Another piece of news that appeared in The Week Wednesday (and in my media outlets multiple times over the years) was this article by Bonnie Kristian entitled “Don’t Idolize Your 2020 Pick (my apologies in advance for the truly disturbing illustration of “Beto” O’Rourke as Jesus.)
Ms Kristian touches on an argument that I’ve been making for years: that the left has become more secular and hostile to religion, but they still feel a need for some force larger than themselves to worship. And so, they fill that hole in their souls by putting a religious-type faith in politicians; investing mystical powers in a series of false idols with feet of clay who will inevitably let them down…until they find the next one to elevate to savior status. She seems to think this is a recent phenomenon, citing Obama (“the Lightbringer” whose mere elevation to office would make the rising oceans start to recede) and “Beto” (cringe alert: there’s a photo of a young supporter in a crowd holding up a sign reading “Beto is our Christ.”)
In actuality, the roots of the deification of Democratic pols go back decades, from the photos of FDR and JFK next to pictures of Jesus and the Pope in supporters’ homes, to the “Kennedy/Camelot” narrative (remember, King Arthur was ordained by God to rule England) to Bill Clinton (a worshipful reporter gushed that “power crackled from his jeans”), and so on up to “Beto” with any number of similar tin gods who didn’t quite make it to the top tier of deities, plus those who popped up in other nations around the world. As I pointed out just recently, it’s no coincidence that Democrats are so awed by people who are “charismatic,” which is actually a religious term.
Ms Kristian is absolutely correct in calling this idolizing of political figures “misguided;” in asserting that too many Americans “substitute state for church, voting for prayer, celebrity endorsers for clergy, and human props for saints as we pick our preferred deity on the ballot;” and in warning, “We place our faith in them at our peril.” But I think she takes a wrong turn in attempting to explain President Trump’s electoral success as an example of Christians who have drifted from churches looking to Trump as a messianic figure. She bases this on a “county-level statistical analysis of 2016 primary results” by a writer at The American Conservative, which despite its name is far from a mainstream conservative publication.
Allow me to explain it based on a personal analysis of traveling with Trump to all those rallies during the 2016 primary season and actually talking to thousands of his supporters, both then and since.
First of all, I doubt anyone at a Trump rally mistakes it for church, or uses it as a replacement for church, the way Obama or “Beto” supporters do. His supporters go to Trump rallies for many reasons, among them: to show his critics in DC that there’s strong support for his policies…to gather with like-minded Americans and show solidarity in the face of the relentless slander they’ve been enduring since 2016…because he’s incredibly entertaining (I think his speeches are much funnier than any of the late night “comedy shows” these days, if you get that he uses exaggeration for comic effect and doesn’t intend every word to be taken 100% literally)…and they know that showing up in massive numbers when the polls keep telling us he’s so unpopular will make the biased liberal media’s talking heads explode. That makes it fun! It’s a great, positive, all-American event, like going to a NASCAR rally, where I assure you, nobody mistakes Joey Logano for Jesus Christ.
And as a Christian supporter of Trump who speaks to hundreds of others every week, I can also assure you that they don’t mistake Trump for Christ, either. Many of us still wince at some of his pugnacious, egocentric or profane tough-guy-from-Queens comments. We know Trump is not our Savior (there is only One of those.)
But there is a religious concept that many feel does fit him: the imperfect vessel through which God works His will. The Bible is filled with such figures; sinners who were redeemed and played very important roles in God’s plan. Christian supporters of Trump are perfectly aware that he is far from perfect (we don’t expect any human to be perfect), but may still feel that he was chosen by God as an instrument to help put the nation back on the right path when it was being led away from its Judeo-Christian foundation and into atheism, Marxism and lack of respect for life.
If Trump is reelected in 2020, it will be because his supporters think he’s done a good job on the economy, he stands up to terrorists and America’s enemies both foreign and domestic, he stands up for the pro-life cause, and he puts America’s interests first. If he hasn’t fulfilled every promise such as the border wall, it wasn’t because of lack of trying. It certainly won’t be for reasons I’ve heard people give for supporting some recent Democrats: that his voice makes a tingle run up their leg or that his “perfectly creased pant” gave them a premonition that he would make “a very good President.”