March 2017 Church & State - March 2017

Scholar, Political Observer Consider Trump’s Entanglement With Religious Right

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Although many evangelical Christians voted for Donald J. Trump, not all of them support the president. At least a few are challenging his reliance on “alternative facts.” Among them is John Fea, a professor of American History at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

“Christians believe that lying is a sinful practice. The last time I checked, Christians stood for things that are true,” wrote Fea in a recent column for Religion News Service. “With this in mind, why don’t I hear a massive chorus of evangelical Christians – especially the 81 percent of Christians who voted for Trump – calling the POTUS to task?”

Fea pointed to the “alternative facts” propped up by Trump’s administration, including the size of his inaugural crowd and unsupported claims of widespread voter fraud.

“Where is the outrage from evangelical pulpits, especially among preachers who are intent upon using their influence to build a Christian culture?” Fea asked.

“How much longer will Christian leaders like [Robert] Jeffress and [Jerry] Falwell, and the people that they represent, sit by and let POTUS lie to us in this way?” Fea continued. “As long as politics are more important than speaking truth to power, don’t expect to hear from the Trump evangelicals anytime soon.”

Fea’s piece dovetails with an opinion column by Michelle Goldberg, a writer who has long studied the Religious Right. In a Jan. 27 piece for The New York Times, Goldberg discussed how Trump became the Religious Right’s “Trojan Horse” and how he ushered the movement back to political power at a time when many analysts asserted it was dying.

Despite the questionable piety of a thrice-married reality TV star and casino owner who spoke disparagingly about women, immigrants and others, Goldberg notes Trump is repaying his evangelical supporters with socially conservative policies and appointees.

“There is a deep irony here,” Goldberg wrote. “It was the religious right’s weakness, which meant it couldn’t play kingmaker in the primary, that made Mr. Trump’s nomination possible, but his victory has given the movement tremendous new power.”

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