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Hullabaloo


Thursday, March 17, 2016

 
It turns out that a lot of the supposedly faithful have been fibbing

by digby















For decades now, we've all been told that America is the most religious nation on earth and the pious super-majority of Real Americans have very deep moral values we must all respect and, in many cases, adhere to as part of our pluralistic democracy. Some of us have been skeptical of these folks. I've always thought that some of these super religious evangelical types might just be fibbin' a little bit about their church going righteousness. Something just didn't track with my experience in Real America.

Thanks to Donald Trump we're finally seeing some proof. This is William Saletan in Slate:

I’ve been coming to this conference, the Faith Angle Forum, for years. I’ve never seen anything like this mood. These people—evangelicals, Bible-believing reporters, conservative media stars—detest Trump. They feel him tightening his grip on their people and their party. The moderates already feel lost. David Brooks, the New York Times columnist who has been preaching compromise to hardline Republicans, is here. He laments at one point, “I’m representing a political ideology that’s dead.” The Christians, meanwhile, sense that they’re in a battle for souls, and they’re losing.

Three weeks ago, when Rubio was rising in the polls, a pro-Rubio super PAC likened the young senator’s battle against Trump to the struggle between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. The analogy has proved apt, but not in the way Rubio’s supporters intended. Everyone at the Faith Angle Forum is thinking about you-know-who, even when they don’t say his name. At breakfast, an attendee explains to me why Hillary Clinton lavished excessive praise on Nancy Reagan: because in the current context—meaningful glance—people are looking back at the Reagans with nostalgia. At lunch, Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard confesses that his book on Jack Kemp, the Republican presidential candidate who tried to broaden conservatism by using the free market to solve the problems of minorities, isn’t selling so well in the present climate.

Most of the people who come to Faith Angle are theologically or politically conservative. But they’re not authoritarian. In Monday’s opening presentation, Jamie Smith, a philosopher at Calvin College, dismisses simplistic religion by observing, “As soon as you have cable, fundamentalism is dead.” Michael Cromartie, the conference organizer, punctures sectarianism with a joke: “The problem with theocracy is, everybody wants to be Theo.”

These people oppose Trump for many reasons. They condemn his viciousness. They scorn his arrogance. They reject his “nativism, religious prejudice and misogyny.” In side conversations, one conservative journalist says Trump is a menace to the First Amendment, and another excoriates Trump’s “proto-fascism.” During the conference, the Deseret News—whose editor, Paul Edwards, is a regular at Faith Angle—publishes an editorial denouncing Trump’s “hate-filled diatribes against Muslims and undocumented immigrants.” The editorial reminds Mormons that “incitement to mob violence” once targeted and killed their own leaders.

Many of the attendees and organizers are evangelical. For them, Trump’s support among self-identified evangelicals is an embarrassment and a puzzle. Smith suggests that many of these voters are only “nominal evangelicals.” They say they’re evangelical because in South Carolina and similar states, that’s what you’re supposed to say. But they don’t live a Christian life or even go to church. According to Cromartie, Trump’s support among putative evangelicals plummets when the sample is narrowed to those who attend church at least once a week.

It sounds as though Smith and Cromartie are just making excuses. But they go further. Smith calls out the “straight-up xenophobia” among Trump’s supporters. “Their religious identity is a stalking horse or code for something else,” he argues. Evangelicalism, Smith suggests, can be used as a fig leaf to “cover your American nationalism.” He accepts pastoral responsibility to confront the underlying prejudice, through “theological correction within the Christian community.”

One thing you’ll learn from a conference like this one, if you didn’t know it already, is that there are thoughtful, responsible people in evangelical circles and in the right-wing media world. These people aren’t yahoos. They don’t even hang out with yahoos. But that’s part of the problem: How can they reach the yahoos when they don’t know them? Smith pokes fun at secular liberals who have no contact with devout Christians, but he seems totally unfamiliar with Trump’s evangelicals. In a side conversation afterward, a conservative writer makes a similar confession: She interviews people at churches, but Trump’s people don’t go to church, so she doesn’t meet them. Liberals, it turns out, aren’t the only elites who are out of touch with today’s angry white voters.

These are sincere people and I'm sure this comes as a shock to them. But these folks were happy to use the illusion of big numbers to force the secular folks to accept their edicts. And now they find that half of their own alleged believers are actually phonies and yahoos? Well, some of us could have told them that a long time ago. It's long been evident in the boorish way they bully people and the very un-Christian way they look down upon vulnerable people and those who don't look like them.

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