To start with the Evangelicals, the first answer that comes to mind is that it’s likely the Evangelicals include a whole lot of single-issue voters, and that issue is abortion. Trump was once in favor of a woman’s right to choose, but he has come around since deciding to run for president to be anti-abortion and pro-gun control. Also part of the story is the successful strategy of the right-wing to line up evangelicals on the full range of right-wing issues. Not just unrestricted use of guns, but the myth that the right is pro-small government when in reality it is actually for very big government when it comes to a strong defense, and translates that into support of the military-industrial complex. And when it comes to controlling women's bodies, as well, bringing behavior in line with the religious views of evangelicals. A culture war frontline issue, in which the army of the right favors limiting sex to reproduction and women to male domination generally, while the left looks to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights instead, in which sexism and racism and homophobia are seen as retrograde values to be cast into the dustbin of history. It turns out they, the right, want small government only when it comes to taking some of that money which has floated to the top 1% and putting it into roads, bridges, healthcare, and education through university.
What blows my mind, as someone who sees the appeal of Christianity in its emphasis on love and compassion, concern for the poor, the homeless, the sick and the needy, is how Evangelicals have turned Christianity into something quite rotten. How an Evangelical can bash away at gay people all these years for their alleged promiscuity, for example, and then throw their support behind a man who cheats on his first wife with the woman who becomes his second and then dumps her, as well, for a model. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with models. Or with divorce, for that matter. It’s that they do. Or at least say they do. And it gets harder and harder to mask the hypocrisy. They will tell you it’s not hypocrisy, of course, but a simple prioritizing of values. Better a philanderer who opposes abortion than a boring middle-of-the-road mainstream Methodist victim of a philandering husband – who favors abortion rights. Guess that’s the choice Jesus would make.
And what of the Mainstream Protestant vote - an 11-point spread in favor of Trump. What explains that, aside from the fact that this group is overwhelmingly white?
Then there are the Catholics. What a split between Hispanic and non-Hispanic Catholics. In case you ever had any doubt that cultural values can, and usually do, trump religious ones – here it is all spelled out for you. If you followed your church’s authority figures, the pope, the curia, the bishops, you’d vote for the sex-for-reproduction only candidate. OK, wait a minute. That’s not right. You’d vote for the guy who is against abortion. That’s it. Then how come this gigantic split between non-Hispanics, half of whom follow the strict line on abortion, and Hispanics, who go solidly for the woman in favor of women’s rights?
That question, too, is probably easily answered. Trump has revealed himself to be a bigot in silk suits, claiming that Mexicans need to be kept at bay by a wall because of their inclination to rape and murder. And the many folks from south of the border who have made their way into the States for economic reasons need to go back, for the same reason. Hispanics know that way of viewing their culture and their people is pure bigotry and decency requires they support the candidate who would work for a saner (and much more practical) solution. Sorry, Mr. Pope-in-Rome, we’ve got a pretty good reason to go for the Methodist value here. You know, that John Wesley quote Hillary gave in her acceptance speech, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Totally mainstream Protestant way of articulating religion, and one that a Hispanic Catholic (or anybody else, obviously) can embrace enthusiastically. I am assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that they are embracing Hillary for positive reasons; they could, of course, simply be voting anti-Trump.
My point about culture trumping religion is brought out all the more clearly in the distribution among
My point, I guess, is that you can’t tell a book by its cover. And you can’t be sure you know about the significance of American religious affiliation by looking at this poll of Americans ostensibly on the basis of religious affiliation. Sometimes a Christian isn’t much of a Christian. Sometimes a Catholic is a pope-knows-best Catholic; sometimes Catholic means caring for the poor and ministering to the needy, and not worrying who should be prevented from approaching the communion rail. You don’t know all there is to know by following the label “Christian” or “Catholic.” Without much more poking around in the motivations of these voters, you see that the labels can actually mask as much as they reveal.
If you give a moment’s thought to the fact that blacks, Hispanics and the non-religious are all overwhelmingly anti-Trump, and stand in such sharp contrast to white Christians, Catholic, Mainstream Protestant or Evangelical, you might want to ask yourself just exactly what is going on among these folks who call themselves Christians anyway.