The Evangelical Rump of Trump

Can we expect an unprincipled man to lead with wholesome values? Can we expect an immoral leader to lead with virtue? Can we expect an arrogant and domineering man to lead in the humility of a servant? No, and yet the vast majority of evangelical Christians are doing just this, having sold their souls, and sullied their reputation, in following Donald Trump with a loyalty that would impress Napoleon Bonaparte.

Once upon a time, evangelicals were known for their adherence to Holy Scripture and Biblical standards of living. They were committed to “demonstrat[ing] that Jesus is real and that his salvation radically changes … lives through … faith, actions, service, relationships and community…”[i] And an integral part of this involved living a virtuous life, as well as promoting such virtues in the larger society.[ii]

Now, however, the larger part of the evangelical Christian culture in America has taken a fortress mentality, surrounding itself and the current President with unquestioning and practically unbelievable walls of defense, not only overlooking Trump’s obvious blemishes, but also somehow excusing his blatantly anti-Christian attitudes, perspectives and actions:

Trump’s unapologetic materialism—his equation of financial and social success with human achievement and worth—is a negation of Christian teaching. His tribalism and hatred for “the other” stand in direct opposition to Jesus’s radical ethic of neighbor love. Trump’s strength-worship and contempt for “losers” smack more of Nietzsche than of Christ.[iii]

And how any self-respecting American, much less an evangelical Christian, can do anything less than cringe at the innumerable kitschy tweets, caustic remarks, unbridled imprudence, and callous quips is beyond imagination. But “the moral convictions of many evangelical leaders have become a function of their partisan identification. This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption,” according to self-professing, evangelical Michael Gerson.[iv]

Then again, evangelical associations, groups and leaders have benefitted from Trump in very tangible ways. For example, the Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $10,000 to Iowa’s Family Leader (in 2013), $10,000 to Samaritan’s Purse (2013), and a whopping $100,000 to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (2013). On top of this, Trump drew the largest convocation audience in the history of Liberty University in 2012, and was referred to by Jerry Falwell Jr. as “one of the great visionaries of our time.”[v] And yet as Gerson points out:

Trump’s court evangelicals have become active participants in the moral deregulation of our political life. Never mind whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, and whatever is of good repute. Some evangelicals are busy erasing bright lines and destroying moral landmarks. In the process, they are associating evangelicalism with bigotry, selfishness and deception. They are playing a grubby political game for the highest of stakes: the reputation of their faith.[vi]

And this is a high-stakes game that the evangelical Christian community is already losing, as witnessed by the continuing, mass exodus of professing Christians from traditional, evangelical churches.[vii] There is an undeniable hemorrhaging that can only be stopped by evangelicals actually being  what they profess to be, and genuinely living the way they say they believe Christians ought to live … and this decidedly does not include playing the rump of Trump.


 

[i] William Dyrness and Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Global Dictionary of Theology, 298

[ii] David J. Atkinson, David F. Field, Arthur Holmes, Oliver O’Donovan, New Dictionary of Christian Ethics & Pastoral Theology, 881

[iii] Michael Gerson, “The Last Temptation: How Evangelicals, Once Culturally Confident, Became an Anxious Minority Seeking Political Protection From the Least Traditionally Religious President in Living Memory,” The Atlantic, April 2018 Issue as published at https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/04/the-last-temptation/554066/

[iv] Ibid

[v] Betsy Woodruff, “Why Evangelicals Worship Trump,” The Daily Beast, August 2015 as published at https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-evangelicals-worship-trump

[vi] Michael Gerson, “The Trump Evangelicals Have Lost Their Gag Reflex,” The Washington Post, January 22, 2018, as published at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-evangelicals-have-lost-their-gag-reflex/2018/01/22/761d1174-ffa8-11e7-bb03-722769454f82_story.html?utm_term=.2c9d531bb063

[vii] Terry Heaton, “Evangelical Christianity’s Big Turn-Off,” Huffington Post, September 12, 2017, as published at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/evangelical-christianitys-big-turn-off_us_59b2b0f3e4b0bef3378cdf91

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19 thoughts on “The Evangelical Rump of Trump

  1. When it comes to the last presidential elections, it is basically choosing in between Beelzebub (Trump) or Lucifer (Clinton)…
    To be honest, being a Christian myself, I cringe at Trump.. However I cringe more at Hillary. I’m glad I’m not a US citizen, ‘cuz voting for one over the other would have damn near killed me. I could not do it in good conscience.
    I completely agree with you. Trump is truly one of the worst presidents that I’ve seen. However I am of the opinion that we are not being shown the full picture. If anyone wants to believe that Hillary would have been a better choice, I’ll say this, that is exactly what the media wants you to be believe. I find most of my friends being manipulated into seeing the Democratic party as angels of light.
    If Clinton would have won the presidency, there would not be so much media coverage and scrutiny. She would have made sure. And children would still be separated from their parents at the border and no one would have known or said anything about it.

