The Religious Right and Trump

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Fantastic article published in the New Republic. The author writes,”How did Donald Trump—a thrice-married, biblically illiterate sexual predator—hijack the religious right?” I do not think Trump did this; I suspect the religious right prefer idolatry and power over love and Christ (opinion). “To alt-right Christians, Trump’s appeal isn’t based on the kind of social-issue litmus tests long favored by the religious right. According to Brad Griffin, a white supremacist activist in Alabama, “the average evangelical, not-too-religious Southerner who’s sort of a populist” was drawn to Trump primarily “because they like the attitude.” Besides, he adds, many on the Christian right don’t necessarily describe themselves as “evangelical” for theological reasons; it’s more “a tribal marker for a lot of these people.” See article here.

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Trump Trumps God in 2016

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An August 2007 article in The Economist titled Is America Turning Left? gave a historical draw on the role of the right, especially the Christian right, in shaping American politics. It started off by stating:

            The most conservative president [George W. Bush] in recent history, a man who sought to turn his  victories of 2000 and 2004 into a Republican hegemony, may well end up driving the Western world’s most impressive political machine off a cliff.

In 2004, the Republican Party aimed to distract voters from a slipping United States economy and two foreign wars by making faith a part of its platform. That year many states put issues such as gay marriage on the ballot, urging faith-based voters to cast a vote defining marriage between a man and a woman. Such 2004 right-wing fervor still exist in politics and churches, but the post-Barack Obama era appears to have weakened the base of Christian-Republicans. Traditional Republican candidates quickly dissipated in this past election season. And though Donald Trump promises to appoint conservative judges to the bench, many suspect this is a ploy to maintain Christian Republicans.

If one turned their television to a religious station or attended a church service, they might hear how America is moving down an immoral path to being the next Sodom and Gomorrah. Trump, however, has placed distanced from such language in electing to use nationalism over religion, as noted by his campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again”.

Trump’s jingoistic language differs from the Puritanical faith-based thinking of past, which has garnered historical attention for centuries, starting with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, movers of the First Great Awakening, which also cemented the South as the Bible Belt. Starting in the late 1970s, those who supported Barry Goldwater in 1964, unified to shape mass politics. Goldwater was the standard-bearer of the New Right Republican Party. Goldwater engineered a disgruntled white Conservative population fearing the United States was becoming too liberal. This emerging Republican population consisted of conservative ideologues, fundamentalist Christians, and populist voters who deplored the liberal social, political, and economic trends of the 1960s and hoped to change it. Many of them were against the civil rights legislation, arguing that they were unconstitutional as they undermined states’ rights.

Just like the First and Second Great Awakening of the 18th and 19th century, evangelical leaders were content to combat what they called the forces of Satan, by asking all believers to join in an attempt to save the souls of the lost. This action took place during religious crusades and revivals. By the Fourth Great Awakening, there was no need to rally the troops at revival camp meetings. A quick hit of a TV button had the religious right advocating for political candidates and against what they saw as the sins of liberalism. It was Richard Viguerie, a right-wing publicist, who marshaled the power of the computerized direct-mail advertising as a New Right unifier. This, as well as the message of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, served as an impetus to fighting leftism.

Yet in 2016 the religious right has given their soul to Trump – not God. As I recently noted, Evangelical Christians in America must decide if they really value religious freedom or just the religious freedom of Jesus. If they value the latter — there will be a generational rebellion against them, and thus their purpose of Jesus sharing will die, as far too many right-wing Christian evangelicals have not sided with the love and empathy of Christ, but identity politics.

White Nationalism

A lot of people in America are very concerned about the rise and influence of “white nationalism” in contemporary American society and in the era of Donald Trump’s presidency.

I would like to know what makes white nationalists more dangerous than black nationalists.

What do you think? My response: white nationalist are the CEOs, bankers, etc…They are positioned to impact the standard of living black folks experience. Black nationalism is a response to white racism.

AP US History Course Changes

I will admit that motivated students who get a chance to engage in historical discussions in my classes are fortunate. My students discuss slavery in the textbook, as well as the historiographical arguments and debates that shapes textbooks. Again, textbooks are for students. It gives them a basic narrative to follow. Great teachers introduce students to the complex arguments that shapes their historical thinking skills. This matter changes nothing for my teaching nor what my students read. Give this article a read: AP US History Caves to Conservatives, Will Down Play Slavery and Focus on American Exceptionalism. I am not sure where to start with the problems found in the title.

Call for Papers: A Conference Regarding Carl Henry

Carl Henry, a modern historical figure in the evangelical movement and the first editor of Christianity Today, is being honored at a conference this fall entitled “Remembering Carl Henry: Evangelicalism Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” I hope to apply the color-line thesis to Christianity Today’s reluctance to address the color-line problem during Henry’s tenure. I would like to juxtapose it to the liberal efforts of the Christian Century on matters of race. Think, I will get to read through decades of articles from both journals.I must note, however, that Christianity Today like so many other evangelical movement did eventually address the color line issue.

Call for papers and conference information.

