A few days ago, Elizabeth Dias, a New York Times reporter on faith and politics, published a stunning piece on evangelical Christians in Iowa, and their discordant affinity for Trump: “‘Christianity Will Have Power’: Donald Trump made a promise to white evangelical Christians, whose support can seem mystifying to the outside observer.”
After I read it, I had a feeling someone would express the same sort of mocking criticism of the Times for covering Trump voters throughout the past four years. Usually such pundits kvetch about how the Times keeps dropping into Ohio diners and talking to white guys about Trump. So I was pretty sure someone would complain about the Times’ coverage of evangelicals and their support of Trump.
I was disappointed by being not disappointed. A respected journalist-pundit on Twitter did it. Just what we all need! he opined sarcastically. Another Times article giving voice to Trump voters.
I have never understood that criticism. Trump sits in the Oval Office. Why he does, why people voted for him, are important to me. I am unafraid of knowing my enemies.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’ve got a feeling that maybe we women are the ones most often asking each other the agonized question, “Why did [fill in the blank] vote for Trump?”
We seek to understand. And this excellent article has introduced me to a group of Trump voters apart from the white guys in diners. If the majority of us live in 21st century America, this minority has constructed for themselves a 1950s America which never existed. And then raised a near-literal bubble over it.
I know this has been said before but never before has it been so Klieg-lit as it is in “Christianity Will Have Power.”
Among the categories I will use for this are: American fascism, American war on women and the god problem.
I pulled some excerpts and grouped them under subject headings. But do read the whole story. I promise you will not be brainwashed into converting to evangelical Christianity, although you may be left in horrified silence.
Evangelicals did not support Mr. Trump in spite of who he is. They supported him because of who he is, and because of who they are. He is their protector, the bully who is on their side, the one who offered safety amid their fears that their country as they know it, and their place in it, is changing, and changing quickly.
“You are always only one generation away from losing Christianity,” said Micah Schouten, who was born and raised in Sioux Center…
Church is still what really holds the community together. A day earlier, on Sunday, the Driesens had gone to services in the morning and at night. They unplugged the router and turned off their cellphones. They read the Bible. Sioux Center was quiet on Sundays, when it is easier to name what is open — the Pizza Hut, the Culver’s, the Walmart — than what is not.
Mr. Driesen spoke of the policies that were important to him, all the usual conservative issues. Small government. Ending abortion. Judges who share his political views. “Traditional families,” he said.
“The religious part is huge for us, as we see religious freedoms being taken away,” Ms. Driesen said. “If you don’t believe in homosexuality or something, you lose your business because of it. And that’s a core part of your faith. Whereas I see Trump as defending that. He’s actually made that executive order to put the Bibles back in the public schools. That is something very worrisome and dear to us, our religious freedom.”
They want the Christian education for their children “so we don’t have to have them indoctrinated with all these different things,” he said. “We are free to teach them our values.”
She worried that the school might be forced to let in students who were not Christian, or hire teachers who were gay.
They want America to be a Christian nation for their children. “We started out as a Christian nation,” she said.
There is now a Latino population in the town. Ms. Dias has a substantial section concentrating on them and their thoughts. But here’s what the white Christians think of them:
When he was a child, he said, the public school students were almost entirely white, and now about half of the kindergartners are Hispanic. He noticed that many of the Latinos in town were Catholic, and that they worked or shopped on Sunday, which was traditionally a time of rest in Sioux Center.
“You can’t find a single white person to milk cows or do any of that stuff,” he said. “They know how to work hard. They don’t mind working those 12-hour shifts.”
Obedience, guns and freedom
On a Sunday in March, Mr. Schouten worshiped at United Reformed Church with neighbors he has known for years. They all knew the harmonies by heart.
The pastor spoke to a sea of white parishioners: “God’s standard requires absolute, total, perfect, obedience.”
The Schoutens’ oldest daughter, who was 11, took careful notes in her journal.
“Obama wanted to take my assault rifle, he wanted to take out all the high-capacity magazines,” Mr. Schouten said. “It just —”
“— felt like your freedoms kept getting taken from you,” said Heather’s husband, Paul, finishing the sentence for him.
Safety from sex traffickers
She spoke of her concern about sex trafficking. She had seen posts on Facebook about mothers being followed to their cars if they went shopping at Target in Sioux City, almost an hour away.
“I’m safe when I’m here. I’m not afraid when I’m here,” she said.
Marriage and submission to husbands
People seem to get married younger around here than they do in corporate America, Mr. Schouten said. “It’s fairly common for women to go to Dordt [a local Christian college] to get their M.R.S. degree, their Mrs. degree,” he said.
… “If you are a hard-working Caucasian-American, your rights are being limited because you are seen as against all the races or against women,” she said. “Or there are people who think that because we have conservative values and we value the family and I value submitting to my husband, I must be against women’s rights.”
Her voice grew strong. “I would say it takes a stronger woman to submit to a man than to want to rule over him. And I would argue that point to the death,” she said.
“People in my circles, you don’t really hear about racism, so I guess I don’t know too much about it,” Mr. Driesen said of the protests. “When I see the pictures [of BLM protests], I thought they all should be at work, being productive citizens.”
“We are making this huge issue of white versus Black, Black Lives Matter. All lives matter,” she said. “There are more deaths from abortion than there are from corona, but we are not fighting that battle.”
“We are picking and choosing who matters and who doesn’t,” she said. “They say they are being picked on, when we are all being picked on in one shape or form.”