By James A. Haught
Back in 2003, in a top-secret international phone call, President George W. Bush urged French President Jacques Chirac to join America in invading Iraq on grounds that Christian nations must thwart the Satanic forces of Gog and Magog. Chirac was baffled by such crackpottery. A few French newspapers wrote derisive sneers about the born-again U.S. leader.
Today, it’s déjà vu all over again. Religious kooks in high office are an absurd facet of the Republican Trump administration.
Vice President Mike Pence is a hero of the evangelical Religious Right. He opposes the teaching of evolution in biology classes (even though evolution is a bedrock of biology). As Indiana governor, he signed a notorious “religious freedom” law to let fundamentalists treat gays cruelly. His wife teaches at a born-again Washington-area school that sends students to a Creation Museum which teaches that Planet Earth is just 6,000 years old and humans coexisted with dinosaurs.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a fundamentalist who thinks doomsday is coming. In a 2015 church talk, he said “politics is a never-ending struggle… until the rapture.” In 2014, he told a church group that “Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world.” Yet he’s in charge of American foreign policy to billions of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and secular people.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos once told a gathering: “Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.” She advocates vouchers to funnel public money to fundamentalist schools.
Former Energy Secretary Rick Perry declared on Fox News that God “ordained” Donald Trump to be president – that Trump is a divinely “chosen one.”
Attorney General Bill Barr gave a Notre Dame University speech espousing “God’s eternal law – the divine wisdom by which the whole of creation is ordered.”
Barr said “the Founding Generation were Christians” – which isn’t quite true. Many of the Founding Fathers were Deists, an early version of non-Christian Unitarians.
The attorney general warned that “over the past 50 years, religion has been under increasing attack,” and has suffered “steady erosion…. On the other hand, we see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativisim.” He blamed the retreat of religion for America’s upsurge of unwed pregnancy.
Evangelist Ralph Drollinger leads what is called the “White House Cabinet Bible Study Group.” The right-wing, born-again meetings include Pence, Pompeo, Perry, DeVos, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and NASA Director Jim Bridenstine, plus former cabinet members Ben Carson, Jeff Sessions, Alex Acosta and Scott Pruitt.
Religion is vanishing rapidly in America. White evangelicals – the heart of the Republican Party – have fallen to just 16 percent of the populace, according to Pew Research. Yet Trump gives them a gigantic role in his government.
Congress soon will decide whether the vulgar, shallow, obnoxious president should be impeached. I wonder if grounds for impeachment might include putting too many fundamentalists into high office?
James Haught, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.