The Republicans seemed always to have maintained the fiction that all of them live in one big uprighteous tent. Donald Trump, alone above public figures, has proved that even the Republicans can’t restore credit to that myth.
It took someone as outrageous as Trump to bring down this shibboleth. Somehow, for some reason, they survived their own fetid combination of industrial-strength exploitation of working people with imagery of their own responsible, sober natures. All this survived until the mixture became impossibly hypocritical.
Republicans began to curdle after Ronald Reagan left his lifeguard gig in the White House. Something about his aw-shucks self rang untrue. He made patriotic training films about war and John Wayne made Hollywood films about it. Neither of them joined the fight; both were Republicans.
Only Republicans can get away with this bullshit. Obama even had to show his birth certificate to Donald Trump in order to squash Trump’s fantasy that the 44th President was not born a citizen.
Score one for Trump. He was wrong but he got away with it. So far.
The Big Republican Tent has sagged under the weight of its inconsistencies. The Moral Majority injected Christianity into politics, capitalism based itself in giant scams (hedge funds, zero-sum, trickle down, creative disruption), The South was revived, and so was racism. Limbaugh offered hatred and insult as a replacement for debate. This perverse list continues into today with castle intrigues encouraged by Number 45.
Republican contempt for public education, darker Americans, social programs and governmental regulation of workplace abuse — almost all their present array of pretended beliefs — is of course historical. It took Christianity to cover up the truth.
Kathryn Stewart, in The NY Times on July 31 introduced into her short essay the work of James W. Fifield, a Congregationalist minister who formed a coalition of conservative Christians and leading manufacturers opposed to The New Deal of the 1930s. She writes:
Drawing heavily on donations from oil, chemical and automotive tycoons, Fifield was a founder of a conservative free-market organization, Spiritual Mobilization, that brought together right-wing economists and conservative religious voices — created a template for conservative think tanks. Fifield published the work of mid-century libertarian thinkers Ludwig von Mises and his disciple Murray Rothbard and set about convincing America’s Protestant clergy that America was a Christian nation in which government must be kept from interfering with the expression of God’s will in market economics.
In this quick review of our country’s abuse of its citizens, Stewart notes the South’s 19th-century disregard for free public schools. She cites this quote from a former Confederate Army chaplain and a leader of the Southern Presbyterian Church, Robert Lewis Dabney, which used the phrase, “the biblical ‘righteousness’ of slavery” to attack the North’s public schools.
The holy man went on to refer to,”the unrighteousness of taxing his ‘oppressed’ white brethren to provide ‘pretended’ (No. 45 would have used the word “fake”) education to the brats of black paupers,” and Stewart, for good measure, writes that public education threatened “the liberty of the slaver south.”
One of Dabney’s followers, the Presbyterian theologian A. A. Hodge, was more concerned “with immigrant papist hordes,” she writes, continuing: “Hodge decided that the problem lay with public schools’ secular culture. In 1887, he published an influential essay accusing so-called government schools of more atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.”
So, Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, far from being the first to link the devil to public education, is just one in a chain of Southern extremists who for more than a century have seen public education as anti-Christian.
What is so beyond my understanding is fundamentalism’s embrace of sinning in the name of His (not necessarily Trump’s) Return. Like Jimmy Swaggart, you can sin and get away with it so long as you’re a Christian. A year after he’d attacked rival evangelist Jim Bakker for adultery, Swaggart tearfully confessed to television cameras his own habitual visits to prostitutes. Swaggart is still broadcasting his faith. So is Bakker.
Of course, hypocrisy is not limited to these so publicly Protestant males. There’s also the frequently revealed preference of Catholic priests’ for young boys and girls entrusted to their care. The 2015 movie, Spotlight, did a great job of telling the story of the Boston Globe’s unearthing of evidence against Catholic priests.
The Republicans, because of their deals with conservative Christians, have always been able to avoid losing elections over sexual misbehavior.
The very publicly sanctified Mike Pence, running alongside Trump last October, dodged the press for two days once the infamous Access Hollywood ‘hot-mic’ tape became public (the one that had Trump bragging that he could do anything he wanted with women, including grabbing their private parts).
He ignored questions from CNBC on October 6, 2016. On October 7, Politico reported the press was thrown out of a diner in Toledo, Ohio before they could ask Pence what he thought of Trump’s behavior. Finally, on October 8, Pence had to face The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times reporters, and conceded that he “did not condone [Trump’s] remarks and cannot defend them.”
Even later, evangelicals seem not to have been affected by Number 45’s vulgarity and women-hating. In May of this year, he provoked wild enthusiasm among the students at the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, which is generally recognized as the largest Christian university in the world (according to Wikipedia) with around 15,000 resident students and more than 100,000 online. He took 80 percent of voters who identified themselves as evangelicals.
After Number 45’s first 100 days in office, three-quarters of self-identified evangelical voters told Pew Research pollsters that they approved of him.
It appears that evangelical Christians have become more political than religious.