One of the main reasons that Donald Trump gets greeted by “Hail to the Chief” is the particularly loyal support of white evangelical Christian voters. As a result of Trump’s election, conservative Christians (a larger group than evangelicals, but including most of them) will see fewer trespasses on institutional religious liberty from the executive branch. They will be able to support judges more amenable to their rights. They will be welcomed at the White House and have access to the president. And they are in grave spiritual danger.
In America, we have no state religion. But religious conservatives have become a corporate sponsor of Trumpism, like Visa at the Olympics.
There is no value in relitigating this choice. Some conservative Christians felt pressured into this partnership due to the monumental unacceptability of Trump’s opponent. Others believed that the future of the Supreme Court should override every other concern.
But here is a little uninvited sermon to my brethren, in three points (as they’d expect).
First, it is a fact — one of those real facts — that Trump’s brand is associated with nativism, particularly the dehumanization of illegal immigrants (as rapists and murderers) and the otherization of Muslims (as internal and external threats). Evangelicals in the governing coalition need to find ways to demonstrate that this was not the reason they supported Trump — that their hard choice was motivated by other, nobler causes.
It should help that the Christian church was one of the first great global, multicultural institutions, with a center of gravity moving from the Middle East to Europe to North America and now to the global south. The very nature of the faith relativizes nationalism — brothers and sisters can be found across the most hostile borders, and any man or woman we encounter will outlast every country. Non-evangelicals might be surprised that a number of Christian megachurches are desegregating because of outreach and changing demographics. (There are 67 languages spoken in Rick Warren’s Saddleback congregation.)
What could evangelicals do to show they made a difficult, fallen political choice in spite of Trump’s nativism, not because of it? That is a worthy topic for discussion for the endless cycle of evangelical conferences. Believers should be willing to take on Trump publicly when he speaks in demeaning and dehumanizing ways. And large movements of conscience often begin in inspired groups of three or four, reaching out across divisions.
What of those Christians who supported Trump because of his nativism? God help them. Quite literally.
Click here to read more.