In the gospels, Jesus calls on his followers to go out, teach his message, and baptize people. Stanley has organized his life around this imperative, called “the Great Commission.” The question for evangelicals, now, is whether the undeniable association between Trump and their version of Christianity will make that work harder. “Has this group of people who have somehow become ‘evangelical leaders’” aligned with Trump “hurt the church’s ability to reach people outside the church? Absolutely,” Stanley said. But he’s not overly worried: A year or two from now, he said, “all that goes away.” New leaders will rise up. The Trump era of evangelical history will fade. Stanley chuckled. “And this will just be, for a lot of people, a bad dream.”
At least on Fox News and at Trump rallies, these figures have been granted the authority to speak for the whole of the evangelical world. And yet their version of Christianity only reflects one corner of the wildly diverse expanse of evangelicalism, which includes roughly one-quarter of the American population. Trump’s advisers are “not evangelical leaders. They’re evangelicals who have had their status elevated because they hang around and get invited to the White House,” Stanley said. “Those people were virtually in the marketplace, unknown, until all this happened.” It’s not that Stanley isn’t the kind of evangelical Trump would want by his side. The pastor just didn’t want any part of it. Hang around the White House for too long, “and the next thing you know, you think you’re somebody,” he said. “I just don’t have any business getting sucked into that.”
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