A common charge laid at the door of many Americans is that they have lost sight of God and have turned their back on Him and His good works. Good works are part of the bedrock that makes up the religion of Christianity and it provides all with useful lessons about how we can and perhaps should conduct ourselves. Even for the heathens, heretics, and non-believers amongst us, religion can be a force for good and can inspire many to better themselves or pursue a greater purpose.
That said, reading about the evangelicals and their support of Trump, it’s easy to see why that religion has gotten such a bad reputation. They are not the first to sully the reputation of Christians and they will not be the last, but they are certainly amongst the worst. Few things drive that fact home more than evangelicals supporting Trump and his Republican clone running in Alabama, Roy Moore.
A recent poll has found that nearly 40 percent of evangelicals are more likely to vote for Roy Moore after the allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment were exposed. Only 27 percent said they were less likely to vote for him while 34 percent say that the allegations have made no difference at all. This is to say nothing of the breaking hypocrisy of misusing the Bible to justify sexual assault and harassment and the fact that Moore intends to stay in the race, despite calls for him to stand aside.
In his usual way, Trump has declined to say much about Moore’s situation, claiming that he doesn’t watch much TV. No one who knows Donald Trump as a sexual predator, a misogynist, and someone who makes unwanted advances and is himself guilty of misconduct, will be surprised by his lack of response. In fact, Trump is no friend to women and no fan of their rights. From his infamous ‘Grab ’em by the pussy’ remark to his obsession with their appearances, the only difference between him and Moore is rank.
And yet many evangelicals love them and support them. They seem blinded by all these allegations and one has to wonder why. Why are they supporting men who treat women like objects? Why do they excuse his actions while decrying the actions of Bill Clinton’s infamous affair in the same breath? Why do they not condemn the sins of these men and instead praise them as the Second Coming?
The answer is deceptively simple: the pragmatic move of a slowly dying force.
Religion in America is tied closely to politics. Many evangelicals do believe in God, but their belief system is closely aligned with the Republican Party and its values. To them, Trump is a sinner but he’s also a convenient ally. He is a fellow outsider who isn’t afraid to offend people and voice unpopular opinions. To them, he is Jesus, except more orange: disrupting the status quo and upsetting the authorities to do God’s work. To them, that means annoying liberals and getting rid of Planned Parenthood.
Envalegicals see themselves as the early Christians did, separated from society and abused by that society, just because of their beliefs. They feel under attack constantly, their faith tested and yet renewed by such attacks. They feel constantly oppressed by liberals who would push communism and its atheist ideals. Essentially, they live to be despised and in Trump, they see a fellow outsider who is constantly despised for his beliefs, however sinful and ungodly his own actions are.
Roy Moore is the same, an outsider despised by liberals and thus loved by evangelicals. Some might be queasy about supporting him, but they’d rather have him than vote for a Democrat, godless communists that they are.
Evangelicals also sense that their dominance is waning, that the potent force of right-wing religious politics that flourished under Ronald Reagan and beyond is dying out. They feel that they are losing their influence, seen as old-fashioned and unforgivably intolerant in an ever-changing world. They, like many in the UK who voted to leave the EU, feel left behind and left out. Their vote for Trump is as much an attempt to stay relevant and try to hold onto power as much as a pragmatic move.
Whatever the case might be, they should reflect on their own teachings and re-read Jesus’ call to listen to Him and act upon His words rather than simply listen and then disregard what he has said. It is also time to see that religion should become separated from politics. As the evangelicals have proved, the temptation of power over others will seemingly override the idea of following the teachings of God. Supporting Moore or Trump goes against religious teachings in some many ways from their own sins to their divisive rhetoric, pitting humanity against each other.
One day, the houses of sand will be swept by the storms and the lies will be exposed. Roy Moore is slipping in the polls and Trump might not last long himself. If the evangelicals are losing their grip, this is their last gasp.
But the damage is already done.