William B. Turner
It is endlessly amusing to see so many good Christians label Trump Christians “evangelicals” to try to insulate their ideology from the taint of Trumpism. So many stories about how puzzling it is for “evangelicals” to forgive Trump so easily for his affair with porn star Stormy Daniels. But calling them “evangelicals” is a pretty thin reed.
“Evangelicals” are Christians. They would not exist as such without Christianity. The problem with trying to wall off Christianity from Trump by calling his Christian supporters “evangelicals” is that evangelical Christianity looks a lot more like the Christianity of the Founders than anyone else’s in the modern United States.
Politically, evangelicals mostly want to be as pre modern as possible. In the late 18th century, belief in the Christian god was much more widespread and much more solid, unquestioned, than it is now. It makes sense that modern Christians, especially good liberals and progressives, are embarrassed by the prominent role their religion played in enabling Europeans to steal two continents from Natives and farm them with African slaves. Trump Christians are a troubling reminder that Christianity has not yet shaken its fundamentally authoritarian, hierarchical character, and it likely never will. Christians systematically extirpated existing religions, first as they took over Europe, then as they took over the rest of the world. About the only commandment they take seriously is “Thou shalt have no other gods than me.”
Certainly they don’t seem to care much about “Thou shalt not kill.”
Good Christians killed off millions of Natives and Africans as part of creating the United States and every other modern nation in “the Americas,” which is itself a Christian name for the place. They continue to do so to this day.
Either “Christianity” denotes an identifiable, discrete body of ideas that all adherents subscribe to, or it doesn’t. It’s easy to see how, especially in the United States, the term, “Christianity” has become so floppy that it can encompass persons with diametrically opposite political opinions.
It has long been so. The first white people in the United States to call for the immediate emancipation of all slaves were Quakers. The vast majority of the good Christians in the United States, especially the slave owners – most slave owners were good Christians – thought that was literally a crazy idea at the time – totally impossible. No matter the issue in U.S. history, one can find persons on either side who claim to be good Christians. It’s a pretty meaningless term.
By trying to wall off Trump Christians with the term “evangelical,” other Christians only contribute to the confusion, which is the result of the interesting U.S. practice of proliferating flavors of Christianity willy nilly. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States runs to five volumes. That’s a lot of flavors.
Good Christians typically resort to the bible to support their Christian moral arguments, but this is incompetent, especially in arguments with U.S. “evangelicals.” They know their bible. The bible is a huge, floppy text that has everything in it, so one can use it to justify anything. Slave owners found justification for slavery in the bible. The vast majority of the non Jewish population of Germany were good Christians – the Protestant Reformation started in Germany – throughout the Nazi period. No points for guessing that the impulse to persecute Jews came from more than 1,900 years of doing exactly that in Christian Europe.
It actually makes far more sense for Christians to support the Donald than for them not to. He is the culmination of 526 years of Christian colonization of “the Americas.” One can draw a pretty straight line of boorish Christian racists from Columbus to Donald Trump.
Walling off Christianity from Trump is a losing proposition.