Did you see where the Archbishop of Canterbury was quoted this week as saying that he was perplexed by the unwavering support that Donald Trump enjoys with many fundamentalist Christians in America? If you did, your reaction might have been similar to mine — who the heck is the Archbishop of Canterbury, and why do I need to know what he thinks?
I did a little research so I can now provide an answer to the first part of that question, but I’ll leave it up to you to answer the second part for yourself.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the clerical head of the Church of England, often referred to as the Anglican Church. He’s not the real head of the church though — that honor belongs to the reigning British monarch.
It’s been that way since Henry VIII founded the Church of England in the 16th century when he broke ties with the Catholic Church over its refusal to allow him to divorce his first wife. I guess he wanted to make sure the Church never interfered with his marital situation again and proclaiming himself to be in charge was the best way to assure that.
So the archbishop is not as powerful in the Anglican Church as the pope is in the Roman Church, but he does get to wear a similar pointy hat. And I suppose he’s kind of a big deal in England since he’s being quoted in newspapers about world events.
I think I understand why he’s confused about American evangelicals love affair with The Donald. I’m sure his experience with the Christian religion, and how Christians relate to their government, is very different there than it is here. But I (having been born and raised here in the buckle of the Bible Belt) know a thing or two about American fundamentalists and their political leanings, so perhaps I can enlighten the archbishop just a bit.
Religions are not static things, they are influenced by and adapt to the cultures in which they exist, and that’s probably as true for Christianity as it has been for any religion the world has ever known. The type of Christianity practiced in Middle East right after Jesus’ death was very different from the Christianity that was practiced in Europe in the Middle Ages when it became the official religion of Rome, and it has continued to change over time and in the different places in which its been practiced.
Today in the U.S. of A., Mr. Archbishop, religion and politics are informally but unmistakably intertwined, and the Republican Party is the default for most fundamentalist Christians.
That’s because when it comes to politics, the most important issues for modern religious conservatives are abortion and gay rights (you need to be against both) and for the most part the GOP comes down on the “right” side of those issues from their perspective. The Democrats are far too tolerant on both counts and are therefore seen (quite literally for some conservative Christians) as the party of Satan.
Now it is true that President Trump exhibits very few personality traits that any sane person would call Christ-like, but he is a Republican, and by golly, when he had a chance to appoint a Supreme Court justice he pulled from the right-wing side of the fence just as he promised he would. That was a huge victory for socially conservative Christians and proved to them that Trump shared the important political values that drive their votes.
Also, there is no doubt that his anti-immigrant stance, specifically his attempts to keep Muslims from entering the country, have helped to bolster his image amongst the religious right as he helps to keep America a Christian nation.
And so, Mr. Archbishop, Trump is seen by a majority of fundamentalist Christians in America as God’s (admittedly imperfect) instrument for advancing their political agenda, and as long as he tows the line on the issues they hold most dear they will stay in his corner despite his myriad personality flaws.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.