Why do white evangelicals continue to shower so much praise on Donald Trump when his actions never match the principles they claim to value? They love the federal judges he’s appointing, obviously, but is that all?
Conservative writer David French says the support has more to do with fear than respect.
Talk to engaged evangelicals, and fear is all too often a dominant theme of their political life. The church is under siege from a hostile culture. Religious institutions are under legal attack from progressives. The left wants nuns to facilitate access to abortifacients and contraceptives, it wants Christian adoption agencies to compromise their conscience or close, and it even casts into doubt the tax exemptions of religious education institutions if they adhere to traditional Christian sexual ethics.
While his thesis makes sense, French is far too sympathetic to some of these concerns, saying “there are reasons for evangelicals to be concerned.” But religious institutions aren’t under attack; actions done in the name of religion have just becoming increasingly indefensible. Religious people aren’t being forced to abandon their principles; progressives just want them to play by the same rules as everybody else.
The enemy isn’t secular liberals. It’s equality and neutrality. It’s the fear of not having privilege. It’s the fear of losing the special status they’ve held onto for far too long.
French fully recognizes this later on:
Indeed, of all the groups in American life who believe they have the least to fear from American politics, Christians should top the list. The faithful should reject fear.
He’s right about that. If evangelicals are called to be a “source of light in a darkening world,” they need to reconfigure their priorities. They could easily maintain their relevance and set themselves apart from other Trumpists by focusing on immigration and the inhumane treatment of refugees at the border, for starters. Or showing more sympathy for victims of actual injustice rather than trying to out-martyr each other.
Unfortunately, French’s conclusion makes no sense at all:
America’s conservative people of faith should seek a primary challenger to Trump and send a message to the GOP that it will not compromise any longer. And it should do so from a position of confidence — and faith.
That is spoken like someone who’s learned absolutely nothing from the past few years.
The Republican Party is never going to abandon or moderate Trump or the people surrounding him. Seeking a primary challenger to Trump will never work. (He should know. For a few weeks back in 2016, French himself was considered by some as a possible Hail Mary for the GOP before it selected Trump as a nominee. Needless to say, no one even tried to catch that pass.)
So Trump will win that primary battle… and then what?
What does French want evangelicals to do on Election Day? He never says. While voting for a Democrat may be a bridge too far, he doesn’t even tell evangelicals to stay home in protest until Trump moderates his actions.
French knows Trump is bad for the country. He knows evangelicals are being lied to. He knows that relationship is bad for his faith. And yet he doesn’t have the courage to tell evangelicals to do the only thing that might change the GOP’s ways.
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