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Donald Trump: I'll block immigrants who "don’t like our religion" from entering the U.S.
What's "our religion"?
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During a rally in New Hampshire yesterday, former President Donald Trump promised that, if reelected, he would block immigrants who “don’t like our religion” from coming into the United States.
… And I will implement strong ideological screening of all immigrants. If you hate America, if you want to abolish Israel, if you don’t like our religion (which a lot of them don’t), if you sympathize with Jihadists, then we don’t want you in our country and you are not getting in… We don’t want you! Get out of here! You’re fired!
In a country of over 330 million people—founded on the principle of religious freedom, no less—which religion is “our” religion?
You don’t need to ask because you already know.
It’s whatever form of Christianity is practiced by the white evangelical Christians who make up Trump’s base.
It’s definitely not Islam. (Other religions don’t count because Trump has no idea what they are and because conservative Christians, at least based on what they talk about in the pulpit and online, don’t spend much time thinking about them.)
“Our religion” is not Christianity, to be clear, because many white evangelicals (certainly in the MAGA crowd) don’t believe progressive Christians, less fundamentalist Christians, pro-choice Christians, LGBTQ-accepting Christians, or Christians who challenge them are True Christians™.
It’s easy to ignore Trump’s statement because he says crazy shit all the time, and there was very little media attention paid to this particular comment, but notice the framing here. He’s saying certain immigrants shouldn’t be permitted to become legal citizens based solely on their religious label. All those conservatives who claim to cherish the U.S. Constitution should be appalled by this, but you know they don’t care. They’re all for religious freedom when it benefits them, but they’re nowhere to be found when it comes to defending other religions. If a Christian bigot wants to use faith to override anti-discrimination laws, it’s fine. If a Muslim from a Trump-branded “shithole country” wants to legally come into the nation, too damn bad.
Notice, too, how Trump frames religious minorities as equivalent to people who hold other abhorrent views. As if not practicing “our religion” is the same as being a terrorist. It would also be easy to shove people into his other categories. Does hatred of America include criticism of America? Because a lot of Americans have those—and for good reason. A lot of Americans also question Israel’s right-wing politics and fairly point out that innocent Palestinians (including children) will die at the hands of Israel’s war efforts. Does that mean they want to “abolish Israel”? Of course not. But that won’t stop MAGA cultists from saying as much.
This is how conservative Christians operate, though. For years now, they’ve acted like their (brand of) religion is the only one that counts. They lie and pretend that the Founding Fathers were in the business of promoting their faith, not creating a framework for religious diversity. They install judges who give conservative Christian views preference over everyone else’s. They draft legislation to advance their faith.
It’s Christian Nationalism at its core.
And these are not a fringe group of people, either.
In 2022, the Pew Research Center found that 45% of all Americans believe we ought to live in a “Christian nation.” 60% believe we were founded as one.
The silver lining was that they all disagreed on what that meant in practice.
Among the 45% of Americans who said the U.S. “should be a ‘Christian nation,’” only 28% wanted a formal declaration of that idea. Only 24% believed it meant advocating Christian religious values. Only 31% wanted to see the end of church/state separation.
To put that another way, living in a Christian country sounded pretty good to a lot of Americans because they treat “Christian” as synonymous with “good.” Yet they overwhelmingly rejected what that might look like in practice, at least based on the warped fantasies of actual Christian nationalists.
There’s nuance to these views.
Unfortunately, the Republican Party is where nuance goes to die.
That’s why Trump can talk about “our religion” and expect everyone in his base to know exactly what he’s referring to. He doesn’t have to say it out loud. They’ll fill in the blank like it’s a test at a private Christian school.
What he said, though, is anathema to the very idea of our country. It’s deeply unpatriotic to shut the doors of our country to anyone who doesn’t pledge allegiance to Republican Jesus. If a political leader in Iran or Saudi Arabia said professing belief in “our religion” was a prerequisite to entering the country, we would rightly call that indoctrination, brainwashing, or cult-like behavior.
But when Trump says it, Republicans are silent if not accepting of it. Maybe that’s because 99% of Republicans in Congress are some kind of Christian. Or maybe it’s because they just have no backbone when it comes to condemning Trump for saying something despicable. Maybe it’s both. As much as I’d like to believe this is all about avoiding criticizing the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee, it’s not like they condemned Christian Nationalism when others promoted it. Hell, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has said, “I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly: We should be Christian nationalists.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has urged Republicans to wear the “full armor of God” as they try to defeat Democrats. That stuff always gets a pass in the GOP.
America doesn’t have a religion. It welcomes all of them just as it welcomes people who reject them all. It doesn’t mean every religion deserves respect but rather that religious differences aren’t going to prevent someone from becoming or living as an American.
And as I’ve said before, Trump doesn’t have a religion. If he worships anyone, it’s himself.
His comment wasn’t theological. It was political. It’s telling that his white evangelical base won’t raise an eyebrow over the comment because treating their religion as synonymous with patriotism is part of a general project they’ve been pushing for decades.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)