For a nation that allegedly separates church and state, Americans sure love to splash religion all over everything, their elections especially. So this week, Donald Trump made headlines by accusing the frontrunner, Joe Biden of being “against god.” Cue the angels with trumpets.
Americans make big oompah sounds about their politicians having religion — Christian religion specifically and preferably protestant — although curiously, as Trump has proven, the voters don’t seem to give a rat’s ass whether that same politician has any ethics or morality.
Trump didn’t say which god, of course. I’m pretty sure it would be accurate to say Biden is “against” Marduk, or Baal, or Ganesh, or maybe even Thor, if by “against” you mean he doesn’t recognize these gods as those he worships or recognizes as a supreme deity. By that definition, Trump himself would be against these gods. Both candidates would likely be against the Flying Spaghetti Monster, too. Which god, though, is left up to the imagination, but in Trump’s case, I’d guess it was Mammon.
Trump also warned his audience (who were expecting him to speak on the economy, not make a self-serving campaign rant) that Biden had “no religion, no anything,” and would “hurt the Bible, hurt God.” He didn’t specify how Biden would do these things or how a mere mortal could actually hurt an immortal, omnipotent, incorporeal being.
But this isn’t just Trump’s usual word salad, full of lies, incomplete sentences, and contradictions. While it’s always expected Trump will lie and bluster — as he does daily — by bringing god into the picture, he seems to be more desperate to beat the drum as the election approaches. *
Trump is playing to his base of pseudo-Christians (aka the Talibangelists) — pretty much all the support he has left after four years of horrific mismanagement, incompetence, lies, and blunders. The Talibangelists react to any accusation that someone is “against god” or doesn’t like the bible, or has no faith (their definition of faith) or is of another religion with a hair trigger into frothing anger and vituperation. Unlike Trump, the Talibangelists have a very definite idea of who their god is: a tall, English-speaking, blue-eyed, vindictive, Caucasian of Northern European descent, who hates gays, lesbians, Jews, and Muslims, but lets his followers eat bacon and shop in box stores on the Sabbath, and encourages viewers to send televangelist preachers all their money.
In 2016, Trump — a confessed adulterer who paid porn stars for sex, who has been accused of sexual assault and even rape by dozens of women, and who has mocked the disabled — won 81% of the “white evangelical” vote, which says a lot about that segment’s gullibility and disdain for basic moral principles. Their continued support only underscores their willingness to ignore the truth of his unethical and immoral behaviour to keep him in power. But to be fair, they are CINOs —Christians In Name Only — so they have an opportunistic code for themselves.
This comes from a man who claimed the bible was his “favourite book” yet in an interview could not identify any book, verse, or story in the bible (admittedly, no one can really imagine Trump actually reading any book, let alone the bible) , who has an openly grasping and venal looney as a “spiritual advisor,” who praises a batshit crazy doctor-pseudo-christian pastor who claimed “alien DNA was being used in medical treatments, and that scientists were cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious.” And it’s the same guy who had peaceful protestors tear-gassed so he could walk across a street for an awkward photo op with someone’s bible held backwards. As noted in Raw Story, Trump admitted it wasn’t even his own bible (no one, it seems, can confirm he even actually owes one):
By saying “it’s not my Bible,” Trump in effect winked at the press, letting White House correspondents in on the joke he’s been playing though the joke required gassing peaceful protesters out of the way for the punchline to work. This, in combination with holding the Bible as if it were a Trump Steak, may have had the effect on twice-born Christians of draining the holy from the moment. By telling the truth, the president broke the fourth wall to confess to playing a fake Christian on television.
Of course, Trump is hardly new to hypocrisy or using religion and people for his own ends. He doesn’t even attend church, although the Talibangelists overlook that. Before the 2016 election, Pope Francis commented about Trump the candidate, that,
A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.
Trump responded by blaming — his usual response to anything negative is to blame someone else — the pope’s comments on the “Mexican government convinced him that Trump is not a good guy.” I suppose that’s the same Mexican government Trump promised his followers would pay to build the wall between the two countries. To date only “16 miles of the 194 miles that have been constructed were built in places where fencing didn’t already exist.” (167 miles of primary wall replaced existing structures). Mexico hasn’t contributed a peso towards it and never will. But I digress.
In December, 2019, the respected religious publication, Christianity Today, published an editorial that said Trump should be removed from office, and calling his actions, ” profoundly immoral,” and that he, “abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath.”
Trump began by falsely describing Christianity Today, which has a mainstream audience, as “far left” and “very ‘progressive.’” (Although it’s true the publication has been critical of Trump for years, that’s very different from being far left.) He claimed, without evidence, that the magazine “has been doing poorly.” He took gratuitous shots at the Democratic presidential candidates, comparing their faith unfavorably with his own — and ignoring the fact that if the Senate removes him from office, Vice President Mike Pence, not a Democrat, will take his place.
