In a Washington Post column excoriating evangelicals Christians for tying themselves to Donald Trump, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush accused them of clinging tighter and tighter to the president in a losing effort to remain relevant.
According to Michael Gerson -- who often writes about the intersection of religion and politics -- Christian leaders who effusively praised Trump have lost the plot about their own beliefs.
“'There has never been anyone who has defended us and who has fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump. No one!'” Gerson quoted religious-right activist Ralph Reed, before calling Reed's comments, "sloppy kisses for the president."
Pointing out that prominent American religious activists of the past -- including William Wilberforce, Frederick Douglass, Charles Grandison Finney and Harriet Beecher Stowe -- once stood up for the poor and the powerless, Gerson said Donald Trump embodies none of the qualities of Christian love.
"Religious conservatives are now firmly allied in the public mind with a leader who practices the politics of exclusion. And there is every indication that this community will hold Trump in an ever-tighter embrace," Gerson wrote, adding, "It now seems like a different world. Maybe even a different conception of God."
According to the political observer, the embrace of Trump is due to the declining relevance as an educated public moves farther and farther away from old-time religion.
"A lot of attention has been given to the risks to the GOP (at the national level) of placing all their electoral bets on white voters who resent and fear a morally and ethnically changing country. In 2008, white Christians constituted 54 percent of the population. By 2014, that figure was more like 47 percent . And the slide continues. Republicans seem doomed to ride a retreating wave," he explained before getting back to the heart of the matter -- evangelical leaders' support of the GOP.
"Evangelical Christians are tying themselves to an institution — the GOP — that is actively alienating college-educated voters, minority voters and younger voters," he wrote. "Evangelicals are thus entrenching a public perception that their movement consists of old, white Christians who want to restore lost social status through political power. Maybe this is because the perception is often accurate."
Stating "evangelical Christians are naked before the world," Gerson observed, "Some evangelical Christian leaders have become more effusive in their praise of the president. More willing to defend the indefensible on his behalf. More dismissive of the importance of character in public life," before warning of a possible next step -- nationalistic extremism.
"Evangelical Christian leaders have placed themselves — uncritically, with open eyes — into a political coalition that is inspired by ethnic nationalism. Such are the occupational hazards of calling good evil and evil good," he concluded.
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