BY KAREN OCAMB | White evangelicals turned out for crude, thrice-married Donald Trump, the walking definition of avarice, by 81 percent, higher numbers than for born-again George W. Bush, according to a Pew Research survey of the 2016 presidential election.
“[E]ight-in-ten self-identified white, born-again/evangelical Christians say they voted for Trump, while just 16% voted for Clinton. Trump’s 65-percentage-point margin of victory among voters in this group – which includes self-described Protestants, as well as Catholics, Mormons and others – matched or exceeded the victory margins of George W. Bush in 2004, John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.”
Why? Trump displayed a shocking lack of religious knowledge, even turning a sacred biblical verse into a joke (‘Two Corinthians walk into a bar…’). But white evangelicals’ hijacking of the more inclusive “Jesus loves me” practice of Christianity in hot pursuit of their version of theocracy is so Machiavellian, they willfully ignores the violence, hate and discrimination used to achieve their woeful end.
Lest it be forgotten, the Ku Klux Klan inspires fear by setting afire a large Christian cross, a cross that imbues them with the mob power and righteousness to virtually lynch or unabashedly commit hate crimes against whomever they target. But without by-the-book evidence of a hate crime, white supremacy and white national militias, nurtured by white evangelical Christianity, are often protected by the First and Second Amendments.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer is trying to do something about the proliferation of violence white supremacy engenders. Last Tuesday, Dec. 13, he announced a “new front” against a white supremacist gang in the San Fernando Valley.
“We’re now fighting to prevent white supremacist gangs from infesting neighborhoods. They bring with them, of course, this toxic mix of violence and crime and hate,” Feuer said at a news conference. “There is no question that we’re living in a nation that is experiencing heightened tension. … The fear is palpable. The sense of being divided from others is palpable.”
It has been widely reported that the KKK and white supremacist groups support Trump. But the connection to evangelicals needs ongoing examination.
Trump wasn’t “our preferred candidate,” the Christian nationalist David Barton said in June, but he could be “God’s candidate.” And the President-elect wants to pay his loyal evangelicals back for their support. According to Politico, Trump’s evangelical advisory board is still in operation, with the transition team reaching out for advice on personnel picks.
“I will say, having been involved with administrations from Reagan’s forward, this is the most solicitous that any incoming administration has been for input from evangelicals concerning personnel decisions that I’ve experienced,” Richard Land, longtime Southern Baptist leader, told Politico.
And there have been results. For instance, Trump first offered the job of secretary of education to Jerry Falwell Jr., the ultra-right president of the anti-LGBT Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the nation and a proponent of creationism. Only after Falwell declined, did Trump pick Betsy DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor who has championed the cause of school vouchers. DeVos’ family foundations helped create the Christian Right movement, including funding the founding of the Family Research Council.
“Ms. DeVos is a chip off the old block. At a 2001 gathering of conservative Christian philanthropists, she singled out education reform as a way to ‘advance God’s kingdom,’” the New York Times reports.
The Times notes that the “Christian right has already won a number of key roles in the Trump administration,” including, at the top, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, who “favors religious tests for new immigrants and objects to chief justices with “secular mind-sets.” Tom Price, nominee for secretary of health and human services, “is a member of a physicians’ organization aligned with conservative Christian positions on abortion and other issues.” And, The Times points out, “alt-right” Breitbart guru and Trump senior strategist Stephen K. Bannon once said at a 2014 conference: “I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis…a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.”
And with America on the precipice of this exaggerated Armageddon, Trump has promised not only Christian Right cabinet picks, but a stripping away of laws and regulations that prohibit the full expression of political and religious hate speech.
“A lot of people said: I wonder if Donald will get the evangelicals. I got the evangelicals. I’m going to make it up to you too, you watch. There are no more decent, devoted, or selfless people than our Christians brothers and sisters here in the United States,” Trump said solicitously to the Family Research Council-sponsored Values Voters Summit.
“So let me say this right up front: A Trump administration, our Christian heritage will be cherished, protected, defended, like you’ve never seen before. Believe me. I believe it. And you believe it. And you know it. You know it. And that includes religious liberty – remember, remember.”
And appointing a religious conservative Supreme Court justice to overturn marriage equality and Roe v Wade. “We could end up with a total of five judges by one president. It would be record-setting. Probably be three. Could be four. Could even be five,” Trump told the evangelical audience. “And you pick the wrong people, you have a country that is no longer your country. It will be a disaster.”
Trump’s other huge promise was to do away with a law that prevents churches from preaching politics from the pulpit.
“The first thing we have to do is give our churches their voice back. It’s been taken away. The Johnson amendment has blocked our pastors and ministers and others from speaking their minds from their own pulpits. If they want to talk about Christianity, if they want to preach, if they want to talk about politics, they’re unable to do so. If they want to do it, they take a tremendous risk that they lose their tax-exempt status,” Trump told the evangelicals. “All religious leaders should be able to freely express their thoughts and feelings on religious matters. And I will repeal the Johnson amendment if I am elected your president, I promise. So important. Thank you. That’s so important.”
An opening salvo in the upcoming Christian Right wars is the plan by conservative Republicans Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho in the House to re-introduce the specifically anti-LGBT religious freedom bill next year. Trump has pledged to sign the First Amendment Defense Act protects individuals and corporations from consequences if they discriminate based on their religious objection to same sex marriage.
“Hopefully November’s results will give us the momentum we need to get this done next year,” Lee’s spokesperson, Conn Carroll, told Buzzfeed last Friday, Dec. 9. 2016.
“The prospects for protecting religious freedom are brighter now than they have been in a long time,” Cruz said. “We are having ongoing conversations with our colleagues both in Congress and leaders in the new administration about a multitude of ways we can honor the commitment made to the voters in this last election.”
Now, how will the other half of this divided country react?