Evangelicals Used to Hear They Scolded Too Much, Now Not Enough?

Evangelicals Used to Hear They Scolded Too Much, Now Not Enough? May 4, 2017

Flip flops abound in the Trump era. As if the repeated castigation of white evangelicals for voting Republican in the last POTUS election was not enough. Now comes word that evangelicals — what’s the next stage after 2 black eyes — haven’t moralized sufficiently about Bill O’Reilly. According to Ruth Graham who acquires her gotcha for the week:

it’s the silence, which thrums with a disturbing significance in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. White evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump, and they remain among his staunchest supporters. Among the white evangelical rank and file, 80 percent voted for Trump and 78 percent approve of his job performance. Contra the election-season narrative that “real” evangelicals would reject the womanizing casino magnate, Trump’s current support among evangelicals is actually stronger among those who attend church frequently, according to a recent Pew analysis. Christian leaders were more divided, but many spoke in Trump’s defense, even after numerous women came forward with accounts of the future president grabbing, kissing, and otherwise harassing or assaulting them.

Beaty points out that Fox News and the white evangelical Christian community have at least one thing in common: They are “insular organizations that resist external checks and revolve around authoritative men.” She makes an astute theological point about “cheap grace,” a concept that comes from the 20th-century German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (Metaxas, almost unbelievably, wrote a biography of Bonhoeffer.) “Cheap grace” means extending forgiveness without requiring repentance by the offender. It’s not enough for Christians to wave a hand over Trump and O’Reilly and say that God forgives them.

Funny how it was feminists themselves who exonerated Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. Does anyone remember this gotcha moment:

There is a shift in elite opinion about both Clinton and sexual mores. Exhibit A was a bizarre 30 January gathering hosted by the New York Observer at the restaurant Le Bernardin, where 10 Manhattan “supergals” – including writers Katie Roiphe, Erica Jong, Nancy Friday and Francine Prose, designer Nicole Miller, former Saturday Night Live contributor Patricia Marx, and “retired dominatrix and writer” Susan Shellogg – were invited to drink wine and analyse the scandal.

The resulting exchange, published by in the New York Observer’s 9 February issue, was galactically strange. The women agreed that they liked Clinton better for having had a titillating affair; after all, he’s kind of a hunk. Jong, for one, wants a president who is “alive from the waist down,” and Marx declared him “cute and getting cuter all the time.” They pronounced Starr (in Friday’s words) “a big sissy”, and speculated about whether Lewinsky had swallowed the President’s semen. “Oh,” squealed Jong, “imagine swallowing the Presidential come.”

It was the most embarrassing thing I had read in a long time. But then I opened the next week’s New Yorker, which contained a swooning “Fax from Washington” written by Tina Brown herself, describing the 5 February White House dinner for British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The subtext was that the Clinton scandal had marvellously improved the President’s aura: it made him deem so … hot “Now see your President, tall and absurdly debonair, as he dances with a radiant blonde, his wife… Amid the cliches about his charm, his glamour is undersung… Forget the dog-in-the-manger, down-in- the-mouth neo-puritanism of the op-ed tumbrel drivers, and see him instead as his guests do: a man in a dinner jacket with more heat than any star in the room.”

And don’t ever forget — historians get paid to remember until their brains fail — what Andrew Sullivan said about all the moralizing that the Religious Right did about Clinton’s affair with his intern:

This scolding, moralizing conservatism is one with a lineage; it is the construction of a cadre of influential intellectuals who bear as much responsibility as anybody for the constitutional and cultural damage this moment may have already wrought. And they will bear an even greater responsibility if the ultimate victim of this spectacle is the reputation and future of conservatism itself.

Now, Katelyn Beaty and Graham want a return to that kind of moral grandstanding. I’m betting they are bluffing.


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