Bad Omens for Trump and the GOP at Joel Osteen’s Church

Evangelical worshippers are seen at Lakewood Church in Houston. (HOWARD FINEMAN/THE HUFFINGTON POST)
Evangelical worshippers are seen at Lakewood Church in Houston. (HOWARD FINEMAN/THE HUFFINGTON POST)

At the Latino and youth services at Lakewood Church, fans of The Donald are hard to find.

If today’s Republican Party had a mother church, it might be Joel Osteen’s suburban Lakewood Church, an evangelical outreach machine with an arena sanctuary, 50,000 members and a service on Sirius radio, so that you can be saved via satellite.

It’s also a good place to see where the GOP’s 36-year-old Reagan-built base is becoming outmoded, like the Brutalist architecture of the downtown buildings here and the shabby concrete on the triple-decker highway overpasses.

In many ways, Donald Trump is the logical summation and endpoint of a Republican Party built primarily on the support of straight, church-going white people, especially in the South.

And interviews with some of the Lakewood faithful suggest that if Trump is the GOP presidential nominee, that demographic could well become a prison from which there would be no escape other than a woman named Hillary in the White House.

After Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012, the Republican National Committee published a blunt self-analysis, insisting that the party would face doom if it did not massively reach out to Latinos, gay people, millennials and the rest of the remixed society of 21st-century America.

At Lakewood, where the main interest is saving souls wherever you can find them and whatever they look like, they understand what the GOP analysts were saying.

A recent youth service in the early evening looked like any concert scene, except that of the thousands of young people in the rows and aisles, some were clutching dog-eared study Bibles as they swayed to loud country-rock tunes about being saved.

It was a hip, integrated young crowd: interracial couples, plenty of piercings, hobnail boots, neon hair. And no love for Trump.

“As far as I’m concerned, he’s a fringe candidate,” said Charlie Hurd, 26, a former college basketball player who now teaches elementary school gym. He sat in a side row with a Bible open on his lap.

“His whole thing is to say nasty things and not offer anything real,” Hurd said. “And the things he is offering aren’t going to help.”

Preston Jameson, 24, a mattress store manager, said that he was sticking with home-state Sen. Ted Cruz in part because he doesn’t buy the idea that Trump is a real Christian, given his bluster and bitter antagonisms. “I want a politician who’s motivated by faith in God,” he said.

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SOURCE: The Huffington Post
Howard Fineman

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