Devon Dick | USA politics trumps religion
The recently concluded USA presidential elections between businessman Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signalled a blow to the influence of Christianity over USA politics.
It is said that 80 per cent of white Christian Evangelicals supported Trump. Formerly, evangelical Christians influenced the Republican party so much so that presidential nominees had to genuflect to 'family values'. But Trump has been married thrice, and what fault did he find in the first two wives? One ex-wife accused Trump of rape in an affidavit. Trump, when he was 59 years old, bragged about trying to seduce a married woman as well as of his actions towards beautiful women, saying "I just start kissing them ... I don't even wait". His tax returns are unknown, and hence the nature and scope of his business dealings. This precedent will haunt USA politics. He is described as a money grabber and grabber also of female parts. Him 'crabbit'! For most white evangelical Christians, all that matters was the power to control the Supreme Court.
The elevation of Trump now defines the Republican Party. Similarly to how Monica Lewinsky defines Democrat Bill Clinton - "I did not have sex with that woman". In addition, Republican Richard Nixon name is synonymous with Watergate. Their achievements are dwarfed by those defining moments. Trump's case is worse. Nixon and Clinton were convicted after they were elected. It therefore reflects on them primarily. Trump acts were known before he was elected, so Hillary's statement is correct - it defines who USA is. Every time Trump is mentioned, we will remember five words 'Grab them by the ...' Trump's character will be defined by those 22 characters and not "You are fired". The Republican Party and the citizens of the USA will also be seen from that perspective.
For years, within the Democratic Party, religious evangelical beliefs were subjugated to support the Democratic platform on abortion and more recently to be supportive of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender getting married. In fact, Hillary Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, is a practicing Roman Catholic, but he claimed that he would not allow his personal religious beliefs, which is contrary to the Democratic Party, to affect public policy. The Christian faith was relegated to a private matter for personal devotional edification.
REACTION TO RACISM
Race had long trumped religion in the USA with the formation of the black church as a reaction to racism in the slave masters' church of the 19th century. It continued after slavery was abolished in 1865 because African Americans were discouraged and also prevented from worshipping in the same congregations as whites. Now the black church is institutionalised.
In the 1970s, the televangelist became the face of Christianity in the USA and then mammon got a stranglehold of the USA church. Oral Roberts pioneered televangelism emphasising seed faith and sowed the seed for prosperity gospel, which claims that health, wealth and material success is the will of God for all and this is facilitated by faith in God, positive speaking and donations to religious ministries. It is in giving so as to get the result of greater material benefits, and it is based on Luke 6:38, which states, "give and it shall be given to you." That kind of thinking is that we have to give God something with which to work.
So race controlled Christianity in the USA then money ruled Christianity, and now politics has trumped religion. Generally speaking, the white evangelical wing supports Republicans and the black church supports the Democratic Party. It is, therefore, about what is politically expedient and what will get my party in power. Some Christian denominations seem to be an arm of political parties, the servant of mammon and the foundation of racism.
The Church in Jamaica needs to 'tek sleep and mark death' and avoid those pitfalls.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.