I’m a white Evangelical male and an original #nevertrumper.
Before I launch into this post, I want to state from the top so that the point is incredibly clear: I’m not asking Evangelicals to join the Democratic party. Instead, the encouragement is that Evangelicals become less ideologically committed to one of the American political parties and strive for more independent political thought. Less a reliable voting bloc that pundits and leaders can rely on and more a force of freedom that will truly research the candidates and relevant issues and vote according to their consciences. This may include a diverse cast of votes for multiple candidates depending on the people running and the issues at stake.
Most people know the history of why a large percentage of Evangelicals voting Republican. I wrote about that a little bit in this past piece. The epicenter of the conservative Christian bloc voting GOP happened around the Roe V Wade decision by the Supreme Court in 1973. Out of this decision, grassroots activists James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, Sr founded the “Family Research Council” and the “Moral Majority” respectively. The conservative Christians (across denominations that were brought together) helped elect Ronald Reagan twice by significant margins as well as other leaders to government.
The Evangelical faith tradition became associated with the philosophy of political conservatism. Pro-life views. Free-market capitalism and lower taxation. Prayer being put back in public schools. Against gay marriage. A neo-conservative foreign policy that projected American strength (and priorities) throughout the world. A reimagining of the founding fathers of America as Bible-believing Christians who founded a Christian nation. A strange eschatology was even floated in some circles: that God had a special plan for America within the end times scheme (assuming a pre-millennial, dispensational view of Revelation and thus the end of the world).
At 14 years old, I began to follow Jesus and started reading the Bible and praying frequently. In high school, I became the weird kid that would read political articles and listen to conservative talk radio. In other words, I bought into this combining of the Christian faith and the political right wing. For most of my life, I would identify as a Republican.
The untethering of my Christianity from conservative politics began with a major disillusionment in March 2003. The Bush administration (George W Bush was and is an Evangelical Christian) launched the war in Iraq. We were told Saddam Hussein was a very bad dictator (which he was), that he had weapons of mass destruction and could use them on neighboring countries, and Dick Cheney (on “Meet the Press” and on “NPR”) even informed us that Hussein had ties to the 9/11 terrorists. Most of us are now well acquainted with the fairy tales we were told.
In Koscuisko County Hospital, where I worked as a file clerk in college, I sat in the cafeteria and watched the “Shock and Awe” campaign. Our fighters relentlessly bombed the City of Baghdad and at that moment, I felt deeply unsettled. Why were we attacking Iraq? After that, on the conservative Christian college campus I attended, Dr. Skip Forbes (one of my favorite professors and a renegade Democrat on campus) walked into theology and philosophy class one day, laid down his binders and boldly proclaimed: “There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This administration is lying to you.” Keep in mind that this was March of 2003 at the very beginning of the invasion when we virtually heard from everyone (including prominent Democrats) that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Dr. Forbes’ statement caused quite the class debate that day but agree with him or not at the time, he was always working to get people to critically think.
All of this to say, the seeds of doubt against the GOP virtual monopoly on Evangelicals were planted in my mind. As the years continued to pass, those seeds of deconstruction would become more pressing questions and now, in the age of Trumpism, a justifiable collapse in what little faith in the conservative political establishment I had left.
Much has already been written about a large part of the Republican Party embracing Donald J. Trump. True, a lot of GOP leaders have been intentionally cautious about their support of the nominee. Think Marco Rubio being on video during the Republican National Convention but not being involved much (if at all) on the campaign trail. Of course, there are many Republicans (including in the Senate) actively opposing the candidacy of Trump and voted for Hillary Clinton (so they say).
However, the most troubling aspect of Trump’s hijacking of the GOP have been the endorsements from conservative Evangelical leaders (mostly of the old Religious Right) who have actively encouraged Christians to vote for the real estate mogul and decades long tabloid fixture. What sort of values are these leaders asking the Body of Christ to embrace?
The laundry list of Trump’s reprehensible ideas and rhetoric has grown considerable. His campaign launched into the stratosphere in the primaries when he started talking about immigration and building a “great wall” that Mexico would supposedly pay for. Infamously, he talked about Mexico not sending their best people here and that these immigrants were rapists or drug mules/criminals. The video of Trump saying these things is right here. Trump has talked about opening up libel laws to threaten first amendment rights. He has spoken openly about the killing of children related to terrorists and has bragged about going farther in interrogation methods than waterboarding. Mocking disabled reporters while calling women ‘Miss Piggy’ has been his earned reputation. While being born into extraordinary wealth, he has mocked a republican war hero who was tortured in Vietnam. If that wasn’t enough, he has publicly assailed a Muslim family who lost their son in the Iraq War.
Moreover, he has had multiple women accuse him of sexual assault. One of those accusers was 13 when she says she was raped by Trump at a Jeffrey Epstein party (the woman named ‘Katie Johnson’ did cancel a press conference and dropped the lawsuit against Trump.). He has openly bragged about committing adultery, desiring to date his own daughter, and grabbing women by the pussy because, in his mind, he is a celebrity and can get away with it.
Finally, in a time where we are seeing unarmed African-Americans being shot on recorded cell phone videos, Trump repeatedly declared himself as the ‘law and order’ candidate. I know some conservatives will protest this point but, honestly, sit down with some African-American friends and ask them what they hear when a politician goes on TV and speaks this way. There are also several accounts of punching and other violence at Trump rallies including a black man getting sucker punched by a Trump supporter and when a black person was removed from a Trump rally, an attendee yelling out: “Light the motherfucker on fire.” The Ku Klux Klan organization has also endorsed Trump through their newspaper (Trump’s campaign claimed the KKK was “repulsive”.)
