Why is Donald Trump Winning Over Evangelical Voters?

Donald Trump isn’t just leading the opinion polls among likely Republican voters, he’s also now leading among evangelical Christians in Iowa, in South Carolina, and in some national polls.

Why?

It certainly can’t be his Christianity. Despite recent protestations, he doesn’t have much of that. Consider the following:

  • He’s on his third marriage.
  • He runs the Miss World contest.
  • He boasts continuously about his self-made-ness.
  • He can’t name a favorite Bible verse.
  • He says he doesn’t ask God for forgiveness.
  • He takes communion because it makes him feel cleaner.
  • He says he’s a church-goer but his church says he’s not an active member.
  • He regularly insults people who disagree with him.
  • He is rude towards women and minorities.
  • “He personifies greed, embodies pride, radiates lust.”

As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, put it, “I don’t see someone interested in serving God. I see someone interested in being God.”

On top of all that, many of the other candidates say they are evangelicals.

Why? Why? Why?

So why the increasing levels of support for Trump while “evangelical” candidates are sinking? Columnists of every stripe and hue are struggling to answer this question, (just Google “Evangelicals and Trump” to sample the media disarray on the question).

In a previous article I wrote about how much of his support is coming from Republicans who have come to despise the political class. As Peggy Noonan put it recently: “His rise is not due to his supporter’s anger at government. It is a gesture of contempt for government, for the men and women in Congress, the White House, the agencies.”

Many evangelicals can be found among that group. But anti-politician feeling can’t explain all of Trump’s support. In talking to people over the last week or so, I’ve heard some Christians express an additional thought, and that’s anti-media sentiment. As one woman put it to me, “People are fed up with journalists choosing our candidates and presidents.”

That might explain why Trump’s support surged even after he feuded with the popular conservative journalist, Megyn Kelly. It also explains why the more the media hammer Trump, the more his support grows. People want to send a message not just to the politicians but to the media that it’s “we the people” who choose our leaders not “you the media.” People are sick and tired of the media spinning, the utter dishonesty of so many journalists, the bias, the prejudice, and so on, and want to communicate how much they despise their opinions and practices.

Honesty or Hypocrisy

But are Christians really going to support a non-Christian when there are Christian alternatives? Some Christians are saying, “Well, every President for the last 20 years has said ‘I’m a Christian” and where did that get us?” Maybe it’s better to have someone who doesn’t pretend to be a Christian but who is not afraid of the media, who is not in it for personal enrichment, who is competent, and who is able to get things done. Someone who just does what he says he will do. Better honesty than hypocrisy.

I get the increasing impression that Christians are prepared to risk sacrificing some previously important priorities for the greater end of striking a hopefully fatal blow to the almost omnipotent political and media establishment. It’s a big risk, but people, especially the middle class, have been driven to desperation by the Republicans giving their money to big business, by the Democrats giving their money to big welfare, and by journalists who have got way too big for their screens.

To put it simply, Christians, like much of the general population, are fed up with the lies and falsehoods of politicians and the media, and they want a clear out. Trump is their way of saying to all of them at once, “You’re fired!”

Christians may disagree with many of Trump’s views and values. But they do like his truthfulness. In some ways, it’s the most basic value of all; without it, our whole society falls apart, as we are seeing.

As long as Trump tells the truth, and remains the WYSIWYG candidate, Christians are going to support him, even if they disagree with many of his views. As Kylie sang, “Better the devil you know.”


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World Happiness Report 2015

Happiness is increasingly considered a proper measure of social progress and a goal of public policy. Hence the latest World Happiness Report, first published in 2012 in support of the United Nations High Level Meeting on Happiness and Well-being. In addition to measuring GDP (Gross Domestic Product) each nation is also to measure GNH (Gross National Happiness).

While the United Kingdom presently leads the field in its scientific and analytical approach to viewing well-being as a guide for public policy, the United Arab Emirates is hard at its heels with its stated National Agenda aim “to be the happiest of all nations.” Individual cities around the world are competing for “Happy City” status.

