In a strongly worded and critical opinion piece on Huffington Post, blogger Matthew Taylor took GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to task and asked why Christians are "supporting the heathen." However, the self-professed Christian also threw conceptual darts at the true state of religion in America, while claiming Trump exposes how the "genius of the American religious experiment is also its Achilles heel."
Taylor states he was born fundamentalist, raised Evangelical, is seminary trained, now is Mainline Protestant and is a doctor's degree candidate studying Islam at a Catholic university. He also said he is an elder in a Presbyterian PC (USA) church, which is the same denomination that Trump alleges membership.
"What is, at first glance, most surprising to me is that Trump is winning among religious voters. Trump is, for lack of a better term, a heathen," states Taylor.
Taylor said that while Presbyterian church baptized and confirmed Trump as a teenager, the church hasn't seen hide nor hair of him since. Trump attended Norman Vincent Peale's church for a while, but orthodox Christians have long questioned whether Peale's "power of positive thinking" message had anything to do with the Gospel of Jesus, stated Taylor.
Taylor said Trump is a heathen in a much more basic sense: "nothing, NOTHING, about his message or persona is even tinged by the Christian ethos or the character of Christ. Can anyone imagine Jesus Christ saying the things that Donald says or using the tone that Donald uses or grimacing with Donald's snide face?"
Taylor said Trump's lack of Christian formation is not about his inability to name a favorite Bible verse, or his stumbling over pronouncing 2 Corinthians, or him throwing cash into the communion plate at a church in Iowa.
"Jesus taught that you will know a person by the fruits they produce with their lives (Matthew 7:16), and the Apostle Paul taught that the fruits of God's Spirit at work in a person are "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). Would anyone ever mistake Donald Trump for evincing much less embodying any of the nouns on that list?" wrote Taylor.
Taylor said America is a religious experiment gone very right in many ways. By embracing the fact of religious diversity and pluralism from the get-go, the framers of the Constitution created a new religious space, he stated. American religion is private, but it is also public, political, contentious and competitive. America is not a Christian or a Protestant country, but it is undoubtedly a religious country, he reasoned.
However, he said he considers Trump "a cynical showman," who is a "pretender" all about winning.
Trump is a man "who has learned that if you confidently assert a factually inaccurate, imagined reality long enough and vociferously enough, you can eventually convince some people it's true. His lies don't stick to him. He is, perhaps, the most cynical operator on the stage of American politics today."
Trump exposes how the genius of the American religious experiment is also its Achilles heel, wrote Taylor, in that religion that competes and innovates in the public sphere is easily co-opted by other, more cynical forces in that sphere. "When religion enters politics, politics can more easily adopt the mask of religion. Deep theological and moral traditions of reflection can be usurped by a shallow civil religion that carries not a touch of the prophetic power or ethical formation that Christianity or Islam or Judaism holds. American civil religion is the religion of Americanism, commandeering the rhetoric of piety for the sake of simplistic nationalism and selfish indulgence."
Taylor asserts that Trump tapped into that vein of American civil religion like no other politician of current times.
The problem with civil religion is that it has no moral core, and when put under the pressure of a polarized culture it can become very uncivil, said Taylor, who pointed toward Trump lashing out against migrants and American Muslims, not because they are a real threat, but because "they are culturally weak; they are convenient minorities, relatively powerless targets of American incivility and rage."
While referencing the biblical phrase about false prophets, (Matthew 7:15), and the metaphor of wolves dressed in sheep's clothing, Taylor said Trump is something new. "He comes as a wolf in wolves' clothing, and his ostensibly religious, Christian crowds eat it up."