Evangelical Christians pride themselves on the consistency of their positions. The culture may change, they say, but the Bible remains the same. It’s an idiotic position to hold when it comes to science. It prevents them from being kind and decent people on issues like LGBTQ rights. It’s downright harmful when they insist public schools teach abstinence-only sex education despite the overwhelming evidence that shows it doesn’t work.
But the problem with that position is that it’s a lie. Evangelicals change their positions all the time — and then find some way of justifying it. They were racists until they weren’t overtly so, blaming it on following “the segregationist ethos of American culture” instead of scripture. They were fine with abortion until they weren’t.
And they sure as hell cared about a president living a moral personal life… until Donald Trump came around.
Today’s New York Times includes an essay making note of a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute that has numbers regarding public and private morality in our presidents. In 2011, the survey says, only 30% of white evangelical Protestants said a president who committed “an immoral act” in private could be ethical in office. (It was the lowest number of all groups surveyed.) At least that made some sense. If you were a sinner in private, then surely you’d be a sinner in public.
By 2016, the belief that there was no difference between an elected official’s private and public life had skyrocketed to 72%. Both the increase and the final number for white evangelicals were larger than any other demographic.
What changed in that time?
We went from a Christian president who tried to make the country better for everyone to a president who offers lip service to Christians and promises to make the country better for them (and only them).
No wonder 81% of white evangelicals voted for a man whose personal life was everything they love to warn against in church — full of adultery, multiple marriages, an irresponsible work ethic, broken promises, outright racism, and sexual assault.
In exchange for their principles, Trump will give them all the anti-abortion federal judges they want (and the ability to say “Merry Christmas”).
None of this is surprising to critics of evangelical Christianity. This is what we’ve been saying for years. They have no moral authority on anything. When they take a stand on a social issue, they’re often on the wrong side, and when they change their minds, it’s never for a good reason.
There are no doubt some evangelicals who are not aboard the Trump train — and plenty of non-evangelical Christians who are on the side of The Resistance — but even those voices of dissent aren’t worth looking up to. Take, for example, Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore. He may be a vocal opponent of Trump, but he thinks that transgender people are just making it all up. So much for being a voice of reason. (We could play that game with any number of anti-Trump white evangelicals.)
But on the whole, these evangelicals are showing you their true colors. They have more contempt for Jesus-loving gay people than an immoral, unprincipled, racist president who treats them like kings.
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