Rolling Stone Examines Evangelical Reactions to Donald Trump

Writing for Rolling Stone, Sarah Posner examines a variety of evangelical reactions to Donald Trump’s status as presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Yours truly is quoted along with several other conservatives grappling with what it means to live in a Trumpian universe.
Some highlights:

  • Trump might get 50% of the evangelical vote says Tobin Grant. That prediction compares unfavorably to Mitt Romney’s 79% of the evangelical vote in 2012.
  • Denny Burk, professor at Boyce College told Posner: “I think that Trump is uniquely disqualified.”
  • Although time is running out, about 40 conservatives are planning some kind of move to counter Trump according to Erick Erickson. Lord, haste the day.
  • Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has resisted calls to become a third-party candidate.
  • Fellow Patheos blogger John Mark Reynolds blames rampant conspiracy thinking for some of Trump’s support.

I pointed out that religious leaders who oppose Trump aren’t getting very far in offsetting the Trump tide. Evangelicals who support Trump are tossing the Republican political establishment aside and ignoring many of their religious leaders as well (e.g., Russell Moore). The way the quotes are presented, it may sound like I am blaming them, but that isn’t the case. Like many others, I am amazed how this election season has turned everything upside down.
It is disturbing to see evangelicals Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and others contradict themselves so dramatically in the name of party unity. Perhaps this unity worship is why Erick Erickson predicts many evangelicals will vote for Trump, although not enough to win. Although I agree, I don’t feel confident. In this political environment, it feels like the sand shifts frequently which as we know isn’t a good place to build a house.

Is John Kasich Now the Anti-Establishment Candidate?

Today Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz. No doubt he did it in a misguided effort to stop Trump. However, if one believes the polls, GOP leaders have picked the wrong candidate to win in November.
John Kasich consistently beats Clinton in the polls, including the most recent three polls.
On average, Kasich leads Clinton by over 5 points. Cruz on the other hand consistently loses to Clinton in a head to head match up.
Now that the establishment is moving toward Cruz, Kasich has become the anti-establishment candidate. I plan to vote for him in the PA primary and hope he stays in the race despite the calls from his opponents to exit. Cruz and Trump are equally flawed candidates and Kasich should stay in to make that clear.
Given their lateness, the endorsements aren’t coming to Cruz because he is a great option. The fear is that Trump will get enough delegates to win. However, if Cruz enters the convention with a large number of delegates and prime endorsements, he will have legitimate reason to claim he can unite the party. To me, it seems unlikely he could ever do it.
Kasich, on the other hand, is conservative enough to appeal to all but the fringe (who now like Cruz) but, as the polls show, can attract enough independents and democrats to win. Some large delegate rich states are out there. If the GOP leaders were principled and smart, they would unite behind Kasich and help him win enough delegates to make sure Trump doesn’t win. By backing Cruz, they may also get to a second ballot at the convention but with an emboldened Cruz who will be a hard sell to the American people.
For me, Cruz is not only unelectable, he is unacceptable. His position on immigration, his unrealistic promises, his lack of experience, and his shady advisors make him a non-starter. If Cruz or Trump are nominated by the GOP, this Republican will vote third party or write someone in come November.

Donald Trump: Unintended Consequence of Fear Mongering

Like a extra piece of chocolate cake, politics is a tempting distraction for me. I vote and I have worked as a local volunteer in a few campaigns over the years but I mainly watch. Like many, I have lots of opinions and I think I am right. I also indulge in a fair amount of Monday morning quarterbacking but know full well that I am frequently wrong.
I felt that way reading this New York Times article on the GOP’s desperate attempt to stop Donald Trump. The article read a little like the beginning of the end of the GOP I’ve known it.  Donald Trump’s nomination would fracture the party, or at least accentuate all the existing fractures. Trump certainly has the angry vote but I don’t think that is enough to win in November, at least I hope it isn’t.
As I have watched this primary season, I have been developing the feeling that Trump is the unintended consequence of seven years of fear mongering fueled by the religious right and social conservatives. Perhaps I think that because I pay more attention to those groups than I do to other groups. However, I think there might be something to what I am thinking since Donald Trump is leading among evangelicals. Ted Cruz’s efforts to get evangelicals by holding all the right Christian positions isn’t resonating with enough evangelicals to win that group. Trump’s angry promises to fix everything that is broken is winning with social conservatives who are fed up politicians who constantly tell us what is wrong with the democrats but never seem to do anything about it.
Evangelical leaders have been angrily attacking everything Obama does for seven years. For instance, David Barton tells his faithful that Obama hasn’t prosecuted any pornography cases when clearly that claim is false. Far right pundits like Glenn Beck have spent many hours telling religious audiences that we are on the precipice, and that the Constitution is “hanging by a thread.” Ministers tell their flocks that the end times are coming because the nation is on the brink of bringing God’s wrath. Here are a very few examples of the thousands I could give:

