I grew up in a small, southern town in Middle Tennessee. I went to church with my family three times a week – on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. As a small child, I never questioned why we did certain things at church. I accepted that the way we worshipped was the “right” way.
The church was Church of Christ, a denomination of the Reformation movement in the 19th century. These churches do not formally associate with other churches, but have similar beliefs to many evangelical churches. In this church, I was brought up to believe that women were subordinate to men. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was used to ensure women had no part in leading the service, or decisions made by the church elders.
34: [W]omen are to be silent in the churches. They are not permitted to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35: If they wish to inquire about something, they are to ask their own husbands at home; for it is dishonorable for a woman to speak in the church.New International Version: 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
Reading this passage today, my stomach roils. Both from disgust and confusion. The people who attended my former church were some of the most kind, compassionate people I have ever known. But they perpetuated the belief that women were lesser beings and used scripture to justify this oppression.
Despite all the ways I was told in words and deeds that I was less than a man, my mother taught me otherwise. Because of her example and her love for me, I never doubted that I could do the things I wanted to do in life. She is also the reason that I am a liberal, though 85% of conservatives are Christian. Among other lessons, she taught me that it was okay to question the world around me and to look for rational, scientific explanations.
People ask me all the time: “Why are Christians, especially Evangelical Christians okay with supporting Trump?” I cannot speak for all of them obviously, but growing up in this culture has enabled me to draw some conclusions today.
During the Tea Party years, the GOP branded themselves the party of “family values”, which really meant traditional family values (e.g., white, nuclear, straight, cis). They partnered with conservative religious rights activists and slowly, but deliberately, became intertwined into the culture of the Evangelicals. If you were a good Christian, you were a conservative. If you were a conservative, you were a Republican. Therefore if you were a good person — a good Christian — you were a Republican.
The autocratic, white, male leaders of the churches were the same men running for office. People were conditioned to trust them, believe them, and follow them, particularly women. White men benefited from this, as it reinforced their positions of power in the church, in their community, and in the political world.
Enter Trump. He is anointed by Billy Graham’s son. He can’t be questioned by white men because doing so puts their own position of power at risk. He can’t be questioned by white women because they have been told that they are subordinate to men and are programmed to do as they are told. Thus, Trump is crowned as king and savior to the evangelicals and to question that is to question their very existence.
I know many of you reading this will not believe that people who believe in a loving God can possibly support Trump. If Trump isn’t God-sent, it will force these people to look at the choices they have made, how they were conditioned to make them without questioning them, and if they are the right choices at all. In their world, ignorance is truly bliss.
It’s no longer “What Would Jesus Do?” It’s “What Would the GOP Do?”
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I was “added to the Church” at a Church of Christ in 1963, when I was 19. I struggled with their anti-Catholicism, especially when me and my family were Kennedy Democrats. I recall a woman ask me, “Rocky, are you a Democrat?” After I answered yes she said, “Oh, we’ll change that.” Guess what? They didn’t.