I’ve been criticized or frowned upon frequently in recent years for my shift in worldview. This shift has involved both my faith and my view of politics, social issues, etc. I’d like to share for a minute about how Donald Trump and his ardent supporters have had an immense influence in shifting my faith.
Many factors went into my faith shift (my parents getting divorced, my education, my mental health, life experiences, and more, which I will share about later), but one of the most influential factors was in seeing conservatives (including many of my own faith) wholeheartedly embracing Donald Trump as a serious presidential candidate.
Before the 2016 election, I was a conservative. I was an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon). I attended church regularly. I was a full-believing member who wanted to do the right things the right way and one day end up in the Celestial Kingdom (heaven) with my happy family.
As odd as this feels for me to say now, Donald Trump amused me when he first came onto the election stage. I thought it would be fun to see him “shake things up.” If not for serious change, then at least for the entertaining drama that he seemed to be adding to the already shit-show that politics can be. When he came to hold a rally in Phoenix, I almost went, just out of curiosity and because I had never before been to a presidential candidate’s rally before. I’m a white, privileged cis male and his rhetoric and attacks didn’t throw me off immediately because they weren’t directed at me.
As time went on, as more was revealed about Donald Trump and who he is and what he wanted to advocate for, as I paid more attention, began to ponder more intensely, something felt significantly off.
I felt it increasingly difficult to defend my worldview from well-placed criticism or alternative ideas. Sometimes a view I had just couldn’t stand up upon closer inspection, or felt and/or sounded ugly. I grimaced when I heard others, people of my own faith, defending ideas or rhetoric that just didn’t seem truly defendable.
Calls for Muslims to be banned or kicked out of the country, comments in Sunday School class about how lazy and worthless people who are experiencing homelessness are (during a Sunday school class where we were talking about Mosiah 4), calling people from Mexico rapists and murderers and drug-carriers, demonizing people who are black as whiny and dangerous, crucifying Colin Kaepernick (who at first I laughed at but later came to love and support once I listened), gross and demeaning comments about women, people who are LGBTQ+ being out to bring destruction upon our religion and the entire world, and more, were everywhere. Political tribalism was (and still is) running amok. I certainly made comments I would be embarrassed by today and hurt others in the process.
One example. My childhood bishop, a big Trump supporter, posted one day about a Muslim girl who had been charged with a misdemeanor crime. He passionately called for her and her family to be deported. Which, even though I still identified as a conservative and was a believing church member, made no sense in my mind. All three of them were born in New York. Why would someone born here and a legal citizen be deported ever? Where would you deport them to? Why are you focused on their being Muslim like this? Since when do we deport parents for the crime of a child?
After I questioned him on this, he called me labels like “extreme leftist” (what?!?!). He blocked me. My childhood bishop.
I have never been a perfect person or Mormon. But with everything I’ve been taught, the fundamental messages of the church and scriptures to me have always been: Love another, care for one another (especially the least of these your brethren), strive to be a Christlike individual, and make the world a better place. All throughout this process, the cognitive dissonance was raging inside me. I was beginning to identify all the inconsistencies in my words and behaviors, as well as of those around me. This, moreso than my education or parent’s divorce or a study of church history or anything else, drove me to question everything. I was officially in the midst of a faith crisis.
You have to understand, this is more complex of an issue than just “church members are imperfect, you can’t base your faith off the imperfections of others.” These observations and incidents created a crack in my level of trust in everything I had ever known or believed.
These were the people who taught me growing up. My bishops, my primary teachers, my youth leaders, seminary teachers, ward members, and more. They taught me about who God is, how our church began, what we believe in, what we stand for, that our church is the one and only true church.
This ugly underbelly of racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, protectionism, nationalism, classism, ignorance, and more was showing through so loudly from those I had developed my entire worldview and faith from. They were sharing literal fake, clickbait news. They were sharing videos from Breitbart and InfoWars and Fox News (which I myself grew up watching). I didn’t trust their education, their authority, where they had learned their belief system from, the sources they had learned from.
If these people were so blind / ignorant / misguided about basic social issues or the people around them, how could I trust what they had told me about Joseph Smith? Modern prophets? The Book of Mormon? Our standards? What God has said? I began to question everything and have never bounced back. My faith was shook and still is.
I now identify myself as an unorthodox, progressive, faith-crisis Mormon. I’ve chosen for myself to keep this much and I reserve the right to believe and practice my faith according to the dictates of my own conscience (Article of Faith 11). I don’t have all the answers. I’m searching everyday. But I’m doing so in a way that is genuine and authentic and wholesome for my soul.
If you are a Christian of any denomination, though mostly I am talking here to members of my own faith, and you want to defend Trump, his words, his behavior, his policies, his ignorance… please know it has consequences. It drastically harms the image and credibility of your religion and faith. As has happened with myself, it can harm the belief and faith of others. It is disheartening that so many Christians, conservatives, the entire Republican party, have forever stained themselves by tying themselves to this man. And for what? Political expediency, as the Christianity Today editorial posed?
None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character….
To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?
I identify a lot with this blog post, giving their own personal validation to what was stated in the Christianity Today editorial. Please give it a thoughtful read. We (myself included) need to be and do better.
Originally posted on Facebook. Re-posted with permission.
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