Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How the religious right embraced Trump and lost its moral authority

Christian Conservative, Russell Moore:

“For years, secular progressives have said that evangelical social action in America is not about religious conviction but all about power.”

 “They have implied that the goal of the Religious Right is to cynically use the ‘moral’ to get to the ‘majority,’ not the other way around. This year, a group of high-profile old-guard evangelicals has proven these critics right.”


I have been commenting on this subject all during the Trump phenomenon. How the religious right could embrace a man that is so morally repugnant was mystifying,  If, say, Barack Obama, for example, had trotted out his five children by three wives during the DNC convention in 2008, or had we read about his boasting that he had affairs with many married women, or if we had heard an audio tape of Obama bragging about being able to grab women's genitals because he was a star, had anything like that been revealed about Barack Obama, people like Ralph Reed or Jerry Falwell, Jr., would have burst  blood vessels while bellowing about the moral disintegration of our precious country by allowing that sort of man near the White House. Hadn't this country suffered enough through the sexual exploits  during Bill Clinton's administration? And yet the same people who couldn't heap enough condemnation during the Clinton scandals are justifying their support of a sexual predator who had no problem with a radio shock jock calling his young daughter "a piece of ass." 

Jeff Jacoby, the long-time Boston Globe's conservative columnist, expresses the same astonishment over how those people who were shocked by l'affaire Clinton have nothing negative to say about Trump.  They have traded their moral authority for political ideology. 

By Jeff Jacoby 

IT WILL TAKE a long time to assess the full extent of the damage wrought by Donald Trump on the Republican Party and American conservatism. But this much is already clear: Buried under the post-election wreckage will be the moral credibility of the religious right. Hypocrisy and politics have gone hand in hand since time immemorial. But the embrace of Trump by influential religious conservatives — who have always insisted that they, like Hebrew National, answer to a higher authority — is orders of magnitude worse than the customary flip-flopping and sail-trimming of a presidential campaign.


 You didn’t have to sympathize with the Christian right’s political platform to understand why so many evangelical leaders were appalled by the sexual scandals that trailed Bill Clinton into the White House. It was no mystery, for example, why Ralph Reed, an early leader of the Christian Coalition, would insist vehemently, in 1998, as pressure was growing for Clinton’s impeachment, that “we care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character.” Or why the formidable televangelist Pat Robertson would blast Clinton as a “debauched, debased, and defamed” politician who turned the Oval Office into a “playpen for the sexual freedom of . . . the 1960s.” 


 Equally intolerable is the willingness to ignore a candidate’s brazen moral offenses because you like his stands on public policy. Such ends-justify-the-means arguments are “Nixonian,” said Bennett. “Moral precepts are real; they are not like warm candle wax, easily shaped to fit the ends of this or that president, or this or that cause.” When Trump backers downplay their candidate’s scandalous conduct on the grounds that Supreme Court appointments matter more, they are as bad as Clinton backers who downplayed the president’s Oval Office debauchery because they liked his position on abortion rights. Yet Bennett now exemplifies the phenomenon he excoriated. 

When it came to Clinton’s depravity, Bennett was unsparing. Trump’s depravity he doesn’t mind so much. In August, Bennett accused anti-Trump conservatives of “put[ting] their own vanity and taste above the interest of the country.” Not everyone on the religious right has sacrificed their principles for Trump’s sake. A coalition of Liberty University students issued an eloquent statement Wednesday rebuking Falwell for endorsing the GOP nominee. 

“Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him,” they wrote. Albert Mohler, a deeply respected Baptist theologian, remains as steadfast in opposing Trump as he was in opposing Bill Clinton. But they and other honorable exceptions will not undo the damage caused by the pro-Trump leaders of the evangelical right. What started as Christian witness ended in hypocritical partisanship. Religious conservatives shed their principles, and thereby dismantled their influence. 


Rational Nation USA said...

Conservatives, especially evangelicals, most certainly have surrendered their ethical and moral credibility/authority for a long time into the future. However, while mmost of us see their hypocrisy for what it is, these self proclaimed guardians of morality will rationalize their support for a man completely void of character who has no moral compass whatsoever guiding him.

Infidel753 said...

I've been reading about this issue, and basically, they are more concerned with the prospects of being able to impose their morality on the country than they are with the personal morals of the person who helps them do the imposing. That is, however repulsive Trump's personal behavior, they hope he'll appoint Supreme Court judges who will rule against gay rights and Roe v Wade, which Hillary's judges definitely would not do -- and that's all that matters. There are a lot of references to cases in the Bible where God used an immoral man for a Godly purpose, such as Cyrus the Great (a pagan ruler) who released the Jews from the Babylonian captivity.

The fact that Trump chose Mike "God hates fags" Pence as a running mate also served as something of a handy fig leaf.

I suspect this is a bit too nuanced for the rank-and-file fundies who have been trained for years to reject nuance. They're much more comfortable condemning everything in sight. Jacoby's right that the leaders' credibility will not easily recover -- especially after Trump loses, and it will look like they sold out their principles and didn't even get anything for it.

Bluebull said...

I couldn't agree more with you both if I tried. At this point, I'd question the sincerity of anyone claiming to be a Christian and voting for Trump. He is exactly the opposite of what they claim to believe in. Not that logic or rational thought has ever permeated the thick skulls of righties......

Shaw Kenawe said...

I've always noted that not all Christians have traded in their moral values for a demagogue and a fraud who promises them that only he can fix this country's problems. There are many Christians who stayed true to their faith and beliefs and rejected the morally repulsive Trump.

From DeadState

Christian conservative Russell Moore denounced evangelical leaders who support Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump despite what he sees as the GOP frontrunner’s lack of Christian values.

Moore, who is the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote a column for the Washington Post on Monday where he stopped calling himself an “evangelical” and instead refers to himself as a “gospel Christian” because he believes the word “evangelical” has been “contaminated” with politics.

Moore didn’t mention Trump’s name in the piece, however he alluded to the former reality TV star’s “spewing of profanities in campaign speeches, race-baiting and courting white supremacists, boasting of adulterous affairs, debauching public morality and justice through the casino and pornography industries.”

He also believes that Trump and those who are supporting him do not seem to know much of the Bible.

“Why are many evangelical leaders, including some who pontificate on nearly everything else, scared silent as evangelicalism is associated with everything from authoritarianism and bigotry to violations of religious freedom?”

In a surprising twist, Moore admits “secular progressives” were right in some respects, specifically on contemporary evangelicals who fuse religion and politics to gain status.

“For years, secular progressives have said that evangelical social action in America is not about religious conviction but all about power.”

“They have implied that the goal of the Religious Right is to cynically use the ‘moral’ to get to the ‘majority,’ not the other way around. This year, a group of high-profile old-guard evangelicals has proven these critics right.”