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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

 
Donald Trump, disco evangelist

by digby


















Ben Domenech says that Donald Trump is the left's fault because they fought for their own values and refused to accept evangelical theocracy:
Trump has been able to peel away so many evangelicals as his supporters, despite being an unchurched secularist with three wives who couldn’t tell a communion plate from an offering basket. It is because of the increasingly large portion of evangelicals who believe the culture wars are over, and they lost.

If you’re a conservative who thinks the culture wars are over (they’re never really over, of course), then you are a lot more open to the idea of a unprincipled blowhard who promises he’s got your back on political correctness. From the perspective of the southern evangelicals I’ve spoken to in South Carolina, they don’t have any qualms about admitting that Trump is not a good Christian. They have no illusions about his unbelief. The difference is that while they believe Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio would be one more round of good soldiers for their cause, they think Donald Trump would be a tank.

Evangelicals tried for years to fight for the culture—to win the argument for their traditional views regarding marriage, family, and the value of human life. Now they want to fight on different ground: political correctness. And since Trump is the king of that—an ally who isn’t Jesus-y but says he’s with the Jesus people—he can tear off a third of that evangelical electorate without moderating any of his secularism.
Ever since the 1980s and the Moral Majority, evangelicals have been loyal to the Republican Party, giving their votes in return for promises on abortion, family, and other arenas of policy which promised them protection for their churches and their priorities. These policies were supposed to serve as a defense against losing the culture war. But for all this loyalty, evangelicals have little to show for it.
Republican judicial nominees have been a mixed bag at best. George W. Bush never reasserted the Reagan Rule on abortion funding. Roe v. Wade is still on the books. And religious liberty has been a line a surprising number of Republicans are unwilling to defend, lest they be called bigots.

Some evangelicals now believe this approach is a failure at best, and a lie at worst. On the one hand, that inspires a desire for revenge—on the other, for just walking away. Both tendencies aid the Trump phenomenon.

He is not one of them—they know that. But they believe he is for them at a time when their faith and beliefs have become politically incorrect. They know he doesn’t care if he’s called a bigot, and that is a very powerful thing in today’s political fray. They don’t care if he’s a good person—they care that he’s a warrior for everything at odds with the elite opinion of the day… which now includes them.

Or maybe they're just unreconstructed bigots, just like Donald Trump, and they've finally found a candidate who doesn't dogwhistle it and instead says it right out loud. Maybe their evangelical identity isn't about religion at all. Maybe it's a about tribalism.

Sarah Posner takes a different tack in this piece about Trump's appeal to the evangelical voters' who buy into prosperity theology that I think is a little bit more intriguing. I mentioned this in pieces about Cruz vs Trump in South Carolina over the past couple of weeks noting that the evangelical vote is actually split (like everything else in the GOP coalition) between the true believers and .... something else.

Posner explains what that is:

Sen. Ted Cruz of (R-Tex.) seems to be the quintessential evangelical candidate: a pastor’s son who can strut a campaign rally stage as though it’s a revival and who pledged to inspire millions of supposedly apathetic evangelicals to vote for a resurgent Christian America.

Cruz amassed the endorsements of more than 300 pastors and other religious leaders in South Carolina. TheBlaze founder Glenn Beck, one of Cruz’s most high-profile supporters, told voters at a South Carolina rally that the senator was “raised for this hour” by the “hand of divine providence.” Cruz was supposed to be a messianic figure to save Christian America from its downward secularist spiral.

But Trump, whose Bible has seemed like more of prop than a campaign-animating principle, understands other impulses of evangelical voters. This intuition also enabled him to best Cruz, 30 to 13 percent, among non-evangelical voters in South Carolina.

That impulse, which is Trumpism in a nutshell, is the magical thinking of how Americans get rich, whether it’s by surviving a reality television show, getting lucky with an investment, winning the lottery or being blessed by God.

Trump is arguably the candidate most resembling a televangelist.

For many evangelicals, Pentecostals and charismatic Christians, magical thinking has found its expression through the prosperity gospel, much to the consternation of Christians who consider it a heresy and a fraud. A uniquely American contribution to the evolution of Christianity in the modern age, the prosperity gospel teaches that God wants believers to be rich.

It’s also called the health and wealth gospel: Its adherents believe that God blesses the faithful with great wealth, keeps their health robust and cures the faithful of every malady. Successful televangelists boast of revelations received directly from God and of their ability to produce miracles.

If you’re poor or if you’re sick, that’s a sign of a lack of faith. Or in Trump’s parlance, a loser.

Despite countless exposés of prosperity televangelists’ excesses — including Creflo Dollar’s pleas for his followers to fund his $60 million Gulfstream airplane, Benny Hinn’s phony faith healings, and Kenneth Copeland’s luxurious homes, cars and planes — televangelism still thrives in America. It is, according to the scholar Kate Bowler, who wrote a book about it, “one of the most popular forms of American Christianity.” It has permeated evangelical culture, through television, megachurches, conferences and books that are found not just in Christian bookstores but also at the checkout line at supermarkets and in airports. It is everywhere.

Election Day exit polls typically ask voters whether they are “born-again or evangelical” or not. That’s not particularly helpful in discerning the varieties of evangelicals in America, or in understanding whether there are trends in their Republican presidential preferences.

But Trump’s style is nonetheless a marker of how prosperity theology has pervaded political culture as well. Trump, who was raised on the power-of-positive-thinking theology of the late Norman Vincent Peale, has fully assimilated the supernatural appeal of the prosperity message. He doesn’t have an economic policy platform. Instead, he touts his own wealth and success as the evidence of how he will “make America great again.”

Every presidential candidate, of course, relies in part on aspirational oratory. But Trump’s stump speeches are particularly devoid of policy proposals, focusing instead on his celebrity. When Trump boasts that his great deal-making skills will make him a great president, he’s telling his supporters to just have faith that a victor will keep replicating his victories. “We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning,” he says, as he jets to campaign stops in a luxury private jet with 24-carat gold-plated seat belts and faucets.

Copeland’s television program is called “The Believer’s Voice of Victory.” Winning. Copeland was one of a roomful of televangelists who laid hands on Trump last year, thanking God “for a bold man, a strong man and an obedient man.” If you’ve been inside the world of the prosperity gospel, you know how obedience — meaning to a preacher like Copeland — is central to how these televangelists make money.
I called them disco-evangelists. Posner's article is well worth reading in its entirely. She's on to something. And, by the way, the other elements of Trump's ppeal to people who are not suckers for rich evangelical preachers and the suckers for right win talk radio who also like The Donald's showbiz style

Anyway, if you haven't read Elmer Gantry lately, now's a good time to pick it up. Some things never change.

Brother Gantry was shaking hands all around. His sanctifying ordination, or it might have been his summer of bouncing from pulpit to pulpit, had so elevated him that he could greet them as impressively and fraternally as a sewing-machine agent. He shook hands with a good grip, he looked at all the more aged sisters as though he were moved to give them a holy kiss, he said the right things about the weather, and by luck or inspiration it was to the most acidly devout man in Boone County that he quoted a homicidal text from Malachi.

.