“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.