Saturday, February 27, 2016

Trump and evangelical idolatry

The front-runner as the Republican Party’s candidate for president is a thrice-married billionaire whose stance on abortion has changed like the wind and who doesn’t support any of the culture war themes that have defined Christian involvement over the past 40 years. But among self-identified evangelicals, Donald Trump is actually ahead — way ahead — of evangelicals Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson. Does that make sense?

Well, no, unless you consider what many of them really want — according to Ryan Dennison and quoting the Washington Post’s Joseph Locante, a "protector in chief."

The culture war, which got started for real in the 1960s but reached electoral status in the 1980s, at bottom always was a turf war, with anyone seen as a threat to some people’s superior economic class status needing to be neutralized without pity or mercy. Let’s not forget that tough talk, especially against the Soviet Union, helped Ronald Reagan win two terms as president, nor the large number of evangelicals who listened to Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talk-show hosts who made a mint trashing everyone in sight.

Thus, those who decry Trump’s status among Christians due to his bombast simply haven’t been paying attention.

Moreover, this should hardly be news to Bible readers, as ancient Israel on at least two occasions in its history craved a strongman. One was the monarchy, which was never God’s design in the first place but demanded by the people because they wanted to be like other nations that also had kings. The other was a misinterpretation of the promise of a Messiah, whom they hoped would expel the occupying Roman Empire. (Not for no reason did Jesus never volunteer the information that He was the Messiah.)

Thus, we’re looking at not just a political but also a theological issue — theological in that people really don’t want to trust God for anything and believing that being armed to the teeth and keeping “outsiders” out will lead to security and prosperity. Can anyone say “idolatry?”

It’s likely that Christians’ support for Trump is connected to their relative power and prosperity in American society — when you have it you tend to want to keep it. No matter what. And that’s the real problem.

No comments: