The future of the Republican Party won’t lie with white evangelical Christians. That’s because many of the younger ones — the ones who still want to call themselves evangelicals — want nothing to do the anti-LGBTQ, pro-Trump positions of their parents.
In the cover story for the latest Newsweek, Nina Burleigh shines a light on the decline of evangelical Christian political power. We’re not there yet. We won’t be there in 2020. But not long after that, Republicans will start feeling the effect of not being able to rely on white evangelicals to carry their water and defend their immoral actions.
To be sure, evangelical Christians have been rewarded for their support of Trump after enduring eight years wandering in Barack Obama’s political desert. They have two new conservative Supreme Court justices, and there have been nine self-professed evangelical Cabinet members, plus a flurry of laws and executive orders clamping down on gender roles, abortion and LGBTQ rights. But experts say this may represent the last bounty for a waning political power. Unlike their parents, the younger generation is not animated by the culture wars; many are pushing for social justice for migrants and LGBTQ people and campaigning against mass incarceration—positions more in line with the Democratic Party.
The result is a shrinking conservative bloc, something that could weaken white Christian political power — and, consequently, a Republican Party that has staked its future on its alliance with the religious right.
We can all pray for that glorious future…
It’s incredible how white evangelicals finally have everything they’ve ever wanted… but it required tossing aside everything they ever claimed to stand up for (honesty, morality, decency) and hitching themselves to the most despicable president they could find.
If the future plays out as Burleigh writes, we won’t just see the downfall of the Republican Party, we could also see the downfall of evangelical Christians as a force to be reckoned with. (Hallelujah.)
Researcher Robert Jones says what we’re seeing resembles the five stages of grief.
“We are past denial. People see the writing on the wall in terms of demographic change. And that is also why we see immigration taking over and becoming the flagship issue. That and a wall symbolize the resistance to this demographic change,” Jones says. “I think we are somewhere between anger and bargaining. And in many ways, this shotgun marriage between Trump and white evangelicals happened under some duress and is a desperate bargain that you make at the end of life. That is what we’re really seeing here.”
It’s amazing how white evangelical leaders have botched the simplest moral decisions in front of them. They oppose marriage equality, defend the GOP’s immigration and asylum cruelty, don’t give a damn about alleged victims of sexual abuse (especially if it means getting a particular Supreme Court justice), stand in line with Trump despite his coziness with white nationalists, look the other way regarding the affairs, pretend that Trump really is a Christian who gives a damn about their faith, etc.
It’s one thing for the rest of us to see this, but even young evangelicals can’t deal with the obvious hypocrisy. Everything they were raised to believe has turned out to be a lie, even on their own terms. No wonder they’re leaving the bubble even if they’re still believers.
The Religious Left would be wise to scoop them up into the fold. And Secular Americans should rejoice in Christians who stand for respectable values instead of bigotry — the theological debates are secondary to our shared interests.
Things may get worse before they get better, but when evangelicals lose their power, they’ll have only themselves to blame. They had everything they dreamed of for decades and used their power to hurt as many people as possible.
That’s the legacy of the Christian Right in a nutshell. They did to themselves what atheists have been trying to do for decades. (Thanks, I guess.) The decline couldn’t have happened to a more detestable group of people.