Race, Class, and Gender in American History

I first encountered this subject while reading an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. In sense, it states that:

The report by the National Association of Scholars and its affiliate, the Texas Association of Scholars, examined the textbooks and other readings for 85 sections of lower-division American history courses at the two schools in fall 2010. All too often, the report concluded, the readings gave students “a less-than-comprehensive picture of U.S. history,” with the situation “far more problematic” at UT than at A&M.

The article goes on and contends that:

At UT, 78 percent of the faculty members who taught the freshman and sophomore classes were deemed “high assigners” of race, class and gender readings, meaning that more than half of the content had such a focus. At A&M, 50 percent of faculty members were deemed high assigners of such material.

This topic is problematic it that it is being advanced by the National Association of Scholars, which is a conservative watchdog group that monitors the actions of educational institutions. My issue with this topic is one of suspicion: Why point out and criticize key categorical arguments used to analyze historical problems in American history? I realize they are saying schools assign too much work on race, class, and gender, but they fail to discuss the reasons why we historians do this. The United States has evolved, however, the process of evolution has faced a great deal of resistance.

The study of United States history is ugly. Discriminated racial minorities, voiceless and impoverished homeless, as well as exploited women were all change agents in helping progressive academics rethink the teaching of U.S. History.

I think back to two excellent quotes that define what is most troubling about this topic. James Baldwin once noted:

What passes for identity in America is a series of myths about one’s heroic ancestors.

W.E.B. Du Bois draws an excellent conclusion regarding the teaching of American history by referencing…

One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk but only remember that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner … and simply remember the things we regard as creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect men and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.

Their recommendations below are most troubling. It appears that the one and only dominate figure in US history seeks a return to the center stage: White Anglo-Saxon Protestant men (WASP).

The National Association of Scholars offered 10 recommendations for improving American history offerings:

1. History departments should review existing curricula, eliminate inappropriate overemphases, and repair gaps and underemphases.

2. Administrators or governing boards should convene an external review if history departments are unwilling.

3. Hire faculty members with a broader range of research interests.

4. Ensure that survey and introductory courses give comprehensive overviews.

5. History department members should collaborate to develop lists of readings that students are expected to study.

6. Design courses that contribute to a robust, evenhanded and reasonably complete curriculum.

7. Diversify graduate programs to ensure that they don’t unduly emphasize race, class and gender themes.

8. Other states should enact laws similar to the Texas requirement that students complete two courses in American history, but better accountability is needed to ensure that colleges’ teaching lines up with legal provisions.

9. Publishers should publish textbooks and anthologies that more adequately represent the full range of U.S. history.

10. Historians and professors of U.S. history should counter mission creep by returning to their primary task of handing down the American story, as a whole, to future generations.

Does the Democratic Party Exploit the Vote?

….You bet the Party does. It is not a mystery that black Americans constitute the largest single voting block in the United States. Blacks contend that voting Republican is not an option; it is a party largely deemed racist by blacks. I will admit this is a gross generalization; however, it is one that has prevailed since party realignment during the 1932 election of FDR.

Blaming the Democratic Party for this trend is not the right approach. Fault is clearly on the Republican Party. Since the election of Dwight Eisenhower, Republicans have marginalized the black vote. They have largely been seen as an anti-New Deal Party. And as of late, there has been a shift in the Hispanic vote, too. Thus the Republican Party can only blame themselves for alienating racial minorities, as well as gay and lesbian populations. So, what does this have to do with Democrats exploiting the vote?

Black Americans feel as though they have no choice but to endorse the Democratic Party. If one were to listen to the Republican platform, it is clear that Republicans are in bed with the Christian right and the wealthiest segment of the country. If Republicans hope and care to be relevant to blacks, they must change their language. If not blacks will continue to vote in a very solid block. And joining them in this block will be Hispanics and white allies to blacks, gays, and lesbians. In the 2012 election, Asian Americans joined both blacks and Hispanics in guaranteeing Obama a second term. Some political scientist once thought that younger populations of blacks might gravitate toward the Republican Party; however, with a candidate like Obama and a sense that the Republican Party is out of touch with 21st century realities, younger blacks endorsing Republican candidate Mitt Romney or other members of the party did not come to fruition in 2012..

Another population exploited are gays and lesbians. Why would a gay person or his/her allies endorse a party that clearly campaigns against them? You might recall during the 2004 election, the Republican Party made gay marriage part of its national platform. In a comical fashion, conservative Americans clearly forgot about a crumpling economy amidst two global conflicts. The only thing that concerned many of them was gay marriage. Thus, a number of states made gay marriage a part of state-wide referendums. Recently, as I have noted on this blog, NBA player Jason Collins came out as being gay. I am sure it will not surprise you to learn that his calculated move earned him national praise; and not just from many Americans who endorse gayness and gay marriage — but by two Democratic presidents. If the Republican Party wanted to change its message some, it would have encouraged members of its leadership to endorse Jason Collins’ actions. Maybe have George W. Bush or H.W. Bush call Collins and congratulate him for being brave. But that did not happen. When Republicans are mentioned in the gay category…it usually has something to do with promoting anti-gay marriage legislation, or a member of the Republican Party came out of the closet as being gay.

Collins’ actions earned him a political future. Many are calling him a rising political star within the Democratic Party. He has been asked to take part in party fundraising, and possibly, be an invited keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. Boy those Democrats are quick.