Link and Comment: Evangelicals Embrace Trump Because They’re Frightened in a Big World They Don’t Understand

NYT, from Dec. 15th. Amy Sullivan, who describes herself as “a progressive evangelical and journalist covering religion”, wonders “how white conservative evangelicals could support Mr. Trump, who luxuriates in divisive rhetoric and manages only the barest veneer of religiosity.” And realizes, “Fox evangelicals don’t back Mr. Trump despite their beliefs, but because of them.”

America’s New Religion: Fox Evangelicalism

(On the one hand, I’ve realized it’s not especially productive to react to every opinion piece that observes something new about the Trump phenomenon, because a few weeks later the reference is dated and there are fifty new opinion pieces. On the other hand, I do comment when I see something that speaks to some larger issue… in this case, what the true motives of evangelicals are, since it’s obviously not fidelity to the messages of Jesus and the New Testament.

I do have to say, in general, that the Trump phemenon proves once and for all that evangelicals are not about any kind of spiritual purity or possession of a truth that the heathens refuse to accept. Rather the past two years has shown, beyond everything else to their discredit, that evangelicals are motivated by base tribalism — fear of strangers and change. And in the current case, a visceral reaction by the most racist among us to the occupation of the White House by a black man for eight years.

And the larger point is that this is an enduring aspect of human nature, ready to erupt at any time, anywhere, in any nation no matter how supposedly advanced and convinced of its own superiority. The descent into fascism; one reason civilizations collapse.)

The regular Fox News viewer, whether or not he is a churchgoer, takes in a steady stream of messages that conflate being white and conservative and evangelical with being American.

The writer attends a screening of a film about gun restrictions at a Bible College in North Dakota.

As two dozen of us gathered for a post-screening discussion, I was both astonished and troubled, as a fellow evangelical, by the visceral sense of fear that gripped these young adults. As a child in the Baptist church, I had been taught to be vigilant about existential threats to my faith. But these students in a town with a population of some 1,200 saw the idea of a home invasion or an Islamic State attack that would require them to take a human life in order to save others as a certainty they would face, not a hypothetical.

These fears are far removed from the reality of life in North Dakota, a state that saw a total of 21 homicides in 2015. Of those deaths, seven were caused by firearms, and only three were committed by someone unknown to the victim. Yet the students around me agreed unreservedly with Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, who was seen in the film asserting that “in the world around us, there are terrorists, home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers.”

It’s mostly about being frightened, about realizing that your small corner of the world isn’t all there is, that there are other kinds of people, people you don’t understand.

They might hear a sermon about what the Bible actually reaches for 30 or 40 minutes a week, but they watch Fox News three or four hours a day. Sullivan quotes evangelical writer Jonathan Martin.

“Now the Bible’s increasingly irrelevant. It’s just ‘us versus them.’”

“It explains how much evangelicals have moved the goal post,” said Mr. Martin. “If there’s not a moral theology or ethic to it, but it’s about playing for the right team, you can do anything and still be on the right side.”

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