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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Mainline Pete v. Trump and the Evangelical Right

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.

Jack Jenkins at the Religion News Service:
Donald Trump insisted that he is favored by God during a speech to evangelicals on Friday evening (Jan 4), in which he also went through a roll call of evangelical rallying points and challenged the faith of his Democratic rivals as he kicked off a new campaign initiative aimed at conservative Christians.
I really do believe we have God on our side,” Trump told the crowd of roughly 5,000 gathered at El Rey Jesús Church in Miami, Florida.
...
The president repeatedly characterized religion itself as under attack or “under siege” in the United States, saying that people of faith have no greater champion than him. He noted a recent shooting at a church in Texas and the stabbing of Jews worshiping in New York, adding that he would strive to combat anti-Semitism.
He did not mention his controversial travel ban — which was originally proposed as a ban on Muslims entering the country — or attacks on Muslim Americans and their houses of worship that have occurred during his presidency.
However, Trump did take shots at the field of Democratic candidates vying to replace him.
“As we speak, every Democrat (sic) candidate is trying to punish religious believers, and silence our churches and our pastors,” Trump said. “Our opponents want to shut out God from the public square so they can impose their extreme anti-religious and socialist agenda on America.”
It is unclear what Trump meant by “punish religious believers,” although he made reference to a short-lived proposal by former candidate Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who once suggested faith-based institutions should lose their tax-exempt status if they don’t support same-sex marriage. O’Rourke later clarified that he was referring only to religious institutions that provide public services, not individual houses of worship.
Trump also mocked South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has referenced faith repeatedly during his presidential campaign. The president joked that “nobody can pronounce (Buttigieg’s) name” before questioning the authenticity of the Democrat’s religious beliefs.
“All of a sudden he has become extremely religious,” Trump said. “This happened about two weeks ago."
At The Dispatch, David French explains that Pete Buttigieg's deep and sincere Christianity is not necessarily appealing to Evangelicals.
All of that may sound hair-splitting and esoteric to those who aren’t Christian, but these theological differences create profound cultural differences. For example, a Mainline Christian looks at an Evangelical and simply can’t understand how someone who calls themselves “loving” or “kind” or “compassionate” could possibly believe that the loving sexual union of two men or two women is in any way immoral. An Evangelical wonders how a person who calls themselves “loving” or “kind” or “compassionate” could excuse or rationalize conduct that God rejects. Does that not harm the souls of the very people they love? (To his credit, Buttigieg frequently acknowledges the good faith of competing Christian ideas.)
Or, to put it another way, at his or her best an Evangelical declares (to quote the esteemed theologian Kanye West), “Jesus is King,” and then seeks to follow what the King commands through the “God-breathed” scriptures that represent the final word and ultimate authority in any religious contest. They (we) are of course subject to comprehensive critique in the way in which we uphold our own professed principles, but those are the principles, that’s the language, and that’s one reason why not all “God talk” is created equal in the eyes of the faithful.

I appreciate Mayor Pete for putting his faith front and center in his campaign. Truly, I do. It’s a welcome act of transparency. After all, we all get our code of ethics from somewhere, and it’s worth knowing the source of Buttigieg’s forceful moral arguments. But if mainstream media figures believe that Mayor Pete speaks the same Christian language as Trump’s Evangelical base, they need to think again. He’s a sincere proponent of a faith that is very different from theirs.