John Danforth

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We are seekers of the truth, but we do not embody the truth. And in humility, we should recognize that the same can be said about our most ardent foes.

John Danforth (born 5 September 1936) is a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and former Republican United States Senator from Missouri. He is an ordained Episcopal priest.

Quotes

Faith and Politics (2006)

  • The problem is not that Christians are conservative or liberal, but that some are so confident that their position is God's position that they become dismissive and intolerant toward others and divisive forces in our national life.
    • p. 10
  • Whether religion is a divisive or reconciling force depends on our certainty or our humility as we practice our faith in our politics. If we believe that we know God's truth and that we can embody that truth in a political agenda, we divide the realm of politics into those who are on God's side, which is our side, and those with whom we disagree, who oppose the side of God. This is neither good religion nor good politics. It is not consistent with following a Lord who reached out to a variety of people — prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers. If politics is the art of compromise, certainty is not really politics, for how can one compromise with God's own truth? Reconciliation depends on acknowledging that God's truth is greater than our own, that we cannot reduce it to any political platform we create, no matter how committed we are to that platform, and that God's truth is large enough to accommodate the opinions of all kinds of people, even those with whom we strongly disagree.
    • p. 16
  • We are seekers of the truth, but we do not embody the truth. And in humility, we should recognize that the same can be said about our most ardent foes.
    • p. 17
We do not put God in our nation's life by placing the Ten Commandments in courthouses, nor do we evict God by removing the Ten Commandments from public property. God is not portable. Bland prayers, offered as noncontroversial formalities after the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance do little to honor God.
  • I had not been left behind in the parish. I wasn't holding the hands of grieving widows. I wasn't struggling to educate my children. I was pontificating on the great issues of the day in the comfort of a privileged lifestyle.
    • p. 47
  • Most of all, faith brings recognition that our quest never leads us to certainty. We are always uncertain, always in doubt that our way is God's way. That self-doubt makes it possible to be reconciled to one another. It is faith that makes the reconciling work of politics possible.
    • p. 53
  • But the public display of religion is not God. We do not put God in our nation's life by placing the Ten Commandments in courthouses, nor do we evict God by removing the Ten Commandments from public property. God is not portable. Bland prayers, offered as noncontroversial formalities after the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance do little to honor God.
    • p. 66
  • Many, if not most, Americans can imagine a fate worse than death, and it is a seemingly interminable process of dying. For them, it is frightening that politicians can find ways to interject themselves into this sad process.
    • p. 72
  • I think a lot of us share a fear that we and people we love will lose control of our own destinies at the end of life.
    • p. 74
  • At least Alzheimer's patients do not know what is happening to their brains and bodies. Some say this makes Alzheimer's less terrible than ALS, where the patient understands everything. But if lack of comprehension is of some small blessing to the Alzheimer's victim, it does nothing to help the family. Care of the stricken spouse or parent can consume a family's time, energy and resources. Instead of enjoying retirement years, a husband or wife, whose own strength may be declining with age, can find every day consumed by care giving. Then there is the wrenching decision of whether to place the loved one in a nursing home, a decision that can result in enormous cost, not to mention guilt.
    • p. 95
The old adage that polite conversation should not include talk of politics or religion is understandable because both subjects are so heavily laden with emotion that discussion can quickly turn to shouting. Blood is shed over politics, religion and the two in combination.
  • The relationship of faith and politics is not about fashioning religious beliefs into political platforms. It is, instead, the way in which faithful people go about the work of politics. If it were the former, family values could be reduced to legislation, but despite the efforts of Christian conservatives, that is not possible. Family values concern how a person, in my case a political person, values his family, his wife and his children. Is the family, especially the spouse, first on the list of priorities, or is it somewhere down the line?
    • p. 124
  • Valuing family more than job gives perspectives to politics. It puts the politician in the proper place, which is somewhere less than being the self-perceived agent of God. If family comes first, the politician needs to find ways to make that clear- by words, symbols and actions. The politician must make the effort. By its nature, the job will not do it for him.
    • p. 125
  • The Senate is indeed a deliberative body, and that quality serves the nation well. A slow-moving government helps us maintain a stable government. But slow moving is not the same as immobile.
    • p. 154
  • We have a God-given commission, but it is not a commission to be self-righteous know-it-alls- quite the contrary. Our work in God's world begins with the acknowledgment that we are not God, and that our most bitter rivals are made in God's image.
    • p. 166
The Senate is indeed a deliberative body, and that quality serves the nation well. A slow-moving government helps us maintain a stable government. But slow moving is not the same as immobile.
  • The starting point is the recognition that throughout history, religion has been a cause of bloodshed, and it remains so today. Because religion has contributed to the world's problems, it must develop specific and practical ways to help solve those problems.
    • p. 180
  • Plenty of kind, decent, caring people have no religious beliefs, and they act out of the goodness of their hearts. Conversely, plenty of people who profess to be religious, even those who worship regularly, show no particular interest in the world beyond themselves.
    • p. 186
  • When we vest our personal opinions with the trappings of religion, we make religion the servant of our politics.
    • p. 213
  • The old adage that polite conversation should not include talk of politics or religion is understandable because both subjects are so heavily laden with emotion that discussion can quickly turn to shouting. Blood is shed over politics, religion and the two in combination.
    • p. 215

