Thursday, January 19, 2017

Trump and Militant Evangelical "Masculinity"

A friend sent me a link to a piece in Religion & Politics that may help explain why 81% of evangelical Christians voted for a man who is the antithesis of what true Christian values should be. Indeed, it looks at the sickness that has overtaken conservative Christianity in general and created a reality where hatred of others and fear of anyone different - the "other " if you will - has supplanted any message of love and kindness. Oh yes, we hear the self-congratulatory, falsely pious "godly folk" talk about "love" of others, but when their actions and rhetoric are examined, it is almost invisible in practice. Instead of being a force for good - I have my doubts if Christianity has actually ever been truly a force for good - conservative Christianity has become one of the great evils in the world today. Only fundamentalist Islam is a greater evil given its adherents willingness to use murder and physical violence.   Yet both fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Islam at their core have hatred of others at their core and a bizarre view of masculinity.  Here are article highlights:
Yes, there were Supreme Court appointments and fears about religious freedom to consider, and a longstanding alliance with the Republican Party to contend with. But even so, how could the self-professed “Moral Majority” embrace a candidate who seemed to flaunt his own cruelty?
The truth is, many evangelicals long ago replaced the suffering servant of Christ with an image that more closely resembles Donald Trump than many would care to admit. They’ve traded a faith that privileges humility and elevates the least of these for one that derides gentleness as the province of wusses. Having replaced the Jesus of the gospels with an idol of machismo, it’s no wonder many have come to think of Trump himself as the nation’s savior.
Indeed, white evangelical support for Trump can be seen as the culmination of a decades-long embrace of militant masculinity, a masculinity that has enshrined patriarchal authority, condoned a callous display of power at home and abroad, and functioned as a linchpin in the political and social worldviews of conservative white evangelicals. In the end, many evangelicals did not vote for Trump despite their beliefs, but because of them.
 THE ROOTS OF THIS ideology can be traced back to the 1970s, a decade in which evangelicals began to stake a new claim on politics and culture. As they mobilized around “family values” issues, defining masculinity and femininity was central to their task. James Dobson was one of the earliest and most influential proponents of this effort.  . . . . To wit, men like to “hunt and fish and hike in the wilderness”; women prefer to “stay at home and wait for them.” More significantly, “men derive self-esteem by being respected; women feel worthy when they are loved.”
He saw this as a crisis of gender, but also as a threat to national security. For the sake of the nation, a “call to arms” was needed, a reassertion of the “Judeo-Christian concept of masculinity” in the face of feminists’ “concerted attack on ‘maleness.’”
To understand how changing gender roles could imperil the nation, the politicization of evangelical Christianity must be placed in the context of Cold War politics, and against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.
Evangelicals staunchly opposed communism, and their reasons for doing so were many: communists were anti-American, anti-God, and they threatened God-given rights and the integrity of the family. A strong military was necessary to ward off the communist peril, and strong men were essential to a strong military.
But the rising generation caused reason for concern. Young men sporting long hair and flowered shirts dodged the draft, shunned authority, and shirked their duty to protect America from the threat of global communism. The Vietnam era would emerge as a pivotal moment in the relationship between American evangelicals and the U.S. military. . . . . evangelicals who supported U.S. military action in Vietnam came to hold the military itself in high (and often uncritical) esteem.
Evangelicals like Dobson responded with a clarion call to turn back the tide of impending chaos by reasserting moral absolutes and reestablishing a “Christian civilization.” Defining and defending distinct gender roles was at the heart of this effort, providing conservative evangelicals a clear identity against secularists, feminists, and other liberals.
Reflecting the unsettled times, Promise Keepers called for a new Christian masculinity, an alternative both to the “softer,” modern version they found lacking, and to the “macho” version they feared had become outmoded. Their solution: the archetype of the “Tender Warrior.”
Authors like Steve Farrar, Gordon Dalbey, and Stu Weber—all white evangelical men—pioneered this “Tender Warrior” motif. Significantly, all three looked to Vietnam for the source of masculine identity. . . . In words that would echo through the movement, Weber insisted that God himself was unmistakably “the Warrior of both testaments.” Forget “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”—Jesus was “the ultimate man.”
WITH DEMOCRATIC President Bill Clinton sending the military on “emasculating” peacekeeping missions, and with debates raging about women in combat and gays in the military, the crisis only deepened. Before long a new slate of books on evangelical masculinity appeared, offering instructions on how to raise properly masculine sons in a “feminized” culture. Abandoning any lip service to “tenderness,” these books championed an unabashedly aggressive, testosterone-driven masculinity. In 2001 Dobson himself joined the growing outcry against a “war against boys” in America. In his Bringing up Boys he again he criticized a “small but noisy band of feminists” who attacked “the very essence of masculinity.” He derided “feminists and other social liberals” who wanted to make boys more like girls, and men more like women—“feminized, emasculated, and wimpified.” Bringing up Boys found a receptive audience, quickly selling more than a million copies.
 Also in 2001, Douglas Wilson’s Future Men insisted that boys must be raised to be warriors. Central to Wilson’s “definition of masculinity” was the concept of dominion . . . Women’s role was a passive one: women yearned to be fought for. They possessed something “wild at heart,” but it was “feminine to the core, more seductive than fierce.” . . . . Aggression was “part of the masculine design”; men were “hardwired for it.” Attempts to pacify men only emasculated them: “If you want a safer, quieter animal, there’s an easy solution: castrate him.” Yes, “a man is a dangerous thing,” he wrote, but the very strength that made men dangerous also made them heroes.
 It is not difficult to imagine how evangelicals, steeped in literature claiming that men were created in the image of a warrior God, might be receptive to sentiments like those expressed by the late Jerry Falwell, in his 2004 sermon “God is Pro-War.” In fact, surveys demonstrate that traditionalist evangelicals are more likely than other Americans to approve of U.S. engagement in a preemptive war, support military action against terrorism, and condone the use of torture.
This brand of militant masculinity also helps explain the lack of outrage on the part of many evangelicals when it comes to Trump’s character issues.  Ominously, though, there is a fine line between merely speaking of brute force and enacting violence. Less than a month after the election, a 28-year-old white man shot up a D.C. pizzeria with a military-style assault rifle. He said he was in search of a child sex slave ring linked to Hillary Clinton, which turned out to be a hoax generated by fake news reports. Chillingly, he cited one of his favorite books, Wild at Heart, in a post-arrest interview with The New York Times.
 What makes a strong leader? A virile (white) man. And what of his vulgarity? Infidelity? Bombast? Even sexual assault? Well, boys will be boys.
 Trump appeared at a moment when evangelicals feel increasingly beleaguered, even persecuted. Issues related to gender—from the cultural sea change on gay marriage to transgender bathroom laws to the Hyde Amendment and the contraceptive mandate—are at the center of their perceived victimization. The threat of terrorism looms large, American power isn’t what it used to be, and nearly two-thirds of white evangelicals harbor fears that a once-powerful nation has become “too soft and feminine.”
In Donald Trump, they have found the leader they have been looking for.
In my view, these people are mentally disturbed and pose a clear and present danger to America and the world. Frighteningly, Trump has nominated many such religious extremist to his cabinet.  The truth is that these are not nice and decent people.  They harbor a sickness and hate filled core that needs to be eliminated.

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