USA pol­i­tics trumps re­li­gion

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Devon Dick Rev Devon Dick is pas­tor of the Boule­vard Bap­tist Church in St An­drew. He is au­thor of ‘The Cross and the Ma­chete’, and ‘Re­bel­lion to Riot’. Send feed­back to col­umns@ glean­erjm.com.

THE RE­CENTLY con­cluded USA pres­i­den­tial elec­tions be­tween busi­ness­man Don­ald Trump and for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton sig­nalled a blow to the in­flu­ence of Chris­tian­ity over USA pol­i­tics.

It is said that 80 per cent of white Christian Evan­gel­i­cals sup­ported Trump. For­merly, evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians in­flu­enced the Repub­li­can party so much so that pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees had to gen­u­flect to ‘fam­ily val­ues’. But Trump has been mar­ried thrice, and what fault did he find in the first two wives? One ex-wife ac­cused Trump of rape in an af­fi­davit. Trump, when he was 59 years old, bragged about try­ing to se­duce a mar­ried woman as well as of his ac­tions to­wards beau­ti­ful women, say­ing “I just start kiss­ing them ... I don’t even wait”. His tax re­turns are un­known, and hence the na­ture and scope of his busi­ness deal­ings. This prece­dent will haunt USA pol­i­tics. He is de­scribed as a money grab­ber and grab­ber also of fe­male parts. Him ‘crab­bit’! For most white evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians, all that mat­ters was the power to con­trol the Supreme Court.

The el­e­va­tion of Trump now de­fines the Repub­li­can Party. Sim­i­larly to how Mon­ica Lewin­sky de­fines Demo­crat Bill Clin­ton – “I did not have sex with that woman”. In ad­di­tion, Repub­li­can Richard Nixon name is syn­ony­mous with Water­gate. Their achieve­ments are dwarfed by those defin­ing mo­ments. Trump’s case is worse. Nixon and Clin­ton were con­victed af­ter they were elected. It there­fore re­flects on them pri­mar­ily. Trump acts were known be­fore he was elected, so Hil­lary’s state­ment is cor­rect – it de­fines who USA is. Ev­ery time Trump is men­tioned, we will re­mem­ber five words ‘Grab them by the ...’ Trump’s char­ac­ter will be de­fined by those 22 char­ac­ters and not “You are fired”. The Repub­li­can Party and the ci­ti­zens of the USA will also be seen from that per­spec­tive.

For years, within the Demo­cratic Party, re­li­gious evan­gel­i­cal be­liefs were sub­ju­gated to sup­port the Demo­cratic plat­form on abor­tion and more re­cently to be sup­port­ive of les­bians, gays, bi­sex­u­als and trans­gen­der get­ting mar­ried. In fact, Hil­lary Clin­ton’s run­ning mate, Tim Kaine, is a prac­tic­ing Ro­man Catholic, but he claimed that he would not al­low his per­sonal re­li­gious be­liefs, which is con­trary to the Demo­cratic Party, to af­fect pub­lic pol­icy. The Christian faith was rel­e­gated to a pri­vate mat­ter for per­sonal de­vo­tional ed­i­fi­ca­tion.

RE­AC­TION TO RACISM

Race had long trumped re­li­gion in the USA with the for­ma­tion of the black Church as a re­ac­tion to racism in the slave masters’ church of the 19th Cen­tury. It con­tin­ued af­ter slav­ery was abol­ished in 1865 be­cause African Amer­i­cans were dis­cour­aged and also pre­vented from wor­ship­ping in the same con­gre­ga­tions as whites. Now the black Church is in­sti­tu­tion­alised.

In the 1970s, the tel­e­van­ge­list be­came the face of Chris­tian­ity in the USA and then Mam­mon got a stran­gle­hold of the USA Church. Oral Roberts pi­o­neered tel­e­van­ge­lism em­pha­sis­ing seed faith and sowed the seed for pros­per­ity gospel, which claims that health, wealth and ma­te­rial suc­cess is the will of God for all and this is fa­cil­i­tated by faith in God, pos­i­tive speak­ing and do­na­tions to re­li­gious min­istries. It is in giv­ing so as to get the re­sult of greater ma­te­rial ben­e­fits, and it is based on Luke 6:38, which states, “Give and it shall be given to you.” That kind of think­ing is that we have to give God some­thing with which to work.

So race con­trolled Chris­tian­ity in the USA then money ruled Chris­tian­ity, and now pol­i­tics has trumped re­li­gion. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the white evan­gel­i­cal wing sup­ports Repub­li­cans and the black Church sup­ports the Demo­cratic Party. It is, there­fore, about what is po­lit­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent and what will get my party in power. Some Christian de­nom­i­na­tions seem to be an arm of po­lit­i­cal par­ties, the ser­vant of Mam­mon and the foun­da­tion of racism.

The Church in Ja­maica needs to ‘tek sleep and mark death’ and avoid those pit­falls.

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