Evangelicals Will Be Forever Known As the People Who Traded Principles for Power December 9, 2020

Evangelicals Will Be Forever Known As the People Who Traded Principles for Power

Evangelicals expect criticism from people outside their circles. But there’s nothing quite so damning as a personal essay documenting the hypocrisy and misplaced priorities that drove one of their own out of the bubble — and out of Christianity altogether.

That’s what journalist Sarah Jones offers in a recent article for New York Magazine. She writes about how what we know today as “Trumpism” has roots that go back much further than 2016:

To be Evangelical in the 1990s was to learn fear. The world was so dangerous, and our status in it so fragile. The fossil record was a lie, and scientists knew it.

The predominantly white Evangelical world in which I was raised had created its own shadow universe, a buffer between it and the hostile world. Our parents could put us in Christian schools or homeschool us; if they did risk public school, we could take shelter with groups like YoungLife and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which would tell us to make the most of this chance to save souls. We had alternatives for everything; our own pop music, our own kids’ shows, our own versions of biology and U.S. history, and an ecosystem of colleges and universities to train us up in the way we should go: toward the Republican Party, and away from the left, with no equivocation.

Whatever the cause, whatever the rumor, the fear was always the same. It was about power, and what would happen if we lost it. Certain facts, like the whiteness of our congregations and the maleness of our pulpits and the shortcomings of our leaders, were not worth mentioning. You were fighting for God, and God was not racist or sexist; He was only true. The unsaved hated this, it made them angry, and that was proof you were doing the right thing. If “owning the libs” has a discernible origin point, it’s here, in the white Evangelical church.

While evangelicals as a whole tend to be skeptical of authorities, Jones makes an important distinction: They are skeptical when they are not the ones with authority. The evangelical obsession with power is about hoarding as much of it to themselves as they can, even if it requires certain moral compromises along the way. And, as Jones points out, the compromises become far more hypocritical the higher up on the food chain you go.

… For the politicians we backed, it shrank to a pinprick point: Ronald Reagan was divorced. What mattered instead to the Moral Majority was his opposition to abortion, his hippie-bashing, his ability to trade in euphemisms about “states’ rights.” Two Bush presidents later, thrice-married Trump gave Evangelicals the conservative Supreme Court of their dreams.

This may be the lasting legacy of the Christian Right: They claim to be all about values and faith… but they’ll easily give those up in exchange for a political hammer. There’s no amount of moral hypocrisy they won’t overlook for a Republican with power. Which means they never really cared about those morals anyway.

You can’t create loophole after loophole, then pretend you’re a group of people who take the rules seriously.

In the three decades since Reagan, evangelicals have built a voting bloc geared about two supposedly sacred “culture war” issues: abortion and LGBTQ rights. The Bible talks about refugees and poverty far more, but they’ve collectively decided to embrace anyone who pledges to make those two things harder for anyone to access, if not prohibit them outright.

Being known solely for what you’re against is not a good look. More and more Christians who grew up in this particular culture are realizing — and thankfully speaking out about — how rotten it truly is.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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