quest for leadership. Newspapers and watchdog groups are important to a free society yet masterful politicians know how to use sound bites and staged appearances to convey a lie. Most people don't read detailed analyses about anything.

Learning lies can occur in one lesson. Some paired associates are so powerful that the message takes one presentation to learn. Even after truthful messages have countered a lie, an old pairing resides in memory. What group of people do you associate with AIDS? 

Sadly, it's not just politicians and business people who lie. Preachers, teachers, and parents do too. Just about any leader can use associations to scare others into changing behavior. Unfortunately, big lies can cause a lot of damage.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Fighting for Tolerance

Wars linked to religious motives are part of history. But lost in the details are clear causal connections between one or more religious motives and the atrocities common in warfare. In contemporary western cultures wars are conducted at the ballot box, in the courts, and in the media.

Cultural war dead are counted in terms of lost pride, lost causes, lost traditions, lost influence, and even lost money. Cultural injuries can be measured by assessment of anger, resentment, plans for revenge, and money spent on causes limiting the rights of various subcultures.

In the United States and western democracies, Christian traditions that informed cultural norms codified in law have been overturned at an incredible pace leaving Christians wondering about the limits of religious freedom.

At this point we can only guess that in the future, people will look back on the 2015 Supreme Court decision to affirm same-sex marriage rights as indicative of the decline in the degree to which Christians could influence U.S. culture.

Meanwhile, moral battles rage. Sexual minorities seek protection from discrimination, the right to adopt children, and the right to live their lives free from microaggressions—too many to name here. They have won the right to marry and access the many benefits linked to marriage.

Christians actively seek freedom to live according to their religiously informed conscience. It’s no secret that same-sex marriage is a double blow to Christians — violating teaching against same-sex sex and heterosexual marriage. Add to the same-sex marriage ruling concerns about abortion, birth control, and pornography—and soon we see that something related to sex dominates the news.

And media post stories over selling pizza and baking cakes for gay couples, and photographing gay weddings. Christians are anxious about the sex of those they may meet in locker rooms, toilets, and the residence halls of Christian colleges. Conservative Christian mental health workers wonder if they must support gay marriage and clergy wonder how to respond to gay couples seeking marriage or attending their church.

Of course, Christians themselves are divided on several issues as I wrote about in A House Divided. Some are willing to throw out all traditions and affirm the brave new world. Others, young and old, are deeply concerned about the kind of world they and their children will inhabit. Is nothing sacred anymore?


1. Religious freedom is an important value that should not be swept aside so easily.

I am mindful that seemingly frivolous concerns have been used to make life difficult when laws and institutional policies, informed by a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, interfered with the joy of life afforded by enjoying harmless or relatively harmless activities. Nevertheless, the wisdom of the founders of liberty in the western democracies that enshrined freedom of religion along with the lessons of centuries ought not to be discarded in favor of religious intolerance or religious restrictions without compelling, evidenced-based reasons. Tolerance is meaningless if Christian beliefs and practices are restricted to the closet.

2. Christians concerned about values and religious freedom need wisdom.

There are Christian scholars— wise persons able to think deeply and broadly about the implications of Christian moral pronouncements. Too often Christian troops have been rallied on the basis of fear and hate by arrogant hucksters lacking an understanding of Scripture, moral reasoning, and human nature.

Too many Christian speakers are woefully uninformed about science and history (American history in particular). Winning a skirmish based on ill-conceived and flimsy emotion-laden trivialities will not produce lasting and meaningful social change. Some Christians will continue to divide the Christian community creating a subgroup known by their resentment and vengeance, which will dwindle in numbers and at best become a marginalized group.

3. Christians need to present a principled moral stance.

For Christians to have influence in moral and political discourse, scholars need to articulate a cogent understanding of moral principles derived from a humble and honest approach to Scripture, clear thinking, and critical analysis of moral facts.

Christian colleges and universities would do well to include integrated courses in moral theology, philosophy, and psychology. There are reasoned approaches to grounding the importance of morality in respect for conscience when Christians exist in secular societies.

When Christian leaders present impoverished and hateful moral arguments in public, Christians ought to be the first to replace foolishness with wisdom.

4. Religiously motivated laws untempered by limitations produce harmful extremism.

The narrow-minded religious moral rules of decades ago served only to limit human freedom and link Christianity to mindless prohibitions. Such rules did more to promote hypocrisy and resistance than decency.  
 Jesus was keenly aware of the harm suffered by those on the margins of his society when religious rules were rigidly applied. Christians ought to heed his example.

Contemporary Christian thinkers would do well to understand the arguments informing public morality and the importance of justice found in the works of John Stuart Mill, Bernard Williams, Frederick Schauer, John Rawls, Brian Leiter, Joshua Greene, and Jonathan Haidt.

5. Christians might have more influence living rather than thumping Scripture.

The Bible offers a groundwork for the ethical treatment of others sourced in love and manifest in compassion, forgiveness, and mercy without setting aside the importance of justice.

Every Christian community provides evidence about how well these values work. Unfortunately, many Christian communities have failed to offer supporting evidence that faith transforms people in a virtuous manner. Perfection is not required but integrity is vital. The key question for a moral community can be found in the gospels: How well do you lovingly care for your congregants, neighbors, and those on the margins of society?

Oddly, as the film Spotlight illustrates, Christians tolerated harmful behavior as if loyalty to an institution or clergy were more important that love of God and people.

6. Tolerance ought not to be confused with an anything goes morality.

Tolerance implies that others have strongly held beliefs that are different for at least two groups. And even more, tolerance demands that behaviors associated with those different beliefs ought to be permitted within reasonable boundaries set by an analysis of actual or likely harm. 

Virtues of equality, loyalty, respect, and liberty deserve consideration but these virtues are weighed in the common scale of care versus harm. Clear thinking and moral facts are requisite to avoid deceit in claims of harm as is known to any one observing the antics of those who would extort ransoms in courts from deep pockets on the basis of a minor injury.

Secularists pushing back against conscience-driven Christian practices and Christians promoting laws that restrict basic rights leave themselves at the mercy of imperfect government parties attempting to set the boundaries of tolerance so multiple parties have a safe space in which to play by their rules without harming the other group. Unfortunately, that’s difficult when both groups want access to the same market place. 

In large multicultural societies, tolerance is not just a two-edged sword.

Tolerance is a collection of double-edged swords cutting groups into exempt communities.

Tolerance can be painful.

7. The economic power of large corporations will continue to influence publicly morality.

The economic pressure focused on the U.S. states of Indiana and Georgia provided strong evidence that American corporations have significant clout and they will use that clout to advance their causes. Groups attempting to use the power of government to coerce others to play by a set of moral rules must now contend with the power of big business. The rich have always had access to the halls of power around the world. Power brokers used to work in private. Now we see corporate power exerted in the public arena.

Christians who wish to compete with the morals of big business will need to count the cost. This counting should sharpen a groups’ focus when it comes to investing time and treasure in the Kingdom of God.

Read more about Christianity, Sexuality, and Morality in A House Divided

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