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Republicans Won’t Abandon Trump

Republicans Won’t Abandon Trump

Our former president is, by all indications, selling access to secret documents he stole from the White House. Representative Lauren Boebert told Republican voters last week that “we are in the Last Days,” and they are “ushering in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green compared electric airplanes to “slave ships.” Senator Lindsay Graham called for a revolt if the former President is punished for his espionage. Florida Governor Ron De Santis just arranged the kidnapping of a group of immigrants in another state, shipping them a thousand miles away to Martha’s Vineyard in a publicity stunt.

You’ve probably asked yourself, “Who trusts these people?” Why do they defend these indefensible leaders? Surely they see the same things we do. Why don’t more of them break away? 

More importantly, you’ve probably asked yourself where this madness stops. What would it take for Republicans to acknowledge reality and abandon these disastrous leaders?

No reckoning is coming. Republicans will turn on democracy itself, and on you, before they question their leaders. It is vitally important for the rest of America to understand why. Leaving a cult is harder than it looks.

It’s impossible to grapple with the madness of our politics without an appreciation of evangelical life, a subject very few Americans outside of conservative Christian denominations comprehend. White evangelical Christians form the overwhelming bulk of Trump’s support. He’s become a demigod for them, a living symbol of their values. Today, dissenting from the evangelical community’s political values means losing your religion, and losing your religion is more costly than you think. 

I lost my religion. It wasn’t fun. The hardest part of losing your religion isn’t leaving. It’s surviving out in the world after your religion has left you. Most people would rather endure endless abuse, humiliation and moral whoredom rather than endure that lonely chill. Evangelicals won’t leave Trump behind unless a new God rises to take his place. 

Why do people leave? Sometimes it happens suddenly, connected to a terrible life event like a divorce, death or sexual assault. More commonly, losing your religion is a steady erosion, punctuated by a few flashbulb moments. 

Sunday morning, the day of rest, is absolute bedlam in an evangelical household. True believers don’t just waltz through the church doors happily in time for the 11 am service. Those who love Jesus have to pack in a practice session for the worship service. There’s Childrens’ Church and Sunday School. Planning with the prayer team. Sunday is gameday. Slide through those doors after ten and you’re a target for the outreach ministry. 

Walking into my parents’ room one Sunday morning when I was 15, I found my mom watching Jim Bakker on TV, scrambling to get ready. I’d been sent to deliver some message from Dad, instead I found myself glued to the screen. Bakker was standing on the white carpet of his gaudy TV pedestal next to a pile of cash, plowing through it with a snow shovel while pleading for more. This seemed ridiculous on its face. It crystallized doubts that had been building in me for years.

I said that this guy was a crook and I was amazed people sent him money. The air froze. Mom was very upset. She sputtered that Bakker was doing God’s will in spite of all the people trying to destroy him. This surprised me. After all, look at him. “Mom, he’s building an amusement park. Why does Jesus need a rollercoaster?”

The heat of her reaction took me off guard. I got a speech about all the lives that could be reached for Jesus on the amusement park midway. There would be a Jerusalem Land or something that would teach people about Jesus or something. None of it made sense. She expressed her concern about my eternal soul. “I love you son, and I want you to be with us in Heaven.”

I was not some missionary project, staying out all night, listening to rock and roll or “smoking drugs.” I was an A student who had read the Bible from cover to cover multiple times. I had preached from our church pulpit in a Sunday service, services that regularly boasted nearly a thousand people. I was a righteous dork who everyone assumed was on his way to a long virgin career stretching into seminary and “the ministry.” I’d never gotten the “I worry for your soul speech” and never thought I would.

In our evangelical universe there were things you didn’t talk about, plain as day realities you were expected to ignore. Deep inside, I’m sure I already understood these rules, but it seemed that home should be safe. You should be able to state the obvious among the people who love you most. That morning was a revelation.  

Shedding my faith began before that moment and continued for a long time after. It was a progression, stripping away the barnacles of a repressive culture while searching for an authentic self beneath. That morning something cracked. That morning I learned that loyalty to this cult was so powerful that even my mother would look on me with suspicion if I acknowledged what I was seeing. That day, not only did I realize that the people around me weren’t interested in reality, but that they would turn on me if I brought it into their world. 

