Wednesday, May 18, 2016

More on the Claim That Religious Right Is Waning, as Evidence Mounts of Massive White Evangelical Support for Donald Trump

Two days ago, I posted commentary expressing my own strong reservations about the argument — often pushed by liberal-centrist political commentators — that the religious right and its culture wars are waning in the U.S. political sphere. Here's Rob Boston today at Talk to Action making a similar point: 

Every few years, a political pundit comes along and proclaims that the Religious Right is dead or on the verge of dying. I started working at Americans United in 1987 and have heard it proclaimed many times over nearly three decades. 
The latest theory goes like this: Donald Trump is such a divisive figure that he has split the Religious Right. The movement won't recover from his candidacy. 
I disagree. From where I'm sitting, it looks like the Religious Right is lining up behind Trump. Some groups and leaders may not be happy about it, but the thought of Hillary Clinton, whom they loathe, occupying the White House has sealed right-wing evangelicals' fealty to the real estate mogul and reality TV figure.

And as Rob notes this, Paul Harvey reminds us once again (at Religion Dispatches) just who's jumping on Train Trump — evangelicals (white and especially Southern) ones are:

[Russell] Moore and other evangelical (and Mormon) critics have been taken as a sign that Trump will make limited headway in getting out a vote that is essential for any Republican candidate, Christian conservatives. 
But the counter-evidence has been mounting for a while. Trump's easy cruise through many Deep South state primaries (excluding Cruz country in Texas and Oklahoma) couldn't have happened without reaching into some portion of the white southern Christian vote; it just wasn't mathematically possible otherwise.

The importance of the religious right (white evangelical, conservative white Catholic) vote to Donald Trump's campaign is reflected in the insistence of RNC leader Reince Priebus — dripping with irony, when one remembers how Republican and religious right leaders dealt with Bill Clinton's marital infidelities — that real Christians just don't judge others. Others like Mr. Trump, that is . . . .

Billy Graham's children Franklin and Anne "God Sends Terror Attacks" Lotz have both announced that they're copaseptic copasetic* with Donald Trump despite his, well, rather abundantly-documented lapses in the area of morality and his rather well-demonstrated lack of any coherent connection with evangelical values. Some commentators profess shock that the children of a man they see as much more moderate and more traditionally evangelical could be making this — support for Donald Trump — out of evangelical beliefs and values. But for my money, Fred Clark is right on target when he notes today at his Slacktivist blog: 

In our view [i.e., Fred's and Randall Balmer's], [Billy] Graham helped create a public space that was hospitable to the anti-feminist, anti-civil-rights, anti-gay, anti-poor viciousness of the religious right. That suggests that there was something about Graham's gospel theology that was able to accommodate such oppressive hatefulness or, at best, that there was nothing in Graham's gospel theology that was explicitly opposed to it.

As someone who grew up in one of the most conservative white evangelical churches of the American South — the Southern Baptist church — and who knows white Southern evangelical culture inside out, I find that the media's pretense for years now that the religious right, and Southern white evangelicals, are really about religion and not politics is now wearing transparently thin, as right-wing evangelicals (and right-wing Catholics) fall all over themselves to jump onto the Trump train with the man who cannot quote a bible verse without stumbling, who has exulted in his many affairs and adulteries, who has had a series of wives, whose business practices are completely antithetical to everything Christianity stands for, who was pro-abortion before he became anti-abortion during this campaign cycle, who is an out and out racist, misogynist, and xenophobe.

Why do right-wing Christians want this, media gurus keep asking, scratching their heads? What they should be asking is why they have ever thought right-wing American Christians were principled people in the first place, people who believed strongly in anything other than American exceptionalism and the right of white evangelicals and Catholics to control the behavior of those they choose to target in the name of their twisted morality and inverted reading of the Christian gospels.

* Rolando and Cleveland Girl have made me realize I misspelled this word when I first posted this piece. Both readers have been too kind to point this out to me directly, but I now realize from their comments that this is the case, and have corrected my mistake — with thanks to Rolando and CG.

As you'll see if you click on the video at the head of the posting, Samantha Bee's analysis of the religious right is from her TBS program "Full Frontal."

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