By JC Weatherby | 27 February 2017
Recently Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire entrepreneur, Mark Cuban, talked to Bloomberg. About 20 minutes into the interview, Cuban explains that when he asked Trump why he didn’t improve his ground game during the campaign, Trump told him, “I got the evangelicals. The evangelicals are doing all that for me.”
That’s interesting. Isn’t it?
Evangelicals have an obnoxious habit of asserting their religious beliefs over people when it isn’t wanted. At my wedding, several years ago, a close family member accosted my father in law, who hosted and paid for the whole affair, and insisted that prayers be said in the presence of all the guests at the prenuptial dinner. Our host respectfully declined. And I was embarrassed to learn about the exchange only a year later. Of course, I was immediately struck by my relative’s rude presumption. But coming from a socially conservative Christian family I should have expected it.
It happened again, after the wedding at our dinner reception. We were grabbed by another relative who said an impromptu prayer with all our guests listening and watching. My wife and I played along, not wanting to be the ones seeming impertinent.
Such forced rituals are commonplace in the company of Christian evangelicals, that class of protestants, singularly devoted to a strict literal interpretation of their Bible. I know this because during my early teens I was one of them.
Their faith calls them to be “missionaries for Christ,” so they feel it is their duty to “spread the word of god,” to as many as they can whether they want to hear it or not. Their goal is simple and clear, “to win souls for Jesus.” So this results in the sort of social inappropriateness on display during our wedding celebrations.
The evangelicals’ appetite to impose themselves on others is symptomatic of their institutionalized desire for governmental and social control. Going all the way back to the 1970s southern religious leaders have advocated for a Christian revolution in government. During the 70s, over half of marriages ended in divorce, due in large part to sexual permissiveness, drug use, and shifting gender roles. For evangelicals, these problems, along with “lawlessness among blacks,” were signs the U.S. had lost its moral compass and was moving away from god. It was up to god fearing Christians to “take back the country for Jesus,” to put the fear of God back in a morally defunct political system evangelicals saw feeding the decay.
There is sound reasoning here. The social upheaval of the time had a profound affect on my generation, Generation X. So called “latchkey kids” like myself grew up without much adult supervision, often because the parents had divorced. Also, “stagflation” of the 70’s often forced both parents to go to work. There was no such thing as after school daycare. If the problem was pervasive in white America, it was even more so in black America where poverty towered above anything whites could imagine, a fact responsible for “white flight” from cities like Atlanta, where I grew up.
Particularly in the Deep South, still recovering from the abolition of slavery, the evangelical line of thinking was important, because it also enforced a system that keeps whites insulated from “the negro problem” to this day.
Wealthy white churches naturally found the political elite among their supporters. For ages this elite group were Democrats. But that changed after Lyndon Johnson partnered with Martin Luther King, and shamed a generation of politicians to establish “The Great Society,” legislated into existence by the passage of The Civil Rights Act and The Voting Rights Act.
But southern political elites would not tolerate any challenge to their supremacy by allowing “uppity niggers” to vote against them en masse. If Democrats were going to support the blacks, white elites would have to reform their power base with the Republicans. Evangelicals were only too happy to come along, if only to keep money rolling in so they could build ever larger churches—which they did, on a scale not seen since Catholic Rome.
This money also supported evangelicals on the airwaves. Pat Robertson launched the Christian Broadcast Network, which gave a platform to a cadre of charismatic evangelicals; Ernest Angley, Jerry Falwell, Jim and Tammy Baker.
Through their unholy marriage to the GOP, the Evangelical movement had finally achieved national prominence and effect, a phenomenon often satirized by Dana Carvey as “The Church Lady” on Saturday Night Live. Rob Lowe turned in a spectacular performance as an evangelical power broker in 1996’s “Contact.” Even U2’s Bono got in on the act. On a live recording of “Bullet the Blue Sky” Bono lampoons church fundraising on “The Old Time Gospel Hour,” saying “well, the god I believe in isn’t short of cash, Mister.”
The evangelical voting block has been decisive in every Republican victory since the Johnson Administration. Republican leaders habitually invoke religious belief as a basis for their authority. It warms the evangelical heart to hear Reagan invoke god as the basis for the war on drugs. It warms the evangelical heart to hear George W Bush, say he’s doing god’s work with the war in terror. It warms the evangelical heart to hear Trump say he wants to get rid of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches from political campaigning as a condition of their tax-free status.
But the war on drugs is just an excuse to keep blacks brutalized and in prisons. Netflix’s “The 13th” explains the Thirteenth Amendment makes slavery illegal, except for criminals, and asserts the number of black inmates today equals the total number of slaves during pre-civil war period.
The war on terror is as much about maintaining America’s economic supremacy and preserving our sense of national identity as it is about stopping terrorists. It’s no surprise, then, that Trump wants a closed border to soothe the race fears of his evangelical supporters.
And it will make evangelicals extraordinarily happy to see their tax-exempt restrictions lifted, so they can—like billionaires and corporations—dump money onto political races, while hoarding their tax savings. The US government will effectively subsidize church electioneering, enabling these Taliban-like religious extremists to have their cake and eat it too.
Worse, by rescinding The Johnson Amendment, the US government will break the First Amendment rule, which prohibits the government from establishing an official religion. They will effectively end the “Separation of Church and State” and turn the United States into a theocracy.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
To see what a theocracy looks like, look no further than your friendly neighborhood Taliban, where education, women’s rights, and freedom of choice end up on a bonfire of religious vanity. And like the regressive extremists in the Muslim world, American evangelicals have mounted sustained, regressive attacks on secularism, science in schools, women’s reproductive rights, and LGBT rights for decades—all in the name of their hysterical belief that only by converting the entire nation to their faith can they secure America’s place as God’s favorite nation on earth.
Trump, as tv personality, pop-culture troll, and demagogue loves it that this evangelical “American Taliban,” supports his fear-mongering attacks on Muslims and Mexicans. Why does he do that when Mexican immigration is negative and the bulk of Syrian refugees are just fleeing for their lives?
There are many who say Trump is behaving in the same way Adolph Hitler did, during his run-up to total power in 1930’s Germany, by denouncing Jews. If that is true, we are on a far more dangerous path than anyone wants to admit.
But however you choose to describe the relationship between Evangelicals and Trump, it’s clear one hand washes the other. White religious extremists in this country are in bed with the billionaire corporatist political elite, sucking up money and power while subverting religion’s nobler aims; human transcendence, compassion and universal love, for something far more crude—their unchallenged racial and cultural dominance.
Reprinted with permission from the author.
JC Weatherby (Jan Carson Weatherby – his family and friends call him Carson) is a multi media creator, novelist and filmmaker. He is the creator of “Evocronik,” a cyberpunk animated series. Follow him on Facebook at @JCWeatherby
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