The real reason Trump is not a Republican (2017)

Trump is always eager to tell people that they don’t belong here, whether it’s Mexicans, Muslims, transgender people or another group. His message is, "You are not one of us," the opposite of "e pluribus unum."
"The real reason Trump is not a Republican" in The Washington Post (24 August 2017)
  • Many have said that President Trump isn’t a Republican. They are correct, but for a reason more fundamental than those usually given. Some focus on Trump’s differences from mainstream GOP policies, but the party is broad enough to embrace different views, and Trump agrees with most Republicans on many issues. Others point to the insults he regularly directs at party members and leaders, but Trump is not the first to promote self above party. The fundamental reason Trump isn’t a Republican is far bigger than words or policies. He stands in opposition to the founding principle of our party — that of a united country.
    We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, and our founding principle is our commitment to holding the nation together. This brought us into being just before the Civil War. The first resolution of the platform at the party’s first national convention states in part that "the union of the States must and shall be preserved."
  • That founding principle of the party is also a founding principle of the United States. Even when we were a tiny fraction of our present size and breadth, the framers of our Constitution understood the need for holding ourselves together, whatever our differences. They created a constitutional structure and a Bill of Rights that would accommodate within one nation all manner of interests and opinions. Americans honor that principle in the national motto on the presidential seal: "e pluribus unum" — "out of many, one." Today, the United States is far more diverse than when we were a nation of 3 million people , but the principle remains the same: We are of many different backgrounds, beliefs, races and creeds, and we are one.
  • Our record hasn’t been perfect. When we have pushed the agenda of the Christian right, we have seemed to exclude people who don’t share our religious beliefs. We have seemed unfriendly to gay Americans. But our long history has been to uphold the dignity of all of God’s people and to build a country welcoming to all.
    Now comes Trump, who is exactly what Republicans are not, who is exactly what we have opposed in our 160-year history. We are the party of the Union, and he is the most divisive president in our history. There hasn’t been a more divisive person in national politics since George Wallace.
  • It isn’t a matter of occasional asides, or indiscreet slips of the tongue uttered at unguarded moments. Trump is always eager to tell people that they don’t belong here, whether it’s Mexicans, Muslims, transgender people or another group. His message is, "You are not one of us," the opposite of "e pluribus unum." And when he has the opportunity to unite Americans, to inspire us, to call out the most hateful among us, the KKK and the neo-Nazis, he refuses.
  • We cannot allow Donald Trump to redefine the Republican Party. That is what he is doing, as long as we give the impression by our silence that his words are our words and his actions are our actions. We cannot allow that impression to go unchallenged.
    As has been true since our beginning, we Republicans are the party of Lincoln, the party of the Union. We believe in our founding principle. We are proud of our illustrious history. We believe that we are an essential part of present-day American politics. Our country needs a responsibly conservative party. But our party has been corrupted by this hateful man, and it is now in peril.
    In honor of our past and in belief in our future, for the sake of our party and our nation, we Republicans must disassociate ourselves from Trump by expressing our opposition to his divisive tactics and by clearly and strongly insisting that he does not represent what it means to be a Republican.

It’s up to us to decide and act on Trump (2019)

I was raised in a Republican household during the glory days of "I like Ike!” I am currently an independent voter who votes on the integrity of the individual and the facts surrounding the issues.
"James C. Danforth: It’s up to us to decide and act on Trump" in Loveland Reporter-Herald (23 August 2019)
  • I was raised in a Republican household during the glory days of "I like Ike!” I am currently an independent voter who votes on the integrity of the individual and the facts surrounding the issues. I have read the Mueller Report, and recently listened to the televised Congressional Mueller hearings, and listened to analysis by both CNN and Fox. As a citizen, I have come to the conclusion that President Trump attempted to obstruct Mueller’s investigation in multiple ways.
    The OLC opinion blocked Mueller from indicting a sitting president, but he stated that an ordinary citizen facing these charges would face a criminal indictment.
  • I find the president guilty of both obstruction and collusion. Mueller has left it up to Congress to carry this process forward with impeachment according to Article I of the Constitution. Section 3 of Article I gives the Republican-controlled Senate the responsibility to try all Impeachments. Republicans, by and large, have chosen to remain mute in the face of President Trump’s attacks on freedom of the press, the judiciary, the Intelligence Department and our NATO allies, while failing to demand Vladimir Putin to stop meddling in our elections. President Trump suffers from a troubling personality disorder called malignant narcissism, which has limited his ability to develop into a fully formed adult male. His juvenile attacks and outbursts are a result. His prolific lying is necessary to create a reality that supports his fragile ego. This is unfortunate in an ordinary citizen but dangerous in an individual occupying the presidency of the United States.
  • Should we leave this seriously flawed individual in charge of our nation, and in extension, the free world? I think not. Each of us as citizens of this democracy have a duty to listen, learn and act in the best interest of our fellow citizens. That’s what we just celebrated on July Fourth. Look at the evidence, decide for yourself, and let our elected officials know how you would direct them to act. If Americans abdicate this responsibility on such a serious matter, perhaps we don’t deserve the democracy that so many have given their lives for.

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