The Rise of Trump – the Fall of Evangelicalism     

By Julie Roys

If you had asked me three months ago what the greatest threat to evangelicalism is, I might have said the evangelical Left. For the past decade, I have been dismayed as more and more professed evangelicals have abandoned biblical orthodoxy and have embraced gay marriage, socialism and recently – the notion that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

These pose very real threats, undermining the integrity of the church and its witness to a lost and dying world. But now, evangelicalism has an equally pernicious foe — the Trumpian, evangelical Right.

At first, I couldn’t believe the news reports. Donald Trump could not possibly be the choice of the Religious Right. How could a man who flaunts his moral indiscretions, uses foul language, insults the handicapped, and praises Planned Parenthood become the darling of evangelical voters? Add to this the fact that Trump openly advocated murdering the family members of terrorists. And, when challenged on whether the military would follow his murderous and illegal order, Trump responded: “They won’t refuse. They’re not gonna refuse me.”

I admit, I am ashamed and embarrassed by my own tribe. And, I am grieved.

Not only is Trump crude, brash, immoral and proud. He has zero respect for the rule of law and talks like some Third World Dictator, not the leader of the free world. Surely, I assured myself, the exit polls must be wrong. And, to some extent they were.

As a Religion News Service article explained, exit polls lump marginal evangelicals and devout evangelicals together because they usually ask only one question about religion. When pollsters have asked additional questions, though, it becomes clear that Trump’s support is not nearly as strong among devout evangelicals as it is among nominal ones. In Missouri, for example, only 30%-33% of Christians who attend church one or more times a week voted for Trump, compared to 46% of all evangelicals.

Still, one-third is a sizeable number. Plus, it’s not just the anonymous evangelical masses who are supporting Trump. Liberty University President Jerry Fallwell, Jr., endorsed him, too, claiming Trump’s indiscretions weren’t any worse than King David’s, and arguing that we’re electing a president, not a pastor. (Of course, King David repented of his sin, but Trump said he doesn’t feel a need to ask God for forgiveness.)

Ben Carson, a man widely respected for his sincere Christian beliefs, has endorsed Trump too, though somewhat begrudgingly. And, just recently, the Trump campaign hired Sarah Huckabee, Mike Huckabee’s daughter, as a senior advisor, sparking rumors that her father, a former pastor, may soon endorse Trump.

Though deep divisions already existed between the evangelical Right and and the Left, now deep fractures are also forming between #AnyoneButTrump evangelicals and #Trump2016 evangelicals. This week, the Washington Post ran an article on how “Donald Trump is tearing evangelicals apart.” The article included testimony from an evangelical pastor who said he receives calls every day from distressed pastors whose congregations are divided over the controversial candidate. Some Trump supporters reportedly have even threatened to leave their churches if their pastors dare to preach anything against him.

“The word ‘evangelical’ has become almost meaningless this year, and in many ways the word itself is at the moment subverting the gospel of Jesus Christ.” — Russell Moore

Trump has also pitted evangelical leaders against each other. When Falwell first announced his support for Trump, Southern Baptist leader, Russell Moore, called the endorsement “absolutely unbelievable” and tweeted: “Trading in the Gospel of Jesus Christ for political power is not liberty but slavery.” This week, Moore even admitted that “this election makes me hate the word ‘evangelical.’” “The word ‘evangelical’ has become almost meaningless this year,” Moore said, “and in many ways the word itself is at the moment subverting the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Moore is right. For years, I have defended conservative evangelicals against accusations from the Left that we care more about preserving power than advancing the gospel. I have argued that we support pro-life candidates because we love the unborn; we defend traditional marriage because it leads to human flourishing; and we advocate for limited government because it respects the dignity and agency of human beings created in God’s image. We are not the ugly stereotype. We are compassionate conservatives.

I still believe these are the core convictions of many of my devout, evangelical brothers and sisters. But clearly, not all. I admit, I am ashamed and embarrassed by my own tribe. And, I am grieved.

