Christians have been trained since birth to fall for someone like Trump. They have been taught to accept authority; they’ve been taught to ignore evidence; they’ve been taught to reinterpret a plain sentence; they’ve been taught to accept feelings as truth; they’ve been taught to decide based on fear.
This is exemplified with the recent international incident Trump created by apparently tweeting the voices in his head. Here is a video of Trump being asked what happened in the lead up to the tweet in which he accused Obama of spying on him illegally (conversation starts at 10:10).
Tucker asks Trump what happened to cause him to believe that this wiretapping happened. Trump could have said an aide rushed into the room, he got an email, he had a security briefing etc. But instead he references two news articles that did not talk about Trump Tower being wiretapped. He actually says that everyone is talking about wiretapping, like that is evidence for his claim. It looks like he simply invented it. Amazingly, he still believes it, even to the point of accusing a strong ally of colluding in this conspiracy theory. It is hard to see this as something other than paranoid delusion.
It is not different, however, from President Bush claiming that God told him to invade Iraq. “Did you mean Iran, sir?” Mmm. “No, I’m pretty sure God said Iraq.”
Somehow these have become acceptable, and my view is that Christians have learned how to think in this way; to move from speculation to acceptance. “It could be true…” is enough to accept the resurrection, creationism, Intelligent Design, that vaccinations cause autism, that the sun is causing climate change, that reduced taxes on the rich help the poor, and that Obama spied on Trump. But all these things should only be accepted if there is evidence.
Or think about the wall. Trump apologists, largely Christians who have trained themselves to see Jesus calling a woman a dog and reinterpret it to mean something else, tell us that he means an electronic wall or something sensible. They convince themselves that he means that, because he must mean that. He did not and does not, but these pundits supported him anyway despite the fact that they themselves clearly found his stated position absurd. Trump was clear about what he was going to do, and now he is doing it. But the acceptance of Trump was predicated on a reinterpretation of his plain statement into something more reasonable.
Imagine two people playing chess. Both look the part. Both move the pieces. Both have serious looks of concentration on their faces. But one wins, game after game after game. One is a skilled chess player; the other is an actor. They both look like they are doing the same thing, but one is rational, skillful, strategic, purposeful, deliberate. The other just looks like he is, while doing whatever pops into his head.
I remember once as a child playing in a chess competition. In one particular game I realized that I was hopelessly outgunned, so I did want any good Christian boy would do and prayed for divine guidance. Somehow I did not see it as cheating. I lost the game hopelessly. Relying on bolts from the blue is not a good strategy. Inspiration needs the 99% perspiration of checking and double-checking and calculating and considering and reconsidering.
Obama was skillful, thoughtful, intelligent and consulted with experts. As a consequence, the number of abortions in the country went down to the lowest level since Roe v Wade; unemployment dropped; health insurance coverage increased. Win after win after win.
Trump is moving pieces around in a vaguely presidential way. But his Presidential orders get blocked, his health care lacks compassion and is wildly unpopular, his ethics and financial disinterest are questionable (to put it at its mildest). Loss after loss after loss. But the thing is, that Trump himself is profiting personally, just like he said he would. When he was asked about his failed casino, he said that he made out very nicely so he regarded it as a success. The losses to the contractors, the employees, the city, and the investors were irrelevant to him because he personally made off with a few million dollars. He told us all that he would employ the same strategy here and he is doing it. So while he is losing the chess game, over and over again, he is doing just fine with the dodgy gambling ring that’s betting on it, if I can stretch the analogy just a bit further.
The real losers here are the people he is utterly and supremely unconcerned about as he bludgeons his way towards yet more wealth for him and his family. People like the voters and colleagues. The people who were trained from birth to worship someone like him (or at least someone who has evolved in the popular conception to be like him); not to question him or his evidence; to revere the white male position at the top of the hierarchy (the irony); not to trust their own morality; not to trust their own rationality; not even to trust their own senses. I get that many of them voted because they believed they had a moral duty to do so because of their understanding of abortion issue. But whether that or some other lie, Christians were ready to swallow it because they have been trained from birth not to look at evidence.
It turns out that the resurrection of Jesus is not supported by the evidence, evolution is, vaccinations do not cause autism, human activity is causing climate change, and progressive taxes do not cause financial ruin. Religious thinking is having palpable consequences, and that people have been trained to think this way is now a significant issue. Not necessarily in their personal lives – surprisingly rationality is not really needed for day-to-day living for most people. But the wider consequences are starting to show.