Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Where Trumpism And Pretend Christianity Meet-- A Danger To America


The Last Supper by Nancy Ohanian

This morning, the NY Times reported that "While Republicans have been bracing for months for a punishing election in November, they are increasingly alarmed that their losses may be even worse than feared because the midterm campaign appears destined to turn more on the behavior of the man in the White House than any other in decades... As much as gun control, immigration, the sweeping tax overhaul and other issues are mobilizing voters on the left and the right, the seamy sex allegations and Mr. Trump’s erratic style could end up alienating crucial blocs of suburban voters and politically moderate women who might be drawn to some Republican policies but find the president’s purported sex antics to be reprehensible."

Right after Stormy's 60 Minutes show-- with its 22 million eye-popping ratings-- Washington Post reporters Andrew Whitehead, Joseph Baker and Samuel Perry asked "Why are white Christians sticking so closely to Trump, despite these claims of sexual indiscretions? And why are religious individuals and groups that previously decried sexual impropriety among political leaders suddenly willing to give Trump a ‘mulligan’ on his infidelity?" They pointed to a Pew Research Poll from earlier this month about values. The poll shows that "Sizable shares of Americans say that those with views different from their own about how Donald Trump is handling his job as president also probably don’t share many of their other values and goals. Just over half (54%) of the public disapproves of the job Trump is doing, while fewer (39%) say they approve of his job performance... Among those who disapprove of Trump, 65% of self-identified Democrats say they don’t think those with a different view of Trump share their other values and goals... By 60%-34%, self-identified Republicans who approve of Trump say those with a different view of him probably do not share their other values and goals."
Among those who approve of the job Trump is doing as president, 51% say that those who feel differently about him probably do not share many of their other values and goals, while 44% say they probably do share their other values and goals.

Among those who disapprove of Trump-- the larger share of the overall public-- 56% say that those who approve of him probably do not share their other values and goals; fewer (39%) say that they probably do.

...Wide differences in views of Trump by educational attainment also persist. By 71% to 26%, those with a postgraduate degree disapprove more than approve of Trump’s performance. Similarly, nearly two-thirds of those with a bachelor’s degree (64%) disapprove.

By contrast, adults with a high school degree or less education are divided in their views: While 49% approve, about as many (46%) disapprove of Trump.

Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants continue to be solidly supportive of the president’s job performance: 78% approve today, while just 18% disapprove. By comparison, white mainline Protestants are divided in their views on Trump, while black Protestants express overwhelming disapproval. A majority of Catholics disapprove of Trump’s job as president (57%), as do 68% of those who are religiously unaffiliated.
Back to Whitehead, Baker and Perry, but not to The Post, but to a sociology of religion podcast they did, Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election. "Why," they asked, "did Americans vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election? Social scientists have proposed a variety of explanations, including economic dissatisfaction, sexism, racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia. The current study establishes that, independent of these influences, voting for Trump was, at least for many Americans, a symbolic defense of the United States’ perceived Christian heritage. Data from a national probability sample of Americans surveyed soon after the 2016 election shows that greater adherence to Christian nationalist ideology was a robust predictor of voting for Trump, even after controlling for economic dissatisfaction, sexism, anti-black prejudice, anti-Muslim refugee attitudes, and anti-immigrant sentiment, as well as measures of religion, sociodemographics, and political identity more generally. These findings indicate that Christian nationalist ideology-- although correlated with a variety of class-based, sexist, racist, and ethnocentric views-- is not synonymous with, reducible to, or strictly epiphenomenal of such views. Rather, Christian nationalism operates as a unique and independent ideology that can influence political actions by calling forth a defense of mythological narratives about America’s distinctively Christian heritage and future." And of course, none this has anything whatsoever to do with Jesus Christ or his teachings.
While American “civil religion” and “Christian nationalism” are closely connected in that both present a narrative and origin myth that expresses purpose and unites those who adhere to it, there are important differences between the two. Civil religion, on the one hand, often refers to America’s covenantal relationship with a divine Creator who promises blessings for the nation for fulfilling its responsibility to defend liberty and justice. While vaguely connected to Christianity, appeals to civil religion rarely refer to Jesus Christ or other explicitly Christian symbols. Christian nationalism, however, draws its roots from “Old Testament” parallels between America and Israel, who was commanded to maintain cultural and blood purity, often through war, conquest, and separatism. Unlike civil religion, historical and contemporary appeals to Christian nationalism are often quite explicitly evangelical, and consequently, imply the exclusion of other religious faiths or cultures. Also paralleling Old Testament Israel, Christian nationalism is often linked with racialist sentiments, equating cultural purity with racial or ethnic exclusion.