Recently, Denny Burke, a pastor and professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, wrote about his experience attending a Trump rally. Burke said repeatedly Trump berated protestors from the stage, turning a tense situation into a potentially dangerous one. “Probably my main take-away from listening to (Trump) in person was his ability to stoke anger and outrage,” Burke wrote. “The people he appeals to are frustrated with their government. They are frustrated with jobs being shipped overseas. And they are frustrated with a sense that the political elite don’t listen to them. He knows how to stoke that frustration into a blazing rage, and that is what he does at his rallies.” 

I understand Trump followers’ anger. Much of it is legitimate — and there’s certainly a part of me that would like to stick it to the establishment too. But, every demagogue that has ever risen to power has done so riding a wave of legitimate rage and discontent, from Stalin to Mussolini and yes— Hitler.

For those on the Right and the Left, our faith has succumbed to politics. We are no longer serving Christ; we are serving idols.

As Christians, though, we normally distinguish between the means and the end. Though we may agree with the end of a political movement, we refuse to engage in any sinful means of achieving that end. Yet, as Trump rallies have turned violent and even racist, his evangelical support has not waned. As he warns (incites?) of riots if he’s denied the nomination, Christians rattle their sabers with the rest of Trump’s thugs.

Truly, Trump’s Christian supporters seem to be just like his godless ones, proving Trump’s boast, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Little does he or his supporters seem to realize that that isn’t an endorsement of Trump’s movement, but an indictment.

So, this is what evangelicalism has become. On the Left, we are abandoning orthodoxy for gay rights and solidarity with other religions. And on the right, we are an angry mob, overlooking sin and vice for the sake of our righteous indignation. For those on the Right and the Left, our faith has succumbed to politics. We are no longer serving Christ; we are serving idols. And, our big tent, once a haven for so many seeking salvation, is now ripping at the seams. If we continue as we are now, I fear there will soon be nothing left except shreds of cloth and vestiges of the gospel.

 

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36 thoughts on “The Rise of Trump – the Fall of Evangelicalism     ”

  1. Very well stated Julie. I wouldn’t have even believed what’s happening among evangelicals if I hadn’t witnessed it myself. I’m ashamed to say even my own mother (a genuine evangelical herself) supports this charlatan. It’s very sad. Keep speaking truth sister.

  2. Thank you for writing this, Julie. You have echoed my thoughts (fears….frustrations….) to a T. It’s shocking to me how we decried Bill Clinton’s lack of character, yet now ignore such matters since it fits with our “politics”. If this man becomes President, we evangelicals have much to answer for, sadly.

  3. It’s sad how this author thinks that being a crony capitalist and supporting world government and bringing America into third-world status through treaties such as TPP is somehow “conservative.” It also sad that homosexual foam parties are somehow “cool” and “juvenile”, but calling a crude woman a a slob is terribly crude and being a “bully.” Let me guess, this author also thinks that destroying our rights “in the name of terrorism” is patriotic?

  4. I fully support this author’s right to chose the candidate of their own choice. That is what America is supposed to be all about! It just seems odd that a person purports to be conservative, yet trashes the only candidate who even appears to be remotely conservative. I just don’t understand the contradictory views. Notice I said “appears” to be conservative. I have no idea if Trump is for real or not. Maybe he’s a total phony and will go against everything he is saying once in office. I’d rather vote for a guy who at least appears to be conservative than others who obviously are not.

    It also seems odd that Trump distanced himself from weird sexual stuff like the Epstein crowd, while evangelicals are trashing him for being “immoral.”

  5. Spot on! The word “evangelical” has completely lost it’s true meaning. We could talk about trying to “take it back”, but it would be a waste of time. The reality is the word has lost it’s worth, much in the same way the word “christian” has lost it and now everyone is a “christian”; from Justin Beiber to Oprah.

    Personally I no longer use term “evangelical”. Now, if asked “What are you?” or “What do you believe?” I answer, “I follow of the Gospel” or “I believe the Gospel”.
    The word “Gospel” is still not hijacked and most non-believers don’t really understand or know the meaning. You’d be surprised how many people respond with: “What do you mean?”