Across the years of evangelical childhood I’d had moments of doubt. Speaking in tongues always seemed like gibberish, even when I did it. Pro tip – use lots of b’s or g’s for your consonants, connected with short vowels. Go all free style and you could accidentally lay down a Holy Spirit Tourette’s moment of quasi-profanities, all kaka’s and pe pe’s. It has happened. God will not be mocked.

As I kid, I heard more about sex in church than anywhere else. Evangelicals absolutely love sex, the nastier the better. Church is where I first heard the words “cunnilingus” and “fellatio.” These people talked about sex constantly. There were “ministers” whose whole job it was to travel from church to church delivering very lurid sex education courses to pubescent Christian kids. Even at the time, I couldn’t avoid the impression that these people were just a little too interested in my dirty thoughts.

People said they heard God’s voice. I didn’t, though I felt compelled to say I did. When I realized what I was doing, it made me wonder if everyone else was faking it too. 

Summer church camp was a charismatic carnival. Kids from evangelical churches all over Texas were shipped off to poorly supervised country camps where Jesus could move beyond the prying eyes of stodgy church deacons and nervous parents.

A lady showed up to camp once to explain the horrors of demonic possession through secret messages in rock music. She didn’t seem OK. She’d play Stairway to Heaven backward and tell us the satanic message it was hiding. I couldn’t hear the message among the eerie noise, but I pretended I did. Afterall, I didn’t want to let demons into my life, would you?

One of my peers in the youth group, let’s call him Billy, was paraplegic. Billy was irritable and bitter. Every time we went to church camp some young cultist, filled with the spirit, would gather a group of zombie-eyed Jesus teens to “lay hands” on Billy. Sometimes they had to talk him into it. To everyone’s surprise, Jesus never healed Billy. He must not have had enough faith.

Seeing these “healing” assaults carried out within the erotic frenzy of a Holy Ghost-filled camp meeting was one thing. Kids get carried away when they’ve drunk too deeply of the opiate of the masses. Young zombie-eyed prayer warriors wandered these camps with little supervision, performing spiritual feats from prophecy to exorcism without oversight. It all seemed to roll off our backs.

On occasion, these irresponsible healing displays would unfold in our home church. Seeing adults who should have known better, and a community that should have protected him, subject this child to such a pointless and demoralizing ritual was ugly. One such prayer service when I was 14 left me doubting the safety of that environment and appeared to have ended Billy’s spiritual journey with us. I’ll never forget the tears on Billy’s face. It was cruel. In our hearts we all knew it wouldn’t work. Someone should have stopped it.

Looking back, one of the organizing principles of an evangelical community is that everyone knows that none of this is real. Yes, these communities are magnets for people with genuine mental illness, people with a medical inability to tell fantasy from reality. By and large though, members of these churches are expressing “belief” in fantastic, unreal notions as a token of loyalty. 

Maintaining the theater of belief takes work, which is why evangelical Christians are so maniacal about filtering what they see and hear. Sustaining a state of “belief” in a set of patently false assertions is a form of community meditation, a shared transcendent experience. Unless you’re suffering from a mental illness, you can’t maintain that balancing act without knowing you’re doing it. Some minimal recognition of the unreality of these beliefs is what keeps people from jumping off roofs to prove they can fly or passing up chemotherapy in favor of prayer. 

They know what they’re doing. They aren’t stupid or crazy. The act of sustaining an irrational reality in an otherwise sane mind builds connection. Demonstrations of baseless belief define the evangelical community.

Everyone in our church had their story of “miraculous healing.” In the headline of those stories, people had been healed of everything from alcoholism to cancer. Below the lede, those stories were never examined. 

No one was healed from something that could be verified. None of these “miracles” made the paper. Most healing stories involved the disappearance of a phantom pain, or a preliminary diagnosis that Jesus resolved before the CAT scan. We all knew these healings never extended to stuff like paraplegia. 

Trying to heal Billy, making a spectacle of someone with a visible condition, threatens to crush everyone’s groove. What are we supposed to do when he doesn’t get up? He tried to get up once, it was bad. How do you know when to stop praying and send everyone back to their seats? Obviously, this put Billy in a very nasty spot. The assumption is that his faith, not any failure on the part of the healers, was responsible for this failure, an experience likely to scar him and his family for life.

In our hearts we all knew that Jesus only heals the illnesses in your head, or the illnesses of those friends of a friend of your cousin’s step-brother in Canada. We knew the church shouldn’t be tormenting that kid, not just because it was cruel, but because the spectacle threatened to shatter the delicate delusions critical to evangelical life.

