MEMO TO: EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS WHO STILL SUPPORT DONALD TRUMP
FROM: NEIL FABRICANT, FED UP NEW YORKERS
SUBJECT: FOR THE CHILDREN’S SAKE, PLEASE HEAR ME OUT
I’m not so presumptuous to think I fully understand why so many white evangelicals continue to support Donald Trump. But I understand more than I did only a few months ago.
There are some things he’s delivered. But much has been sales talk and spin. If nothing else, Donald Trump is a masterful salesman. With the practiced hand gestures and feigned sincerity that he learned as a reality TV host, he stares into the camera and lies about our current crisis. He promises cures, vaccines, booming economic growth, great health care, affordable drugs, protection against the insurance company scam of “pre-existing conditions.” He promises whatever his supporters and other Americans want to hear: that wondrous things will happen. Right after the election.
As I write, he has just held what is billed as a coronavirus briefing, though there are no doctors, public health officials, or scientists with him. There’s nobody but Donald Trump up there on a podium, saying things like this:
“I think it’s been amazing what we’ve been able to do. If we didn’t close up our country, we would have had 1.5 or 2 million people already dead. We’ve called it right now, we don’t have to close it. We understand the disease. Nobody understood it because nobody’s ever seen anything like this. The closest thing is in 1917, they say, right. The great pandemic certainly was a terrible thing, where they lost anywhere from 50 to 100 million people, probably ended the Second World War. All the soldiers were sick. That was a terrible situation. And this is highly contagious. This one is highly, highly contagious.”
Where to begin? I won’t even try. Folks, look at this for yourselves. Share it with someone you respect. Do you see the lies, the bizarre statements that any first-year high-school student ought to be able to correct? Whether it’s the result of severe mental deterioration, jaw-dropping ignorance, or just brazen lies repeated over and over again, or a combination of all these things, who can say? But this is the man who holds the immense powers of the presidency. He is clearly making a play for gaining the powers of a dictator.
You, as a citizen and a voter, hold one of the most important keys to unlocking that treasure chest for him, and with it the destruction of our country.
I know it’s pointless to go down the rabbit hole of debating what’s real and what isn’t. Let’s say you believe he’s delivered on every single promise. Let’s say you believe what he says is true, and that even for the things he hasn’t delivered, if you’ll just give him another four years, he’ll get them all done, too.
Even if you believe all that, I doubt that any of those things, alone or taken together, are the reason so many evangelicals continue to support him. From everything I read, including some very recent responses some of you have written to materials we’ve posted, you believe that your political influence has been diminished over the years. You believe the values you hold have been ignored. You believe that policies you disagree with either have been advanced as constitutional rights for others—same-sex marriage and abortion come to mind—or that your own freedoms, religious and otherwise, are threatened by Joe Biden and Democrats.
Moreover, and maybe more important, you think some Americans—let’s call them “coastal elites”—regard you as unsophisticated, even ignorant. They think you’ve been conned. They don’t respect you or your views. There’s some truth to your impression of what “those people” think about you. Naturally, that makes you angry. It makes you unwilling, even unable, to hear a word of criticism regarding “your” president.
I may be wrong. But I think most evangelicals are aware of Donald Trump’s moral and ethical failings. I’ve heard some say that, but along with some interesting rationalizations. This is why so many of Trump’s evangelical supporters counter with these statements of belief:
1) God works in mysterious ways, even using corrupt people to accomplish His will;
2) To put it as mildly as I can, although he has engaged in sexually inappropriate, and even criminal behavior (He is “Individual Number One” in the Michael Cohen indictment, for example), we are all flawed;
3) He’s a changed man who has accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and has been forgiven and redeemed.
I’m sure you can find dozens of other reasons, rooted in scripture, to rationalize your continued support of this president. I’m equally sure an opponent can find just as many scripture-based reasons not to support him.
There are millions of Christians whose faith is beyond doubt and whose deeds merit profound respect. Donald Trump is not one of them. While it’s not for me to question the sincerity of another person’s faith, Donald Trump continues, right now, to take advantage of his presidency to make vast sums of money for himself. I could set out the list of corrupt transactions but I think I know that even the most blatant corruption won’t change the minds of many evangelicals who support a second term for Trump. Maybe nothing will.
CONSIDER THE CHILDREN. AND CONSIDER YOUR OWN POLITICAL INFLUENCE ON AMERICA’S FUTURE.
But I’m going to ask you to consider one reason you haven’t heard yet. My view isn’t based on scripture; it’s purely political.