    1. Yes, indeed, the last election presented us Americans, and particularly Christians, with an awful choice. I could not in good conscience vote for Trump OR Clinton, so I cast a “protest vote,” as we say, which means voting for a third party candidate. Anyway, my best friend ended up voting for Trump simply because he found Clinton more repulsive. I completely understand and respect his decision. All Christians ~ whether evangelical Protestant, mainline, Catholic, or Orthodox ~ were faced with an unbelievably horrid choice; however, it is the fact that evangelical Christians essentially became, and still are, the foreguard for the President that is particularly shameful. Voting for him because the choice was tough (and sickening) was one thing; excusing him and even fighting for him is quite another. Thank you so much for your comment! Blessings to you!

  2. I’ve never been able to convince myself that much independent thinking resides in so-called ‘traditional’ evangelical Christianity. And I do not consider that true conscience and moral judgement can reside in a soul minus independent thinking. (This may have been true in the context of the Old Testament, and the Israelites vis-a-vis Yahweh, but not now.) So it does not surprise me too much the extent of the evangelical capitulation to Trumpism., because so many just follow the herd. Real Chrisitanity is intimately connected with ongoing deep individualized moral evaluation, and is insistent upon not clinging to any positions, but looking always as children, upon what is ever newly unfolding.

    1. Yes, not only are the vast majority of evangelicals not thinking, but they are not being consistent with what they purport to believe. On the one hand, they claim sola scriptura, yet on the other they dismiss some of the clearest teachings from the holy Scriptures. Thank you for your comment, and blessings to you!

  3. Pfui. You can easily say that you rejected both choices for the sake of your conscience, and then castigate those Christians who voted their conscience. What hypocrisy. My friend, even if voting for Trump was a sin it was surely forgiven on that cross as were all sins. The Lord works all things together for good as you have read – wait and see; though, imagining as not an abomination the little limbs of innocent babes that Hillary by all accounts would allow to be pulled off in the name of choice, is neither easy nor palatable. Still, exercise your right as you see fit – but see things in proper perspective and don’t dupe yourself.

    1. Thank you for your comment, although I believe there is a slight misunderstanding. What raises my righteous indignation is evangelical Christians constantly, consistently, and without any regard to biblical ethics and integrity defending Trump. Point in fact, they have overtly attempted to mask Donald Trump as one of their own from before the election even took place. THIS is where I have a problem. The evangelical “Christian” community has sold its soul on the altar of semi-fascist, misogynistic, xenophobic, duplicitous wickedness … No, I was not making a comparison to Hillary Clinton. The article was focused upon the evangelical “Christian” community’s ignominious and humiliating relationship with the President, and there is certainly no hypocrisy in that! Thank you again for reading and for commenting. Blessings to you!

      1. P. S. Also, I never suggested that evangelical Christians ought to have voted for Clinton. Point in fact, in my comment above, I stated that I respected the tough choice (for Trump) that many evangelicals, RCs, and Orthodox made in the last election. However, I ended by noting that “voting for (Trump) because the choice was tough (and sickening) was one thing; excusing him and even fighting for him is quite another.”

          1. I wouldn’t waste my precious time if I didn’t think you had the great potential you do to understand. You are being duped, in my opinion; guided amiss by those whose agenda is anything but Evangelical, again, in my opinion. I don’t think your writers’ views comport with anything but naturalism. I should give examples here but I don’t have time. I think of That Hideous Strength and the depiction of the journalism from all perspectives designed and tailored to meet the same end – the agenda of the NICE. Even in fantasy we can find a grain of truth. If you want think of things in terms of coalitions. In Israel the orthodox must form coalitions. Suffice it to say that evangelicals are not under attack by Godly forces in my opinion. But beyond that evangelicals don’t march in lock step and they are not being duped. If the are, it certainly won’t last. You know as well, if not better, than anyone Francis Schaefer’s public views and writings and speeches right up until the time he went to be with the Lord. Nothing happened overnight, and people have seen for more than half a century the writing on the wall and have tried to hold in check the guided movement in unwise directions. I think of one of Richard Weaver’s books Idesas Have Consequences that laid out a philosophical base for conservative principles in this country at least, that were the very continuing upshoot of Western Civilization and the Christian worldview, as he saw them in the mid to late 1940s. I wish I had more time to lsynthesize something that would better challenge your view, but I’m not really sure interested in that to begin with.

            1. LOL! Really? Wow … and here I thought it was Trump running the country. Well, now that I know, I’d better start making a lot of changes! Thank you again for reading and commenting, (although I still don’t quite understand where you’re coming from or what exactly you’re getting at.) Blessings to you… Oh, and btw, I’m not an atheist, agnostic, or evangelical Christian myself. I just happened to grow up in an evangelical background. Nice chatting with you

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