Why Donald Trump Appeals to Evangelicals

Donald TrumpDavid Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network thinks he knows why Evangelicals are so keen on Donald Trump, Explaining the Evangelical Attraction to Donald Trump. It’s because “Trump operates in a world of absolutes” and so do they; what’s more, Trump gets “public ridicule” for the things he says and so do they. So they are like peas in a pod: the only thing they are more certain of than being right is that other people are oppressing them because of it. But really what Brody is arguing is that Evangelicals like Trump because they like Trump. They accept him because they think he is one of them.

The big problem here is that it shows what a sham the Evangelicals are. I’m not saying this is shocking news. For years, I’ve been writing about how Evangelicals don’t seem to be interested in theology. More recently, I wrote, American Christianity as Cultural Signifier. Because among the conservatives, Christianity doesn’t mean much other than that “good people” are Christians and “bad people” are not. Trump is an excellent example of this. He is not an Evangelical. In fact, he only seems to be a Christian in the most casual of ways.

This is how Brody looks at the issue:

Now look: when Trump talks about how he doesn’t really ask God for forgiveness except for when he partakes in communion, that obviously is not the evangelical textbook answer. But at least they appreciate his honesty and with politicians nowadays that is a valued commodity.

So is he saying that these people would appreciate the honesty of any politician? Say an outspoken atheist politician? Of course not. This is just a little bit of apologetics — an excuse for why Evangelicals would like Trump despite the fact that he says things that should be offensive to them. It would be like explaining a groundswell of Mexican support for Trump as, “Now look: when Trump talks about how Mexicans are drug dealers and rapists, that obviously is not the Mexican textbook answer. But at least they appreciate his honesty and with politicians nowadays that is a valued commodity.” I don’t think so.

Sarah Posner noted a bit of a contradiction in what Brody had to say. He is still upset that Bush operative Ken Mehlman got the Evangelicals to come out and vote for Bush by pushing the anti-LGBT Federal Marriage Amendment, only to find out later that “Mehlman was a homosexual who really didn’t believe in the whole effort…” But somehow, the Evangelicals are now happy with Trump’s being “honest about [his] views about God”? But it was only a few years ago that Trump was pro-choice and pro-LGBT. So Evangelicals — and Brody most of all — think that Trump is saying what he really thinks now? He was lying before?

Let’s just be clear here: the Evangelical community is very homogeneous. It doesn’t like outsiders. It sees itself as embattled. Donald Trump tells the Evangelical community exactly what it wants to hear: it is great and all its problems come from those “other” people: immigrants, liberals, and (unstated, but only because it is toxic to talk about it) blacks. People think of identity politics as something that has to do with minority groups. But there is no greater — and more bizarre — identity than the Evangelicals. And Trump now, and Reagan before him, knew that it isn’t Christianity that binds them together. And so it doesn’t matter that neither man was religious. They both “endorsed” that particular kind of Evangelical bigotry. So Evangelicals are very happy to support Donald Trump.

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