When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy for president in the 2016 election (not to be confused with his previous attempts), he was seen as a laughing stock by many on both sides of the aisle–certainly not a serious contender for the office.
He’s not a politician. He’s a business man. A celebrity. A reality TV personality. What does he know about politics?
But as the race continued over the months leading up to the election, as one Republican hopeful after another fell along the wayside, Trump emerged as the Republican front-runner in what would eventually turn out to be one of the biggest political upsets in American history.
This isn’t an article about how Trump won the election. The internet is rife with those already–the desperate rationalizations of all those who underestimated the political threat that has now seized the throne of our democracy.
No, this is an article about how easily deceived a very particular segment of his base has been: the Evangelical.
For decades the Republican party has been aggressively and successfully courting the Evangelical vote. I’ve heard the recent book Democracy in Chains explores deeply how the GOP has played Christians like a fiddle, convincing them that voting Republican is voting Christian.
It hasn’t been a very difficult argument to make.
Find some social issues that don’t matter at all to the politics, issues that matter a LOT to Evangelicals, and take a stand that the Christians will favor.
Abortion. Same-sex marriage. Any LGBTQ civil rights issue.
Say you’re defending the defenseless. Say you’re standing up for family values.
The church will support you. How could they not?
After years of beating the same drum, the Republican party becomes indistinguishable from the values of the Christian church.
Never mind social justice. Never mind caring for the oppressed. Never mind equality. Never mind humility. Never mind a devaluation of material wealth.
Say that those things are “communist” or “socialist”–certainly not American.
Now we have a perverse blend of faith and nationalism. If you love God you must love your country, and you must support the politicians that love them too–obviously the Republicans.
The Evangelical base has been brainwashed by the same propaganda for so long, it doesn’t matter who’s riding the elephant, as long as he has that Republican pin on his lapel, he’s our man. No questions asked.
Of course many did ask questions. (Here’s one example.) But the base, by and large, ignored them. Why bother trying to think critically about this when it’s easier to just crank up Fox News and yell at the liberals?
As I said before, it’s been this way for years. I remember shortly after I became a Christian, George W. Bush was running for re-election against John Kerry. Though I had been raised in a Democrat home as a child, my newfound religious community successfully inundated me with their political sentiments, and I thought that because Bush was the “Christian candidate” it was my duty as a Christian to vote for him.
That vote never set well with me.
As I witnessed what I perceived as the destruction Bush continued to wreak on our country’s economy and international relations through his second term, I decided to never again let myself blindly accept any candidate as the “Christian candidate.”
I wish more had learned the same lesson.
Though Trump wears the Republican pin, he is far from a Christian candidate. Though he can claim he goes to church “as often as [he] can, a lot” and calls Paul’s second letter to a church “Two Corinthians” (cf. more about Trump’s Bible knowledge), the Christian values of Trump end there.
Though Evangelicals claim to be protectors of the sanctity of marriage, it’s no big deal that Trump has been divorced twice, married thrice, and accused of infidelity several times, not to mention the recent accusations of paying for sexual favors with porn stars.
Evangelicals supposedly hate adultery, hate divorce, hate prostitution, and hate pornography.
Supporters might try to argue that these are only accusations, but there is way too much smoke here for there to be no fire.
Yet even if the claims are untrue and we ignore his failed marriages, he is still a man whose primary motivating forces seem to be greed and pride–two of the traditional seven deadly sins. (If we look close, I wonder how many of the others we could check off the list.)
Evangelicals supposedly believe the Bible, which claims “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10 ) and “those who exalt themselves will be humbled” (Matthew 23:12). These are just two instances of these themes, which can be found all throughout the scriptures.
Supporters might try to argue that Christianity is a religion of forgiveness. Who are we to cast the first stone?
Indeed it is, for those who repent and turn from their wickedness. Yet Trump is a man who shows no signs of regret or remorse for any of his behavior. Indeed, he is known as never apologizing for anything.
This should not be the behavior of an Evangelical leader.
The only thing “Christian” about Trump is that Republican pin.
Is the Evangelical base is so conditioned to accept without question the Republican party that they can’t see the hypocrisy of Trump as their leader?
Apparently they are. And it’s this hypocrisy that reveals the cracks in their politics, their religion, or perhaps both.
At least it has for this guy.