In America’s Gilded Age, slaveholder religion went national, blessing an alliance between industrial capital and white nationalism. “One Nation Under God” promised to save America from the “immorality” of the New Deal, Communism and the Civil Rights movement. Writing in the 19th century, when slaveholder religion was still taking root in white Americans’ consciousness, Frederick Douglass said, “Between the Christianity of the slaveholder and the Christianity of Christ, I see the widest possible difference.” People of faith have a choice to make.
The choice is stark, unsettling and serious: between what Christians call the “Great Commission” and President’s Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” (MAGA). The Great Commission is racially and radically inclusive, while MAGA, as a matter of rhetoric and reality, is racially exclusive and divisive. Jesus praised a foreigner, an ethnic outcast, and religiously unpopular “good Samaritan” as an example of great compassion.—Cornell Brooks
Donald Trump has been a sort of fault line, with a large percentage of his ardent supporters who claim to be “evangelicals” being older and barely attending church, while many of those who oppose him are younger and more devout in their faith. This election, as terrible and divisive as it’s been, has caused Christians to think more deeply about what is important and it’s made very evident the fact that some are more interested in building the kingdom of man than the kingdom of God.
A belief in the connection between personal morality and fitness for office used to be a bedrock of Republican politics. Donald Trump has changed all that. Today, white evangelical Protestants are the least moralistic cohort of voters. Trump has cured what used to be called “the Moral Majority” of its moralism.
Character matters for elected officials. At least that’s what Evangelicals used to think. When your ethics change based on wanting something to be one way or another (or one person to win or not), that’s the definition of selling your soul.
It would be one thing if those individuals said, “Integrity still matters, but, man, we are stuck with two people who have integrity problems, and I am going with ________ in spite of my integrity concerns.” That would be making a hard choice while keeping your beliefs. But that’s not what happened.
This is not about Donald Trump’s character or transgressions—now or prior—but about the character and transgressions of Evangelicals who change their views to suit the moment. If you find that you have overlooked or dismissed many of the morals and values that you have held dear in the past, then it just may be that your character has been Trumped.
Back in the ’90s, when Bill Clinton was sexually sinning, conservative evangelicals fulminated with outrage and insisted that a president’s most important trait was moral character. The word hypocrisy doesn’t begin to describe people who have forfeited moral authority and proved to be as fraudulent as the president they deify. Rev. Franklin Graham said that he loves Trump because this president has “a concern about Christian values.” This is the same Franklin Graham who contended, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal of 1998, that character counts, that a president’s private behavior can’t be separated from his public behavior. Michael Gerson, a principled conservative [said], “The priests have become acolytes … The gag reflex is entirely gone.” They’ve become just another special interest group in the partisan tribe. They’ve shelved their morals to serve a president of abysmally low character, in exchange for his ideological favors. For Trump, there’s all kinds of doctrinal flex. We’re getting the same riff [from] Jerry Falwell Jr., son of the Moral Majority movement founder, who calls Trump “a dream president,” [and] James Dobson, ex-leader of Focus on the Family, who lectured in the ’90s about the “profound moral crisis” of low presidential character.
Christians have gullibly consumed much of the fake news out there. And when Christians believe fake news, it makes us all look stupid—and causes Christianity itself to look foolish. Some in the media do mischaracterize Christians. But, regardless, this doesn’t mean that we should be so desperate to find stories to prop up our view that we indiscriminately accept anything that supports the person that we like (or disparages the person we do not). We should be those who seek truth no matter what.
Christian, if you post fake facts, you reflect on the faith—and that’s bad for the gospel and it hinders the mission.
Many Evangelicals voted for Trump, and many Evangelicals are serving in his administration. That means they have influence, and this would be a good time to use that. It’s time for them to say that facts matter. And it’s time for them to call the Trump administration to do the same. But, first, we need to get our own act together. Christians seem attracted to an alternative set of facts, but we don’t need them. Even if the truth doesn’t seem favorable to us, we don’t have to go looking for an opposing story.
If unchurched people think they must commit intellectual suicide to become Christians, it hinders the work of gospel proclamation and cultural engagement. — Ed Stetzer
James 4:4 says, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” For early church fathers like St. Basil, “friendship with the world” meant attachment to wealth, power, and other worldly idols that get in the way of our connection with God. But for many white evangelicals today, being addicted to wealth and power is not a problem as long as you don’t associate with liberals. Whenever anything good or beautiful or true happens, God is at work no matter whose human agency God is using to accomplish his work. — Morgan Guyton
Morgan Guyton is director of the NOLA Wesley Foundation, which is the United Methodist campus ministry at Tulane and Loyola University in New Orleans, LA. He is also a United Methodist pastor, blogger, and author of dozens of articles featured in Red Letter Christians, Huffington Post Religion, Think Christian, Ministry Matters, and others.0
Trump’s evangelical support is strongest from those evangelicals who have dust on their Bibles and who have seen more NFL games on Sunday than sermons. The more a person goes to church and reads their Bible, the less likely they are to support Trump. To say that Trump is God’s chosen one, uncovers less about what Christians believe and more about how little they have engaged the Gospel. Trump unveils how far the culture of America has been dechristified and how those that claim to be evangelicals without actually engaging their faith are woefully ignorant of their own faith.
“If our theology does not quicken the conscience and soften the heart, it actually hardens both.” — J. I. Packer
J. I. Packer is a British-born Canadian Christian theologian in the low church Anglican and Reformed traditions. He currently serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is considered one of the most influential evangelicals in North America. He has been the theologian emeritus of the Anglican Church in North America since its inception in 2009. Follow him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/jipacker_0
“What has muzzled liberal Protestants is their own commitment to inclusion and opposition to discrimination. Their aim is to serve society as a whole, rather than their own narrow confessional self-interest. The problem is not that they lack conviction, but that their convictions make it intensely difficult for them to assert their faith.” — Alec Ryrie
See: The weakness of the religious left: How progressive evangelicals ceded moral authority to the right wing: Liberal Protestants could be a politically powerful force in America, if they allowed themselves to be
Alec Ryrie is the author of “Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World”. He is professor of the history of Christianity at Durham University in England and a licensed minister in his local church.1
“The pro-Trump evangelicals suffer from a spiritual crisis, not a political one. Moore has challenged the foundations of conservative evangelical political engagement because they desperately needed to be shaken. For 35 years, the old-guard religious right has uncritically coddled, defended and promoted the Republican Party.” — Jacob Lupfer
Jacob Lupfer is a frequent commentator on religion in American politics and culture. Lupfer has worked in parish ministry and has taught at the middle school, high school, community college, and university levels. Follow him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/jlupf0
“It will take a long time for evangelicals to redeem their moral credibility — if they even can.” — Jerushah Armfield
Jerushah Armfield is an evangelical writer and the granddaughter of the iconic evangelist Billy Graham, and Franklin Graham’s niece. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jerushahruth.0
“Trumpism, at its root, involves contempt for, and fear of, outsiders—refugees, undesirable migrants, Muslims, etc. By associating with this movement, evangelicals will bear, if not the mark of Cain, at least the mark of Trump.” — Michael Gerson
Michael Gerson is an op-ed columnist for The Washington Post and served as President George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter. Follow him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/MJGerson.0