I kept a lid on my unease until that Jim Bakker moment. When I realized that no place was safe, not even home, latent doubts bloomed. 

At first, my questioning was about repairing my faith. I was told that the truth is paramount, the truth will set you free. So I went looking for the truth, a seemingly innocent pursuit. I had misunderstood “truth.” Truth was compliance, obedience, loyalty.

I had discussions about religion with friends at school. Christians from other traditions pointed out that Jesus had never actually claimed to be the son of God. The Gospel of Mark doesn’t include a resurrection story, an oversight so glaring that monks later tacked on several verses at the end to fix it. The Book of Matthew ends by acknowledging that several of Jesus’ closest followers never bought into the resurrection story (Matt 28:17). Luke and Matthew place Jesus’ birth at least a decade apart from each other, under completely different political regimes, in order to make different theological and political points. 

People had been lying to me. The Bible was not some infallible work of history and facts, but an ancient and rather beautiful work crafted over centuries by innumerable authors to address things they cared about in the moment. The evidence was right in front of all of us all along. I’d been reading it but not seeing it, which was a lesson in itself.

The truth shall set you free, but first it will scare the shit out of you. As my religion crumbled I did not feel liberated. Exposure to these realities left me with feelings of fear and betrayal. The more I learned, the stronger the urge to make it all fit back together, to glue the shards of my faith in a way that no one could detect. The more I learned, the more isolated and threatened I felt. Hell loomed. More immediately, the threat of alienation hung over me.

Looking to the leaders in my church for help made things worse. Merely raising these questions about the Bible made me a suspect and a threat, a position utterly unfamiliar to me. 

Ask a youth pastor why the Gospels differ in such obvious ways, why the Old Testament defines pi as 3, or why the Apostle Paul seems not to have known about the virgin birth. The fear in their eyes is unsettling. They had no answer for any of this beyond confident platitudes because in evangelical Christianity no one needs answers. Faith is enough. You’re just supposed to believe stuff. The more outlandish and unreasonable the belief, the more impressive the spiritual athlete. Questioning your beliefs is a sin. Asking questions transformed me from the golden boy touched by God, destined for the ministry, to a potential cancer in the body. 

Every new question was a shadow demerit. Every evasive answer made doubts grow.   

Again, as Jesus supposedly said, the truth shall set you free. It seemed like the smart thing to do was to go out “into the world” and learn what there was to learn. Truth is powerful. Truth is freedom. Truth will win out, so shouldn’t we invite our assumptions to be tested?  

Instead of staying in our East Texas town, attending the non-threatening local school while living at home and learning some respectable trade, I wanted to go to college for real, like, in a dorm. With professors who had lived and studied somewhere else. In my teenage naivete, I thought this might be welcomed by my community.

My family had no money. I was graduating from a hard-luck high school with solid grades and a good SAT score. Mid-range regional private schools were offering serious money to have me. Real college was within reach.

When my pastor learned I wouldn’t be going to seminary or attending the local college, he stopped talking to me. When I decided to go college for real, my church community returned the favor and lost faith in me. They couldn’t have been more disappointed if I’d decided to become a porn star or a Democrat. My church community understood what I didn’t, that people who learned about the world outside almost never returned. 

The truth will set you free. Good luck out there on your own.

No one tells you that the hardest part of losing your religion is that first season of freedom. You’re no longer struggling to get free because your community has written you off and moved on, but out in the big wide world you have nothing.

Beyond our East Texas evangelical bubble I discovered that I was an oddity. Innocuous, icebreaker topics like, “what’s the first concert you attended,” would have had me answering “Petra,” like some circus freak. Coming from a tough, majority-minority school into a college filled with rich white people ended up being a blessing. 

I could pass off the unbridgeable gaps in my cultural background as class differences. It wasn’t wrong and was at least explainable. I looked poor. Anyone could see it by looking at my shoes or my car. My strangeness was chalked up to class, which was fine by me. I’d rather be the poor kid than the cult kid.

Surviving alienation meant building up as much money as possible as quickly as possible to avoid the inevitable gravity to drift back. No one wants to be the prodigal, but independence is expensive. 

It was an ugly, bruising climb building enough resources to avoid returning to our little faith community, tail between my legs, after college. There were moments I thought it would fail. It was a close-run thing.

For years I longed for the comforts of a church community. With one notable exception, a remarkable, welcoming church in the Chicago suburbs, I generally found I was no more at home in a church than I was at a frat party. It was a lonely experience. 