First, I want to be sure you’re aware of Trump’s extreme cruelty towards innocent children. Cruelty that gives rise to perhaps the most damning indictment that non-evangelical Americans level at Trump’s supporters: of hypocrisy, that evangelicals are blinded by hate, not filled with love.
It may be that you’re not aware of his cruelty. However you learn about things outside your immediate experience, it’s possible that these sorts of episodes just haven’t come to your attention. So if you can bear it, take a look at the first minute of this video. You’ll see it’s not fake news.
You can see the cruelty with your own eyes. Hear the weeping children with your own ears. Apparently, many evangelicals ignore this, despite the admonition to “suffer the little children to come unto me.” Instead, they question the motives of the people who report and film such things, including those involved in this project.
So let me say a word about that.
I’m not a Christian. I’m a Jew; in the view of many, a heathen. I was born, raised, and have spent a lifetime in New York City.
I discovered long ago—in Army basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky—just what an alien creature I am to those who have grown up and been schooled in very different circumstances. I fully respected the professional soldiers, the drill sergeants, whose skills and discipline were something to behold. That was during the Cuban missile crisis, which historians say was the closest we have ever come to nuclear Armageddon.
That was long ago. Today my country, my family and friends—all of us—are in the gravest danger of my lifetime. Yes, it’s my country too. I’m not just visiting. I and all the other folks working on this project feel an obligation to try to do something to help us survive this crisis. And for us, it’s primarily about the children. Our own children and grandchildren, and millions of others.
TRUMP DENIES IT, BUT CHILDREN ARE AT RISK, AND THEY SPREAD THE VIRUS TO THEIR ELDERS
All those children are in danger right now. The coronavirus pandemic is raging out of control. Millions of people are infected; hundreds of thousands are dead and dying; hospitals are overflowing; health care workers are infected, dead, or dead on their feet with exhaustion; and still Donald Trump has no plan to deal with it. He stubbornly refuses to take the advice of doctors and scientists. He flouts the pleas to wear a mask so that his followers will do the same. He demands that everyone go back to school, open their businesses, and don’t bother with masks or social distancing.
Wholly concerned with “messaging”—not planning, not policy, not truth—he once claimed our children are immune to the virus.
With the evidence of that statement’s falsity piling up, he now claims,
“If you look at children, children are almost, I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease. So few. Hard to believe. I don’t know how you feel about it but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this. They don’t have a problem.”
That’s what he said on “Fox and Friends” on August 5.
By that evening, both Facebook and Twitter said his statements violated their policies against COVID-19 misinformation. Against potentially deadly lies. Facebook even took down, from Trump’s own official account, a post that repeated that Fox video clip. A spokesperson for Facebook said it contained false information: lies. Twitter likewise required a Team Trump campaign account to remove the lying tweet.
Right this minute, your own loved ones are at risk; children, as they have here, are getting very sick and sometimes die; children, whether they show symptoms or not, clearly spread the virus. In the face of those undeniable realities, should a political ideology, a religious belief, or anyone whose agenda is anything other than getting this virus under control, stand in your way of finding the truth for yourself?
The truth about the pandemic’s danger to children is easy enough to come by.
o The data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that children account for about 7.3% of COVID-19 cases. Children account for less than 1% of deaths. But that data covers the many months when millions of children stayed home, doing their classes online. Nobody knows how much worse it will get, though surely it will get worse, when children return to in-person classrooms and crowded school buildings.
o In Israel, after schools reopened late May, widespread outbreaks forced hundreds of schools to close.
o Hagai Levine, epidemiology professor at Hebrew University-Hadassah: “Opening schools, especially for children above the age of 10, in crowded settings, can facilitate transmission.”
o A recent study out of South Korea looked at more than 1,200 cases of people with COVID-19. It found that the rate of infection was three times higher for children 10 to 19 years old than for children under 10.
o The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details an outbreak at a sleep-away camp in Georgia this summer. All told, 260 children and staffers—more than three-quarters of the 344 tested—contracted the virus less than a week after spending time together in close quarters. The infected children had a median age of 12. Yet before coming to camp, all 597 campers and staff members were required to provide documentation that they had tested negative for the virus. Staff were required to wear masks, but children were not.
o From the CDC report: “These findings demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 [the current virus] spread efficiently in a youth-centric overnight setting, resulting in high attack rates among people in all age groups, despite efforts by camp officials to implement most recommended strategies to prevent transmission.”
o “Asymptomatic infection was common and potentially contributed to undetected transmission, as has been previously reported. This investigation adds to the body of evidence demonstrating that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
There’s more. For millions of families, their only hope of getting even rudimentary medical care is being directly threatened: by our own government. In the last two budgets Donald Trump has submitted to Congress, he’s tried to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Along with many states controlled by Republicans, William Barr’s Department of Justice is urging the Supreme Court to eliminate the Affordable Care Act—in the middle of a pandemic, no less.
