Donald J., now President-Elect, Trump has never been and is not now seen by conservative Christians, Evangelicals among them, as one of their own, to say the least. But in an important way, he is very much one of us.
For the last 50 plus years, the dominant cultural apparatus (education, media, and entertainment) has grown increasingly strident in its secularism and hostility to Christianity. No longer can conservative Christians be accepted in polite company; they must be shamed and demonized because they believe in something as archaic as objective morality, absolute standards of right and wrong, and even worse, Truth!
The result of this secular cultural tsunami is that Christianity has continually been on the defensive, never more so than in the last eight years of the Obama presidency. One of the results of this assault is that Christianity as a specific set of doctrines and worldview has become increasingly less plausible to more and more Americans. Thus we see a growing number of “Nones,” or those who choose “None of the above” on surveys of religious preference.
As I argue in my book, few if any of these “Nones” reject Christianity because they’ve seriously engaged the evidence for the Truth claims of the faith. Rather, because of the secular waters in which we swim every day, for them God and Christianity don’t seem like a credible alternative to the secular plausibility structure. Peter Berger in his book In Praise of Doubt, gives a concise definition of that latter phrase:
This is the social context within which any particular definition of reality is plausible.
It’s all about the seeming, and secularism just seems more valid to many people now. They wake up one day and think, this God thing is strange. They don’t buy it. Which brings me to Mr. Trump.
Michael Horton, a theology professor at Westminster Seminary California, wrote a piece published in the Washington Post titled, “Evangelicals should be deeply troubled by Donald Trump’s attempt to mainstream heresy.” Because of the sociological concept of plausibility structures, I see this differently than Dr. Horton. First, I can’t presume to know Mr. Trump’s motivation in inviting certain Christians to speak at his inauguration. I’m certain he doesn’t even think in such terms, let alone seek to “mainstream heresy.” I think he sees himself as a Christian, and he respects that Christianity is part of what has “made America Great.” (And whether we like it or not, American Christianity has always been less about doctrine and more about the “can do” attitude.)
Most Americans won’t pay any attention to what Christians at the Trump inauguration believe; they don’t really care. It’s likely they will see them as all under the rubric of “Christian.” As Trump surrounds himself with conservative “pastors” and “ministers,” (very broadly understood as, these people take their faith seriously, unlike liberals who genuflect to the great Secular State) the idea of religious faith, and Christianity in particular, becomes more plausible to more people. At least this is my contention, and hope.
Making it okay to say Merry Christmas again is part of his assault on political correctness, and the shamelessly corrupt media that pedals it. This may be his greatest contribution to the secular plausibility structure falling like the Berlin Wall. You can see why this is so important from a quotation about PC I recently posted. Progressives hate “natures laws and limits,” and Trump understands those as well as anybody. Just like those of us who lived during Soviet communism and thought the Berlin Wall was eternal, so we’ve also thought secular domination of American culture is eternal. It isn’t.