US presidential hopefuls and religion

I must confess, and this is especially so in more recent years, that I have a certain fascination in what is taking place across “the Pond”, knowing what is happening in the USA now will impact Britain later. The geekier part of me also tries to get to the bottom of why it is happening, what is different to the situation here in Britain, and why? This is especially highlighted in the cut and thrust news of Republican and Democrat candidates seeking the nomination to be their presidential candidate, with their elections soon to begin.

It has long occurred to me that religion plays a significant part in decision making and candidates tend to play up their religious credentials, but I recognize it would be unwise to stereotype American Christians as Bible thumping fundamentalists as I am becoming increasingly mindful of the great variations in religious outlooks. The two observations I would make, although I am open to debate on the matter, is that the religious affiliations of presidential candidates seem to be of more interest in the USA than for the nearest equivalent here in Britain, where I suspect most people aren’t bothered on this issue. The other thing I notice is religion tends to be more polarized along with much else in the American way of life. While dissention is allowed (after all that is the American way) people seem to hold more strongly to more extreme positions than they do here. Part of the reason for thinking that way is my experience of being booted of a number of online Christian discussion groups by Americans of that ilk, for my supposedly heretical views on subjects ranging from the King James Version of the Bible to creationism, whereas a typical British approach would be to accept difference and try to reach a compromise.

I must confess my knowledge of what is going on in the world of US presidential hopefuls is at best bit piece. It would seem, until quite recently, that the US presidential election proper is likely to be between Donald Trump (Republican) (who I have already blogged about) and Hilary Clinton (Democrat) (who I haven’t yet blogged about, who strikes me as being a tough cookie and a formidable politician, who has been around for yonks, leaving one wondering if at last her time has come). As for the rest of the candidates, I don’t know all that much about them, although I dare say that is partly down to my ignorance and also because the media is not covering these to anywhere the extent as they do with Trump. Just under a week ago, an American friend alerted me to one Bernie Sanders (Democrat) who is gathering support and could be the dark horse in the proceedings. I have to confess on listening to Sanders I was mildly impressed with his version of principled socialism, who reminded me a bit of our own Jeremy Corbyn. If it were to come down to a Trump versus Sanders contest when it comes to the US presidential election proper, it does back up my own observation that polarization is something that characterises US politics.

But back to religion and how this impacts on American politics, it does seem that there is a fair amount of religious sympathy among the candidates. Even Sanders, a non believing Jew, presents himself as sympathetic. Of the other candidates, especially from among the Republicans, there seems to be a fair amount of religious fervor and, in one article I read, it was interesting to note how different religious leaders are endorsing one or other of these. The most interesting endorsement was from Jerry Falwell Junior, a darling of a significant section of the Evangelical right (and the same one, some will recall, who encouraged his supporters to carry concealed guns). He was backing Trump to the hilt, almost making him appear to be a modern day saint. This is in stark contrast to how Trump is often portrayed on this side of the Pond, when recently Parliament debated a petition (signed by half a million people, including some of my Christian friends) to disallow him entry in the UK on the basis that he was allowed to come he would likely stir up hatred.

This brings me to another interesting article I read, and this is mainly about Trump. The writer urges readers to take him seriously. While some will see him as a bigoted buffoon, there is a strong likelihood he will become the next President of the United States. The writer bases his case on what it is that inclines people to vote for a particular candidate in the first place. Most are not like what I like to think I am in basing my voting choice on who shares my values and who will be the best for the country, but rather people tend to vote for the person who will protect the interests (especially economic). Despite appearing to lean toward the poor and marginalised with his “yes we can” strapline, in his rhetoric, a lot of people, including across all socio-economic classes, feel Presidential Obama has let them down and are looking for someone they can identify with who will champion their concerns. While his stance on sending back illegal immigrants to the country they came from and in not allowing Muslims to settle in the country are cited as two examples of hate speech, according to his detractors, Trump has received significant support from those who feel threatened and who feel not backed up by the liberal elite running the country. Trump’s political incorrectness and his preparedness to stand up against authority (and who doubts for example that the people who really run the country are the big multi-national corporations) and stand up for US interests in the world at large, all appeal. It is attitudes such as these that are seen by many as being Trump’s attraction.

As I have remarked on a number of occasions, my record as a political pundit is poor. But if I were to stick my neck out, come November’s election, it will be a fight between those two opposites: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, with Trump being the eventual winner. While this will fill some with foreboding, it is no more so than how I felt when David Cameron won last June’s UK election, although sad to say then as now there did not seem to be much in the way of credible alternatives. And it is just as well that my trust is in an infallible God rather than in fallible man, given my various reservations with all the front runners. As for religion, I have rarely come across a religious politician that I fully identified with and when it came to my voting in last June’s UK election, and despite my mantra that religion informs my politics, I voted for non-religious as opposed to religious candidates. If there is a call to America, it is the need for it to repent and turn to God and to remind folk that  “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people”, Proverbs 14:34. If that does not take place, America will surely decline as we are already seeing. But in any case: God bless America!

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