Wednesday, August 3, 2016

"Evangelicals and Trump: Why I Care So Much"

Lately on Facebook, I've posted some comments and articles that are uncharacteristic of me. I say "uncharacteristic" not because I'm politically disinterested, or disengaged from the political process, I just usually stay away from debates on social media concerning politics. However, an event has taken place recently motivating me to enter the firestorm of political debate on social media: the Republican nomination of Donald Trump for President of the United States. While some of my posts have been directed at Trump and why I believe he should not be President, the majority of my comments are a focused criticism of a large voting bloc responsible for Trump's nomination, Evangelical Christians.

For those unfamiliar with the term "Evangelical," let me provide a quick explanation: Evangelical Christians trace their heritage back to the Protestant Reformation, The Great Awakenings, and early 20th-century American Fundamentalism. The term "evangelical" is intended to reflect belief in the Bible as the Word of God, and its central message of the necessity to personally accept the work of Jesus on the cross for the salvation of our sins. "Evangelical" shares its root meaning with the word "Gospel," which means "Good News." While often associated with American Christianity, Evangelicalism is a worldwide, inter-denominational movement, consisting of close to 300 million people. While there are many different expressions of Evangelicalism, essentially, the group is unified around the concept of the truth of Scripture and the need to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

In the United States, Evangelicals have been considered a political force since the election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980. The late pastor, Jerry Falwell, and his now defunct, "Moral Majority," have been credited to having made it possible for Reagan to beat incumbent, and Southern Baptist Convention member, Jimmy Carter. Since then, the Evangelical vote has been coveted and courted by most politicians of the Republican Party. While there are exceptions, the majority of Christians who identify as "Evangelical" are typically socially and fiscally conservative, and register Republican.

Ever since I have been able to formulate my own personal theological and political opinions, I've been associated with the Evangelical Movement. While I'd consider myself more right-of-center politically, theologically, I'm more in line with Evangelicals than any other expression of Christianity. It is for this reason that I care a great deal about Donald Trump being the Republican nominee for President.

Polling and voting data indicate that Trump received a large percentage of the Evangelical vote during the primaries. While 60% of Evangelicals split their vote in the primaries between Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson, a solid 40% supported Trump, helping him to win narrow races and pull well ahead in others. Knowing this reality, in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump thanked the "Evangelical and religious community for their support," even though admitting, "I'm not sure I totally deserve it."

Why is it troubling for me that Evangelicals are largely responsible for Trump's nomination? Just four years ago, Evangelicals supported Mitt Romney for President. As a Mormon, Romney is about as far apart theologically from Evangelicals as Hillary Clinton is politically. However, I voiced no concern for Evangelicals supporting Romney for President. So, why do I care so much about the Trump nomination that I've spent most of my Facebook time lately discussing it?

First of all, Donald Trump does not represent my values and virtues. I don't expect politicians to have the same faith I profess, but I'd like for them to represent the best of humanity, which includes treating people respectfully. For as "classy" as Donald Trump's hotels supposedly are, he does not conduct himself with class. His behavior during the Republican presidential debates was beneath someone wanting to lead the American people. Evangelicals would not stand for their pastors to act the way Trump did in a church Q&A forum with a disagreeable church member. Yet, they were not only willing to accept how Trump interacted with other Republican candidates, but lauded him for "telling it like it is."

Another reason I care so much about Trump's nomination is it represents a "win at all cost" mentality. Back when I was the Athletic Director of a Christian high school with an elite boy's basketball program, I had to confront this mentally with the pastor of the church that owned the school. In my first year, I had to declare a top-100 player academically ineligible in the middle of the season. However, because the Senior Pastor was also the chairman of the school board, he could overrule my decision. As he explained his reasons for overruling me, he actually said that it was "good for the future of the church and school" if we did not observe the academic requirements for athletes at that time. Rather than offer my resignation and walk out, I accepted his answer. I allowed a slick-talking, megalomaniac, (who eventually spent three years in federal prison for defrauding the school of over a million dollars) convince me that doing the right thing in the short-term was the "wrong thing." For me, this is what the Trump nomination is - a win at all cost mentally. Regardless of what we as Evangelicals personally believe and hold dear in our faith, many of us are willing to allow a slick-talking, megalomaniac represent us just so Hillary Clinton doesn't become President.

A final reason why I care so much about Donald Trump's nomination for President of the United States is because he represents thinking that is not only antithetical to the core of Christian teaching, but also the Constitution of the United States. When Trump talks about banning Muslims from entering the United States, and says things like "this is a country where we speak English, not Spanish," it makes me wonder if he's ever taken a course in US history, or understands the First Amendment. Yes, I understand the realities of the world - I know terrorists enter our country and seek to do us harm. I know illegal immigration is a situation that needs to be remedied. These are incredibly important public policy issues that need to be considered wisely and carefully. However, the fact that Trump has at least made the suggestion of denying someone access into our country because of their religion, or degrades someone for speaking their native tongue, goes against everything this country was founded upon. This is not only anti-American, it's anti-biblical, and should not be tolerated by biblical Christians.

If you've taken the time to read my thoughts, I appreciate you doing so. I know I don't speak for every Evangelical Republican, including those in my family, church, or friends on Facebook. If I've given you the sense that I feel superior to Donald Trump, please know that I do not. I am a sinner saved by grace, and do not sit in judgement of his eternal soul. However, as a voting citizen of the United States of America, I can judge whether any candidate has earned my vote. At this point in time, Donald Trump has not earned mine. I hope you seriously consider whether he has earned yours.


  1. Great thoughts Sandy. I find his evangelical following very disconcerting.

  2. Great thoughts Sandy. I find his evangelical following very disconcerting.