  6. CreateFreedomCulture

    My problem with this analysis is that Bush the 2nd seemed like the perfect choice for the religious right…yet look at how much blood is on his hands! Look at badly he trampled on our precious rights! I do not trust the litmus test you promote. Trump has my vote.

  7. Too often we are asked to vote on the lesser of two evils.
    I would rather have Ted Cruz as the nominee but how can any christian support Clinton?
    Any non vote is a vote for her, didn’t any one learn that when they wouldn’t vote for Romney?

  8. Considering the candidates available and how far out both are from a Biblical worldview I would say it’s a good reason why the Church is not called to save to world (at large) but to call individuals out of this world to unite them to Christ. Christ is our true Prince of Peace. Only he is Just. Only He lived a life on earth without sin. No candidate for President or politician comes close no matter what they say or make themselves out to be. Christians who say they belong to Christ and follow Him should ask why they are looking to sinful political leaders to save them from this world.

  9. I don’t mean that it is wrong to vote for a President, but to back a candidate that shows no respect for God and is very anti-Biblical?? No *person* can save us from the “woes” of the world and our lives no matter what they say or promise. The ruler of this world right now is our greatest Enemy who is a liar and a murderer and has been from the beginning.

  10. Given that the voters of this country twice elected an incompetent schmuck like Barack Obama president, none of this election season’s shenanigans should be surprising. Dismaying, yes, but not surprising.

  11. This world is a type of hell; Trump could very well be the lesser of evil choices; this world is constantly winding down and becoming a “new world order,” per the plan of the controllers of this world – Satan and his demons. No matter who is elected will be conformed to the establishment, donkeys or elephants – it’s all the same bird. We Christians should obey The Great Commission, pray without ceasing, read God’s Word all the time and go out in this world and be Jesus; obey The Lord, submit to Him, join the battle and Glorify The Lord God with Love, under The Power of The Holy Spirit. God is in control! Greater is He Who is in us, than he who is in the world.
    Janice

  12. Excellent points and well written. Mr. Trump is dangerous. The outcome of anger and rage will be anarchy. Mr. Cruz is a true, solid conservative with a 97% grade, an A, posted by the Conservative Review.

  13. Reporters and others misusing the term “evangelical” for months suddenly decide that their misuse of the term means the term is discredited. lol. The vast majority of church going Christian conservatives are voting for Ted, Trump is getting those who do not go to church. Writers who ignore this in order to disparage and discredit Christian conservatives only discredit themselves.

  14. OK-I get it-you think Trump is a disaster. I somewhat agree. Yet he is the only one I can see beating Clinton, and her getting to be president would be a real big disaster. We can pray that Falwell etc would have a positive influence on him.
    Isn’t it great? God is still in control.

  15. Further Reading ~
    Julie Roys has produced a courageous and articulate assessment of contemporary “evangelical” polity, and has further provided authoritative documentary support through links to two insightful articles appearing in the Washington Post, one citing Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Below I submit for your consideration a profoundly illuminating historical essay, which to my mind ironically constitutes a parable of contemporary “Conservative Evangelicalism” in North America today:
    Trendier than Thou
    The Episcopal Church and The Secular World by Paul Seabury
    [This essay was first published in the October and December 1978 issues of Harper’s Magazine.]
    http://www.episcopalnet.org/TRACTS/TrendierThanThou.html

  16. I’m truly surprised that any of us are shocked at what is going on. Christians in the US have been living “the easy believe, comfy don’t make waves life” for a long time. To live for Christ means not being popular, but actually hated by the world. We slipped into bed with the enemy and now we are reaping the consequences of our sin. We chose not to see the dismissal of our mighty God from every aspect of life…history changed, schools brainwashing our children, making anything good evil & evil good. It didn’t just happen! We’ve been slowly committing suicide, not only for ourselves, but our children and their children, and our nation.
    Isn’t it a shame that a movie called “Idiocracy” & The Simpsons predicted what is happening now many years ago.
    No God, no morals, no meaning….just a “dog-eat-dog” selfish world where there are no good options left.
    We sit on our bottoms as we pray for God to step in & clean up the mess we’ve made. We need to open our eyes, ears, & heart, & fall on our faces in repentance with fear & trembling.

