From the perspective of Democrats and progressives, the impregnable evangelical fortress around Trump can look like a problem. As proven electoral activists and bloc voters, evangelicals exert disproportionate power. Certainly, they will make sure that any Republican-primary challenger to Trump is defeated. And in another close general election, they hold huge balloting power in such swing states as Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, and Michigan.
Instead, though, Americans of the center and left ought to feel liberated by the eligious right’s embrace of Trump. It has broken a spell.
In a way that secular or less-observant people are reluctant to admit, they often feel inadequate to the task of arguing politics, much less religion, with fundamentalists. Few of us know the relevant texts or theologies, and even if we do, we default to the faulty premise that religion shouldn’t be part of political decision-making. (Which would have come as a shock to King, for one.)
Under King Cyrus Trump, however, the religious right has laid bare its hypocrisy, and indeed its heresy. We can feel emboldened to fight our opponents like any other political movement rather than as devout believers whose direct line to the Almighty, and whose resulting presumption of moral superiority, we have no way of empirically disproving.
In time, perhaps, white evangelicals will recover some of their ethical and religious moorings. A younger generation of such evangelicals is making its way through high school and college now, and registering its disgust with Trumpian Christianity, even at Jerry Falwell Jr’s Liberty University.
Among the older generation, at least a few believers of principle, such as former George W Bush staffers Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, have eloquently decried the evangelical movement’s self-inflicted wounds.
Until some larger-scale period of penance comes for white evangelicals, anyone familiar with Judeo-Christian history might offer an alternative precursor to Trump than King Cyrus. My own nomination would be a 17th-century Turkish Jew named Shabbetai Zevi, who pronounced himself the Messiah.
For some subsequent years, there were Jews who actually believed him, so great was their despair at persecution and dispersal. Then, abruptly, their messiah converted to Islam. When scholars today look back at Shabbetai Zevi, they assess him most charitably as a madman, and less generously, as a fraud.Samuel G Freedman, a regular contributor to The Guardian, is a professor of journalism at Columbia University, a former religion columnist for The New York Times, and the author of eight books