Fear-Mongering and Politics in the Pulpit: A Wrap-Up of Trump’s Dinner with the Court Evangelicals

Metaxas at Party

Court evangelical Eric Metaxas in the court

Over at Religion News Service, Emily McFarlan Miller and Jack Jenkins have a nice wrap-up of all the tweets, guests, speeches, etc….  Here is a taste:

WASHINGTON (RNS) — The White House hosted a dinner Monday night (Aug. 27) for about 100 evangelical Christian leaders and senior-level officials, honoring evangelicals, as one participant explained, “for all the good work they do.”

Calling America “a nation of believers,” President Trump said at the event that they had gathered to “celebrate America’s heritage of faith, family and freedom.”

“As you know, in recent years the government tried to undermine religious freedom, but the attacks on communities of faith are over,” the president said. “We’ve ended it. We’ve ended it. Unlike some before us, we are protecting your religious liberty.”

Trump also took the opportunity to press evangelicals to turn out their supporters on Election Day later this year, according to an audio recording of the event leaked to The New York Times.

“I just ask you to go out and make sure all of your people vote,” Trump told the crowd, according to the Times. “Because if they don’t — it’s Nov. 6 — if they don’t vote we’re going to have a miserable two years and we’re going to have, frankly, a very hard period of time because then it just gets to be one election — you’re one election away from losing everything you’ve got.”

Trump then appeared to claim that if Democrats win, they “will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently.”

Read the entire piece here.

I have to give Trump credit.  He knows that fear-mongering is one of the best ways to motivate evangelicals in the public square.  Trump’s remark about “violence” reminds me of the 2016 GOP primary when Ted Cruz said the federal government would soon be removing crosses from tombstones.  This kind of rhetoric, as I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trumpworks very well with evangelicals.

Trump also asked evangelical leaders to use their power to influence the 2018 midterm elections.  Several folks writing today on social media think that evangelical churches with preachers who use their pulpits to endorse candidates should lose their tax-exempt status.  And they are correct.  The so-called Johnson Amendment forbids churches from endorsing candidates.  Trump promised his evangelical followers that he would remove the Johnson Amendment from the tax code, but so far he has not been able to do it.  But it is unlikely that it will be enforced while he is in office.  (In fact, it was rarely forced before he took office).

But what about the other side of this equation?  What will the preaching of politics from pulpits do to the church?