Well, I didn’t think it could get any worse. But I was wrong.
Recently two articles have come out, based on legitimate research, that puts the white evangelical church in the United States at odds with the teachings of Jesus. It’s not that the research discovered anything new. Rather, I have misunderstood the reason so many white evangelicals supported, and still support, an amoral president.
And I have to use the phrase “white evangelical,” because, as I now understand it, race is the most important reason for such large, broad-based, support. This does not mean if you voted for Trump you are a racist. What it means is, at its core, the white evangelical system is racist. The white evangelical system is extensively intertwined with white nationalism. These two systems are almost indistinguishable from each other. White nationals are afraid they are losing their country. They are afraid they are losing power. (A book a highly recommend is Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion.) That fear has bled over into the evangelical church. (Here is an excellent video that discusses this history. It is long, but it is worth the listen.)
The first article, posted by Christianity Today, was “Why Evangelicals Voted Trump: Debunking the 81%.” When I first read this article, I was hesitant to fully accept it because I thought it was another attempt to rationalize the 81%. The research argued that a large number of white evangelicals who voted for Trump where actually voting against Clinton. Very few, white evangelicals, actually voted in support of Trump. (I still find their arguments on this point weak. Their research isn’t weak. Rather, the rationalization by those who answered the survey’s questions are weak.)
What caught my attention about this research was their findings that abortion was not the primary reason for white evangelicals voting for Trump. To be honest, when I first read that, I had a very difficult time accepting it as fact. According to the research, the primary reasons given for a Trump vote were the economy, healthcare, national security, and immigration. Abortion was near the bottom of the list.
This should not have surprised me. But it did! In January of 2017, the University of Chicago Divinity School, wrote an article entitled, “Myths Debunked: Why Did White Evangelical Christians Vote for Trump.” In that article they quoted a LifeWay research study that found that only 4% of white evangelicals said they voted for Trump because of abortion. The economy and national security were the top two reasons white evangelicals voted for Trump.
But then another research article came out that stated, “White evangelical protestants are the only religious demographic in the United States in which the majority views immigrants as a ‘threat’ to American values and sees the country’s increasing racial diversity as a bad thing…” (I suggest you read that sentence several times, allow it to sink deep into your soul.) What Trump has done from day one is make immigration both an economic, and a national security, issue. The research shows that it was (and is) because of Trump’s hard-line on immigration, and fear of “people not like us,” that so many white evangelicals supported Trump and continue to support him. (“Most White Evangelicals Say Immigration, Increasing Racial Diversity Harms America.”)
I could somewhat understand voting for Trump because of abortion and for the desire to place conservatives on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. But I cannot understand voting for Trump because of immigration and national security. That sounds like white nationalism to me! That sound like “Make America Great Again.” It doesn’t sound like something Jesus would do.
Jesus said He came to preach good news to the poor (economic equality), to heal the sick (healthcare), to visit the prisoner (mass incarceration), to clothe the naked (this includes housing them) to feed the hungry (SNAP) and to welcome the immigrant (compassion). All of these are in direct opposition to the policies of this administration. Jesus taught that we are citizens of God’s kingdom and that our priorities are not money and security. AND, Jesus was a globalist, not a nationalist.
Listen to the prophet Isaiah, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless” (Isaiah 10:1-2).
And the prophet Micah, “‘So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Malachi 3:5).