Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Honorable mention: Grad student essay contest — Emella Canlas

Vol. 38 No. 01 Jan/Feb 2021
Emella Canlas                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Trump’s America and religious false pretense

By Emella Canlas

From 1096 to 1291, the Christian Crusaders massacred a myriad of people indiscriminately across the Middle East to “secure” the Holy Lands. In 1492, the devout Christopher Columbus began his voyage to the Americas, where he left behind a legacy of rape, slavery and forced conversion. In 2003, President George W. Bush confided in Abu Mazen, the

Palestinian prime minister, and Nabil Shaath, Mazen’s foreign minister, that God told him to “Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.” History shows a clear pattern of leaders immorally securing political advantages under the guise of “God’s will.” This omnipresent danger of mixing politics and religion was especially relevant during Trump’s presidential term because Trump’s supporters largely consist of Christian Nationalists. When we invite religion and politics to mingle, it allows misinformation and willful ignorance to affect society.

President Trump is popular with predominantly white Christian Nationalists who don’t adhere to a code of morals, but rather conform to a set of conservative values. These values are loosely based on the bible, thereby reflecting many of its white and patriarchal themes. Trump’s crass treatment of women and xenophobic rhetoric is a far cry from what Christianity purports to be, but Christian Nationalists saw that these acts aligned with their own biases. His bigotry is clearly displayed in his national addresses and statements made on his Twitter account, particularly in response to the murder of African-Americans by police. By invoking “God” in his press conferences, he is allowing Christian Nationalists to carry out his misinformation and willful ignorance under religious false pretense.

A concrete example of this willful ignorance is when Trump refused to acknowledge the potential dangers of coronavirus when it first began to spread. He publicly discredited guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommended limiting infection testing, and even disbanded the government’s pandemic response team. In solidarity with Trump’s views, many of his supporters have refused to practice social distancing or wear preventive face masks because it is one of their “God-given rights” — a stubborn practice that put the collective well-being of American citizens at risk. Trump has since been ridiculed across the globe for not enforcing some common-sense health measures in the United States. In an attempt to remedy the situation, he amplified a video of doctors naming hydroxychloroquine as our nation’s hope.

Of those doctors, Trump highly endorsed Dr. Stella Immanuel, who went viral for her passionate claims about the benefits of hydroxychloroquine against coronavirus. Though ongoing studies show that the drug is not effective in treating coronavirus, she claimed in her testimony, “You don’t need masks. There is a cure.” She then passes off her sample size of approximately 350 patients as sufficient evidence and dismisses the value of double-blind studies. Dr. Immanuel makes other medical claims about bodily ailments in relation to demons and impurities of the soul in a YouTube series titled “Fire Power Ministries.” She exemplifies the danger of mixing politics and religion, wherein false claims have led to disastrous outcomes. Trump’s supporters may have put themselves in harm’s way because they have nothing to fear in light of this “cure.”

It is the 21st century, and the president of the United States has deliberately chosen performative faith in lieu of science. Despite the progress that the United States has made in inclusion, Trump has effectively manipulated Christian values to condone racist, xenophobic and sexist sentiment that send us back decades in terms of women’s rights and minority rights.

Emella, 25, is fron Alameda, Calif., and attends California State University, East Bay. “I am Filipino, and like many other Filipino-Americans, I was raised in a very strict Catholic household. By the time I was in high school, I identified as agnostic, in part due to my bisexuality, and in part due to how hypocritically religion played out in the real world.

“I attended a community college and then transferred to UC-Davis, where I participated in the Filipino association called Mga Kapatid, which seeks to educate and dismantle colonial mentality.

“I have been working as registered behavior technician for the last three years, providing therapy to children with special needs and various learning disabilities. I am working on my master’s degree in special education.”