There’s been much consternation following the publication of an article in Civiltà Cattolica attacking the alliance between Evangelicals and conservative Catholics in recent presidential elections. The authors, Antonio Spadoro and Marcelo Figueroa, don’t manage to produce a single charge that was not already thrown at President George W. Bush under the marquee heading of "Theocracy."
The only reason this article is receiving attention is the close connection between Civiltà Cattolica and the Vatican, thus giving the impression that the co-authors speak with the support of the Curia and Pope Francis himself.
I was in charge of outreach to Catholic voters for George W. Bush in both the 2000 and 2004 elections, and subsequently wrote "Onward Christian Soldiers," a 2008 book about the developing political alliance of Evangelicals and conservative Catholics. Catholics are the swing constituency in American politics, and delivered 14 percent more Catholic votes for George Bush in 2000 than Bob Dole received in 1996. That was a major factor in Bush’s victory.
In 2008 Catholics voted for Obama, but in 2016 they were plus seven for Trump, 52 to 45 percent. White Catholics were plus 23 for Trump, and this was crucially important in the rust belt states that put him over the top. The dynamics I described almost ten years ago in "Onward Christian Soldiers" were still churning in Trump’s direction.
The Democrats didn’t seriously campaign for Catholic votes in 2016, but liberals seem to have finally figured it out, and that’s what’s behind the charges of theocracy. As if Catholics and Evangelicals want to impose some kind of Holy Fascism, Iranian-style.
Spadoro and Figueroa cite three figures — Lyman Steward, Pastor Rousas John Rushdonny, and Norman Vincent Peale — to find Christian Trump supporters guilty of Fundamentalism. They suggest that that’s what Reagan and Bush secretly wanted. But anyone with the slightest acquaintance of either man would roll their eyes at this. Only Italian academics with the visceral hatred for American conservatism could come up with such nonsense over their lattes.
I once asked President Bush what he thought about Rushdoody, the founder of Dominionism, and he answered, "Rush-what-did-you-say?" I had to briefly explain to him that Dominionism taught that the Book of Genesis gave humanity "dominion" over creation. He didn’t seem interested in hearing much more about it. But our diligent co-authors use Dominionism to explain lack of enthusiasm for getting on the climate change bandwagon shown by Trump and his backers.
Nevertheless, our "political Manichaeism" is blameworthy because we employ a "political strategy for success becomes that of raising the tones of the conflictual, exaggerating disorder, agitating the souls of the people by painting worrying scenarios beyond any realism." Perhaps the co-authors didn’t pay much attention to the highly charged rhetoric of President Obama, such as:
"Today we are engaged in a deadly global struggle for those who would intimidate, torture, and murder people for exercising the most basic freedoms. If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction." (Emphasis added)
If any one person or party is sounding apocalyptic at the present moment, it's the Democratic Party and its leadership. Need I illustrate?
And speaking of Obama, the co-authors play the racist card by noting that the fundamentalism embraced by Reagan and Bush was born in the "deep American South" and was composed "mainly of whites." I guess they’ve never heard of the greatest of all revival preachers during that period, Billy Sunday, who was born in Chicago. Or the fact, somewhat later, that Billy Graham’s career was launched by the Los Angeles Crusade held in 1949.
Attempting to put all Catholic Trump supporters in the worst possible light, the co-authors throw in a few quotes from an organization called Church Militant, led by the very marginal Michael Voris. The authors seem unaware that Voris has played no political role in any presidential election since 2000. In fact, Voris publicly scolded EWTN news director Raymond Arroyo and me for holding a conference call about Donald Trump with some Florida Catholic voters.
The real religious fanatics are people like Spadoro and Figueoa who want to demonize Catholic Republican voters in America. They suppose that American Evangelicals are the cartoonish bigots that our elite media portrays them to be, that they are Hillary’s "deplorables." That’s nonsense, of course. They’re our neighbors, and we know them to be good and decent people. There was a time when Catholics took some heat from Protestants who worried that we’d take political direction from the Vatican. It turns out that that’s exactly what Spadoro and Figueroa are trying to do — dictate to American Catholic voters. They should be ashamed of themselves.
"Make America Great Again" was the theme of Donald Trump’s campaign and now his administration. Where is the fear in that? The only fear it evokes is in the likes of Spadoro and Figueroa who would rather see the U.S. remain under the thumb of the Clintons, the Obamas, the United Nations, and George Soros.
Dr. Deal W. Hudson took over Crisis Magazine in 1995, leaving in 2010 to become president of Catholic Advocate. While at Crisis, Hudson led the Catholic voter outreach for President George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and later advised the campaigns of both John McCain and Donald Trump on Catholic outreach. In 2014, he began his weekly two-hour radio show, "Church and Culture," on the Ave Maria Radio Network, and launched www.thechristianreview.com in 2015. His books include "Happiness and the Limits of Satisfaction" and "Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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