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Yes, this has been widely discussed, so I thought I’d throw my tuppence in. I recently posted about how Trump pretty universally failed when compared against the teachings and actions of Jesus. All other things remaining equal, Christians should have steered as far away from the moral black hole that is Trump as possible. And as for forgiveness, as my friend said, “This election has proven once and for all that a man will be forgiven for literally anything, and a woman for absolutely nothing.” Quite. The double standards of the desire and call for forgiveness is starkly evident here.

Really, what was going on was that Christians and evangelicals were, with the help of cognitive dissonance, prepared to overlook that plethora of Trump’s ills in favour of the soundbites and wild claims he was making, and what his election would lead to:

  • pro-life and anti-abortion  legislation
  • anti-immigration legislation
  • pro-gun legislation
  • a conservative Supreme Court judge appointment

There really were an awful lot of single-issue or narrow voters, I believe. Anyhow, let’s look at the stats:

There is much to be said of the authoritarian appeal of Trump: he made claims about silencing the press, locking up his opposition, repealing human rights and previous judicial decisions (Roe v Wade) and so on. As one commentator recently stated:

And still, despite the litany of disqualifying behaviors by President-elect Trump, millions of voters cast a ballot for him. Many of these voters were self-proclaimed Christians as well, with Trump carrying the majority of evangelical Christians, Catholics, Mormons and Protestants/other Christians, according to Pew Research. (Jews, on the other hand, voted overwhelmingly against President-elect Trump, perhaps having something of an idea of what aggressive authoritarian leadership can mean for religious minorities.) Indeed, major Christian leaders even extended public endorsements of Trump’s candidacy. It seems striking to me that Christians, a demographic who frequently spend their lives decrying the decline of American morals, voted overwhelmingly for a candidate that is the persona of moral deficiency.

Indeed, Pope Francis recently stated in an interview with an Italian communist newspaper:

It has been said many times and my response has always been that, if anything, it is the communists who think like Christians. Christ spoke of a society where the poor, the weak and the marginalized have the right to decide. Not demagogues, not Barabbas, but the people, the poor, whether they have faith in a transcendent God or not. It is they who must help to achieve equality and freedom….

I do not pass judgment on people and politicians, I simply want to understand the suffering that their approach causes the poor and excluded.

Of course, not all evangelicals are pro-Trump. Trump insulted Dr Russell Moore when the evangelical thinker was very critical of him. Since the election, Moore has written:

No matter what the racial and ethnic divisions in America, we can be churches that demonstrate and embody the reconciliation of the kingdom of God. After all, we are not just part of a coalition but part of a Body – a Body that is white and black and Latino and Asian, male and female, rich and poor. We are part of a Body joined to a Head who is an Aramaic-speaking Middle-easterner. What affects black and Hispanic and Asian Christians ought to affect white Christians. And the sorts of poverty and social unravelling among the white working class ought to affect black and Hispanic and Asian Christians. We belong to each other because we belong to Christ.”

Often claimed, Trump was the supposed lesser of two evils, but this is largely nonsense. The evils of Trump were just conveniently overlooked or ignored, especially when considering the anti-establishment claims of his supporters. Trump appears to be going a very establishment Republican route.

There is also a correlation of evangelicalism and a lack of education, comparatively speaking, and perhaps this was an important factor. ABC News in Australia has analysed the evangelical vote as follows:

First, the “America, God, and guns” evangelicals. These people are “evangelical” in a political and cultural sense.

They might only have limited or spasmodic church attendance, and rudimentary knowledge of Christianity, but they identify conservative religion as an indelible part of the overall cultural conservatism to which they are committed.

Second, “hold the nose evangelicals”. These are the people who personally eschewed Trump’s behaviour and racist rhetoric, but regarded him as the lesser of two evils.

They were concerned that Hillary Clinton would appoint activist judges to the Supreme Court, attack religious liberty, expand federal funding for abortion, and end democracy as they knew it. For them, Trump is a necessary evil.

