Well, Trump won. The campaigns are over. I didn’t think he could (I did hold out that possibility), but now it is a reality. I would like to point out that, as Christians, whether Trump delivers or not, we will find that we’ve paid a high price in the evangelical fervor to make Trump happen. I’d like to take a moment to really consider the cost.
Over 80% of evangelicals who voted in this election – and it was a record turnout – cast their ballots for Trump. That means Trump now owns the “Religious” Right as a movement. Unfortunately, whether or not he actually honors his promises, the American church has paid too high a price to make his victory happen.
Some might be tempted to see this as a victory for the “Religious” Right (RR) over the infamous RINOs and leftists. That would be a mistake. What we’ve seen is the ultimate triumph of the secular right over their religious brethren. This election has in fact demonstrated to the GOP that the RR will vote for anything that moves, so long as it isn’t Democrat. They turned out in droves to elect a man who is the explicit repudiation of the very principles their religion holds dear and they swallowed even the weakest arguments whole. This is straightforward admission of subservience to the Republican Party. To me, that makes it a hollow victory. Further, it won’t last. Now that the Republicans are fully aware of the RR’s lack of spine, they will exploit it every chance they get.
With the election of Trump, the RR has forfeited its moral grounding to oppose any politician on the basis of character for at least a generation. Within twenty years, evangelicals have gone from protesting pornography and its devastating effects to electing a man who tried to force his wife to engage in it. Jerry Falwell, Sr. protested Hustler magazine; whether he realized the full implications or not, Jerry Falwell, Jr. posed with his wife and a man who had worked in pornography, in front of Playboy, to proudly proclaim that man’s pursuit of the White House. The same people who once preached from the pulpit that character matters have just agreed with all their worst critics that it doesn’t. No one will let them suddenly turn it around again at their convenience in 2020 or afterward when comes the next moral reprobate looking for office. Nor should they, in all fairness. I’ve heard Trump voters dismiss this as “legalism” or intellectualize it as “pietism,” but the only people fooled by these diversions are evangelicals themselves. Those outside the church see the facts with startling clarity. The American church is doomed to wear the stinking albatross carcass – which it tied around its own neck – for decades to come.
Perhaps worst of all, the “Religious” Right just completely owned the description of Christians as “moral hypocrites” that has, up to now, generally been unfairly applied to it. There is simply no way we can look at their conduct against Bill Clinton and others and their defenses of Trump and come to any other reasonable conclusion. The Christian church in America actively promoted the exact same sort of man for the presidency that it once attacked. Further, it explicitly defended his evil ways and belittled those who took a stand against him. They did this in the name of Christ and His church – perhaps a kind of blasphemy. In doing so, they have put up a stumbling block of epic proportions that will prevent people coming to faith. I can hardly blame those who will turn away. If I had watched this election unfold from from where they sit, I would be in complete agreement.
Somehow, I don’t think we’ll look back on Trump and think he was worth throwing away the church’s character and reputation- even if he actually comes through on a few of his many promises. But these are the facts we must now face, leading to the next question: Now what?
My fellow pilgrims will, I’m sure, fill in the answer. For now, I have to catch up on all the paid work and family obligations I’ve put on the backburner over the past few weeks. I’ll be back soon. 🙂