Donald Trump, defender of Christian America? It’s not as ludicrous as it sounds

By Paul Rosenberg

Consternation over evangelical support for Donald Trump got another jolt with Stormy Daniels’ interview on “60 Minutes” last Sunday, but new research from Clemson sociologist Andrew Whitehead and two colleagues provides strong evidence that Trump is actually an ideal candidate for the Christian right. It sounds crazy, I know — but not to those in his evangelical base, a demographic that supported him by a ratio of roughly four to one, and others who share their particular worldview.

The key, Whitehead’s research shows, is Trump’s role as a champion of “Christian nationalism” — an Old Testament-based worldview fusing Christian and American identities, and sharpening the divide with those who are excluded from it. That stands in contrast to the tradition of “civil religion,” which “often refers to America’s covenantal relationship with a divine Creator who promises blessings for the nation for fulfilling its responsibility to defend liberty and justice.”

America is certainly understood as special, in this latter tradition — but that’s rooted in a special obligation. “Christian nationalism, however, draws its roots from ‘Old Testament’ parallels between America and Israel, who was commanded to maintain cultural and blood purity, often through war, conquest, and separatism,” Whitehead’s paper explains. “Unlike civil religion, contemporary manifestations of Christian nationalism can be unmoored from traditional moral import, emphasizing only its notions of exclusion and apocalyptic war and conquest.”

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