Harvard Divinity School Podcast: Trump and Evangelicals

beyond beliefListen to this episode of the Beyond Belief podcast here.  Host Jonathan Beasley interviews Dudley Rose, Professor of Ministry Studies at Harvard Divinity School. Here is a taste of the transcript:

Jonathan Beasley: So, Professor Rose. We’ve heard and read about how Evangelical Christians feel as if they are being left behind or perhaps looked down on as a kind of besieged minority. Trump really has stood up for these people and he’s told them, effectively, that he’s here to protect them, and he’s here to protect those values. Could you talk more about this? And is one of the main reasons that white evangelicals support Trump out of fear of perhaps losing that way of life or those values that they hold so dear?

Dudley Rose: That’s a fascinating question, I think, Jonathan. If you think about it, the doctrines, like the right of discovery, Manifest Destiny, a new promised land, sound pretty aggressive to our ears today, right? We’ve become more sensitive to the language of racism and sexism, for example, and the rights of the powerless and the oppressed—at least at a lip-service level we have. And one genius of Christian nationalism espoused by many white Evangelical Christians is a real sleight of hand: They claim that they are victims of the progressive left and that they are the oppressed party. It’s genius. People of enormous privilege and political power turn the argument on its head and claim protections designed to safeguard people without privilege and power.

It has skewed debates on issues such as religious freedom, for example. Religious freedom was a concept devised to protect the freedom of religious expression of people in minority religious traditions and movements. But some evangelical Christians have argued, with some success, that their religious freedom is compromised by those who have different beliefs from them—for example, that marriage can be between two people of the same gender who love each other.

This has nothing to do with an evangelical Christian’s freedom to practice their religious tradition; it has to do with the desire to prevent someone else from practicing theirs. So, the real issue at play with Christian nationalists is the belief that they should have dominant control of the culture, and for them, not having that dominant control feels like oppression.

The podcast ends with a quote from my June 2018 piece at The Atlantic:

Writing in the Atlantic Monthly, John Fea, a professor at Messiah College and self-described evangelical, wrote the following:

“Evangelicals are people of hope, not fear. The practice of Christian hope points us to a life beyond this world, but it also requires us to act in such a way that models God’s coming kingdom. The Kingdom of God is characterized by the love of enemies, the welcoming of strangers, the belief in the human dignity of all people, a humble and self-sacrificial posture toward public life, and a trust in the sovereign God of the universe. Fear is a natural human response to social change, but evangelicals betray their deepest spiritual convictions when they choose to dwell in it.”

Read the entire transcript here.