Saturday, October 15, 2016

Trump and the Religious Right Coalition of White Evangelicals and Conservative Catholics: Commentary Hot Off the Presses

Some resources I'd like to share with you, from my news-gathering in the past several days. These focus on the role that religious groups — especially the religious right (white evangelicals and conservative white Catholics) are playing in the political and moral debates spawned by Donald Trump's candidacy.

In the video at the head of the posting, Robert Jones reprises the findings of his book The End of White Christian America (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2016) and asks, "How do they [i.e., white Christians] reengage in public life when they can't be the majority?"

Steve Benen comments on the moral bankruptcy being exhibited by religious right leaders who continue to back Donald Trump after a week of revelations about his moral character:

The next time there's a major national debate over a moral/cultural issue, and pro-Trump religious right leaders present themselves as standard-bearers for "family values" and traditional theological norms, is there anyone, anywhere, who'll be able to contain their laughter?

Jack Jenkins thinks that Trump has effectively dismantled the religious right coalition:

For decades, it's been widely understood that religious conservatives are a force to be reckoned with in American politics. Millions of evangelical Christian voters — led by dynamic, charismatic leaders of the so-called "Religious Right" — have bent our electoral system to their will, helping propel Republican candidates into the White House on several occasions. Even as their power waned in recent years, political analysts insisted that the era of "values voters" is not yet over, as faith-fueled activists worked to widen their rock-solid networks to include conservative Catholics, Jews, and America’s increasingly influential Mormon population. 
But that was before this week — when Donald Trump effectively forced the Religious Right’s entire political apparatus to collapse in on itself.

Adele Stan is less sanguine about the possibility that the religious right is done for, after Trump:

The Republican nominee simply exposes the movement's true aim: preservation of white patriarchy. . . . The Christian right has always been a white patriarchy identity movement, and Trump is the obvious warrior to take on a feminist candidate poised to become the first woman president of the United States. He may not win, but he will stoke the opposition to her presidency.

As Dana Milbank suggests, the deal that religious right leaders have made with the devil this election cycle strips them bare for all of us to see, exposing the naked political calculation that has been at the very center of their "religious" movement from its inception, and blowing out of the water their claim to represent "traditional morality." They've used that claim for years as a whip to beat gay citizens with, claiming that gay folks represent a threat to the sanctity of "traditional" marriage.

And now they're supporting Donald Trump — quite the exemplar of "traditional" morality and traditional marriage.

President Barack Obama via Allegra Kirkland:

You claim the mantle of the party of family values, and this is the guy you nominate?

 I'm still puzzled that "family values" means blocking the marriages of loving same-sex couples while voting for a sexual predator.

Andrew Prokop interviews GOP strategist Steve Schmidt about how the Republican party is fracturing between a centrist-conservative business faction and a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobic alt-right faction including white Christian conservatives:

The last implication for it [i.e., this fracture] behaviorally is it exposes at such a massive scale and at such magnitude the hypocrisy of the Tony Perkinses and the Jerry Falwell Jrs. and the Pat Robertsons. These people are literally the modern-day Pharisees, they are the money changers in the temple, and they will forever be destroyed from a credibility perspective. 
There are millions of decent, faithful, committed evangelicals in this country who have every right to participate in the political process. But this country doesn’t ever need to hear a lecture from any one of these people again on a values issue, or their denigration of good and decent gay people in this country.

Chris Stroop takes a sharp, instructive look at the conservative white evangelical culture in which he was raised and asks why white evangelicals keep standing by their man Trump when he's the most ludicrous standard-bearer possible for the morality and religion they profess to love so much. Why do white evangelicals stick to Trump even after we know he brags about sexual assault? 

It's about authoritarianism, Chris tells us. Take an overweening "desire for order and fear of outsiders," mix well with a Providentialist-apocalpytic theology that can turn any event no matter how ill-suited to theological fodder for God's providential will, season with the spice of apocalypticism that sees devils and anti-Christs all around, and you have white evangelicals supporting Donald Trump.

And it's not just white evangelicals: As National Catholic Reporter indicates in an editorial statement, some bishops and priests are encouraging people to vote for Donald Trump. For these bishops and priests, it is and always has been solely about abortion, but not about any other of the important values on the spectrum of a "pro-life" ethic. They are willing tools of the Republican party, who are engaged in a kind of unholy idolatry for which the Catholic church has paid and will continue to pay a very high price in terms of loss of credibility.

John Gehring writes:

A certain strain of conservative Catholicism in the United States, shaped by the marriage of political convenience between Catholics and evangelicals during the formation of the religious right in the 1980s and '90s, is now on life support. The idea that only a narrow set of "non-negotiable" issues define Catholic identity and require Catholics to vote a certain way is challenged by centuries of Catholic social thought. It’s also anathema to a pope who insists that “an economy of exclusion” and responding to the "cry of the earth and the cry of the poor" are not liberal causes, but essential to building a culture of life. They are fundamental demands of Christian discipleship that come from the heart of the Gospel. 
Catholic voters seem to agree.

As Patricia Miller says, the Trump campaign wants to scream about purported "anti-Catholicism" in the Hillary campaign emails WikiLeaks leaked right after Trump's vile recorded comments about sexual assault were made public, because the campaign desperately needs to gin up more white Catholic votes and counter the narrative now set in motion by Trump's ugly comments about sexually assaulting women. But as she says, "The reality is that most of the leaked comments weren’t anything you won’t hear around numerous dinner tables when any family of Catholics—or increasingly, ex-Catholics—discusses the state of the church."

As Father Tom Reese states again , the outcome of this election may turn out to be determined by the white Catholic vote, which has been up and down through the election, with white Catholics sometimes strongly supporting Trump and at other times moving mildly towards Hillary. Reese attributes the move of white Catholics after World War II to the GOP and away from the Democratic party to opposition of newly middle-class Catholics to stringent taxation.

I attribute it to the unacknowledged racism of white Catholics about which Catholic pundits including Reese still seem unwilling to talk. 

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