Christianity Today “knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President,” Trump tweeted. “No President has done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close. You’ll not get anything from those Dems on stage.”
Christianity Today also had a message for Trump’s evangelical followers (which, of course, they ignored):
To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?
In January, Atlantic magazine ran a piece titled, There Is No Christian Case for Trump, subtitled, When faith is treated as an instrumentality, it’s bad for politics and worse for the Christian witness. In it the author says,
Even if you bend over backwards to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, you can’t watch videos or read lists of his lies and come away anything but troubled by how much violence Trump does to truth and reality. To dismiss Trump’s lies as simply manufactured by “fake news” is to perpetrate, even unknowingly, an untruth… When I started my Christian journey, at the end of high school, I never assumed that Christians would escape human foibles and human frailties. But I thought that faith would have more power, including more transformative power, than I have often witnessed, and that followers of Jesus would (imperfectly) allow a faith ethic to shape their understanding of things. That more than most, they would speak truth to power. Too often, they have denied truth in order to gain and keep power.
And power is what the Talibangelists most want: their goal is a theocracy run by them very alike that proposed by ISIS or the Taliban: authoritarian, misogynist, homophobic, racist, with lethal punishments for transgressions (If you read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ve seen how it might be modelled). And Trump has a lot of these people around him, not just his Talibangelist Attorney General, William Barr. For example, Jenna Ellis is one of Trump’s lawyers and also a fervent Talibangelist. She recently went on a bizarre Twitter rant in which she accused the Democrats of various ills, including “cancelling” Christianity, as if it were a TV game show:
If they try to cancel Christianity, if they try to force me to apologize or recant my Faith, I will not bend, I will not waver, I will not break.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand.
And I’m proud to be an American.
Ellis, who seems to have not a few screws not simply loose but missing entirely, apparently has no interest in the separation of church and state. She is a senior legal adviser to the President, and author of The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution: A Guide for Christians to Understand America’s Constitutional Crisis. What “constitutional crisis” you ask. Well, it’s same sex marriage, she replies. According to the Amazon description of her book:
America is in the midst of a cultural and constitutional law crisis that began more than sixty years ago and was further exacerbated by the 2015 Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision. How did we become a culture that lacks objective morality and embraces secular ideas, hinging on the majority whim of nine justices? How do we get back to being a biblically moral, upright society and recognizing the U.S. Constitution as supreme law of the land?
Apparently equality is not an American ideal, and thus granting it created a constitutional crisis. In her view, you can only be “objectively moral” is you hew to her uber-rightwing views, and also kill all the gays.
The description continues, “…the true roots of America’s Founding Documents in objective morality and how our system of government is founded upon the Christian worldview and God’s unchanging law, not a secular humanist worldview.” Which is of course the opposite of pretty much everything the founders said and wrote, but Talibangelists never cared much for accuracy or facts.
I guess “God’s unchanging law” not to eat bacon or shrimp, or not to wear clothes with wool and linen, or to rest on the Sabbath, and a few others of the 613 laws in the Old Testament that are inconvenient are okay to ignore.
She further wants, “…to reclaim objective, biblical morality in law that the Founders themselves provided for through Article V of the U.S. Constitution.” Article V allows two-thirds of the states to call for an amendment to the Constitution, which in her case would be to change the laws to undo the equality and make being gay and lesbian or any homosexual sex illegal. Hardly like a Nazi at all, is she? Claiming to embrace Christian values isn’t the same as actually embracing them, as she and the other Talibangelists constantly prove. Like I said, pseudo-Christians crave power most of all. Let’s not forget that “biblical morality” includes incest, treachery, murder, adultery, gang rape, genocide, slavery, drunkenness, and a few other evils that get conveniently forgotten when Talibangelists get on their soap boxes about homosexuality.
Not that Trump cares. What he cares about is rigid, absolute loyalty to himself, and somewhat to his family (Ivanka in particular). But to keep the Talibangelists glued to his side, he will continue to throw out lies and insults about his opponents and their faith or intentions. Which is somewhat pointless as a campaign tactic, given that they are highly unlikely to change their voting pattern now they have a real foothold on the power they desire. They have been able to move America further and further to the pseudo-Christian far right since Trump was elected. Why would they want to change candidates for someone who might not be as malleable or simple?
* Trump also bloviated that Biden was on the “radical left,” which is risible since Biden was chosen as the “moderate” candidate over Bernie Sanders, although Biden is fairly right of centre. Sanders would be considered a centrist at best by anyone on the actual left (which means in other nations, since America has no actual left). Calling Biden “radical” is as ironic as calling Trump “literate.”