Russell Moore, the prominent Southern Baptist leader, has courageously stepped out to be the spokesman of the moment for true evangel-icalism (evangel being Greek for “gospel”) in American political life. His op-ed piece in The New York Times yesterday, ” Why the Church Must Reject Racism,” led to an appearance on NPR’s Morning Edition today. He spoke forthrightly about the dishonesty of Trump’s appropriation of a vaguely Christian identity, and explained that the media was using the word “evangelical” in a harmfully inaccurate way. In fact, he said that he was no longer going to allow himself to be called an evangelical unless he is able to explain what is meant by that word.
Just in the last few days, it seems that there might be a buildup of open resistance to the hijacking of the word and the identity. Several sources (noted by Russell Moore) have referred to recent polls appearing to show that evangelicals who attend church regularly and are active in specific congregations are less likely to support Trump than self-identified “evangelicals” who have no particular loyalty to a house of worship.
In any case, as I have explained in Tips From the Times, I think it is a distraction to continually focus on the “anger” of the American people as the principal cause of the Trump phenomenon. It’s almost become a cliche to talk about the “anger” of the population. I think that’s too generic to be a sufficient explanation of what’s happening. I am–for the first time ever–getting involved in an online campaign against a candidate because I want to point out the fascistic direction in which Donald Trump would take us. I made a preliminary attempt to define fascism in my post yesterday:
I think we should watch very carefully as Trump continues to rely on spectacle instead of addressing issues and discussing policy. Collecting enormous masses of adoring people around himself feeds his insatiable ego. That is what he needs on a daily basis. He quickly grows bored and irritated if he cannot continually have this craving met. That is the raw material from which fascistic leaders can create an aura around themselves. Trump clearly has a genius for this. In an inchoate way he has discerned that, as a friend just emailed me, “in times of anxiety, people look for the man on horseback.” The man (or, I suppose, woman–Evita?) who casts himself in this role feeds the people’s cravings at the same time that he feeds his own. This is in no sense the true statesmanship that we so desperately need today.
Do I like Hillary Clinton? No. I do not. We have a serious dilemma here. But that’s not my main focus at present. I hope to be one among a growing body of thoughtful people who see the importance of identifying Trump as a phenomenon that we do not want in the United States of America, let alone the wider world.
Since I first wrote this, the number of voices identifying Trump’s appeal as fascist has grown exponentially. One analyst commented that even if comparing Trump to Hitler may be overblown, any American normal politician who is compared even to Mussolini, let alone Hitler, would be taking steps to show that such a comparison is unthinkable. Not so Mr. Trump. He does not care.