I try very hard this election season to avoid reading about, watching, or listening to Donald Trump: the man is a liar, a cheat, a bully, a narcissist, a racist, a sexist, the list goes on. Yet even progressive commentators are talking almost exclusively about him. And now I am joining them–despite my best intentions.
Reflecting on why facts seem to matter so little to Trump, Patricia J. Williams characterizes his campaign as an exercise in one-way communication:
Freedom of expression is reduced to an arbitrary insistence upon one-way communication, a barked order. Making America “great again,” by this measure, is a command, not a hope. . . This assumption—the belief that communication flows in one direction only, that it is the role of some to speak and others only to listen—is a paradox that stifles rather than encourages debate.
On recent episode of All In, Chris Hayes played a clip in which Donald Trump was asked how he felt about his insistence that Barack Obama was born in Africa now that the President’s birth in Hawaii is a matter of public record. Trump responded, “A lot of people don’t agree with you on that.” In other words the truth does not matter!
Polls show that white men without a college education are Trump’s strongest supporters. Let’s be truthful here: white married women, especially those without college degrees, also support Trump. It is becoming increasingly clear (to me at least) that these men and their wives care about very little else other than the fact that Trump projects an image of white male power.
They don’t care if he has stolen money from white working men or whether he likes Putin. They don’t care if he cheated on his taxes or if he intends to provide tax breaks for the rich. They don’t care if he sexually harasses women or raped his former wife. They don’t care if he was prosecuted by the Nixon administration for discriminating against black people. They don’t care if his wife posed nude or was an illegal immigrant. There is only one fact that matters:
Donald Trump is white, male, and powerful, and he stands up against anyone who would challenge the right of powerful white males to rule the world.
Many of Trump’s strongest supporters are conservative Christians. Journalists puzzle about this, given that Trump’s lifestyle–including partying with underage girls while married–flies in the face of the conservative Christian moral code. It has been suggested that Trump’s supporters ignore that fact that he does not share their theology. But what if he does?
What if the main thing Trump and his supporters share is a very bad theology in which an omnipotent God created the world by fiat, created powerful white males in his image, told them that their word is law and that like God, they can do what they like without listening to or sharing power with anyone else. The idea that America is destined to rule the world is a simple corollary to this premise.
The white men who support Donald Trump are not, for the most part, economically powerful: nonetheless, like Trump, they assume that as white and male, they are meant to rule the roost. We can be certain that they are the kind of husbands and fathers who tell their wives and children how to behave. The white women in these families learn that women must do what men tell them to do. (I know this: I grew up in such a family. Because I refused to conform, I was viewed as a trouble-maker.) For these white men, Christian values mean that they are the chosen ones: women, minorities, and those who are not Christian need not apply.
Donald Trump is the image of the omnipotent God. The men who support him are affirming their right to rule in his image. Very little else matters to them. This view is rooted in theology—very bad theology, but theology nonetheless.
And this is why theology matters!
Good theology is discussed in the newly published Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow–order now. Ask for a review copy (for blog or print) or exam or desk copy.
Listen to Judith and Carol’s first interview on the book on Northern Spirit Radio.
Carol P. Christ leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Space is available on the fall tour October 1-15. Join now and save $150. With Judith Plaskow, she is co-editor of Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions. Carol wrote the first Goddess feminist theology, Rebirth of the Goddess and the process feminist theology, She Who Changes.