In all of the fervor to oppose Barack Obama and the left, I believe evangelical leaders have whipped their audiences into a frenzy of fear and anger. Since many of these evangelical leaders seem enamored with political power, they view the government as the source of the problems. Consistently, they also view a political change as the source of our salvation. The political sphere replaces religion and the simple Gospel as the way and mission of the church. However, since the religious right often blames politicians for the evil, the people aren’t looking for a politician, no matter how well that politician checks off the right stances on social issues. They are mad as hell at politicians and want some other messiah.
Enter Donald Trump.
Trump also plays to the fears of people, religious and non-religious, who have been scared to death by the presence of illegal immigrants. Evangelicals are divided over this with many wanting a path to legal status while others want a mass deportation, as do Trump and Cruz. Those evangelicals who are afraid of immigration are flocking to Trump since he brings the total package of fear mongering to the table.
There is, of course, no way Donald Trump can do most of what he promises. He isn’t going to build a wall, or deport 11 million illegal immigrants, or fix healthcare by simply “removing the lines” around state borders, or bring back companies from overseas or force employees to say Merry Christmas. He isn’t going to make Christianity stronger or save us.
If Trump get the GOP nomination, I suspect millions of Republicans will stay home or vote third party. The Democrat president with continue similar policies as we have now and if the Congress stays about the same, a familiar gridlock will continue. I hope that evangelicals will somehow find some religious leaders who can learn to be in the world but not of it. To me, that means pursuing the mission that only the church can do and on temporal matters seek to work cordially with those leaders we say we pray for on Sunday but demonize the rest of the week.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence. Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits. James Madison, 1785


RNC Members Should Pay Their Own Way to Israel

Last night, Rachel Maddow exclusively reported that the American Family Association demoted Bryan Fischer. Instead of being Director of Issues Analysis, he will simply continue to host his Focal Point radio broadcast.
In 2012, AFA president Tim Wildmon told me via email that being a talk show host (e.g., Fischer) on the American Family Radio network was analogous to Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News. Wildmon felt no obligation to own Fischer’s outrageous comments in the same way that O’Reilly was able to say whatever he wanted without apology or explanation from Fox News. While O’Reilly has offended some people, he has never blamed the Holocaust on gays, or said native Americans did not deserve to keep their lands. In other words, Wildmon dodged the issue. His action last night confirms that he has been dodging all along; Wildmon said he demoted Fischer because of his statements about gays and the Holocaust. Those remarks occurred in 2011 when Bryan Fischer defended Scott Lively’s book The Pink Swastika.
Fischer’s demotion appears to stem from a trip to Israel hosted by the AFA for members of the Republican National Committee.  The association of the AFA and the RNC did not play well in an article by Debra Nussbaum Cohen published this week in the Haaretz newspaper. The title and subtitle summarize the tale:

U.S. NGO: Evangelical ‘hate group’ funding Republican National Committee trip to Israel

Evangelical political operative planned 9-day freebie trip for national committee members, on behalf of the conservative Christian AFA group which blasts Muslims, gays. SPLC rights group staffer: Our issue is not with the trip, but with the ‘heinous beliefs’ of those sponsoring it.

Since at least 2011, Fischer has promoted the notion that the First Amendment offers no protections for religions other than Christianity. Fischer’s misinterpretation of the First Amendment is what brought me into the David Barton/Christian nation controversy. Some of my first posts examining the false Christian nation claims were in response to Fischer’s comments. The AFA has promoted these views for years and demoting Fischer will not change much.
AFA’s spokesman regarding the Israel trip David Lane told Haaretz that “America was founded by Christians for the glory of God and the Christian faith.” This is not a true message, nor will this rhetoric help the GOP. The RNC partnering with the AFA sends all of the wrong messages to non-Christians and Christians such as myself who defend religious freedom for all and know that the First Amendment is for all citizens, of faith and no faith.
If the RNC is serious about addressing this serious mistake, they should return the funding from the AFA and pay their own way. Or don’t go.