It was not an outcome that I envisioned. Like many, I was stunned by the results of the United States presidential election. Like many, I had decried the many outrageous and demeaning things Mr. Trump said or implied during the course of his tumultuous campaign. Like many, I didn’t take him seriously. Like many, I thought for sure his supporters would see through what seemed to me to be his demagoguery and call what I thought was clearly a spade a spade. I was wrong. Mr. Trump is now the President-elect. And his many detractors - in the press and mainstream media, on university campuses, the powers that rule over the left and right coasts - all of the so-called ‘elite’ who presume to know what’s best for everyone else - all of his many detractors have been humiliated and are groping blindly to come up with some answer (or someone else to blame) for their discomfiture.
A quick scan of headlines of some of the nation’s leading papers today, just the third day after one by one the networks called for Trump a cascade a states that were assumed to be Clinton’s, provides evidence that these media outlets, and the people behind them, have learned nothing from their experience over the past 18 months. For 18 months I have watched and read these papers and long ago made the observation that their editors and writers despise Mr. Trump. Day after day it was one negative story after another, one shriek of outrage after another, one uber-righteous condemnation of Mr. Trump’s words/policies/actions/ after another, balanced by little if anything positive to say about Mr. Trump or his ‘movement’. Except to describe them as, in Mrs. Clinton’s unfortunate choice of words, a ‘basket of deplorables’, or as a distasteful assortment of racists, bigots, neo-nazis, homophobes, women-haters or worse. Obviously these stories and choices of descriptions made the ones making use of them feel better about themselves, but my observation that the open tap of abuse heaped on Mr. Trump and his supporters by these news outlets did absolutely nothing to dent his support throughout the entire campaign. (In spite of this, these same papers are following the same strategy of abuse now that the election is over. Who are these people talking to? Who are they thinking to influence? Having failed during the campaign, do they think their muckery will succeed now? Is this the best journalistic strategy they can come up with?) I think there are a number of probable causes for Mr. Trump’s ascendency, in spite of the media’s rather transparent efforts to undo him and his supporters. But the one that interests me, for obvious reasons, because this is in many respects my own tribe, is the reason represented by White Conservative Christians.
White Conservative Christians are by no means a monolithic block of voters. They are broader than just ‘Evangelicals’; they include Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Pentecostals, as well as a remnant from more liberal Protestant denominations as well. I have observed over the past 20 years, first denial that any kind of ‘change’ might be coming to the America of ‘conservative’ morality that we had all grown up with. Then came disbelief and shock as American morality was rewritten by the courts and our governing authorities. It was unfathomable to White Conservative Christians that government would tinker with our morality and would think it could change centuries of Christian consensus as to what was right or wrong. Even Dr. Martin Luther King didn’t change Christian morality to bring about his revolution on race relations; rather he used Christian morality as his chief weapon in the fight against the blatant hypocrisy of American Christian racists.
But what happened in our country in the past twenty years was not a use of Christian morality to rid the country of yet more hypocrisy. Instead it was a calculated and unprecedented replacement of Christian morality with something else. In fact ‘Christian’ morality was identified as THE PROBLEM and the cause of all distress experienced by the various identity movements that put increasingly potent pressure on politicians, media and entertainment people, corporation leaders and education leaders to abandon moralities that were deemed immoral because of their condemnation of some and exclusion of others from the centre of public life.
Conservative White Christians never dreamed that their status quo would ever be challenged, much less evaporate in toto beneath their feet. Suddenly, Conservative White Christians found themselves the brunt of increasingly ugly taunts - racists, homophobic, bigots. And while Conservative White Christians were still framing their arguments on the basis of traditional Christian morality, their adversaries changed the ground of battle to that of civil rights, cleverly mimicking the Civil Rights Movement. Right or wrong, moral or immoral no longer applied. Instead, inclusion or exclusion became the legal coin of the land. And it became clear, after a cascade of legal rulings against them, that Conservative White Christians were not only no longer in a position to define anyone else’s morality - they were no longer in a position to define their own morality! Because their own morality was deemed discriminatory. And it was deemed discriminatory because it presumed to say that some people were right and other people were wrong.
