Conservative Rod Dreher‘s latest op-ed in the New York Times makes a fair point that evangelical Christians are in an unholy alliance with Donald Trump.
He even asks, rhetorically, “Is there anything Donald Trump can do to alienate evangelicals and other conservative Christians who support him?”
I can answer that (non-rhetorically).
If racism, xenophobia, sexual assault, lies, multiple marriages, and his obvious pandering to evangelicals for the sole purpose of keeping them on his side haven’t done the trick, I doubt anything will… Unless Trump accidentally says women should have control over their own bodies. That’s probably a deal-breaker.
What’s especially troubling about Dreher’s piece, though, is that he only cares about Trump in as much as it means bad news for Christianity, which is already in decline. He’s not angry at Trump for all the reasons he should be angry at Trump. He just wants Christian leaders to know that aligning with this President isn’t helping them.
The truth is, Christianity is declining in the United States. As a theologically conservative believer, I take no pleasure in saying that. In fact, the waning of Christianity will be not only a catastrophe for the church but also a calamity for civil society in ways secular Americans do not appreciate.
Too many of us are doubling down on the failed strategies that not only have failed to convert Americans but have also done little to halt the assimilation of Christians to secular norms and beliefs. Mr. Trump is not a solution to this cultural crisis, but rather a symptom of it.
How is it the “waning of Christianity” a “calamity for civil society”? Good luck figuring that out since Dreher never says. But if Christian influence declined, what exactly would we be missing? Homophobia? The whiff of moral superiority? College students who still don’t understand basic science? D list celebrities starring in horrible movies? There’s really nothing good we get from Christianity that a secular alternative couldn’t do equally as well given the same amount of money, organization, and resources.
Anyway. What exactly are his concerns with modern Christianity? He lists two things that keep him up at night: The rise of religious “Nones” and the fact that many Christians really practice a sort of cherry-picked, I-just-want-the-good-stuff religion — Dreher literally says they have a goal of being “happy and feeling good about oneself” as if that’s a horrible idea. (He also ignores the reality that many of us ditched religion because we realized it’s just not true.)
Again, I have no clue where the problem is. All of that sounds great. Christians lost their claim on the moral high ground a long time ago. So if they’re in decline, it’s better for everyone.
I want to bring up two other minor points. When blasting evangelicals for their loyalty to Trump, Dreher writes:
Is there anything Donald Trump can do to alienate evangelicals and other conservative Christians who support him? By now, it’s hard to think of what that might be. These are people who would never let men with the morals and the mouths of Mr. Trump and Mr. Scaramucci date their own daughters. And yet, Team Trump has no more slavishly loyal constituency.
What a strange way to make that point. Trump is so immoral! And that should infuriate you men who tell your daughters which boys they’re allowed to date! Dreher can’t even talk about self-respect without a dose of sexism.
He also says that there’s nothing wrong with Christians getting involved in political issues, even though cooperating with Trump is a bad idea. Then, in an aside, he adds: “if you disagree, take it up with the abolitionists and the civil rights movement.”
Dreher seems to forget that slave-owners had Bibles, too. And while Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who fought (and continue to fight) racial injustice were Christian, if I took you to a gathering of White supremacists and asked them for their religious affiliations, we all know damn well what the vast majority would say.
Plus, when it comes to LGBTQ civil rights, we know that evangelical Christians — Rod Dreher’s fans — are on the side of the oppressors.
Perhaps there’s an argument to be made that Christianity used to be a force for good, but that day has long passed. The most vocal Christians, the ones who have the most followers, tend to use that power to hurt other people. Throwing themselves in Trump’s camp is only the latest bad decision for a group of people who keep making them.
Dreher seems to think that by criticizing his own tribe for Trump, he can put himself above the fray, but he’s right in there with conservative Christians on so many other issues.
He’s like Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who recently wrote an essay slamming Trump and Trumpism in his party. It’s tempting to give him credit for finally getting it right… until you realize he’s enabling the very sort of behavior he’s decrying.
You don’t get to criticize your own party when your beliefs fall right in line with the platform.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Matt for the link)