Last Tuesday the Methodist Chaplaincy of Trinity held their usual bi-weekly ‘God on Tap’ discussion. This time the topic of discussion was more controversial than usual, namely ‘why people of faith are voting for Trump’. I was intrigued to discover how people of faith could possibly be reconciling their views with the rhetoric of Donald Trump.
In the setting of the Pav, an Oklahoma-born and raised man by the name of Blake Edgeman gave us his personal insights into why people of faith in the US, particularly in the bible belt, will be voting for Trump. He did not disclose whether he himself was voting for Trump, rather the point of the discussion was to understand why members of religious communities feel this way about the candidates.
Edgeman has been living in Ireland for a number of years and he highlighted that the media coverage we receive in Ireland of the election is limited and “incomplete”. It is not reflective of how many people feel on the ground. He has many friends living in the US who are “reasonable and intelligent” people who will be making the decision to vote red at the ballot box.
For many people of faith, the life of the unborn is very important. Hilary has a pro-choice stance which proves problematic for Christians in particular. Trump claims he intends to appoint pro-life Supreme Court Justices, who are nominated by the President.
Many citizens are disenchanted by “the system” in America. Corruption has been an issue and people of faith may believe that Trump will be a “wrecking ball to the system”, crashing parts of the system “that need to be crashed”. In this way, voting for Trump may be a protest vote for some people of faith who are disillusioned by the political scene in America. For many, Clinton is seen as equally corrupt, but the “lawlessness is hidden”.
Trump is quite receptive to the needs of Christian religious communities in the US according to Edgeman. He is notably more open to them than previous Presidents. He has met with many pastors and spoken to them about their concerns and this engagement has won him support from the communities.
It is important to try put ourselves in the shoes of religious citizens who are opting for Trump and not to dismiss them as as ‘insane’ or ‘crazy’. Instead, we should try to see their ‘weltanschauung’ (world view). People who have spent their whole lives living in certain communities may have different values due to their circumstances. It is difficult for those of us outside of that context to comprehend the rationale behind their decisions, but for them it is a logical choice.
The floor was opened for general discussion and the attendees were able to address some of our concerns about the actions of and values Trump has expressed which are deeply upsetting for certain groups. There were American students in Trinity present who articulated their difficulties with both Clinton and Trump as candidates, and the general anger with the system in the US.
One student used the analogy of the system as a game. Hilary has perpetuated the corrupt nature of the game, Trump has been the “player” of the game, using it to his advantage. It then becomes a question of which you actually hate; the player or the game itself.
‘God on Tap’ is held every two weeks and people of all faith backgrounds or no faith background are welcome to join the discussion. Other topics have included consumerism and healthy relationships. God on Tap is about “finding the divine in the conversation” according to Rev. Julian Hamilton, chaplain of the Methodist church in Trinity. In conclusion to the discussion, Hamilton referenced the importance in Christian scripture of engaging the Other. In Scripture we do not build walls against the Other.
Scripture stresses tolerance and dialogue with the Other. Both candidates may be disappointing in this regard. The round table discussion of the issues was incredibly thought-provoking and God on Tap definitely offers fresh insights into challenging and multi faceted subjects. Rev. Hamilton explained that the aim is “to find the light” in these conversations, and many students come away with an enhanced understanding of themselves and the views of others.