Monday, October 14, 2019

What Separation of The Church And The State?

This is the home page of the US Department of State today:

That "Christian Leader" is the Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo.  He has a nice Christian wife and all, I learned while reading the speech transcript. 

Pompeo is not the only one in the Trump administration who has come out as essentially a fundamentalist Christian.  Attorney General Bill Barr also gave a recent speech on the great oppression that people with traditional Christian values* face in this country:

Attorney General Bill Barr decried attacks on religious values in a speech Friday, tying a movement of "militant secularism" to societal maladies including the opioid epidemic and "an increase in senseless violence."
Speaking to an audience at the University of Notre Dame Law School, Barr outlined a grim vision of cultural trends, saying a "moral upheaval" and decades of efforts to undermine religion had given way to growing illegitimacy rates, drug use, and "angry, alienated young males" -- a population associated recently with a spate of domestic attacks.

"Among the militant secularists are many so-called progressives. But where is the progress?" Barr asked. "Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake: social, educational and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns."
There ya go.  If Barr ties those things ("militant" secularism and all the ills of the American society) together, then it must be the case that someone has clear proof of the cause-and-effect chain here, right?  Except, of course, there is no such proof, because the whole hypothesis is silly.  If Barr were right, the Scandinavian countries (the most secular ones on this planet) would be real horror stories of violence and drug use.

What struck me, once again, about the opinions of these American fundamentalist Christians, is how much they are like the opinions of Islamist clerics.  It's not just religion in general or even Christianity in general that the Trump administration seems to supports; it's right-wing fundamentalism and white evangelism.  And news about that support should not be on the home page of the US Department of State**.


*  Those traditional values don't seem to have much to do with the teachings of Jesus or about caring for the poor.  They are Old Testament values and include the subjugation of women (and probably also of other races), the refusal to accept same-sex marriage and so on.

** Why they are is an interesting question.  Trump has broken all the china in our shared kitchen he didn't like and has ignored all the politely phrased complaints about it.  He does whatever he wants and the Republican enablers in the Congress let him.

If I had to guess, these two speeches, and the coverage given to them might be an attempt to shore up the support of white Evangelicals, Trump's most faithful base. 

Those religious folks are not at all bothered about Trump's sins, his multiple wives, his sexual harassment of women, his shady business dealings and so on, because they see Trump as the tool which lets them mold the US culture in their own image.  Jesus has sent Trump here for that purpose!

But the white Evangelicals don't like Trump's moves in Syria, because Turkey's attacks will probably kill Kurdish Christians, an already oppressed group in the area, and because the US white fundamentalists see their own "oppression" reflected in that:

But the religious right has also increasingly reimagined “religious freedom” to combine white Christians’ concern for the persecuted church in the Middle East with the belief that they themselves are persecuted here at home by liberal neighbors who “impose” their beliefs about the equality of women and the LGBTQ community. Just as libertarians worked to redefine liberty as freedom from government in the late 20th century, the religious right has cultivated a love for religious liberty in the 21st century that makes white Christians in America feel embattled.