Saturday, October 08, 2016

"Faith Leaders" Faithful To A Political Agenda

Public Policy Research Institute recently found that 69% of white evangelical Protestants support Donald Trump while only 19% of the same group support Hillary Clinton.

That won't change with the release of the audio of a 2005 conversation on an "Access Hollywood" bus when he said, in part, "I did try and f--- her. She was married."

Anyone who isn't aware of Trump's views about women, sex, and morality isn't about to start paying attention now.

So, too, with the "Declaration by American Evangelicals Concerning Donald Trump" posted on, by the New York Times reports, a "group (which) includes African-American, Asian, Hispanic and white evangelical Christians, and it says that the news media and the polls are overlooking nonwhite evangelicals."

Noting "we will inevitably disagree about which political stances come closest to the heart of God for our nation," the signers maintain

the candidacy of Donald J. Trump has given voice to a movement that affirms racist elements in white culture—both explicit and implicit. Regardless of his recent retraction, Mr. Trump has spread racist “birther” falsehoods for five years trying to delegitimize and humiliate our first African-American president, characterizing him as “the other” and not a real American citizen. He uses fear to demonize and degrade immigrants, foreigners, and people from different racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. He launched his presidential campaign by demonizing Mexicans, immigrants, and Muslims, and has repeatedly spoken against migrants and refugees coming to this country—those whom Jesus calls “the stranger” in Matthew 25, where he says that how we treat them is how we treat him. Trump has steadily refused to clearly and aggressively confront extremist voices and movements of white supremacy, some of whom now call him their “champion,” and has therefore helped to take the dangerous fringes of white nationalism in America to the mainstream of politics.

They acknowledge "Hillary Clinton is both supported and distrusted by a variety of Christian voters" and "whether we support her "is not the question here." Still, they add

Mr. Trump has fueled white American nationalism with xenophobic appeals and religious intolerance at the expense of gospel values, democratic principles, and important international relationships. He mocks women and the sanctity of marriage vows, disregards facts and the accountability to truth, and worships wealth and shameful materialism, while taking our weakening culture of civility to nearly unprecedented levels with continuing personal attacks on others, including attacking a federal judge based purely on his Mexican heritage, mocking a disabled reporter, and humiliating a beauty pageant winner for her weight and Latina ethnicity—to give just a few examples.


And so began my post of the early afternoon of Friday, October 7, when it was interrupted by news of the videotape.

The Declaration, I would have said (and still say), captures accurately and eloquently the nature of Mrs. Clinton's opponent, as well as of his campaign and its impact on American society.

I would have argued that neither the evangelists' remarks nor the news of Trump's sexual efforts would have an impact on the votes of evangleical voters because of abortion.   Following the candidate's controversial remarks in April on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Trump's campaign issued a statement including "he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn."

Donald Trump is officially pro-life, and that is that. His running mate, chosen in part because of an appeal to "people of faith" who believe in their way or the highway, is genuinely in favor of forced birth. His selection merely reinforced Trump's appeal to individuals convinced that God is dead-set against a woman's right to choose and in favor of "religious freedom," the right to discriminate when invoking "God's word."

It didn't take much, and no more than that, for most prominent evangelicals to line up behing Grump, and they're not deserting him now.  It turns out that neither personal piety, traditional values, nor "family values" ever meant much to this crowd. Corey Robin recognizes

this tape shouldn't be used to delegitimate Trump; he's already done that six thousand times over, and I doubt anyone will be surprised by what he says here. What it should be used to delegitimate is the Christian Right, the overwhelming majority of which—according to the latest polls—is standing with this man who stands for everything they claim to oppose. Rather than discredit Trump, this tape should destroy that movement, its leaders, and the cottage industry of enabling journalists and academics who've told us for decades that we need to take "people of faith"—by which they mean the Christian Right—more seriously.

There have been religious voices speaking out against the GOP nominee, more vociferously now, but they have come- not coincidentally- from Utah, Mormon Central. While never explicitly making the claim, most Christian evangelicals strongly implied that the Kingdom of God superceded the importance of Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. The mainstream media bought it hook, line, and sinker, giving the lie to the charge it is the "liberal media."

We don't yet know for sure how the latest outrage will play with the base of culturally religious voters, though I believe it will change very few minds.  However, the impressive (albeit not complete) embrace, even now, of Donald Trump by leaders of the Christian right should be regarded as a teachable moment.  Finally we know and must emphasize that most Christian right leaders (one of them a month ago, below) are more right (conservative) than Christian.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's that we think that Bill's hundreds of admitted (and still denied) sexual transgression against women and Hillary's bullying and worse against her husband's victims and accusers amount to much, much worse than Trump's despicable locker room talk (for which he has apologized). Sad to see that liberal Christians don't get this. And we're still waiting for apologies from the Clintons.

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