According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken in September, 62 percent of white evangelicals approved of Donald Trump’s performance. That represents a marked decline from the 81 percent support Trump received from white evangelicals in the 2016 election and the 73 to 78 percent support he enjoyed from them for the better part of the year. But even with that drop, it stood in marked contrast to how the nation at large sees Trump. He’s struggled to get his approval ratings out of the 30s for most of the summer.
How is that possible? Well, a large part of it comes from what can charitably be described as out-and-out bullying from the pulpit and the television screen. The religious right has convinced many of its followers that it’s not possible to be a Christian and a Democrat. A typical instance of this came earlier this summer from Jesse Lee Peterson, a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in America–blacks who worship the Donald. Peterson harrumphed that Democrats praying for Steve Scalise’s recovery weren’t really sincere. Why? Supposedly, Democrats worship Satan.
Well, another lovely example came on Wednesday from another member of the Blacks for Trump club. He railed that anyone who votes for a Democrat will have to answer to the Almighty for doing so.
Contrary to recent appearances, the Republicans don’t mind having blacks in positions of power–just as long as they’re hard, hard, hard right. An example of the kind of black pundit Republicans like is Bishop E. W. Jackson, the morning drive-time host on Urban Family Talk, a division of American Family Radio targeted at black evangelicals. To give you an idea what makes this guy tick, he believes that if you oppose coerced prayer in school, you hate God.
On Wednesday’s show, Jackson talked about the unexpected Democratic surge in Virginia’s statewide elections. In case you missed it, that not only delivered a surprisingly decisive victory for Ralph Northam in the governor’s race, but have broken a brutal Republican gerrymander in the House of Delegates, the lower house of the state legislature. As of Thursday night, the Democrats have taken 15 seats from the Republicans, with three more Republican-held seats within the margin for a recount. Flip one, and the House is tied at 50 seats each, forcing a power-sharing arrangement. Flip two, and the Democrats take back control for the first time in 17 years.
This shellacking hit close to home for Jackson, who pastors The Called Church in Chesapeake, one of the major cities in Virginia’s second-largest metro area, Hampton Roads. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Like most Virginia fundies, Jackson was in a conniption fit over the defeat of one of the religious right’s longtime heroes, Delegate Bob Marshall of Prince William County in Northern Virginia. For years, Marshall was one of the most rabidly homophobic state legislators in the nation. He burnished this reputation earlier this year when he introduced a “bathroom bill” that was very similar to North Carolina’s infamous House Bill 2. It would have required people to use the bathroom that matched the sex on their birth certificate.
However, on Tuesday night, Marshall was capsized by the massive Democratic wave that swept through Northern Virginia. Fittingly, he was upended by a transgender woman, Danica Roem, who will become the first openly transgender state legislator in the nation to take up her seat. It wasn’t even close; Roem won by nine points.
About 18 minutes into the show, Jackson wrung his hands at this development. He believed that Roem is having an identity crisis, and thus has no business being in a legislature.
“The first question I would have is, how can you represent me when you don’t even know who you are? I mean, if you’re confused about that, how can you represent me? It seems to me you gotta kinda know yourself, don’t you?”
Jackson envisioned what might happen if Roem goes to heaven, and God calls her Daniel–only to have Roem say that it’s Danica. He believes God will have a big problem with that because “I created you a man, not a woman.”
That wasn’t the only thing that made Jackson nervous. Jackson Miller, the state house majority whip, was upended by Democratic challenger Lee Carter, a self-avowed democratic socialist. To Jackson’s mind, the prospect of a transgender woman and a socialist sitting in the oldest legislative body in the New World has the Founding Fathers “spinning in their graves.”
However, he also sees it as evidence that the Democratic Party is not something with whom any Christian should identify.
“And I ask the question again, and I’ll ask it again and again and again—and please ask your friends and your loved ones and your family who still are part of this abominable thing still called the Democrat Party, but you might as well call it the Socialist Party or the Atheist Party or the Godless Party or something. Why are they still a part of that thing? Notice what it is producing. This is what it is producing. And you really want to put your imprimatur on that? You really want to put your personal seal of approval on that as a Christian and stand before God and think that that’s not going to be a problem?”
Here’s what’s really abominable, E. W. A president who openly revels in degrading women, sees remotely critical coverage as fake news, openly flouts constitutional provisions against lining his pockets with foreign money, and who at the very least fostered an environment in which it was acceptable for his underlings to seek the assistance of a foreign government against his opponent. Are we supposed to overlook that just because that president makes the right clucking noises on social issues?
With all due respect, E. W., I’m not willing to put my imprimatur on that. No issue is that important. I say this as a charismatic/Pentecostal Christian who long ago realized social issues weren’t the be-all and end-all to everything. To suggest that we should only decide elections on social issues would be, for want of a better term, abominable.
(featured image courtesy Mark Taylor, available under a Creative Commons-BY license)