Still, I stuck with it. In retrospect the question is why? What propelled me relentlessly away from the cozy delusions of our evangelical community? It would be great to outline a formula for cult deprogramming based on my experience, but candidly, I don’t know why my experience was unique. Leaving home was certainly the largest factor. Almost none of my peers who remained in our hometown broke free of our faith. But what drove me to leave town while others stayed? Curiosity? Restlessness? Ambition? Stubbornness? Poor socialization? Who knows.

As difficult as this process may have been for me, imagine what that odyssey looks like for an LGBTQ person. Or picture the struggle faced by a young mother, seeking to establish a life for herself. Gaining freedom from her evangelical religion means leaving a husband, alienation from family, with limited education or employment options to fall back on. In that climate, obedience is survival. 

Sometimes people believe what they have to believe to get by in life. When someone in an evangelical community spouts ideas that might undermine those core beliefs, others who share those doubts don’t rally to protect that person. More often than not, they swarm around to remind them of the cost of dissent. Preserving the power of a community that sustains you is far more important than some external notion of “truth” or “reality.” In that atmosphere it shouldn’t be surprising that evangelicals would fall in line behind a political figure who is the spitting image of their Antichrist. 

To this day, everywhere I go I feel like a refugee from some unpleasantly exotic land. My upbringing in an evangelical cult marks me out as an alien, someone with formative experiences beyond relatability in the professional classes. Finding a degree of peace and success has meant learning what elements of myself to expose and which to keep hidden. Even in raising kids, you have to decide how much to tell them, how much of your past they should see. Maintaining some kind of “normal” life with an evangelical background means living in character. It can be exhausting.

What would it take to coax them away? Belief is the coin of the realm in evangelical communities. People who trained themselves to trust TV hucksters like Jimmy Swaggart and Pat Robertson won’t be bothered by anything Donald Trump might do. Leaving the evangelical cult has invisible costs that people beyond its reach can never appreciate.

As exhausting as it seemed to maintain my belief in our manufactured evangelical reality, life after losing my religion may have been harder. People choose the comfortable path. Cult believers will fall on their swords before betraying their belief in their orange messiah, or they’ll run one through you. Whatever it takes to protect the faith.

Some will break loose and their courage should be appreciated, but the steep price of independent thought will keep white evangelicals in line. Leaving a cult is harder than you can imagine. Republicans won’t abandon Trump.


  1. As I write this, the GOP needs just one more seat to get to 218, so the odds are against the Dems holding the House. If I can’t have a Dem majority that would get things done, then my next choice is for Qevin McCarthy to reap the full reward of his cowardice and failure to discipline his crazies. I hope the Speaker vote is a total political bloodbath. I hope the crazies be crazy and block every attempt at consensus within the GOP. Then, if I were writing the script, I would have a few fed up Rs conspire with the Dems, and give Liz Cheney the gavel. I say this as someone who disagrees with Cheney on almost everything, except for the most important thing. Somebody right wing is going to get that office, so it might as well be someone who has publicly repudiated Trump and his attempted coup.

    Also for your amusement. A brilliant riff on the “Don’t throw me in that briar patch!” theme:

  2. Chris, I really hope you will give us one more blog post on here, following up on your 2018 post about the most important election being 2022. Over the past year I have re-read this multiple times

    Personally I think 2022 got us (almost?) there. (close enough?) While Democrats didn’t hold the house, the election deniers in the governor and SOS races who could have directly prompted a constitutional crisis in 2024 were rejected.

    And instead of a strengthened GOP, we may get a GOP civil war breaking out in the house leadership, senate leadership and in the 2024 primaries. In Social Media the pundits are already playing the blame game and the base is complaining about daddy Ron and Don fighting.

    What are your thoughts? Do you think this was good enough to at least have a serious shot to save democracy in the long run? Do you think Republicans will abandon Trump? Will we soon have a sane conservative party again with real policy ideas instead of just culture wars? (probably too much wishful thinking)

    I miss reading your posts every 2 to 3 weeks.

  3. Here’s their latest chance, with the woeful underperformance in the midterms, to yet again cut bait.

    Looks like Kelly will hang on in AZ. If NZ holds, it will be interesting to see how the GOP treats Walker in the GA runoff.

    I also need to stop being surprised when quality candidates barely beat the crazy shitty ones. It’s damn obvious that crazy and shitty are just what too many people want.

    1. My dear fellow, how many people were dooming that Democrats were going to get absolutely NUKED in this midterm? Republicans were crowing about a massive House majority and upwards of 53-54 Senate seats. They’re not going to win the Senate at all and if they win the House, their majority will be so small as to be effectively useless. We may even see a compromise Speaker between what few sane Rs there are left and Democrats.

      This was the best midterm showing under a Democratic president in decades. We swept all the competitive Secretaries of State that election-denying Republicans were eyeing in advance of 2024. We did great!

      Chris, iirc, talked about how 2022 was the single most important election we had to win if we hoped to beat back Trumpism. Obviously things could’ve gone better, but by and large we won!

      1. And NV holds! Oh to be a fly on McConnell’s wall! That cheating obstructionist bastard is denied majority leader status again! So schadenfreudalicious!!

        Hopefully the GOP now cuts bait on the shambolic mess that is Hershel Walker.

      2. By the way, DINS, anything to say about the so-called “loser party” massively outperforming expectations, holding onto the Senate (and perhaps even expanding their majority if GA goes well) and nearly holding onto the House? Also posting sweeping wins in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Maryland, Massachusetts & winning every competitive Secretary of State (y’know, the ones who oversee elections in advance of 2024)?

        Nihilism and despair was beaten back on Tuesday, Dins, and thank goodness it was.

      3. Well Ryan, I was going to wait until the tallies are official, but it seems that the results are clear enough. The loser party caught a break, because enough moderates, and we are talking something like 1% of the electorate, decided that the crazies were just too crazy.

        Did that allow the loser party allow to maintain control of the Senate, and blunt an landslide in the House? Obviously.

        But the facts remain: SCOTUS is still an instrument of fascism, and the House will be even MORE in the hands of the insane, given that the new leader will be more beholden to the insane than if there had been a landslide.

        Biden will go through impeachment hearings, and his last 2 years will be hamstring because of it. And if Georgia elects the moron in the run-off (where the libertarian who got 2% of the vote is off the ballot), then Biden is STILL beholden to manchin, the repub in dem’s clothing. The tyrant is announcing tonight his intent on ascendancy again, and his acolytes are just as rabid as before. Are the clearer-eyed fascists wanting the smarter less insane leader from Florida? Sure. They realize it would be a cakewalk in 2024, since Biden has already said he would do “nothing” different in the first 2 years.

        He is signalling he will continue with the woke identity politics that the majority hate. And that will STILL be the end of democracy in 2024.

      4. We’ll keep winning against the fascists as many times as it takes, Dins. We beat ’em in 2018, 2020 and we even won in 2022 when all the odds and weight of history was against us.

        Frankly, the only thing losing here are your predictions.

  4. This is a fantastic article, and thanks for sharing personal details with a bunch of internet strangers! 🙂

    Your experience is remarkably similar to the immigrant story. Being a second generation immigrant myself, your description of not fitting into my new surroundings is painfully familiar. In my case, it wasn’t a choice I made (my parents had immigrated), and there was no real option for us to go back. So we had no choice but to stick with it. Ultimately, I’m glad we’re here in this country and making that leap has given me a much better life than I could have ever had in the old country, but that sense of alienation, that no matter how much you try, you never quite fit in to the new culture, and after a few years, you no longer fit into your old culture, is very real. If someone in college had asked me what was my first concert, I would have picked a popular group and lied, because the truth is, I never went to a concert until several years into college; pop music was not something we played in our house while I was growing up.

    Growing up knowing that I wasn’t as American as my friends, while my parents would keep reminding me that I wasn’t as Indian as I should be, makes for a very conflicted and lonely upbringing. But now that I’m an adult, honestly, I’m glad I went through it, and I hope you’re glad of your path through life. Because being forced to navigate 2 wildly different cultures first of all allows you to take the best of both cultures and forge a stronger identity than either alone, while giving you the confidence that you can do so again if needed. And secondly, having done so, you tend to realize that so-called inviolable truths in each culture are hardly inviolable and are more like unexamined norms, which makes your thinking far more nuanced and flexible to adapt to new needs than people who’ve only known one culture. That is a great advantage when navigating this modern world.

    You might enjoy literature about the immigrant experience, like Jhumpa Lahiri’s books Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake. I think they speak to what you’re talking about, trying to navigate two cultures, neither of which you feel completely comfortable with.

