If you were asked, off the top of your head, to come up with a list of potential reasons for the rise of Donald Trump, what would you say?
You might start with things like (in no particular order) general political dissatisfaction, racism, xenophobia, “Islamophobia,” anger toward President Obama, etc. You may note that some people seem to perceive a disregard for civility as strength; that people perceive his “speak-first-think-later” tendency as openness and honesty; that his carefully crafted tough-no-nonsense-businessman image resonates with those who have spent the last seven years ranting about mom jeans.
But if you asked the Ted Cruz-endorsing Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert? Well, you don’t need a list for that. Gohmert’s answer is as simple as it is steeped in fantasy. As Gohmert explained to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, people are embracing a king-like narcissist because they’re sick of Christians being persecuted by a king-like narcissist in America.
I understand where so many believers, so many Christians have been in the past seven years, we now are experiencing something I never thought I would experience in my life, I never experienced it growing up and it’s what Jesus promised us would happen, and that is, ‘You will be persecuted for my sake.’ I never got persecuted growing up in Texas and I bet you didn’t in Louisiana, but we’re being persecuted now, Christians are being persecuted here for our religious beliefs and I think people are so sick of the nation being fundamentally transformed away from being a Christian nation.
You know, it kind of reminds me maybe of the children of Israel. They had not been as faithful to God as they should have and things weren’t going like they wanted so they said, ‘God, give us a king and he can fix all this,’ and God said, ‘That’s not what’s going to fix it and it’s not a good idea.’ But I get the feeling people are thinking, if we can just have somebody that is as narcissistic and self-centered and will stand up to anybody as Obama is, then that person can go back and fix it. That’s a problem.
If Gohmert had invoked the power of Sauron, or the name of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, his explanation could not have been rooted any more firmly in fantasy. We live, after all, in a country so influenced by fundamentalist Christian thinking that one of the most persistent, effective attacks against our current president was to suggest he was not a Christian. We live in a country where conservative Christian belief largely dictates what kind of healthcare is available to women, what rights LGBT people have, etc.
As with the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage, Christians have, slowly but surely, been losing that power; that, I suppose, is what Gohmert means by “persecution.” But that’s a power that, constitutionally, Christians were never meant to have; it’s a power no religious group was meant to have. It’s a power the Religious Right usurped for themselves, to dictate the rights of other people’s lives based on their personal beliefs. But losing something that was never really yours in the first place isn’t persecution.
The law and courts are just now recognizing that the Constitution protects the rights of non-Christians, too. Or, as the Gohmerts of the world see it, it’s time for back-to-back showings at the local coliseum of Imperial King Dictator Obama presents: Hungry Lions Eat Local Christians.