Donald Trump accomplished what another thrice-married, philandering candidate couldn’t do. He won the White House, and Newt Gringrich lost it. Exit polls show that 80 percent of white evangelicals threw the support behind Trump. It was the first campaign for several years in which no one mentioned religion beyond Jerry Falwell trying to justify his support by saying that Trump is now “born again”—he isn’t—and Trump saying that Hillary Clinton isn’t religious. Considering Trump’s behavior, no one may talk about religion for the next four years.
The question now for white evangelicals may be the direction of their movement. They knew that his character is far more questionable than any other presidential candidate has been for a long time, but they chose him anyway. Eighteen years after these evangelicals fought to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, they fought to elect a man who brags about grabbing “pussy” and lies 80 percent of the time. As a result, these voters have lost all right to the moral high ground.
The same 80 percent of white evangelicals also voted for a man who supports racism, misogyny, religious bigotry, and nativism, a problem for many black evangelicals. Television is filled with Trump surrogates claiming that the president-elect isn’t racist and respects women, that he’s really a nice guy, but thousands of hours of video belie these false claims. Trump has claimed since his election that he wants to “unite” the country, but he continues to select advisors who lead movements to deport immigrants, disallow refugees into the country, and remove women’s rights.
White evangelicals evidenced concern during Trump’s campaign about whether he possessed conservative and biblical standards, but them managed to twist the bible to justify his behavior. Lying, murdering, and committing adultery are just fine for the new white evangelical–just follow the story of King David.
As Trump announces his direction, these conservative bona fides are becoming more and more questionable, for example slowly discarding the idea of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Gingrich explained about a major pillar of Trump’s campaign that he never really meant to build a wall, but it was a good campaign argument.
Proselytizing will become more and more difficult for white evangelicals because of their current stand of electing a severely flawed man. They have shamed people for moral weaknesses and sins ever since whites moved to America over four centuries ago. Now the unrepentant has no reason to follow the gospel if white evangelicals select politics over Christianity.
One anti-Trump voice speaking in the wilderness came from Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, who called for a gospel-driven Christianity rather than a focus on politics:
“The most important lesson we should learn is that the church must stand against the way politics has become a religion, and religion has become politics. We are not, first, Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or progressives. We are not even, first of all, the United States of America. We are the church of the resurrected and triumphant Lord Jesus Christ.”
Deborah Jian Lee, author of Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism, wrote:
“I’ve been hearing from evangelicals leaders and lay people who are people of color, women and LGBTQ who fiercely opposed Trump and are now stunned to see just how many of their white fellow believers supported a candidate that proudly demeans their humanity. Trump preached xenophobia, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and more, and the white evangelical base said ‘Amen.’”
Lisa Sharon Harper, chief church engagement officer at the progressive Christian organization Sojourners, described the 180-degree shift in U.S. culture:
“Our nation’s first African American president will be followed by a candidate backed and promoted by the Ku Klux Klan. What’s worse, white people who claim Evangelical faith (women and men) pushed him to victory.”
Long-time Republican Max Boot, now turned Independent out of disgust, describes the three GOP factions that may rip his former party apart:
“Movement” conservatives, led by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan: They want to cut taxes and entitlement programs, promote free trade, apply a “balanced” approach to immigration reform, reach out to minority communities, and increase a strong defense and internationalist foreign policy.
Trumpkins: These “nationalists” want to do exactly the opposite and achieve their isolationism by bombing any country that gets in our way.
Politicians and political professionals, led by past RNC and current Trump chief of staff Reince Preibus: They are happy to back anyone as long as they win and thus will support the victorious of the first two.
As president, Trump will support any position that makes him popular because he can’t stand being disliked. At this point, he fits the Trumpkins, but he could change in the next 30 seconds. He put far-right religious Mike Pence in charge of domestic policy, good news for white evangelicals, but Trump may not follow Pence’s directives because he doesn’t like being told what to do.
In the meantime, white evangelicals have a model for their children that treats females like meat, encourages bullying, brags about being ignorant, smears anyone who disagrees with him, and prizes lying and cheating to get his way.
That’s the life of a white Christian evangelical under the new regime.