Evangelicals, You Stink.
81% of American Evangelicals Voted Trump “Apparently” For The Court, But It’s Also a Tacit Endorsement of All the Bad Things
There’s a troubling meme bouncing around Evangelical circles these last couple days when it comes to electing Donald Trump: we voted for the Supreme Court, don’t blame us for the other bad stuff.
Unfortunately, as people of faith, we cannot square that circle.
I think the Evangelical church is guilty of grave sin when it comes to supporting the increasingly flawed presidency of Donald Trump. That’s because I subscribe to Cornelius Plantinga’s definition of sin, which is in essence, the “culpable disturbance of shalom.” When it comes to matters of how we view and treat people, character and policy matters — and what we see in the opening lurches of the Trump Administration is a very culpable and intentional disruption of shalom (an ancient Hebrew word that means “peace and flourishing”).
But alas, some of my brothers disagree.
Evangelical church planting and statistical guru Ed Stetzer remarked in Christianity Today:
… I’m tired of seeing Evangelicals who voted for Trump slandered for choosing between the two major candidates they had.
For many Evangelicals, it’s the Supreme Court, stupid.
I’ve grown weary of the untrue and unfair accusation that all Trump voters are racists, misogynists, and xenophobes because they voted for Trump.
The Atlantic has had two articles in two days with the same vibe.
Evangelical writer and radio host Eric Metaxas — who has written what is essentially fan fiction of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life (the Pastor and Nazi martyr who inspired Martin Luther King amongst others ) — recently gave the President a blank check on matters of “truth.” Backstage at the recent March for Life, Metaxas exclaimed: “[I’m]tremendously hopeful. I’ve never seen a president do what he said he was going to do so clearly and so rapidly in my life.”
Which is shocking because later that very day the President turned American airports into detention centers for refugees and immigrants who had legally fled danger for safer shores — many resettled and encouraged by their Evangelical neighbors.
This also brings me to the incredibly audacious claim that Evangelicals got what they voted for in Justice Gorsuch’s nomination but aren’t responsible for all the other ugly stuff associated with Trump Administration.
The very serious and sincere Eric Teetsel (former faith outreach staffer for Marco Rubio’s failed Presidential bid), remarked “I think it’s fair to say that people who voted for Trump believing that the Supreme Court was the most important thing should feel vindicated tonight.” This is the same Eric Teetsel who called Donald Trump a liar and stood outside Trump’s faith leaders meeting last year with his righteously indignant one-man protest.
Eric bought a placard and red marker from a nearby store much like many Americans the last couple weeks and stood up against Trump’s endorsement of torture, racism, misogyny and killing the innocent children of terrorists. To underscore his point, Teetsel quoted the wisdom of Proverbs 29:2: When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people groan.
This is sincerely why Americans increasingly have no time or energy for the church — we’ve lost our integrity and moral center.
To be clear: I am not protesting Justice Gorsuch’s nomination. I don’t agree with his interpretation of the US Constitution but he seems to be a humble, serious and fair judge — something our Court needs in these divisive times.
I have, on the other hand, protested Betsy DeVos’ nomination — not questioning her Christian integrity, but more concerned with her policy ideas on education, equity & gun control in our public schools. This protest got me blocked on Twitter by Donald Miller, the Christian author turned brand-guru, who deleted a previous endorsement of his friend Betsy DeVos once it was revealed she was also a major financial backer of his work.
I pastor a new church community in Portland, Oregon that was kicked out of our denomination 1 year in for our commitment to LGBTQ inclusion. On that issue alone, I know I probably don’t pass the litmus test for what counts as a bona fide evangelical in these incredibly partisan and exclusionary days. But I sincerely believe in the centrality of the Scriptures in our shared life together, a reliance on the Holy Spirit in every day matters, the call for personal repentance and community transformation, and most importantly, the saving work and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Once upon a time, when it came to Christian advocacy and support, integrity and character mattered. With 81% of American Evangelicals voting for Donald Trump, it seems like that concern is now up for grabs. (I reflected on these very authentic Pew Research stats last November.)
In college I used to work at a Christian bookstore — we made most of our money on marked up Life Application Study Bibles, but also sold a number of important volumes on Christian Living. One of the most popular books back then was Patrick Morley’s award-winning male spirituality book “A Man In the Mirror.” In it, Morley directs Christian men to drop the endless rat race pursuit of success in business and career for a character-centered life of following in the footsteps of Jesus.
In his devotional reflections, Morley admonished Christian men specifically to remember our need for centered, ethical virtue: “We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our character.”
Which also reminds me of Martin Luther King’s powerful reflections in his I Have A Dream speech:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
Character matters because it is the sustained, imperfect but resilient pursuit, of loving God and our neighbors as ourselves.
I fear that a lot of my white, straight male Christian brothers have lost the script on what it means to have Christian character amidst this first month of the Trump presidency.
