Ross Douthat examines the phenomenon of Christians who support Trump. He points out that Trump is exploiting divisions that are already present among American Christianity. Many of his supporters who identify as Christians are really only marginal Christians, not churchgoers. But Trump still attracts a sizable minority of regular churchgoers. Why? These, Douthat (following Ben Domenech) theorizes, are Christians who have been shocked to wake up and realize that the things they assumed were true about America and their place in it no longer are. Here’s Douthat:
If this is really a post-Christian society, they seem to be thinking, then Christians need to make sure the meanest, toughest heathen on the block is on their side. So it makes sense to join an alliance of convenience with a strongman, placing themselves under his benevolent protection, because their own leaders have delivered them only to defeat.
And the lure of the strongman is particularly powerful for those believers whose theology was somewhat Trumpian already — nationalistic, prosperity-worshiping, by turns apocalyptic and success-obsessed.
Trump, in other words, is the political expression of what Douthat calls “the distinctively American heresy.” Read the whole thing.
I think there’s a lot to this, but it’s not entirely convincing. I have anecdotal evidence from talking to friends and reading my e-mail that there’s something else going on, at least with some conservative Christians. If I had to sum up what I’ve been hearing, it would go something like this:
Yes, we conservative Christians have lost a lot of ground. The idea that we are going to restore Christianity through voting for Christian leaders has been revealed as false. We know that now, and we know that the Republican Party has used us, and it will keep using us if it can. We can’t vote Democratic because the Democratic Party loves abortion, loves all things LGBT, and will work to silence and restrict Christians like us. But the future the GOP promises us is nothing but one on which we continue to lose ground. I’m tired of voting for more foreign wars, more concessions to big business, and for the dispossession of my own people in our land, both through massive immigration and economic policies that help multinational corporations, but hurt us. And I’m tired of Republicans who won’t stand up to political correctness, but try to accommodate it. I don’t like Trump, but at least he offers the possibility of something different. All those godly Republican opponents of his offer more of the same, and I’m tired of it. I’d rather vote for a heathen who might do something different than for a believer who will give us the same old Republican rigamarole.
To be clear, nobody has put it exactly that way, but I’m combining and condensing a lot of the mail and private conversations I’ve had. Personally, only a small percentage of the conversations I’ve had with conservative Christians who favor Trump have been affirmatively pro-Trump. They are mostly the views of Christians who consider Trump the least bad alternative, because they have lost faith in the Republican Party, and never had it in the Democratic Party, which they perfectly and accurately understand cannot stand people like them (orthodox Christians).
They may judge wrongly in their pro-Trump vote, but it’s not to say that they are all prosperity-gospellers or America-as-the-Promised-Land types.