Well, hell, my original post had to be slipped down lower in the queue. I just got what Urban Dictionary calls:
“No wonder male religious leaders so often say that humans were born in sin—because we were born to female creatures. Only by obeying the rules of the patriarchy can we be reborn through men. No wonder priests and ministers in skirts sprinkle imitation birth fluid over our heads, give us new names, and promise rebirth into everlasting life.”
― Gloria Steinem, The Vagina Monologues
It’s called patriarchy and is sanctioned by all of the major religions, tacitly and/or aggressively supported by most courts of law the world over, and can be seen as the major force that has kept women in a subservient role all the way back to the beginning of recorded history. Those religions that recognize the Abraham prophet lineage, the Christian, Hebrew and Muslim religions, are steeped in the bondage of patriarchy that is alive and well across the globe.
The Bible is the source of the evangelical, patriarchal scourge women suffer under here in America. While Bible apologists claim that scripture views men and women as equal, don’t buy it. Since the supposed creation of Eve from parts of Adam’s body, women have been seen as below the cut and purposed as supporters of their husbands and male family members.
In a recent opinion piece by Rodney Hessinger, a history professor at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, Hessinger makes some rather provocative links between evangelicals, patriarchy and support for Donald Trump. Granted, this has been an area of speculation for the past couple of years. How can evangelicals accept and support a man who on tape has verbally abused women, carried on as if marriage is an inconvenient restriction to his male libido, and has no qualms about saying as a powerful man of the business world, he has the right to grab women by the pussies?
Then there is Stormy Daniels and the revelations she came forward with to support her claim that Trump had violated the duos’ nondisclosure agreement. For a mere $130,000, she promised that she would not comment on her relationship with Trump at a Lake Tahoe resort and subsequent meetings thereafter. Just the term “porn star” alone should have sent evangelicals into frothing at the mouth, rolling on the floor, hysterics. Yet, it did not. Why? Where is the stiff, no nonsense stance against sin, adultery and lying?
The most recent Pew polls suggest that President Donald Trump hasn’t just held his support amongst white evangelicals but actually has grown his support since the Stormy Daniels story took hold.
With his white evangelical support having dropped to 61 percent in December, Trump now enjoys 78 percent support, just a shade beneath the support he won from white evangelicals on Election Day.
Many commentators have puzzled about the seeming hypocrisy of those who would see adultery and womanizing as grave sins. And yet for those who know the history of evangelicalism in America, this should be no surprise at all.
In fact, there are good reasons why we should expect this result. The history and sexual politics of evangelicalism in America fit well with Donald Trump and his message.
Hessinger goes on to quote Kristen Tobey, an assistant professor of religion and the social sciences at John Carroll, who stated that white evangelicals long ago latched on to the concept of “family values”, which in her estimation, means patriarchy. By the church embracing patriarchy, women were relegated to a subservient role, and men assumed the mantle of family patriarch whose word was law. The fact that some in the role of family steward may have overstepped their “marital mandate” in abusive ways was something swept under the rug and not spoken about in polite company.
As Hessinger points out, patriarchy set men and women apart from others in society who didn’t buy into the subjugation of women under the thumb of their husbands. Hessinger states that by protecting these social classifications, no matter how unjust or misguided they might be, evangelicals see themselves as fighting a righteous war that supports their beliefs pertaining to the will of their God. Thus, patriarchy became a self-fulfilling prophecy. We belief this way. The larger world doesn’t; therefore, we are being persecuted for our beliefs and must defend ourselves as a bloc.
Or as Hessinger wrote,
. . . evangelicals still often see themselves as embattled outsiders. As sociologists of religion have observed, religious outsiders have much to gain from boundary maintenance, often courting outcast status or even persecution to rally the faithful.
From this perspective, evangelicals are most successful when they resist total assimilation into the values and cultural norms of wider society, highlighting the ways they are misinterpreted, misunderstood, and misjudged. They thrive precisely because they are embattled.
Picking political fights on Twitter is Donald Trump’s stock in trade. Criticism by the “fake news” organizations plays directly into this sense of embattlement, yielding stronger support amongst the base.
Seeing oneself as an “embattled” individual or as a member of an outlier group can also lead to an alienation syndrome that begins to define, not just the reality of the real world, but underscores the suspected persecution from “dark forces” lying in wait in the shadows of one’s mind or group thinking. The rise and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer groups, state sanctioned gay marriage, the rise of social groups like Black Lives Matters, and even restrictions on their second amendment rights, all underscore the core beliefs of embattled and separate from others in society. Hessinger notes that this “unique”, set apart mentality feeds into the Trump world view.
This sense of being besieged is also echoed in the president’s rallying call, “Make America Great Again.” This slogan, harrowing up fears of the rise of racial and sexual minorities in America, also conforms to the classic evangelical sermon form, the “Jeremiad.” Since the time of the Puritans, evangelicals have used the Jeremiad to voice lamentations of social decline, thereby chastening and strengthening their ranks.
So far, Hessinger has not told readers anything that is not easily deduced simply by watching the absurd and often awkward antics of evangelicals across the nation. They are evangelicals because they choose to hold themselves above the masses as ordained by their God, and the rest of the world can simply go to hell . . . literally.
This aspect of evangelicalism I have always had a hard time with throughout my life. I am perfectly happy to allow anyone the right to believe whatever their fevered little brains can come up with to justify their existence. However, I am not comfortable when they want to dictate how the rest of us should act to give their beliefs legitimacy.
This is where Hessinger makes an observation that explains a lot about how the evangelicals square Trump’s adulterous ways with their own view of sin and immorality. If the patriarchal order represents the foundation of the evangelical’s worldview, shaking or radically demeaning or endangering that order is to be avoided at all costs. This means that sins like adultery, lying or other mundane “sins” can be forgiven and even act as a catalysis for the group as a whole to band together to affirm their God’s willingness to forgive and heal any damage done to the group belief system as a whole.
Hessinger states it this way,
Which brings us to the most paradoxical aspect of evangelicalism of all: Sexual scandal has always attended revival religion in America. So forbidden sex is not just a forgivable sin, but somehow essential to its expression.
Remember Jimmy Swaggart? He was one of the first evangelicals along with Jim Bakker caught with their pants down, and in Bakker’s case, fleecing the church coffers for millions of dollars. Swaggart’s tearful confession before a packed house at his megachurch in Baton Rouge with his wife in attendance, and Bakker’s forty-five-year sentence (he only served five years) for theft seemed like the end of both men’s careers as stewards of their respective congregations. Think again.
Both men were forgiven, not only by their God, but by the people they spiritually betrayed. Yet, the patriarchal chain was upheld and the family, forgiveness of sin, and resurrection from the ashes for both their ministries was the order of the day. Both men’s actions were serious, not just in the secular world, but in the world of religion where they had made their fortunes. By forgiving them, both congregations got the double reward of sustaining the status quo and brownie points from their God for opening their hearts to the two philanderers and forgiving them their transgressions.
So, what if Trump is little more than a horn dog gone off the rails. So, what if he bedded a porn star, Playboy model, or at last count, nineteen women who say they have had sexual relations with the him. The evangelical’s get out of jail adultery card wipes away a multitude of sins. From Trump’s perspective, it is just another day of Making America Great Again.