Roughly 81% of white evangelical Protestants voted for Donald Trump in 2020, roughly the same percentage he got from that group in 2016. That means, despite all the damage Trump did during his time in office — the child separation, the bigotry, the racism, the exposed lies about his taxes, etc. — white evangelicals were never willing to leave his side.
They traded whatever positive reputation they had for a bunch of right-wing judges and constant lip service about their religion.
After Wednesday’s Capitol siege, you would think an organization representing a huge swath of those Protestants would do some serious reflection on their role in supporting him. Maybe they’d come up with a plan of action to make sure white evangelicals never again back a wannabe tyrant.
Instead, the National Association of Evangelicals — representing “45,000 local churches from 40 different denominations and [serving] a constituency of millions” — did to the country what Trump always did to them: They offered mild concern about the damage they’ve caused and suggested a solution that will help absolutely no one.
The group’s statement “denounces the violence” at the Capitol, which is really the bare minimum, and notes that “Some images from the protests demonstrate a disturbing conflation of Christianity and a nationalist ideology that is far from the way of Jesus.”
Are they only learning about that overlap now? Because it’s not news to the rest of us. White evangelicals and Christian Nationalists hell-bent on using the government to achieve their religious goals are by and large the same group. Books have been written about it. If they were shocked by what they saw, they stand alone in that.
They also claim the “insurrection epitomizes the rancor and polarization present in our country” — as if both sides are responsible for the Trump cultists who sieged the Capitol.
The NAE bluntly admitted some of this… before offering up a punchline:
The mob at the Capitol was provoked by leaders, including President Trump, who have employed lies and conspiracy theories for political gain. Evangelicals are people who are committed to truth and should reject untruths.
The evangelicals who spread objective lies about abortion, evolution, LGBTQ people, sex, atheists, the dangers of COVID, and saying “Merry Christmas” are in no position to pretend like they care about telling the truth.
But the kicker is what the NAE plans to do about this: Rather than making requests of their member churches to do anything of substance, they just want people to put their hands together and not eat for a little while.
We call for a Weekend of Prayer and Fasting for the Healing of the Nation beginning January 8. We encourage our communities to pray for a peaceful transfer of power and for healing and peace in our country and world.
The people who caused our current crisis think prayer and fasting will get them out of it.
Without the same evangelicals issuing public apologies to their congregations for spreading election lies, or promising to stick to sermons about Jesus instead of culture war issues, or trying to understand why the rest of the country sees them as bigots, they’re just offering a perfunctory statement and sticking their heads back into the ground.
They mildly criticized Trump while doing nothing to disassociate white evangelical Christianity from Trumpism. The same hateful pastors who treat the pulpit like a political soapbox are going to keep doing it because no one’s telling them it’s unacceptable.
The NAE isn’t the Vatican. They can’t order churches to do anything. But apparently they’re too cowardly to even request that church leaders take actionable steps to stop their members from falling into the MAGA cult.
Nothing the NAE said in its statement will do a damn thing to prevent more riots or more Christian involvement in those riots. Which is exactly why they shouldn’t be surprised when the conservatives who sit with them in the pews have no ability to tell truth from fiction and end up joining a terrorist mob. Unless trusted leaders or loved ones talk sense into them, white evangelical churches will continue being part of the problem instead of the solution.
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