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12/15/2017 6:29 am  #1

Has Politics Ruined the Evangelical Movement?

“What’s happened with evangelicalism is, it has become so conflated with Republican politics, that you can’t tell where Christianity ends and partisanship begins.”

Has Support for Moore Stained Evangelicals? Some Are Worried


The editor in chief of Christianity Today did not have to wait for the votes to be counted to publish his essay on Tuesday bemoaning what the Alabama Senate race had wrought.

Whoever wins, “there is already one loser: Christian faith,” wrote Mark Galli, whose publication, the flagship of American evangelicalism, was founded 61 years ago by the Rev. Billy Graham. “No one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.”

The sight of white evangelical voters in Alabama giving their overwhelming support to Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate, despite accusations of racial and religious bigotry, misogyny and assaults on teenage girls, has deeply troubled many conservative Christians, who fear that association with the likes of Mr. Moore is giving their faith a bad name. The angst has grown so deep, Mr. Galli said, that he knows of “many card-carrying evangelicals” who are ready to disavow the label.

The evangelical brand “is definitely tarnished” by politicization from whatever side, Mr. Galli said on Wednesday. “No question about it.”

He said that his readers seemed to agree with the thrust of his essay. The main criticism he received, he said, was one he agreed with: that he should have made it clearer that he was referring not to all Christians, but to evangelicals in particular.

The bloc that has marched under the banner of the “Moral Majority” and “values voters” has now been tagged as the most reliable base of support for both Mr. Moore and President Trump, two politicians who are known for fanning racial and religious prejudices and who stand accused of sexual harassment by numerous women — accusations that each man denies. White evangelicals across the country delivered 81 percent of their votes to Mr. Trump last year, according to exit poll data, and backed Mr. Moore in Alabama by the same proportion on Tuesday.

“It grieves me,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical school in Illinois. “I don’t want ‘evangelical’ to mean people who supported candidates with significant and credible accusations against them. If evangelical means that, it has serious ramifications for the work of Christians and churches.”

That notion is bewildering to evangelical leaders who see Mr. Trump as their champion. They say that Mr. Trump has given them more access than any president in recent memory, and has done more to advance their agenda, by appointing judges who are likely to rule against abortion and gay rights; by channeling government funds to private religious schools; by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; and by calling for the elimination of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and charitable groups from endorsing political candidates.

“I believe that God answered our prayers in a way we didn’t expect, for a person we didn’t even necessarily like,” said Stephen E. Strang, author of “God and Donald Trump” and founder of Charisma Media, a Christian publishing house.

“Christians believe in redemption and forgiveness, so they’re willing to give Donald Trump a chance,” said Mr. Strang, who is a member of the president’s informal council of evangelical advisers. “If he turns out to be a lecher like Bill Clinton, or dishonest in some kind of way, in a way that’s proven, you’ll see the support fade as quick as it came.”

Mr. Strang said that those who talk about Mr. Trump tarnishing the evangelical brand “are not really believers — they’re not with us, anyway.”

Will Hinton, a web developer in Atlanta, said he knew hundreds of politically conservative evangelicals who had grown increasingly repulsed by the religious right’s leaders, the tone they take and some of the causes and candidates they promote.

Mr. Hinton grew up in the movement as a politically active high school student who spoke at conferences and worked on Pat Robertson’s presidential campaign. Now, at 45, he said he was still an evangelical, still a conservative, but without a political party or movement.

“I have dozens of conservative evangelical friends who were so happy that Roy Moore did not win,” he said, “because the evangelical support for Trump and Roy Moore is ruining the witness for Christ for generations in this country.”

Evangelicals, often known as born-again Christians, belong to many denominations of churches, but they share some basic tenets: believers must accept Jesus as a personal savior, spread the gospel, and regard the Bible as the ultimate authority and the sacrifice of Jesus as necessary for the salvation of humanity.

When it comes to politics, however, the evangelical bloc is not rock solid, and the last year and a half has brought the cracks to the surface. There are evangelicals who took to Mr. Trump early on, evangelicals who were gradually won over, and evangelicals who were and proudly remain #NeverTrump, as some proclaim online.

There are young evangelicals who are disavowing their elders. There are Latino, Asian, black and Native American evangelicals who are outraged at white believers for allying with a president they regard as racist and hostile to immigrants. The black hip-hop artist LeCrae made waves when he recently gave an interview announcing that he had divorced himself from white evangelicalism.

Jemar Tisby, president of “The Witness, a black Christian collective,” a faith-based media company that provides commentary on race, religion and culture, said in an interview that while Mr. Trump was running for office, “we were saying, this man is promoting bigotry, white supremacists find an ally in him and this is going to be bad for us.”

