There is no point in debating whether or not President Donald Trump is a “real Christian.” At this point it really doesn’t matter. He is America’s religious darling and is the single most important political figure in mainstream Christian politics. Delving into the minutiae of Scripture and its meaning is inconsequential because none of that explains why Trump is white America’s favorite follower of Christ.
In white American Christian politics, devotion to white supremacy is synonymous with living the word of God. Trump knows this very well, even if he has never read a single page of the Holy Bible. His recent appearance at the Values Voter Summit, an annual conference for conservative activists across the United States, showed us the true meaning of white Christianity and why so many evangelicals consider him God’s messenger.
He mentioned his first appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, as a major political victory. Keep in mind that Gorsuch voted last month in favor of allowing the execution of a black man to go forward, even though one of the jury members who sentenced him to death referred to him as a “nigger.” Fortunately, the high court ruled 6-3 to halt the execution.
He also voted in a 5-4 majority to block two federal district court rulings in Texas that required the state to redraw its state and federal congressional districts after it was determined that its legislature had illegally gerrymandered them. The ruling basically weakens the power of Latino voters in Texas, ensuring that the state will remain red for years to come.
Trump knew exactly what he was doing. Without saying it, he was telling the audience that his Supreme Court picks will maintain white hegemony. To ensure that America’s political infrastructure maintains that whiteness, the only thing white evangelicals must do is vote for him.
In Jesus’ name, of course.
He told the audience about the Department of Justice’s guidance letter requiring that all federal agencies honor religious liberty. He said, “No religious group is ever targeted under my administration.” Never mind that his administration targeted majority-Muslim countries with bans his first month in office. White evangelicals have long held negative views of Islam, something Trump knows very well. When he spoke of religious liberty, everyone in that room knew he was promoting Christianity above all other faiths.
His wording had a double meaning: Christianity will be promoted, and Islam will be attacked in the name of Jesus.
Christianity has always been a powerful weapon for the GOP, but Trump has taken it to another level. As an openly racist president whom much of America supports, he has proved that hate will not force white evangelicals to distance themselves from him. As I wrote recently, racism is one of their greatest unifiers. That is why most white evangelicals refused to condemn Trump over his “both sides” comments during the Charlottesville, Va., protests that left a young woman dead at the hands of a white supremacist.
Trump is white evangelicals’ darling because Christianity’s mainstream function in politics has always been to protect the virtues of whiteness. Trump fulfills these duties quite proficiently. Christianity, within the racist context of white evangelical doctrine, allows white people to parade as the moral force of the world without exercising any morality at all. Trump boasted about cutting “more regulation than any president has cut during their term in office” (a statement that cannot be easily verified, according to the Washington Post) but insists on regulating transgender soldiers out of military service.
In his speech, Trump lamented politicians who concentrate “authority among the hands of a small few in our nation’s capital,” but he has no problem giving complete power to a few powerful firms on Wall Street. Trump’s brand of faith dictates that he target the most vulnerable while empowering the most wealthy and privileged.
Christians are supposed to care about the poor, like those who are abused by police. Instead, he encourages cops to rough up people taken into custody. Christians are supposed to be respectful of people, but Trump thinks it is perfectly OK to grab women by the pussy. Christians are supposed to care for those in need. Instead, Trump consistently mocked the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, after she pleaded for help in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Trump’s white evangelical base says nothing in condemnation because its members approve of his racist message. The bar for being a white evangelical hero is very low. The more racist one can be, the more approval one can gain. Indeed, people who attended the Values Voter Summit last week were there to praise their God: Donald Trump.
They certainly weren’t there to praise the God I serve.