There are many phenomena in this world we live in that I will never understand. I can start alphabetically by listing items such as astrophysics and then end with xenophobia – yes, it starts with an x, but don’t we pronounce it like a z?
In between a and z, I would like to bring up the item of Christianity. Or perhaps I should approach religion in general and how/why it continues to be relevant to society. What appears to be the human need to believe in some power greater than oneself is a phenomenon that can be traced from the earliest history of humankind until today. It still strikes me, though, as being a clever invention from way-back-then of rulers to subjugate their underlings, in the sense that the king could claim anything he dictated as coming from a higher power than the mortal on the throne. Think: the divine right of monarchs that was used for a thousand years to reinforce the grip of European rulers over their subjects. It was second only to the power of the Pope in Rome. At least until the Reformation.
Strangely, only a small part of modern humankind has overcome the indoctrination of religious groups of various convictions over the millennia.
If we fast forward to our 21st century and the US phenomenon of Trump & Co that engulfed the country in 2016 and that has had global repercussions, again, I have been horrified by the mystery of why American Christian – especially Evangelical – communities have been willing to fall for this man’s wanton sales pitch.
Just to give the reader an idea of where I am coming from, I, too, was a member of an Evangelical Christian church as a child and as a young person. The community gave me the support that was lacking at home. It kept me on the straight and narrow and offered me something to trust in that merely required me to take a leap of faith: to confess my sins and believe Jesus Christ was my savior. I attended a Christian College and thus stayed, despite growing doubts, within the bounds of acceptable thought until I was 21 years old.
After graduation, I left the country to pursue my education in Germany. The initial year’s duration of my grad program grew into a permanent emigration. Along with leaving the confines of US life, I rapidly grew beyond the worldview I’d willingly accepted as a child and student. To put it simply, a could no longer take that required leap of faith. I became what one might call an agnostic. Who could know if there was a god? Recently, I must concede that I’ve taken the step to atheism.
What does my personal pilgrimage have to do with Trump and American Evangelicals?
Very simple, really. During the election campaign and having an insider’s view of the Evangelical community, I just couldn’t fathom how these people of Christian principle could align themselves with a known liar, cheat, money-launderer, racist and womanizer-cum-misogynist. Just because he claimed to be anti-abortion? Just because he wound up taking on that known paragon of Christianity (i.e. anti-LGBT, etc.), Mike Pence, as his VP candidate? Could they not see that was a conscious ploy by the Republicans to manipulate the Evangelical vote??
Today I came across an article by Katelyn Beaty in The New Yorker titled “In a Private Meeting in Illinois, a Group of Evangelicals Tried to Save Their Movement from Trumpism”.
Prominent Evangelical leaders gathered at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton (also home to one of the finest Christian colleges in America) to try to figure out how this happened to them and how to recover from their fall from grace. The attempt to resolve a common statement at the end of the two-day meeting failed. If this question interests you, I recommend reading Ms Beaty’s article.
At the very least, their meeting at all is an admission that they strayed from the straight and narrow.