Thomas Paine, author of the revolution-raising pamphlet Common Sense and beloved rabble-rouser in the American colonies’ fight for independence, was what modern Republican sockpuppets would call a flaming libtard.
Thomas Jefferson believed “religion is a matter which lies solely between a Man and his God.” George Washington’s swearing-in was delayed while court officers searched, at a last-minute thought, for a Bible. Vermont patriot Ethan Allen was a deist.
“My own mind is my own church,” Paine, the freedom-loving political writer said. “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”
As far as the Founding Fathers were concerned, there is no one religion to rule them, one religion to bind them to a monotheist spiritual belief. When they conceived the United States, Jefferson and others created a remarkable constitution that guaranteed citizens the right to believe in any religion they choose, or no religion at all.
That’s why Donald Trump’s presidency has been unsettling to so many. To gain support of the “base” of white Christian acid-conservatives, Trump got away with the quickest, dirtiest religious conversion to ever disgrace a holy place.
It’s in Trump’s political interest to constantly inflame his base with religious and nationalistic references, in spite of once-strict rules on the separation of church and state. Forget about that little thing in the Constitution.
When Trump’s base complains it ain’t what it used to be, they’re thinking of things like Jim Crow laws, forced segregation, LGBTQ discrimination and the barefoot and pregnant little woman at home cooking dinner. None of that equal rights garbage put forward by liberals.
But the biggest change has been to the tone, tolerance and morality of Republican leaders, men like Trump who are caught on tape bragging about a sexual attack. Or men like Judge Roy Moore, who refuses to quit a Senate race after four women accused him of having illicit affairs with them when they were naïve teens, and he a 32-year-old county prosecutor. In short, men who pander to white Christian conservatives.
“God’s laws are always superior to man’s laws,” Moore intones. One of his supporters in Alabama told NBC News, “This is a Republican town, man. (Moore) could have killed Obama and we wouldn’t care.”
So folks used to following the Ten Commandments apparently now think murder is acceptable. It’s also perfectly okay to lie about former presidents and false wiretapping charges, or to abandon the poor, disabled and elderly by cutting what amounts to life-saving food and medical care. These overwrought conservatives think it’s okay to forsake pledges to our global allies because it costs too much. And they completely ignore biblical instructions to care for and protect the Earth.
It wasn’t long ago that these same conservatives labeled it a sin to drink alcohol, smoke or even attend a high school dance. Some still do. “Blue laws” passed in many towns made it illegal to open a business on Sunday mornings. Yet religious conservatives today have embraced Trump fully. The only criticism they’ll acknowledge is “maybe he shouldn’t call people mean names on Twitter,” as they turn their heads.
There is a new right-wing political theory out there — new as in, since Trump — that since no man is perfect, it’s all a sliding scale of good and evil. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” Paul’s words to a Christian community in Rome, gets cited a lot. Repent, receive forgiveness and try to do better.
Trump figures neatly in this dynamic: He admitted he’s “no angel.” After the notorious Access Hollywood tape, television broadcaster Jerry Falwell Jr. said Trump is no worse than any other man. “We’re all sinners. Every one of us has done something we wish we hadn’t,” Falwell blathered. Maybe so, Jerry, but no one so morally bankrupt has despoiled the Oval Office.
Journalist Coron Friedersdorf wrote of Trump’s defenders, it’s “as if unapologetically acknowledging moral depravity lessens its weight.”
Is there a “bridge too far” that Trump will cross to lose the support of the Christian conservatives? With Trump’s behavior becoming more erratic and his governance more destructive, we’ll find out. And it won’t be a day too soon — the Founding Fathers, and the Puritans who left Great Britain to escape religious persecution, are whirling in their graves.