The Religious Right and Their Trumpist Confirmation Biases

The Religious Right and Their Trumpist Confirmation Biases May 18, 2022

We are all familiar with the brand of fundamentalist Christianity that gravitates toward Trumpism, conspiracies, anti-science, and a whole host of white-bred -phobias. We are also all familiar with many of the explanations for such a disastrous ideological marriage. In this piece, I’d like to explore one of them: their eschatology.

To start, our brains are wired a certain way. We tend to see patterns in nature, and then attach meaning to those patterns. What we already believe impacts those patters and meanings. As we observe, we notice the things that fit the narratives we’ve created while remaining blind to those things that don’t. This is called confirmation bias.

Such is the case with the fundamentalist-touting, QAnon-believing, science-denying, Trumpist Christian.

The cycle of their delusion goes like this:

As we move toward the End Times, the chosen people of God will be persecuted more and more. The Bible makes this clear. So, every time our theories, beliefs, and worldviews are rejected for supposedly being racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and so on, we believe we are on the right track. The proof is in the secular world’s rejection of us. So, we stand firm in our convictions, and are rejected even more, which is more evidence that we are in the right.

Of course, they may phrase it a different way, but those of us who don’t think like them see this cycle plain as day.

This creates an impossible situation. There is only a no-win scenario for the rest of us. The more we push back against their bad ideas, the more they see that as clear evidence that the secular world has rejected God. “In rejecting us, you’re rejecting God,” they’d argue. Then they’d point back to the Bible and always read themselves as the good guys (faithful Israel, Jesus’ disciples, the Apostle Paul), and the rest of us as the bad guys (Babylon, Rome, Judas, Pilate, Herod, the Pharisees).

The fascinating (albeit sometimes frustrating) thing about this whole situation is that there those of us who would do the same thing but in reverse. Maybe I’m just out of my league here, but don’t tell me you haven’t noticed how Trump (not Obama) actually fits the role of anti-Christ? I no longer believe in such a narrative, but think about it: a self-righteous rich man with a history of alleged sexual abuse, thrice married, boastfully equates himself with Jesus in many ways, and then deceives much of Evangelical Christianity into following him blindly . . . is that not the story we were told would happen toward the so-called “end?”

So, what do we do?

First, we have to acknowledge that we aren’t going to change their minds. As Trump once famously said, he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any supporters. So, I’m not sure what we can do, given this is perhaps the most accurate thing Trump has ever said.

Second, we have to focus our attention on those who haven’t been swayed by the Trumpism, the conspiracies, and the fear being espoused by the Rightwing alarmists. The moderates who lean Right. We also have to stand firm in how we educate children. There has to be standards. We have to teach our history, even if it’s uncomfortable to admit our nation’s Sin. We can’t let education go to shit, not unless we want future generations raised up believing this fundagelical garbage.

And third, we have to be persistent like the widow in Luke 18.

In this parable, there is a widow who is seeking justice. So, to obtain it, she goes to a judge, over and over and over and over again, in order to be granted justice against the one who wronged her. Of course, the judge is annoyed by her. “Oh, her again,” he probably mutters more than once. But eventually, the judge does relent and grants her justice. Not because he had a change of heart, but because she wasn’t going to go away until he did.

That’s how we have to be. The judge represents systems of oppression. Racism. Patriarchy. Heteronormativity. Gender norms. And we are the widow; but to be like the widow, we can never shut up about injustices until justice is granted.

As we do this, ironically (or not, depending on how you look at it), the Evangelical church will be the ones left behind. We will progress, probably out of necessity due to climate change kicking into high gear, and they will stand firm in their antiquated ideologies, their heels dug into the sand where they’ve built their houses.

Nevertheless, we must not relent. The widow in Luke 18 never did, and neither shall we. Roe v. Wade may be overturned, but we must not relent. More race-driven crimes will be committed on U.S. soil, but we must not relent. More Black folks will be locked up for nonviolent crimes, but we must not relent. More LGBTQ+ folks will be kicked out of their homes by their Christian parents, but we must not relent.

It may be too late to help those who have already been sucked through the vortex of Trumpism, but it’s never too late to seek justice, to educated those who are curious and inquisitive, and to do our part in the small ways we are called.

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About Matthew J. Distefano
Matthew J. Distefano is an author, blogger, podcaster, and social worker. He lives in Northern California with his wife and daughter You can read more about the author here.
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