As reading a 172-page UN report is unlikely to make anyone happy, I sacrificed my well-being to provide you with a summary:

Key Variables

The six key variables that were measured for 158 nations were;

  • GDP per capita
  • Healthy years of life expectancy
  • Social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble)
  • Trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business),
  • Perceived freedom to make life decisions
  • Generosity (as measured by recent donations, adjusted for differences in income).

Top and Bottom

Using those criteria, the Top 5 nations are:

  1. Switzerland
  2. Iceland
  3. Denmark
  4. Norway
  5. Canada

The USA comes in at #15 (after Mexico), and the UK at #21 (just two places above Venezuela).

The unhappiest place to live is Togo, Syria being third last, and Afghanistan in sixth last position.

Positive and Negative 

Some of the analysis went deeper than looking at the six key variables and included a range of positive and negative experiences.

The positive items include: happiness, smiling or laughter, enjoyment, feeling safe at night, feeling well-rested, and feeling interested.

The six negative items are: anger, worry, sadness, depression, stress and pain.

Policy Implications

The benefits of new policies should be measured in terms of the impact of the change upon the happiness of the population.

Decisions have to be made between prioritizing the reduction of misery or increasing existing happiness.

Policy decision should also decide how much consideration should be given to the happiness of future generations.

“To build a better world requires that decision-makers give a central role to the happiness criterion in decision-making at every level.”

The Neuroscience of Happiness

Four scientifically proven supports for well-being are:

  • Sustained positive emotion
  • Quick recovery from negative experiences
  • Empathy, altruism, and pro-social behavior
  • Concentration and mindfulness

The neural circuits underlying these four supports for well-being all exhibit plasticity and therefore can be transformed through experience and training.

One especially interesting experiment used a smartphone app to sample the ability of 2000 individuals to concentrate as they went about their daily business:

They were interested in the frequency with which people reported their minds to be wandering (i.e., not focused on the activity in which they were predominantly engaged). At the same time, they also asked participants to rate the degree to which they were happy or unhappy at that moment. They found that on average, these participants reported their minds to be wandering 47% of the time. Moreover, when they reported their minds to be wandering, they also reported significantly more unhappiness than when they were focused on the activity at hand.

In other words, our ability to concentrate without being distracted is a key to well-being and happiness.

The Happiness of Children

Around 10% of the world’s children today (200 million children) are suffering from diagnosable mental health problems. Roughly half of these are suffering from anxiety disorders (or, less commonly, depression) and half from conduct disorder or attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Approximately 1% of all children suffer from developmental disorders such as autism.

This is serious enough in itself. But, on top of that, over half the children who experience mental illness in childhood will suffer from mental illness again as adults. Their lives are more likely to be impoverished and unhappy.

Of the three key features of child development (academic, behavioral, or emotional) emotional development best predicts whether the resulting adult will be satisfied with life. Academic achievement is the worst.

Corruption

Well-being depends heavily on the pro-social behavior (honesty, trust, generosity, etc) of members of the society. The least corrupt societies have the most pro-social behavior and the most corrupt have the least.

Conclusion

The science is both fascinating and frustrating. The findings are interesting but the solutions unsatisfying. Despite all the scientific analysis, the universal search for happiness continues unabated through the decades and centuries. And the target still remains elusive. Apart from the National league tables which will show some changes from year to year, the World Happiness Report for 3015 (D.V.)  will probably look much the same as that for 2015. Evidence-based research might help to diagnose some of the secondary problems but the primary problem remains – the soul that was made for God will never be happy without Him.


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Highland Hymn: Glory to the Holy One Concert (Saint Andrew’s Chapel)

Lyrics:

Above the mists of Highland hills
E’en far above the clear blue skies
The end of pain and earthly ills
When we shall see His eyes

Refrain

Lutes will sing
Pipers play
When we see Him face to face
On that day

His face now hidden from our sight
Concealed from ev’ry hidden gaze
In hearts made pure from sinful f light
Is the bliss that will amaze

Refrain

We know not yet what we will be
In heaven’s final blessed state
But know we now that we shall see
Our Lord at heaven’s gate

The beatific glory view
That now our souls still long to see
Will make us all at once anew
And like Him forever be

Refrain