Friday, April 06, 2018

Trump and the Christian Right

Trump's popularity among people identifying with the Christian Right had provoked some amount of pundit pondering about whether Trump's various assaults on "conventional morality" in his own life will cause those voters to eventually get tired of him. Some of them seem bewildered that it hasn't already happened.

Those of us who have been following the Christian right for decades, on the other hand, are more likely to be amazed if that opinion shift actually did take place. Over ten years ago when the Cheney-Bush torture scandal broke, polls showed that those identifying with the Christian Right were the group of Americans most likely to support torture. Sadly, even that wasn't much of a surprise.

Frederick Clarkson explains this pro-Trump phenomenon in Christian Nationalism and Donald Trump Public Research Association 04/06/2018. He points out much of the mainstream press in 2016 was still missing some of the red meat Trump was feeding to the Christian Right:
... coverage of a speech at Liberty University in 2016, focused on whether Trump quoting a Bible verse as being from “two Corinthians” rather than the conventional “second Corinthians” would hurt him with religious voters. The gaffe caused students to laugh and certainly suggested he was unaccustomed to discussing the Bible. But Trump’s direct appeal to Christian nationalism immediately afterwards was met with applause––largely unnoticed in news reports. Trump said:
But we are going to protect Christianity. And if you look what’s going on throughout the world, you look at Syria where they’re, if you’re Christian, they’re chopping off heads. You look at the different places, and Christianity, it’s under siege. I’m a Protestant. I’m very proud of it. Presbyterian to be exact. But I’m very proud of it, very, very proud of it. And we’ve gotta protect, because bad things are happening, very bad things are happening...Other religions, frankly, they’re banding together and they’re using it. And here we have, if you look at this country, it’s gotta be 70 percent, 75 percent, some people say even more, the power we have, somehow we have to unify. We have to band together...Our country has to do that around Christianity.
Trump returned to his Christian nationalist theme when he returned to campus to deliver a Commencement address in May 2017. He cast himself as the defender of the faith and U.S. Christian identity:
In America we don’t worship government, we worship God...America is better when people put their faith into action. As long as I am your president no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith or from preaching what’s in your heart. We will always stand up for the right of all Americans to pray to God and to follow his teachings.
For those outside the Christian Right bubble, it may seem fantastic to think that there is any serious danger of American Christians being denied their right "to pray to God and to follow his teachings."

On the other hand, if you think following God's teachings means discriminating against gays and lesbians, and Muslims and atheists, and liberals and scientists and teachers and, and, and ..., then it seems obvious.

Clarkson also links to several other pieces:

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