Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"The Donald Took Evangelicals to a Very High, Huge, Really, Just the Best Vantage Point on Trump Tower and Showed Them All the Riches": Commentary on the Wreckage That is White American Christianity After Trump

The following is valuable commentary I've seen in the past several days about the continued very strong support of white evangelical leaders and white evangelicals in general for Donald Trump, after the revelations about him last week — and commentary about fault lines beginning to run through the white evangelical community due to Trump. There's also a bit of commentary about the U.S. Catholic bishops, who long since made common cause with white evangelicals in their culture wars to make America a more moral nation, of whom one (Samuel Aquila of Denver, successor to culture-war archbishop Charles Chaput of Boston) endorsed Donald Trump last week:

Andy Crouch addresses his (white) evangelical community:

Enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord.

John Fea publishes a 1998 letter written by powerful evangelical king-maker James Dobson of Focus on the Family informing (white) evangelicals that character DOES matter in the most absolute way possible, as we choose a political candidate:

As it turns out, character DOES matter. You can't run a family, let alone a country, without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world! Nevertheless, our people continue to say that the President is doing a good job even if they don’t respect him personally. Those two positions are fundamentally incompatible. In the Book of James the question is posed, "Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring" (James 3:11 NIV). The answer is no (original is in boldface).

Or it mattered in 1998, that is. But not now. It mattered when Bill Clinton was the man judged to lack honesty and moral integrity. Now, Dobson is perfectly copasetic with the Donald — even after those filthy tapes have reminded the whole world about who the Donald is and what kind of character he has. And how Dobson expects anyone ever again to take him seriously as a man of God after this is beyond me to understand.

In 2014, Michele Bachmann signed a "Marriage Vow" stating that "faithful monogamy is at the very heart of a designed and purposeful order – as conveyed by Jewish and Christian Scripture, by Classical Philosophers, by Natural Law, and by the American Founders – upon which our concepts of Creator-endowed human rights, racial justice and gender equality all depend." The vow signed by Bachmann goes on to say, 

Our exceptional and free society simply cannot endure without the transmission of personal virtue, from one generation to the next, by means of nurturing, nuclear families comprised of sexually-faithful husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. We acknowledge and regret the widespread hypocrisy of many who defend marriage yet turn a blind eye toward the epidemic of infidelity and the anemic condition of marriages in their own communities.

That was 2014. But something must have changed in Ms. Bachmann's understanding of marriage and moral values in two years, since she now defends Donald Trump, God help us all, after the whole world knows he has boasted about sexual assault of women to whom he is not married and about breaking his own marriage vow. Bachmann dismisses Trump's statements as mere "bad-boy talk."

Mark Silk writes:

As scores of Republican politicians recoil in real or feigned disgust at Donald Trump's Access Hollywood tape, his evangelical helpmeets are standing by their man. 
Thus far, the only Trump Evangelical Advisory Board member who's bailed is theologian Wayne Grudem, who (as my colleague Tobin Grant demonstrates) deserves this year’s Vicar of Bray Award for his flip-flops on the Donald.

John Wright says:

Despite the bombshell 2005 video that surfaced Friday in which he condoned adultery and sexual assault, some notoriously anti-LGBT evangelical leaders are standing behind GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.  
They include the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Ralph Reed, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas, and "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson. 

Sean Hannity states in Trump's defense (by way of Angelo Carusone and Ariel Edwards-Levy):

King David had 500 concubines, for crying out loud!

Sarah Pulliam Bailey cites an email from a member of Trump's Evangelical Advisory Board, James MacDonald, published by Ed Stetzer:

Mr. Trump's comments released yesterday—though 10 years ago (he was 60)—are not just sophomoric or locker room banter. They are truly the kind of misogynistic trash that reveals a man to be lecherous and worthless—not the guy who gets politely ignored, but the guy who gets a punch in the head from worthy men who hear him talk that way about women.

Faithful America calls for Franklin Graham to resign from the board of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as he continues to defend Donald Trump, from whom is organization has taken a handsome subvention.

John Pavlovitz indicates:

Dear Women, 
You don’t matter to the men of the Christian Right. 
If you haven't learned that by now, listening to high-profile Evangelists and preachers rush to defend Donald Trump’s reprehensible comments regarding women, his attitude toward them, and his conduct around them—I hope you finally get it. 
They have contempt for you.

Joshua DuBois quotes white evangelical leader Beth Moore:

"I'm one among many women sexually abused, misused, stared down, heckled, talked naughty to. Like we liked it. We didn’t. We’re tired of it," Moore said. She also had a word about evangelical leaders still supporting Trump: "Try to absorb how acceptable the disesteem and objectifying of women has been when some Christian leaders don’t think it's that big a deal." 
Moore's broken silence about the 2016 race—rooted in her own experience with sexual assault—signals a widening gender divide between evangelicals. Increasingly, moderate and conservative Christian women are speaking out about Trump’s brand of misogyny and divisiveness, and condemning support for the nominee or silence about him from male evangelicals.

