Donald Trump: Christian Culture Warrior

Hey everyone, there's sure a lot going on! Don't forget that 81% of white Evangelical Christian voters chose Trump in the 2016 election.

Now, to imagine Donald as a religious being is to conceive of an absurdity. Not because bad people can't be religious, in fact they often are, but rather because by many accounts he simply is not a contemplative person and doesn't read. Well, I guess there's one topic he reads about:
"Trump’s desk is piled high with magazines, nearly all of them with himself on their covers, and each morning, he reviews a pile of printouts of news articles about himself that his secretary delivers to his desk."
Yet, during presidential campaign rallies, he began claiming that the Bible was his favorite book. In an interview, when pressed, he had the following to say in response to a question about his favorite verse:
"'I wouldn't want to get into it. Because to me, that's very personal,' Trump said in the Wednesday sit-down.

'The Bible means a lot to me, but I don't want to get into specifics,' he said.

When asked whether he prefers the Old Testament or the New Testament, Trump said, 'probably equal.'

'I think it's just … incredible, the whole Bible…' he said."
I'll bet.

So, what do we make of Evangelical Christian support for this man? As CNN recently reported, white Evangelical support for Trump continues to hold steady, with eight in ten who attend church at least once per month approving of the job he's doing. Do they truly think he's read "the whole Bible," let alone thinks it's "incredible"?

In October 2016, Huffington Post ran an article about a popular Evangelical leader who was baffled by his cohorts' support of Trump. The reasons for the bafflement seem obvious enough. Isn't Christianity a supposed moral compass for those who adhere to the religion? To that point, before the election, Huffington Post was still running this note on articles about Trump:
"Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S."

Perhaps Evangelical support for Trump is a bargain of sorts. They will support him to the extent he delivers for them. In 2016, many Evangelical Christians believed they had lost, or are badly losing, the culture wars, particularly with respect to feminism, gender issues, LGBT rights, religious "freedom," and abortion. Under the Obama Administration, historic strides were made with respect to same-sex marriage, federal hate crimes legislation, hospital visitation for LGBT patients, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, non-discrimination guidance for trans students, equal pay for women, the appointment of liberal/progressive Supreme Court justices and more.

Yet, for each step of progress we made, conservative Christian and rightwing commentators, pastors, media outlets, and organizations were telling Evangelical Christians that these gains were losses for them, usually with the framing that they were "losing" their "religious freedom." We saw a baker refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple and, in turn, face a fine if he continued to discriminate. We saw a clerk in Kentucky, purportedly acting "under God's authority," refuse to do her job and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. We saw religious conservatives propose anti-trans "bathroom bills," under the specious reasoning that women would be imminently under attack.

And so white Evangelicals support Donald Trump, who has admitted on tape to grabbing women's genitals without consent. With both his sales pitch to rid the world of the scourge of political correctness and his selection of Mike Pence, a "born-again" Evangelical, as his running mate, he has promised to strike back against these losses and threats to Evangelical Christian's "religious freedom," (or what I like to call their special right to discriminate).

Hillary Clinton,too, very specifically fit into Republican and Evangelical Christian narratives.

As some on the left castigated Clinton in 2016 for supposedly not being feminist or progressive enough, the religious right has been branding her as too much of both since the early 1990s. In The Washington Post, Sarah Pulliam Bailey noted this historical context in October 2016, saying that despite the fact that Clinton is a churchgoing United Methodist:
"She symbolizes much that runs against their [Evangelical Christian] beliefs: abortion rights advocacy, feminism and, conversely, a rejection of biblical ideas of femininity and womanhood. Perhaps even more significantly, Hillary Clinton, as an outspoken and activist first lady, is inextricably tied in the minds of conservative Christians to their loss of the culture war battles beginning with Bill Clinton’s first term in 1993."
Their anger toward her, continues Bailey, was at "a fever pitch" during the campaign, with 75% citing their dislike of her as a reason for their support for Trump.

While many (so so many) election 2016 post-mortems have focused on the purported "economic anxiety" of the white working class, less has been made of the culture war aggrievement of Evangelical Christians. But, maybe it's old hat to talk about. The left at times does get into an odd habit of rendering critique as though Democrats exist in a context-less void wherein Republicans and conservative Chrsitians, do not also exist in large numbers. Democrats are castigated for moving too slowly, not doing enough, and being too incremental as if conservative obstruction isn't a real thing in the real world.

Yet, the religious right remains a force in this country. They are largely responsible for putting Trump in office. And, going forward, it would be foolish to overlook the entitlement many Evangelical Christians have about the special place they believe their religion is owed with respect to law and policy in the US.

Mike Pence, for instance, recently attended the 40th anniversary event for Focus on the Family, giving a 30-minute speech reported to have been largely about abortion, re-assuring the audience that he and his "good friend" Trump have their backs. Trump's Attorney General Jeff Sessions, meanwhile, just gave a secret speech to the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom.

Meaningful, and yes imperfect, progress was made during the Obama era with respect to many progressive causes. The progress was not enough, but it was work we could have now been building upon, under a different administration.

Instead, we are now in a position to defend, tooth and nail, everything we had previously won, and more. Some progress, like President Obama's guidance on trans students, has already been lost. Many of these issues, too, are the very "identity politics" that even some liberal and leftist men want us to stop talking about, at a time when our rights are most at risk.

I suggest not. Instead, as Melissa has repeated, we need to keep our eyes on Mike Pence. Donald Trump may not be a legitimate Christian, but under the guidance of Pence, Donald and Evangelical Christians seem to have made a bargain to use each other for their own mutually-beneficial ends.

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