Any card-carrying atheist will tell you (in exhaustive detail) that there’s just too much religion in modern politics. “Doesn’t matter what politician you’re talking about,” they’ll say, even after you’ve told them six times to can it on the God talk. “There’s just too much Jesus in American legislation.”
For once, that pedantic atheist is right. God is everywhere in the landscape of US politics, no matter which side of the aisle you sit on. In a country as quintessentially religious as the United States, that’s neither unexpected nor unnecessary. Everybody bitches about “too much religion” in politics even though — for a lot of voters — “religion” just boils down to an underlying moral code. Perhaps that explains why both major US political parties are positively overflowing with religious folks.
Cards on the table, though, if you’re going to paint one of our political parties as certifiably Team Jesus, it’s the Republicans. With rare exception, members of the Grand Ole Party will tell you proudly that they’re the folks Jesus would campaign for if he weren’t so busy being friggin’ awesome.
Democrats may be just as devoted to their religion as Republicans (fun fact: Elizabeth Warren used to teach Sunday school), but they tend to keep mum on the God stuff when they’re trying to win voters. Though the right wing loves to talk about their faith, when push comes to shove, are Republicans being lead by their principles or their bank account?
How Religious Are Republicans? Super Duper.
For those of you who read the previous few paragraphs and thought to yourself, “Wait, Republicans like God?” … first of all, welcome back from your coma, and second, yes, Republicans are fans of Jesus. If they could, they would run him a warm bubble bath and massage his feet until he fell into a savior-iffic slumber.
A poll from Pew Research Center revealed that 73 percent of the GOP was absolutely certain that God exists; another seventeen percent were “fairly certain.” It bears mentioning that said 90 percent of the Republican Party skews almost entirely Evangelical or Protestant. (For some reason, Muslims, Buddhists, and Jews lean overwhelmingly to the left.)
I know what you’re thinking. Believing that God exists and voting your faith are two different issues. Well, how about this, smarty pants? The same Pew study showed that 84 percent of polled Republicans considered religion at least “somewhat important” in their daily lives.
Putting Their Vote Where the Jesus Is
In Pennsylvania, one Democratic candidate hopes those poll results aren’t just a fluke. Former Mennonite and current pastor’s wife Jess King is running for Congress in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on a platform of family values (that’s politics code for “God”). When she’s out canvassing neighborhoods for votes, King makes sure to put her faith front and center.
“In general I think it’s been an asset,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle. “They do believe you must be more conservative.”
So ingrained is the belief that Republicans are down with God and Democrats are wallowing Philistines that a mere statement of faith is enough to assure potential voters that a candidate leans to the right.
Though Donald Trump won Lancaster County in 2016 with nearly 60 percent of the vote, King is hoping that her focus on religion and community will steal voters away from the scandalized GOP. Whether or not Republicans will go for the gambit remains to be seen; if the numbers are any indication, however, King might have a shot at turning the tide.
For the GOP, Xenophobia Is the Only Thing More Important Than the Economy
Here’s a surprise: Republicans don’t always vote for the economy. So there. A poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Fund found that in established Republican districts (like Lancaster County), GOP voters backburner their economic obsession in favor of some good, old-fashioned bigotry. See?
Earlier this year, for example, comfortably Republican areas of the country considered the threats from North Korea and concerns over immigration as the country’s most pressing issues. The economy came in third. Only in regions where Republican authority is in question do conservatives prioritize the economy (they still make room for the “hating different people” thing, though).
The evidence seems to suggest that, on a day-to-day basis, Republicans are mostly worried about some vague foreign threat, just like their parents and their parents’ parents before them.
However, when some Democrat comes along with their costly social nonsense (like universal health care and climate reform), Republicans get very concerned about the security of the economy. If they don’t have to worry about some hippie taking their money, however, Republicans feel freer to shift their anxiety toward the invading hordes.
So, Who Do Republicans Love Most? The Answer Is …
As much as the numbers would point toward a Republican’s affinity for their bank account, no doubt every religious Republican would proudly proclaim that their first love was for the Lord Almighty, Jesus Yada Yada Yada.
And that’s true, at least in the same way that alternative facts are true. It’s true the same way that The New York Times prints fake news. If Republicans really love some Jesus, they love a very specific type of Jesus. The same Jesus who said, “God helps those who help themselves.” Or the a-hole whose Dad did a number on poor Job.
Though they’ll tout their “values” to the point that the party itself has become inseparable from religion, when it comes time to cast a ballot, Republicans think first with their bank account and second with their anxiety. Discerning exactly how Jesus fits into that voting strategy is a mystery.