Trump is causing a ‘deepening crisis’ in evangelical Christianity, and it will only get worse: report
One of the supreme ironies of the Trump era is the fact that a president who has been through two divorces, has never been especially religious, allegedly had extramarital affairs with a major porn star (Stormy Daniels) and a Playboy model (Karen McDougal), and has seen some of his closest associates sent to federal prison on criminal charges (Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen) is wildly popular with the Christian Right. Trump’s poll numbers among Americans on the whole have been weak, yet among far-right white evangelicals, he enjoyed 70% approval during the second half of 2018 (according to Pew Research). And the Christian Right’s alliance with Trump, journalist Peter Wehner explains in a July 5 report for The Atlantic, has become a major “crisis in evangelical Christianity.”
Wehner reports that some of the Christian Right’s most prominent leaders, including Ralph Reed and Jerry Falwell, Jr., remain staunch allies of Trump. And among right-wing white evangelicals, he explains, Trump’s approval has been 25% higher than it is among Americans in general.
“The enthusiastic, uncritical embrace of President Trump by white evangelicals is among the most mind-blowing developments of the Trump era,” Wehner asserts. “How can a group that for decades — and especially during the Bill Clinton presidency — insisted that character counts and that personal integrity is an essential component of presidential leadership not only turn a blind eye to the ethical and moral transgressions of Donald Trump, but also, constantly defend him?”
Wehner goes on to explain why Trump, unlike Bill Clinton, gets a pass from the Christian Right when it comes to adultery: “Part of the answer is their belief that they are engaged in an existential struggle against a wicked enemy — not Russia, not North Korea, not Iran, but rather, American liberals and the left,” the Atlantic journalist observes.
Of course, there are plenty of liberals who go to church on a regular basis — especially in the African-American community, where it isn’t uncommon for Democrats to reach out to Lutheran and AME (African Methodist Episcopal) congregations. Listening to liberal/progressive African-American talk radio stations, it is obvious that there are plenty of churchgoing blacks who see supporting Sen. Kamala Harris or Sen. Elizabeth Warren as perfectly compatible with the teachings of Christianity. But those African-American voters are Mainline Protestants, which means non-fundamentalist Protestants in Christian terminology — and there is a huge difference between how Mainline Protestants view the world and how the Christian Right view the world. MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton, a Christian minister who is also an outspoken liberal activist, is a Mainline Protestant, not a fundamentalist.
“Many white evangelical Christians,” Wehner observes, are “deeply fearful of what a Trump loss would mean for America, American culture and American Christianity. If a Democrat is elected president, they believe, it might all come crashing down around us.”
But Wehner also observes that the Christian Right’s embrace of Trump is a major turnoff to others, and the journalist concludes his article by stressing that it can only get worse as the Trump/evangelical alliance continues.
“Evangelical Christians should acknowledge the profound damage that’s being done to their movement by its braided political relationship — its love affair, to bring us back to the words of Ralph Reed — with a president who is an ethical and moral wreck,” Wehner asserts. “Until that is undone — until followers of Jesus are once again willing to speak truth to power rather than act like court pastors — the crisis in American Christianity will only deepen.”