|Power and money mad Trump acolytes, Franklin Graham, Ralph Reed |
and Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Last week, Ralph Reed, the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s founder and chairman, told the group, “There has never been anyone who has defended us and who has fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump. No one!” Reed is partially right; for many evangelical Christians, there is no political figure whom they have loved more than Donald Trump.I recently exchanged emails with a pro-Trump figure who attended the president’s reelection rally in Orlando, Florida, on June 18. (He spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, so as to avoid personal or professional repercussions.) He had interviewed scores of people, many of them evangelical Christians. “I have never witnessed the kind of excitement and enthusiasm for a political figure in my life,” he told me. “I honestly couldn’t believe the unwavering support they have. And to a person, it was all about ‘the fight.’
The rallygoers, he said, told him that Trump’s era “is spiritually driven.” When I asked whether he meant by this that Trump’s supporters believe God’s hand is on Trump, this moment and at the election—that Donald Trump is God’s man, in effect—he told me, “Yes—a number of people said they believe there is no other way to explain his victories. Starting with the election and continuing with the conclusion of the Mueller report.
Many said God has chosen him and is protecting him.”The data seem to bear this out. Approval for President Trump among white evangelical Protestants is 25 points higher than the national average. . . . . during the period from July 2018 to January 2019, 70 percent of white evangelicals who attend church at least once a week approved of Trump, versus 65 percent of those who attend religious services less often.
The enthusiastic, uncritical embrace of President Trump by white evangelicals is among the most mind-blowing developments of the Trump era. How can a group that for decades—and especially during the Bill Clinton presidency—insisted that character counts and that personal integrity is an essential component of presidential leadership not only turn a blind eye to the ethical and moral transgressions of Donald Trump, but also constantly defend him? Why are those who have been on the vanguard of “family values” so eager to give a man with a sordid personal and sexual history a mulligan?
Part of the answer is their belief that they are engaged in an existential struggle against a wicked enemy—not Russia, not North Korea, not Iran, but rather American liberals and the left.
Many white evangelical Christians, then, are deeply fearful of what a Trump loss would mean for America, American culture, and American Christianity. If a Democrat is elected president, they believe, it might all come crashing down around us. . . . . A friend of mine described that outlook to me this way: “It’s the Flight 93 election. FOREVER.”
Many evangelical Christians are also filled with grievances and resentments because they feel they have been mocked, scorned, and dishonored by the elite culture over the years. . . . For a growing number of evangelicals, Trump’s dehumanizing tactics and cruelty aren’t a bug; they are a feature. Trump “owns the libs,” and they love it. He’ll bring a Glock to a cultural knife fight, and they relish that.
There’s a very high cost to our politics for celebrating the Trump style, but what is most personally painful to me as a person of the Christian faith is the cost to the Christian witness. Nonchalantly jettisoning the ethic of Jesus in favor of a political leader who embraces the ethic of Thrasymachus and Nietzsche—might makes right, the strong should rule over the weak, justice has no intrinsic worth, moral values are socially constructed and subjective—is troubling enough.
But there is also the undeniable hypocrisy of people who once made moral character, and especially sexual fidelity, central to their political calculus and who are now embracing a man of boundless corruptions.
In speaking about the widespread, reflexive evangelical support for the president, Coppock—who is theologically orthodox and generally sympathetic to conservatism—lamented the effect this moral freak show is having, especially on the younger generation. With unusual passion, he told me, “We’re losing an entire generation. They’re just gone. It’s one of the worst things to happen to the Church.”
Proximity to power is fine for Christians, Coppock told me, but only so long as it does not corrupt their moral sense, only so long as they don’t allow their faith to become politically weaponized. Yet that is precisely what’s happening today.
Evangelical Christians need another model for cultural and political engagement, . . . a set of sensibilities and dispositions that are fundamentally different from what we see embodied in many white evangelical leaders who frequently speak out on culture and politics. The sensibilities and dispositions Fujimura is describing are characterized by a commitment to grace, beauty, and creativity, not antipathy, disdain, and pulsating anger. It’s the difference between an open hand and a mailed fist.
“The Church is in one of its deepest moments of crisis—not because of some election result or not, but because of what has been exposed to be the poverty of the American Church in its capacity to be able to see and love and serve and engage in ways in which we simply fail to do.
[A]s a starting point, evangelical Christians should acknowledge the profound damage that’s being done to their movement by its braided political relationship—its love affair, to bring us back to the words of Ralph Reed—with a president who is an ethical and moral wreck. Until that is undone—until followers of Jesus are once again willing to speak truth to power rather than act like court pastors—the crisis in American Christianity will only deepen, its public testimony only dim, its effort to be a healing agent in a broken world only weaken.
At this point, I can’t help but wonder whether that really matters to many of Donald Trump’s besotted evangelical supporters.
I have to laugh in some ways about Ralph Reed's statement and his continued self-prostitution for money by pandering to an manipulating evangelicals. Reed and I met years ago and my "gaydar " went off the charts. Sadly, Reed strikes me as yet another closeted, self-loathing gay who cannot (i) let go of his childhood religious brainwashing and (ii) walk away from the money trough so dear to professional Christians. .