Donald Trump is calling himself an “evangelical.” Christian columnist Michael Gerson discusses that self-identification, in the course of which he tells a great anecdote relating to (a misunderstanding of) vocation.
From Michael Gerson, Donald Trump presents evangelical Christians with a crucial choice – The Washington Post:
Donald Trump — who knows something about crude and offensive imitations — has now taken to calling himself an “evangelical.” He also finds Ted Cruz a little fishy in the conservative Protestant orthodoxy department because he is, wait for it, a Cuban American. “Not a lot of evangelicals come out of Cuba,” Trump said recently. “It’s true. Not a lot come out. But I like him nevertheless.”
In other words, Trump’s stereotype of a Cuban doesn’t fit his stereotype of an evangelical Christian. Apparently all the evangelicals he knows look like Iowans.
By definition, Trump could be an evangelical Christian if he were really serious about it. Evangelicals come in a surprising variety of flavors. The wealthy and powerful, we are told, have a tougher time of it, with that whole camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle thing. But the offer is universal.
Actually being an evangelical, however, requires a basic grasp of theology. After praying with Billy Graham, the mobster Mickey Cohen claimed a conversion experience. When Cohen resumed his former lifestyle, some Christians challenged him. Cohen supposedly replied, “Christian football players, Christian cowboys, Christian politicians: Why not a Christian gangster?”
So, why not an evangelical Trump?
Some theological objections might be offered. It is not characteristic of evangelicalism — apart from the very worst that televangelism has to offer — to count your worth in dollars or elevate pride to an art form. Or to trivialize Communion (“my little wine” and “my little cracker”), or dismiss the idea of Christian conversion (“it doesn’t happen that way”), or reject the need for forgiveness. “Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness,” Trump has asked, “if I am not making mistakes?”