It must be a truly awful time for white evangelical conservatives. Once an ascendant and seemingly unstoppable political force that helped sweep Ronald Reagan and the Bushes into the White House, the Bible-thumpers are finding themselves culturally isolated from an ever-increasing number of their more open-minded compatriots. But rather than serve as a catalyst for some much needed introspection, this isolation has instead caused them to double down, convinced that the country needs Old-Time Religion now more than ever.
This attitude manifests in a myriad of absurd ways, almost all of them self-pitying. On Sunday, six GOP presidential candidates spoke in front of 7,000 people at the “Forum on Faith and Freedom” in Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. There, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum tried to out-Christ each other by explaining that what’s really needed in this country is more god.
For Huckabee, arguably the alpha ignoramus in this strong field, it was his second god hoedown in as many days. In North Carolina on Saturday, he gave the keynote at something called the We Stand With God: Pro-Family Rally, so long as the family doesn’t feature a same-sex couple. Naturally, that meant Huck was in good company among the event’s lineup of hatemongering dunderheads. These included Pastor Ron Baity — a veritable lunatic who regaled the crowd with a factually inaccurate account of George Washington’s inauguration — and David Gibbs III — the attorney who did everything to stop the removal of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube short of chaining himself to her hospital bed.
“It’s an outlet for concerned Christian citizens to say to our country, ‘Christians cannot obey a law that contradicts God’s law,’ said an organizer for the event. “Christian citizens need to express their conscience on matters of morality, Biblical marriage and religious liberties.”
Unfortunately for said Christians, they already have expressed their consciences and have been roundly rebuked by courts of law and the court of public opinion. In other words, they’ve lost. Hence white evangelicals’ ridiculous persecution complex, which leads them to believe that they’re against discriminated more than blacks, Jews, and Muslims.
Ted Cruz has been particularly adept at tapping into this woe-is-us mentality. “I believe 2016 is going to be a religious liberty election,” he told the crowd in Plano. Cruz and a handful of other candidates seem to think we should choose the next president based on his or her support for public officials like Kim Davis, who ignore the law and refuse to do their jobs. For his part, Huckabee told the crowd, “If you put a public official in jail for believing the Biblical view of marriage, you have criminalized Christianity.”
To people who realize that the Bible is a collection of fables, Huckabee’s statement is bananas. But Huckabee knows the audience, which has seen its view on same-sex marriage go from being the norm to an outlier in less than a decade. Unsure of what to do, and probably on some level aware that there’s no turning back on same-sex marriage, we can expect the cries of “Help, help, I’m being repressed” amplify a zillion-fold in the coming months as the pandering from the GOP goes to 11. The good news is, whoever wins that Republican primary rat race will have irreparably sullied themselves for a general populace that views anti-gay evangelicals as a bloc of nutters.