False Idol — Why the Christian Right Worships Donald Trump

From Rolling Stone:  https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/christian-right-worships-donald-trump-915381/

December 2, 2019

On  the morning of September 29th, six weeks before the 2016 election, Donald Trump was in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York talking to leaders of the religious right about sex-reassignment surgery. In a way, he was bringing about his own transformation. Having quashed the idea that his run for president was a lark or a publicity stunt, having come from behind to take the Republican nomination, and having fought his way up the polls to the extent that he was within striking distance of Hillary Clinton, Trump was now trying to seal the deal. And that involved something he would soon become much more known for: a discussion of other people’s genitalia.

“With the operation or without the operation?” Trump asked the conservative Christian leaders gathered specifically to ascertain whether to grant him their support. In other words, would HB2 — North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill — apply to transgender people who had not undergone surgery to alter their sex?

“Without the operation,” Christian radio talk-show host Frank Turek confirmed, according to a tape of the meeting exclusively obtained by Rolling Stone. “If you’re a man but you feel like a woman that day, if you’re Shania Twain, you can go into a woman’s bathroom, and no one can say a word about it.”

Trump seemed to ponder this deeply. For much of his political run, the thrice-married, swindling, profane, materialistic, self-styled playboy had appealed mainly to the more fringe elements of Christianity, a ragtag group of prosperity gospelers (like his “spiritual adviser” Paula White, a televangelist who promises her donors their own personal angel), Christian dominionists (who believe that America’s laws should be founded explicitly on biblical ones — including stoning homosexuals), and charismatic or Pentecostal outliers (like Frank Amedia, the Trump campaign’s “liaison for Christian policy,” who once claimed to have raised an ant from the dead). Considering their extreme views, these folks had an alarming number of followers, but certainly nothing of voting-bloc magnitude.

And without the evangelical voting bloc, no Republican candidate could hope to have a path to the presidency. Evangelicals — a term that today refers to people who believe that Jesus died for their sins, that the Bible is the word of God, that every believer has a “born again” or salvation moment, and that the good news of Jesus should be widely disseminated — make up as much as a quarter of the country, or close to 80 million people. Around 60 percent vote, more than any other demographic, and among white evangelical voters, more than three-quarters tend to go to Republicans, thanks to wedge issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgender rights.

Trump was exactly the type of character you would expect “values voters” to summarily reject — even before the famed “grab ’em by the pussy” tape, the optics weren’t great. He never gained a majority of Christian votes in the primary. Even after he secured the nomination and named Mike Pence to be his VP, a survey of Protestant pastors conducted by Christian polling group LifeWay Research that summer found that only 39 percent of evangelical pastors planned to vote for him.

The meeting on September 29th, 2016, was one of the ways he tried to move the needle, to convince the religious right that their vision for America was one he shared. Robert Jeffress, the head of 14,000-member megachurch First Baptist Dallas, a contributor to Fox News, and one of the earliest evangelical leaders to support Trump, presided over the meeting. “I usually stand when he comes in the room as a way of showing respect — he doesn’t ask that, but that’s just something that I’ve normally done,” Jeffress explained to the assembled, who included Wayne Grudem, a well-known theologian and co-founder of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood; Eric Metaxas, a bestselling Christian author and radio host; Ryan Anderson, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation; Jay Richards, a philosopher and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank that campaigns against teaching evolution in school; and Ivanka Trump, who popped in momentarily to say hello.

Continue reading at:  https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/christian-right-worships-donald-trump-915381/

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The Conservative War on Transgender Rights Has Reached a New Low

From Mother Jones:  https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/12/the-conservative-war-on-transgender-rights-has-reached-a-new-low/

They’re going after kids.

December 4, 2019

Rachel Gonzales has spent the last two years battling Texas lawmakers to protect her kid. She first stepped foot in the statehouse in 2017, to testify against a bill that would bar her 7-year-old, transgender daughter from using the girl’s bathroom. Next came an effort to stop a bill to prohibit family courts from using a parent’s affirmation (or lack thereof) of a child’s transgender identity as a consideration in custody hearings.

Both bills eventually died, but Gonzales is now gearing up for yet another fight. This fall, two Republican lawmakers in the state vowed to introduce legislation barring trans kids from receiving certain gender-affirming health care and criminalizing parents who allow their children to transition.

And Texas isn’t the only place where conservatives are trying to make it harder for trans kids to live in accordance with their gender identity. In November, a Republican representative in South Carolina introduced legislation that would prohibit “gender reassignment medical treatment” for people under the age of 18. Doctors who provide such care would be professionally sanctioned and could potentially lose their medical license. A bill that is being drafted in Georgia would make it a felony for medical professionals to aid in a minor’s gender transition. A lawmaker in Kentucky said in a public Facebook post that she is also at work on a similar bill.

“I really wish that our politicians would stop using young children for their political gain,” Gonzales says. “It’s so frightening to have the people that are supposed to be protecting all kids across the state to be instead picking and choosing who they want to protect and targeting the ones that they don’t.”

All of the bills were spurred by the sensationalized story of a Texas custody battle between two parents with vastly different views on gender identity. The case involved a 7-year-old kid who, according to reports, had been identifying as a transgender girl for years. Her father claimed the feminine gender identity was being forced on the child by her mother, and refused to help cover the costs of therapy or any gender-affirming care. Earlier this year, he made pleas at the state capitol and on several social media pages, claiming his child was being used as a pawn in some socially progressive scheme to revoke his parental rights.

The Daily Caller first picked up the story about the custody fight from a local news website run by a former Republican state senator. Then Fox News and conservative pundits like Matt Walsh joined in the fray. Some warned of “chemical castration,” even though the actual custody dispute revolved around social transitioning—affirming the person’s gender identity by using their chosen name and pronouns—which involves no medical interventions. They published video and photos of the child, supposedly proving their point. Soon, the story had been picked up by Donald Trump Jr.

Continue reading at:  https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/12/the-conservative-war-on-transgender-rights-has-reached-a-new-low/

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