“Church in the us deeply divided”

The USA after the Trump election © Alba Vigaray

Many do not want to believe that the populist Donald Trump is the new president of the USA. Dr. Gregor Scherzinger is a theologian at the Institute for Social Ethics at the University of Lucerne. He closely followed the race for president in the U.S.

Interviewer: The nightmare of many has come true: Donald Trump becomes the new US president. How could this happen?

Dr. Gregor Scherzinger (Theologian, University of Lucerne): This is a question that many people are asking themselves after the result became known, whether in the USA or abroad. One has to ask oneself: What was missed in politics, economy and society?? Where could one have taken countermeasures to stop this "Trump" phenomenon? It has not only been on the table for two years, but has its prehistory. That begins at the latest with the Tea Party during Obama's first term in office. Even then, the goal was to stop this movement, the central government, to shrink, to lower taxes. Already these supporters were found mainly among white Americans. Half of them disguise themselves as part of the Christian conservative movement, the so-called "religious right". Even then, the identity of this movement was marked by the story of a loss, white Christian America was lost. The release of abortion or same-sex marriage have confirmed this story in the eyes of these people.

Interviewer: Trump embodies a demographic that is actually on the decline, namely white males. Not even half of the voters this time were still white with a Christian background. Doesn't that sound a bit like the world gone wrong??

Scherzinger: Yes, indeed. Four years ago, with Romney's defeat, there was already talk that this "white Christian strategy" could no longer help him win the election. Romney scored in the segment of the white and mostly Christian population exactly the numbers expected to be necessary for victory. But he lost to Obama. Moreover, with the rise of nonreligious Americans as well as Latinos and "Black Amaricans," the percentage of white Christians in the population had fallen below 50 percent. And so it was predicted that this constituency alone could not help Trump win. But he seems to have succeeded in mobilizing precisely this group of white, rural, working-class Americans even more strongly. That segment outvoted the more colorful, diverse rest of the country.

Interviewer: For us in the West, the election campaign appears to have been a real mud-slinging affair for long stretches, which has also opened up many wounds. Donald Trump doesn't seem like the ideal reconciler. Where do we go from here??

Scherzinger: There lies exactly one reason for the speechlessness and the inconceivability of a presidency under Trump. With him comes to the White House a person who campaigned on intolerance, defamation and division. After Obama's attempt to bring this divided America together, to build bridges, this is now the complete antithesis of that. And it remains uncertain, of course, whether Trump will be tempered, at least in his language, by the constraints of office, will be able to shed the hate rhetoric that was necessary to bring in those votes. I think his understanding of power has strong authoritarian overtones, and power seemed to be an end in itself for him, not least to satiate his own need for recognition. But now we will see if the traditional system of government in the U.S., which consists of this checks and balances between institutions, can also appease here. However, it must also be said that the election results gave a Republican majority in Congress. Also, the appointment of a judge to the "Supreme Court" (United States Supreme Court, note. d. Red.) is pending and will come to him. This will not help.

Interviewer: Conservative Catholics had been leaning toward Trump in the run-up, especially because of his positive stance on the protection of life. How are they going to cope now with the fact that their new president is a blatant racist it seems? At least he wants to put up a wall on the border with Mexico.

Scherzinger: Catholicism itself has come a long way to be embraced in Protestant-leaning America. For example, a ban on prayer in schools in the 1960s was seen as a victory against Catholicism and its demand for support for its schools. The situation has turned around today. Large parts of the Catholic world see themselves as equally under duress from a secularist ideology in which religion is relegated to the margins of society or out of society altogether. The right to religious freedom is also understood by the Catholic Church as a strong means to conduct politics for its own moral concepts. In part, people will cheer that with Trump there is once again the possibility of enforcing the right to life generally. However, the Catholic Church in particular is changing rapidly in the USA as well. It is becoming more Latino as younger generations of mostly white Catholics leave it. And so it must be said that ultimately what counts for the whole country also counts for the church in the U.S.: it is deeply divided.

The interview was conducted by Tobias Fricke.

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