The Numbers Say Evangelicals are Losing Faith in Trump … I don’t Buy It

 

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“White Christian conservatives were Trump’s largest single voting bloc: bigger than the “white working class,” bigger than establishment Republicans, bigger than Trump’s Tea Party base. Over 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, despite the candidate’s lewdness, greed, and inability to pronounce “Second Corinthians.”

That’s how Jay Michaelson’s recent article at The Daily Beast begins. Michaelson separates evangelical Trump voters into two camps. The first camp held their noses in order to get a conservative Supreme Court, a born again VP, and a roll-back of liberal social policies. The second camp actually embraces Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-government, and anti-cosmopolitan message.

The second camp will probably never leave Trump’s side. Which is really weird for me as an evangelical. I still struggle to imagine how my evangelical brothers and sisters supported a man who has five children with three different women, owned casinos with strip clubs, bragged about grabbing women by the P—- and seducing married women, who as a more than casual relationship with the truth, and who never attends church … not even for show.

Politics aside, the evangelicalism of my youth would have never supported a man like this.

The Numbers are Changing

The first camp, however, appears to be bailing on Trump. A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) says that only 65% of white evangelicals now have a favorable view of Trump. That’s down from 78% in April, a 13% decrease in less than five months. Evangelical women now only give Trump a 57% favorable rating. It looks like Trump’s numbers are soft with the second camp of evangelical Christians, but I think those numbers are deceiving.

I think the numbers show evangelicals are embarrassed of Trump right now, but in the end they’ll never vote for a Democrat. (PRRI also found that near 80% still don’t think Russia meddled in the election).

I have long lamented the fact that a majority of evangelicals are more Republican than Christian. Over the decades since the time of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority we have seen a complete conflation of evangelical Christianity and conservative politics. For most evangelicals, their commitment to Jesus is welded securely to right wing politics. They listen to Christian Radio and Fox News and experience no tension in that.

The Unholy Marriage of Evangelicals and Republicans

Over the past year this unholy marriage has been the source of intense grief and pain for me. I’m grieved because our unwavering support of a man so obviously devoid of integrity is not only casting doubt on our integrity as a group, it is robbing evangelicalism of any kind of witness to the wider world. Since the election our reputation has flat-lined. We’ve become a national joke – the self-blind assistants to the emperor with no clothes. We make Jesus look foolish.

Jonathan Merritt, a committed Christian, sums up our predicament in an article he wrote for USA Today, “Evangelicals squander their moral authority by sticking with Trump.” This article literally made me queasy.

There was a day when Christians pioneered the public critique of laissez faire capitalism and helped to create child labor laws and basic workplace safety standards. Traditionally, Christians have been on the front lines of fighting injustice, and insisting the government structure our society so that the most vulnerable among us are cared for. Christians led the fight against slavery, and were on the front lines of the civil rights movement.

For evangelicals, those days are gone. When the president openly defended white supremacist activists and the country became enraged, his first call for support was to Jerry Falwell Jr., who promptly and publicly reiterated evangelical support. When even the CEOs knew it was time to cut bait and resign from their posh councils and committees, evangelical leaders doubled down and stayed put.

I am not saying that evangelicals need to become democrats. I’m saying that if we are to regain any witness to our society we have to divorce ourselves from the Republican party. We have to stop drinking from the well of political conservatism and become a total pain in the butt to both parties equally.

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  • Monty

    The Church would be much better off being the Church. We are meant to be “salt”, which is a preservative. It does not change the character of the meat or whatever, but it does stop the rot. Christians in the western world have become proud, lazy, complacent, indifferent, insular and worldly. Sure there are individuals who have truly made Jesus their Lord and know Him as their life, but they are rare indeed. I was born again 45 years ago (I’m 66). I’ve seen the church regress over those decades. It does not have to be this way. There seems to be a fatalistic, “last days,” mentality that shapes people’s Christianity. The Jesus I know is coming back for a glorious, victorious, spotless and overcoming Church. Get the spiritual aspect right and society will benefit also. The western world is being swamped by Islam and Christians are increasingly becoming irrelevant. The one is the consequence of the other. The late leader of our fellowship saw this coming 30 years ago. There is time to repent, fast and pray and get the victory. Messing with politics is not the answer. If God calls someone to run for office, fine. But we need to remember that governments are worldly organisations. We should have respect for the authorities no matter who they are. If more people were praying for those in power and fewer were criticising their every move, we’d be a lot better off.

    • jamesparson

      “We should have respect for the authorities no matter who they are.”

      I disagree. In a democracy, we need to evaluate everything they do.

      • Monty

        That’s not what the bible says. God appoints leaders and Christians need to show respect. That does not mean agree with everything they do or say. I quite often send letters or emails to government officials. It’s not to pat them on the back either. However, I try to do it respectfully. That’s not popular these days. I am amazed at how aggressive people have become. I appreciate that you can disagree without resorting to insults.

        • jamesparson

          I got confused there. Thank you for the clarification

  • Timothy Weston

    The conservative religious publications are still touting Donald Trump as a Cyrus, which is a serious misrepresentation of him and the circumstances. This minority of Christians has enjoyed a disproportionate voice for too long and fear losing that impact. Donald Trump gave that voice more life.

  • http://www.maurers.org Johan

    To explain white American evangelical Christians’ loyalty to Trump, you need to draw from history, sociology, political science, journalism … anything BUT theology.

    As someone who never ever even contemplated supporting Trump, I guess I don’t show up in the statistics regarding loss of support. But it’s some small comfort that there were, after all, 19% who didn’t support him. That’s millions of people who didn’t suspend their God-given critical faculties.

    • AJ

      “As someone who never ever even contemplated supporting Trump” Amen. From the moment he announced his candidacy I was all “Who the f*** would ever vote for this guy?” and didn’t take him seriously at all, and he only got worse since then.

      Trump doesn’t worry me nearly as much as his followers.

  • kingsgirl

    Amen. I’ve been describing the relationship between the church and right-wing politics as an unholy marriage for a long time. History will look back at 20th-21st century American Christianity as a dark chapter in church history.

  • Shirley Blake

    This is a long simmering stew. Trump isn’t the problem as many have already stated. His election and his enjoyed support among “professed christians” is merely another manifestation of the ages long quest for power in church leadership. And so sadly supported by the congregation. I love what Monty had to say”There seems to be a fatalistic, “last days,” mentality that shapes people’s Christianity.” and I agree so very much. People seem to have given up on the challenge that the Christ presents. I don’t think that there would be any need to worry about Islam, contemporary culture or any of the bogeyman of political Christianity if the call of Jesus was represented by the church. Instead seekers are left to find God outside of “the church”.

  • AJ

    Evangelicals sold their souls for money and political power decades ago. Their faith means nothing to them unless it gets them what they want.

    • jamesparson

      When Roe v Wade is overturned, I a sure they will be celebrating. There will be parades.

  • jamesparson

    This atheist agrees 100%