As Americans move closer to the November presidential election, this is a good time to review the benefits and costs of the overwhelming support that Donald J. Trump received in 2016 from people who identify as white evangelical Christians.
One way to do that is by reading this Atlantic piece.
Many of those Trump voters wanted him to appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices who might overturn the Roe vs. Wade 1973 decision legalizing abortion. That overturning hasn't happened yet, despite Trump appointing two justices. And the two he appointed -- especially Neil Gorsuch -- haven't always ruled in ways that many of those Trump voters wanted them to rule.
That was especially true in the ruling that, as the Atlantic piece reported, "protected gay and transgender individuals from workplace discrimination, handing the LGBTQ movement a historic victory. . .
"It was a crushing blow for the religious right," Peter Wehner writes in that article. But wait. There's more. As Wehner notes, that "was not the only major legal setback for social conservatives and evangelical Christians. By a 5–4 margin, the Court — in June Medical Services v. Russo — delivered a significant defeat to the pro-life movement, striking down as unconstitutional a Louisiana law that could have left the state with only a single abortion clinic. . .Social conservatives can point to some important religious-liberty victories. But overall, this term was a judicial gut punch for the president’s evangelical supporters."
So will evangelicals who supported Trump to get the judges they wanted stick with him? Probably many of them will, given that they almost certainly would not like anyone Joe Biden might nominate to the high court or even to lower courts.
But there's more to all this than judges. There's also the reality that Trump's life shows contempt for the very values (family, honesty, compassion, generosity, etc.) for which evangelicals say they stand. And this became even more clear when Trump's niece, Mary L. Trump, released her new book.
As Wehner writes, "Elsewhere, Trump has engaged in a bromance with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the worst persecutor of Christians in the world, and established more intimate and admiring relationships with many of the world’s despots than with leaders of America’s traditional allies. And on issues that have traditionally concerned conservative evangelicals, such as fiscal responsibility and limited government, Trump has been awful: The deficit and the debt exploded under his watch, even pre-pandemic."
Beyond that, of course, Trump's views on race should be an embarrassment to any person of faith who believes God loves everyone, no matter what color a person's skin. As Wehner notes, Trump has recently "tweeted a video of a supporter shouting 'white power' (he later deleted it but has yet to denounce it); attacked NASCAR’s only Black driver, Bubba Wallace, while also criticizing the decision by NASCAR to ban Confederate flags from its races; threatened to veto this year’s annual defense bill if an amendment is included that would require the Pentagon to change the names of bases honoring Confederate military leaders; referred to COVID-19 as “kung flu” during a speech at a church in Phoenix; and blasted two sports teams, the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, for considering name changes because of concerns by supporters of those franchises that those team names give undue offense."
What supporting such a man does is to bring great shame and disrepute not only on evangelical Christianity but also on Christianity more broadly and, in fact, on religion itself.
The reassuring news is that there are some efforts afoot to convince evangelicals to dump Trump in 2020, as this RNS story reports.
But none of this is to say that we've ever had a perfect president or a perfect presidential candidate. There's even strong evidence that Abraham Lincoln, the "Great Emancipator," was what today would be called a racist bigot and white supremacist. Some of that evidence is found in his remarks at the fourth of the Lincoln-Douglas debates when both Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were running for the U.S. Senate from Illinois in 1858.
If you were unaware of this, you can read Lincoln's words for yourself at the link I just gave you, but here's a highlight:
"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."
So, yes, Abraham Lincoln demonstrated clearly then that he was a white supremacist, as were most of our early presidents, at least in part because they were living in a system designed from the beginning to recognize whites as superior.
But in this post-George-Floyd-death time, it's time for evangelical Christians -- and all people of faith and people of no faith at all -- to reject the kind of bigotry that Trump spews because it is against everything the great world religions teach. Perhaps some chastened evangelicals will recognize that by the time of the vote in November.
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KILLING PEOPLE TO SHOW KILLING PEOPLE IS WRONG
Here's one more thing that people of faith should find appalling about the direction the Trump administration is moving: The resumption of using the death penalty on federal prisoners. Three people have been executed in just the last few days, the most recent on Friday in Indiana. Thank goodness that, as the RNS piece to which I just linked you reports, faith leaders around the country are speaking out against this outrage: “So much for the ‘pro-life’ administration,” the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, wrote in a Facebook post. “The taking (of) a life is always immoral. So is the taking (of) a life to punish the taking of another life." Capital punishment is a barbaric holdover from a time that should be long gone.