Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Echidne on Right-Wing Christianity and Politics

I wrote about Ross Douthat's sermon on religion to liberals last April.  In this post I want to understand better why over eighty percent of white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump last November:

Exit polls show white evangelical voters voted in high numbers for Donald Trump, 80-16 percent, according to exit poll results. That’s the most they have voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 2004, when they overwhelmingly chose President George W. Bush by a margin of 78-21 percent. Their support for Trump will likely be seen as part of the reason the GOP candidate performed unexpectedly well in Tuesday’s election, according to Five Thirty Eight.
White evangelicals are the religious group that most identifies with the Republican Party, and 76 percent of them say they are or lean Republican, according to a 2014 survey. As a group, white evangelicals make up one-fifth of all registered voters and about one-third of all voters who identify with or lean toward the GOP.
The obvious answer to my question is that white Evangelicals overwhelmingly identify with the Republican Party.  But why is that the case?  Most of the sayings of Jesus appear to directly contradict the Republican platform, after all.

A more detailed answer might also tell us why Hillary Clinton seems to be especially disliked by white Evangelicals, why they voted for a heathen womanizer who probably only goes to church when the cameras are present, rather than for the woman who actually is religious.

So let's try this one:

Evangelical support for Trump, a thrice-married, casino-building businessman, was puzzling to some. For instance, leaders like Focus on the Family founder James Dobson who has long opposed gambling, ended up supporting him once he became the GOP Party nominee. Clinton is a churchgoing United Methodist who taught Sunday school and, as a senator, attended weekly prayer breakfasts.
Trump’s support from evangelicals could be explained at least in part by their deep dislike for Clinton. According to a Post-ABC poll in October, 70 percent of white evangelicals held an unfavorable view of Clinton, compared with 55 percent of the public overall who say the same thing.
Clinton has symbolized much of what evangelicals have tended to oppose, including abortion rights advocacy and feminism. As first lady, she is tied to conservative Christian loss of culture war battles during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Bolds are mine.  I find the importance of opposition to abortion by the right-wing Christians interesting, because the Bible doesn't say anything at all about abortion*.  Yet two interviewed leaders of white and Latinx Evangelical in this article were both very much focused on two issues:  the banning of abortion and support for the state of Israel.**

Others have argued that white Evangelicals, in particular, love Trump because he is Trump:

But Trump and his evangelical supporters think alike in more ways than people realize. Fundamentalist approaches to evangelicalism have long fostered anti-intellectual, anti-rational, black-and-white, and authoritarian mindsets—the very traits that define Trump.

Whichever of those explanations one prefers, it's hard not to wonder if those white (and Latinx) Evangelicals who voted for Trump didn't make a pact with the Christian Devil.  Or if they never read this in their presumed holy book:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whitewashed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

Heh.  That's a bit strong, right?  But despite my severe criticism of various types of fundamentalists on this blog, over many years, I have always on some level assumed that those believers take their religious views seriously, that they walk their talk, and that both the walk and the talk are based on the holy books they tell me they follow.

When the exact reverse seems to have happened, when the votes seem more based on tribal, patriarchal and financial considerations,  but are explained as religious ones, well, it's difficult not to think of whitewashed sepulchers.


*  Which suggests to me that the link between the dislike of abortions and the dislike of equal rights for women may be closer than is usually admitted.

**  To explain that support, see here.