To the many believers and non-believers alike who can’t figure out why the religious right sticks by a president who so completely embodies each of the Seven Deadly Sins (while inventing a few new ones), we have encouraging news: Some white evangelicals are finally getting fed up with Donald Trump’s behavior.
And which of Trump’s many transgressions against decency is, at last, driving these pious folks to rethink their enthusiasm for this most impious president? Is it his cruelty toward migrant children? His winking embrace of support from white supremacists? His slavish admiration for brutal foreign dictators? His adultery? His prodigious lying? All of the above?
Actually, it’s none of the above. All that stuff is apparently just fine with these self-proclaimed servants of God.
What is, finally, bothering them now is … Trump’s foul language.
As reported by Politico, some of Trump’s evangelical supporters are telling him the flock is restless over the language he uses when he goes off-script at his rallies, which is basically always. Their main concern is with “goddamn” — which Trump, in his ceaseless eloquence, uses as a catch-all adverb when he runs out of “verys.” They’re also not happy with his frequent “what-the-hells” and his carpet-bombing deployment of f-bombs.
West Virginia state Sen. Paul Hardesty says he got calls from Trump-supporting evangelical constituents after a Trump rally in North Carolina last month, complaining that the president was “using the Lord’s name in vain” with comments like: “If you don’t support me, you’re going to be so goddamn poor.”
During that same rally, Trump’s fans erupted into a chant of, “Send her back!” directed at Somali-born Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. There’s no indication the West Virginia evangelicals were upset with that retrograde display of mob bigotry, nor with Trump’s response, which was to stand there silently, basking. But, Hardesty said, they were “distraught” about Trump’s use of the g-word.
Hardesty, himself a Trump supporter, advised that Trump should “realize that kids look up to him,” adding: “Carrying that type of language from behind the presidential seal is offensive.”
Where to even start.
The strange place Christian conservatives find themselves today — worshiping a thrice-married philandering casino mogul and crooked businessman who clearly knows as little about the Bible as about the Constitution — is a place they’ve been headed for a long time.
Anyone who was politically sentient in the 1980s remembers the Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority (which, as the popular retort correctly pointed out, was neither). Falwell, as much as anyone, was responsible for establishing the evangelical right’s symbiotic relationship with the modern Republican Party.
The Falwellians’ goal was to make America a theocracy, but since that sounds scary, they claimed to merely be promoting “family values” — code for anti-feminist, anti-gay, anti-secular, anti-anything-we-don’t-like. Falwell delivered this hateful agenda through a prim little smile that made him seem more a country pastor than a ruthless political strategist who had the ear of President Ronald Reagan. Back then, Christian conservatives at least pretended they weren’t just playing power politics like everyone else.
Falwell’s son, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., makes no such pretense. As Trump’s most unshakable supporter among the Christian right, the younger Falwell argues that policy is everything and presidents shouldn’t be judged by “their personal behavior.” That effectively renounces a core tenet of his father’s entire movement, but what else are you going to say when you’re a Trump enabler? That character matters? You’d be laughed off stage.
Still, you have to wonder if some Christian conservatives are privately uncomfortable with the unholy alliance they’ve struck here. In exchange for conservative judges, tax cuts and other things that any Republican president would have done, they’ve tied themselves to a man who uniquely decimates their claim to care about character, ethics, morality or any other higher principle.
That discomfort might explain this weird fixation on cooling down a few smoldering swearwords, even as the political credibility they’ve enjoyed for decades goes up in Trumpian flames.
Maybe it’s easier to complain about offensive language than to acknowledge the unprecedented offense against democracy that Trump commits every time he pretends, for the sake of nothing but his own bloated ego, that America’s elections are “fixed.”
Better to rail about verbal obscenity than to have to confront the vast moral obscenity of this administration’s cage-the-children immigration-enforcement policy (which it actually expanded last week).
Perhaps by lamenting that their children are hearing bad words, evangelicals get to overlook the profane example they’re letting the kids see in a president who perpetually lies to, bullies, vilifies and divides the Americans he’s supposed to lead.
Falwell Jr., at least, is keeping things in perspective. Asked by Politico for a comment on the hullabaloo about Trump’s pottymouth, the son of the founder of the Moral Majority declared: “It’s not something we’re going to get morally indignant about.”
Because, why start now?