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?
What can good Evangelicals® do? They can stand up for those being marginalized by Trump’s followers. They can publicly disavow the racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and hatred that has been a hallmark of Trump’s campaign and that motivates many of his followers.
Sure, there are good Evangelicals® who voted for Trump because they believed his campaign promises about the Supreme Court and about abortion. (Personally, I think they were naive to do so, given his woeful history when it comes to telling the truth, but whatever.) There are others who had economic issues in mind. Great. If those were your motivations to vote for him, then there shouldn’t be any issue at all standing up and disavowing the racism, the hatred, the anti-Semitism and all the rest.
I don’t see many people doing that, though. Mostly I see people saying, “Yeah, but Hillary was corrupt” or “I don’t think he meant those things” or “Yeah, but liberals are worse” or even “He didn’t say anything racist” (Um. Check the public record.)
These good white Evangelicals® who don’t stand up and disavow all these things allow themselves to be painted as racists, etc. And they allow all Christians, by extension, to be tagged the same way. If they don’t stand up, the non-believers who now see all/most Christians as haters have plenty of justification for their opinion.
Stand up, Christians. Denounce racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia. Stand with the people who are being harmed. (Yes, already, people are being harmed, and Trump has promised to harm many more. And if you don’t believe those campaign promises, why would you believe his campaign promises about the Supreme Court and abortion?) You can’t say you hate the sin and love the sinner if you don’t actually, you know, love the sinner. This is the time to do that.
Better than I could have said myself. Thank you, Janet. <3
My choice not to vote for Secretary Clinton was based on all her super qualifications . . . And she mishandled qualifications! Sec. Clinton mishandled herself on several important classified events. She was knowingly compromising classified emails. And she gave the middle finger to many of her staffers and blamed them for her improprieties and thru them under the bulldozer. She is a former 1st Lady, former powerful New York Senator and former Sec. of State. She knows better. She was given almost all the power one could have in this country as Sec. of State. She mis-used it. Abused it. She can’t remember a lot of important stuff. You need a sharp memory to run even a small country. She DQ’d herself.
So the alternative was to cast your vote for someone who has not been given top clearance priveledge yet. Who has not lied as a top officer in the US Government. But he has lied plenty. He has a few doozies to explain. But it was not our governments business that has been entrusted to him. It’s his own business gigs.
Christians voted for Trump because there was no other choice. 3rd Party Presidential candidates win nothing and Christians know that. The several Evangelical Leaders who endorsed Trump — likely made their last big splash at the big pool. Franklin Graham types threw all they ever worked for out the window in their unwise decision to endorse Trump. Their future endorsement now cheapened and weakened. The Jim Dobson’s guys finishing out their last 35 years are no where as Christlike as their early years of service.
You can trash Trump as much as you please and he deserves it, you can trash the Evangelical Political Elites — they deserve it. But trashing every Christian who voted for Trump is a misstep.
James, I hope you re-read my post. I didn’t trash every Christian. I made it clear that I understood and respected their decision. My alarm is that now Christians are being associated with Trump’s bad behavior and his nefarious fans such as the KKK. My Facebook feed lit up with angry posts to that effect. At the very least, we’re perceived guilty by association. And so I asked, what can we do to counteract that perception? I hope this clarifies things for you.
Relax, Susan. Genuine evangelicals who voted for Trump did so with no illusions of his faith or morality, but like James above, felt we were left with no choice. We were quietly living out our faith (Gal. 5, 1 Cor 13) and loving our neighbor all through the Obama presidency and we will continue to do so during the Trump presidency. The media (as it stands today) will never cover these things because it has no interest in portraying anything positive about us. It frequently does its best to portray us in the worst possible light. Trump is clearly not an evangelical but at least he didn’t despise us and paint us as sexist, bigoted, homophobic and racist because we believe life begins at conception, marriage as God designed it is one man and one woman, and that radical Islam and the liberal identity politics agenda is actually a threat to religious freedom here and throughout the world. Maybe you should stop worrying about your Facebook feed and come out and join us.
I do understand why you voted the way you did, and I respect that choice. As I said in the post, you didn’t see much of an option. It felt like a Hobson’s Choice to me, too. I’m heartened to know that people like you will continue to do the hard work of living out your faith in action. I’m not worried by my facebook feed in a superficial way. They may be unfair assessments of Christians, but I am concerned that the loudest, angriest and most hurtful voices are heard first and remembered the longest. Keep doing the hard work, friend.
Susan. Thank you. You took the words right out of mouth. Or head. And heart. Btw, would love to grab coffee sometime if you’re still in L.A. and chat all things la la land, acting, writing and navigating the complex world of being a Christian w/liberal leanings 🙂
You’re welcome. And yes, still in LA LA land! Let’s figure out the coffee thing