It isn’t What It is … and It always Never was

President Trump and his staff of Pro-life Christians walk into a bar.

The bartender says, “Every 24 hours, COVID-19 kills another thousand people.”

“Not on my watch,” says the president, and everyone laughs.

Get it; not on my watch? No wait, that’s not it. You see, they’re all Pro-life Christians; now do you get it? No, not really? Okay, maybe it’s not funny. Maybe it’s an absurd postulation. Why, for Christ’s sake, would Pro-life Christians be hanging out with Trump? Christians are merciful, respondent to the pain and suffering of others, right? Pro-life sentiment reveres the sanctity of life, right? With Trump you can look, but you can’t see any of that morality; it’s just not in his wheelhouse. While he might pay lip service to Pro-life and Christian declarations, he blatantly lives and governs otherwise. So, in what world would Pro-life Christians chum-about with and back-slap one who exemplifies the antithesis of their professed morality?

That would be this world. Trump is surrounded and abetted by Pro-life Christians. It doesn’t seem to make sense, but it’s true. Trump’s cabinet/staff includes Mike Pence, William Barr, Mike Pompeo, Kellyanne Conway, Mark Meadows, Kayleigh McEnany, Paula White and others who have displayed Christian grounding and Pro-life affirmation throughout their lives. Donald Trump is the unique outlier under the White House roof; he’s the only late-bloomer. He became Pro-life in 2012, neatly concurrent with his presidential ambitions. He went full Monty a short time later as a born-again Christian. He did what needed to be done; he put a check mark in the proper boxes and adroitly became one with a large block of voters and a supportive Christian team. So, there they now are; all united in avowals of Christian morality and Pro-life sentiment. And here we now are: an intolerant and fearful nation; backs turned to the huddled masses; offering up human sacrifice to escape the economic discomfort of COVID-19.

It’s a strange picture isn’t it; seeing them work together, seeing Pro-life Christian support for a president whose daily governance is grossly at odds with Christian idealism and concern for human life. His Pro-life pronouncements are heard and recorded, but the words don’t hide what the eyes can see. There’s the inhumane travesty taking place at the nation’s borders (and the administration’s continuous anti-immigrant, anti-DACA fervor). There’re the thousands upon thousands of COVID-19 deaths accepted as reasonable price to pay for supposed political/economic expediency (and for something as trite as anti-mask vanity). The visuals jump out at you; the inhumanity; the suffering; the dying. Alongside it is the support; Pro-life Christian support for a president who cultivates intolerance, misery, and death. It is strange fruit to nurture, isn’t it?

Why are they there? Why are Pro-life Christians giving credence to an amoral and merciless president, a president openly dismissive of human life? It’s not like it just now revealed itself; Trump’s disregard of truth, decency, and humanity was apparent long before it was amplified by COVID-19. It was on display prior to, and throughout his ongoing presidency: the lies, the veiled entreaties to violence, the overtures to racism; the cultural divisiveness; the ridicule of the disabled, the denigration of immigrants, minorities, and women; the callous imprisonment and separation of desperate families at our border. The devaluation of human life is not new, not subtle, and not ending; so why do Pro-life Christians stand with him? Why did they ever? Why do they still? It’s been four years now; four years of witnessing; four years of validating hypocrisy and disregard for human life. Somehow Trump’s Pro-life Christian supporters still talk the talk for him; still walk the walk with him. How can they be what they claim to be and still be there? What do they get from it? What’s the draw?

Is it just a matter of show-case hypocrisy; a pretense of values not truly held? Trump’s timely adoption of Pro-life Christian values can easily be seen in that light, but what of the rest? Are they all just faking it for appearance sake? Or is it something else? Does Pro-life avowal come with a nine-month expiration date? Does the high regard given prenatal life somehow allow for the disregard of postnatal life? Is it really possible that embryonic and fetal life is deemed of higher value than life outside the womb? Is that the fallback to grace? It seems a stretch, but who’s to say it can’t be made? Maybe some cognitive steps to that judgment can be imagined:

Life in the womb, particularly its latter stages, could be perceived and labeled as baby. Preventing its birth could be perceived and labeled as killing. What could possibly be worse than being labeled a baby killer? Conversely, what could possibly be better than being recognized for saving a baby – or just being for the saving of babies? Pro-life avowal grants it; the recognition and self-validation gained of being a baby savior. It has better graphics than regard for human life in general. So, with that kind of thought process, perhaps it’s possible to value embryonic life over its later stages. It might even provide a wild card of sorts; one that can trump or excuse pernicious behavior: “Yeah, but I’m still Pro-life, you can’t forget that.” Maybe Trump’s staff has arrived at such a station: “We’re Pro-life; we’re all about saving babies, future babies – the other stuff, the other lives; they don’t really matter all that much.”

