Sunday, March 20, 2016

Evangelicals For Trump -- Ridicule Begets Ridicule


Donald Trump operates in a world of absolutes: A world of right and wrong; a world of winners (him) and losers (McCain, Perry, etc); a world of put up or shut up (literally). Trump's world is colored in black and white. There ain't much grey. And what does Trump get for speaking out so boldly without holding back? Public ridicule.

Now, think of conservative evangelicals. In their quest to champion biblical values, their mindset is much the same. It is a world of absolutes. They believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God. Non-negotiable. They believe there is only one way to heaven and that is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Non-negotiable. They see the world through the lens of spiritual warfare (good vs. evil). And what do evangelicals get for speaking out so boldly without holding back? That’s right: public ridicule.”

(David Brody. “Explaining The Evangelical Attraction To Donald Trump.” 
CBN News. July 23, 2015.)

To me, it is amazing to read reports that large groups of evangelical voters are attracted to Donald Trump. David Brody, Emmy Award winning news journalist and Chief Political Correspondent for CBN News, explains this captivation as a mutual likeness of “boldness” in the face of attack.

Brody also admits the Trump/evangelical connection is “a kinship in a strange sort of way.” That is as deep as the explanation goes. He says if you want more, “go call Dr. Phil. Brody does say evangelicals want someone who will be honest about their views with God, and instead of hating him, “they'll put him on a church prayer chain.

Here is Brody's final point:

When I talk to evangelicals about Donald Trump, as much as they like a lot of things he says, they don't appreciate his name-calling and hefty ego. What they tell me is that if he can control those two aspects of his delivery and persona without losing who he is as a person, then that would help them get to an even more comfortable place.”

Donald Trump and Religion

Trump has told news outlets that he is "a believer." In some past articles and interviews he said he was a member of the Reformed Church of America, but more recently (in 2011), he told CBN he attended First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica Queens, which is part of the Presbyterian U.S.A. denomination. And, Donald Trump has declared: "I will be the greatest representative of the Christians they've had in a long time."

However ... 

Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center said in The New York Post, "Mr. Trump's character is antithetical to many of the qualities evangelicals should prize in a political leader: integrity, compassion and reasoned convictions, wisdom and prudence, trustworthiness, a commitment to the moral good." 

In July 2015, Trump attended the Family Leadership Summit, a forum that caters specifically to religious right activists.

With this in mind, moderator Frank Luntz asked Donald Trump, “Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?” The Republican candidate seemed to take the matter seriously.

I’m not sure I have,” Trump said. “I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

Then, Trump quickly added, “We I take, when we go, and church and when I drink my little wine – which is about the only wine I drink – and have my little cracker, I guess that’s a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed, OK? But, you know, to me that’s important, I do that, but in terms of officially, I could say, ‘Absolutely!’ and everybody, I don’t think in terms of that. I think in terms of, let’s go on and let’s make it right.”

(Steve Benen. “Trump’s religious talk causes unease among social conservatives.” MSNBC. July 21, 2015.)

When Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson was asked in September 2015 if he believed that Trump was sincere about his religion, the doctor-turned-politician responded: "I haven't heard it. I haven't seen it."

Carson continued to explain,"You know, one of my favorite Bible verses, Proverbs 22:4 -- it says by humility and the fear of the Lord our riches and honor and life, and that's a very big part of who I am. Humility and the fear of the Lord. I don't get that impression with him. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't get that impression."

And yet Carson recently endorsed Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. Go figure.

When the International Business Times reported on Trump's religious sincerity, it reminded people Trump “has had a series of high-profile divorces, wastes no opportunity to boast about his wealth and has been the subject of scrutiny from the likes of the National Review, which has published pieces uncovering his 'surprisingly progressive past.'”

Sarah Posner, journalist and author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, believes Trump is “unabashedly ignorant of the biblical imperatives that form the foundation of evangelical culture and politics."

Posner concludes:

That Mr. Trump is a Presbyterian and not evangelical is not the issue. It’s that he doesn’t pretend to understand evangelicalism, or even his own mainline Protestantism, failures that would have been, in recent elections, disqualifiers for evangelical Republican voters...

Six months ago, the conventional wisdom was that these religious freedom issues — such as religious exemptions for employers from providing insurance coverage for contraception or exemptions from providing catering or photography services to same-sex couples — would form the core of a Republican candidate’s appeal to evangelicals, alongside opposition to abortion and federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Mr. Trump doesn’t even pay lip service to them.

Mr. Trump’s standing among evangelicals shows just how little those issues matter to a good many erstwhile culture warriors, at least when picking a president. If he turns out to be their standard-bearer, this once-cohesive movement will have to spend this election season asking itself what it really means.” 

(Sarah Posner. “Donald Trump Divides God’s Voters.”  
The New York Times. January 28, 2016.)


How about other religious groups voting for Trump? When asked by a reporter, "Can a good Catholic vote for this man?" Pope Francis responded by saying, "Thank God he said I was a politician because Aristotle defined the human person as 'animal politicus.' So at least I am a human person. As to whether I am a pawn -- well, maybe, I don't know. I'll leave that up to your judgment and that of the people." 
The Pope continued: "And then, a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt." 
(Meghan Keneally. “Pope Francis Says Donald Trump Is 'Not Christian.'” 
ABC News. February 18, 2016.)

Although the Republican Party seeks the evangelical vote and many Christians have spoken out in support of Donald Trump, a fracture within the party and within the faithful threatens to decrease Trump's religious base. I think this division is largely due to Trump's methods of defense in the face of attack -- his outspoken name-calling tactics and his vile resistance to any opposition. It this Christian behavior?

Call it “boldness” or call it “brutal honesty” or simply call it “unabashed ignorance” – it is absolutely Trump's stock and trade. The “great deal-maker,” as he calls himself, constantly opens his mouth, sticks both feet in, and requires a great deal more than a “little wine” in communion to atone for those recurring sins. 

In fact, I think Donald Trump needs to be on every one of those evangelical prayer chains if he is ever going to be converted to Presidential material. I guess evangelicals will always pray for lost souls and lofty egotists, especially if they are Republicans.

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