Past Present Podcast: Trump’s Evangelicals, the KKK, and CrossFit

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On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss Donald Trump and evangelical voters, the Ku Klux Klan, and CrossFit.

Donald Trump and Evangelical Christians

Donald Trump is winning white evangelical voters, and evangelical leaders are not happy about it. Niki pointed out that Ted Cruz seemed like the candidate who should be winning evangelical voters, but Neil argued 2016 is revealing the political diversity within evangelicalism that has often been overlooked. Natalia observed Trump’s evangelical supporters often praised him for his wealth and business acumen, reminding her of the work of historians like Bethany Moreton and Kevin Kruse that have examined conservative Christian support for free market capitalism. Neil noted there were some indications Trump was drawing voters from the Pentecostal/prosperity gospel wing of evangelicalism, movements that mainstream evangelicals have viewed very suspiciously through the years.

Trump’s Connections to the KKK

Donald Trump hesitated to condemn the Ku Klux Klan after David Duke endorsed his candidacy. Niki outlined the Klan’s three historic periods, and argued the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant 1920s KKK was most instructive for understanding the present moment. Natalia noted Trump’s father was arrested at a 1927 Klan riot in Queens. That event reminded Neil of Kenneth Jackson’s 1967 classic, The Ku Klux Klan in the City, which examined the Klan’s presence in urban centers in the 1920s. Neil remarked the Klan’s reemergence in the 1920s followed D. W. Griffith’s 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation, a film that romanticized the KKK’s role in “redeeming” the South after the Civil War. Niki has written about how the GOP needs to stand up to Trump’s racism in this election.

The Cult of CrossFit

The workout phenomenon CrossFit is now twenty years old. Natalia noted CrossFit’s critics often called it a “cult” because of the passionate devotion its members showed for the workout regimen, but also cited a recent New York Times article that had compared it to a church. Natalia recommended two books, T. J. Murphy’s Inside the Box and J. C. Herz’s Learning to Breathe Fire, for understanding more about CrossFit.

What’s Making History

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