Dead: The Evangelicalism of Old White Men

Gabriel Salguero in New York in 2015. (Credit: Bennett Raglin/WireImage, via Getty Images)
Gabriel Salguero in New York in 2015. (Credit: Bennett Raglin/WireImage, via Getty Images)

As the election retreats like a hurricane heading back out to sea, first responders are assessing the damage left in its wake. One casualty is the reputation of evangelicalism.

Evangelicalism was closely associated with the campaign of Donald J. Trump, and more than 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for the president-elect. This, despite large numbers of African-American, Latino, Asian, young and female evangelicals who were fiercely opposed to the racism, sexism and xenophobia of Mr. Trump’s campaign and the hypocrisy of a candidate who built a casino empire while flouting morality.

As a result, much of the good that went by the name “evangelicalism” has been clouded over; now a new movement is needed to replace it.

When it comes to religious identity in America, the fastest-growing group is the “nones.” Nearly a quarter of all Americans, and over 35 percent of millennials, report no religious affiliation. Nones, many of whom grew up within evangelicalism, often still affirm faith in God. They left the church because they gave up on evangelical leadership. Nothing sums up their objections more clearly than evangelicals’ embrace of Mr. Trump. Didn’t Jesus say, “Blessed are the meek” and “Love your enemies”?

Throughout the campaign, there was dissent even within the ranks of evangelicalism’s most conservative institutions. While the old guard, like the Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, were ardent Trump supporters, the best-selling evangelical author Max Lucado and the Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore were both early critics. At Liberty University, the largest evangelical college in the country, thousands of students signed a petition denouncing the support of its president, Jerry Falwell Jr., for Mr. Trump and insisting that they were more interested in being Christian than in being Republican.

Andy Crouch, the executive editor of Christianity Today, criticized both candidates, writing that enthusiasm for Mr. Trump “gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord.” He added, “They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us.”

As white male evangelists, we have no problem admitting that the future does not lie with us. It lies with groups like the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, led by Gabriel Salguero, or the Moral Monday movement, led by William Barber II, who has challenged the news media on its narrow portrayal of evangelicals. For decades, we have worked within evangelicalism to lift up the voices of these “other evangelicals.”

But we cannot continue to allow sisters and brothers who are leading God’s movement to be considered “other.” We are not confident that evangelicalism is a community in which younger, nonwhite voices can flourish. And we are not willing to let our faith be the collateral damage of evangelicalism.

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SOURCE: The New York Times
Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne

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