Much has been made of the report that 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. That has been used to portray evangelicals as hypocritical about their faith. It is also true that less than 10 percent of black evangelicals and less than 40 percent of Hispanic and Asian evangelicals voted for Trump. This could indicate that evangelicals are more likely to vote according to their ethnic or geographical background rather than their religious beliefs.
There is also a difference between those who self-identify as evangelicals when answering questions in a poll, as opposed to those who actually have evangelical beliefs. Evangelicals have historically been defined by their belief that the Bible is authoritative, salvation is obtained only by trusting in Jesus Christ as your savior, sin can only be forgiven because of Jesus' death on the cross, and we should encourage others to trust in Jesus as their savior.
In a recent poll among those who self-identify as evangelicals, 52 percent say God accepts all religions as equal to Christ-ianity and religious belief is not based on objective truth. It would be difficult to identify these respondents as truly evangelical. It is understandable that voting for Trump would not violate the religious beliefs of these neo-evangelicals.
One can understand many evangelicals voting for Trump as a vote against Hillary Clinton. Many of Hillary's statements and policies are strongly opposed by evangelicals. In one poll, 45 percent of evangelicals stated they voted against Hillary as opposed to for Trump.
What is more difficult to understand is evangelical leaders and spokespersons who serve as apologists and promoters for Trump's worst actions and statements even though they often violate evangelicals' core beliefs. They may believe voting for someone means you must support every action and cannot publicly oppose their policies you disagree with. Maybe they think if they ever admit fault with Trump, it will be like admitting the emperor has no clothes.
In the Old Testament, when King David committed adultery and murder, the prophet Nathan confronted him. It seems Nathans are hard to find among these current neo-evangelical spokespersons. By contrast, when neo-evangelical leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council heard of Trump's paying off a porn star and a Playboy bunny to keep them quiet about his adultery, Perkins said he would give Trump a mulligan for it.
When confronted with his sin, David immediately confessed he had sinned against God. By contrast, when Trump was asked about his history of adultery and immoral behavior, he replied, "Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness, if I am not making mistakes?" He later stated, "I think if I do something wrong, I think I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture."
Robert Jeffress is pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas when not serving as a Fox News commentator and venerating Trump. When asked if he would support a candidate who embodies the teaching of Jesus, he said he would run from him because he wanted the "toughest son of a you-know-what I can find." It seems that Jeffress thinks that Jesus willingly giving himself as sacrifice for our sins on the cross was not being tough. His idea of tough is Trump insulting our military heroes, bragging about abusing women, and using profanity and childish name-calling to bully those he disagrees with.
It is inexplicable to me that these neo-evangelical leaders call on their churches to send missionaries to Africa to tell them God loves them, yet do not condemn Trump when he calls the nations of Africa (expletive)-hole countries and says we don't want their kind in our country.
They teach their children to sing "red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight" but stand mute while the president panders to and excuses the white supremacist alt-right. They preach family values while the president tears families apart at the border. They support placing monuments to the Ten Commandments at the state Capitol grounds while admiring a president who has been a serial adulterer and a bearer of false witness his entire adult life.
They preach of the evils of godless communism but are not appalled when their president grovels before Vladimir Putin and says he loves Kim Jong Un, two ruthless communist dictators. They oppose the building of casinos in our state while praising the business acumen of a president who has profited from owning casinos and strip clubs. They preach that we are to make disciples of all nations and should be salt and light in the world while applauding Trump's crude nationalist propaganda and phony "make America great again" slogan.
Charles Colson was reported to say, when he worked for President Nixon, that if they would take religious leaders for a ride on the presidential yacht down the Potomac, they would go away praising the president. There is no presidential yacht today, but the modern equivalent is a photo op in the White House Rose Garden. When these neo-conservative leaders are invited to the Rose Garden to stand behind Trump, they go away speaking of President Trump with cult-like praise.
Not all evangelical leaders are so compliant. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated in 2016 that he saw "evangelical support for Trump as a horrifying embarrassment--a price for possible political gain that is simply unthinkable and too high to pay." Indeed!
Ron West is an evangelical, a fifth-generation Arkansas Baptist, and a retired missionary living in Little Rock.
Editorial on 01/11/2019
Print Headline: A price too high