Thursday, July 23, 2015


Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches directs our attention to this post from David Brody, a political reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network:
Explaining the Evangelical Attraction to Donald Trump

I get this question a lot so I figured I better write about it. Here it is: "Why are evangelical voters attracted to Donald Trump? I don’t get it."

Well, you may think the answer is a complicated one but actually it's not. Let me explain.

Donald Trump operates in a world of absolutes: A world of right and wrong; a world of winners (him) and losers (McCain, Perry, etc); a world of put up or shut up (literally). Trump's world is colored in black and white. There ain't much grey. And what does Trump get for speaking out so boldly without holding back? Public ridicule.

Now, think of conservative evangelicals. In their quest to champion biblical values, their mindset is much the same. It is a world of absolutes. They believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God. Non-negotiable. They believe there is only one way to heaven and that is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Non-negotiable. They see the world through the lens of spiritual warfare (good vs. evil). And what do evangelicals get for speaking out so boldly without holding back? That’s right: public ridicule.
Posner finds this odd:
That’s a pretty thin argument for an evangelical-Trump bond. Trump’s non-negotiables begin and end with Donald Trump. Not the Bible. Not God. Not Jesus. To compare the non-negotiable of Donald Trump’s ego with, say, divine infallibility or the trinity is a bit of an apostasy, is it not?

What’s more, the “public ridicule” of Donald Trump is not because he is “speaking out so boldly.” It’s because he’s injected a narcissistic circus into the presidential campaign, kept alive only because he has more money than he knows what to do with, and he’s not afraid to bully anyone with it. Is that the comparison to evangelicals that Brody really wants to draw?
She has a point -- but I think Brody has unwittingly told us a lot about conservative evangelicals ... and about how they differ from other Christians.

Many Christians who aren't conservative evangelicals focus on other aspects of Christianity: selfless love; good works; forgiveness; compassion; humility; the universality of sin. But not the religious right. What's appealing about Christianity to the religious right is, as Brody says, an absolute: the idea that, according to Christian doctrine, some are saved and some are damned -- which inspires the immensely satisfying process of keeping score.

We know from looking at regions of the country that are dominated by Christian conservatives that this worldview has great influence on politics and government: Programs to help the less fortunate are disdained because, as Christian conservatives see it, the less fortunate simply don't deserve them. They're failures in life because they're sinners, therefore they're the damned. God has made that obvious!

As Posner notes, a sense of victimization is a big part of this as well. Christian conservatives tell themselves, If I'm saved and those people are damned, why do they have any power whatsoever? Why don't we Christian conservatives get to do whatever we want and run everything, including the heathens' lives? It's not a great worldview for a pluralistic society.

But the source of all this is the obsession with an absolute sense of right and wrong. Other Christians acknowledge Christianity's strict moral code but regard all human beings as sinners; the religious right seems to spend far more time tallying lists of the righteous and the infidels, with themselves firmly in the former category.

And then they apply that vision to politics, in as self-righteous and mean-spirited a way as possible.


Belvoir said...

Great post. Christian evangelicals seem driven by negativity, hate, and stinginess. They bear no resemblance to the core of the kind, merciful, humane Christianity that I know. They seem fairly nasty people to me, in fact.

Unknown said...

Seriously, that's their argument? Heck, I could stand on a street corner and lecture passersby about astrophysics, about which I freely admit I know absolutely nothing, and what would I get for speaking out so boldly without holding back? That’s right: public ridicule.

Victor said...

They're Manichen "Christian" control freaks and buttinski's.

retiredeng said...

It's my belief that there is no supernatural being that welcomes anyone to paradise at death. It's disappointing that there probably isn't. Because these folks would be surprised to get sent to the depth of hell and damnation for their wickedness.

petrilli said...

My own observation of the present-day so-called conservative landscape is that it's populated more with Manichean authority worshipers than empirically based ideologues. They need their anger-revenge pleasure centers lit up and don't care who does it. Hence, regardless of Trump's true ideology, (cynically pragmatic,) he attracts people who call themselves conservative. Regardless of his personal conduct, (largely hedonistic,) Trump attracts a lot of evangelicals. YMMV on this thought.