    And regarding churches, I wonder if you have tried churches primarily for immigrants. Doesn’t matter the actual immigrant culture, be it Hispanic, Asian, African, etc. Given that all Hindu temples in the US pretty much by definition cater to an immigrant population, what I find is that the priests and the community, keenly aware of the conflict between cultures that they themselves are navigating, are far more inclusive and understanding of the individual paths that people have forged to make their lives livable. You might find that, for example, a devout Nigerian Protestant, or a Mexican Catholic, might better understand your predicament of trying to reconcile two vastly different cultures, than a typical white protestant who has never had to leave the comfy confines of the culture he was born in, and is puzzled why you would ever leave, or, having left, why you want to retain ties.

    A final point. I think I see where your sympathy for poor inner city minority people comes from, despite your vastly different upbringing. The common denominator between your lives is that there is no room for mistakes, and even the best, most hardworking of them need quite a bit of luck to achieve what upper middle class kids achieve almost as a birthright. Getting caught with marijuana as a poor inner city person means not just your life but everyone around you is ruined, even if you’re never put in prison (no money for bail -> being jailed for a few weeks -> lose your job -> can’t make rent -> your kids are homeless and need to go live with uncles and aunts, who are themselves barely able to get by). Meanwhile, rich kids doing much worse have a much bigger cushion: the cops let you go with a warning, since you’re a “good kid”. Or else your Dad is able to hire a good attorney plus pay bail so you’re not inconvenienced even while the trial wends its way through court.

    You could probably identify 10 points in your life where, despite you doing everything right, if luck had turned just a little, it would have doomed your chances of escaping. Meanwhile, most rich kids could easily identify 10 points where they f’ed up badly but still made it through fine. That’s really the difference between how the “American Dream” works for the haves and have-nots in America. It’s something people don’t really understand unless they’ve lived through it themselves, the sense that in determining your life’s outcomes, your own efforts, no matter how good, matter much less than the circumstances around you that you have no control over. That works BTW for both poor and rich kids. The difference is, those circumstances are alligator-ridden swamps if your poor: one misstep and you’re dead; and giant fluffy pillows if you’re rich: one misstep and no harm done, not even a broken bone, just get back on the tightrope!

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing your personal story. It’s surprisingly similar to mine (minus the Jesus amusement park though 🙂

    1. WX, thank you for sharing your story. Both of you have provided such insight in your comments. Acceptance can be a struggle but the journey can be rewarding in helping us become better people. The years of following Chris have introduced me to many special people. I always look forward to your contributions.

    1. “Wall street too Liberal”? what on god’s green earth!? this is just a way of talking around the fact that they tried to make a bank for people who think Wall Street is controlled by Jews.

      they didn’t realize that there aren’t enough of those people with enough money to actually fund a bank.

  5. Chris, I remember losing my religion too. I remember telling my dad that I don’t really think there is a God and being told that I don’t believe that, pike someone could tell me what i think. Its a life changing expirience. The closest thing I can compare it to is, and I’m sorry if this is self righteous, is what we face now, saving democracy. Left right etc we have to come together to fight trumpism and, yes, fascism. It’s a burden we both bear, and it’s not fun, just like losing religion. I can’t really explain it, but I think you understand it, at least I hope.

  6. I grew up in a mainline church that turned hardcore right wing, though it was moderate conservative to start. It’s more complicated than just the cult and there are some very nasty aspects here. They have a few gripes. But to understand all this we have to start with the issue that the Bible in both the Old Testament, New Testament, Jesus words himself, is very right wing on breaking sexualit being a mortal sin, gender roles, women submitting to men and the role of the father in the family, and corporal punishment to the point where it’s vastly to the right of even Ross Douthat and Rod Dreher. Sure it has all the good stuff about loving others and helping the poor but it’s far right on social and cultural issues. So conservatives aren’t really wrong about all that.

    Their issue revolves around that though. For the longest time most Americans were Christian and didn’t run from all the stuff in the Bible you can’t advocate for in nice company. Then that all changed. Trump is not the issue, the Republican Party is not the issue, the issue is the religious right wanting what it wants. Trump and the GOP are just willing to give it to them.

