Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 12 seconds
When the white evangelical man voted for Trump, he was not being hypocritical, only compulsive. He honestly wants to believe he is following the Bible he worships, and if he stubbornly continues to defend Trump and his ilk with righteous indignation, it is perhaps to shut out a nagging suspicion that he is no longer pure.
Evangelicals have grown stubborn and calloused espousing mythology that is too distant from the way things actually are, and as more and more lives have been encompassed by a nationalist way of life, the pressures for an accompanying ideological shift have been mounting. The entitlement of the Christian clique, the repression of individual equality, the subjugation of women, the rejection of people different than themselves: are these defects to struggle against—or are they virtues in disguise?
The evangelical seeks a redefinition of his place on earth—a faith that will assure him that what he must endure has a deeper meaning than appears on the surface. He needs, in short, something that will do for him what the Protestant Ethic once did. And slowly, almost imperceptibly, a body of thought has been coalescing that does that.
I am going to call it a Moral Ethic. With reason, it could be called the conservative right ethic, or a nationalist ethic; more than anything else it rationalizes the evangelical’s demands for subservience and gives those who offer it wholeheartedly a sense of dedication in doing so. It converts what would seem in other times a bill of no rights into a restatement of “true” Christianity.
But there is a real moral imperative behind it, and whether one inclines to its beliefs or not, they must acknowledge that this moralistic construct is the source of its power. Nor is it merely an opiate for those who are Christians. The search for moral leverage can be found throughout our government—and among those who swear they would never set foot in a church or a Christian organization.
Though it has its greatest applicability to the evangelical, its ideological underpinnings have been provided not by the Christian but by intellectuals and politicians the evangelical male knows little of and toward whom, indeed, he tends to be somewhat suspicious—for example, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller.
Let me now define my terms. By moral ethics, I mean the contemporary body of thought which makes morally legitimate the control of religion against the individual. Its major propositions are three: a belief in the church as the only source of creativity; a belief in “belongingness” as the ultimate need of the individual; and a belief in the membership of the church to achieve the belongingness.
To summarize the Moral Ethic: Man exists as a unit of the church. Of himself, he is isolated and meaningless. Only as he collaborates with the church does he become worthwhile, for by sublimating himself in the group, he helps produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. There should be, then, no conflict between man and church.
What we think are conflicts are merely misunderstandings or breakdowns in communication. By applying the methods of evangelicalism to human relations, we can eliminate these obstacles to consensus and create an equilibrium in which the church’s needs and the needs of the individual are one and the same.
Essentially, it is a Utopian faith. Superficially, it seems dedicated to the temporary problems of life on earth, and its proponents often use the words straight and narrow (versus wide) to describe their approach. And it is the long-range promise that animates its followers, for it relates suffering and sacrifice to the vision of an infinite achievable harmony.
It is quite reminiscent of the beliefs of 1840’s Utopian societies that there need be no conflict between the individual’s aspirations and the church’s wishes because it is God’s will that the two be synonymous.