Monday, May 09, 2016

Evangelicals Feign Dismay at Trump's Gathering of "Religious" Supporters

One of the big ironies of the 2016 election cycle - unless one has followed the self-styled "godly folk" and fundamentalist Christian organizations over the years - is how evangelical Christians are now whining over the fact that so many of their brethren are now supporting Donald Trump.  One need not search the websites of many "Christian" and "family values" groups to see that Trump's message of contempt for others who are different, open racism and nativism are all threads of what these groups have been preaching for many years.  Seemingly, up until now few in the mainstream media have ever bothered to look at what these groups have always been all about even as they gave a platform to hate merchants like Tony Perkins and other leaders of "Christian" groups.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the crocodile tears of evangelicals who in Trump have largely found the leader they have always wanted.  Trump's only disappointment is that he doesn't call for a formal theocracy.  Here are article highlights:
Fuller and other conservatives whose voting decisions are guided by their Christian faith find themselves dismayed and adrift now that Trump has wrested control of the Republican Party. It is a sentiment that reaches from the small, aluminum-sided church with a large white cross on its front that Fuller and his wife built on the Nebraska plains to the highest levels of American religious life. Even progressive Christians — evangelicals and Catholics, among others — who don’t necessarily vote Republican are alarmed that Trump is attracting many voters who call themselves religious. A coalition of nearly 60 Christian leaders — many progressive and some conservative — published an open letter last week asking voters of faith to reject Trump and his “vulgar racial and religious demagoguery,” warning that the nation faces a “moral threat” from the candidate.
There is consternation about the hard line Trump takes on immigrants and about the morality of a thrice-married man who has long bragged about his sexual conquests. But another factor is at work as well: The traditional social and cultural positions that drive many religious conservative voters, including same-sex marriage and abortion, have been cast aside by a candidate who seems to have little interest in fighting the culture wars.
In the past, Trump has espoused social views to the left of his party, including a longtime acceptance of gay rights, although he has since moved right on many of them.  . . . . And while he says he is against same-sex marriage, he has attended a same-sex wedding and is opposed to a North Carolina law — aimed at transgender people — that requires people to use bathrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificate. He said transgender activist Caitlyn Jenner could use the women’s room at his properties.
“This year the Republican Party has not just surrendered on the culture wars, they’ve joined the other side. And that’s a unique situation,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Trying to use social issues as primary issues to define a campaign has not borne out as effective for those candidates who embraced it,” said Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, which advocates for conservative gays and lesbians.
But there are voters like Fuller for whom “it’s always about social issues.” He cast ballots for John McCain and Mitt Romney despite not loving their platforms, but he felt they were men of character who would do right by the country. Many at a Baptist conference he attended last week were shaking their heads, he said, unsure about how to handle the upcoming election; supporting Hillary Clinton and her liberal positions seems contrary to everything many of them stand for.
Moore said many evangelicals are “horrified” to have to choose between Trump and Clinton. More conservative evangelicals like Moore are concerned about moral and social issues. Gushee said that progressive ones such as himself and the other letter-signers are worried about the “bigotry, xenophobia and misogyny” they see from Trump.
Despite this, many self-described evangelicals have cast ballots for the brash New Yorker. Trump has captured about a third of the vote of white born-again or evangelical Christians and tends to do well among evangelicals who don’t frequent church. He has also won the endorsement of leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, where Trump spoke this year and where Cruz announced his candidacy in March 2015.
The debate over whether evangelical Christians can support Trump’s candidacy while keeping true to their beliefs “may be shaping the very nature of evangelicalism,” Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today, wrote in March.
Heather Dreesman said thinking about the election in November makes her feel sick to her stomach. She said she now carries a sense of grief that the country is forsaking its values and feels anguish about what will happen. She would like to see a third-party candidate but doesn’t think it’s a real possibility — meaning she probably won’t vote.
“I hate to make this comparison,” she said. “I really do feel like in the future I would hate to look back and say, ‘I voted for Hitler.’ I feel like that may be what is happening if I vote for Trump.”

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