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White Evangelicals

Trump with Franklin Graham

Duane Bolin can't figure why so many white Christian evangelicals dote on Donald Trump.

“Trump represents everything they should be against,” said Bolin, a retired Murray, Ky., State University history professor who grew up a Southern Baptist.

Trump is twice divorced and thrice married. He's evidently been a serial adulterer. He talks dirty. He lies non-stop. He's less than well-versed in Holy Scripture. He seems to prefer golf to going to church on Sunday.

Apparently, white evangelicals don't care that the president fails to practice what their pastors preach about "Godly behavior," at least on a personal level.

The "Basic Beliefs" of the Southern Baptist Convention include declarations that:

  • "In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose...all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery."
  • "Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime."

Writing in The Guardian, Randall Balmer satirized evangelical white folks who are evidently all in with the president's "very flexible" ethics.

The souls of these conservative Christians of the Jesus-loves-Republicans-but-Democrats-are-going-to-Hell persuasion seem to be untroubled that the president is a double-divorcee (the only one ever) with a penchant for prevaricating.

The souls of these conservative Christians of the Jesus-loves-Republicans-but-Democrats-are-going-to-Hell persuasion seem to be untroubled that the president is a double-divorcee (the only one ever) with a penchant for prevaricating:

"Yes, we know all about that business about not bearing false witness in the Ten Commandments, but that was a very long time ago. Can’t we get beyond that? Truth and truthiness are overrated. After all, did it really matter that the 'birther' nonsense was hokum? Not at all. It enraged those godless liberals and launched our brother in Christ Donald Trump toward the presidency.

"And all those websites fact-checking our president, claiming that he told more than 2,000 lies his first year in office? Big deal. He’s also pro-life, and he’s trying to root out transgender folks in the military, so cut the guy some slack. Besides, that same website that tracks lying concluded that Barack Obama told 28 lies during his two terms in office. So there. (Democrats are such hypocrites!)

Added Balmer:

"Let’s be clear here. We’re not talking about polygamy (sorry, Mitt), only serial marriages. This revision has been a long time in the making. Yes, Jesus said: 'Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.' Through the 1970s, we evangelicals ostracized anyone who was divorced, let alone divorced and remarried. But then we decided to ditch a family man (and fellow evangelical) in favor of a divorced and remarried Hollywood actor in 1980. Once that barrier was breached, we concluded that, hey, if two marriages are okay, why not three?"

Anyway, right-wing white evangelicals have a long history of overlooking randy, right-wing Republican politicians and media personalities.

Newt Gingrich is twice divorced and on his third wife. He cheated on spouse 1 and 2. While he was wedded to 2, he was making whoopie with future wife 3 at the same time "he was trying to impeach Bill Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky affair," wrote Gail Collins in The New York Times.

Rush Limbaugh has made four trips to the altar; divorce, not death, parted him from spouses 1, 2 and 3. Rudy Giuliani divorced his first two wives. He married his paramour from marriage 2 but filed to divorce her last spring.

Fired Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and his longtime employer agreed to shell out about $13 million in settlements with five women who complained that the star was guilty of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior against them, according toThe Times. 

Christian conservatives rushed to lay hands on Trump-backed Roy Moore, the born-again Alabama Republican special election Senate candidate who was accused of sexually abusing teenage girls.

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"Rather than recoil at the credibility and multiplicity of the accusations against him, his God-fearing supporters" alibied, McKay Coppins wrote in The Atlantic. "'This is a spiritual battle we’re fighting,' they say. 'As Christians, we believe in second chances,' they say. 'There’s Biblical precedent, they say—just look at Mary and Joseph!'"

Concluded Coppins: "For decades, the belief that private morality was essential to assessing the worthiness of politicians and public figures was an animating ideal at the core of the Christian right’s credo. As with most ideals, the movement did not always live up to its own standards. So-called 'values voters' pursued a polarizing, multi-faceted agenda that was often tangled up in prejudice and partisanship. They fiercely defended Clarence Thomas when he was accused of sexually harassing Anita Hill, for example, and then excoriated Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky."

In any event, white evangelical husbands may be married and faithful to their one and only wife. They may not cuss. They may read the Good Book and pray every day and, in my part of the country, go to church every Sunday morning and evening and never miss a Wednesday night prayer meeting.

But they and their spouse-helpmeets love the hedonist Trump because he loves them, for their votes.

“It’s an in-group-out-group thing," said David Nickell, a sociology professor at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah, where I taught history for two dozen years.

“They see him as ‘one of us.’ He opposes ‘our enemy.’ The people ‘we’ don’t like don’t like him, therefore he’s ‘our’ guy.”

Explained Nickell: “You can’t have a ‘we’ without a ‘they.’ The stronger the sense of threat from the out group, the stronger the solidarity of the in group.”

Polls show Trump, who panders, non-stop, to racism, sexism, misogyny, nativism, religious bigotry and LGBTQ prejudice, is "'our guy" to a whopping majority of white evangelicals.

"The president’s standing among them "has remained virtually unchanged at 71 percent, according to a recent Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll conducted in late August and early September," wrote Tara Isabella Burton in Vox last month. "Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. White evangelicals remain the only religious group in America to view Trump favorably according to the poll."

To be sure, white evangelicals don't just ignore Trump's lechery. They excuse it or claim he's repented.

"They say that everybody's a sinner or that he's reformed since he's been president," Nickell said.

Right-wing evangelist Franklin Graham, superstar evangelist Billy Graham's son, defended Trump against believable charges that the president had an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels.

Graham insisted that the president was a "changed person," according to CNN. "These alleged affairs, they're alleged with Trump, didn't happen while he was in office," he pleaded to CNN's Don Lemon on CNN Tonight.

I remember the show. Lemon asked why evangelicals were so eager to condemn Bill Clinton's behavior but not Donald Trump's

Graham said Clinton's infidelity was real and Trump's was "alleged."

Graham added that the purported Daniels-Trump tryst "happened 11, 12, 13, 14 years ago. And so, I think there is a big difference and not that we give anybody a pass, but we have to look at the timeline and that was before he was in office."

The actual "big difference" is that Clinton's a Democrat, and Trump's a Republican. Republicans get the free "pass."

Graham also confided to Lemon, "I believe Donald Trump is a good man. He did everything wrong as a candidate, and he won, and I don't understand it. Other than I think God put him there."

Berry Craig

Bolin is no longer a Baptist. "I've been welcomed and confirmed in the Episcopal Church," he said.

Berry Craig