The other day, President Trump stood in front of a bank of microphones and said that, if elected, Joe Biden would “hurt God”, “hurt the Bible” and basically implied that Liberals want to kill Christianity. As sophomoric and ridiculous as that claim sounded to most Americans, Trump knew what he was doing. He was sounding yet another in a never ending series of dog whistles to his most adamantly supportive base, the far-right evangelicals. Say what you will about the President and his intelligence or lack of it, but he is a master at manipulating his core followers by playing on their baser fears and anxieties. By doing that, he blinds them to what is really going on and lets them foam at the mouth and fantasize about how their way of life and core beliefs are in extreme peril. Meanwhile, the rest of the world, including us progressive Christians, see that it is glaringly obvious that, if anyone is “hurting God” or endangering Christianity, it is Donald Trump and his core group of far-right evangelical supporters. They think they are protecting their religion when in fact, they are slowly choking the life out of it. These turbulent times are shining a white-hot spotlight on the bigotry and hatred that has erupted out of this paranoid and angry group. While the rest of the nation continues to become “woke”, in the far-right evangelical world, it’s still open season on the groups they don’t want to tolerate or accept.
President Trump desperately needs to keep stirring the emotions of his pet supporters. What other explanation is there for having the St. Louis couple who were charged with felonies for coming out to intimidate and threaten a Black Lives Matter demonstration by pointing guns at them? That couple is being rewarded with adoration from far-right Christians for their shameful and dangerous display of bigotry, intolerance, and fear. That is what the Republican Party has now stooped to in order to play to the most hateful and ignorant segment of their membership.
In my own hometown, a normally quiet little community of about 5,000 about 50 miles north of Indianapolis (where I’ve lived for the past 30 years), this far-right evangelical hatred and bigotry was on full display this month and it broke my heart. Like most small towns in Indiana, mine was sorely lacking in diversity. It sits adjacent to a much larger and more diverse town about 10 miles away. Recently, a group of young white people from my hometown joined forces with some young black people from that larger nearby town and held a small BLM demonstration. A viral video showed the group marching quite peacefully on the sidewalks of my little hometown until they reached a large group of mostly older locals on the opposite side of the street. The angry group of locals, some holding American flags, some holding Confederate flags, and many sporting pro-Trump paraphernalia, began angrily shouting at the BLM group to go back where they came from, that they were not welcome in this town. It got more heated from there. As the BLM group remained amazingly respectful and peaceful, some of the angry locals began to get more aggressive, spouting ugly and ignorant messages. At one point, a local man decked out in full military style regalia, including an assault rifle at his side, stood menacingly facing the BLM group from the middle of the street as local police attempted to keep things from escalating. Fortunately, things did not escalate to physical violence, but that was more due to the impressive restraint shown by the leadership of the BLM group. You may ask how I know that those angry white locals were evangelical types. Well, here’s the thing, shortly after that incident people from my hometown formed a new Facebook group and at last count, more than 300 people had joined (that’s a pretty big number in just 2 weeks in a town of 5,000). For some odd reason, they left their group public so that anyone could see their posts, comments, and membership. I spotted a lot of names I recognized, many of whom are professed Christians. You can check this page out here, until someone becomes educated enough to make it private. Heck, as of the moment I’m writing this, you can join the group and leave them a comment…ha ha. Warning, some of the commentary on that page is quite disturbing.
Another recent example of what I’m talking about when I say it’s still open season on bigotry and hatred among far-right evangelicals comes from a story about a private high school where I now live. The athletic trainer at this school, a woman who pretty much built the athletic training department from scratch at the small Christian school, was fired from the job she had held for several years. Her crime? She made it public knowledge that she was marrying the love of her life who happened to be another woman. This kind of thing has happened a lot in Indianapolis in recent years at religious schools around the city. The strangest thing to me about this whole phenomenon is the fact that many people know that there are LGBT staff members at these schools, and nobody seems to care until the LGBT staff members are honest and forthright about how God made them. The moment they are honest; the moment they want to make their love official by joining in matrimony, they are unceremoniously let go. I have news for these schools, there are LGBT students and staff in all your schools. You may not know it, but I’ll bet you do. You let them stay as long as they are willing to live a lie. When they tell the truth, you dismiss them and send them packing.
These kinds of displays from far-right evangelicals are becoming more and more commonplace in our topsy turvy times. Each time they occur, it drives a wedge between that community and the rest of the country. Soon, nobody will want to be associated with those churches except for the most hardcore far-right members.
Now I ask you, who is hurting God?