Trump even declared that a Hispanic judge for his upcoming court trial in regard to accusations of fraud at Trump University would not be able to adjudicate the case fairly because of his race. Conservative House leader Paul Ryan called this “textbook definition of a racist comment”.
There are certainly more accounts and more stories of the Trump campaign. The aforementioned incidents have given us a clear window into Trump’s ideas, his character and yes, even a window into his soul. Racism, misogyny, xenophobia, petty insults and other vices have defined Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency.
Sadly and pathetically, Evangelical Christian leaders have embraced him by giving their endorsements and urging other believers in Christ to support his candidacy (and now, presidency). The same leaders who preach to us about family values, integrity in leadership, and the vital importance of character have tied themselves to a thrice married and proud adulterer who has often bragged about sleeping with other people’s spouses or girlfriends.
These leaders include (but are not limited to): Eric Metaxes who stated, “Not only can we vote for Trump, we must vote for Trump, because with all of his foibles, peccadilloes, and metaphorical warts, he is nonetheless the last best hope of keeping America from sliding into oblivion, the tank, the abyss, the dustbin of history, if you will. If you want to know how bad things are in America, and how far we have gone, read the previous sentence aloud over and over.”
Wayne Grudem, the author of “Systematic Theology”, said this: “When I look at it this way, my conscience, and my considered moral judgment tell me that I must vote for Donald Trump as the candidate who is most likely to do the most good for the United States of America.” Earlier in the blog post, he stated, “I do not think that voting for Donald Trump is a morally evil choice because there is nothing morally wrong with voting for a flawed candidate if you think he will do more good for the nation than his opponent. In fact, it is the morally right thing to do.” The language of Trump being a “flawed candidate” has been a phrase I have seen thrown around on social media forums. Go back and read the laundry list (and links) about Trump’s statements and actions. A flawed candidate? Trump’s ideas and rhetoric are a flaming bag of dog shit lying on the top of a train that is careening toward a giant chasm in the earth as to which there will be massive carnage of wreckage and human debris on the rocky surface far below. Grudem wrote a followup column after the “pussy grabbing” tape that is here.
John MacArthur statement of support for Trump’s worldview: ““I’m voting for an ideology that is closer to Scripture. Because [the Republican platform] is political responsibility, work, it has a place for the Bible, it has a place for God, it understands the necessity of a family, it understands the role of government is primarily to carry a sword to threaten evildoers and protect those who do well.”
James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family: ““I have decided to endorse Donald J. Trump for President of the United States, not only because of my great concern about Hillary Clinton. I am supporting Mr. Trump primarily because I believe he is the most capable candidate to lead the United States of America in this complicated hour.”
Ralph Reed, chairman of the “Faith and Freedom Coalition” doubled down on endorsing Trump even after the lewd tapes were released.
Jerry Falwell, Jr., chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA has endorsed Donald Trump and did so before the Republican primaries were even over. He defended his endorsement in the Washington Post. Liberty University students subsequently revolted against Falwell Jr’s endorsement: “A man who constantly and proudly speaks evil does not deserve our support for the nation’s highest office.”
Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, told millennials to hold their nose and vote for Trump.
There are others. Clearly, very prominent Evangelical leaders have hitched the Christian faith to a celebrity who has reveled in wickedness, celebrated darkness in his views of other human beings and has proudly proclaimed that he has never asked God for forgiveness. Some of the same conservative leaders who have blasted Bill Clinton’s infidelity (and predatory nature toward women), Anthony Weiner, and other Democrats/ liberals have not only embraced Trump but actively encouraged other believers to vote for the Republican candidate. Ed Stetzer at “Christianity Today” has boldly called this “selling your soul”.
The “third-rail” type issue that always comes up is abortion. I have heard many Christians defending their vote for Trump because they are convinced that the reality TV star will appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe V Wade. It is worth noting that Trump has been openly pro-abortion. Just this year, Trump seemed to struggle with his thoughts on abortion taking 5 different positions on the issue in 3 days. Russell Moore, President of Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, argued: “And, of course, they tell us, he will appoint judges and justices who stand up for unborn human life and religious liberty. After all, he promised us he would. Why Trump would be more faithful to vows to religious political activists than he has been to people named ‘Mrs. Trump,’ they do not tell us.”
Presidential election 2016 has been a trainwreck for the reputation of the Christian church and an exposing of deep political hypocrisy. I realize I’m pissing into a stiff wind as 81% of white Evangelicals voted for Trump but there are a few glimmers of hope. Non-white Evangelicals did not support Trump in large numbers. Many Evangelicals (at posting a count of 21,840 including me) signed a petition declaring the Church’s opposition to his rhetoric, ideas and deplorable attitudes toward women and minorities.
Trumpism is now the new Republican party. I realize many have beliefs that trend toward smaller federal government and lower taxation and those are legitimate political views to hold and debate about. However, I would passionately implore people to not join the Trump platform of mocking disabled people, stoking racial tensions (and outright racism), and threatening some of most cherished freedoms (like freedom of the press). I will not go along with these ideas and I hope many other Christians won’t either. Goodbye GOP.