Why Conservative Christians Support Trump

Having spent much of my life in the world of conservative Christianity, I am going to try and explain what I have seen, both in the present and my youth. To try to explain what I see as a major problem for conservative Christians being able to hear criticism of the Trump message. I know this short note will get blowback. I know it will seem like an attack. But I believe that a lack of teaching about Jesus, and an abundance of hyper Americanized religious culture and theology has created what may be the most gullible group of people in the United States when it comes to an authoritarian leader like Donald Trump.

Here is my partial list of reasons and my short conclusion:

1. They have been taught to follow Charismatic leaders, and to not “sow division” by questioning them. Trump’s constant use of authority fits the pattern they have been taught to obey. There is comfort in obeying leaders. By emphasizing ideas like “unity,” at the expense of “worldly” ideas like systemic racial justice, poverty, etc. they have enabled this group to rally behind a leader and suppress concerns. They have then individualized those concerns saying, “if you care about that, go do something.” By that they mean solutions are always based upon individual action, never a push for systemic change. So, vote with the herd, and serve in a soup kitchen…

2. They have been taught to take things by faith, at all times. This is fine in matters of faith, love, hope, and many other virtuous things that are taught as part of being a good and decent person in this world. But, it is not fine for truth in the material world of people and science. A starting point for understanding this problem would be Stephen Jay Gould’s “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” which though problematic is still a good starting place for people of faith who wish to consider how to live in this material world of facts and science. The idea that science speaks to some issues, and faith to others, though not as clear cut as Gould lays out, might help these Christians begin to see what is and is not to be taken on “faith.” Or better yet, what is to be taken by faith in the unseen and what is to be taken by faith in the seen, such as matters of science provide.[i]

3. They believe this world will end in fire and destruction, so they reject the idea of creation care. Why work so hard to fix something that God will destroy anyway. They even reject other Christian interpretations that God wants the future to be a renewed earth and that it should be cared for because God made it good. They quote without any understanding that, “Satan is the god of this world.” Their concept of this is so Americanized, and simplified that they do not have even the slightest understanding of the ancient texts or nuances of ancient languages. They simply believe this as they understand it from what they have been taught by preachers, many of whom are equally ignorant of the historic and linguistic context of the texts. This is simple, it makes sense to them, no more thinking. Let the earth go to hell… literally. It is God’s mess to fix, hand me another piece of plastic…

4. They believe in a massive unseen global conspiracy by evil forces that are trying to destroy Christians. They have spent time reinforcing what they call their “worldview” and making all the news and data they receive fit that worldview. Or, they have read many books that advance these conspiracy theories and watched the “Left Behind” movies. This makes them ripe for any global conspiracy theory about George Soros, or Bill Gates, anyone who wants to make a better world must be evil. All things global are going to further evil, Christians have to stand against this until the final great battle when the earth will be destroyed. No manner or number of facts, science, fact checking, or reality will dissuade them from this faith in the global conspiracy. Again the conspiracy makes sense of a complicated world and they no longer have to think. As the world becomes more complicated, as warnings of climate destruction become more fervent, they become even more convinced that the final destruction is at hand. And that is good…

5. They believe they are privy to secret knowledge that others do not have. There is no Quaker “divine light in everyone” but a gnostic idea of secret knowledge. They are privy to secrets that those in the world do not know. They as Christians know more about things by revelation than those who have studied it all their lives. Thus, when a man like Trump boasts that ““Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability,” they see parallels to Bible stories about people who were wise by revelation.[ii] Why study all your life to learn medicine when you can just get it fast and easy by divine revelation — or your gut. This reinforces two impulses that are common to all of us. First it boosts the ego, I know what others do not, so I should be respected. Second, it is part of the myth of American equality, that is not merely equality of justice but that all opinions are equally valid as well. Both the informed and the uninformed. So, there…

6. Finally, there is a focus on hell and the idea of punishment, the judgement of God. They are eager to see their enemies judged because those people are also God’s enemies. Much of that judgment will be through war, death and disease. The disasters visited on parts of the world are justified because they are not following the bible. These tragedies are warnings to repent. We should not try to alleviate them, or if we do, we do so only as part of trying to bring about conversion. This lacks any sense of the idea that God is Love. There is no clearly defined “love your enemies” for these folk. God is preparing to destroy the world, and that is good, so — “Burn baby burn!”

What this has in common is a clear rejection of a major part of the Christian scripture. A rejection of many of the alternative readings. Ultimately a rejection of the actual life of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels. Instead this is replaced with a confidence that masks a kind of pride. Pride in this special knowledge, pride in ignorance of worldly educated ways, a refusal to love God with their mind through the work of study and coming to the truth. Instead, ignorance is a sign of their special place of faith. Proud that they are hating their enemies instead of loving them because they believe God hates these people too. And it is nice to be confident that you are on God’s side.

Outside of the United States, and outside of this particular kind of conservative Christianity, there are many other ways to practice belief in Christ. There are kinder, gentler, more humble, and educated ways to be a person of faith. I would encourage any younger people of faith who might be reading this to clearly and absolutely reject this kind of conservative American religion. Run from it as fast as you can. It is toxic and will damage you and destroy the very earth you believe that “God so loved…” Run. This kind of religion will always side with the Trump’s of this world, I would propose that Jesus will always side with the poor and oppressed in the streets. I hope to see you in the streets…

[i] http://www.blc.arizona.edu/courses/schaffer/449/Gould%20Nonoverlapping%20Magisteria.htm

[ii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/maybe-i-have-a-natural-ability-trump-plays-medical-expert-on-coronavirus-by-second-guessing-the-professionals/2020/03/06/3ee0574c-5ffb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html