Former GOP Adviser: Pro-Trump Evangelicals Hurt Christianity More Than Atheists July 21, 2019

Former GOP Adviser: Pro-Trump Evangelicals Hurt Christianity More Than Atheists

A Republican who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush says the white evangelicals who support Donald Trump do far more damage to Christianity than atheists ever could.

He’s right. (Also, I’m insulted.)

Peter Wehner made a similar statement in a New York Times essay in 2017, but his comments to CNN’s Michael Smerconish yesterday were even more blunt.

I think it’s been tremendously discrediting to the Christian faith. And I think it’s shown to a watching world a tremendous amount of hypocrisy. After all, this “character counts” and “personal integrity” and “political leadership” was central to what a lot of… evangelicals argued when Bill Clinton was president. And now that it’s Donald Trump, they’ve decided to push that aside, which means that morality for them was a means to an end, not an end. It was something to be used as a political weapon.

I think a lot of these white evangelical leaders are doing more to hurt Christianity than the so-called New Atheists ever could.

There’s a lot of truth to that last statement. No arguments against the logical incoherence of Christian beliefs are as powerful as seeing the hypocrisy with your own eyes. When you see refugees in cages, an administration mired in scandals, a president who paid his mistresses hush money, and Republican leadership that is so quick to brag about their Christian faith but silent every time Trump is racist or sexist or otherwise cruel, it’s easy to think that evangelical Christianity is devoid of morality.

I certainly appreciate any conservative will to admit the obvious — and to do it publicly.

But there’s an assumption in Wehner’s words that all of this is happening now. As if evangelical Christians weren’t hypocrites until Trump came along. That’s bullshit. Wehner worked for presidents who did plenty to discredit both the Republican party and conservative Christianity.

If anything, the biggest concern for conservatives when it comes to Trump is that he says out loud what they believe privately.

The GOP will gerrymander and prevent black people from voting, but only Trump pursued a commission to etch that into policy under the guise of stopping (virtually non-existent) voter fraud. The GOP has long tried to make life worse for LGBTQ people, but Trump’s the one who banned transgender people from the military with a tweet based on nothing more than a whim. Republicans have always wanted to dismantle public education, but Trump is the one who put someone in charge of the Department of Education who openly waged a war against it in her home state. And none of that gets into how Republicans are actively destroying the scientific infrastructure of our government, waging a war on women’s health, and successfully pushing conservative lawyers onto federal courts.

The point is: Conservative Christianity wasn’t any better under, say, George W. Bush. The Republican Party has always endorsed bigots, pursued racist policies, and advocated for evidence-free policies based on evangelical Christian dogma. Perhaps it’s hit a fever pitch now, but it isn’t new. (Does Sarah Palin ring a bell? What about the near-success of alleged child molester Roy Moore?)

Trump is just the latest incarnation of what the GOP has been for a long time. The party didn’t “leave” people like Wehner. The problem is that people like Wehner never pushed back against a party that was so clearly headed in this direction when they had the opportunities to do so. They remained silent when critics pointed out what was happening. And very few openly endorsed the Democrats who had the ability to stop the derailing train.

Wehner deserves credit for calling out the Christian hypocrisy evident in this political era. But if this interview occurred decades ago, it would’ve sounded the same except for the names.

(Image via Shutterstock. Large portions of this article were published earlier)

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