The election is over. The real-estate-mogul turned reality-show ringmaster turned receptacle of American rage is headed for the highest office. And my friends helped get him there. The Evangelicals®. Four out of five white Evangelicals® voted for Trump. For them, he was their only hope to protect religious liberty and human life. Now, we all want life and liberty – our own versions of them – so why should I fault them? Because I fear they mortgaged Christian virtue to do it.
“Evangelical” used to be a theological term; it meant you believed in some variation of “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” As an added bonus, you tried to uphold St. Paul’s fruits of the Spirit: peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, etc.
Then Jerry Fallwell’s Moral Majority mobilized evangelical Christians into politics, in order to protect religious liberty and promote their ideas of virtue. (Hey, every group tries to advance its vision in the world. But one man’s vision is another man’s agenda.) Among other things, they wanted a Christian to hold the highest public office, and they helped make it happen. They had to barter away a virtue here and there. It was politics, after all. Compromise was necessary. “Nobody knows how the game is played, the art of the trade, how the sausage gets made.”
Slowly but surely, evangelical became a political term, bearing little resemblance to its original, theological meaning. By 2012, Evangelicals® like Franklin Graham were throwing their support behind a Mormon – a member of a cult! – over Obama, a professed Christian. Why? It’s not like either side had exclusive rights to Christian principles. If you take Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he sounds like an anarchist. It became increasingly clear, to me anyway, that the only Evangelical qualification you needed was to not be a Democrat.
Fast forward to 2016. The Evangelicals® threw their weight behind Trump, despite the fact he was the antithesis of the fruits of the spirit: impatient, unkind; boastful and proud, demands his own way. He didn’t even know how to pronounce 1 Corinthians. Faker alert! But the Evangelicals® defended him. He’s just a baby Christian. He’s sorry, they said of a man who famously never apologized. Everyone has flaws. Or my favorite: God can use anyone – that is, anyone who’s not a Democrat. Some prominent Christians like Max Lucado and Philip Yancey spoke up to denounce Trump. And after the infamous locker-room-talk video surfaced, a group of 80 prominent evangelicals published a letter condemning his lewd behavior. Bless them.
But others soldiered on. The brilliant and thoughtful Eric Metaxas gave an impassioned plea in the Wall Street Journal that Evangelicals must vote for Trump. He called out Hillary’s faults as proof of evil and excused Trump’s faults as mistakes we can work with. Don’t get smug, we all do this: we call our errors “innocent mistakes” whereas the same error, committed by our opponent, is proof of their evil nature. We are all hypocrites. We may go as far as admitting it, but we explain it away as necessary compromise.
As for Hillary’s myriad faults, you can read the laundry list of controversies plaguing the Clintons on NPR. My personal pet peeve was how she threw the email server IT guy under the bus. He just deleted them on his own? For fun? Expect me to believe that?
For Metaxas and many, it came down to two issues: pro-life and religious liberty, which HRC was threatening and Trump promised to protect. They’re not flimsy reasons. Just watch Ben Stein’s Expelled or read Nicholas Kristof’s article, A Confession of Liberal Intolerance. I can’t adequately address abortion. But if you’re pro-choice and getting angry thinking about it, go back to that time you marched in a protest or checked in at Standing Rock at Facebook. Your desire to protect the vulnerable is the same desire pro-lifers have. You will never agree, but at least try to understand. And if you’re pro-life and want to use government to force the birth of all unborn, I hope you also want the government to care of them once they’re born. You better be lobbying for gun reform to reduce the useless killings happening right here.
To my Good White Evangelicals who voted for Trump. I understand. I respect your decision. It’s not like you had an alternative. But now, do you trust him to follow through? Remember Trump University? This is a man who’s defaulted on debt, failed to pay his employees, insulted minorities and women, groped crotches, who’s so uncontrollable they had to take his twitter away. The KKK is throwing a victory parade in his honor. That’s how the world sees you, Good White Evangelicals. It’s how it sees all Christians. We’re in with the Klan. Tell me it was worth it.
What can you do to fix it? Because you need to fix it. I don’t know. Try going out of your way to model those gifts of the spirit St. Paul wrote about. Get down to that soup kitchen. Teach an illiterate how to read. Make friends with a gay couple or a Muslim refugee or a woman who had to have an abortion. Practice Galatians 5 and 1 Corinthians 13. Be the opposite of what you’re being accused of. Yeah, those who hate you will be the last to admit you’re doing any good in the world. It cheeses them off. But at this point, what choice do you have?