Op-Ed: White evangelicals think Trump is divinely ordained. He'll do almost anything to keep it that way
President Trump holds a Bible in his hand as he stands in front of St. John's Church near the White House after tear gas was used to evacuate peaceful demonstrators from nearby Lafayette Square.
Donald Trump's re-election chances are pretty slim without the robust support of his white Evangelical base. His election victory in 2016 was fueled by the turnout of white evangelicals and the overwhelming number of white evangelicals - 81% - who pulled the lever for him. He cannot afford to let religious law, which consists of white evangelicals along with conservative white Protestants and Catholics, give up the tense support they showed during his presidency.
This explains why, in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic and historic anti-racist uprising, the president and his allied religious rights leaders are not focusing on tackling either of the two crises, but rather on stage art that will reaffirm the grassroots belief of Trump is a God anointed President who saves white Christian America from ruin.
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Trump's photocall last week in front of historic St. John's Church, which was ridiculous, sacrilegious and even fascist for many Americans, was filmed - and recorded - as tough and heroic for his defenders. In the pro-Trump media bubble, America is besieged by leftist terrorists, and Trump is the brave protector of a "Christian nation". That the president and his attorney general, William Barr, had gassed the protesters' tears so Trump could go to church was a living symbol of his willingness to fight for the soul of the nation.
"It was strong and powerful for the President to go there and say we won't be intimidated," Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican, told Fox News. And Robert Jeffress, a pastor of the Mega Church, who is one of Trump's closest evangelical advisers, told the network that the purpose of the President's visit was to "demonstrate his intention to protect churches from those who would try to destroy them ".
It doesn't matter that the leaders of the liberal episcopal church itself - from the rector of the church to the bishop of the diocese of Washington to the presiding bishop of the entire denomination - have condemned Trump for kidnapping their church for a partisan trick.
After his evangelical supporters tweeted and sent their praise, Trump bragged in an interview with former press officer Sean Spicer: “Religious leaders loved it. Religious leaders thought it was great. They loved it. "When Spicer asked him if he had" grown "in his belief during his presidency, Trump had no thought about his spirituality. Instead, he said," Perhaps I have seen from the point of view that I have seen so much that I can do. I've done so much for religion. The Johnson addition that gets rid of it. Mexico City. Nobody would have thought that any of this would happen. Two Supreme Court judges. "
If this mess of words comes out to the average listener as unbridled narcissism, it is important to understand how these buzzwords resonate with Trump's base. The Johnson amendment is a provision in US tax law that specifies the exempt status of a church house in such a way that political candidates are not approved by the pulpit. Trump has not "gotten rid of" it, but he has ordered the Internal Revenue Service to stop enforcing the provision, thereby clearing the way for his clerical followers to promote his re-election in their sermons. "Mexico City" refers to the global gag rule imposed by Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan that prohibits US nonprofits working overseas from receiving federal funding for abortion patients Advising or referring abortions or working to liberalize abortion laws.
Trump's actions have intrigued Trump's evangelical loyalists, many of whom believe he is a God-anointed President who was chosen by God to save America. But Trump has saved the four key words for the end: "Two Supreme Court Justices." The words reminded religious law that his appointment of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the nation's Supreme Court helped them achieve their long-held goal of reshaping American law. In these four words, he reminded her that, with the help of the Republican majority in the Senate, he might have installed the votes to Wade to overturn the 1973 decision to legalize abortion and to expand both the legal and constitutional protection of religious people's freedom of conservative Christians.
Trump is reportedly angry that his polls have dropped in the face of public health and economic disasters caused by his fooled response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is one of the reasons why Trump insisted that restrictions on large gatherings that were designed to curb the spread of the corona virus violate religious freedom.
All of this helps to assure evangelicals that far from being an incompetent leader whose policies have helped fuel the deaths of more than 100,000 Americans, Trump is a hero committed to freedom of religion. In the alternative reality of Trump's religious right-wing defenders, Trump is a victim of media that lie about him and of Democrats who "mock prayer" and are "against God."
Now that the protests have been sparked by centuries of American racism and by police's direct murder of George Floyd, Trump is taking the opportunity to gamble on decades-old tropics where civil rights protesters are un-American outsiders. But for his base, Trump's malicious reaction to the demonstrators is further evidence of his strength against America's supposed enemies and, above all, his loyalty to his white Christian followers.
Sarah Posner is rapporteur at Type Investigations. Her new book is "Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship Donald Trump Altar".
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