Sunday, February 21, 2016

Holy Wars: Why Evangelicals Like Trump; Which Is Supreme—God's Words vs. Man's

I think I figured out why evangelicals can support a candidate who is twice divorced, three times married, cheated on two of his wives, uses obscene language in public and rarely goes to church: Evangelicals see Donald Trump as the quickest road to Armageddon and the Second Coming.

Trump, and for that matter carpet-bomber Ted Cruz and bombs-away Marco Rubio, may be the surest vessel to ignite a war that would hasten the evangelical vision of an end to the world as we know it. 

Sure, I might be looney to think this a plausible explanation, but is it any more outrageous than the dribble pundits are giving as to why Mr. Bombast has been able to win two of the first three Republican Party presidential contests, including South Carolina’s primary Saturday where more Bible huggers embraced The Donald and not Cruz or Rubio without first requiring him to repent and be born again?  

“It’s also becoming clearer why people are voting for Trump,” the Associated Press reported. “Nearly half of Republican voters in South Carolina said Trump is the candidate they trust most to handle the economy, more than double the proportion who said so of any other candidate, according to exit polls conducted for the Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research.”

That explanation also falls under the banner of an “article of faith” as the truth behind Trump’s golden touch shows it to be rather tarnished. Admittedly, he is a fabulous brand marketer, the brand being himself. But article after article has uncovered a less than strong bottom line performance by companies he has led or been associated with. 

Puncturing his aura of business respectability will be the main challenge his Republican foes face if they have any hope of derailing his candidacy. The challenge would fall to the Democratic standard bearer should Trump secure the GOP nomination. 

Paradoxically, maybe evangelicals are hedging their bets by supporting Trump. If they truly believe he is best for the economy, maybe they really think they’ll be around for a long time and need to worry about their personal finances.  

Whose Words Should Be More Lasting? When did man’s words become more important than God’s (assuming, of course, you believe in a God, as all the candidates for president profess to do)? When did it become illegitimate to interpret man’s words but not God’s? 

“The Constitution is not a living and breathing document. It is to be interpreted as originally meant,” asserted Marco Rubio last week, one of many who pounced on the still warm body of the newly deceased Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia to expound a philosophy that would bind our nation to many of the the mores and values of the late 18th century. 

Scalia was the chief protagonist of “originalism,” a belief that all truths could be found in the words of The Framers of the Constitution and any amendments subsequently passed. He was a deeply religious Catholic, but apparently he did not find anything wrong with deviations from the Good Book, the Bible, interpretations that have transformed religions for more than 2,000 years. 

Christians and Jews, after all, don’t adhere to all the dictates God commanded. We don’t exact an eye for an eye, anymore. Nor do we stone people who violate the Sabbath. God seemed okay with polygyny. Some Mormons still do, but they are the exception to the rule in most Western cultures. 

According to Scalia, “The only good Constitution is a dead Constitution. The problem with a living Constitution, in a word, is that somebody has to decide how it grows and when it is that new rights are, you know, come forth. And that’s an enormous responsibility in a democracy to place upon nine lawyers, or even 30 lawyers.”

Yet, the history of religion is that sages have always interpreted God’s meaning and intent. Western societies are apoplectic about Sharia Law as practiced in religiously orthodox Islamic countries because devout Moslems do not accommodate their civil practices to modern times. If you’re into stoning adulterers, or perhaps you prefer cutting off the hand of a thief, catch a plane to Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan.

But here in the United States, we don’t administer Sharia Law-like punishments. We’ve evolved. Apparently with God’s blessings or at least understanding, as thunderbolts from above have not wiped out huge swaths of our population (let’s not consider, for the moment, why natural disasters—tornadoes, floods, hurricanes—seem to be more frequently visited upon regions with more evangelicals than other areas). 

Keeping our laws attuned with current values is recognition that times change (hopefully for the better). If religious leaders (not all, but many) can adapt some of God’s prohibitions, if they can refine their approach to homosexuality, for example, thus affirming that the Bible is a living document, then why should we not be able to interpret the Constitution for modern times. The right to privacy, for example, had a narrower scope back in the 1780s. 

Architects have found that flexible structures withstand earthquakes better than rigidly constructed buildings. So, too, our nation if we measure our laws against the science, technology and mores of the time we live in.