Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Trump and (White) Evangelicals: Commentary Continues in Holy Week

As I noted yesterday, perhaps because it's Holy Week and Passover has begun, there's a plethora of articles in the news right now about religion-and-politics matters. Here are a few from my morning reading, all about white evangelicals in the U.S. and their idolization of commitment to Republican leaders, to any Republican leaders, and that this is doing to the (white) evangelical brand:

Alan Blinder, "For Alabama Christians, Governor Bentley's Downfall Is a Bitter Blow": 

As governor, Robert Bentley would quote the Bible before the Alabama Legislature and say that God had elevated him to the State Capitol. In his dermatology practice, in the city where he was a Baptist deacon, he sometimes witnessed to patients. And when he was a first-time candidate for statewide office, his campaign headquarters were often filled with volunteers from local churches.
This is a state that knows well how mixing faith and politics can lead to disappointment. When Mr. Bentley on Monday resigned from office and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in the wake of the sex scandal that ended his 50-year marriage, his downfall reflected both enduring and contemporary challenges for evangelical voters. 
To many of the conservative Christians who unexpectedly propelled Mr. Bentley, a Republican, into power, his demise was a dispiriting setback in an age when they feel their values are under siege.

David Gushee, "Frances FitzGerald on How Evangelicals Lost Their Way":

Reading this book [i.e., Frances FitzGerald's The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America] during the Lenten season, and completing it during Holy Week, may be contributing to my primary take on the book: evangelicals very badly lost their way. And they did so because their gospel stopped being about the love of God in Jesus Christ, demonstrated most profoundly at the Cross, and instead became a reactionary jeremiad about saving America by electing Republican politicians and fighting culture wars. . .  
She especially shows that after the massive social changes of the 1960s, evangelicalism became very deeply white-male-reactionary American. This evangelical white-male-reactionary-Americanism came to override the Christian gospel or even to define it. The gospel was not about Jesus, but about nostalgia for a lost America where our guys, and our values, were unquestioned.

Sarah K. Burris, "Evangelicals Are Leaving Their Churches Over Donald Trump": 

President Donald Trump might be the most divisive politician in history, but for many, politics is left behind when sitting in the pews. For others, bringing politics to the altar is driving them away. 
A survey from The Washington Post interviewed evangelicals before the 2016 election and after. Over one in ten left their church by mid-November and about 15 percent of church-going Americans who think politics has become too divisive left their church as well. 
Two groups ultimately ended up leaving their churches: Those who liked Trump while the pastor did not and those who didn't like Trump but felt their pastor did. The no-win situation might be one of the reasons that pastors stopped talking about politics after November.*

* Or, alternatively, maybe they realized they had "won" when Trump was elected, and now need to do some kind of distancing act as the damage they have set into motion in Jesus' name spools out, and this is why they have gone silent — taking their cue from their allies, the American Catholic bishops. 

Chauncey DeVega, "The Butcher's Bill Keeps Growing: Donald Trump Abuses His Own Voters":

Christian Evangelicals are some of Donald Trump's most enthusiastic supporters. Radical religion and radical politics combine to excuse and rationalize his failures in office. 
The white rural and rust belt communities that elected Donald Trump are in disarray: they are suffering from high levels of social disorganization caused by drug addiction, declining life spans and an increase in suicide, a breakdown in family structures, and high levels of economic anxiety. Ultimately, many of Trump's "white working class" voters are facing a crisis of meaning and value in their own lives. He offered them an elixir. It has instead proven so far to be a poison. 
And as with almost every area of American political and social life, the color line's influence is great. Donald Trump’s ascendance was fueled by white supremacy, nativism, racial authoritarianism and a promise to "make America great again" by punishing non-whites and elevating (even more) White America. Trump’s voters remain willing to pay the butcher's bill because they know and hope that he will hurt "those people" and take care of "people like us." 

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