If you believe they were telling the truth about their supposed values, then their support for him has to be the epitome of hypocrisy. Trump clearly sees the Bible as a strategic tool and nothing else. His corruption is breathtaking. He has caused more death, through his incompetence and neglect, than anyone thought imaginable. His racism is overt. Cruelty seems to be his only guiding light. There’s nothing Jesus-like about him.
But if you understand that white evangelicals have never cared about those values, and that using religion to acquire political power has always been their end game — and they’ve been doing this over and over for decades, changing their values to suit the times (like fighting for segregation to fighting against abortion rights when the former became untenable) — then their support for a modern American dictator makes perfect sense.
They support Trump because he really does represent everything they want: Power with no regard for the consequences.
In a front-page story in today’s New York Times, Elizabeth Dias dives into whether evangelical support for Trump is hypocritical, transactional, or something else entirely.
She comes to this conclusion:
Evangelicals did not support Mr. Trump in spite of who he is. They supported him because of who he is, and because of who they are. He is their protector, the bully who is on their side, the one who offered safety amid their fears that their country as they know it, and their place in it, is changing, and changing quickly. White straight married couples with children who go to church regularly are no longer the American mainstream. An entire way of life, one in which their values were dominant, could be headed for extinction. And Mr. Trump offered to restore them to power, as though they have not been in power all along.
I would phrase that differently: White evangelicals have always lied to themselves about being persecuted. Trump gives them a chance to be the persecutors. They don’t want religious freedom. They want religious supremacy. Trump gives it to them. And if a bunch of people have to die or suffer because of Trump’s malice, those evangelicals don’t give a damn.
That’s what Christianity has come to represent in the age of Trump: The people who constantly claim to be morally superior would rather have the trophy than earn the title.
You know what would happen to Christians if Joe Biden win the election? Nothing. They would still be able to worship, promote their beliefs, have access to the same resources as everyone else. But they’re not interested in equality, so they treat it as persecution.
At one point in the article, someone says of Trump, “I’m not going to say he’s a Christian, but he just doesn’t attack us.”
Barack Obama didn’t attack Christians. Biden doesn’t attack Christians. Democrats, as a whole, don’t attack Christians, in part because most of them are Christians. But when your pastors tell you, constantly, that the world is out to get you, we shouldn’t be surprised when people believe they’re victims.
If these Christians think they’re powerless, how the hell do they think the rest of us feel?
Another person in the piece says, after Obama’s election, “we were viewed as bigots, as racists — we were labeled as the haters and the ones who are causing all the derision and all of the problems in America.”
They didn’t cause all the problems, and no one ever said they did. But they’re viewed as bigots and racists because they are bigots and racists. They oppose civil rights for LGBTQ people — which has nothing to do with their private religious beliefs — and even today they treat Black Lives Matter protesters as part of some Marxist cabal.
Don’t complain if the description fits. More to the point, don’t complain when the reason that stereotype spreads is because people constantly quote Christian leaders verbatim and expose their beliefs through video clips and screenshots. (As someone who’s been blogging about this stuff for more than a decade, it’s safe to say this site wouldn’t exist without evangelical Christians constantly providing material.)
Ultimately, a lot of these people will vote for Trump because they’re unable to see the world except through a lens of Christian persecution. If a minority group is struggling, and people can’t feed their families, and strangers are dying — all because of what Republicans in power do — we can’t rely on evangelicals to do anything about it.
They have all the power in the world, and they’re using it to keep themselves in power, not to make anyone else’s lives better.
That tells you everything you need to know about their moral bankruptcy. They worship Trump and convince themselves they care about Jesus. If they lie to themselves, why would we expect them to care when Trump lies to them?
(Image via Shutterstock)