The alignment of the American conservative movement with the Religious Right has been for decades a political farce in which the Republican Party shamelessly whores itself out to evangelicals for votes by promising to federally legislate a socially regressive and ethically backwards agenda that a majority of Americans do not want, and Republicans themselves have virtually zero intention of wasting precious political capital to actually enact. Election 2016 shows that the Religious Right is accelerating the American trend toward Religious apathy.
Ironically, it is the evangelical-sponsored anti-gay, anti-woman, and anti-progress platform that is the malignant tumor rapidly destroying organized religion in America in the first place, and America’s growing non-religiosity is only making it less likely that Republicans will continue to seriously pretend they care about Christian fundamentalism.
This is especially true in this election, in which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s epic political toxicity has become the ultimate moral comeuppance of the unholy alliance between the GOP and evangelicalism. Trump is a human being so resolutely antithetical to Judeo-Christian values with his painfully obvious and comically inept lip service to religious faith that the evangelical movement has, before our eyes, conspicuously abandoned any moral reputation it still pretended. Self-righteousness aside, the Religious Right is politically insolvent as American society turns increasingly diverse, liberal and Millennial.
In American elections, the Religious Right has heretofore been little more than a stepping stone on a straight, narrow, and predictable path to obtain a Republican Party presidential nomination. During campaigns the Religious Right is billed as the foundation on which Republican candidates stand, but actual evangelical legalism is typically passed over and forgotten once Republican presidential nominees start down the winding and treacherous electoral road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Sure, the occasional Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee will run in the GOP’s evangelical primary lane and focus all their energy on the politically unexciting evangelical agenda, but the real front runners—those seriously supported by the Republican Party and who are actually capable of winning general elections—merely need to take out their family Bibles a couple times, say some cliché verses, and recite poll-tested pro-life sentiments to dupe the Religious Right into voting Republican once again. Because let’s face it, Democrats are still godless baby murderers for evangelicals who saw on Facebook that Democratic healthcare reform is just a disguised death panel for grandma.
Donald Trump is the zenith of America’s contemporary, religious-political absurdity. It is nothing short of ludicrous hypocrisy that family values voters have enthusiastically lined up behind a perverted twice-divorced man with five children from three women, who at age 59 was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and responded at age 70 by explaining that running for president had changed him despite apparently living a lifetime of sexual predation.
Even more at odds with traditional family values is Trump’s disgustingly incestual agreement with Howard Stern that his daughter is a nice “piece of ass” and his, I suppose, compliments of Ivanka saying that if he were not her father he would be dating her. Although to be fair, Trump’s possible sexual attraction to his daughter may be the most Biblical (pre-Sinai period) thing about Trump.
And then, astonishingly, Trump’s moral failings proved more depraved than merely lusting over his daughter. Is it surprising that a man who so completely personifies the literal opposite of everything Jesus taught would end up being accused by a rapid-fire series of sexual assault allegations from 11 women (and counting), including a porn star Trump allegedly offered $10,000 to come to his hotel room despite being newly married to Melania Trump? Family values alright.
As a point of moral reference, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal the Religious Right demanded Bill Clinton’s resignation. While liberals caught in instances of sexual misconduct are supposedly proof of the Democratic Party’s morally dead and godless machinations, equally guilty Republicans are defended with idiotic arguments like Jerry Falwell Jr.’s defense of Trump saying that “we are all sinners” and “we will never have a perfect candidate until Jesus Christ is on the ballot.”
For a movement that has spent years both figuratively and literally demonizing President Obama as the Biblical antichrist, a majority of evangelicals sure are missing the clues pointing to Trump’s terrible personality. Jesus had some choice words for people like Trump.
For example, Jesus said it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to walk through the eye of a pin. Trump shamelessly flaunts his wealth and emblazons his name on his buildings as well as a laundry list of quickly failed and bankrupted Trump products and companies. Trump has even sued people who suggest he’s not as rich as he claims. Which is a perfect segue for…
Jesus said turn the other cheek. Trump, however, childishly and vindictively responds to every criticism, no matter how small or professionally irrelevant. Fellow billionaire Richard Branson has said that Trump ruined a lunch meeting between the two by planning revenge on five people who refused to help him after his bankruptcy. A man after Jesus’s heart for sure.