George Will maintains:

Trump is a marvelously efficient acid bath, stripping away his supporters' surfaces, exposing their skeletal essences. Consider Mike Pence, a favorite of what Republicans devoutly praise as America’s "faith community." Some of its representatives, their crucifixes glittering in the television lights, are still earnestly explaining the urgency of giving to Trump, who agreed that his daughter is "a piece of ass," the task of improving America's coarsened culture. 
Because Pence looks relatively presidential when standing next to Trump — talk about defining adequacy down — some Republicans want Trump to slink away, allowing Pence to float to the top of the ticket and represent Republicanism resurrected. This idea ignores a pertinent point: Pence is standing next to Trump.

Paul Harvey explains:

To see how his fellow evangelicals are handling the revelations of the Trump tapes, he tuned in on Facebook to discussions on the pages of people with whom he grew up in an all-white, deeply evangelical county in northwest Oklahoma that is heavily in support of Trump. They're standing by their man, he finds. His county has shifted from all-white in his boyhood to a more diverse place due to immigration, and Trump supporters with whom he grew up are as mad as hell. The world they thought they controlled is slipping out of their hands. They're willing to excuse anything at all that Trump does, as long as he and Pence feed their anger — even while they profess that they're acting out of the best of "Christian" motives.

All they hear on that tape are peccadilloes, they say, and in any case, Trump is now a baby Christian. Plus (and above all), there's that devil Killary to stop, isn't there? As Harvey writes,

It's interesting to see what else does not fit into the "hierarchy of concerns" [of these white evangelicals among whom he grew up]. Racist attacks on immigrants and people of color—not on the list. Same with Twitter wars with Gold Star Mothers. Peddling birther lies years after they were disproved—nope. Calling for the execution of the Central Park Five, and continuing to demand their punishment even after their DNA-based acquittal—crickets. Insane 3 a.m. tweets because he’s mad at a former Miss Universe—chuckles. You can fill in the rest of the very long list.

Russell Moore lets them have it:

This year, religious conservatism stands naked and exposed before the world, while Trump smugly surveys what he has come to own. . . . 
What's at stake here is far more than an election. In the 1980s, many evangelicals quietly cringed when they saw the endless stream of hucksters called "television evangelists" on the airwaves around them. These figures cried on cue, sold their protein shakes and end-times emergency food packets, and peddled 'anointed' prayer cloths in exchange for donations, all while explaining to us what political point God was making with natural disasters. When one after another fell into open scandal, it wasn’t just their prosperity gospel voodoo that was disgraced before the world, but the reputation of the entire church. And yet the damage done to gospel witness this year will take longer to recover from than those 1980s televangelist scandals. 
These evangelical leaders have said that, for the sake of the "lesser of two evils," one should stand with someone who not only characterizes sexual decadence and misogyny, brokers in cruelty and nativism, and displays a crazed public and private temperament — but who glories in these things. Some of the very people who warned us about moral relativism and situational ethics now ask us to become moral relativists for the sake of an election. And when some dissent, they are labeled as liberals or accused of moral preening or sitting comfortably on the sidelines. The cynicism and nihilism is horrifying to behold. It is not new, but it is clearer to see than ever.

And David Cay Johnston also lets them have it:

How did the party that says it is for family values make such a vile old man its standard bearer? Why do so many leading Republicans stay with him or, gingerly, distanced themselves only after this latest revelation? How can any pastor endorse him, much less praise him as "a fine Christian man" and "unwavering in his commitment" to Christian concerns? . . . 
How can Pence not recognize that the man he embraces – and lies for, asserting Trump never said things that recordings show he did – espouses a philosophy that is aggressively anti-Christian. Jesus said to love everyone, even your enemies. Trump spews hatred against Mexicans ("they’re killers and rapists") Muslims, Chinese, African Americans ("the blacks") and he has been found in official proceedings to have discriminated against Asians, blacks, Puerto Ricans, and women. 
Trump does this because as a world-class narcissist, and the son of a bigot arrested in a 1927 pitched battle by KKK members and supporters against New York City's finest, he perceives others not as human beings but objects. Trump so much loves money over people that he has complained about how much it cost him to have access to one of his second wife's body parts.

Paul Matzko says brilliantly and mockingly (by way of John Fea):

Again, the Donald took evangelicals to a very high, huge, really, just the best vantage point on Trump Tower and showed them all the riches of Wall Street and the fame of being a celebrity; and he said to them, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and vote for me."
Then evangelicals said to him, "Yes, Donald! For it is written, 'The Lord helps those who help themselves so long as there is a Supreme Court nomination and the end of the Johnson Amendment involved.' " Then the Donald left; and behold, the alt-Right came and began to minister to Him (original is italics).

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