The best thing about Donald Trump during his weeklong nosedive in the polls? He may be dragging down the Republican Party and evangelical Christianity in the process. (Hey, look! He’s finally Making America Great Again!)
Trump’s lack of support in the GOP is well-documented. But if you want to know why even some evangelicals are running away from him, Exhibit A is an article by Wayne Grudem, the founder of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He made the case for Trump last week, suggesting that it was okay to elect a President who is incompetent, unfit, and willing to run the nation into the ground as long as he’ll do whatever conservative Christians want.
… I think voting for Trump is a morally good choice.
I do not think that voting for Donald Trump is a morally evil choice because there is nothing morally wrong with voting for a flawed candidate if you think he will do more good for the nation than his opponent. In fact, it is the morally right thing to do.
How flawed do your own morals have to be to consider Donald Trump a “morally good choice” for President…?
Grudem is also making a rather large assumption that Trump gives a damn about what evangelicals want. Selecting Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate was a way to shore up his conservative base, but does anyone really believe he’d take advice from someone he didn’t even want to choose in the first place? He’ll say whatever evangelicals want to hear so he can get elected, then he’ll do whatever he wants.
In any case, it’s this screw-everyone-else-except-Christians mentality that’s turning off other evangelicals. Not only do they not want to support the unstable narcissist, it makes them less likely to want to be associated with evangelicals altogether.
Amy Gannett, a Christian blogger, writes:
What Grudem effectively does, then, is sets up a hierarchy of morality. He is willing to hold some moral values (religious rights for Christian schools and businesses, support of traditional marriage, and pro-life notions) above others (the equality of races, genders, and ethnicities). All are moral concepts, all require a moral stance, and Grudem has chosen which he prefers over others.
We cannot call a candidate “good,” as Grudem does with Trump, who has made racist remarks. We will not call a candidate “good” who has demoralized and dehumanized women on national television. We will not buy into the hierarchy of Grudem’s proposed morals over others. Because Grudem (and others) are making this hierarchy of morality intrinsically related to the Christian life and theology, we will not stand with them.
She’s not alone. There are several prominent Christians who agree that Trump doesn’t represent their values even if they typically support the Republican Party.
Author Rachel Held Evans took a different approach, arguing that pro-life Christians who are one-issue voters would be better off supporting Hillary Clinton:
Data suggests progressive social policies that make healthcare and childcare more affordable, make contraception more accessible, alleviate poverty, and support a living wage do the most to create such a culture [with fewer unwanted pregnancies], while countries where abortion is simply illegal see no change in the abortion rate.
By focusing exclusively on the legal components of abortion while simultaneously opposing these family-friendly social policies, the Republican Party has managed to hold pro-life voters hostage with the promise of outlawing abortion, (which has yet to happen under any Republican administrations since Roe v. Wade), while actively working against the very policies that would lead to a significant reduction in unwanted pregnancies.
She adds that evangelicals who support Trump will have to live with that stigma regardless of how the election turns out:
According to Pew Research Center, white evangelical Christians overwhelmingly support Donald Trump for president. A solid 78 percent plan to vote for him…
If these numbers hold, and on election night a reporter looks into a camera and says evangelical Christians proved Trump’s most faithful supporters, the reputation of the evangelical movement will be tied to Trump for years to come.
As Richard Rohr said, “the evangelical support of Trump will be an indictment against its validity as a Christian movement for generations to come.”
I would only take issue with one part of that: Evangelicals lost their credibility beyond the bubble a long time ago. They don’t need Trump to expose just how despicable their values are. We’ve known it for a long time. The Trump support merely confirms it.
On the whole, evangelicals didn’t stand up for LGBT people when pastors were acting like they were ruining American society; walk into any megachurch today and you’ll still hear the same anti-gay rhetoric. They didn’t fight back during all those sermons about how Christians are supposedly being persecuted; they’re going to see God’s Not Dead in record numbers as if it’s a documentary. They continue to support abstinence-only sex education and fact-free science curricula and so many other objectively harmful policies.
But if white evangelicals continue to overwhelmingly support Trump as the polls show, you won’t hear any complaints from me (assuming he loses). By all means, let’s link up Donald Trump and evangelical Christians to the point where you can’t say one without the other. It’s damage that never dissipates. Just ask John McCain, the war hero who will forever be remembered for his irresponsible selection of Sarah Palin as Vice President.
Long after the spotlight fades on Trump, evangelicals will have to deal with the stain on their image. Good. They deserve it. If it hastens the decline of their power and influence in this country, we’ll all benefit.