Texas, with its Republican governor Greg Abbott, is a prime example of how, in the face of declining religious belief in America, Republicans and other conservatives are trying hard to push their political ideology by dragging in evangelical Christianity. And they’re succeeding, at least as judged by Texas’s new anti-abortion law, implicitly based on Christianity.
The article below shows how eager the Christian camels of Texas are to stick their noses into the political tent, and how subtly they try to sneak religious language and values into governance. Oddly enough, the article comes from Texas Monthly. Yes, it’s Texas, Jake, but this kind of thing is happening all over America, especially in red states. Click to read:
I’ll give just a few quotes to show how religionists are getting away with this stuff, despite the secularization of America and the First Amendment:
After the Texas Supreme Court sided with cheerleaders in East Texas in August 2018 and allowed them to display a verse from the New Testament on their football team’s run-through banner, state attorney general Ken Paxton tweeted in support. “God bless these young cheerleaders for their faith in God and their fight to protect their religious liberties. Just like their banners said, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’” The verse, taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, references the apostle’s spiritual growth, which allows him to endure the unpredictability—including hunger and financial need—in his missionary work. The verse has become popular among athletes, politicians, and other competitors as a triumphalist blessing over their ambitions.
Note that what the Texas Supreme Court okayed was an explicit violation of the separation of church and state encoded in the First Amendment. (Of course, were this to be appealed to the Supreme Court, they’d almost surely uphold the Texas court.)
Texas Senator Ted Cruz is particularly adept at using either direct or coded Christian language:
By using religious language, the more explicit the better, [Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow] said candidates can demonstrate their willingness to bring faith into the public sphere, an idea supported by many—including 89 percent of white evangelicals, who believe the Bible should have an influence on U.S. laws.
That repeated signal has muddied people’s understanding about what kind of religious liberty is actually guaranteed by the Constitution, said Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, based in Washington, D.C. “I think there’s great confusion in the culture about what is meant by religious freedom or religious liberty, and that is because there has been a concerted effort to privilege Christianty and call it religious liberty.”
Indeed. Many religious Jews, for example, as well as gazillions of nonbelievers, don’t believe in “souls”— one basis for draconian abortion laws—and so banning or severely restricting abortion is usually based on the Christian faith (including Catholicism).
The effectiveness of Trump’s championing of white evangelicals’ priorities was striking: most forgave the notorious playboy for his coarse speech, cruelty toward the downtrodden, and flagrant immorality. Trump also eschewed the kind of civic unity that requires politicians to use broad language, and opened the door more widely for the public promotion of a single religion. A perusal of Texas’s statewide officeholders shows a number of tweets, stump speeches, and television appearances heavy with a specific expression of evangelical Christianity.
There are several examples.
One more quote, but do read the article, which is thoughtful and analytical:
“By God’s grace, we can give every child the chance to live a happy and fulfilling life,” said Governor Greg Abbott in a statement proclaiming January 22, 2018, to be “Sanctity of Human Life Day.” The use of “by God’s grace” in public addresses could refer to any number of verses in the Christian Bible, and in public speech it often occupies a middle ground between ceremonial deism such as “in God we trust” and something more personal. But in politics, the phrase is closely related to “By the Grace of God” or “Dei Gratia,” which is part of the way that European Christian monarchs have been ceremonially addressed. It was a phrase added to their names to imply that their authority was a gift from God. Not enough American voters likely know about the European uses of the phrase to receive that signal.
But now you know the signal. Though the data all show that America is losing its religion, the country is becoming more theocratic. That’s because Christians are fighting hard to bring faith into politics, while the average American either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that much.