The political arm of the Christian Evangelical community has fully embraced Donald Trump and now they have no credibility as either a religious entity or a political entity. No candidate campaigning for elective office on the basis of their status as an Evangelical Christian has any business serving the public in a policy making capacity. That candidate is unfit to serve. Let me establish up front that I am not against Evangelical Christians and I am not qualified to judge their religion or their spirituality. This piece is about politics and the role that religion plays in it- not religion itself. There are active and spirited disagreements among Christians over many issues and I am not about to weigh in on who is right. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. My issue is the pervasive tactic of leveraging religion for political gain and as a voter and engaged citizen that IS for me to pass judgement on. Before I break it down, I’ll sum it up like this: I do not want anybody in office whose worldview can be captured so well by this guy
If you take self-identified Christian Evangelicals seeking government office at their word about what they believe and how they live, they are convicted that they have a divine calling to promote their belief system to the general population. In short, they believe that they are called by God to tell other people what to believe and what to do. Practicing their faith properly (as they see it) requires them to attempt to convert others from hell- bound heathens to blessed believers. They believe that they must deliver us blind and lost souls into the light and salvation of their rites and rituals. In their view, there is only one way for mankind to interface directly with the Almighty and they are the sole owners, purveyors and protectors of that pathway. Because America was not founded as a theocracy, that predisposition is noxious to our democratic processes and is almost disqualifying for those proposing to lead their fellow citizens.
There are obvious hazards that come with elevating people with this world view to policy making roles in our government. The dogma of the Christian Evangelical is a poor foundation for a public servant because the prerequisite of true respect for citizens of different backgrounds is beyond their reach. If you are raised (or even worse, converted) to believe that those who do not share your religious beliefs are to be either condemned or converted, then you cannot be counted on to offer the emotional sobriety or intellectual dexterity required for responsible governance. In a world colored with variant shades of grey, the Christian Evangelical dogma only accounts for the stark contrasts of black and white. This is the reason why politicians of this stripe are so comfortable dedicating an inordinate amount of time and energy to legislating about issues that are literally none of their goddamned business. Your poster boys are below. Ralph Reed and Ted Cruz- not an ounce of self awareness between them yet they spend every waking hour fixating on what every American woman can do with her uterus.
For all of these folks, the single galvanizing issue is the right of the government to force childbirth on a woman who- for whatever reason- does not want to give birth. There is no nice way to say it but that is crazy and makes them unfit to govern. Meanwhile, more moderate political figures fear their fanaticism so much that they pretend not to know that the fanaticism itself is the problem. Christian Evangelical politicians feel entitled to frame every debate, speak first, and then speak last because they stand firm on their belief that our arms are too short to box with God- who is of course firmly on their side and none other- ever.
What is worse about this group is that as they have fought to maintain their position of influence in the Republican Party, they have succeeded in making the G.O.P. an anti-science and anti-intellectual wrecking crew. Rational thinkers and actors are not welcome in their world. Particularly in the era of Trump as the G.O.P. standard bearer. In their world, women can auto-abort an unwanted pregnancy and climate change is a myth- a liberal con job designed to curb the power and wealth of the American oil industry. In their world, dimwits swooning under the fever of conspiracy obsession were encouraged to believe that Barack Obama was neither a natural born American nor a Christian and that he would have certainly gotten around to prying those precious guns from their cold dead hands if he were elected to a third term, which we of course was his diabolical plan. Again, there is no nice way to say this, but anyone who believes these things is crazy and might not be fit to govern their own household, much less the nation.
Worse than being crazy though is being the craven coward politician who covets the approval and support of these wing nuts and therefore entertains and suborns their lunacy. That is why John Boehner retired so abruptly as House Speaker after years of crying on television over his public humiliation.
Following the chain of logic of the Christian Evangelical politician is not difficult: If someone happens to believe in life everlasting through Jesus Christ no one can tell them that they are wrong. They have the right to believe and worship as they please- so far, so good. However, asking people to elect you to public office on that basis is problematic regardless of the other positions being advocated for. As a practical matter, when someone has their hands on the levers of power and proclaims that they have the only answers to the existential questions of life we should examine their motives with elevated scrutiny rather than drop our guard.
Furthermore, a candidate who campaigns on his belief that only those like himself have a claim to the divine grace of God is revealing a perspective that would surely compromise his judgment in governance. It is a harsh description but one might even say such a man is bordering on delusion. And that is ok in your personal life- just as long as you are not making laws to bind me and mine. Besides, theocratic reflexes have proven painfully unreliable when establishing leadership character. Judging by certain tragic and embarrassing facts that have come to light in recent years about the scandalous conduct of many priests, pastors, bishops and ministers across the nation, public religious piety should actually evoke more caution than comfort in the objective observer. When it comes to politicians, religious piety really should be the kiss of death.
Titillating scandal aside, if a man believes it is his divine duty to deliver all lost souls he encounters, how can he be expected to set ANY policy that is untouched by that charge? Arguably, the very act of compromising on policy or respecting alternative life views is heresy to him. The uncomfortable truth is that this characteristic makes him more like the Islamic fundamentalists that believe in stoning infidels or flying airplanes into buildings in twisted service to Allah than a sane politician who understands that compromise is part of the job. The very foundation of our political system is rational discourse among citizens and elected officials. The basic requirement for such a system to operate is cast of actors capable of engaging in a fact-based, solution oriented exchange of ideas resulting in policies that bind everyone. For such a system to operate, policy makers must not just possess the talent to persuade, but also the capability to be persuaded by compelling arguments advanced by a counter-part. In the absence of that second component, the system fails to function. And Christian Evangelical politicians are notoriously unpersuadable.
If there is anything positive to be said about the election of Donald Trump, it is that this voting bloc has finally exposed itself as being a complete fraud in supporting him. Despite the fact that Trump is an outlier and no other candidate is likely able to follow his path of idolatry into the graces of this otherwise tight-knit group, it does expose a ray of hope that the Christian Evangelical political cabal may be ripe for a fall. Their craven power lust should make more Americans see them for what they really are: Brazenly hypocritical and unfit to participate in the governance of our country.