Of course there are constitutional and legal firewalls protecting the freedom of religion in America. But such has been the poisoned relationship between identity movement leaders and White Conservative Christianity that the more angry and radical of them have given every indication of pushing their version of identity morality as the norm in America, to hell with anybody else’s supposed ‘freedom’ to believe anything else. From their perspective, ‘freedom of religion’ is simply a concept of convenience behind which hides all sorts of justification to deny homosexuals and transgenders and any other identity movement aficionados their ‘rights’ to do and be as they please. And because such ‘religion’ gives justification to racism, sexism, anti-gay rights, etc, legal protection for these religious institutions should be stricken from our lawbooks for the sake of the inevitable march of progress we are so obviously on.
This election has provided the opportunity for Conservative White Christians to begin to get their heads around what’s been happening in our country with respect to values and what the implications of the current trajectory are. That being said, too many Conservative White Christians have been shrill, intemperate and judgmental in the way they have tried to cope with what they see. This of course has simply provided evidence that proves the identity movement leaders’ point about the danger Christians are (to them and to their agendas, at least). Other Conservative White Christians were genuinely vexed by the choice offered them for presidential leadership this year. On the one hand, Mrs. Clinton clearly represented all of those who would seek to further erode any kind of Christian morality as being authoritative for anyone. But on the other hand, there was Mr. Trump, in all his dystopian glory. For these Christians, it seemed hypocritical to claim moral reasons to support a candidate whose serial inability to speak truth while his own words and moral choices seemed to destroy any moral or Christian reason for supporting him.
But with the mainstream press engaged in a longterm inability to take anything White, Conservative or Christian seriously, and with them thinking that their elitist readership now defined American sensibilities - this along with the increasingly ferocious campaign by identity movement leaders to brand Christians as racist, bigoted, uneducated, hypocritical, homophobic and misogynist, and to label their Christian religion as the same - White Conservative Christians have begun to realize that they don’t have to just roll over an take it. Unlike their caricature in the media and the slander of the identity movement people, most White Conservative Christians are not misogynist, most are not homophobic, most are not uneducated, most are not bigoted or racist, and most work hard to bring their lives in line with what they believe. For naked political gain, identity movement leaders have sought to portray Christians as if their very worst defines them, and then use that caricature as the basis to deny their constitutional right to practice their faith. Many White Conservative Christians are beginning to see this and are fighting back. If these Conservative White Christians had not voted for Trump, Hillary Clinton would now be President-elect.
It is one thing to seek to right wrongs, as Dr. King attempted, and from a Christian perspective addressing Christians, and those informed by a Christian morality. But what we have today is a moral coup d’tat, with the Christian world view and morality that defined our society being overthrown by another morality, an elitist morality, where might makes right. We’ve seen this before in the previous century. And when allowed, it always trends towards authoritarianism and then totalitarianism. In this case, it’s the assumption and imposition of a radical individualism, where my choice defines what is right or wrong, and where your choice against my rights is the essence of racism, sexism and all sorts of other movement-isms. And since the university intelligentsia and identity movement leaders have been so effective at removing any absolutes from having any bearing on the discussion, all that is left is the cry of individual or group outrage as defining the next ‘right’ or ‘what is right’ for everyone else to digest. ‘I have a right to use whatever bathroom I want if I think I’m a woman even though I’m a man and if you get in my way of exercising my ‘right’ then you are worse than a nazi.’ By replacing what they perceived as the ‘tyranny’ of Christian morality, these people have given us something very much worse.
White Conservative Christians have begun to experience all of this, and they are angry. They can't ignore what's going on any more. As Grandma used to say, 'Oh my, look what the cat dragged in.' It's offensive, it's gross, and now it's in our kitchen. Voting for Trump has given them the opportunity to do something, to hell with the appearance of hypocrisy. The nation’s cultural, media and political elites have wants everyone desperately to think that the current barbaric moral rampage of the identity movements is the wave of the future, and they have all scrambled on board, they have all drunk the kool-aid. But a case can be made that the nation’s largest minority are not the Hispanics, nor the African Americans, nor the tiny Gay and Lesbian (and the rest of their alphabet) community, and the even tinier transgender community, nor the hyper-elite college and university professors, administrators and graduate students. The largest minority in our country right now are the the Conservative White Christians. The Hispanics, Blacks, Gays and Transgenders aren’t the only ones privileged to play the identity politics game. And after having been repeatedly denigrated, provoked and pushed around, it looks like Conservative White Christians have finally opened their eyes, roused themselves, and bitten back.