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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 11/3/20

Letting Go Of Christianity During The Trump Era

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Churches linked to COVID-19 outbreaks l GMA More than 650 recent coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the U.S., according to the New York Times.
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When a Christian majority voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, if felt like a gut punch.

That's if you're like me, a lifetime church-goer who proudly defended hand-me-down values, trusted traditional authorities and regularly went to bat for Christian conservatism in the liberal jungle of early adolescents. We held firm, even when lacking faith in our own beliefs.

We kneeled in pews instead of underneath beer bongs. We tallied change at church car washes instead of tailgating. We buried our noses in books, stayed the straight and narrow while always trying to be kind people.

If you are still like me, we passed on wasted nights, dismissing red cups, joints and mystery pills. We abstained from carefree, yet potentially valuable dating. Maybe you suppressed self-expression or even your own sexuality with concerns of displeasing Christian loved ones.

Dogmatism and fear of eternal punishment never influenced our path. We weren't scared a puff of the devil's lettuce lead to an eternity in hell. Saying no to peer pressure simply made us proud champions of Christian values. We felt good, or at least right by defending this apparently unpopular moral code.

Maybe more than anything, we feared the Scarlett letter 'H" for hypocrisy. The reputation of our church and its principles were sacred. If we failed as representatives, it be another chink in the beat-up armor of our beloved belief system. And if you grew up in my era, the chorus of church critics was growing.

Books by scholars like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens boomed in popularity. The number of "religious nones" seemed to double every year. Bill Maher delivered documentaries dismantling Christian fundamentalism. A new lawsuit against the Catholic Church seemed to spring up monthly. The winds of doubt were never stronger, yet we held firm because of our love for the beliefs and a generation that passed them on to us.

We spent our adolescence protecting the increasingly fragile reputation of our religion's values, despite regular temptation. For four years, President Trump tempted traditional Christians with often unconstitutional influence, an extremely conservative Supreme Court and rhetoric pandering to their dogmatic beliefs. In exchange, many Christians supported his nationalism, behavior amoral by their own code and often fascist approach to governing.

If you are still like me, watching these Christians give in to temptation and stand by the president felt like betrayal. Why did we spend so much time safe guarding such a fragile flower bed, only to watch many of our fellow Christians frolic over it, hand-in-hand with the President?

Racist dog whistles, abrasive language and news of extramarital affairs continue to ooze from the oval office like pus from a hideous cist. Still, Christians fervently support the President. Nearly 50 percent of weekly church goers believe he was anointed by God.

Many immigrants from Mexico and South America identify as Catholic. Yet, Catholics stand behind the President as migrants continue to be mistreated and lose their lives at the border. About 60 percent of regular Catholic church attendees have a positive view of President Trump. About the same percentage of white Catholics say he earned their vote.

Around 80 percent of Evangelicals are expected to vote for President Trump. More disturbingly, 48 percent of Evangelicals supported Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh even if he raped Christine Blasey Ford. White Protestants who aren't Evangelical or born-again still plan to vote for Trump at a 53 percent clip.

President Trump and many Christians share a common headspace as it pertains to social justice. A study published over the summer revealed only 33 percent of white Christians are motivated to address racial inequities. Too often, social media posts with the hashtag "all lives matter" are authored by twitter handles with bible verses in the bio. Christian groups even raised more than $500K for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who killed two young people protesting police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

No one spreads more misinformation about the coronavirus than President Trump. But churches are often the biggest culprits of downplaying the disease. Many are levying litigation against state governments to keep their doors open while holding worship ceremonies in defiance of local laws. Pictures of mask-less parishioners are common.

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