A vote for Donald Trump cannot be considered a vote solely for a Supreme Court choice — it is a tacit approval of Trump’s racist, mysoginist, Islamophobic ways.
“We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our character.” — Patrick Morley, The Man In The Mirror
Evangelical men were the first to defend Trump when it came to his grotesque comments on women.
I was talking to a friend in Nashville last week who hangs in evangelical circles — two women in his community did not believe that Donald Trump bragged about grabbing women by their genitalia, effectively committing sexual assault (not to mention adultery and lust). These evangelical women believed it was just another instance of fake news. When confronted with the leaked video tape they were appropriately mortified — they voted for a man who did not reflect the Christ they earnestly prayed the men in their life and leaders of any gender would follow.
Evangelicals have forgotten their way and cravenly propped up a leader who reflects the worst devils of our nature rather than our better angels.
When the President proclaimed his commitment to “America First” in his inauguration speech, for instance, he called back to a dark day in American history where Nazi-sympathizers echoed the same refrain — we look regrettably back to those days where we closed our borders to Jews seeking safe haven only to be sent back to a murderous regime that committed the worst acts of genocide.
Christians must summarily reject this sort of American First rhetoric — we are citizens first of a kingdom of God that’s gates are always open. Christians must summarily reject the sexual objectification of women and not normalize it as “locker room talk.” Christians must summarily reject the demonization and exclusionary policies of our immigrant and refugee neighbors because we know that Jesus was once one of the least of these himself and called us to better neighborliness.
On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. — Revelation 21:5
Jerry Falwell Jr — one of Trump’s most ardent evangelical supporters — walks around Liberty University (his day job) with a gun in his back pocket and also hired the disgraced Baylor Athletic Director Ian McCaw. It’s widely suggested that McCaw possibly covered up one of the most heinous sexual assault cases on a college campus in recent memory.
While some evangelical organizations and leaders thankfully decried Trump’s so-called Muslim ban last week, Franklin Graham, founder of evangelical relief agency Samaritan’s Purse and Trump Inaugural pray warrior, supported it by saying that concern for refugees wasn’t a biblical issue.
What’s going on here? The evangelical church has made a deal with the devil and will eventually have to repent of it.
So… I don’t actually believe that President Trump is the devil. But I do believe, based on his rhetoric and the edge of his first major policy decisions, that his intentions are anti-Christian.
Playing off the classic German story of Faust (popularized by Goethe), I think David Brooks said it best when it comes to supporting the President:
But if the last 10 days have made anything clear, it’s this: The Republican Fausts are in an untenable position. The deal they’ve struck with the devil comes at too high a price. It really will cost them their soul.
Evangelical Fausts like Eric Metaxas, Jerry Fallwell, Jr. and Franklin Graham are not their father’s kind of evangelicals. They’re sad, poor facsimiles. Almost copies of copies — remember that Multiplicity movie starring Andie MacDowell and Michael Keaton? Today’s evangelical leaders are like that third copy of Steve addicted to pizza — completely out to lunch.
But there is also a recurring theme here — craven evangelical leaders who are out for power and prestige and political wins in the end will only lose.
Eric Metaxas took over Chuck Colson’s radio show — Chuck Colson went to jail for Watergate.
Jerry Fallwell, Jr. took over for his father, Jerry Sr. — who ended his career a sad and angry public figure blaming Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 on the LGBTQ community.
And Franklin Graham? He should remember his father’s rather unfortunate episode with Richard Nixon.
Any and all Evangelicals should heed the cautionary tale of the magnanimous evangelical giant Billy Graham (who founded the magazine that Ed Stetzer now serves as contributing editor). Rev. Graham was known as the preacher with the ear of every President — no matter what party. But when tapes were leaked of his conversations with the disgraced Richard Nixon, the conversations revealed an ugly anti-Semitism.
In the conversation with President Nixon, the evangelist complained about what he saw as Jewish domination of the news media.
‘’You believe that?’’ Nixon asked in response.
‘’Yes, sir,’’ Mr. Graham said.
‘’Oh, boy. So do I,’’ Nixon said. ‘’I can’t ever say that, but I believe it.’’
‘’No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something,’’ Mr. Graham said.
The 83 year old retired evangelist unequivocally apologized, embarrassed by his remarks and tacit support of the flawed Nixon presidency.
I think this is the moment where the American Evangelical church has to do some serious soul searching. We may disagree on matters of education policy, the abortion debate and LGBTQ marriage equality — but will the 19% of us who did not vote for Donald Trump have to hold our noses at the stench of our sisters and brothers who will walk around not claiming responsibility for his sinful rhetoric and actions?
We’re better than this, church. Aren’t we?
I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Comment and share…
Adam Phillips is founding pastor of Christ Church: Portland (Ore.), an open, active and inclusive community for God’s glory & neighbor’s good.