Unlike civil religion, contemporary manifestations of Christian nationalism can be unmoored from traditional moral import, emphasizing only its notions of exclusion and apocalyptic war and conquest. Trump represents a prime example of this trend in that he is not traditionally religious or recognized (even by his supporters) to be of high moral character, facts which ultimately did little to dissuade his many religious supporters. In this way, the Christian nation myth can function as a symbolic boundary uniting both personally religious and irreligious members of conservative groups. In this respect Christian nationalism, while more common among white conservative Protestants, also provides a resilient and malleable set of symbols that is not beholden to any particular institution, affiliation, or moral tradition. This allows its influence to reach beyond the Christian traditions of its origins.

During his candidacy, Trump at times explicitly played to Christian nationalist sentiments by repeating the refrain that the United States is abdicating its Christian heritage; however, Trump’s appeals to Christian nationalism were typically overlooked in media coverage of the campaign, which focused more on whether a relatively nonpious candidate could win the vote of the Religious Right. For example, in a speech to a crowd at Liberty University on January 18, 2016, Trump infamously quoted a Bible verse as being from “two Corinthians” rather than the customary “second Corinthians.” News coverage of the event focused on whether this gaffe displaying lack of knowledge about the Bible would hurt Trump with religious voters. Overlooked was the fact that immediately following his faux pas, Trump successfully made a direct appeal to Christian nationalism:
But we are going to protect Christianity. And if you look what’s going on throughout the world, you look at Syria where they’re, if you’re Christian, they’re chopping off heads. You look at the different places, and Christianity, it’s under siege. I’m a Protestant. I’m very proud of it. Presbyterian to be exact. But I’m very proud of it, very, very proud of it. And we’ve gotta protect, because bad things are happening, very bad things are happening, and we don’t-- I don’t know what it is-- we don’t band together, maybe. Other religions, frankly, they’re banding together and they’re using it. And here we have, if you look at this country, it’s gotta be 70 percent, 75 percent, some people say even more, the power we have, somehow we have to unify. We have to band together... Our country has to do that around Christianity (applause).
Similarly, at a campaign stop at Oral Roberts University, Trump announced that “There is an assault on Christianity... There is an assault on everything we stand for, and we’re going to stop the assault.” Later that year, on August 11 in a meeting with evangelical pastors in Florida, Trump claimed:
You know that Christianity and everything we’re talking about today has had a very, very tough time. Very tough time…. We’re going to bring [Christianity] back because it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. They treated you like it was a bad thing, but it’s a great thing.
Similarly, to those gathered at Great Faith Ministries International on September 3, 2016, Trump said, “Now, in these hard times for our country, let us turn again to our Christian heritage to lift up the soul of our nation.” Finally, there were a number of instances where Trump used the Johnson Amendment restricting political speech by nonprofit organizations as a foil, claiming that the Amendment singled out Christians and trampled on their right to freedom of speech.

While Trump directly referenced the Christian nation myth periodically, his various supporters and endorsers also made the connection between voting for Trump and the United States as a Christian nation. This was especially prevalent among various conservative Christian leaders. Many times the connection was made by arguing that Hillary Clinton would make the United States godless and potentially lead to an apocalyptic future. Christian author and media personality Eric Metaxas claimed that “God will not hold us guiltless” if Clinton were elected instead of Trump. James Dobson, founder of the evangelical ministry Focus on the Family, wrote that “If Christians stay home because he [Trump] isn’t a better candidate, Hillary will run the world for perhaps eight years. The very thought of that haunts my nights and days.” In another interview Dobson highlighted the importance of the Supreme Court vacancy and how “unelected, unaccountable, and imperialistic judges have a history of imposing horrendous decisions on the nation. One decision that still plagues us is Roe v. Wade.” He went on to share how religious liberty, religious freedom, and all religious institutions in America would be under siege if Clinton were elected.

Trump’s Christian nationalist rhetoric also expressed a particular eschatology of America’s future, emphasizing how America was once a great nation, but had rapidly disintegrated under the influences of Barack Obama, terrorism, and illegal immigration. Trump’s promise was to restore America to its past glory, a point he made most clearly with his ubiquitous slogan emblazoned upon red hats. The catchphrase has even been refashioned into a Christian hymn.2 Those supporting Trump, like Sarah Palin in her endorsement speech at Oral Roberts University, also implicitly aligned with a Christian nationalist eschatology: “In this great awakening, you all who realize that, man, our country is going to hell in a handbasket under this tragic fundamental transformation of America that Obama had promised us, know what we need now is a fundamental restoration of America.” The 2016 election was repeatedly labeled as conservative Christians’ “last chance” for citizens to protect America’s religious heritage and win back a chance at securing a Christian future. As Trump told conservative Christian television host Pat Robertson, “If we don’t win this election, you’ll never see another Republican and you’ll have a whole different church structure … a whole different Supreme Court structure.” Pining for America’s distinctively Christian past and insecure about her Christian future, all fomented by Trump’s apocalyptic campaign rhetoric, we hypothesize that Americans adhering to Christian nationalist ideology were more likely to vote for Trump.

