I am rarely disappointed in my capacity for bewilderment that white evangelicals can support this president. Eighty-one percent of those white evangelicals supported him in the election, you may recall; and most of those folks still approve of the job he’s doing.
Let that sink in for a moment. An overwhelming majority of white people who have proclaimed “Jesus as their Lord and Savior,” who say that what they really desire is a “closer walk” in their “personal relationship with Jesus,” who claim to want nothing more than “to see God glorified in all things,” look at this president ― who wants to cut taxes for the wealthiest (which is to say, for people like him and his family) while at the same time he proposes cutting programs designed to aid the poor and powerless ― and say, “That’s our guy!”
Evangelicals, who have for decades exclaimed in high dudgeon, “Character matters!” look on with apparent enthusiasm as the man with arguably the lowest character in the history of U.S. Presidential politics (which is saying something) seemingly does everything in his power to thwart an investigation into his campaign’s Russia ties, going even so far as to fire the FBI Director leading the Russia investigation. They listen to the lies this man throws out and say, “Well, you know, liberal elites (which is to say the enemies of God) have been mocking us for too long, and this guy makes liberal elites apoplectic—so, that must mean he’s on the side of the angels.”
What the literal hell? All we are left to conclude of this lunacy is that evangelicals are implicitly claiming that, given all other options, this is the guy God is most comfortable with.
This president’s most marketable skill seems to be his terrific (no, really terrific, the best in history a lot of people are saying) ability to get 40 percent of the population to believe that he’s a straight shooter, who’s always looking out for the poor and the working class. He may talk like a big spender with his own gold-plated bidet, but when it comes right down to it, he puts his Armani wool and cashmere formal trousers on one leg at a time ― just like you and me.
In other words, he’s a bullshit artist. He’s tremendous at it. No question. Clearly, he’s a man the brilliance of whose bullshit blazes with the heat of a thousand suns. I don’t know how else to say it. The president didn’t run on a platform that said, “Rich people (which includes me) don’t have nearly enough. They need a little help from the government so they can finally catch a break.” He ran as a populist everyman ― admittedly an everyman with a private jet and hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate, but he’s really not that different from the rest of us.
He told evangelicals that he was their champion, that he would install an anti-choice justice in the Supreme Court, let his vice-president play Torquemada and pursue his homophobic inquisition, and continue to say things that finally made evangelicals feel like the cultural cool kids they always wanted to be… and that was all it took. His obvious and shocking incompetence means nothing. (Pro tip: You don’t buy yourself any philosophical cover by saying, “He may be a clown, but he’s our clown.”)
His brazen attempts to use his office as a way to prop up his businesses, and ensure that his children receive an inheritance without all the governmental overhead of an inheritance tax, and feed his capacious need for uninterrupted adulation amount to a compromise evangelicals continue to seem eager to make.
His stoking of anti-immigrant and Islamophobic fears, his baseless fear mongering of refugees, his obvious contempt of women, his willingness to play footsie with racists and Nazis—if any of these things pose a problem to evangelicals, they are problems deemed insufficiently serious enough to trouble them to raise any moral or religious objections.
His intemperate outbursts, his adolescent peevishness at slights, his clumsy and uncertain relationship with the English language must be viewed (I’m guessing, because I really don’t know) as endearing tics by the Religious Right.
So why? Why have evangelicals jumped in bed with this odious man-baby?
Apart from a couple of potential wins on abortion and same-sex marriage (I say “potential” because he’s made very little headway on either issue, and appears to have little more than a passing interest in doing much in the future), the only thing I can figure is that evangelicals see in this guy someone who makes the people mad that make evangelicals mad. They’re tired of being condescended to by the cultural cognoscenti, and now they have a chance to get some retribution. I honestly don’t know how else you spin it.
Fine, you felt humiliated in high school by the popular kids, and so now it’s your turn to make them pay. But backing this moral lacuna is akin to hiring Freddy Krueger to be the master of ceremonies at your high school reunion. You’re aggrieved. But your revenge fantasy is going to get people killed … literally.
- African Americans have been sent a clear message that their lives only matter, until someone in an official capacity decides they don’t.
- Refugees have heard plainly that this administration would prefer to have them stay in war zones, running with their babies from bomb crater to bomb crater, than to have to deal with them here.
- Cancer patients, juvenile diabetics, the mentally ill, pregnant women, and people too poor to purchase their own healthcare know their life expectancies have just taken a dive.
- Muslims are aware that, though no official target has been put on their backs, the people in charge care very little about their safety and dignity.
- LGBTQ kids have awoken to a culture that is once again making peace with the practice of bullying and harassing them, which we know will end in a rise in suicide.
- Pregnant women who can’t find an abortion provider are once again making the mental calculation about whether it’s worth it to risk doing it themselves.
People are going to die as a direct result of this administration’s policies… and evangelicals are going to own it. How is it possible that white evangelical Christians can look at this president, with the self-aggrandizing Costco econo-size box of bullshit he drags around behind him and still say, “Given the chance, I’d vote for him again?”
I’m not sure there’s any way Christians can twist Jesus into a big enough hermeneutical pretzel to get him to say that the death-dealing policies of this president, and the congress that runs interference for him, are all worth it if we can stick it to Planned Parenthood and remind LGBTQ people of their place as aberrants—especially, if in the process, we get to poke a few people in the eye. I’m not sure in what fever swamp of retaliation any of this adds up to: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
Look, I didn’t write the book; I’m just telling you what’s in it.