Donald Trump has won the support of much of the conservative Christian community. This in spite of his profanity laced stump speeches, multiple marriages, and obvious irreligiousness. How did this happen? What made so many Evangelicals so willing to throw out their religious ideals and support this boorish, hedonistic plutocrat? There are many possible answers to this question, but fundamentally, I believe we are witnessing the beginning of a new stage in the culture wars between the religious right and secular liberalism.
As the influence of religion has waned in society, so has the dream of belonging to a “Christian nation.” Evangelicals who support Trump recognise that Christian values have become minority values. And as a minority, Evangelicals can no longer insist on “religious tests” for their leaders. But they CAN attack the new secular humanist culture that has taken the place of religious culture. They pick Trump because they see him as most antagonistic to the values of the new dominant culture: tolerance, political correctness, equality, and empathy.
In the last few centuries the influence of secular humanism has grown dramatically while the influence of religion has waned. Religious people resent the progressive hand of the new secular culture and its encroachments on their lives. Four years ago, this resentment channelled itself into obstructionism: the Tea Party. Today, this resentment is channelling itself into antagonism: Donald Trump.
The Death of Obstructionism, the Rise of Antagonism
The Tea Party of 2012 died because it was a fundamentally unworkable political philosophy. It is a contradiction to have a politician who does not engage in politics. You can only “throw the bums out” so many times before it becomes clear that you can’t trust Washington outsiders any more than you can trust Washington insiders. The death of the Tea Party opened the door for Trump, a man with no ideological purity, whose primary gift is his ability to insult and belittle. For some reason, Evangelicals can’t recognise that Trump will turn his contempt on them as soon as the political winds change. In any case, this new tempest in a teapot will last no longer than the Tea Party did.
When Will We Return to Biblical Apathy?
It’s hard to predict what the future holds for the religious right. Undoubtedly their influence will continue to wane, but this may take many more decades. When obstructionism dies, and antagonism fails, will Christians finally recede back into apathy where they belong? Political apathy is in the spirit of true Biblical Christianity. It “renders unto Caesar” and seeks for a kingdom “not of this world.” As Paul wrote:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Romans 13: 1-2
A “Christian Nation” Was an Illusion
We never belonged to a “Christian nation” in the true sense of the word. The dominance of apostate Christianity in the West was a result of unrighteous political dominion, the subduing of the barbarian world by the Roman Catholic Church. Christ’s true Christianity was always destined to be a minority religion, “few upon on the land” as Nephi prophesies, a “strait and narrow way that few find.” The “religious right” is an accident of the apostasy, something that never should have existed, and never should have sought political control. It may take a long time for this truth to settle in.
Mormons should be among the first to recognise this illusion, given our history as a persecuted minority and our doctrine of the apostasy. Sadly, many Mormons reflexively unite themselves with the religious right, continuously seeking approval as “Christians” within a group that is antagonistic and suspicious of them. This is a good time to reexamine our relationship with the religious right, and our own place as a religious minority within a secular humanist culture. Thankfully, Mormons have not yielded to the antagonism of Trump, nor the Tea Party madness of Ted Cruz. Hopefully we will remain true to ourselves, supporting pragmatic, establishment candidates like Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton. Fundamentally, we are NOT part of the religious right. We are minority pragmatists, committed to political engagement, but not obsessed with “taking back America.” Our kingdom is not of this world.
- Why do you think Donald Trump has the support of much of the Religious Right?
- Why has Tea Party Obstructionism yielded to Trumpian Antagonism?
- Do you agree that Biblical Christianity should be politically apathetic?
- Do you agree that America is not, nor ever was a “Christian Nation” in the true sense of the word?
- What is the role of a religious minority ruled over by a secular humanist culture?