Christians For Trump

On Saturday, President Trump delivered the commencement address for Liberty University, the fundamentalist Baptist school founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971, to rapturous applause.

It would seem ridiculous, to an outside observer, to see millions of Christians so thoroughly embrace a man as blatantly un-Christian as Donald Trump. The thrice-married, pussy-grabbing, casino-owning New Yorker who talks about the sex appeal of his own daughter… that’s tough to square with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth — Donald Trump has inherited plenty, but it’s unlikely he did so as one of the meek mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount.

There are plenty of Christians who will have nothing to do with Donald Trump, of course. The Pope seems to be less than enthused with his plans for a border wall, but Francis isn’t a white, American evangelical — and there’s the rub.

For a large number of American Christians, Christianity isn’t just a set of theological beliefs, it’s a sectarian identity, tied inextricably to perceptions of whiteness and exceptionalism and traditional power structures.

The white Christians, more specifically the non-urban evangelical Protestants, have long been fighting a vicious battle to maintain their senses of purity and hegemony. This battle against the usurping other manifests itself as the Ku Klux Klan, murdering black Americans for any perceived or invented slight, any attempt to build political power, or just to prove they can. It manifests as George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse doors, as widespread homeschooling, as “intelligent design,” and as mandatory school prayer, attempting to blunt or hijack or deny the power of education. It manifests as the “War on Christmas,” demanding Christian symbols be given a central place in the public square and their meanings made explicit. It manifests as American Christians calling themselves the most persecuted group in the country when 52 percent of U.S. hate crime victims are Jewish people and 22 percent are Muslims.

Most of all, it manifests as the assumption and the assertion that their sectarian group is the cultural default and the rightful wielder of state power, which is to be deployed in service of their group’s continued rule.

It doesn’t take much listening to realize Donald Trump doesn’t really care one way or the other about the big Culture War battles, from abortion to LGBTQ acceptance to pornography to gay marriage to trans people using the fucking bathroom of their choice. But the white evangelicals do. If Trump — who ticks all the boxes of native-born, straight, old, rich, white, male, and (ostensibly) Presbyterian — is willing to pay lip service to their beliefs and let Republican legislators pass law after law that entrenches their power, wealth, and group superiority, they’ll take it. And he’ll take their applause.

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