It is critical to clarify that we are hypothesizing that the influence of Christian nationalism on the 2016 Presidential election is distinct from, even as it is closely related to, other cultural factors influencing voting for Trump. Christian nationalism has been linked to attitudes opposing economic regulations, welfare, and affirmative action, as well as gender equality and gay rights. And even more research has demonstrated that Christian nationalism is a strong predictor of antipathy toward racial boundary crossing, non-white immigrants, and non-Christians, especially Muslims. Consistent with its earlier racialist connotations, Christian nationalism can serve as an ethno-nationalist symbolic boundary portraying nonwhites and Muslims as threatening cultural outsiders. Indeed, in light of the strong role that Islamophobia was shown to play in shoring up support for Trump, and because Islam is often framed as the antithesis of both Christian and American identities, we would expect Trump support, Christian nationalism, and Islamophobia to be closely related.

Despite these close connections with economic views, sexism, racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia, however, Christian nationalism is not synonymous with or reducible to any or all of these. Rather, Christian nationalism operates as a set of beliefs and ideals that seek the national preservation of a supposedly unique Christian identity. Voting for Donald Trump was for many Americans a Christian nationalist response to perceived threats to that identity. Stated more formally, we hypothesize that Christian nationalism will predict voting for Donald Trump even after these other important and interrelated factors have been held constant, as well as under empirical contexts that allow for the potential interplay between Christian nationalism and various forms of ethnic resentment.
If these fake Christians overlook Trump's violation of Biblical proscriptions and injunctions, does anyone think they care at all about his Regime's blatant violations of ethical rules? Yesterday Public Citizen filed 30 ethics complaints against the regime. Lisa Gilbert an officer of Public Citizen explained that “The bottom line is that neither Trump nor his administration take conflicts of interest and ethics seriously. 'Drain the swamp’ was far more campaign rhetoric than a commitment to ethics, and the widespread lack of compliance and enforcement of Trump’s ethics executive order shows that ethics do not matter in the Trump administration.”
A key provision of the ethics order prohibits former lobbyists from being appointed without a waiver to governmental positions that oversee the same specific issue area they lobbied within the past two years. In a report titled The Company We Keep, Public Citizen identified dozens of appointments throughout the Trump administration that appear to violate this rule and has sent letters to the respective designated agency ethics officers requesting that they investigate and explain 30 such lobbyist appointments.

“These 30 apparent violations of Trump’s own ethics rules are only the tip of the iceberg,” said Craig Holman, co-author of the report and lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “We looked at only a quarter of all presidential appointees because records were not readily available at the time. I suspect the real number of potential violations is fourfold.”

About a week into his term, on a Saturday afternoon, Trump issued an ethics executive order designed to implement his campaign pledge to “drain the swamp.” The ethics order came as a surprise to many and borrowed some key provisions from President Barack Obama’s earlier ethics executive order. One such clause reads in part:
“If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment, in addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 6, I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment or participate in the specific issue area in which that matter falls.”
Public Citizen identified 36 lobbyists who have been appointed to positions that oversee the same specific issue areas they recently lobbied, with only six of those appointees having received publicly disclosed waivers from the ethics rule. Violations of Trump’s ethics rules by the remaining 30 former lobbyists would occur if they are in any way involved in influencing official actions on the matters that they had recently lobbied in the private sector and have not received a waiver.

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At 10:14 AM, Blogger bandit said...

Gee, what a popular blog.

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

your thing kinda wandered from the title. But whatever.

Christianity *IS* pretend. Does a pretense of a pretense become a reality? Like a double negative becomes a positive?

That aside, Christianity has been, for its entire existence as a popular mass delusion among incredibly stupid humans, a justification for every single human evil we do to each other and to our host planet. War, murder, genocide, torture, incest, lies, hate, greed... it's all there, all the time. And it's all been sanctified by the "prince of peace" in the name of "god the father". If *I* kill someone, it's a sin; if the god or religion sanctions genocide, it's a holy crusade.

REAL Christianity is pure evil. Always has been. So, a danger to America? yes. But "pretend"? not at all.

Trumpism is simply Christianity learning to use primitive tools. Like a chimp using a long piece of straw to get termites out of a nest.

At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The GOP could fix this tomorrow. House GOP votes to impeach, Senate GOP votes to convict.

So why don't they? Could it be that they fear a President Pence also? That he's too much of a Holy Joe to allow the customary corporate corruption to continue? That they would also be subjected to Pence' extremist and radical religious beliefs? That they would end up being treated like GASP! everyone else???

Must go start another batch of popcorn.


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