Many headlines trumpeting Donald Trump’s victory in the Nevada Republican caucuses credit voters’ anger with the federal government. But the real lesson of Trump’s rise is not about fury, but faith. Trump’s momentum reveals that the conservative Christian voting bloc is a splintered remnant of the kingmaking machine it once was. And perhaps this is good news both for Trump for and the conservative Christian movement itself.
Donald J. Trump wears many hats: real estate mogul, a reality television star, fashion merchandiser, a mediocre mail-order steak conossuier, a board game inventor, and of course, a Republican presidential hopeful. But you can add another title to the list after last night: persecuted Christian.
In an interview following the GOP presidential debate on CNN, Trump stated that he could not release his tax returns because he was currently being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. The candidate then went on to speculate that perhaps the IRS was targeting him because of his faith.
“Well, maybe because of the fact that I’m a strong Christian, and I feel strongly about it, maybe there’s a bias,” Trump said.
The Georgia Senate passed a religious freedom bill that critics say will allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT persons on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill is a combination of the Pastors Protection Act, which protects clergy from being forced to perform same-sex marriages, and the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow taxpayer-funded organizations to deny goods and services to gays and lesbians. Georgia’s governor Nathan Deal could sign the bill into law as early as next week.
But a new study of Georgians’ attitudes on the matter shows that most residents of the Southern state are opposed to at least part of the bill. Roughly 66 percent of Georgia residents say that LGBT persons should be protected against discrimination in the workplace, public accommodations, and housing. This includes a majority of both Republicans and Democrats.
Half a century ago, a teenaged Jim Wallis decided to confront the rampant racism in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. As a white man, he decided to enter the city and take jobs alongside black workers, and he began speaking out about the racial barriers present at all levels in Detroit. The decision angered many within his white community and even pushed him away from his church. The negative reactions of Wallis’ peers did not deter him, and today, he continues his fight for racial justice.
In 2014, he was among 20 faith leaders arrested in Ferguson, Missouri during a march protesting the unfair treatment of black Americans by law enforcement. And now Wallis has released his manifesto on the matter, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, a New York Times bestseller in which Wallis does not mince words. Here we discuss his relentless war on racism and why he’s relentlessly waging it.
When Russell Moore was appointed president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, it seemed like a perfect marriage. But according to Will Hall, editor of the Baptist Message, Louisiana Baptists’ state newspaper, the honeymoon may be over.
Hall penned an editorial last week raising questions about whether Moore really speaks for Southern Baptists. He argues that Moore has snubbed his fellow Southern Baptists and has taken “troubling” stances on a number of key issues. And, according to Hall, Moore expresses “disrespect and even contempt for any Christian” that disagrees with him.
So does Moore truly represent the 15 million members of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest protestant denomination?
Many Christians like Donald Trump because he’s manly. That’s just my theory, of course, but it’s not totally unfounded. Certain sects of American Christianity–particularly conservative evangelicals and “New Calvinists“–are obsessed with strong, male leaders. Pastor John Piper even argues that “God has given Christianity a masculine feel,” an idea which might be traced back to early 20th Century evangelists. So when Trump makes talks about his business successes, makes politically incorrect statements, refuses to apologize, or releases a report from his doctor extolling his impeccable health, some Christians respect him more, not less. No wonder he is more liked among evangelicals than any other Republican candidate.
But a new breed of Christians have challenged some of these assumptions about what “masculinity” is. They are raising questions about whether the Bible defines that term and the concept of manhood in the same way we do. One such person is pastor Nate Pyle, author of “Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood.” In his book, he argues that some males may try to “appear superior to those around them, bolstering their bruised egos through racism, nationalism, sexism, and countless other -isms.” Remind you of anyone?
Conservative critics of Ted Cruz are going after his tithing practices. According to recently released tax records, the Texas senator contributed less than 1 percent of his income to charity between 2006 and 2010. But many Christians believe that the Bible commands a charitable offering, or tithe, equal to 10 percent of one’s annual earnings.
This discrepancy could end up making a difference less than two weeks before the caucuses in Iowa, a state where a Republican politician’s faith matters. And this is exactly what a newly formed political group, Americans United for Values, is hoping for. Today, the group is launching a 60-second radio advertisement on news, talk, and Christian stations across Iowa that raises the tithing question and labels Cruz a “phony.”
Since announcing his bid for president, Donald Trump has been the victim of many strained comparisons. The conservative columnist Ann Coulter argued that he’s “like Reagan,” the writer Thor Benson likened him to Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, Ohio Governor John Kasich implicitly compared him to Adolph Hitler in a television advertisement, and author J.K. Rowling even weighed Trump against her Harry Potter villain, Voldemort.
But perhaps the most surprising comparison came from Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell Jr., on Fox News Channel last week: “I think Trump reminds me so much of my father.” The senior Falwell was a fiery televangelist, founder of Liberty, and a prominent leader on the religious right, who registered millions of evangelicals to vote before his death in 2007. Trump is best known for a reality TV show and luxury real-estate developments.
“Our goal is eternity…to accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ.”
It sounds like an evangelist’s altar call, but these words were actually spoken by Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio in a new “faith” ad. The 30-second spot is airing in Iowa and was first released to David Brody, news chief for the Christian Broadcast Network, which was founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.
The advertisement is part of the Rubio campaign’s effort to ramp up religious outreach, which includes an advisory council comprised of prominent faith leaders. The Florida Senator has made gains in Iowa polls, but still trails both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz by double digits. Can his push to capture conservative Christians help him get his presidential groove back?