    The good news is that it’s all in the Bible. The answers, the hope, the Love of our God that He sent His Son to die for all of our sins. We need to be about our Father’s business, being wise as serpents & gentle as doves….lest we continue to deny that we all will face the judgment seat.
    All Bible reading & believing Christians Know the end of the story, but that does not excuse us from doing what He requires from each of us until that time.
    T.Parini

  17. I love your deep thought about all issues that are near and dear to us Christians, thanks Julie!
    I would like to add a comment, where is the outrage about Barack Obama , and the full on assault
    on America since he stepped into office. At every instance he has circumvented the law and
    constitution, and sad to say I do not think he is done with his distruction of our country and freedom.
    Lord have mercy on our nation now that Obama has not only turned against Isreal, but has armed
    their neighbor, and sworn enemy Iran.
    I guess he can hide behind a smile, and people can cut him slack saying he is incompetent or
    inexperienced. I don’t think so.
    I spoke with an African American pastor recently, sincerely wondering how a Christian could vote
    to re-elect Obama, considering his position on gay marriage and death to the unborn.
    His answer was astounding, “separation of church and state”. He saw no inconsistency of his walk
    with Christ with this answer. Wow we are in trouble,
    Wishfull thinking that Obama will abide by the rule of law and step down from office when his term
    has expired, he is the lawless one.

  18. It’s simple. The Left imposes their morality, via the Surpreme Court. The Left is profoundly evil. The Left always puts justices that impose their evil morality. The Right, is less evil. There is a chance, maybe 50/50, that Trump puts a justice that won’t impose the evil of the Left. THAT is the reason to vote for Trump over Hillary.

  19. Wow. I guess I need to ask the Lord to remove my name from the Lamb’s Book of Life since I believe that this very imperfect man, Mr. Trump, at this point in time, just may be someone the Lord Himself may want to be our president.

    Heresy? I guess by your standards it is. In spite of his failings, some of us out here who really do love our Lord and Savior and desire to honor Him above all with our living and, if need be, in our dying as well, think Mr. Trump has what it takes to deal with what faces our nation more than any of the other candidates.

    He may need the gift of repentance (and we are praying for him daily), but our Lord is quite able to turn the heart of the king whichsoever way HE chooses, as He turn the water courses.

  20. DM Casey, probably no one will see this, since this article is now a few days old, and in the internet world that is ancient, ancient history. Some of these comments are shocking and stunning from both the article and comments section. It’s good to see that you have made one of the more sane replies.

    The left’s hypocrisy never ceases to amaze. The left purports to “be for the little guy.” Yet the hit pieces that call Trump “crude” and “vile” and his supporters ignorant, poor, uneducated, white trash are just bizarre. The left claims to be for the “common man” yet their utter arrogance at denigrating and using blue-collar metaphors as insults is stunning.

    This fixation with FOX reporter babes and how Trump is “anti-woman” is also odd. Of course we would never mention that to be on FOX you have to be a pretty hot woman first and foremost, with your intellectual skills not as highly valued.

    Granted, I may be the chump in the whole thing if Trump is not who he says he is and he is playing us. But I’d rather vote my conscious and for someone who at least is putting on airs of being conservative than the other candidates who don’t even hide their establishment puppet strings.

    I still don’t know if this article is real or if this blog or this supposed author is real, or if this is just a hit piece written by a volunteer on Hillary’s campaign. I mean no offense and I give the author credit if he or she is a real person. This person, even if he or she is real,is entitled to their own opinion. The oddest thing to me is that some site that claims to be for conservative values in a quick glance seems to be have the most dislike for the only candidate who even is remotely conservative.

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