It’s about Time! Evangelical Leaders Meet to Discuss Evangelical Identity in the Trump Era
According to an article published in the The Washington Post (by-line Sara Pulliam Baily) and re-published in my local newspaper this past week (April 9-13) A group of about 50 “top evangelical leaders” will meet at Wheaton College (Illinois) to discuss issues for American evangelicalism raised by the media’s and some evangelical leaders’ seeming identification of evangelicalism with right-wing politics.
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The article does not name all the invited evangelical leaders but implies that among them may be Tim Keller and Richard Mouw—two notable American evangelical statesmen. Ostensibly, anyway, the meeting will not have on its agenda specific discussion of President Trump, but evangelical support for him will be the “elephant in the room.” One organizer-leader of the meeting is quoted as saying “Given such strong support [of Trump by evangelical voters], a case could be made that the greatest barrier to the gospel is evangelicals’ embrace of ‘Trumpism’ as an ideology.”
I personally do not know what “Trumpism” is—as an ideology. I don’t see that Trump has any ideology except certain things he opposes. Surely an “ideology” must be more than that! Maybe he has one and I just haven’t realized it yet. (I don’t doubt that some of his supporters have one!)
But that’s a quibble; in general I agree with the statement.
My only qualm about this planned meeting is that it may not go far enough. The article suggests that a few of the invited participants may be Trump supporters. And, apparently, there is no litmus test for invitation/participation with regard to politics. (There should be; some political beliefs and practices are anathema to the gospel.)
In my humble opinion, what we really need is for some evangelicals to speak out very openly and firmly about a need to prophetically correct so-called evangelicals who refuse to criticize Trump and who, by their silence or expressed support for whatever he does, sully the reputation of conservative, evangelical Christianity world-wide.
As I have stated here before, I believe the time has come for a true Kirchenkampf among American evangelicals; we need to separate from us (or we from them) those self-identified evangelical leaders and their followers who seem to back and support the Republican Party of today and President Trump uncritically. (I am not talking about those who are thoughtfully critical but supportive. I would say the same about self-identified evangelical leaders who seem to back and support any political party and any politician or government leader uncritically!)
One evangelical leader quoted in the article, who will be at the meeting, served on an advisory group of evangelicals (implied in the article’s language is “to President Trump”) but resigned after Trump blamed “both sides” for the “deadly violence in Charlottesville after a white supremacist march.” I can respect that and wish that more evangelicals would do the same—with their seemingly uncritical support of whatever Trump says and does. At the very least they ought to send him a strong message, which this meeting may accomplish, that many American evangelical leaders are strongly disillusioned and for their continued support he must change his posture toward many kinds of people.
My hope is that what this meeting will accomplish, if nothing else, is to send a signal to the media and to the world that not all American evangelical leaders support Trump uncritically and that many do not support him at all.
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