While watching CNN the other day, I heard one of the commentators say that Donald Trump was commanding much of the Evangelical vote, in spite of his blatant adulteries and other unchristian behaviors. “We’re not electing a pastor,” a Southern Baptist said.
It struck me upon hearing this that some people might be mystified by the widely varying political preferences found even amongst devout churchgoers. This is actually easy to fathom; we need only do some comparative psycho-philosophy to understand different Christians’ different ideas about their own potentials as spiritual beings.
The first group, more common among Catholics and mainline protestant groups, are liberal in disposition and try to enact the social reforms implicit in the teachings of Christ. They are more willing to give to charity, shelter or sponsor a refugee, volunteer in a hospital, or do nonprofit work against torture, capital punishment and the like. They believe Christ when he said, “you are the light of the world,” and they seek to embody him in their lives. Are these Christians sinners? Certainly, but on some level there’s faith that, like their master, they can become sinless. The example of Jesus empowers them.
The second group, more typical of conservative protestants, pietistic denominations and fundamentalists, display opinions and preferences widely known to be hypocritical, at least as far as Christ is concerned. They often favor capital punishment, are hawkish and protectionist on immigration and military issues, and are immersed in the myth of American exceptionalism that comes down to us from the founding fathers. Historians tell us that Washington, Jefferson, et. al. largely saw the thirteen colonies and western frontier as a “New Israel,” promised to them by God as a refuge from religious persecution back home in Great Britain.
The result? For this latter group of modern Christians there is a greater preoccupation with wealth and power, and a literalist absorption of negative consequences connected with all those thou shalt nots. This leads to a subconscious assumption of incorrigible sinfulness—the likes of which, they think, Christ would never lower himself to touch. They naturally go on to assume that everybody else, deep down, is just as wretched as they are. This justifies all the selfish ideas connected with the libertarian philosophies they frequently espouse.
What is the lesson here, especially for those of us confused with how to vote come November? In our collective execution of folly—from which we are hopefully learning—mankind has created a world of excesses, most of all perhaps in the sheer number of people out there clamoring for resources, recognition, and love. To avoid such self-hatred, we must share, and share, and share… although with discrimination.