Some Evangelical Leaders Finally Come out against Trump (Widening the Gap among American Evangelicals)
Recently two influential evangelical leaders have denounced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump without endorsing Hillary Clinton. (Both have also carefully not actually opposed Trump’s candidacy but restricted themselves to criticizing him personally.)
Throughout this long, agonizing presidential campaign the American media have trumpeted Trump’s support by so-called “evangelicals.” I put “evangelicals” in quotation marks because, as I have said here many times before, most of the people the American media names as “evangelicals” are what I would call fundamentalists.
*The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
The two influential evangelical leaders I speak of are Andy Crouch, editorial director of Christianity Today and well-known author of books about evangelical Christianity and culture, and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Both have couched their anti-Trump (or better put “anti-evangelicals-for-Trump”) remarks as personal and not as representing their organizations. This is permitted by IRS rules. All of the Christian leaders who have publicly supported Trump, such as Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, have done so as private individuals not speaking for their non-profit organizations.
You can easily find Crouch’s and Moore’s most recent (and earlier) blasts against Trump and against his evangelical supporters of the so-called “Religious Right” on line using any search engine. Both were published and reported on in major American publications.
Neither Crouch nor Moore held back with regard to Hillary Clinton whom they both admit has many drawbacks they consider (apparently) legitimate reasons for concern for evangelical (and fundamentalist) voters. The general tone of both men’s remarks is that they fully understand why fellow Christians will not vote for Clinton.
Both Crouch and Moore aim their harshest criticisms at fellow evangelicals/fundamentalists who continue to support Trump in spite of his misogyny and (to them) vile character with regard to sex. Here is an excerpt from Moore’s recent essay (which has been published under different titles such as “Endorsing the Donald and Losing Your Integrity.”
“These evangelical leaders [who continue to support Trump after the most recent revelations] have said that for the sake of the ‘lesser of two evils,’ one should stand with someone who not only characterizes sexual decadence and misogyny, brokers in cruelty and nativism, and displays a crazed public and private temperament—but who glories in these things. Some of the very people who warned us about moral relativism and situational ethics now ask us to become moral relativists for the sake of an election. And when some dissent, they are labeled as liberals or accused of moral preening or sitting comfortably on the sidelines. The cynicism and nihilism are horrifying to behold. It is not new, but it is clearer to see than ever”
Now, for those readers here who do not know Russell Moore, he previously taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and served there as associate dean under SBTS president Al Mohler. He is anything but a “left wing” evangelical or supporter of typical policies most people associate with the Democratic Party in America.
Andy Crouch, equally critical of evangelical/fundamentalist leaders who seem unconcerned about Trump’s sexist statements and sexual life, is editorial director of Christianity Today—hardly anyone’s idea of a left-wing, pro-Democrat religious publication.
Both men are shouting out to American conservative Christians that this election, especially the candidacy of Donald Trump and his continuing support by many evangelical/fundamentalist leaders, forms a crisis for evangelical Christianity. Both suggest, rightly, in my opinion, that those leaders’ continuing support for Trump, will lead to many, perhaps most, younger evangelicals abandoning American evangelicalism altogether. In other words, those leaders are more than giving “evangelicalism” a bad name in America and in the world; they are publicly making themselves and the movement they claim to represent simply incredible, if not a laughing stock, especially for thirty-something and younger evangelical Christians.
If “American evangelicalism” were a church, a denomination, this crisis would justify a Kirchenkampf—a church struggle—analogous to that which happened in Germany in the 1930s when the Confessing Church separated itself from the German national Protestant churches that had come under the influence of a group calling itself “German Christians” who supported the National Socialist Party (Nazi Party). Nobody in Germany really expected in 1933 that Germany’s new Chancellor Adolf Hitler would become the kind of murderous tyrant he did become later. But a few Christian voices like Dietrich Bonhoeffer opposed him publicly anyway—based on his character, publically announced policies, and narcissistic personal style. The Holocaust was not even in view in 1933. The Confessing Church did not separate from the German Christian-dominated national Protestant churches over the Holocaust because that was not yet happening. Bonhoeffer and others like him publicly opposed Hitler because of his character and leadership style. That did not mean they supported anyone else for Chancellor or “Führer;” they were not pro-communist, for example. But, for them, Hitler and his party stood out as so obviously dangerous that they could not support him even as the “lesser of” several evils (viz., other candidates for Chancellor).
I am not here comparing Trump with Hitler. I am comparing evangelical/fundamentalist leaders’ support for him with the early “German Christians’” support for Hitler as the lesser of several evils—including especially various socialist and communist politicians. They closed their eyes to what should have been right in front of their faces and gave unconditional support to Hitler as a national “savior” in spite of his obvious personal and political tendencies. In that case and the current one blindness is no excuse, nor is disdain, even hatred, of Clinton.
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