Jen Hatmaker Calls Trump a ‘National Disgrace’ as Evangelical Rifts In Politics Deepen

Jen Hatmaker, an evangelical motivational speaker, on Saturday in Tampa, Fla. She typically shies from politics but recently called Donald J. Trump a “national disgrace.” (Credit: Loren Elliott for The New York Times)
Jen Hatmaker, an evangelical motivational speaker, on Saturday in Tampa, Fla. She typically shies from politics but recently called Donald J. Trump a “national disgrace.” (Credit: Loren Elliott for The New York Times)

When Jen Hatmaker speaks to stadiums full of Christian women, she regales them with stories about her five children and her garden back in Austin, Tex. — and stays away from politics. But recently she took to Facebook and Instagram to blast Donald J. Trump as a “national disgrace,”and remind her legions of followers that there are other names on the ballot in November.

“Trump has consistently normalized violence, sexual deviance, bigotry and hate speech,” she said in an email interview. “I wouldn’t accept this from my seventh-grade son, much less from a potential leader of the free world.”

In the nearly four decades since Jerry Falwell Sr. founded a group called the Moral Majority, evangelical Christians have been the Republican Party’s most unified and reliable voting bloc in November presidential elections. The leaders of what came to be known as the religious right were kingmakers and household names, like Pat Robertson, James C. Dobson, Ralph Reed.

But this year, Ms. Hatmaker’s outraged post was one small sign of the splintering of the evangelical bloc and a possible portent of the changes ahead. While most of the religious right’s aging old guard has chosen to stand by Mr. Trump, its judgment and authority are being challenged by an increasingly assertive crop of younger leaders, minorities and women such as Ms. Hatmaker.

“Those men have never spoken for me or, frankly, anyone I know,” said Ms. Hatmaker, the author of popular inspirational Christian books. “The fracture within our own Christian family may be irreparable.”

The fault lines among evangelicals that the election of 2016 has exposed — among generations, ethnic groups and sexes — are likely to reshape national politics for years to come, conservative Christian leaders and analysts said last week in interviews. Arguments that were once private are now public, and agendas are no longer clear.

“The idea of a monolithic evangelical voting constituency is no longer applicable in the American electorate,” said Samuel Rodriguez Jr., the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who represents about 40,000 congregations and declined to join his friends and allies on Mr. Trump’s evangelical advisory board.

The big names who sit atop organizations that function largely as lobbying groups and mobilization squads for the Republican Party have stuck with Mr. Trump despite the lewd comments he made in a 2005 recording, even though he was never their preferred candidate. He wooed them and convinced them that he would appoint Supreme Court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia, the conservative who died in February. To these pragmatic players, the election boiled down to only two issues, both that could be solved with Supreme Court appointments: stopping abortion and ensuring legal protections for religious conservatives who object to same-sex marriage.

But the evangelicals now challenging the old guard tend to have a broader agenda. They see it as a Christian imperative to care for immigrants and refugees, the poor, the environment and victims of sex trafficking and sexual abuse. Many support criminal justice reform and the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement. While ardently opposed to abortion, some are inclined to be more accepting of same-sex marriage.

“The next generation of evangelicals craves a less partisan, less divisive and more racially inclusive expression of political engagement that addresses concern on a range of issues, not just abortion and gay marriage,” said Jonathan Merritt, a young evangelical who writes on politics and culture.

The religious right’s machinery is still primed to turn out evangelical voters for Mr. Trump, said Johnnie Moore, a publicist for many Christian leaders and groups, who serves on Mr. Trump’s advisory board. But he doubts that the machinery will produce as it has in the past.

“I do not think there’s any way to get evangelical women in any force to show up for Donald Trump at this point,” Mr. Moore said.

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SOURCE: The New York Times
Laurie Goodstein

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