According to a recent Pew survey, white evangelicals by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, are more likely than other Americans to agree that Trump is "morally upstanding" and "honest.”
This survey was released almost simultaneously with the latest update from the Washington Post’s fact checking team: Trump has told over 18,000 lies since he took office.
Eighty-one percent of Evangelicals and a majority of white Christians voted for Trump in 2016. Anthea Butler wrote for NBC that what keeps Evangelicals' support for Trump strong is racism. Evangelicals have long participated in and supported racist structures in America, she wrote; they “count on Trump to protect them from socialists, Muslims, independent women, LGBT people and immigration.” And of course, from black and brown-skinned people.
Trump has a well-documented history of racism, among them federal charges of racial discrimination in rentals in the ‘70s; his outrageous campaign against the Central Park Five should have disqualified him from any office. His five-year-long racist birther campaign against Obama, said the National Catholic Reporter, was intended to deprive Obama of citizenship and legitimacy. It was a lie: Obama’s mother was a U.S. citizen, so her children are automatically citizens no matter where they were born.
Rev. Eric Atcheson ("On Earth As It Is In Heaven…”) told NBC News that white churches need to recognize Christianity's complicity in justifying policies like native genocide and slavery.
Slavery is America’s original sin, and most Christian churches supported it, particularly in the South. It was slavery, as Confederate leaders and secession ordnances made clear, that led to secession, the Civil War and the later Jim Crow.
Yolanda Pierce, the dean of the divinity school at Howard University, has written that “early American religious rhetoric is deeply intertwined … with slaveholding: It is pro-slavery.”
The justification was the Bible, which clearly approves of slavery in several passages — and nowhere condemns it. It prescribes how to obtain slaves, how hard you can beat them, and when you can have sex with the female slaves.
It even specifies (Exodus 21) that “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.” And, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5). The original texts specify “slaves” who are bought and sold, not servants, bondsmen or other euphemisms.
Only the Southern Baptists apologized for their role in promoting slavery, in 1995 and again in 2018, accompanied by a 71-page confession.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported on “racist religious movements within white supremacy” such as the Christian Identity movement, sovereign citizens, militia extremists and violent anti-abortion opponents that use religion and the Bible to justify threats, criminal activity and violence. This includes the KKK and anti-Semitic groups who blame Jews for killing Jesus. Virtually all are supporters of Trump and the Republican Party.
Professor of Religious Studies Bart D. Erhman, the author of 20 books, has written, “…anyone with a grasp of history at all knows just how violent Christians have been over the ages, sponsoring oppression, injustice, wars, crusades, pogroms, inquisitions, holocausts — all in the name of faith…"
As John Adams wrote, if not restrained by law, evangelical Christians in America would “whip and crop, and pillory and roast” just as they did throughout European history (Joseph J. Ellis).
Biblical superstition and self-righteousness can be dangerous. George W. Bush, “a militaristic religious zealot” (biographer Jean Edward Smith), reportedly asked French Prime Minister Chirac to join the U.S. invasion of Iraq because Gog and Magog were “at work” in the Middle East...“The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled …This confrontation is willed by God….”
France declined, but Bush invaded anyway. Tens of thousands died, including 4,500 Americans. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Chirac later said he was boggled by Bush’s call and “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs.”
Many Americans are obviously “boggled” by Trump’s claim that ingesting or injecting disinfectants would kill the coronavirus. Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley called his comment “cavernously stupid.” Ingesting/injecting disinfectants like bleach can be deadly; a Dallas nurse was convicted of murder in 2013 for injecting ten patients with bleach. Five of them died.
H.L. Mencken warned us, to no avail: “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
Tom Maertens served as a White House National Security Council director during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He lives in Mankato.