Ever since Jerry Falwell Jr. tweeted his famous picture of he and his wife standing with their new favourite presidential candidate, I have been torturing myself wondering how the religious right could ever support Donald Trump in the US election.

Jerry Falwell Jr.How do moral-wholesome-family-first uptight, self-righteous, straight-laced, religious luminaries like James Dobson, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. and co. find it in their hearts to support a man who proudly displays (note: present tense) a picture on his office wall of himself appearing on the cover of Playboy Magazine? (Remember this is the man whose father wrote, “Sex magazines deliberately increase the problem of immoral lust and thus provoke increased adultery, prostitution, and sexual child abuse.” https://pjmedia.com/faith/2016/06/22/trump-called-jesus-an-egomaniac-in-playboy-evangelical-leader-jerry-falwell-jr-posed-with/2/) Playboy

These religious leaders have built their careers preaching “sexual purity”, rigid traditionally defined morality, “God’s plan” of one man married to one woman for life, family values, and a return to the glory days of the 1950’s. How do they now find themselves throwing their, not insignificant political weight, behind a man who gives almost no evidence of ever having shared any of the values they have always purported to espouse?

(nb: lest anyone think the evangelical world stands uniformly behind Jerry Falwell’s bizarre endorsement of Mr. Trump, see the response at the bottom of this post from Oklahoma Wesleyan University president Dr. Everett Piper when he was challenged about his refusal to stop criticizing Donald Trump in the interests of insuring the defeat of Hillary Clinton.)

I feel personal pain for the incredible disconnect I see between Donald Trump and his new allies on the religious right. It is hard not to see their support of Mr. Trump as a craven strategy to align themselves with what they perceive to be their best hope of influencing the political sphere to support their financially lucrative religious empires.

But can they really be so naïve? Do Jerry Falwell Jr. and his henchmen truly believe they would be able to corral a President Trump in their camp and make him conform to their demands if, God forbid, he were to actually make it into the Oval Office? How did these righteous men ever find their way to a place of such profound moral compromise?

I struggle to understand what twisted agenda makes it impossible for these religious leaders’ to see what appears in plain view over Mrs. Falewell Jr.’s left shoulder and blares almost daily from the mouth of their chosen candidate.

On Thursday this week, Amanda Taub came to my assistance in an important and insightful essay at the New York Times (see link at the bottom of this post and do read her whole essay).

Taub makes no mention of the US political situation. She does not name Donald Trump, or talk about the strange religious phenomenon of the religious right’s support for Trump. Taub is commenting on an entirely different, but perhaps parallel political situation in France where local politicians are determined, as she describes it, to impose

rules on what women can wear on the grounds that it’s wrong for women to have to obey rules about what women can wear.

According to Taub, French officials’ attempts to ban the burkini are

not really about swimwear. Social scientists say it is also not primarily about protecting Muslim women from patriarchy.Burkini

So what lies behind France’s curious obsession with what Muslim women wear? Taub suggests it is really

about protecting France’s non-Muslim majority from having to confront a changing world: one that requires them to widen their sense of identity when many would prefer to keep it as it was.

This is the driving force behind the political right’s support for Donald Trump in the US.

The world is changing. Change is threatening, unsettling, confusing, and for some even frightening. Mr. Trump, implausibly, has become the champion of returning the world to an imagined past glory (“Make America great again”). He promises to restore the world to those who “would prefer to keep it as it was” (emphasis added). Mr Trump is the lightening rod for people who feel they have lost their “exclusive dominance” over US identity.

The religious right is deeply threatened by the fact that the US has

become a multicultural and multiethnic nation, where traditions mean very different things to different people.

The religious right is at war with those who believe the “‘traditional.” US “identity should remain not only the dominant but also the sole cultural identity in” American society. In a desperate attempt to preserve their sense of security and safety, Falwell and co. oppose anyone who expresses “an alternative form of identity.” They are unable to believe that “two identities can coexist” and always perceive that which is in any way different as “necessarily competitive.” They seek to “prevent the widening of” US “identity” and to force all people to “assimilate” and “adopt the narrower, rigid identity.”

The driving forces behind the French burkini ban and the US political right are fear and insecurity in the face of frightening change. The religious right resists entering the expansive reality that is an inevitable part of the increasingly inter-connected world in which we live today.

How much more hopeful it might be if we were to seek ways to accommodate difference, embrace cultural diversity, and welcome all people with generosity of spirit and openness of heart.

******************

When Oklahoma Wesleyan University president Dr. Piper is challenged for his opposition to Trump and told, “You need to stop attacking those on “our side!”

He responds:

Anyone who is pro-abortion is not on my side. Anyone who calls women “pigs,” “ugly,” “fat” and “pieces of a–” is not on my side. Anyone who mocks the handicapped is not on my side. Anyone who has argued the merits of a government takeover of banks, student loans, the auto industry and healthcare is not on my side. Anyone who has been on the cover of Playboy and proud of it, who brags of his sexual history with multiple women and who owns strip clubs in his casinos is not on my side. Anyone who believes the government can wrest control of the definition of marriage from the church is not on my side. Anyone who ignores the separation of powers and boasts of making the executive branch even more imperial is not on my side.

I’m a conservative. I believe in conserving the dignity of life. I believe in conserving respect for women. I believe in conserving the Constitution. I believe in conserving private property, religious liberty and human freedom. I believe in morality more than I do in money. I hold to principles more than I yearn for power. I trust my Creator more than I do human character. I’d like to think that all this, and more, makes me an informed and thoughtful citizen and voter. I’ve read, I’ve listened and I’ve studied and there is NOTHING, absolutely nothing, in this man’s track record that makes Donald Trump “on my side.”

I refuse to let my desire to win “trump” my moral compass. I will not sell my soul or my university’s to a political process that values victory more than virtue.

Trumping Morality

*****************

Read Taub’s whole piece here:

 

Advertisements