    They have a non negotiable set of demands. America must be a Christian nation with the traditional biblical and christian values around all these social issues. This is done by man as head of house and all others submit to him. The priests and church elders set the culture around all these issues of sexuality, gender, prayer in schools, religious laws, and all other aspects and the state enforces them with force while church elders and male heads of house are allowed to do it as well. If this is not put into place democratically than democracy has failed and America has failed. At that point it is their right to cheat, If cheating doesn’t work it is their right to take up arms. If that doesn’t work it is their right to overthrow the government and install a Franco.

    That’s the issue right there. Which is why the Christian Intelligista are all gallavanting to Hungary, writing National Conservative manifestos and signing them. It’s why those same Christian Intellectuals are all saying you can’t have gay marriage and trans and the sexual revolution and still have Christianity so they need a Franco now and democracy has failed and destroyed America and their faith. It’s why Bill Barr went on rants and said he helped Trump get out of trouble and would still vote for him. It’s why Alito did what he did and admitted it repeatedly.

    Trump doesn’t matter some new person will come up and offer them this. But they lost on enough issues their attitude is that they admit we are in a religious civil war and one side is getting crushed. They are going to win, because our side keeps “no true scottsman/christian”ing this and will tear down anyone who says “not all men” but then scream “not all christians” when someone tries to deal with it. We either take on Christianity or we lose.

  7. I have become incredibly jaded over the years with the religious right. The hypocrisy of religious leaders who inflict fear and control in the name of faith is abhorrent. So many young and older people have been hurt. I remember watching the Jim Jones saga where his followers willingly complied with his orders to sacrifice their lives. We are witnessing another example of the tragedy of zealotry.

    No child or adult should ever be subjected to abuse in the name of “Christ “. I’m sorry you experienced this and happy you were able to get away. Yet, it’s clear from your story that it was difficult and not without painful consequences.

    Thank you for sharing your personal story to help us understand what motivates this group of people and those who use them. We need to understand why we should never underestimate their resolve to follow people like T to the depths of hell.

    Take care Chris.


  8. Shrug…throughout the history of modern democratic civilization, I would guesstimate that, across all countries, all demographics, roughly 30% of the electorate is too stupid, too insane, and/or too disengaged from reality to be allowed to vote, if society functioned properly.

    I see no reason to think that the u.s. in 2022, or 2024,is any different.

  9. Hi Chris, Great to see a post from you.

    I grew up in a Catholic household. Definitely conservative, but not with the sort of pressures you describe, and lots of exposure to people of other Christian denominations, but I started questioning things at a young age- there were things that struck me as not right even before I had the educational framework to craft my reasons why. First and foremost, the notion that non-believers were damned for eternity grated against my sense of fairness. It wasn’t pushed in my church the way it is in Evangelical circles, but I was exposed to that concept and I ultimately rejected it. As I got older, the sexism became obvious, which alienated me further. By the time I got to college, I was drifting away, although I did attend Mass when staying with family out of habit. But once I was out of the nest for good, the break was complete. Then the child abuse scandal broke. I was horrified by what was done to the victims, and outraged and disgusted by the Church’s CYA response. I lost all my respect for John Paul II; I am Polish on my father’s side, so I completely get what a big deal JP II was. It was a bitter experience, and it burned that bridge for good- no way will I ever go back. That said, I still have respect for the Jesuit order (including Pope Francis), because several friends of mine attended or are associated with Jesuit-run schools, and they respect science and teach it well.

    So now I would count myself as one of the “nones”, and classify myself as agnostic/deist. I am open to the possibility that some sort of God could exist, but my mindset is that I would rather know than believe. I understand that many people get comfort and meaning in belief, and I don’t hold it against them; I adopt Roger Williams’ attitudes towards individual freedom of conscience. It is possible they are deluding themselves to deal with the fact of mortality, but it’s also possible that I’m spiritually tone deaf and can’t grok it.

    I see the American White conservative evangelicals at a major tipping point. Their numbers are dwindling, and their open embrace of someone as profane as Trump strikes many of us as their last chance to cling to power and influence (but Matthew did warn them). Their youth aren’t so willing to embrace the hypocrisy and many vote with their feet as I did in my youth. There’s a lot of suspense as to what will happen here- it would ultimately be better for everyone, including them, for their grip on power to break. But power is addictive and it will be chaotic and messy, even in the best case.

