It’s no secret that Conservatism and Christianity in the United States are two sides of the same coin. The Republican party preaches Christian family values, and Republican voters elect congressperson after congressperson to carry those Christian values into office. Only 3 percent of Conservatives don’t believe in God, and 78 percent are certain of their belief in God.
While the United States was intended to be a secular nation, when Dwight Eisenhower added the term “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance and coined “in God we trust” as the United States’ official motto he faced little backlash. At the time, over 90 percent of the adult population at the time was Christian. As time has gone on, societal views have progressed, but the Conservative party continues to play into this outdated Christian rhetoric.
Preserving the Past
In the second half of the 20th century, most people didn’t mind that religion and politics were intertwined. However, Christianity has shrunk in popularity over time. For many Christians, this is more than just an unfortunate circumstance—it’s a threat to their country.
Much to their dismay, Christian Conservatives from older generations have seen rights for marginalized groups grow dramatically. Women now outnumber men in the college-educated labor force and the percentage of women in the workforce has almost doubled since 1950. In 1996, the Clinton administration signed the Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as an entity solely between one man and one woman. Twelve years later, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, and legislators enshrined this right nationwide in 2015. The same year, two million people attended New York City Pride. In 2019, attendees doubled. Conservative values today provide a safe haven for older Christians who are unwilling to accept new aspects of American society.
As the values they’ve grown up with rapidly decline, people from the older generation feel as though they have to save Christianity in their country to preserve its moral integrity. It’s reasonable to understand why older Christian Conservatives find solace in their religion: it’s the only place that continues to reinforce the societal ideals that they grew up with.
Christian Conservatives advocate heavily for “traditional family values.” While much of our society begins to stray away from the ideas that marriage should be between one man and one woman, that men should be the providers, and that a woman’s purpose is to have children, many Christian Conservatives still hold these ideas near and dear to their hearts. Under the umbrella of family values, Conservative leaders have built an empire of divisive political issues, from combatting gay marriage to denying transgender people’s right to use their bathroom of choice.
In 2022, Florida passed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, and many other states proposed similar legislation. These types of laws, which prevent LGBTQ+ children from expressing their identity and enable anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in schools, gained Florida governor Ron DeSantis national attention among Conservatives. At a speech at Hillsdale College, DeSantis advised students to “put on the full armor of God” to “stand firm against the left’s schemes.”
Christian Conservatives strongly support the campaign of anti-wokeness that DeSantis has promoted. In the 2022 election, DeSantis won 60 percent of votes in Florida, and Conservatives are replicating his policies nation-wide. Advocacy for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has brought DeSantis incredible popularity, demonstrating the importance of these issues to Conservatives.
Republicans are supposedly the party of Christianity; yet, they’re the party against welfare and the party against gun control. This is true even though the Bible clearly emphasizes giving to those in need and that it is a sin to murder. While Conservatives might argue that charities are more effective than welfare, the reality is that welfare is crucial to providing social insurance for those in need, and prevents philanthropic particularism, which means that those in need are able to get help based on what they need instead of getting what charities might want to give. Additionally, the Conservative push against gun control contradicts their dedication to Christian family values, considering that gun violence is the leading cause of death among teens and children in the United States. There’s no clear way to fix the hypocrisy that exists within Conservative Christian ideology; however, we can examine its causes.
Ironically, the ideas behind “traditional family values” have only minor biblical origins. However, by creating a mold for the traditional person and family, Christians inevitably force some people to fall outside of this mold. In many sects of Christianity, there is an “us versus them” mentality, where everyone who is not “saved” by Christianity is immoral, or at least morally inferior. While these Christians might care about pacifism or generosity, these personal values do not directly influence society as a whole. Conservatism allows for Christians to set aside the psychological difficulties of separating politics and religion.
Over half of all Conservatives are Protestant, with most of these people falling under Evangelical religions. Evangelical Christianity differs from other Christian sects because it emphasizes converting others and accepting salvation. For Evangelicals, salvation is the only path towards eternal happiness for both themselves and those around them. All sects of Christianity believe that they must follow the word of God and live life without sin to be saved, but what makes Evangelicals especially susceptible to Conservative ideology is its emphasis on the idea that the Bible was created without flaws. Evangelicals rely on the Bible’s interpretations of marriage, gender, and sexuality literally and without context. Because of this, Evangelicals identify heavily with the traditional ideals promoted by Conservatives.
The “us versus them” mentality causes most Christians—Evangelicals included—to deem anyone who does not participate to be unsaved and inferior in the eyes of God. This mentality translates especially unfavorably into politics because no one, religious or not, would support a party that they felt was morally inept.
The question then becomes: is compromise with Christians in politics even possible? This seems like it would be an easy question, considering that the United States is secular in its founding. However religion is more than just a weekly activity for the people who participate in it. For these people, religion serves as a compass for decision making that roots deep into their values. The issue, though, is not that religious people are involved in politics, rather that religion is manipulated for political gain.
Realistically speaking, fixing this issue would take an intense overhaul of our political system, media system, and most of the churches in the United States. Churches, as well as politicians, benefit from the rhetoric that the Conservative party promotes. The media, who also profits from this ideology, only exacerbates the issue. When such a threat is being perpetuated by peoples’ churches, which they deeply trust, their politicians, who they voluntarily elect, and their media, which they consume daily, it is unlikely that anyone will see or care about the manipulation brought about by these entities.
Ultimately, all we can do is thoroughly examine the power structures in our own lives to understand what they gain from our beliefs. While the church and Conservative politicians serve as an example of this trap of ideological manipulation, all entities in positions of power seek to gain something, and we must keep this in mind to understand our own views and their relevance in our lives.