Trumpism and U.K. evangelicalism

On Monday I did a post on Morgan Lee’s interview with Brazilian evangelical (currently pastoring an evangelical church in Rome) René Breuel. Breuel told Lee that he believes the American evangelical church has “lost part of its moral authority and spiritual leadership” because of its affiliation with Donald Trump and Trumpism.

Today I call your attention to Lee’s interview with Gavin Calver, the leader of the United Kingdom’s Evangelical Alliance. According to its website, the Evangelical Alliance “is made up of hundreds of organisations, thousands of churches and tends of thousands of individuals, joined together for the sake of the gospel. Representing our members since 1846, the Evangelical Alliance is the oldest and largest evangelical unity movement in the UK.”

Here is a taste of the interview at Christianity Today:

How did American evangelical support of Trump affect evangelicals’ reputation in the UK?

The problem was this word evangelical was connected to something that we had very little influence over and no control upon. In the media, they would talk about evangelical Christians doing X, Y, and Z as in the US. That by association made it look like we were the same people with the same ideology and the same everything.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We’re brothers and sisters. That’s important that we hold to that, but we’re a million miles away politically at times. It was a struggle to lead something here in the UK that was seen in the light of Trump. What Trump stood for by association the media caricatured us as standing for and, with the greatest respect, that often was not the case.

Would you say Trump’s presence and the American evangelical support for Trump tested this historically strong relationship between the two communities?

It created that awkward moment at a family dinner party where there’s something you can’t talk about because it’s just going to lead to a complete disagreement. I know that from my own experiences of visiting the US and having family there that it causes a tension in families that we don’t really understand here. Politics are important, but they’re not at any point some kind of demigods in our society here in the United Kingdom. The absolute wedding of politics and faith was not helpful when trying to have rational conversations.

Back in 2019, Franklin Graham planned a number of crusades in the UK. Multiple entertainment arenas canceled them after LGBT activists organized against his coming. How have you made sense of this situation?

The issue for us in the United Kingdom is the religious liberty issue of the “cancel culture,” that you’re not allowed to hold that kind of event in a venue. But the church was very much divided as to whether it supported or didn’t support Franklin coming. The pandemic led to an outcome in which he couldn’t come. But now it will be interesting to see what happens in some of the legal cases around freedom of religion that are going to be taking place with those venues that wouldn’t have them.

Franklin Graham’s relentless support of Trump certainly didn’t help in the UK lens. But once the venues were canceled and COVID stopped it from happening, the issue now is: What are the religious liberty consequences, if any, going forward here? That’s significant to every evangelist that wants to speak about Jesus in any public setting in the UK.

Read the entire interview here.