President Obama’s constant calls for Americans to “disagree without being disagreeable” now feel like an ironic epitaph to a bygone era of somewhat better feelings. With the inauguration of our new Incivilitarian-in-Chief, a man who has apparently elevated ad hominem to new heights of electoral success, surely the once perennial bloom is, at long last, off the “civilitarian” rose?
As Nadia Marzouki, Duncan McDonnell, and Olivier Roy remark, there is an important distinction to be drawn between the churches and the populist movements: “populists speak of identity and churches speak of faith.” Democracies will always bring forth populist movements when a broad cross-section of the democratic order feels, correctly or incorrectly, that their concerns are not being recognized by the establishment. For good or ill, these movements provide a corrective to the ruling order and call for reforms.
The paradox I wish to explore, with reference to developments in Northern and Western Europe, is that religion also informs assertively secular understandings and discourses of nationhood—and not simply as their evident target, but as their putative foundation.
Recent opinion polls suggest that more white evangelicals will vote for Donald Trump in 2016 than voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. Why? Why would white evangelicals pull the lever for a man who is the walking antithesis of most everything they claim to stand for—family values, piety, humility, and forgiveness?