So, maybe one can get there, but it still seems a stretch to struggle down that path; to actually suppose that a conscientious person can justify and facilitate the misery and death of the already born, because they’re supportive of the yet to be born.

If it’s not that; if it’s not shallow hypocrisy; if it’s not a convoluted mental process prioritizing the yet to be born over the already born, how else can it be explained? How can Pro-life Christians still abide with him? They have to be getting something from it. What’s the draw?

Christianity will have power,” Donald Trump promised as a candidate — perhaps that’s the real draw. The promise follows up on the “Christianity is under siege,” theme that he and his audience like to repeat. It’s a false and glorified claim. It’s false because in the United States there’s no one waging war against Christianity. While it may have lost some of its long-held popularity; some of its preeminence, Christianity is not under siege. “Under siege” is nothing more than glorified pretext for its slowly waning influence. And it’s only just a little. Despite some fading, Christianity continues to be the dominate religion and a dominant political power in our “secular” nation. Our leaders are still chosen accordingly (Jefferson and Lincoln were the only presidents not formally affiliated with a Christian church). There is no siege on Christianity, but there may be an assault on Washington: it’s a Christian quest for more power; more political and cultural control over the lives of all Americans.

“If I’m there, you’re going to have plenty of power, you don’t need anybody else. You’re going to have somebody representing you very, very well. Remember that,” Trump offered the Evangelicals. His offer, and its acceptance, gives credence to the notion: Christian empowerment is the real objective; “Pro-life” is simply the rebel-yell made towards getting it. Maybe that’s why they’re still there; still supportive of a president who talks “Pro-life,” while his actions trash Christian morality and the sanctity of life. Maybe that’s it, validation and power; a quid pro quo: verbal and ballot box support given in exchange for the promise of executive support. It might still be seen as hypocrisy … but at least it’s not the shallow sort. It’s deep and layered: Trump’s faithful supporters have to pretend they’re not seeing the president’s pretense as he exploits their pretension of upholding pretended Christian morality. Yeah, it gets complicated. Christianity’s dalliance with Trump exposes its Pro-life pretense. It isn’t what it is, or something like that … and it always never was.

If it were more than pretense, if Pro-life was really about the sanctity and full breadth of life, its totality would be recognized and championed – not just its presence inside a womb. It wouldn’t herald the embryonic and fetal beginnings of life, and somehow be silent (or complicit) when the lives of still breathing humans are dismissed or abused. If it were truly about the reverence of life, Trump’s Pro-life Christian staff and his Pro-life Christian supporters would not stand for the abuse of life taking place at the border; would not stand for lives needlessly given over to COVID-19.

All that groveling in a quest for power; and to think they already have it – at least as much as needed. They have the power to worship; to pray; to live a moral Christian life. They have unfettered access to what’s perceived as salvation’s path; freedom to spend their life’s journey upon it. They’re free to proselytize if the wish; to offer access to that path. Christians have the power and freedom to live their faith completely, even ostentatiously if they wish. Yet it’s not enough; it seems more than “freedom of religion” is desired. What’s still lacking; what’s being reached for appears to be this: a bit of authoritarian power to impose Christian values upon others. There’s an absurdity to it; the needless need to control more than themselves. In abiding with, and abetting an amoral president to satisfy that need, they make mockery of the morality they seek power to promote.

“I will never lie to you,” was a promise made by one of Trump’s Pro-life Christian staff members. “I will never lie to myself,” would have been a better utterance. Can it be made by a Pro-life Christian who supports this president? Can anyone with humanistic values support this president and not lie to themselves?

There’s still time to step away.

Vern Loomis lives in the Detroit area and occasionally likes to comment on news and events that interest him in whatever capacity available. Some of his other musings can be found at Transcend Media Service, ZNetwork, CounterPunch, The Humanist, and The Apathetic Agnostic. Read other articles by Vern.