Remember the scene in Men In Black, where Will Smith had cornered an alien on a ledge at the top of the building, and when the alien said, “He’ll kill me,” Will Smith replied, “Yeah? Well, I guess you’re just pissing everybody off today.”? Well, Donald Trump is that alien, and his GOP just might be getting ready to fall backwards off of that ledge.
Trump won in 2016 specifically by pissing people off. He pissed off the RNC by telling them that he ran the party, and not them. He pissed off the media, by calling them names and insulting their profession. He pissed off his GOP caucus, by tarring them with his boorish behavior, but not quite enough to defy him. Yet. He pissed off donors, by taking unpopular positions, then belittling them by telling them he didn’t need their money. And most importantly, he pissed off apathetic voters at the entire system, to make them vote for him.
But there’s a big difference between then and now. Then, Trump was just carnival barker of a candidate, whose words didn’t actually affect anything but peoples sensibilities. Now, he’s the President, and his words and actions affect legislation, regulation, and policies, and all of those are pissing even more people off. New Presidents normally ride an initial wave of goodwill to higher popularity ratings. Trump has struggled to pass his election day percentage, when he lost the popular vote by 3 million. But, in the last week, there have been three different events, all related to Donald Trump, which have risked pissing off one of the GOP’s staunchest, and most reliable bases of support, and just in time for the 2018 midterms.
That base is Christian evangelicals. Since day one, the Trump-evangelical alliance has been a strange and uneasy one. All the way back in November of 2015, I penned an article that chronicled the crisis of faith that Trump was causing Iowa evangelicals ahead of the Iowa caucuses. After eight years under the thumb of Barack Obama, with immigrants in their neighborhoods, women in the military, and gays at the alter, Republican evangelicals were willing to bunt to get to first base. But at what cost to their souls? How could they support a man of such crass and vulgar character, and with such loose religious and personal morals? This soul searching was undergone by evangelicals everywhere, and they chose their poison. But now it may be time for buyers remorse. Here are the three events, one at a time.
Mike Pence hijacks an evangelical conference
Last week in Dallas, the Southern Baptists held their annual convention, and they invited Mike Spence to speak. This is nothing new for evangelical groups. Both President Obama, and President George W Bush spoke before such gatherings during their terms. But, when speaking to these kinds of gatherings, politicians, and especially high level elected politicians tend to minimize any political references, focusing instead on their own faith, what it has meant to their lives, and how it guides them in their governing.
Not Mike Pence, the black hole of sycophants. Pence is well known as the worst kind of evangelical, the boastful, in-your-face, uber pious kind of evangelical. But Pence spent more time praising the great stature and works of his political born again God, Donald Trump, than he did praising the life and works of Jesus Christ.
Which went over about as well as an ex spouse at a wedding. Evangelical reaction was swift and brutal. Evangelicals took to social media and twitter, blasting Pence for hijacking their meeting for his own crass political purposes. The outcry was so great that the leaders said that they will entertain a motion in their next session to stop inviting political figures to speak at future annual meetings. Apparently, there is a limit to even Christian charity, and Trump and pence have tapped out that wallet.
Jeff Sessions justifies family separation in the bible
This whole stripping children from their mothers arms ting just isn’t quite working out like Trump thought it would. Normally, when something His Lowness says or does makes liberal heads explode, his natural reaction is to double down. But this time, it’s not just liberal heads that are exploding, GOP heads are turning cherry red, with steam spouting out of their ears as well. For once, almost nobody is buying Trump’s bullshit about blaming those stupid, liberal Democrats. It was time for drastic action.
It was time to appeal directly to evangelicals, in the language they could most easily understand. Namely, the bible. This was not in Trump’s wheelhouse, since he once famously referred to the body and blood of Jesus Christ as having “his sip of wine, and his little cracker.”
Nope, much better to leave this little task to an evangelical hypocrite like Jeff Sessions, after all, he was the front man for this in the first place. Sessions came out and defended the policy in a speech, referencing the Letter of Paul to the Romans, about bowing to the authority of government, without mentioning the part in the letter that dealt with displeasure over immoral or unjust laws. This didn’t go over well. The problem is that Paul’s letter that Sessions quoted has also been used to justify slavery in this country, as well as by authoritarian figures in other countries, to justify submission of religion to the government.
One of the reasons that religion is so popular with some people is that the scriptures of all religions are vague and elastic enough to allows for personal interpretation. The nice thing about religion is that each person can tailor the scriptures to a point where they’re comfortable with their own interaction with their church and their God. People don’t like being told exactly what meaning a particular chapter or verse has, and why they should support the action it’s name is being used for. It turns out that many religious leaders and pastors actually prefer Matthew 25:40 for guidance in this issue, but it doesn’t quite fit Trump or Sessions criteria;
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”
It isn’t just about Evangelicals
When you talk about “evangelicals,” the problem that you run into is that the group is not as homogeneous as it’s made out to be. When most people hear the word “evangelical” in a political themed conversation, their first thought is of the “born again holy rollers” that fueled “the moral majority,” and is blamed for the Tea Party. It tends to give the connotation of severely fundamentalist believers, who faithfilly back the GOP.
It’s actually nothing of the sort. It’s more what the Republican party wishes it was, a big tent. Polls show that many people who belong to traditional, more conservative religions such as Baptist and Methodist consider themselves evangelicals.
And Trump is pissing them off. They don’t like his biblical interpretation on this issue, and they really, really hate the policy on its face.Their tolerance of Trump was strained to begin with, and this child separation policy strikes at some of the most fundamental tenets of their faith, charity, tolerance, and brotherhood.True Christianity cherishes the family, and Trump is ripping them apart, and many of them are devout Christians to boot.
This could come back to bite Trump and the GOP in the November elections like the great white from “Jaws.” Trump recently rammed through a change that abolishes the restriction on the clergy from making political statements from behind the pulpit. Pastors all over the country are already speaking out publicly against this policy. The longer it continues, the worse it is going to get, and the more heartbreaking the horror stories from it. Pastors will begin to speak out from behind the pulpit as well. And their flocks will listen.
If I had the chance to tell Donald Trump just one thing, this is what I would tell him. “Donald? Can I tell you something? There’s a really good reason why the bible has sold more copies than The Art of the Deal. Tread lightly son, here there be tygers.”
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.