Michael Gerson on Evangelical Anxiety

Trump court evangelicals

Many evangelicals believe that their religious liberty under attack.  Perhaps “attack” is a bit extreme, but there are some legitimate threats to religious liberty.  Michael Gerson of The Washington Post agrees with this assessment.  But he also reminds us that evangelicals face a much greater threat.  Here is a taste of his recent column:

Much white evangelical support for President Trump is based on a bargain or transaction: political loyalty (and political cover for the president’s moral flaws) in return for protection from a hostile culture. Many evangelicals are fearful that courts and government regulators will increasingly treat their moral and religious convictions as varieties of bigotry. And that this will undermine the ability of religious institutions to maintain their identities and do their work. Such alarm is embedded within a larger anxiety about lost social standing that makes Trump’s promise of a return to greatness appealing.

Evangelical concerns may be exaggerated, but they are not imaginary. There is a certain type of political progressive who would grant institutional religious liberty only to churches, synagogues and mosques, not to religious schools, religious hospitals and religious charities. Such a cramped view of pluralism amounts to the establishment of secularism, which would undermine the long-standing cooperation of government and religious institutions in tasks such as treating addiction, placing children in adoptive homes, caring for the sick and educating the young.

But this is not, by any reasonable measure, the largest problem evangelicals face. It is, instead, the massive sell-off of evangelicalism among the young. About 26 percent of Americans 65 and older identify as white evangelical Protestants. Among those ages 18 to 29, the figure is 8 percent. Why this demographic abyss does not cause greater panic — panic concerning the existence of evangelicalism as a major force in the United States — is a mystery and a scandal. With their focus on repeal of the Johnson Amendment and the right to say “Merry Christmas,” some evangelical leaders are tidying up the kitchen while the house burns down around them.

Read the rest here.

6 thoughts on “Michael Gerson on Evangelical Anxiety

  1. Unicorn,
    Thanks for the clarification. But don’t most of the popular models call for the false prophet to be a European or alternatively a Middle Easterner?

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  2. I don’t know that there is such a thing as a political system or government that isn’t corrupt to some degree. I don’t know that it’s possible for those of the church who attach themselves to a political party not to be compromised and corrupted to some extent.
    I don’t think it’s wrong for a Christian to work in that field and run for election and serve office. But that so much of the church in the USA has more than just aligned itself with a political party and especially it’s current leader is troubling to me.
    It requires so much compromise. If what we knew of the president as facts before the election was public knowledge of anyone else it would have made his employment in many, if not most jobs impossible.
    But Christian leaders stand in line to be pictured with him in the Oval Office.

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  3. I was not thinking of The Donald as The False Prophet.
    (Remember, The Beast = POLITICAL System/Leader.)
    More the Court Evangelicals like Jeffress and Falwell Jr.

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  4. Unicorn,

    The problem you have aligning events today the one model is that The Donald is not ostensibly religious. The false prophet will presumably pass most of the right personal spiritual tests. How else could he pass himself off as a prophet of God?

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  5. And yet you would never guess this based on the strategy of so many evangelicals and evangelical leaders/spokespersons today, who seek protection from earthly powers or, even worse, who seek to themselves BE the earthly powers achieving dominion.

    If you’ve heard the semi-allegorical interpretation of Revelation where The Beast represents a corrupt political system and The False Prophet a corrupt religious system in cahoots, WHICH OF THE TWO IS ALWAYS THE BOSS AND WHICH IS ALWAYS THE FLUNKY?

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  6. Taking a long-term view, here is what I find most ironic about the current evangelical preoccupation with seeking “protection” through political means by aligning itself with a political party and individual politicians in the transactional bargain referenced by Gerson. The irony is that throughout history, the church and the faith has frequently been refined and strengthened when faced with opposition, even at the level of persecution. In contrast, when the church has allied itself with worldly powers and sought power and influence, this has typically resulted in compromise, corruption, and significant “mission drift” to the point where the church ceased to be salt and light to the world.

    And yet you would never guess this based on the strategy of so many evangelicals and evangelical leaders/spokespersons today, who seek protection from earthly powers or, even worse, who seek to themselves BE the earthly powers achieving dominion. If history is any indication, it is not too hard to predict where this trajectory leads.

    The evangelical flocks are being driven by fears about the “godless secular left,” and (as Gerson acknowledges) some of those fears have a basis in reality, but I am firmly convinced that the church’s current strategy could be characterized as rushing away from Scylla right into the destructive force of Charybdis. In that mythology, Scylla posed the risk of a loss of several crew members, but Charybdis could destroy the entire ship.

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