LEWISVILLE, TX: “How did Donald Trump—a thrice-married, biblically illiterate sexual predator—hijack the religious right?” (Sarah Posner, The New Republic, March 20, 2017) The inference being made is that “evangelicals” embrace the morally flawed character and behavior of Trump. Leaving the question: How can the moral conscience evangelicals support such a person?
It is popular to accuse Trump supporters as white men, homophobic, white supremacist racists and radicals. Just as often assuming Trump supporters are identified with the alt-right. This sets up a straw man and then opponents gleefully think they can dismantle it.
The online Merriam-Webster defines the alt-right as:
“A right-wing, primarily online political movement or grouping based in the U.S. whose members reject mainstream conservative politics and espouse extremist beliefs and policies typically centered on ideas of white nationalism.”
No reference is made to religious affiliation.
Randall Balmer, a historian of American religion at Dartmouth College makes no distinction between the alt-right and evangelicals tells The New Republic,
“The breakthrough of the 2016 election lies in the fact that the religious right, in its support for a thrice-married, self-confessed sexual predator, finally dispensed with the fiction that it was concerned about abortion or “family values.”
Mainstream evangelism lead by men like David Jeremiah, Rick Warren, Franklin Graham, Charles Stanley, Darrell Bock, Ben Carson, Joyce Meyer, James Dobson represents thousands of Christians. These evangelical leaders are primarily interested in the spiritual well-being of their followers. Of course, I don’t know how these evangelicals voted but I know they want the best for Christianity. Which means a morally conscious electorate.
I suspect they voted on the candidate or party that best represented the values of Christianity—the biblical form of Christianity.
In 2016, there were two candidates from which to choose: Hillary Clinton or Donald J Trump.
The news media uncovered many moral scandals surrounding both candidates. The Bible reminds us that all are flawed in their moral character and forgiveness and redemption makes them acceptable to God. Voting for a perfect candidate would eliminate all past candidates including men who were outspoken Christians.
Evangelical Christians are well aware of President Trump’s moral failures, but his support of social items that are fundamental to Christianity (abortion, family values, sexual identity and support of Israel) make him more acceptable than the equally flawed Hillary Clinton.
Evangelicals are not homophobic.
They reject the sexual misconduct of homosexuals just as they are concerned with heterosexual sexual misconduct. Biblical sin includes more than sexual conduct. The Seven Deadly Sins include lying, stealing, murder, envy, gossiping, etc.
Perhaps one should take a look at the real hijacking. Liberal Christianity has hijacked biblical Christianity. Evangelicals hold to a biblical hermeneutic that seeks to understand the intended meaning of the author rather than a popular method of interpretation called “reader-response.”
Reader-response ignores the author’s intended meaning and the text’s contents and completes the interpretation using the readers’ knowledge, expectations, motives, and experience to understand the “modern meaning.”
The Bible is quite clear
When speaking of the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, sexual behavior and the definition of sin, the Bible is clear. These are also political issues that dominate the social-political agenda. As the authors of the Bible spoke clearly, we might look to them for guidance on our present-day political issues.
Liberal expressions of Christianity have used the reader-response method of interpretation to reinterpret clear passages of Scripture.
This enables them to overlook the obvious and become acceptable to mainstream liberalism. When you abandon scriptural principles, you can affirm Christianity and yet support issues that are “politically correct” even if they are biblically incorrect.
Evangelicals will continue to support the Republican Party because they represent the social issues that the Bible represent.
Liberal Christianity will never support the republican agenda because of its insistence on biblical statements on morals and values.
Some well-meaning religious conservative republicans refuse to support Trump because of his many flaws. They also refused to vote for Clinton or Trump because both are morally flawed. This leaves the outcome to the judgment of others. If your candidate wins then you have the freedom to complain and seek reform.
It’s hard to argue for any candidate based strictly on character and past behavior. For one, people do change. Redemption is one of America’s, and Christianity, favorite stories. The only way to express preference is to look at the person who represents biblical values most closely and will stand for them when elected.
This will be true in the 2020 election.
Lead Image: President Donald J. Trump at the National Day of Prayer | May 3, 2018 (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)