Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Breed Apart

As recently as seventeen years ago, when they overwhelmingly backed conservative, openly devout George W. Bush for the GOP presidential nomination over a more secular John McCain, evangelical Christians were generally more partial to candidates who held similarly religious views as they.

For the GOP nomination in 2016, they preferred religious Protestant and southern Baptist Ted Cruz, he of one marriage, to the thrice-married, womanizing, Second Corinthians-believing, little cracker-taking, money almost in the communion plate-giving, have no idea of the purpose of communion (below), ruthlessly dishonest, "I alone can fix it" Donald Trump.

In the general election, Christian evangelicals discovered an overwhelming- even "incredible," in the correct sense of the word- love for Donald J. Trump. This curious phenomenon came again into view as a photo was distributed Wednesday of some of their leaders praying over the President. There are many reasons for faith in this man, three of which are abortion, abortion, and abortion.  In addition, however, Matthew Sheffield points out

Trump has certainly been trying to deliver for Christian nationalists, including nominating devout Protestant Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, repeatedly attempting to implement a “Muslim ban,” pushing the GOP to defund Planned Parenthood in its health care overhaul legislation, rescinding Obama-era protections for LGBT employees of government contractors, and encouraging religious leaders to talk politics from the pulpit.

Trump has also staffed up high-level jobs with religious conservatives far more than past GOP administrations with such figures as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, an advocate of stripping civil rights from Muslims. And of course, there’s Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president who was best known during his time as governor of Indiana for trying to pass a law allowing businesses and government employees to engage in discriminatory behavior provided they could find a religious excuse for it.

Most of the support for Trump, then, has its roots (however crudely expressed at times) in ideology, a marked shift from the days when cultural conservatives (or in the common but inaccurate parlance, "social conservatives") wrapped themselves in the flag of "family values."

That applies, additionally, to another source of Trump's support from evangelicals  (and in the secular community), the understanding that his villains-- liberals, secularists, the media, the academic community, Washington politicians, minorities, Planned Parenthood- are their villains.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, who describes Katherine Hayhoe as "an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University who does climate change education among evangelicals," explains about climate change

Evangelicals will often tell her things like “God’s in control,” “God gave us dominion over the Earth” or maybe “God told Noah he would never flood the Earth.” Oil was seen by some Christians in the late 1800s as God’s gift to the United States.

But Hayhoe believes evangelicals’ political affiliations drive their attitudes more on climate change than their religious beliefs. “Somehow evangelicalism got politicized to the point where, [for] many people who call themselves evangelicals, their theological statement is written by their political party first,” she said.

So much of evangelical preference may be driven by political partisanship, which makes them not much different than the rest of us. But there is something distinctive about them which Sheffield found, but apparently didn't recognize. He writes

According to survey data aggregated by the Pew Research Center between February and April of this year, 67 percent of those who attended church at least once a month said they approved of Trump’s job performance, compared with 54 percent of self-identified evangelicals who attended less frequently.

You shouldn't have to be a churchgoing Roman Catholic to wonder who these evangelical Christians are who aren't attending organized worship at least once a month while they consider themselves "evangelical." Self-identification with this perspective while evidently avoiding even minimal effort is not customary, and is borderline strange.

It was a point, glossed over in what was otherwise a useful survey of the political preferences of these individuals, suggesting at least that they are far more conservative than traditional. It also is something deserving additional exploration as we try to discern why people who "walk in the Spirit" and presumably believe "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God" have now fallen in love with a guy who has boasted "the beauty of me is that I'm very rich."

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