Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Godbotherers Who Love Trump

That eighty percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, the adulterous foul-mouthed bigot,  is one of those wonderful phenomena about religions: 

Faith is defined by those who hold it (people), saints in the Catholic Church are created by people, second-guessing whom their god might view as saintly.  Holy books are interpreted by people based on what they want god to declare.  That those books were collected over centuries, that their messages were filtered through many people with particular views and values, and that their messages are very clearly based on the time and place and the social mores of that time and place; all that is largely ignored.  That's because the insiders determine the answer to these questions, even when outsiders are forced to abide with their interpretations, and respect them.

The answers, we are told, come from the creator of everything and everyone.  There's no way of debating someone who believes that message, because it is viewed as an eternal truth.

And it  matters that the three Abrahamic religions were born out of nomadic shepherding cultures.  It is those cultures in which women's relative status was the weakest, because a nomadic lifestyle made it almost impossible for women to contribute to family resources* by gardening or farming or by selling items they created, and because women, burdened by pregnancies and breastfeeding and the care of small children couldn't contribute much to the shepherding activities, either. 

That is the social context within which women's religious rights were defined in the holy books of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, and that is why** men are placed above women in the presumably eternal hierarchies.  That is also why, to this day, the progress of women is very much harmed by the assumption that the divine creator intends the power hierarchies to be eternal.  Talking to the most conservative religious leaders about this means arguing over the current applicability of thousands of years old gender norms while they speak for god.

This is the background for understanding the 2016 presidential vote of right-wing white evangelicals, the reason why Hillary Clinton, who is a Christian believer did not get their votes but Donald Trump***, who is a believer in only his own excellence, did.  Donald Trump promised the return of the old hierarchies, the ones in which men were above women and white people above people of color, simply because of the accident of birth.  And that is what the so-called Christian "values voters" voted for.

The same results applied to Alabama's special Senate election late last year.  Roughly eighty percent of white evangelicals or born-again Christians voted for Roy Moore, despite the serious allegations that he had earlier in his life sought out and groomed very young girls for sexual purposes.

So what are the values of these "values voters?"  And why are we so often told that they are the ones who vote their values, as if others do not?

The usual answer is all about abortion****.  Roy Moore may have violated all sorts of commandments, but he promised the devout that sluts would stop killing unborn babies and would have to accept the punishment for their sins.  Donald Trump may have fornicated as much as he could, but at least he promised to make abortion much harder to get.  It doesn't matter to the "values voters" that Trump's fornicating could have resulted in abortions.

That's because the gender hierarchies of the traditionalists allow more mistakes for those who are higher up in the hierarchy.  They can repent and be forgiven for almost anything.  And never mind that the Bible doesn't even mention abortion;  it is something which empowers women and shakes the traditional foundations of the god-given hierarchies.  This makes it the worst of all possible sins.


*  Women's status has been found to be higher in societies where they contribute to the wealth and resources of the family.  For some reason the reproduction of the next generation and the work in the household doesn't appear to give women real respect or better status.

**  This doesn't mean that the Abrahamic religions are responsible for misogyny and sexism or created it.  Misogyny and sexism are part of our historical traditions in all cultures and tend to seep into all faith systems, and the messages in the Bible, the Quran and the Talmud may have even been much more egalitarian than prevailing practices.  But literal readings of old holy books today do tend to codify and ossify gender hierarchies and give them a heavenly glow.

*** Women are not supposed to lead or teach men, either, but obey them,  given the nomadic gender norms that the literalists get from the Abrahamic holy books. 

****  And the hatred of same-sex marriage.  I believe that the roots of that hatred are partly linked to the (selective) pro-life views.  Who is the boss in a same-sex marriage if gender cannot be used to decide that?  If people are allowed to marry someone of the same sex, will this idea of egalitarian marriages not threaten those old gender hierarchies?