I can’t say I know a single Puritan, but strains of puritanism linger in strange places. The thought came to mind when reading in the Psalms recently. There are numerous passages assuring the reader that “The Lord loves the righteous; the Lord cares for the stranger; he sustains the orphan and widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.” (Ps. 146) One might wonder how thoughts of puritanism worked their way into a passage like that, so I’ll explain.
Important to Puritan thinking was the idea of the reprobate, one predestined for eternal damnation. In their calvinistic way of understanding God’s grace, some were predestined for salvation, and many were predestined for damnation. While one could never be sure who was who, it was obvious that certain lifestyles indicated damnation. The known reprobates were lazy, shiftless, irresponsible, drank too much, and didn’t adhere to the social standards of the community. There were also indicators of salvation. The Lord showered the righteous, whom he loved, with the good things of life. The way of the wicked was frustrated, and it showed in how they lived their misbegotten lives.
It’s that part that lingers on. The very conservative people I know are concerned about the moral decay of America, which they understand to include liberalism (whatever that is) and homosexuality. They’re loathe to admit it also includes greater anxiety about the rise of non-white people displacing their majority status, or that a black president was a step too far, but it’s there in the subtext of their conversations. They believe their own way of life (and thinking) exhibits the kind of righteousness God prefers and has blessed.
They’re not without genuine compassion for those in need. Of course the unfortunate need to be helped, one at a time, as they deserve, through local resources, mostly charitable, as needed to get them back on their feet. But the reprobates, the lazy shiftless ones, are not deserving until they show willingness to change their ways. Their misfortune is their own fault, and that’s the way it is – bless their souls.
Liberals pouring tax payer dollars down the rat hole trying to make life better for them is more than wasteful. It’s misuse of money forcibly taken from those who’ve earned it to make life easy for those who aren’t willing to earn it for themselves. If liberals had their way, government would run everything, no one would have any rights, everyone would be entitled, and the worst of European socialism would replace American democracy. Opening the flood gates of immigration, liberals would cause the nation to be overrun by the dregs of society from violent countries, reprobates all, sinking the country into the depths of damnation.
Who stands in the way of such a disaster? Trump does.
What makes Trump not simply tolerable, but worthy of support? He understands and agrees with them that to restore national morality, the government must stop mollycoddling reprobates, and enact policies that reward those who are willing to work hard to help themselves. After all, if the Lord helps those who help them selves, shouldn’t the government should do likewise? Moreover, he understands that shutting down the tide of immigration across the southern border is needed to keep the nation a place of safety and prosperity for the hard working people God has destined to be blessed.
Not so many years ago fundamentalist Christians asserted that world was a battleground between good and evil, the outcome of which was uncertain. Christians were called to be prayer warriors standing in the breach to take up the fight against the Devil’s forces. The overtly religious fervor of that call faded, but its secular version has lived on and has political staying power.
That Trump’s own lifestyle is a blazing neon sign of sure and certain reprobation is offset by his wealth, and public adoration of the (hard) working class on whose behalf, he, and only he, will make America Great Again. Whatever his eternal destiny, God has made him the agent of their desires for the present, and that’s good enough for them.
It’s a remnant of puritanism with a faustian twist.