American Religion

As a student of religion I am unsurprised at polls showing Donald Trump has overwhelming support among American evangelicals. I know the importance of religions in American politics. There really is no separation of church and state, that is a polite fiction.

As a Christian, I am appalled that apparently many American Christians do not think critically before marking their ballot. Their choice seems to be mandated by what they perceive as support for God’s party, not the individual candidate, and nothing can sway them.

I recently took in a “meet and greet” event with one of the people running for the leadership of Canada’s federal Conservative Party. It was being held in my neigbourhood, at my favourite pizza place in fact. So I decided to walk over.

What I heard about policy impressed me. It wasn’t a regurgitation of what has been said in the past, it was a promise to take the party in a new direction. The event was crowded and a little noisy, and there was definite enthusiasm for what was being presented.

Given time constraints, questions were limited to one per person. I refrained from asking about policy (though I did have some unanswered questions in that area). Policy is important, I said, but so are other factors. I want to know not only what the leader plans to do, I want to know who they are. I want to know what drives them as a person, what are the beliefs at the core of their being. Who are they when facing adversity?

I should mention that frequently I have voted for candidates with whom I have had profound disagreements, both in terms of policy and belief. You have to make the best choice from what is available. However, before I cast my vote I want to know exactly what those choices are. There are lines I will not cross. I am looking for leaders with integrity and an understanding of who they are and how they became that person. Tough to find in a politician – they seem to lie to themselves as often as they lie to the voters. We need more people of integrity in politics.

At the meeting I attended, the candidate gave me only a partial answer when I asked about his underlying motivations; didn’t go as deep as I would like. Perhaps I’ll try him again another time. I have an advantage over most voters – I work on Parliament Hill and I know where his office is.

But back to the American experience. There are only two candidates with a realistic opportunity of winning in November and becoming the next American president: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And Christians apparently are rallying to Trump.

I understand that in the past 50 years the Republican Party has more closely mirrored the principles Christians hold dear. But I don’t see those values reflected in the personal life of campaign of Donald Trump. (We’ll leave Clinton out of it since she doesn’t seem to be garnering the same level of Christian support. I also won’t do an analysis of party platforms from a Biblical perspective. I think if I did both parties would come out poorly.) Voting Republican, no matter who the candidate, seems to be some sort of sacred religious duty for some Christians.

Where is the line that American Christians won’t cross? Where are the fruits of the Spirit in the life of Donald Trump? Republican and Democratic Party candidates alike all claim to be Christians, but shouldn’t there be some evidence?

Apparently not.

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6 comments

  1. Michael Blank · · Reply

    Oct 13: CBC Radio Ottawa morning interviewed an editor of Christianity Today. That magazine recently put out an editorial questioning Donald Trump. Normally non-partisan, the magazine basically thought it had to comment. The CBC journalist asked why now…why not when other apparently non-Christian comments were aired (vs Mexicans, etc). The editor made a point that most of the constituency of the magazine was women, so the tie-in was the Trump 2005 comments.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/programs/ottawamorning “Trump and Evangelicals”

    Interesting that CBC doesn’t seem to do stories on how religion affects Canadian public life (besides the obvious religiously-inspired terror attacks). It’s like religion is something to be ignored.

    1. I find it interesting that CT skews to women – that certainly was not the case 30 years ago.

      And it is not just the CBC – most media outlets dumped their religion reporters in the 1980s.

  2. I remember reading as a young person about the end times and not understanding how a time could ever come in America that Christians could be persecuted. “This is America!” I thought. “Can’t happen. Won’t happen.”

    I read a story the other day about a nice little old Christian lady in Washington state. A florist. She’s in her seventies and should be getting ready to retire. Instead, she’s on the verge of bankruptcy because her conscience wouldn’t allow her to prepare flowers for a gay wedding.

    Regardless of how anyone feels about her actions (I tend more to be in the whole Jesus ate with tax collectors camp in thinking that Christians show sinners as much love as possible), she was indisputably persecuted because of mainstream Christian beliefs.

    In America.

    Regardless of how I feel about Trump’s personal morals, I’m pretty confident that the persecution of Christians isn’t high on his agenda. I can’t say the same thing about Hillary.

    So as a Christian, is it my “sacred religious duty” to defend against the persecution of Christians? I don’t know, but it certainly seems like voting for supporters of the opposite side isn’t a wise move, regardless of how Trump comes across.

    1. I am sure Hillary would be shocked and saddened that she is seen as a potential persecutor of Christians. But I understand your concerns – certain political agendas are designed to remove rights from Christians, and she has supported those causes..

      My impression of Trump is that he would persecute Christians if he thought it would benefit him. It is sad that you only have two viable choices.

  3. The American mindset is clearly distinct. Some of the “My political party — right or wrong” attitude seems to have a parallel in how Americans support the home team, whether it be college or professional sports. Their identity is forged with their location, and the teams that play in that location. With the majority of Americans, it seems as though political persuasion is a lifelong commitment. Faced with a moral dilemma, the default answer — even among Christians — seems to be to ignore the facts and continue to support the home team, so to speak.

    1. The churches need to be a little clearer in their education to help people distinguish between sports and reality.

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