Opinion: Evangelicals See Trump’s Hedonism as Godly ‘Masculinity’

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Reuters/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Reuters/Getty Images

For those looking for salacious content, Stormy Danielstestimony at Donald Trump’s New York criminal trial did not disappoint.

Daniels testified that Trump answered the hotel door wearing “silk or satin.” She also said Trump told her, “You remind me of my daughter,” and that she spanked him with a magazine—among other prurient recollections.

I’ll leave it to legal experts to debate whether this TMI could backfire by evoking sympathy for Trump, or even jeopardizing the trial. Personally, I’m more interested in what the same conservatives who insisted that Bill Clinton’s character flaws made him unfit for the presidency will think about all this.

Trump’s Lawyers Bullying Stormy Daniels Is a Risky Strategy

Don’t get me wrong, it is now both predictable and trite to say that these revelations won’t cost Trump many votes. We have all been witness to everything from the Access Hollywood scandal to Trump being found liable for sexually abusing E. Jean Carroll.

Despite it all, a recent Pew Research Center survey showed that two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants have a favorable view of Trump.

For years now, many Christians have sought to justify supporting Trump using various rationalizations, including comparing him to King David, a flawed man who committed serious transgressions yet was used mightily by God.

Never mind that Trump never repented for his sins or even sought to change his ways; the gist was that God can use flawed vessels to accomplish His plans.

Interestingly, though, this argument seems to have morphed (in some quarters, at least) into a more sinister theory: that sexual sin isn’t just a stumbling block that can be overcome, it is proof of a man’s masculinity and even worthiness to be used by God.

At least, that was my takeaway from a recent Politico interview with Samuel L. Perry, a sociologist of religion and author of the book Addicted to Lust: Pornography in the Lives of Conservative Protestants. He contends that many evangelicals see Trump as a “representative of a kind of masculinity that is so masculine that his sexual appetites cannot be contained. That’s almost a good sign,” Parry says.

“In other words,” Perry continues, “[Trump is] not Mike Pence—a kind of asexual, Ned Flanders kind of Christian that is effete and ineffective. No, Trump is power personified. He is a warrior. And with that comes all of the temptations of being a warrior.”

Evangelicals Worshiping Trump Is as About as Unchristian as It Gets

Talk about creating a permission structure, not just for Christians to vote for Trump, but for Christian men to act like Trump. Of course, we have seen something like this before, albeit from a more secular perspective.

Back in 1998, Slate’s Franklin Foer listed 17 reasons “Why Clinton Screws Around.”

Among the reasons was this one: “Evolutionary psychologists explain presidential philandering as an atavistic impulse left over from the early days of the human race. Natural selection rewarded men who clawed their way to positions of power with many sex partners (i.e., gave them many chances to reproduce their genes). Proponents of this theory recall ancient rulers such as the Pharaoh Ramses II and Aztec King Nezahualpilli, both of whom sired more than 100 children.”

This is to say that faithfulness and monogamy are for betas. Losers. Not for the real winners and conquerors who, frankly, are tempted constantly and cannot help themselves evolutionarily. Talk about a get-out-of-jail-free card. What a racket!

And now, if this author is correct, some of Trump’s defenders have taken this un-Christian rationalization and baptized it.

The whole point of civilization is about transcending our very nature—our carnal appetites. Everyone wants to talk about how great nature is, but, among other things, nature is red in tooth and claw. In nature, the powerful dominate the weak.

If anyone should understand the dangers of glamorizing the law of the jungle , it should be Christians, who advocate a radical rejection of man’s sin nature (this language is quite explicitly used; the Apostle Paul refers to unsaved people as “natural,” and talks of being sinful as “carnal”).

The Bible advises that we “not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” This certainly includes sex, but it also transcends sex. When it comes to being a man, part of overcoming the flesh also involves other types of sacrifice and even suffering.

Trump Says Some Americans Might Like a Dictator. He’s Right.

The other day, I was in a restroom of a church. There, I witnessed a sacrificial act that is, no doubt, repeated often: a Christian father lifting his paraplegic son onto the toilet. My first thought was: This is a real man. This is a man who knows unspeakable suffering. I’m not sure I’m strong enough to handle what this man endures.

My second thought—and I hate that my mind turns to politics, but it’s the truth—was that Donald Trump probably sees these people as losers and suckers.

The vast majority of Christians I know would still view this father as something of a hero. How they can bestow that same hero status on Trump is something that I’ll never understand.

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