Today’s *Washington Post* Piece on Trump and Evangelicals

Trump court evangelicals

If Pew Research is correct, Donald Trump is more popular among white evangelicals who regularly attend church and less popular among those who do not.  I tried to explain this in a piece at today’s Washington Post “Made by History” column.  Here is a taste:

Many white evangelical churchgoers now see the fight to overturn Roe v. Wade as equivalent to their call to share the Gospel with unbelievers. They subscribe to the message that the only way to live out evangelical faith in public is to vote for the candidates who will most effectively execute the 40-year-old Christian right playbook.

The movement’s message is so strong that even when pastors oppose the politicization of their religion, the message is not likely to persuade congregants. Indeed, many white evangelical pastors do not preach politics from their pulpit. Some speak boldly against the idolatrous propensity of their congregations to seek political saviors.

But these pastors cannot control the messaging their flocks imbibe after they leave church on Sunday. And a massive Christian right messaging machine targets these Americans with precision. Ministries and nonprofit organizations, driven by conservative political agendas, bombard the mailboxes, inboxes and social media feeds of ordinary evangelicals. Many of these organizations appeal to long-standing evangelical fears about cultural decline or provide selective historical evidence that the United States was founded as, and continues to be, a “Christian nation,” even though this never was true.

Evangelicals filter what they hear during weekly sermons through Fox News and conservative talk radio, producing an approach to political engagement that looks more like the Republican Party than the Kingdom of God.

None of this is new. People in the pews (or in the case of evangelical megachurches, the chairs), have always been selective in how they apply their pastor’s sermons in everyday life. Evangelical Christians, from the Puritans to the present, have always mixed traditional Christian teachings with more non-Christian sources as they cultivate their religious lives. Today, however, cable television and social media expose white evangelicals to ideas that come from outside the church but that claim to be driven by Christianity at an unprecedented rate.

Read the entire piece here.

5 thoughts on “Today’s *Washington Post* Piece on Trump and Evangelicals

  1. Back in 2012, in my long-time evangelical church I no longer attend, our pastor told us that abortion was such a paramount issue, and same-sex marriage posed such an existential threat to the church and the institution of marriage, that he no longer felt bound by tax exemption guidelines, and openly preached in his sermons that it was our absolute Christian duty to go vote for Mitt Romney. I was highly uncomfortable with this, and it was one more item on a long list of things that eventually led me to leave the church, but I’m not sure that anyone else so much as batted an eye.

    Another couple of items on that long list: the tendency of Sunday school class discussions, no matter the subject, to eventually be hijacked by someone (or someones) who wanted to talk about how terrible Pres. Obama was and how he represented everything bad that was described in the Bible. And to confirm your statement about cable television and social media, conversations around the church dealt more with last evening’s Fox News than the Bible or mission or evangelism or fellowship or anything else, and people often pushed for Sunday school classes or Bible study groups to show and discuss some great video they had seen on YouTube or Glen Beck or Hannity or . . . the list goes on.

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    • Two comments:

      First Paragraph: You DO remember that Romney got torpedoed by Christians in 2008 because he was Mormon? (Even though of all the candidates, his positions were closest to theirs.) I remember every 2008 endorsement being mobbed and flamed by proof-texting comment threads about “Godless False CULT! CULT! CULT!”

      Then comes 2012, where Romney steadily advances in the primaries to a baby-dinosaur chorus of “Not The Mormon! Not the Mormon!” while God’s Choice For Our Next President of the Week crashes, burns, and changes every primary. Then when Romney cinched the nomination as the Great White Hope of 2012, suddenly not only “oceania has always been at peace with eurasia” but Christian leaders/Future Court Evangelicals all proclaimed that Mormons were Real True Christians all along. (I do not know if they went back to being a Godless False CULT! CULT! CULT! after election night or not; everything just got real quiet.)

      Second paragraph: Messiah Politics; when the Other Party’s Prez is defined and vilified as The Antichrist, Our Party’s challenger/successor becomes The Second Coming of Christ to Cast Him Down and Bring The Millenial Kingdom.

      In 2008, Obama’s campaign made a low-key Messiah run against The Antichrist Chimpy Dubya Bushitler. This consisted of the classic Messiah Politics strategy of letting your followers project their hopes and wishes and dreams upon you as The One Who Will Bring Them About. I remember a lot of fear of what Obama would do in office, because of third-party promises from the fanatical fanboys he accumulated. These fears turned out to be unfounded because Obama ended up as pretty much an average Prez. But his fanatic fanboys were still pretty scary.

      In 2016, a bombastic Real Estate Tycoon made a much higher-profile and cruder Messiah run against The Obamanation of Desolation(TM) and to 81% of born-agains became (and still is) The Second Coming of Christ. (And the fanatic fanboys he inspired show much less sign of fading away like Obama’s — Insert SCRIPTURE proof texts an/or praise-phrases and “AAAAAA-MENNNNN”s here.)

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  2. Fabulous piece. My pastor at an evangelical church made sure to keep political talk out, always made sure I was included in everything even tho people laughingly referred to me as “the only Democrat ” in church. Did a lot of real great social justice programs – teamed with the “black churches in town” for projects. One church approach.

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    • Marsha,

      Did you also work with the black churches on common evangelistic efforts or crusades? Would you not say that is after all the primary role of churches regardless of their ethnicity?

      James

      Like

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