White, conservative Christians voted for the Republican candidate by a huge margin, but this election revealed deep fractures among leaders and churches—especially along racial lines.
For months, the stories came in waves. The death of the religious right. The new moral minority. The Christian case for voting Trump, followed by the Christian case for not voting Trump. Everyone wanted to know what conservative evangelicals, who have long been considered a unified voting bloc, would do during this election.
Now, it is clear. They overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump.
The Republican candidate’s victory may seem like an affirmation of the old, long-standing coalition between evangelicals and the Republican party, and in many ways, it is. But vote counts conceal deep, painful fractures among the huge, diverse group of Americans who identify as evangelical Christians. Nothing makes this clearer than the unprecedented in-fighting among Christian leaders in the lead-up to the election. Many people in big, important positions staked their credibility on supporting or opposing Donald Trump; old allies turned against one another, and new upstarts gained fame.
A rough map might look like something like this. Some leaders, like the Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., came out vocally for Trump. Others—like Russell Moore, who leads the Southern Baptist Convention’s political arm—came out vocally against him. Still others stayed out of it: Many pastors didn’t affirmatively support Trump, according to the New York City pastor Tim Keller, although they might have ended up voting for him on Election Day.
But for some evangelical leaders, and particularly women and people of color, this election was never about power jockeying or compromise. To them, Trump represents a bigoted, misogynistic worldview and an existential threat. More than all the nasty barbs exchanged the campaign and the months of divisive arguments, this is the greatest challenge evangelicals have to reckon with in the wake of the election. White, conservative Christians may have thought they were just casting a vote for president, but some of their brothers and sisters in the church see their choice as a direct and personal assault.
Now, the fall-out begins.
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