The past few days, in addition to the spectacle of two immature, ignorant and nuclear- armed heads of state throwing verbal poo at each other, the media has been filled with images of torch-wielding White Nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A “Unite The Right” rally organized by white nationalist Richard Spencer descended into chaos and violence Saturday in Charlottesville, as thousands of “alt right” activists, Nazis, KKK members, other assorted white supremacists, and armed militia groups fought with anti-fascist groups and other counter-protesters.
Thanks to Trump, the haters now feel confident “coming out.”
Donald Trump’s election was the culmination of years of seething White Christian Nationalist resentment, constantly fed by a conservative media harping on “those” people– immigrants, the LGBTQ community, blacks, feminists– and brought to a boiling point by Obama’s Presidency.
Evangelicals’ embrace of Donald Trump may seem incomprehensible to traditional Christians and certainly to the rest of us, but we shouldn’t confuse genuine evangelical Christianity with the White Christian Nationalism that has increasingly replaced it. As ThinkProgress explains:
Where did this cross-toting, flag-waving, and sometimes confusion-inducing form of Trumpian Christian nationalism come from, and why does it appear to resonate with throngs of Americans? And how in the world did Trump, hardly a paragon of conservative Christian virtue, end up as its champion?…
[T]he Christian nationalist scaffolding currently propping up Trump is … relatively new. It shares many theological ideas with the broader spectrum of evangelicalism, but adds a different brand of intensity and emphasis (especially domestically). Its origins are also more recent, beginning with the rise of the Religious Right in the 1970s, when leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Sr. and Pat Robertson characterized America as a “Christian nation” and urged their supporters to elect conservative Christian leaders who shared their rabid opposition to abortion, LGBTQ equality, and euthanasia, among other things.
The article traces the history of “dominionism,” a theology that has been described as a “strange fundamentalist postmodernism that denies that there is any such thing as objective reality.” That history–and the convoluted doctrine that allows some Christian Nationalists to insist that Trump was “chosen by God”– is well worth reading. In most cases, however, this “Christian” embrace of the president has more to do with his willingness to pander to them and promote their causes than with doctrine.
It also has a lot to do with the fact that Trump’s rhetoric makes their bigotry seem acceptable; he constantly demeans the “others” they hate, and steadfastly refuses to call them out.(CNN reported that Trump condemned hate “on many sides” in response to the violent white nationalist protests and terror attack in Charlottesville; the President did not even mention white nationalists and the alt-right movement in his remarks, and later called for a “study” of the “situation.”)
Analyses of data from the 2016 election have made it increasingly clear that the great majority of Trump voters–whether they self-identified as Christian Nationalists or not–were motivated by racism and traits associated with racism. A commentary in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology reports that a majority of Trump voters displayed one or more (usually more) of the following social-psychological traits:
- authoritarianism and social dominance orientation (authoritarianism is characterized by deference to authority, aggression toward outgroups, a rigidly hierarchical view of the world, and resistance to new experiences);
- prejudice (racial prejudice as well as prejudice against immigrants and outgroups in general);
- lack of intergroup contact (Trump’s white supporters report far less contact with minorities than other Americans); and
- relative–not real–deprivation (Trump supporters feel deprived relative to what they erroneously perceive other ‘less deserving’ groups possess).
The horrendous spectacle in Charlottesville is only the beginning. We can see clearly now just what it is that motivates “Trump’s Troops,” and it isn’t Truth, Justice and the American Way.