WHY DO PROMINENT CONSERVATIVES SAY TRUMP RUNS A ‘GANGSTER REGIME’?
I know that Donald Trump is an extraordinary con man. But he’s more than that. Maybe George Will has it right. The conservative author and “Washington Post” columnist recently wrote that “the nation’s floundering government is now administered by a gangster regime.” George Will is not known for either hyperbole or liberal opinions. He is a long-time conservative who supported Barry Goldwater and, famously, prepared Ronald Reagan for his debates with Jimmy Carter.
Sometimes I surprise myself by my inclination to believe that Trump is an instrument of the devil: a thoroughly evil force, even the Antichrist, “the Beast from the Abyss.” But then I pull myself together and go back to the scientists, doctors, public health professionals, and what I can see with my own eyes. I hope you can do the same.
Still, I know none of these things will convince those who, judging from some of the responses we’ve seen, have fallen hopelessly in love with Trump. For those who don’t fit that description, but nonetheless feel that evangelicals have been disrespected, I accept your premise. I accept your reasons for voting for him in 2016.
But much has happened since 2016. We’ve all had four years of Donald Trump as president. The vast majority of Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction—rapidly. Many, perhaps the majority, believe with George Will that Donald Trump heads a gangster regime.
Whether you believe that—I do—or something less dramatic, you shouldn’t and you needn’t ignore or forgive Trump’s moral failings, his sheer incompetence, his vengefulness and his cruelty. Certainly not because he has asked for forgiveness. Donald Trump never apologizes. He never admits error or even the possibility of weakness. And it’s not because you still need him politically. You don’t. He needs you. In fact, the longer you cling to him, the less credibility evangelicals will enjoy in the court of public opinion.
EVANGELICALS ARE A POLITICAL FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH. DON’T SQUANDER THAT ON THIS UNWORTHY MAN.
Step back and think about it. No president or person who ever hopes to be president will ever again ignore the power of evangelical voters. You’ve demonstrated your importance. What you haven’t done is demonstrate the sincerity of your faith. Not by a longshot. Not when we see the faces and hear the cries of those children. Not when we see Trump holding press conferences at Mar-A-Largo and on his private golf courses, surrounded by wealthy Americans, as he destroys the last vestiges of economic security for millions of others, including his supporters.
You owe him no loyalty. If you walk away from him now, not only will your political power remain undiminished, it will be strengthened. Trump cannot rig a landslide defeat. That is what the country needs, and what will happen if you walk away. Your withdrawal and Trump’s collapse will be a powerful reminder of evangelicals’ political power.
Joe Biden will be in the White House. Do you believe, as Donald Trump wants you to believe, that Biden “will hurt God?” Do you really think Biden will “triple your taxes”? Do you think he will ignore your power? Or that any politician will? Of course not. People who run for high office—even Donald Trump—know how to count. Not only is your political power unassailable, but your moral power will be that much stronger. You will have established in the eyes of many Americans that your commitment to any politician can never be taken for granted, and that your loyalty to your values transcends politics.
Finally, I don’t make these points because I believe in what you believe. I don’t. I believe in the “Wall of Separation” between state and religion, the metaphor attributed to Thomas Jefferson but first employed by Roger Williams, founder of America’s first Baptist congregation. Williams, founder of the Rhode Island colony in 1636, believed that when that wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world was breached, “God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the candlestick, and made his garden a wilderness.”
The evangelical movement has become deeply involved in electoral politics and voter mobilization only since Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition in 1989. Ever since, it has been exploited by politicians and by many of its leaders for personal and political gain. That has been much to the detriment of both religion and civil society—and freedom. That exploitation is precisely what Roger Williams and, later, America’s founding fathers so feared.
Donald Trump is the end game. He can be reelected only with the continued support of white evangelicals or, as he is determined to do, by rigging the election with Vladimir Putin’s help. You can withdraw your support now. If you do, the so-called “faith leaders” Donald Trump has assembled will rail against your change of heart. They will attempt to convince you to keep supporting him. If you stand firm, you can help our country and uphold the integrity of your beliefs. If you falter, into the wilderness we go. All of us.
Including our children.
PLEASE SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON SOCIAL MEDIA