Is “Evangelical” Now a Political Identity?

Is “Evangelical” Now a Political Identity? January 11, 2024

Is “Evangelical” Now a Political Identity?

A recent article in the New York Times suggested that “evangelical” is now a political identity more than a religious one. At least in America. And that is a major problem with the claim! Most evangelicals live outside the U.S. That fact seems to be overlooked by many pollsters, commentators, journalists, and scholars. What the article means, of course, is that IN AMERICA “evangelical” has become a political identity nearly identical with Trumpism or at least conservative politics.

The researchers the article is based on found that many, if not most, contemporary white American evangelicals are more concerned with politics than with spirituality. Many, if not most, do not even attend church! They pour most of their energy into politics, supporting right-wing causes and politicians. They may say they believe in Jesus and are “born again,” but, in fact, their “hearts” (seat of affections) really lie in converting America back into what they think was a Christian nation sometime in the past. And that by means of energetically campaigning for right-wing political candidates and especially Trump and those who support him.

The real “news” in this is the claim that many, if not most, of these “new evangelicals” do not attend church, at least not regularly. They are spiritually “fed” by right-wing commentators on the internet. Many of them join a church based mainly on the pastor’s and congregational leaders’ politics and, insofar as they attend church at all, they do so in order to enjoy “fellowship” with like-minded people, people who share their political ideology.

I hate to tell you “I told you so,” but I did say it here—that very many people join certain churches with politics on their minds. Very many people who call themselves “evangelical” in America (almost all of them white) MEAN that they are committed to MAGA politics. I noticed this several years ago and talked about it here, that the poll-takers at the voting polls do not ask enough questions to find out whether people calling themselves “evangelical” have any real idea what that means—historically, theologically, spiritually.

As a Christian theologian, and a life-long evangelical, I can say with certainty that anyone who blends MAGA, especially Trumpism, with Christianity and puts them on an equal plane in terms of commitment from the heart or even in the mind is not really Christian, let alone truly evangelical, at all.

I strongly urge courageous Christian leaders, especially evangelical ones, perhaps the National Association of Evangelicals, perhaps Christianity Today, to embrace The Barmen Declaration of the Confessing Church of Germany. We  need to begin an American “Kirchenkampf,” church struggle, modeled after that in Germany in the 1930s. If you are not familiar with that, I challenge you to inform yourself. Start with Wikipedia which is not always wrong. It’s just not the place to stop. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a leader of the German Kirchenkampf until he realized it was not taking a strong enough stand against Hitler, the Nazi Party, and the anti-semitism active in Germany. Many of the leaders of the Confessing Church and other Christians who called out Hitler and the Nazi Party did end up in concentration camps. One notable example is Pastor Martin Niemoller, someone to know. After WW2 he said that when they (meaning the Nazis) came for the unionists, he did not speak up because he was not a unionist. When they came for the socialists he did not speak up because he was not a socialist. When they came for the Jews he did not speak up because he wasn’t a Jew. And when they came for him, there was no one left to speak up.

IF all the Christian churches and church leaders in Germany had spoken up against Hitler, based on his well-known or well-knowable views expressed in Mein Kampf and his speeches, his evil schemes would not have played out as they did. Bonhoeffer did speak out against Hitler at the very beginning of his becoming Fuhrer  and that on Berlin radio. He was cut off by the Gestapo in mid-speech. He was sure it was the Gestapo and/or the Ministry of Propaganda who did that.

Where are the evangelical Christian Bonhoeffers of America today?

I will say as an evangelical scholar, if not leader, that I believe IF Trump becomes president of the U.S. again, it will spell the beginning of the end of democracy in America. And even more importantly, the beginning of the loss, if not the end, of our precious rights of free speech, of our multiple party system, of free dissent against the government, etc. When Trump called the news media in America the “enemy of the people” and when he affirmed that he would become “dictator,” even if only for one day, every American should have shuddered. Too many, including many who call themselves evangelical Christians, made excuses for him.

*If you choose to comment, make sure you comment is relatively brief, no more than 100 words, on topic, addressed to me, civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of pictures or links.*

"Which is why I didn’t attack “simple Christianity.” Folk religion is simple-minded Christianity. It is ..."

What Is (Christian) Folk Religion?
"I have. I don’t understand your question."

What Does “The Blood of Jesus” ..."
"I don’t really even know what that means. I would have to know the context."

What Is (Christian) Folk Religion?
"I think the literalistic way of understanding and interpreting Jesus’s blood can obscure the true ..."

What Does “The Blood of Jesus” ..."

Browse Our Archives