You might remember that Donald Trump got off to a bit of a rough start with Evangelicals, when he took a laissez faire appraoch to religion: “I’m a religious person. I go to church. Do I do things that are wrong? I guess so.” When asked by Frank Lutz if he ever asked for forgiveness, Trump answered,
I’m not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.
We I take, when we go, and church and when I drink my little wine – which is about the only wine I drink – and have my little cracker, I guess that’s a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed, OK? But, you know, to me that’s important, I do that, but in terms of officially, I could say, ‘Absolutely!’ and everybody, I don’t think in terms of that. I think in terms of, let’s go on and let’s make it right.
These words caused some consternation among Evangelicals. It was not just his reference to the Eucharist – and here you have to remember that some Evangelicals believe they are literally drinking Christ’s blood and eating his flesh – as “my little wine…and my little cracker” – that threw them, but the fact that he says he doesn’t ask for forgiveness, or even bring God into the picture.
These are people, many of them, for whom God is never out of the picture. Yet here we have David Brody, of CBN’s The Brody File, tweeting that,
@realDonaldTrump attracts evangelicals because he's honest with them. They can work with that rather than being used as GOP political pawn
— David Brody (@TheBrodyFile) August 15, 2015
It is not all Evangelicals, as The Washington Post makes clear when it discusses the tepid response of Southern Baptists, but something is happening. What gives?
The Washington Post revealed on August 6,
According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted July 16-19, 20 percent of Republican-leaning voters who are white evangelicals support Donald Trump, compared to 24 percent of GOP voters overall and 25 percent of other white Christians (non-evangelicals and Catholics) who support him.
Clearly, some bizarre alchemy is at work here, and it requires explanation. How could the foul-mouthed Trump be a hero to the Shining City on the Hill types?
At the Brody File blog in July, Brody said Trump’s answer was actually fine with Evangelicals (not with all, as we saw at the time). According to Brody,
“…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.”
Interesting. They don’t like that same honesty from Liberals. According to these same Evangelicals, Barack Obama is not even a Christian. He is a Muslim. Possibly an atheist. According to the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios, he’s an atheist with Muslim sympathies. They literally fall over themselves to say he’s no Christian.
And here they’ve got all these candidates also falling over each other, but this time to lick the Religious Right’s boots. Yet it’s Trump they latch on to?
Brody is not heaping praise on Huckabee and Santorum and the others. Instead, he is clearly quite taken with Trump as this tweet from yesterday clearly demonstrates:
Hey GOP establishment: unloosen your tie and watch the master @realDonaldTrump operate. You have less hair follicles since he announced?
— David Brody (@TheBrodyFile) August 15, 2015
Of course, Trump is white. I said recently that Trump is the demagogue Republicans have been waiting for. Or, as President Richard Nixon’s former White House Counsel, John Dean explains, the “authoritarian ruler” they have been waiting for.
I believe we were thinking along the same lines. According to Dean, these leaders are “typically male” and “are dominating; they oppose equality; they desire personal power; and they are amoral.” Not your typical messiah, but liberals have long recognized the Religious Right would stone your typical messiah.
Dean describes Trump perfectly. But let’s allow Brody speak first before getting on with the nuts and bolts of Dean’s analysis. In that same July blog post, he explained the Evangelical attraction to Trump:
Donald Trump operates in a world of absolutes: A world of right and wrong; a world of winners (him) and losers (McCain, Perry, etc); a world of put up or shut up (literally). Trump’s world is colored in black and white. There ain’t much grey. And what does Trump get for speaking out so boldly without holding back? Public ridicule.
Now, think of conservative evangelicals. In their quest to champion biblical values, their mindset is much the same. It is a world of absolutes. They believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God. Non-negotiable. They believe there is only one way to heaven and that is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Non-negotiable. They see the world through the lens of spiritual warfare (good vs. evil). And what do evangelicals get for speaking out so boldly without holding back? That’s right: public ridicule.
You wonder if it’s that, or the more tangible fact of his having embraced a 20-week abortion ban, and saying he supports defunding Planned Parenthood based on some faked videos.
I am being cynical I know, but I do not think, unrealistic. The Religious Right’s Martin Bormann, David Lane, may be on to something too when he says “Trump is tapping into deep-seated anger in America.” Never underestimate the power of Evangelical hate.
Brody talks about all the things Trump and Evangelicals share in common besides anger: a black and white world of absolutes and being “ripped by people” for speaking their minds:
Donald Trump and evangelicals are breaking bread together because there is this common bond that I just laid out above. They like his boldness. They relate to him because when they’ve been bold about their faith they get blasted too. It’s a kinship in a strange sort of way. Don’t ask me to go deeper than that folks. If you want that portion, go call Dr. Phil.
We don’t need Dr. Phil to see the persecution complex rearing its ugly head again, the ancient Christian “us against the world” spiel they have been playing over and over while they violently eradicated every alternative to themselves for nearly two thousand years.
But let’s bring “Dr. Phil” in regardless, in the guise of John Dean, who looks at the odd relationship of Evangelicals and Trump from another angle, one I suspect is more accurate than Brody’s:
Specifically, as I noted in Conservatives Without Conscience, the authoritarian followers are both men and women, who tend to be highly conventional, always and easily submissive to authority, while willing to work aggressively on behalf of such an authority. They tend to be very religious, with moderate to little education, trusting of untrustworthy authorities, prejudiced (e.g., with respect to gay marriage); they are typically mean-spirited, narrow-minded, intolerant, bullying, zealous, dogmatic, uncritical of their chosen authority, hypocritical, inconsistent, prone to panic easily, highly self-righteous, moralistic, strict disciplinarian, severely punitive; they also demand loyalty and return it, have little self-awareness, and are typically politically and economically conservative Republicans.
If you are close to any Evangelicals, you recognize the type.
Brody says if Trump can reign in his name-calling and subdue his “hefty ego” that he will do even better with Evangelicals, but you have to wonder, in their uncritical analysis, if the siren call of the authoritarian leader – their false messiah – will lead them on to the rocks regardless.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.