Thursday, March 10, 2016

"Trumpvangelicals" and Trump As Quasi-Evangelical Leader: The Mark Driscoll Comparison

Here are a few links for all of you updating you on the "Trumpvangelical" (the term is Sarah Posner's) discussions we've had here previously, looking at why Donald Trump may be appealing so strongly to white evangelicals. I am borrowing rather shamelessly from Fred Clark's marvelous Slacktivist site yesterday in recommending a number of these articles to you: 

1. At Religion News Service, David Gushee writes

My thesis: They like him just as they like the 'evangelical' Protestant preachers that in some ways he resembles.

And then Gushee offers a list enumerating a number of well-known evangelical preachers to whom, in his view, Trump bears a strong resemblance:

(1) Donald Trump resembles health-and-wealth, prosperity gospel preachers like Creflo Dollar. 
(2) Donald Trump resembles those who create and lead branded, multi-site, personality-driven megachurches or church networks, like Andy Stanley, Rick Warren, and Bill Hybels. 
(3) Donald Trump resembles preacher-evangelist-showmen of various eras, like Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. 
(4) Donald Trump resembles evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll and other leaders like him, in that he is an authoritative hyper-macho guy who just might say something off-color or "politically incorrect" — and who is fun (from a certain perspective) precisely because of that possibility.

2. For New York Times, Katelyn Beaty discusses how Trump's leadership style is compatible with that of many evangelical preachers:

But there are evangelical leaders with whom Trump would feel quite at home. Like him, they are middle-aged men who refuse to submit to basic checks on their power and ego. Like him, the leaders of many "megachurches" are not known for the classic virtues of leadership — wisdom, patience, and humility. Like him, they are often lone charismatic figures who "get things done"— build new structures, attract more followers (and money) and establish a "brand." 
So long as there is growth, many evangelicals hesitate to address clear and troubling signs of egotism and even spiritual abuse.

3. At Religion Dispatches, Jessica Jordan homes in on the comparison between Trump and megachurch star (a now fallen one, but seemingly ascendant again) Mark Driscoll:

While many "Trumpvangelicals" justify their allegiance by stating that they are electing a president not a pastor, it is in fact to a celebrity pastor such as Driscoll that we should look to understand how, rather than why, evangelicals would choose a man who bullies people then refuses to repent and who equates entrepreneurial success with perpetual expansion at all cost, among other behaviors and beliefs shared by Trump and Driscoll that appear to be incompatible with evangelical Christianity. The emotions stoked by Trump’s campaign, such as fear and intimidation, were also exploited and amplified by Driscoll in his vision to create an empire at Mars Hill. 
Yet, as is the case with Trump, Driscoll’s capacity to provoke impassioned responses from his audience can’t be accurately summarized in such ugly terms. For example, Driscoll’s diatribe under the pseudonym William Wallace II against a 'pussified nation" in a discussion forum on the Mars Hill website wasn’t simply an attack on those he considered "pussified James Dobson knock-off crying Promise Keeping homoerotic worship loving mama’s boy sensitive emasculated neutered exact male replica evangellyfish." The forum also provided a platform for attracting publicity and followers. Driscoll’s pugnacious public performances online and in the pulpit weren’t only politically incorrect but generated glee, conviction and hope—the same infectious embodied affects contagiously passed along via the rally cries, raised fists and laughing faces at Trump campaign events.

4. In a Slacktivist posting other than the one to which I point you above, Fred Clark also draws a parallel between Trump and Driscoll ("A Tale of Two Bullies"), noting, 

If you've read this far, then it’s unlikely you need me to try to persuade you one way or the other about how to respond to people like Driscoll and Trump. Either their bullying persona, their misogyny and fragile masculinity, and their thuggish, violent condemnation of supposedly unclean outsiders instinctively appeals to you or else it instinctively repulses you, and nothing I write here is likely to dissuade you from that initial response. 
But that instinct isn't really just instinct. It's the product of training, of education, of practice — what Gushee above calls "moral formation." What all that entails and how that all works is too vast a subject to address here. My point here is that the popularity of Driscoll and the popularity of Trump are glaring warning signs that the institutions, curriculum, and culture that shape our moral formation — that shape us — have gone horribly awry. 
Something is pervasively rotten here. This is not a hole that needs to be patched. This is a load-bearing structure that will have to be torn down and rebuilt anew.

And, of course, where Fred Clark and other commentators spot a bully, Camille Paglia has just now told us she sees a fearless man full of brash energy and refreshing candor. I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a prediction: we're now going to see more and more of this exculpatory rhetoric (the lovely strongman, not a racist bone in his body) as Donald Trump vaults to the top of the political process. And it's going to come from some surprising quarters.

Much of the rhetoric about white working-class anger (in the North as opposed to the South, where such anger remains politically incorrect) fueling the Trump rise to power is, at base, exculpatory. Those employing this rhetoric seldom note that the political actors who have betrayed the white working classes economically are the political actors those same white working-class people have chosen to elect to office over and over from Nixon forward.

Because they chose to listen to the racist dog whistles of the Republican party . . . . And so they have voted repeatedly against their own economic self-interest as the culture-war pills were fed to them (opposition to women's rights, to LGBT rights, etc.) with a heavy coating of delicious sweet racism. They've repeatedly placed in office politicians who are the bought-and-sold possessions of the 1%, who have exploited middle- and working-class Americans for their own advantage, and they've cast their votes to place these politicians in office because they were willing to succumb to the alluring spell of racism.

Perhaps the anger actually is new and heightened in this election cycle. What's decidedly not new is the racist displacement of energy at the base of the anger, which has repeatedly caused white working-class Americans to vote against their own economic self-interest and to blame entirely the wrong people for their economic misfortune. 

None of this deserves exculpation. It needs to be faced and faced honestly. If the election of the first black president has done anything at all for us as a nation, it has held up a mirror to us to show us that racism in America runs far deeper than the ugly, overt racism we've always known is there in the South. It runs everywhere through the country, and it needs to be talked about.

But this is a conversation we do not intend to have as a nation. It's easier to pretend that the racism is isolated, that it's contained in white working-class Southerners who are easy to dismiss because they are quaint, badly educated, and poor. It's easier to talk about white working-class anger instead of white working-class racism, when we're talking about Americans outside the South.

It's easier, in other words, to pretend and to avoid having the game-changing conversation we need to have about these issues as an out and out racist moves to the top of the Republican ticket following two terms in office by the nation's first black president — while a significant proportion of white citizens of the nation, North and South, cheer that Republican candidate on.

I find this graphic used at many sites online, without indicators of its original source (at least, insofar as I have discovered).

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