One of the things that has gotten a lot of press lately is how Evangelical leaders who are a part of Trump’s informal faith advisory council have stuck with their man, even after Trump’s Charlottesville fiasco.
Even after Trump wavered on his condemnation of white supremacy in his recent comments on Charlottesville — indicting “both sides,” as though the left shared just as much blame as neo-NAZI’s — evangelical leaders continue to stand by Trump. Even after a wave of prominent CEOs defected from one of Trump’s advisory groups and even after every last soul resigned from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, prominent evangelical leaders continue to ring out their support, which has come most ardently (and most infamously) from Jerry Falwell, Jr. who took to Twitter to praise Trump in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s Charlottesville speech.
The most obvious question: Why?
Given how at-odds Trump is with the basic tenants of morality and spirituality as taught by Jesus, how can evangelicals remain so steadfast in their support for Trump?
Trump isn’t merely a political means to an end, he’s one of them
And so articles buzz as they circulate social media, all asking variants of the same question: When will evangelical leaders dump Trump?
The answer: never
Why will Evangelicals stick by their guy? It’s kind of simple: Trump and Evangelicals all pretty much believe the same things, at least so far as their politics are concerned. Trump isn’t merely a political means to an end, he’s one of them.
The answer is simple but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been mystified by it all, nor does it mean that I haven’t been traumatized by the spiritual bankruptcy of the movement of Evangelicalism, the place of my own spiritual birth and early spiritual development. I spent nearly the first 30 years of my life in evangelical circles, but even I was taken back by exit polls that showed 80% of evangelicals voted Trump.
By their fruits you will know them
I shouldn’t have been, but I suppose there was something deep inside of me that remained optimistic, something that wanted to believe that evangelicals would have enough connection with the founder of their faith so as to avoid making a deal with the devil, but the reality is that the evangelical movement has never really been all that into following the life and teachings of Jesus.
As a movement, Evangelicals are far more concerned about Roe v. Wade, more worried about being persecuted for their faith, more stressed that they are losing the “culture wars,” more afraid of undocumented immigrants, and more concerned about preserving capitalism. So when a billionaire, pussy grabbing Playboy comes along who talks tough on all of these issues, it’s a no-brainer because despite how at-odds Trump is with the life and teachings of Jesus, he’s got a lot in common with evangelicals.
Another complication, for me, is that I remember Monica Lewinsky
This critique doesn’t apply to all Evangelicals, of course, but to the direction of the movement. I have friends and family that are evangelical and who have broken the mold, but they remain minorities within the movement, exceptions that prove the rule. And they also often feel defensive, which is how I felt in my final years as an Evangelical.
There is something fairly unique to Evangelical Christianity here in America: there’s an extreme lack of political diversity. Growing up Evangelical, there was always a sense that if you don’t hold to the conservative party line, then you need to explain yourself. Conservative politics, were, essentially, God’s politics. Those who differed were viewed with suspicion. For example, if you are an Evangelical with a nuanced view on abortion, you’ll be viewed suspiciously, as if you may be a baby-killing liberal.
You get more political diversity within other church movements. If you are a Roman Catholic, you get a little political breathing room, and Roman Catholics don’t vote straight Red Republican, like Evangelicals. This made it complicated for those of us who grew up Evangelical.
Another complication to this whole discussion, for me, is that I remember Monica Lewinsky. I remember the blue dress. I was an impressionable teenager when the original Jerry Falwell and other Evangelical leaders railed against Bill Clinton. Leaders needed to be above reproach, a model of morality. Clinton, they said, represented the degeneration of the culture, which was bound to happen, it was implied, because liberals are themselves a degenerate lot.
For me, there’s still a good bit of pain in watching this alliance with Trump
I took this all to heart. I was a very earnest young believer, back in those days. Now these same leaders and their kin have embraced Trump, and Trump the Playboy is miles ahead of Bill Clinton in his sexual debauchery. Clinton just had a few blow jobs and then apologized (when he realized he couldn’t cover it up). Trump has been a brazen adulterer, breaking just about any sexual commandment that God’s ever been able to dream up.
But Trump is one of them, and that’s the difference.
The verse that comes to my mind is “by their fruits you will know them.” But maybe a Game of Thrones approach is more to the point —- by their allies you will know them. It’s deeper than an alliance, though. Evangelicals really like Trump. I suppose this is what makes it all the harder to watch, as a former believer. It’s never seems to get easy, to watch the movement that gave birth to your most sincere spiritual aspirations circle the wagon for Team Trump, and to do so with so few reservations, except a token comment about how Trump “has made mistakes” or how his temperament is a bit abrasive.
I’ve longed since moved on, from the religious movement of Evangelicalism, but there’s still a good bit of pain in watching this alliance with Trump continue to work itself out. It feels like my spiritual birthright was sold, and sold cheap, and that’s a shitty feeling to have.
As we learned in Sunday School, Esau sold his birthright — but at least he fed himself when he was starving. He was desperate, so you can hardly blame the dude. Evangelicals, I suppose, are desperate too, but it’s hard to tell what they are fighting for, anymore. It certainly isn’t for anything Jesus taught or for anything that Jesus lived for.