Like a extra piece of chocolate cake, politics is a tempting distraction for me. I vote and I have worked as a local volunteer in a few campaigns over the years but I mainly watch. Like many, I have lots of opinions and I think I am right. I also indulge in a fair amount of Monday morning quarterbacking but know full well that I am frequently wrong.
I felt that way reading this New York Times article on the GOP’s desperate attempt to stop Donald Trump. The article read a little like the beginning of the end of the GOP I’ve known it. Donald Trump’s nomination would fracture the party, or at least accentuate all the existing fractures. Trump certainly has the angry vote but I don’t think that is enough to win in November, at least I hope it isn’t.
As I have watched this primary season, I have been developing the feeling that Trump is the unintended consequence of seven years of fear mongering fueled by the religious right and social conservatives. Perhaps I think that because I pay more attention to those groups than I do to other groups. However, I think there might be something to what I am thinking since Donald Trump is leading among evangelicals. Ted Cruz’s efforts to get evangelicals by holding all the right Christian positions isn’t resonating with enough evangelicals to win that group. Trump’s angry promises to fix everything that is broken is winning with social conservatives who are fed up politicians who constantly tell us what is wrong with the democrats but never seem to do anything about it.
Evangelical leaders have been angrily attacking everything Obama does for seven years. For instance, David Barton tells his faithful that Obama hasn’t prosecuted any pornography cases when clearly that claim is false. Far right pundits like Glenn Beck have spent many hours telling religious audiences that we are on the precipice, and that the Constitution is “hanging by a thread.” Ministers tell their flocks that the end times are coming because the nation is on the brink of bringing God’s wrath. Here are a very few examples of the thousands I could give:
- Trump recently told an audience that Christianity is under siege and he’s going to fix it. Pastor Robert Jeffress agrees and has endorsed Trump.
- Ted Cruz’s father Rafael told an audience that a new liberal justice will take away all our religious freedom.
- Pastor Jim Garlow recently said America is dead and the 2016 election is the last hope to resurrect the nation.
- Matt Barber’s Barbwire publishes lots of doom and gloom including this one predicting civil war, martial law and FEMA camps.
- David Barton worries that revolution is coming.
In all of the fervor to oppose Barack Obama and the left, I believe evangelical leaders have whipped their audiences into a frenzy of fear and anger. Since many of these evangelical leaders seem enamored with political power, they view the government as the source of the problems. Consistently, they also view a political change as the source of our salvation. The political sphere replaces religion and the simple Gospel as the way and mission of the church. However, since the religious right often blames politicians for the evil, the people aren’t looking for a politician, no matter how well that politician checks off the right stances on social issues. They are mad as hell at politicians and want some other messiah.
Enter Donald Trump.
Trump also plays to the fears of people, religious and non-religious, who have been scared to death by the presence of illegal immigrants. Evangelicals are divided over this with many wanting a path to legal status while others want a mass deportation, as do Trump and Cruz. Those evangelicals who are afraid of immigration are flocking to Trump since he brings the total package of fear mongering to the table.
There is, of course, no way Donald Trump can do most of what he promises. He isn’t going to build a wall, or deport 11 million illegal immigrants, or fix healthcare by simply “removing the lines” around state borders, or bring back companies from overseas or force employees to say Merry Christmas. He isn’t going to make Christianity stronger or save us.
If Trump get the GOP nomination, I suspect millions of Republicans will stay home or vote third party. The Democrat president with continue similar policies as we have now and if the Congress stays about the same, a familiar gridlock will continue. I hope that evangelicals will somehow find some religious leaders who can learn to be in the world but not of it. To me, that means pursuing the mission that only the church can do and on temporal matters seek to work cordially with those leaders we say we pray for on Sunday but demonize the rest of the week.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence. Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits. James Madison, 1785