'Devastating impact ': Conservative explains how Trumpism feeds evangelical churches a 'gospel of hatreds'

'Devastating impact ': Conservative explains how Trumpism feeds evangelical churches a 'gospel of hatreds'

The Christian right movement was divisive and controversial long before Donald Trump ran for president in 2016. But Never Trump conservative Peter Wehner discusses the effect that far-right Trumpism is having on evangelical Christianity in an article published by The Atlantic on October 24, describing evangelical churches as hotbeds of anger and resentment.

"The aggressive, disruptive and unforgiving mindset that characterizes so much of our politics has found a home in many American churches," Wehner explains. "As a person of the Christian faith who has spent most of my adult life attending evangelical churches, I wanted to understand the splintering of churches, communities, and relationships. I reached out to dozens of pastors, theologians, academics, and historians, as well as a seminary president and people involved in campus ministry. All voiced concern."

An evangelical pastor, interviewed on condition of anonymity, told Wehner, "Nearly everyone tells me there is, at the very least, a small group in nearly every evangelical church complaining and agitating against teaching or policies that aren't sufficiently conservative or anti-woke. It's everywhere."

According to Wehner, "many Christians" in the U.S. "have embraced the worst aspects of our culture and our politics."

"When the Christian faith is politicized," Wehner laments, "churches become repositories not of grace, but of grievances, places where tribal identities are reinforced, where fears are nurtured, and where aggression and nastiness are sacralized. The result is not only wounding the nation; it's having a devastating impact on the Christian faith."

Historian George Marsden told Wehner, "When Trump was able to add open hatred and resentments to the political-religious stance of 'true believers,' it crossed a line. Tribal instincts seem to have become overwhelming."

According to Mardsen, Trump's evangelical devotees "have come to see a gospel of hatreds, resentments, vilifications, put-downs, and insults as expressions of their Christianity, for which they too should be willing to fight."

"Too often, I fear, when Americans look at the Church, they see not the face of Jesus, but the style of Donald Trump," Wehner writes. "The former president normalized a form of discourse that made the once-shocking seem routine. Russell Moore laments the 'pugilism of the Trump era, in which anything short of cruelty is seen as weakness.' The problem facing the evangelical church, then, is not just that it has failed to inculcate adherents with its values — it's that when it has succeeded in doing so, those values have not always been biblical."

Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of the book "Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation," argues that Trump didn't make the White evangelical Christian Right movement hateful — it was a hateful movement to begin with.

Du Mez told Wehner, "Evangelicals are quick to label their values 'biblical.' But how they interpret the scriptures, which parts they decide to emphasize and which parts they decide to ignore — all this is informed by their historical and cultural circumstances…. More than most other Christians…. conservative evangelicals insist that they are rejecting cultural influences when, in fact, their faith is profoundly shaped by cultural and political values, by their racial identity and their Christian nationalism."

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