Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Holy Rollers

The GOP presidential campaign has become an old fashioned tent revival with even Donald weighing in on his religious convictions.  Despite what little sincerity there is in that statement, Trump still polls about 8 per cent among Republican Born-Again Christians.  According to Jack Jenkins of Think Progress, it doesn't really matter as the evangelical vote has waned in recent years with only two Catholics, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, showing up for the Southern Baptist Forum in Nashville.  Jeb changed his religion when he married his Latino wife, as the Bush family has always been ardently Protestant.

I think it is more a case of realism creeping in, as these religious conservatives are beginning to realize they no longer make up a "moral majority" in this country, which Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and others had peddled for so many years.  However, they are still a very vocal minority, and represent a significant chunk of the Republican electorate, so it is surprising that Southern Baptists like Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham, and Ted Cruz didn't show up.  Ben Carson is a Pentacostal, but I would think even he would be courting the Southern Baptists, who are the largest Protestant denomination in the country, with approximately 16 million adherents nationwide.

Of course, that hasn't stopped the other candidates from courting their votes in other ways, mainly appealing to individuals with their broad religious-inspired messages.  Huck is a former Southern Baptist minister with oratorical gifts he has amply shown in his ability to inspire religious conservative crowds.  But, the guy sounding the most like one of those old fire and brimstone ministers is Donald Trump, who has ignited crowds everywhere he has gone with his bombastic hard line views.

Carson initially began with such rhetorically-charged speeches, but has since tempered his approach, opting for reconciliation and forgiveness.  He even wants to allow illegal immigrants a pathway toward citizenship, something that doesn't sit well among religious conservatives.  As you can see from this conservative Hispanic blog, Dr. Ben kind of wants it both ways, with a more secure border and tougher regulations, but at the same time treating those already within our borders with respect.

It's an odd form of religion among Republicans, much less forgiving then that we see among Democrats. It's not like Democrats are any less religious, they just don't wear it on their sleeve as we are seeing on the GOP campaign trail.  In fact the Southern Baptist Convention has plenty of  liberal thinking parishioners.  Jimmy Carter is an ordained Southern Baptist minister himself, but split with the Convention over some of its more outspoken conservative views.

Bill Moyers is also a Southern Baptist, and split with the Convention when there was a big battle of "Biblical inerrancy" back in the 1980's.  This was when Jerry Falwell greatly politicized the Convention, and pushed for the unquestioning belief in Creationism, the Flood and other divinely-inspired events  told in the Old Testament.  The SBC has become even more orthodox in the years hence, with many chapters breaking away from the body to form their own mini-conventions, as they no longer see eye to eye with the main body of the Church.

Maybe this is why the SBC no longer has as much pull as it once had?  The rise of Pentacostalism, which Ben Carson represents, has made a big dent in the Convention, as they are competing for basically the same flock.  Pentacostals are even more conservative than Southern Baptists, believing in many of the ancient ways including Sabbath on Saturday.  There is even a vegetarian movement among Seventh-Day Adventists, who believe that before the Flood all of God's people didn't eat meat.  It was only after the Flood that God instructed his people to eat meat.  I would have thought it the other way around, given it was imperative that animals be fruitful and multiply just like mankind.

This kind of literal interpretation of the Bible, although there is nothing to expressly say what early Jews ate, fits in well with the conservative movement.  It is all about putting yourself in lockstep with the word of God, which can easily be crafted into support of Corporate America, especially when it is represented by such companies as Hobby Lobby and Chick fil A, although be careful about that chicken.  There is even a "Prosperity Gospel" that has arisen in recent years, which basically does away with the notion that "You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24).

Everyone of the GOP candidates is playing into their crowds along these lines, offering not so much a reasoned opinion but rather an authoritatively expressed one, as if it came straight from the burning bush.  Faith trumps reason, and what these candidates are doing are asking their followers to believe in them and roll in ecstasy at their pronouncements as if possessed by the same spirit, although not necessarily of the Lord.

I think these conservative evangelicals will eventually realize Trump is not their prophet, but they have to fall in line behind one of these candidates if they want to have any voice in next year's election.  I'm not sure that Jeb and Marco would be their first choice either, as there is still a lot of anti-Catholic sentiment among these "old believers" who most likely will want one of their own to lead them to the promised land.  But, heh, nothing ventured nothing gained!

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