The magazine historically has affirmed all those early twentieth-century Fundamentals of the Faith formulated as a reaction to progressive scholarship, and backed about everything else theologically that Evangelicals stand for and fight over. It stands solidly for the inerrancy of the scriptures just like other fundamentalists.
Expecting camaraderie from its like-minded believers, its chief executive expressed hope for more than is likely: I would be pleased if it promotes constructive conversations among evangelicals about how we engage in political life. Id also be pleased if the conversation led to a more effective witness of the church.
The editorials key concern seems to be Christianity Todays fear that support for Trump will weaken Evangelicals ability to effectively peddle their brand of faith. But the problem with their stance is that all such arguments naively assume rationality, an openness to civil discussion, and a willingness to even listen to anyone who begins with a statement such as theirs by Trumps White Evangelical base.
Trumps right-wing religious base doesnt follow him out of their belief in their god at all but out of their unbelief. In fact, they hide behind their religious beliefs the way a drunk blames the liquor for actions that are destructive to all those around them.
Its important for us to begin by recognizing that when we join them and also blame their religion, were buying into their excuse for not dealing with their real issues. Were enabling them to keep copping out.
The doctrines, practices, and institutions they take comfort in merely reinforce the prejudices, fears, scapegoating, and insecurities within.
There are six real reasons that those Evangelicals who cling to Trumpism so desperately do so. And its these issues that must be faced and dealt with clearly.
Getting them to face these issues is performing an intervention for an experienced user who is so accustomed to their drug that they have no problem conning those around them or damaging any who dont enable their addiction.
And the harsh reality thats to be faced by those who wish better for them and whod like to protect their communities from their damage is that enabling doesnt work. It instead sucks up ones energy and encourages them.
Arguing religiously is mostly useless because it doesnt get down to their core beliefs see that list of six, fear-based beliefs that are deeper than their religious ones. The small slice of Evangelicals who are the audience for Christianity Today is already skeptical of Donald Trump.
And as Collin Hansen, editorial director for the Gospel Coalition, a network of evangelical churches points out: Evangelicals tend to get their political news from Fox News far more than Christianity Today or other Evangelical media.
Its a relief to see that there are some more realistic Evangelicals who are worried about their appearance to the world and its effect on recruitment. Its actually clear that in many areas the Evangelical brand has already been damaged by accepting the political and culturally aligned Republicanism that uses right-wing religionists to maintain economic and political power through touting anti-womens-choice and anti-LGBTQ policies.
The Pew Research Center reports that the share of U.S. adults who are white born-again or evangelical Protestants now stands at 16%, down from 19% a decade ago. The largest Evangelical denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, reported a decline in membership that has brought it to its lowest point in over thirty years.
But to be surprised when these anti-Trump Evangelicals merely become outcasts to the broader constituency of Trumps Evangelical supporters is to misunderstand why they hold on to him and his Party. He represents what they really stand for.
Criticizing others for anything they consider immoral doesnt mean they do a consistent self-criticism. They can forgive anyone who makes them feel that they have the Truth and hypocrisy is accepted as a normal human frailty, not a criticism.
Those Evangelical leaders who belong to the Republican cabal arent sticking with him because of their or his beliefs. Theres probably nothing that could make Billy Grahams son, Franklin, give up claims that Trump is chosen by his god.
Instead, imagine what these leaders would have to relinquish after their years of claiming Donald Trumps presidency is an act of God. When any religious leader claims that theyve been chosen by their god for whatever theyre doing, whatever church theyre leading, whatever truth theyre preaching, to disagree with them is to disagree with the Divine.
Repentance, after all is talked about endlessly, but repenting (turning around) is not something these leaders do personally. It would be like those in 12-Step recovery programs working steps 4,5,8,9:
But it would also mean giving up what their lives are built upon:
Theres much preventing these Evangelicals from paying attention to the current American majority who reject so much of what they stand for today.
And even those within the movement, then, will become pariahs to those who need the kind of fix, the high they get from feelings that theyre the righteous who are persecuted for righteousness sake, and the leaders who deal that high of righteousness to them.
© 2020 Robert N. Minor
Robert N. Minor, Ph.D.,
Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, is author of
Religion Is an Addiction;
Straight: Why Its So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why
Its So Hard to Be Human;
& Healthy in a Sick Society.
Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org
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