In religion, ‘none’ is preferable. In politics, ‘no Trump’ is the only way

To a growing number of us, it is not necessary to join a church or a denomination to believe in God. As for Trump, 'no way' is the only option

A new member of the group that gathers, from time to time, for breakfast as Blue Ridge Diner, asked a question that used to spark rabid arguments in rural areas like Floyd County, VA.

“What church do you belong to?

“None,” I say. I believe in God but I no longer believe in organized religion.”

I’m not alone i”n our group. Several have stopped attending church and they are part of the fastest growing group in an increasingly divided, partisan America. A recent Gallup Polls shows that, for the first time in history of measuring public attitudes, more than half of Americans surveyed say they no longer belong to any church or denomination.

Reports National Public Radio:

Fewer than half of U.S. adults say they belong to a church, synagogue or mosque, according to a new Gallup survey that highlights a dramatic trend away from religious affiliation in recent years among all age groups.

The Gallup poll, published in 2021, says religious membership in the U.S. has fallen to just 47% among those surveyed — representing less than half of the adult population for the first time since Gallup began asking the question more than 80 years ago.

“Since the turn of the century, there has been a near doubling in the percentage of traditionalists (from 4% to 7%), baby boomers (from 7% to 13%) and Gen Xers (11% to 20%) with no religious affiliation,” Gallup says in its report.

Gallup is not alone in finding a dramatic drop in church membership. Other polling companies say the decline is constant across age, demographic, gender groups. Pew Resarch Center found some slowing in the drop during the COVID-19 pandemic but the rise of “nones,” as the non-church affiliated Americans, appears to be gathering steam again.

“While it is possible that part of the decline seen in 2020 was temporary and related to the coronavirus pandemic, continued decline in future decades seems inevitable, given the much lower levels of religiosity and church membership among younger versus older generations of adults,” Pew said in its report.

Those surveyed often point to an increased level of political partisanship among church leaders. Ministers who add political bias to their sermons often find few dollars in collection plates and fewer butts in church pews. Many, myself included, left churches becasue of the rise of racism among self-declared white evangelicals.

“The arc of White Evangelical Racism is long,” declared Christianity Today in a 2022 essay by Paul Thompson (no relation). He writes:

Anthea Butler’s White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America, an analysis of American evangelicalism’s last 50 years that also includes a larger backstory. In some ways it is a cross between the spirit of The Color of Compromise and the style of Believe Me. Butler argues that the persistence of racism among evangelicals (not fear, as Fea argues) explains their support for Donald Trump and conservative politics since the 1970s.

“Butler argues that it is ‘not a simply religious group at all” but rather a “nationalistic political movement.” Evangelicals, she writes, have defined themselves by their “ubiquitous” support for the Republican Party and its conservative quest to retain America’s “status quo of patriarchy, cultural hegemony, and nationalism”—and this has made evangelicals, for all intents and purposes, culturally and politically “white.” She argues that racism and a quest for political power have defined evangelicalism for approximately the last 50 years.”

Sadly, I have witnessed racism among among us here in Southwestern Virginia, particularly among the “Tea Party” groups who slithered out of the slime after the election of America’s first Black president and remain in power among Republicans in Floyd County and elsewhere.

I’ve found, over the years, that extremism breeds in organizations, like the Republican Party, that demands lockstep support of members who face banishment is they show even a slither of independent thought.

In the Republican Party dominated by a criminally-indicted and disgraced former president Donald Trump, we see any member of the GOP who disagrees with his extremism becomes a “RINO” (Republican in Name Only), yet they cannot come up with a believable excuse for why they continue to support of documented fraud and liar who is currently charged with 91 felonies, including conspiracies against America.

Like just about everything else Trump does, the use of “RINO” becomes an oft-repeated verbal weapon of absolute derision.

“This was applied to people who were more liberal Republicans, who weren’t taking the positions that conservatives agreed on — on abortion, gun control or on the role of government,” Richard Davis, BYU professor emeritus of political science, of the term RINO, told The Deseret News in Utah. “Nowadays it just means you don’t agree with Donald Trump,” he said.

Longtime Utah Repuglicans Russell “Rusty” Bowers learned that the hard way about Trump and RINO. As the News reports:

On June 21, Bowers testified before the Jan. 6 committee, recounting a phone call he received from former President Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in which they insisted on the existence of widespread voter fraud and encouraged Bowers to use his authority as Arizona House Speaker to convene a special legislative session to decertify Biden’s 2020 win in the state.

Bowers refused. “I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to,” he said in the committee hearing. That morning, Trump released a statement saying, “Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers is the latest RINO to play along with the Unselect Committee.”

A month later, at an Arizona rally, Trump endorsed Bowers’ primary challenger for Arizona Senate, David Farnsworth, calling Bowers a “RINO coward.”

Under the traditional definition of RINO, Trump’s comments would seem to imply Bowers’ betrayal of core conservative principles and Republican policy, but Bowers’ legislative record says otherwise, having presided over legislative sessions where election integrity, tax cuts and border security were the main focus.

Between 2020 and the first week of 2021, the former president used the term RINO 32 times in his Twitter posts. The label was aimed at state election officials in Philadelphia; governors in Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland and Arizona; and congressmen who accepted the results of the 2020 presidential election. This doesn’t include the many other instances of the acronym in statements published through Trump’s Save America PAC or Truth Social account in the months after he was banned from Twitter.

Trump and his supporters have directed the phrase at Liz Cheney, who voted with Donald Trump 93% of the time; Brian Kemp, who’s conservative achievements as Georgia governor include a heartbeat bill banning abortions after six weeks, a voter ID law restricting absentee ballots, and one of the quickest ends to pandemic lockdowns in the country; and former Attorney General William Barr, who has long defended Trump and said he would vote for him again if he were the party’s nominee.

Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s most faithful allies, was called a RINO by the former president after signaling disagreement with the indication that he would pardon Jan. 6 rioters if reelected.

The apparent contradiction of Trump and his supporters using RINO to refer to politicians who are, by any standard, stringent ideological conservatives, suggests the acronym no longer refers to ideological conformity on issues like tax cuts, border security and abortion, but rather to opinions on the former president himself, nothing more.

While the term RINO has been used for decades to insult Republicans who didn’t follow party orthodoxy, its meaning has transformed in the Trump era to be largely centered around the former president’s personality and personal agenda, according to Matthew Continetti, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “The Right: The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism.”

He says RINO and similar terms were used “to indicate that a Republican is deviating from conservative views. But what we’ve seen in the last few years is that the term has no relation to policy and what it’s really about is whether the Republican stands by Donald Trump or not.”

Stand by a criminally-indicted, disgraced sexual predator that the judge in a civil trail called “a rapist” and more. Are they nuts? Apparently so.

Trump is also supported, by and large, by the White Evnangelicals considered racist and homophobic. Latest polls show 70% of Republican voters wnat him as their nominee for president in 2024. Lets hope, and pray, that the same pollsters who say up to 60% of the general election voters plan to vote for Trump’s opponents in that election are right.

Not even God can help this nation if they are wrong.

© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse