On contemporary evangelicalism, race, and President Trump

A couple of important recent articles explore the support of white Evangelical Christians, and their leaders, for President Trump. Michael Gerson, who worked in George W. Bush’s White House, offers some historical perspective and is hard-hitting in his criticism of Trump’s Evangelical supporters and the impact of that support on American Christianity in the long run:

It is remarkable to hear religious leaders defend profanity, ridicule, and cruelty as hallmarks of authenticity and dismiss decency as a dead language. Whatever Trump’s policy legacy ends up being, his presidency has been a disaster in the realm of norms. It has coarsened our culture, given permission for bullying, complicated the moral formation of children, undermined standards of public integrity, and encouraged cynicism about the political enterprise. Falwell, Graham, and others are providing religious cover for moral squalor—winking at trashy behavior and encouraging the unraveling of social restraints. Instead of defending their convictions, they are providing preemptive absolution for their political favorites. And this, even by purely political standards, undermines the causes they embrace. Turning a blind eye to the exploitation of women certainly doesn’t help in making pro-life arguments. It materially undermines the movement, which must ultimately change not only the composition of the courts but the views of the public. Having given politics pride of place, these evangelical leaders have ceased to be moral leaders in any meaningful sense.

As several commentators have pointed out, Gerson’s analysis overlooks racism’s role in the rise of Evangelicalism as a political movement. An article in the New York Times, sheds light on African-Americans who are leaving white Evangelical churches.

Many progressive Christians cheer such developments because they think that exiles from evangelicalism will find new homes in mainline denominations. I doubt whether that will happen in large numbers. I suspect its more likely that such exiles will leave organized Christianity entirely. In addition, it is increasingly difficult for those of us who proclaim a gospel of love and inclusion to have our voices heard above the cacophony in our current culture, and also to resist the temptation to find our salvation in progressive politics and “resistance” rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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