    1. I am so annoyed at the press for their lack of pushback when one of the GOPe types (especially one who has personally suffered from Trump’s selfishness and cruelty), will say yeah Trump was bad, might even admit that the party would be better off with a different nominee, but would vote for Trump in 2024 if he’s the R candidate. This is someone who made the pandemic body count worse, lied about election fraud (resulting in threats to these GOPers), sicc’ed a violent mob on the Capitol on 1/6/21 to disrupt the certification, tried to corrupt the DoJ into falsely declaring the election fraudulent, and now he’s stolen classified documents, which is a real threat to national security. But somehow a centrist Dem like Biden is worse??????? When Bowers or Barr or Raffensburger said such things, the reporters should have demanded specifics beyond the standard bogus claims of Socialism or even Communism. The press is letting American down when we need them to speak truth to power more than ever.

      PS- I will not the shocked if it turns out that the Saudis now have them some Israeli nuclear secrets.

      PPS-IIRC Chris Christie finally can to his senses and said that he will not back Trump.

      1. Thanks for your wonderfully sensitive statements about religion! I have to say I may support Raffensberger just as I supported Liz Cheney, because I think basic honesty is the most important thing today. It is true that Raffensberger apparently supports voter-limitation laws, and that is unfortunate. But I actually think Democrats can get people to the polls in spite of that. Make buses available. We have done that sort of thing here in Alabama. But the worst idea we could put across is the idea that “if we lose, we have been cheated.” You can’t have a democracy if you are not willing to lose elections.

        A politician I like less than Raffensberger is Mitch McConnell. But it’s important not to deny differences between Republicans. He’s not the worst. Email from Marjorie Taylor Greene:

        “But Fellow Patriot, it’s not just Joe Biden and the Democrats who are the problem.
        “It’s also RINOs like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who choose to compromise our conservative values instead of standing up and fighting tooth and nail to protect them.
        “After all, Mitch McConnell sold out conservatives on trillions of dollars in spending and on the largest gun control bill in history …
        “If Republicans elect a real America First majority in November, Mitch McConell will be FIRED from his job as Majority Leader — “cutting off the head of the snake.”

        McConnell at least believes that some level of stability is necessary. People like Taylor-Greene think that if the system collapses, a wonderful fundamentalist theocracy will result.

  10. Glad to see you back, this was so helpful. I just finished reading Lynne Segal’s Out of Time, on aging. Not easy reading, but she praises interdependence, which has gotten a bad rap. The American push for individualism has maybe brought this cult stuff to a head: the desire to belong, to be part of a collective, has become so strong it blinds people to cultism and its evils. Compassion, for our own suffering and the suffering of others, may be the way in, or out. It is interesting, the confusion between individuation and individualism. Individuation, as you know personally, is hard work but worth it. Individualism goes against our need for each other. Thank you again for your intelligence, heart and courage.

  11. That was a great commentary. Although not Evangelical – I am a product of small town Texas but managed to excape (there were only 3 of us that did). I think you description of the Trump fascination and religion is excellent and there probably isn’t a way to break that stronghold – sadly.

    We live in Western North Carolina now and the Trump/religion is pretty strong around here. I’ll live vicariously through your writing… please don’t stop.

  12. Of all the wonderful essays I have read by Chris over the past 5 years, this is arguably the best. Understanding the evangelical christians who are the mainstay of Trump’s support is difficult. Chris as a former evangelical christian gives a plausible description of the way these folks are made and the way they act. The pain of his re-education and reentry into the world of fact is told understandably and credibly. Thanks!! . . . the truth will make us free, but like much good medicine causes some pain.

  13. I was raised Roman Catholic and the parish priest tried to talk me into become a priest. His nick name for me was Thomas Aquinas. Because of the hard questions I asked .Yes I know who Aquinas was and being a white southern get a bit of glee about that. BTW he is the chief Catholic theologian. . Later I joined my wife’s church a Pentecostal Church. I Recently left it. Was there for decades.
    A couple (Jew and Puerto Rican), another couple ( Puerto Rican and Jamaican) and myself and wife a Floridian cracker and Georgia redneck were feeding the homeless and bring clothing to them. Our Evangelical church was attacking us and hinder us doing what Jesus actually command his people to do. I could overlook wackiness beliefs in some church members. But not cruelty, othering other people or hindering people from actually loving their neighbor.
    We found an other church that was doing the same type of work we were doing and supported us. I realized all the stuff you wrote about and have looked at the Bible with eyes that realize somethings are literal and somethings allegorical. Something my Catholic upbringing taught me. Not all ministers are trying to rip people off. Hopefully you can find a Church where you feel comfortable.
    Trust me others have broke out and sometimes faith can be what made you leave.

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