Track Trump and Other Useful Spiritual Tools in an Age of Political Chaos

trowel-1My head spins, my stomach sickens, and my heart hurts when I dip in to all the political chaos with real life consequences coming from the Trump administration. It’s hard to sort news from political theater (both from the administration and from the reactionists).

I’m determined to be a good steward of my emotional and spiritual energy during this season of hate. For me, that means staying informed in a concise, not emotional manner and using my energy wisely in determining effective responses and — more importantly — effective leadership in the direction we want as a community or country to go.

Number one item is prayer and rooting ourselves in the biblical narrative and rituals. These will remind us that we’ve been in seasons like this before. This will encourage us that God sees, hears, remembers, and knows.

Torah scholar Avivah Zornberg writes: “The basic requirement for freedom (‘redemption’) is the awareness of ‘exile,’ the groan of conscious alienation. To be in exile and not to feel it—this needs a ‘great salvation.’” (The Particulars of Rapture).

Many American Christians are just waking up to their exile. (Others have known the experience for a long time.)

Here are some helpful tools I’ve found for responsibly keeping track of Trump administration actions while protecting my soul and spiritual life from the corrosion of the political theater:

Best podcast/radio show for understanding media, coverage of Trump administration, and tracking the story beneath the story is WNYC’s On the Media with Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield.

Best site for keeping up on policy movement. Track Trump – This site was established by 4 computer geek and history guys who “believe it is important that citizens have the ability to understand and follow in real-time policy changes that will impact their lives.”

Over the first 100 days of the Trump administration they “will track and document the policies put into place by the Trump administration,” concentrating on tracking the specific policy pledges from the Trump campaign’s “Contract with the American Voter.” These include policies on: immigration, trade, economics, energy and climate, federal government, education, healthcare, and safety. Track Trump’s goal is to “isolate actual policy changes from rhetoric and political theater.”

At Track Trump you’ll find links to primary sources (memos of executive actions, transcripts, etc). What you will not find is analysis or implications or consequences from actions taken by the Trump administration. Also Track Trump does not track policy actions that are not part of the core themes in Mr. Trump’s Contract with the American Voter.

I signed up for Trump Tracker immediately. It helps me cut through the public chaos.

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FacingHistoryDemocracyToolbox760x570Another good place to look is the New York Times’ Tracking Trump’s Agenda, Step by Step. This site is updated regularly to track President Trump’s action “on several of his major priorities, but most of his proposals require moves by Congress or pose other significant obstacles. Possible paths are described below, though other options exist.” You do not have to be a NYT subscriber to get email updates from this site.

This site tracks policies but also tells you what has to happen next. For example, Mr. Trump has signed an executive memorandum to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline and the next step is that it must be approved by the State Department. I wish this site sent you to primary source material on the topics it covers. It sends you to NYT articles covering the topics instead. But combined the Trump Tracker, this covers a lot of information in a clear way.

(There is also a page tracking Mr. Trump’s Cabinet that lists the members, their positions, and whether they are appointees or must go through a confirmation process and dates and times of confirmation hearings.)

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Here’s a good article on tracking Trump and national security and international affairs. Tracking Trump’s National-Security Conflicts of Interest by Caroline Houck at Defense One, which is run by Atlantic Media (The Atlantic, National Journal, Quartz). Defense One “delivers news, breaking analysis and ideas on the topics and trends that will define the future of U.S. defense and national security.” Houck’s article is “as complete an accounting of Trump’s overseas financial interests as could be gleaned from open-source reporting, including the financial disclosure form he filed as a presidential candidate.” Houck will update the article as information comes to light about Mr. Trump’s financial interests, including projects that are cancelled or moving ahead. This site also provides fairly decent analysis of national security issues, but I appreciate it for the links to primary sources. (The Sunlight Foundation is another excellent source of information on this, especially Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest, but the information is not as well organized.)

A few sites or articles  worth checking are: Politifacts’ Trump-O-Meter that tracks Mr. Trump’s campaign promises and Vice’s All the Laws and Executive Orders Trump Has Signed So Far.

I have not found a good aggregator of lawsuits initiated in response to Trump administration policies. If you find one, let me know. And if you’ve found other helpful tools for responsible engagement, please add them in the comments below.

Abbot Philip: Virtues and Vices in Lenten Practice

monks3Lenten reflections from Benedictine Abbot Philip in New Mexico:

…[I]n Lent we can become focused almost exclusively on sin rather than on virtue. We are struggling to overcome our sinfulness and yet that does not mean to focus on sin. Rather it should mean to focus on living for God and that means to focus on virtue. It is also good to remember that the least offensive of the capital sins is lust, excessive sexual appetites. Often Christians tend to think of such sexual appetites and the worst of the sins. Instead, the worst of the capital sins is pride. From the least to the greatest of these sins, the order would be: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Lots of us have different orders in our own minds, but this would be the classical order. The corresponding virtues are chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, forgiveness, kindness and humility.

For us monks, humility is often pointed out to us by Saint Benedict in his Rule for Monks. Saint Benedict has a very long chapter on the degrees of humility. Many people today do not take the time to read that chapter well because some of the ways in which Saint Benedict expresses himself go against our modern sensibilities. For instance, Saint Benedict tells us that we must not only think of ourselves as worse than others but believe it in the depths of our hearts. For many people today, who already have low self-esteem, this can be a fatal recipe. It was C. S. Lewis who stated in one of his books that the problem today for many people is not pride but lack of self-esteem.This does not call us to abandon humility, however, but to understand it more profoundly so that we do not confuse humility with a lack of self-esteem. Instead of trying to reinvent humility, we must simply rediscover its reality so that we can live it more completely in our lives. Continue reading “Abbot Philip: Virtues and Vices in Lenten Practice”