*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
One doesn’t have to follow politics, or elections, very closely to understand there is a gargantuan fissure bifurcating the Republican Party. And, it is in no small part due the RNC’s monumental error in anointing Donald J Trump as the official Republican Party standard bearer. That rift between the establishment cowards that support everything Trump says and stands for but are too terrified to support his lunacy publicly, and the conservative die-hards who are unafraid of electoral consequences and defend him to the death, is being played out in one of the GOP’s last remaining strongholds.
Although not quite at the same level as in the Republican Party’s warring factions, there are rumblings and portents that there is a potential civil war brewing among the evangelical right who are GOP stalwarts of the first order. What that rift among the religious right means is that the “idea of a monolithic evangelical voting constituency is no longer applicable in the American electorate.”
That was the opinion of the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), Samuel Rodriguez Jr., which represents roughly 40,000 congregations in America. It is noteworthy, and a no-brainier, that neither Mr. Rodriguez or the NHCLC were interested in helping Trump’s bigoted campaign and declined to join their religious right cohort and allies serving on Mr. Trump’s evangelical advisory board. Rodriguez is not alone in abandoning the typical evangelical mindset that any and every Republican was sent by god, or is a modern day Jesus-messiah, to save Christian fanatics and reshape America into a Christian theocracy with the bible as law of the land.
That ‘abandonment’ is causing consternation among religious right leaders and conservatives who will not admit there is a minor civil war among the faithful that hurts the GOP, but they do acknowledge that “the rift” threatens the evangelical fundamentalists’ hopes of controlling politics of the conservative movement and by extension American government; possibly for some time into the future.
The New York Times noted:
“The fault lines among evangelicals that the election of 2016 has exposed — among generations, ethnic groups and sexes — are likely to reshape national politics for years to come; that is the informed conclusion of several conservative Christian leaders and religious and political analysts” who weighed in on the state of the religious rights’ influence last week in interviews. The Christian leaders and analysts said that arguments and disagreements that were once conducted in private are now aired publicly, and that the evangelicals’ agendas are no longer clear.
That is good news for America and a bad omen for Republicans electoral ambitions and terrible for evangelical fanatics’ hopes and dreams of an American theocracy. For Republicans, the idea of its most unified and reliable voting bloc splintering into opposing forces can only be regarded as a precursor to the death knell for conservatives. It is noteworthy, that the men the NYTs called “religious right kingmakers,” Pat Robertson, James C. Dobson, and Ralph Reed among many others have lost substantial influence among the evangelical faithful in great part due to their staunch support for “such a nasty man” as Donald J. Trump.
That support has cost the religious right as a unified movement and the Republican Party’s hope for complete and unwavering evangelical support in November. Of course “the aging old guard” will stand by Trump no matter how obscene and dangerous to America he could be because they embrace the notion that any Republican is a god-sent and anointed savior. But younger Christian leaders, people of color, and women are challenging the judgment and authority of the old guard and abandoning the Republican candidate in droves to oppose the evangelical establishment’s support of hatred, bigotry, greed and misogyny despite it is causing a break in the evangelical movement’s united front.
One woman, Jen Hatmaker, fairly spoke on behalf of the “new guard,” and as an author of popular inspirational Christian books and regular speaker to “stadiums full of Christian women” she set aside her own rule about staying clear of politics; because she believes, like most Americans, that Donald Trump is “a national disgrace” and does not represent “good Christians.” Hatmaker also had a word or two about the influence of Trump’s “old guard” religious right cheerleaders. She said,
“Trump has consistently normalized violence, sexual deviance, bigotry and hate speech. I wouldn’t accept this from my seventh-grade son, much less from a potential leader of the free world.” And regarding the Falwells, Robertsons, Reeds, and Dobsons, Hatmaker said “Those men have never spoken for me or, frankly, anyone I know. The fracture within our own Christian family may be irreparable.” On her Facebook and Instagram pages, Ms. Hatmaker contributed to “the fracture” by reminding “her legions of followers that there are other names on the ballot in November” besides the Republican “national disgrace” Donald Trump.
It is not just Donald Trump driving the religious rights’ splintering, among the old guard the entire election is about two issues: overturning Roe v. Wade and overturning last year’s Supreme Court marriage equality ruling. However, among evangelicals attempting to hew closer to the teachings of their religion’s namesake, Jesus Christ, they are following the lead of Pope Francis and, as Jesus taught his followers, see a broader agenda Worthy of “a Christian.” The ‘new guard’ sees “it as a Christian imperative to care for immigrants and refugees, the poor, the environment, and victims of sex trafficking and sexual abuse;” including the kind championed by the GOP’s standard bearer Donald J. Trump. In fact, a relatively large number of the new guard supports criminal justice reform and the aims of the Black Lives matter movement that racist Republicans oppose out of hand. As the HYT pointed out, although nearly all Christians oppose abortion and a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive care, an increasing number are much more accepting of marriage equality.
Despite this “fracturing” of the religious right, no-one in their right mind should think for a nano-second that it means the evangelical fundamentalist movement is dead, or even dying. The demographic has been pronounced dead too often only for it to come roaring back and wreaking havoc on some demographic’s equal rights and religious freedom and to oppose those “liberal” policies like adequately-funded social programs feeding the poor, healing the sick, and housing the indigent. The staunch fundamentalist movement doesn’t even need a cause célèbre to motivate the faithful to elect Republicans because they can, and will, always fall back on the “persecution” meme they have used over the past eight years to garner electoral support for conservatives pledging to protect religious liberty. But there is no doubt the movement took a hit from supporting Trump and embracing conservative policies that are in stark opposition of Christ’s teachings.
The religious right will still turn out evangelicals in force in November because the die-hards are certain that any Democrat will work tirelessly to destroy the faith and the faithful alike. However, in the same way many Republicans are opting to vote for a Democrat instead of the party’s hero, many young, minority and poor Christians will avoid a demonic savage such as Donald Trump like plague. As one publicist for Christian leaders and groups said, the religious rights’ electoral machinery will not produce as it has in past elections and he noted why that is certainly the case this election. Johnnie Moore said, “I do not think there’s any way to get evangelical women in any force to show up for Donald Trump at this point.” It is an indication that possibly the rift in the religious right is more significant than even its leaders imagine. Because if even a small percentage of religious right women abandon a Republican candidate, it is a sign that a small fracture may conceal a significantly deeper rift and just might be a “blessed” preview of a major split in what has been a major plague on America for decades and something one seriously hopes comes to pass.