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Trump’s redesigned culture war

It harks back to the civil rights era.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Bob Ealum/File Photo

Praise the Lord. One member of President Trump’s Council of Evangelical Advisers (or whatever it’s called) has resigned.

“It became obvious that there was a deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration,” tweeted Brooklyn megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard.

It doesn’t look as if any of the other advisers will hit the sawdust trail, however. Unlike the business council members who followed the lead of Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, Bernard’s white colleagues give every sign of staying in their seats.

To wit: Texas pastors Jack Graham (“We have been welcomed by the President and his team and serve as a calling not a council”) and Robert Jeffress (“Honored to serve on his Faith Initiative Council. He has done more in 6 mo. to protect religious liberty than any pres. in history”).

It’s not that America’s evangelical establishment hadn’t distanced itself from old prejudices. It loves the Jews, especially those that inhabit the State of Israel. It’s gotten in the habit of foreswearing racism — the Southern Baptist Convention going so far as to repent of its pro-slavery origins and to elect a black president.

But gone are the days when Jerry Falwell, Sr. & Co. could imagine that there was a moral majority out there able to take America back from the feminists, gays, and assorted cultural elites. With the rise of the Nones, the establishment of same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, the availability of abortion by pill, and the normalization of transgender identity, Falwell’s majority came to see itself as the beleaguered minority that lost the culture war.

Enter Donald Trump. On immigration, America First, religious liberty, and now Confederate war memorials, he has harked back to the pre-culture war days, when the issue at hand was civil rights — or, we should say, the maintenance of white supremacy. And woe be unto evangelical leaders who say him nay.

Russell Moore, who was supposed to be the new face of the Southern Baptist Convention, almost lost his job as head of the SBC’s policy lobby for vigorously attacking Trump last year. If any evangelical leader could have been expected to criticize him during the past week, it would have been him.

But while Moore, in this Washington Post op-ed for example, has not been afraid to call out his co-religionists for white supremacy, he’s had nary a word to say about the President. You figure he’s under orders.

Alabama is now ground zero of Trump’s redesigned culture war. Last Tuesday, as the President was gladdening the hearts of white supremacy, a plurality of Alabama Republicans were voting to make Roy Moore to be their next U.S. senator.

Moore’s claim to fame is that he’s twice been kicked out of office as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, first for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state’s judicial building and then, after being reelected to the post, for refusing to abide by various federal court rulings related to same-sex marriage.

A weekend poll showed Moore holding a 20-point lead in the run-off with former Alabama attorney general Luther Strange, who was appointed to assume Jeff Session’s senate seat after Sessions became U.S. Attorney General. Here’s the fundraising appeal for Moore I received a couple of days ago — presumably because I had to register by email to get a ticket to  a Trump rally in Hartford during the campaign:

Mark, the September 26 run-off election is THE ultimate national showdown between the Washington insiders and conservative Republicans who are sick of Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the rest of the establishment in Washington.

Unless conservatives rise up and deliver the final blow to the Washington establishment on September 26, you and I could be staring down the barrel of Mitch McConnell entrenched as Senate Majority Leader.

That means ZERO chance at REPEALING ObamaCare!

ZERO chance at securing our border and building Trump’s wall.

ZERO chance of cracking down on illegal immigration.

ZERO chance of rebuilding our military.

And ZERO chance of restoring respect for the Constitution and the rule of law in Washington.

You and I must not allow that to happen.

Would I be surprised to learn that the Trump campaign organization is supporting Moore, despite the fact that Trump tweeted out an endorsement of Strange before the primary? Nope.

So sure, there may be a modest decline in Trump’s evangelical support.  And perhaps a few hundred graduates of Liberty University are sending their diplomas back to protest Falwell, Jr.’s continued embrace of the President.

But the white guys of the Council of Evangelical Advisors are staying put. Trump’s redesigned war is theirs.