Third, what I call the irenic evangelicals: those committed to the same beliefs and ethics as former generations, but who do not prize political influence at the expense of electing a morally compromised candidate who is likely to inspire resentment of racial and ethnic minorities.

They would rather have elected an inclusive democrat than a xenophobic demagogue with a history of sexual harassment.

All of that said, my impression is that religion was not the single biggest factor shaping the vote for Trump by white evangelicals.

Some fervent Christians have adopted the position that they have somehow been grossly persecuted by Obama and his administration over the last eight years. As Jonathan Van Maren claims:

The attacks on Christians from the highest levels of government have been relentless now for nearly a decade. Obama wants to force Christian churches and schools to accept the most radical and most recent version of gender ideology, and he is willing to issue executive decrees on the issue to force the less enlightened to get in line. Christian concerns are dismissed out of hand as “transphobia.”…

And then there was the rapid rise of rainbow fascism. Christian bakers are under attack. Christian photographers. Christian pastors. Real people are losing real businesses that they had labored for years to build. Their way of life is being destroyed. In some cases, Christian business owners saw the wages they needed to feed their families dry up because they were targeted by gay activists and labeled hateful, homophobic bigots simply for declining to assist in celebrating a gay union. That’s all. They just wanted to live their lives in accordance with their own beliefs, and because of that, activists came gunning for them. It wasn’t good enough to go down the street to any number of photographers or bakers who would be more than happy to help celebrate a gay wedding. They needed to see those little family businesses destroyed, even if it meant that the baker and his family ended up on the street. Dissenters must be crushed.

And, of course, the abortion thing:

And then there was the fact that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton wanted to force Christians to fund the abortion industry, something many of you support because everyone babbles on about “reproductive rights” without ever talking about what abortion actually is. Abortion. Google it. I’m challenging you in all seriousness. That’s how I ended up involved in the pro-life movement: by Googling it and realizing what abortion was. Take a second, and actually look at pictures of the dead babies, and then remember that Barack Obama even voted against protecting those children who survived abortion, and that Hillary Clinton defended abortion even in the latest stages of pregnancy.

Is it really so hard for you to understand that those who fight tirelessly to protect these babies might be willing to gamble on the support of a brash billionaire rather than cast their vote for someone who thinks the youngest members of the human family are nothing more than soulless trash? I’ve seen an aborted baby before. I’ve held a butchered little boy in my hands. Maybe if you did, too, you could understand why we don’t think Hillary Clinton is a good person. We think her political positions directly result in dead children, because that’s the truth.

Perhaps this is the crux, as he goes on to say:

The simple fact is that Christians voted in self-defence. They voted to put the brakes on the relentless, eight-year-long assault not just on their values, but on their ability to live their lives unmolested without having radical progressives attempt to force some newly invented ideology down their throat or hang some new “phobia” label around their necks or garnish their wages to pay for medical exterminators to suction tiny human beings into bloody slurry. Most of these Christians are not activists. Most of them simply want to be left alone. But for eight long years, they weren’t left alone. And so this time around, they voted to give Obama and his progressive minions the hugest shove they could.

I am sure, anecdotally of course, that this is broadly the view of many similar Christians. I have seen such online and in the media.

I think the right-wing media and spurious “news” memes and claims found online have done a lot to damage the appeal of the left, and to fuel these kinds of opinions. Indeed:

Indeed, this is perhaps what is most striking about last Tuesday’s election results: The party that literally has God written into its party platform and the voting demographic that reviles modern America for its moral inadequacies successfully undermined its ethical superiority and sacrificed its moral authority, all in the name of partisanship. Hillary Clinton was an objectively untenable candidate, but she wasn’t running draped in the support of conservative ethics and with the de facto endorsement of the Christian church. That principle and character no longer matter, least of all in conservative and religious circles, seems altogether disappointing. Perhaps American morality is on the decline, but if so, it is the GOP and conservative Christian leaders and voters who have hastened us on the way.

It is, truly, the end of irony.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...