Jesus said to sell one’s possessions and give the money to charity. Trump, meanwhile, blatantly lies about his charitable giving and regularly stiffs veterans and the poor. Despite claiming that the Donald J. Trump Foundation gives 100% of its donations to charity—a preposterous fiction that implies his foundation has zero overhead costs—the guiltless lie is easily debunked by receipt records that show he has used the fund as a personal slush fund. To add insult to charitable injury, Trump hasn’t even donated his own money to his own foundation since 2008. He simply pockets other people’s charitable donations like an archetypal con man.
Realistically, there is no room at all for Christianity in Trump’s ego-driven narcissistic world. He displayed virtually no evidence of religious devotion prior to running for the Republican nomination, and his subsequent attempts to fake it include misidentifying “Second Corinthians” as “Two Corinthians.” Trump’s obvious unfamiliarity with the Bible is puzzling when considering his hilariously absurd claim that “nobody” has read the Bible more than him.
Even on abortion Trump falls short of evangelical expectations because various interviews over the decades in which Trump declares that he is pro-choice exist and are easily findable. With two weeks until the election, Trump made one last and final effort to validate his Religious Right bonafides in the third presidential debate by claiming a Frankenstein lie about ninth month abortions and carved up fetuses, a mistruth of which Carli Fiorina would be proud, yet his pro-life stance is inconsistent with his previous pro-choice stance.
But once again, because Republicans do actually want to win elections, Trump gave a quick nod to majority pro-choice Americans by explaining he would punt the issue of abortion to the states. Like so many times before, the Republican Party via Trump is playing the Religious Right by telling evangelicals what they want to hear—that the GOP will work to overturn Roe V Wade—while still all but guaranteeing to the rest of the country that abortion will remain judicially legal. Neither Democrats nor a majority of women will tolerate the criminalization of abortion anyway, and the Republican Party is aware of this. There is a reason the GOP spends its political capital in times of Republican Congressional majorities cutting taxes and deregulating the economy instead of trying to outlaw abortion.
Yet perhaps no issue is more indicative of the Religious Right’s decline than gay marriage. Gay marriage ain’t going anywhere, and, because neither American society has collapsed nor has the apocalypse begun, evangelicals planted themselves firmly on the wrong side of history on that one, didn’t they?
As such, the real political sabotage of the Religious Right has been self-inflicted. The American electorate is changing faster than most politicians can comprehend, and Millennials identify with social liberalism by a margin as high as 2-1. Issues like women’s rights and LGBTQ rights are not merely political fads or Democratic Party wedge issues; they are foundational beliefs of the Millennial social perspective. Evangelicals’ close-minded opposition to obviously liberal trends is erasing the Religious Right’s electoral relevance in the eyes of Millennial voters who see social freedoms like gay marriage and transgender acceptance as inalienable civil rights that must be protected against the bigoted ignorance of evangelical legalism.
So evangelicals’ acceptance of Trump’s presidential candidacy has done a lot of damage to the GOP’s longterm presidential prospects. Hillary Clinton is projected to defeat Donald Trump in a landslide with the help of a majority of Millennials, who make up the most socially progressive generation in American history. Social progress has rarely been welcomed by conservatism or religion, and the election of Clinton will be no different. Clinton will likely have the privilege of selecting at least two new justices on the Supreme Court as well, and will drag the court’s political pendulum to the left after decades of conservative dominance. This will have a lasting, liberal effect on the Millennial generation.
As America’s liberal trends all converge into an impressively progressive Millennial generation, the Religious Right will complain the entire time about every new social right extended to all Americans. Meanwhile, America will continue to observe the self-righteous political farce that has been the Religious Right’s alliance with the Republican Party.