“Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins.”
— Revelation 18:4
If you’re a white Evangelical Christian who came of age in the early 2000s, you’re probably used to thinking of the GOP as God’s Own Party.
If you were a dedicated churchgoer in a white Evangelical church, you would never consider voting for a Democratic candidate. Democrats were liberals who supported safe sex and abortion on demand; the Democratic president was caught in a sex scandal with one of his interns. They had no values. They weren’t really Christians, though they sometimes used the language of Christianity to deceive us.
Republicans, by contrast, were the party of faith. They believed in God, family, our country, and our military. When George W. Bush was asked to name his favorite philosopher during a townhall meeting in 2000, he said without hesitation, “Christ, because he changed my heart.” He was mocked for this answer by the godless media, but it resonated with countless men and women in the heartland who had never heard of Voltaire or Rousseau.
I was a staunch Republican until late into my teens. I supported the invasion of Iraq (at least until the actual bombing started) because I thought Bush had been chosen by God to lead our country and reshape the Middle East. During my first semester in college I picketed an abortion clinic and wrote an article for the school newspaper making fun of Democrats like John Kerry for trying to speak the language of faith. I described the 2004 election as the most important election of our lifetime, and Bush’s reelection as a stunning repudiation of the liberal elites who defended Islam, immigration, and sex on TV.
When an English teacher I respected—one of the few outspoken liberals in our small, conservative town—asked me why I supported Republicans, I said, “Because they have morals!”
I was surprised she even had to ask.
But something happened early in Bush’s second term. I think the first blow was the revelation that our Christian government was running secret prisons and torture sites in foreign countries. Somehow it was hard to picture Jesus forcing a man to stand on broken limbs for days without sleep. It was hard to picture him approving the crushing of a child’s testicles.
I learned about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, how it drove white Southerners afraid of blacks into the arms of the Republican Party. I learned about Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” to woo those disaffected white voters with coded language like “tough on crime” and “law and order.” I learned how whites turned out for him in record numbers because they understood the subtext buried in these words, that he was going to make life harder for people of color like myself.
I began to understand why the Republican Party was overwhelmingly white.
Here in Texas, especially, it’s been clear for some time that white Republicans aren’t driven by some high-minded adherence to conservative principles. Partly it’s a religious thing: Republican voters are driven by their faith to vote for Republican candidates.
But it’s something else, too. George W. Bush was very clear that the war on terror was not a war against Muslims. But I can tell you that’s not how it was perceived in the heartland. Millions of people supported him in his bid for reelection because they believed he was going to make war on the whole Middle East and defend our land from the savage hoards who wished to destroy us and our way of life.
In the ‘60s the GOP became the haven for people who were afraid of blacks. In the 2000s it wooed those who were afraid of Muslims and Arabs and Hispanics. Each of those groups, in turn, left the Republican Party, because it was clear to them, long before it became clear to the rest of the country, that something incredibly dark and toxic had taken root in the heart of God’s Own Party.
All of this has been happening for years. Decades, even.
But if you had tried to point that out before last year—pointed out that the GOP has become the party of racists, hatemongers, and authoritarians who want to torture and kill brown people in grisly fashion—it would have been a tough sell. Most mainstream Republicans were still too committed to the idea that their party is the party of God, the party of family and faith and freedom.
And then Trump happened.
Trump happened and now the GOP has officially become the party of the alt-right and anti-Semites and anti-feminists and “every unclean and hateful spirit.”
Trump happened and now suburban Republicans and conservative intellectuals and even Republican politicians are abandoning the party in droves because they no longer recognize it. Because they hate what he’s done to it.
But maybe we should be grateful for Trump.
Because he’s exposed the truth that’s been obvious to our black and brown brothers and sisters for years, back when they were lone voices crying in the wilderness and no one would listen.
Because even when it wraps itself in the mantle of faith, no party that is rooted and grounded in white supremacy is a Christian party.
Because regardless of its views on abortion, no party that promotes torture and black sites and the gutting of welfare and endless bombings of other countries is a pro-life party.
This has always been true. Trump has just awakened us to it.
So Christians, maybe it’s time for us to leave the Republican Party. Maybe it’s time for us to admit, with Rich Mullins, that all governments that are controlled by men are “anti-life and anti-God.”
To admit that a vote every four years for abortion isn’t worth continuing to prop up a party that is now defined by white nationalism and terrifying, murderous rage against anyone who isn’t white, and male, and Christian.
To admit that when the veil was lifted, Donald Trump was revealed to be the true face of the Republican Party. And he has been all along.