Donald Trump and the Republican Party need to be bolder and more creative if they want to make America great again. The lessons of history are at hand to show them the way.
Donald Trump has been ruminating about requiring all Muslims in America to register in a government database. Creating a registry of Muslims, he says, is one way America can protect itself against terrorism.
His party is ruminating about embracing sexual conversion therapy—programs designed to convert gays and lesbians into heterosexuals. Supporters say that those who undergo conversion therapy are not being bent out of shape—they are being pressured, twisted, and bent back toward authentic sexuality and true humanity. Conversion therapy, say the converters, is saving souls.
As someone who studies forms of conversion in early modern Europe, I would like to make a modest proposal.
It might be time for Donald Trump and Republican Party to undertake a bold new initiative—an initiative inspired by the first great age of conversion, when the armies of Catholic Spain mounted a Crusade across the Iberian Peninsula, drove the Muslim rulers out of Spain, forced all Spanish Muslims and Jews to convert to Christianity, and created the Office of Inquisition to make sure that those who had been compelled to change their religion really had changed.
Modern sexual conversion therapy is indeed a descendant of the programs of forced religious conversion that swept across Europe and the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Consider how readily a Trump government could extend sexual conversion therapy back into the realm of religion where it got its start. A Republican president could require not just registration but also conversion to Christianity of all American Muslims.
The programs for sexual conversion could be greatly enlarged, their funding extended. The converters would gear up to meet the challenge of making America great again by making it both straight and Christian.
Of course, a new Office of the Inquisition would have to be created to assure that those saved by the converters stay saved. But that tiny erosion of individual freedom would be a small price to pay for the Reconquista of America under President Trump.