Yesterday at “FiveThirtyEight” Farai Chideya reported that, since the US primaries in February, Donald Trump’s
popularity among white evangelical Republicans has grown significantly, and now the group is one of his strongest bases of support.
Chideya goes on to point out that
many evangelicals were initially skeptical of Trump, possibly because of his multiple marriages and combative and often vulgar campaign style, particularly concerning women. But they changed their minds because they feel strongly about social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion and do not want Hillary Clinton to appoint Supreme Court justices.
What could possibly induce evangelicals, who pride themselves on propriety, decency, family values, strong morality, and civility, to support a man who is undeniably disrespectful if not abusive to women, is consistently harsh, crass, and vulgar in his presentation, and whose entire lifestyle contradicts most of the basic premises of evangelicalism?
This is a man who, speaking of respected media mogul Arianna Huffington, stated that she is
unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.
Fortunately, not all evangelicals find themselves able to swallow the bitter Trump pill. Philip Yancey articulates well, the puzzle evangelical Trump supporters poses:
Brian McLaren poses the question with characteristic clarity asking
How do we explain why nearly 80 percent of white evangelicals currently embrace the candidacy of Donald Trump, whose way of life and values could not be more opposite to their own?
According to R. Marie Griffith, director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis, there is only one answer. Evangelicals are motivated to support Trump because they are afraid.
Trump speaks to the profound fears animating so many white evangelicals today. Above all, the fear that they and their values are being displaced by foreign, immigrant and Muslim forces as well as by domestic movements such as Black Lives Matter, gay rights, women’s rights and more.
What are these “values” that are so precious that they make evangelicals willing to overlook Trump’s manifest shortcomings?
It would appear that the values evangelicals hold so dear relate to abortion, homosexuality (he has claimed he will reverse same-sex marriage laws), his stance on “religious freedom” which apparently would be in peril under a Clinton presidency, and his support for Israel, as if his opponent was somehow anti-Israel.
But are anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, the defense of “religious freedom”, and being pro-Israel really the primary “values” Jesus held?
Brian McLaren suggests there may be other values to consider.
In his article at “Religious New Service”, which is a must-read for any evangelical seriously considering voting for Donald Trump (http://religionnews.com/2016/09/21/like-katy-perry-i-broke-up-with-the-conservative-evangelical-project/) Brian McLaren lists ten values or commitments that have guided him away from the politics of evangelicalism.
Here is my attempt to express McLaren’s ten values as positive principles:
1. exercise respect – treat other people with basic human decency and civility
2. embrace positive forward-looking change that benefits all people equally
3. provide equal protection for all people regardless of how they may differ, particularly from those in power
4. work to reduce poverty
5. implement financial legislation that does not continue to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class
6. focus on education, health care, and improving basic wages as a means towards strengthening families, improving women’s lives, and reducing the incidence of women feeling compelled to seek abortions
7. support policies that work towards building a cleaner, more sustainable, and ultimately profitable environment
8. encourage international policies that aim to defeat terrorism through understanding rather than fear and the escalation of violence
9. renounce the victim-mentality that increasingly seems to appeal to white middle class men
10. practice the power of love rather than the love of power
These sound a lot more like Jesus-principles than Donald Trump’s values which seem to have to do with:
My whole life is about winning. I don’t lose often. I almost never lose.
When somebody challenges you, fight back. Be brutal, be tough.
3. poor taste
I’ve always said, ‘If you need Viagra, you’re probably with the wrong girl.’
Owning a great golf course gives you great power.
All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.
It’s tangible, it’s solid, it’s beautiful. It’s artistic, from my standpoint, and I just love real estate.
Everything in life is luck.
That’s one of the nice things. I mean, part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich.
It’s a great thing when you can show that you’ve been successful and that you’ve made a lot of money and that you’ve employed a lot of people.
I rely on myself very much. I just think that you have an instinct and you go with it. Especially when it comes to deal-making and buying things.
Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
‘Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep. (Luke 6:20-25)