Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” was addressed to southern White Clergy. These ministers were highly critical of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. Many believed that historical African enslavement and subsequent Jim Crow segregation were ordained of God or followed the natural order of things. This is the reason why the ministers and their congregations could attend Sunday services on a regular basis and exist in an oblivious manner to the plight of their Black brothers and sisters. One can conclude that the White church and bigotry had a cultural alliance that was built on hatred. It was a hatred that did not see itself as hatred but as heritage. The secular or political embodiment of White Christian resistance came to be known as the “Silent Majority.” Richard Nixon tapped into this sentiment that was already there and rode it into the White House via was known as the “Southern Strategy.” Early in the Trump campaign for the Presidency, he invoked the 2016 embodiment of the “Silent Majority.”
Televangelist Jerry Falwell founded the organization known as the “Moral Majority” in 1979. It had a Republican Party base with a strong Southern Baptist bent. One can make the argument that the “Silent Majority” became vocalized and morphed into the “Moral Majority.” The Moral Majority was not a progressive movement. It supported ultra right wing political positions. Falwell’s college, Liberty University, even had a policy prohibiting interracial dating. This was also a beginning of the culture wars that came to dominate Republican Politics and serve as a forerunner to the current infamous 39% percent base that solidly supports Donald Trump.
The problem with the religious right’s support for Donald Trump is that Trump, the person, is at odds with this sector’s stated moral character. Nevertheless, the religious right/evangelicals are in lock step with the Trump administration. Aside from a few remnants of the culture wars, the religious has aligned itself with Trump simply on the basis of race. Immigration and the ban on Muslims has become the linchpin of the religious right’s support. On one hand there is the major scapegoating of Mexicans regarding fear and crime. The ban on Muslims also stokes xenophobic fears that dwindle into racist ad hominem attacks.
Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, has become a staunch supporter of Trump. Jerry Falwell, Jr. also gives Trump. The interesting point is how Graham and Falwell have become moral contortionists in finding ways to rationalize religious support for Trump. This is the type of support that was withheld from Barack Obama for an entire eight years. Obama is also a Christian. Many voters were accused of voting for Barack Obama because he was black. The charge of racial voting is not leveled against Trump voters. Yet, as it pertains to the religious right, there does not seem to be a natural alliance between Trump and the religious right. Therefore, one can only conclude that the religious right has made a pact with the devil and voted for Donald Trump because he was a white male. Their continued support seems based on the same premise.
Where is religion in supporting alleged pedophiles? Where is religion in disparaging the beliefs that differ from one’s own? his is particularly acute in a society that has separation of church and state. Dr. King addressed his religious detractors as people of genuine good will. What are we to make of the religious descendants of Dr. King’s detractors? Today’s religious right does not appear to be people of genuine goodwill. The wholesale embrace of Trump dispels the notion of genuine goodwill. What remains to be seen is why has the religious right totally embraced Trump? What has happened is that the religious right abnegated its claim on moral authority settled graciously into its role as a component of Trump’s white nationalism.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he published a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”