When Trumpism Goes (Anti)-Viral

Sometimes it is difficult to argue that religious conservatives aren’t simply anti-science. When it comes to news about coronavirus, for example, conservatives from Trump on down are making kooky claims. Why?

Let’s back up a minute first. When it comes to big questions like evolution/creationism and climate change, conservatives have a hundred-year history as the anti-science side. However, as I’m arguing in my new book about creationism (cover art updates coming soon), it has never been a fair accusation. Religious conservatives have always loved capital-s Science. They just haven’t trusted the scientists who have usurped control over it.

With Trumpism ascendant, however, I’m wondering how long conservatives can maintain their fingertip-grasp on scientific legitimacy. Perhaps most religious conservatives would share my scorn for the latest batch of hooey coming from a few conservative preachers.

For example, who in their right mind could endorse Jim Bakker’s snake-oil claims? No thinking person—conservative or otherwise—would take Bakker’s claim about his magical “silver solution” seriously, even when he claims it eliminates coronaviruses.

And it will be tempting for thoughtful conservatives to pooh-pooh the exalted exhalations of preachers such as Omaha’s Hank Kunneman. On February 9, Kunneman prophesied that Trumpism had kept America safe from the coronavirus. As Kunneman said,

Listen to the words that I speak to you at this moment, says the Living God. Why do you fear, United States? For I have spoke to you before, and I speak to you again. I have extended and opened a window of mercy to this nation at this time. Therefore the virus that they speak of, the prognostication, the diagnosis—my mercy is the quarantine that shall be greater than what they have spoken to you, United States.

Because of the administration that stands in this land, who honors me, who honors the covenants of your forefathers and of the Constitution, and because they have aligned themselves with Israel, and because they have sided on the right side of life—life in the womb, life given outside of the womb—therefore I give life to this nation, and I give mercy. Do not fear this virus, says the Spirit of God.

I know plenty of intelligent conservatives who would shake their heads at this sort of anti-scientific mumbo-jumbo. Lots of conservative religious people will tell you that their religious beliefs do not put them at odds with science. They will say that there is no need to pretend that “Science” and “Religion” are opposed to one another. And for what it’s worth, I think they are right. There’s no need for conservatives to discredit science in order to prove their religious bona fides.

In Trump’s America, however, the mumbo-jumbo has taken over at the top. When it comes to things like coronavirus, Trump has unleashed the full deadweight of his anti-scientific worldview. Recently, he told a group of governors,

The virus that we’re talking about having to do, a lot of people think that goes away in April, with the heat, as the heat comes in, typically that will go away in April.

Trump’s current blast of anti-science is nothing new. Back when he was a private citizen, he was already fond of over-tweeting his aversion to scientific knowledge. When it came to Ebola, for example, Trump famously warned against readmitting exposed medical workers and a patient to the United States. Trump did not seem to care that the Ebola virus had already come to the US by 2014, with several safe labs studying it.

trump ebola 2014Heedless of science, convinced of his own superior knowledge, Trump might just be trashing the careful, difficult work of generations of religious conservatives. For a hundred years now, thoughtful conservatives have worked hard to overthrow popular misconceptions. Conservatives have labored to convince America that they are not anti-science even though they are pro-God. With a few tweets, Trump seems to have tipped the scales once again, tying conservatism and religion to a crude anti-scientific outlook.