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Religion, Trump, and the 2016 election

By Vin Gallo


Freezing rain fell steadily outside of the Flynn Campus Union, as students, faculty, and visitors gathered in the Dodge Conference room. It had been three days since the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump. The group of almost 100 people congregated on Monday night before a panel, in an open forum, with the topic of discussion being the 2016 Election from a religious perspective, how various faiths and religions could have affected the outcome of the final results, and the role religion will play going forward into the Trump presidency.

The panel was made up of four speakers.

Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, an attorney who operates successful law practice in Massachusetts and New York, has served as a lead counsel in cases involving religious intolerance and violence against Muslims. She described the concept of fear that shapes Islamophobia. Wadud expressed that throughout the course of the election, it had been argued that the fear of the religion Islam significantly affected the American decision. She pointed out where the fear intensified.

“The anti-Muslim rhetoric starting picking up quite considerably in 2007,” said Amatul-Wadud. “Some people will tell you that it was after 9/11, but 2007 was the year before the [2008] presidential election of Barack Obama. People were saying that he was Muslim [which intensified] anti-Muslim rhetoric from 2012 up to today.”

Wadud proposed that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have many more similarities than differences.

“What I started to realize was that Americans don’t necessarily have a good understanding of what we all believe,” she said. “We don’t have a high level of religious literacy. Most don’t know that Christians, Muslims, and Jews [all] accept the Prophets from Adam to Abraham, which are the three Abrahamic Faiths. The legacies are all intertwined to accept a substantial amount of religious history, [so] why are we afraid of each other?”

Director of Intercultural Leadership at Cedarville University, Reverend Gregory Dyson, who was a recipient of Springfield College’s Humanics Achievement Award, has refrained from dreading the coming years of the presidency. He explained that when deciding on a presidency it is naturally difficult for one to align their values with the candidate values, when such values are religious.

“Regardless, of who wins and who loses, [as a voter] it’s complicated for me to say that I voted a particular way, but [at the same time] hold certain beliefs,” Dyson said. “It would have been difficult in any ballot box to say my beliefs would be served by ‘this candidate.’”

Springfield College professor of social sciences Dan Russell described religion’s role in the election as a “placeholder for tribalism.” He explained that the voters were overwhelmed with negatives when choosing between Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Religion has had an impact on how Americans voted in this election because a lot of Americans knew that things were going very badly for them. There’s economic issues: rural America is not doing well, wealth creation is primarily in the cities, rural America is currently doing bad with jobs and opportunities. Mortality rate is going up, life expectancy is going down, which is unheard of in the world; there’s no place else where life expectancy is going down. This causes pressure on people.”

Russell elaborated by explaining that this could have been a part of what determined the results; that Trump was seen as one who represented something new.

“[Negatives] cause existential concerns from a moral level,” he said. “‘What are the children going to do? What are their opportunities?’ A lot of people thought that the political system was not getting it done. They saw in Donald Trump an opportunity to ‘throw it against the wall and see what happens.’”

Russell said that in addition to different aspects of religion affecting the election’s outcome, certain religions will be affected negatively now that Trump has taken office.

“I think he’ll pose a tremendous challenge to religious people. There has been a rift between white and black evangelicals. Black evangelicals ask the white evangelicals, ‘how can you elect someone who has so little concern for the lives and well-being of African Americans?’ Women who see Trump [as misogynistic] are saying the same thing to their religious leaders. There are women who are renouncing their churches for supporting Trump.”

Springfield professor of religion Kate Dugan closed the panel by presenting demographics. 58 percent of Protestants, 26 percent of the religiously unaffiliated, and 52 percent of Catholics voted for Trump, while 67 percent of Hispanic Catholics voted for Clinton. 71 percent of Jews voted for Clinton, while 81 percent of Evangelical Christians voted for Trump. Dugan also mentioned that the issue of pro-life and abortion caused more conservative Catholics to vote for Trump.

When analyzing the plethora of religions and comparing factors of faith to the election results, there are several dimensions that one can view when concerning the relation. However, the dominant narrative of reasoning throughout the forum was fear and voters being unsure who to turn to. . Now that the oath to office has officially been taken one can only wait and anticipate what is to come during the next four years.

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