Opinion | Trump or No Trump, Religious Authoritarianism Is Here to Stay


Most pollsters shoehorn complex religious identities into necessarily broad labels, so they fail to separate out the different strands of Mr. Trump’s support. There are indications that the president in fact expanded his appeal among nonwhite evangelical and born-again Christians of color, particularly among Latinos. Mr. Biden, on the other hand, who made faith outreach a key feature of his campaign, appears to have done well among moderate and progressive voters of all faiths.

Conservative voters of faith “came in massive numbers, seven and a half million more above the 2016 baseline, which was itself a record,” Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a longtime religious right activist, said at a postelection press briefing. “We believe they’re the reason why Republicans are going to hold the Senate.”

In their responses to the election outcome, some prominent religious right leaders have enabled or remained true to the false Trumpian line of election fraud. Michele Bachmann, the former Minnesota congresswoman and 2012 presidential candidate, said, “Smash the delusion, Father, of Joe Biden is our president. He is not.” In Crisis Magazine, a conservative Catholic publication, Richard C. Antall likened media reporting on the Biden-Harris ticket’s victory to a “coup d’état.” Mat Staver, chairman and founder of Liberty Counsel, added, “What we are witnessing only happens in communist or repressive regimes. We must not allow this fraud to happen in America.”

Even as prominent Republican figures like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney slowly tried to nudge Mr. Trump toward the exit, leaders of the religious right continued to man the barricades. The conservative speaker and Falkirk Center fellow David Harris Jr. put it this way:

If you’re a believer, and you believe God appointed Donald J. Trump to run this country, to lead this country, and you believe as I do that he will be re-elected the President of the United States, then friends, you’ve got to guard your heart, you’ve got to guard your peace. Right now we are at war.

Others stopped short of endorsing Mr. Trump’s wilder allegations of election fraud, but backed his right to challenge the results. Mr. Reed told Religion News Service, “This election will be over when those recounts are complete and those legal challenges are resolved.” The Rev. Franklin Graham tweeted that the courts will “determine who wins the presidency.” The conservative pastor Robert Jeffress, who gave a sermon before Mr. Trump’s inaugural ceremony in 2017, noted that a Biden win was “the most likely outcome.”

After processing their disappointment, Christian nationalists may come around to the reality of Joe Biden’s victory. There is no indication, however, that this will temper their apocalyptic vision, according to which one side of the American political divide represents unmitigated evil. During a Nov. 11 virtual prayer gathering organized by the Family Research Council, one of the key speakers cast the election as the consequence of “the whole godless ideology that’s wanted to swallow our homes, destroy our marriages, throw our children into rivers of confusion.” Jim Garlow, an evangelical pastor whose Well Versed Ministry has as its stated goal, “Bringing biblical principles of governance to governmental leaders,” asserted that Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are at the helm of an “ideology” that is “anti-Christ, anti-Biblical to its core.”





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