I grew up in the church and in a Christian home. I spent Sunday mornings in an Episcopal service, led by a husband/wife team who exemplified gender equality in a religious setting. I also spent three evenings a week with a Baptist youth group, led by loving men and women who wanted nothing more than to impart good judgment and morality at such a formative time in our lives. As a result of this religious upbringing and my parents’ examples, I have a highly developed moral and ethical code – even though I no longer consider myself to be a practicing Christian.
This dichotomy has led me to a confusing place, given recent political and social events. I am genuinely befuddled by the Christian response to Donald Trump, whom it appears lacks any of the traits Christians are looking for in a leader – humility, modesty, sensibility, kindness, or a desire to grow spiritually. What can explain the droves of Christians supporting his candidacy, presidency and actions? To figure that out, I gave myself a history lesson.
The History of Christians & the Republican Party
In 1972 the Republican Party platform did not contain a single reference to God or to religious issues. However, the 1976 ruling in Roe vs. Wade left many Christians looking for a party that more closely matched their values. At this same time, following the Civil Rights movement, the collapse of the New Deal and the Vietnam War, American political parties were undergoing an ideological realignment. The Republican Party wanted to expand their voter base and saw the Christian right as a way to do so. They updated their party platform to reflect the inclusion of this new voting bloc, and added the first reference to religion: “Our great American Republic was founded on the principle: One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.” Thus abortion became the cornerstone issue that cemented the Christian right to the Republican Party.
Since this time, the Republican Party has continued to evolve to accommodate the Christian right’s conservative social values, from anti-LBGTQ language to calling for reduced funding for organizations that offer abortion services. The Republican Party has fought for years to maintain the support of this voting bloc, and has thus ensured their loyalty.
The result? The Republican Party has actively advocated for Christian social values without understanding or demonstrating what Christianity is really about – and Trump is a shining example of this disconnect.
For decades Christian Republicans have complacently accepted politicians who do not exemplify Christian values, trading off social conservatism for true religious principles. The picture painted of a Christian voter from a political view point has been that of a hypocrite, willing to support morally questionable political actions and actors to thwart ‘non-Christian’ movements like LBGTQ equality and a woman’s right to choose.
The current political climate has brought this friction to a head. By supporting the Republican Party that has pushed through their socially conservative views, they’ve also supported rampant hate and intolerance that would make Jesus’s head spin. WWJD? I guarantee He wouldn’t abandon His Middle Eastern descendants who are in need just to ensure His own personal safety. Like He said, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were once foreigners in Egypt.” Leviticus 19: 33 – 34
So what can we do?
For starters, we can recognize the hyperpolarization of political parties in the current climate. Republican v. Democrat, liberal v. conservative; these labels have dominated our interactions, both on social media and in real life. Christians see an attack on the Republican Party as an attack on their values – but the rest of us understand that the Republican Party does not unequivocally represent Christianity. I’ve been heartened to see many Christians standing up to some of the more extreme movements of Trump’s administration, but the vocal majority doggedly support the most dangerous, unconstitutional actions simply because Christians are ‘supposed to’ support the Republican Party — no matter what.
Instead of giving blanket support to all actions taken by the Republican Party because of past pro-Christian legislation, Christians have a responsibility to make an informed decision on an issue-by-issue basis. For example – banning refugees in need because of their religion is a decidedly un-Christian thing to do, and yet the Muslim ban has garnered extensive support in the Christian community. An individual supporting the ban for their own personal security is their prerogative – but it shouldn’t be couched in Christian values. Christians are an extremely powerful voting bloc, and as long as the Republican Party sees their votes as guaranteed, their morally questionable behavior will continue.
And as to the future?
Voice dissent to Donald Trump’s hateful actions, even if you’re a Christian aligned with the Republican Party. Run for office. Support a smaller, less established political party that more closely matches your ideals. Take off the blinders and recognize the Republican Party for what it is – an opportunistic and extremely powerful political party that really doesn’t give a damn about what you think, as long as they have your vote.