“And not only did they vote for him,” Mr. Tisby continued, “they voted for him in slightly higher numbers than they did for Mitt Romney. It was a sense of betrayal.”

Mr. Tisby, who co-hosts the podcast “Pass the Mic,” said that many blacks who hold evangelical beliefs have been reluctant to identify themselves as evangelicals, and that reluctance was growing.

“It’s counterproductive to identify as evangelical,” he said. “What’s happened with evangelicalism is, it has become so conflated with Republican politics, that you can’t tell where Christianity ends and partisanship begins.”

There are signs that evangelicals have begun to drift away from their solid support for Mr. Trump. A poll conducted from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4 by the Pew Research Center found that the president’s job approval among white evangelical Protestants had fallen to 61 percent, from 78 percent in February.

The association with Mr. Moore troubled some women evangelicals who found his accusers to be credible. Two women said that he had sexually molested them when they were teenagers, and others said that he had taken them out on dates or hounded them at work, accusations that Mr. Moore denies.

Some female evangelicals said on social media that they stayed home rather than vote for either Mr. Moore or his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, whose views on issues like abortion are distant from their own.

Many women have expressed the broader concern that overlooking accusations of sexual misconduct against favored politicians sends a dangerous message that women who come forward can be dismissed in the service of a political agenda.

“We’ve let evil overtake the entire reputation of Evangelicalism,” one prominent evangelical author, Beth Moore, wrote on Twitter the day before the election. “The lust for power is nauseating. Racism, appalling. The arrogance, terrifying. The misogyny so far from Christlikeness, it can’t be Christianity.”

People have had the impulse to jettison the evangelical label before, according to Mr. Stetzer of Wheaton College. It came up after the televangelist scandals involving Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart in the 1980s. But the idea received new attention and momentum soon after Mr. Trump was elected.

Mr. Galli, the magazine editor, said he had recently brainstormed a list of 50 to 100 words, looking for a suitable substitute term. Among them: Neo-evangelical, Gospel Christian, Followers of Jesus.

“Purple-cow Christianity,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter. It’s the reality underneath that we affirm.”

Last edited by Goose (12/15/2017 6:30 am)

We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. 

12/15/2017 7:18 am  #2

Re: Has Politics Ruined the Evangelical Movement?

Or, is it the other way around ?? 

"Do not confuse motion and progress, A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress"

12/16/2017 11:17 pm  #3

Re: Has Politics Ruined the Evangelical Movement?

Full disclosure from the onset;   There was a relatively brief period in my life when I identified with "evangelical" Christianity.

There was a somewhat longer period when I attempted to identify/assimilate with "evangelical" Christianity but always found myself falling short of the mark, or, more precisely, the "mark" which had been set by someone else.   Someone--or more accurately, many someones--who were full of conceit, self righteousness, and judgementalism.

From those regretable times I can saw with certainty that many self-described "evangelicals" chase after the latest spiritual fad as though it were the Second Coming.   They resemble the hordes in Monty Python's Life of Brian who either wanted to "follow the gourd" or "follow the shoe"....chasing after whichever took their fancy.   Remember the "Prayer of Jabez" hype about a decade ago?   Probably not.  It turned out to be a flash in the pan like most "evangelical" fads.

Conservative/GOP politics has been a lengthier fad, dating back to the early 1980's with Jerry Falwell, Billy Hargis, and other champions of the "Moral Majority".

What is ironic--even tragic--is that the true heritage of evangelicalism in the United States had previously, for over a century, been identified with politics which today would be labelled (or may, libelled) as "progressive".  Chief among those causes was the abolition of slavery.   Yes, the earliest proponents of Abolition were evangelicals.   After the Civil War they took up the ending of child labor, women's suffarage, and trade unionism.

And now....definitely older and hopefully just a tiny bit wiser...I see that hitching one's fervent hopes and passionate energies to either political wagon (Democrat or GOP) is fundamentally a betrayal if not an outright denial of the words of Christ "My Kingdom is not of this world" and, when carried to its extreme, a breach of the First Commandment.

God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Life is an Orthros.

12/17/2017 9:50 am  #4

Re: Has Politics Ruined the Evangelical Movement?

Thank you for your excellent post, Tarnation. I find historical context to be enormously useful in gaining understanding.

My problem with evangelicals is several fold. Yes they are self-righteous. And, I think that they confuse God's will with their own. Sometimes this takes a silly form such as the gospel of wealth. But, it has taken a more sinister turn. Evangelicals have too often sought political power for the goal of controlling the actions, and restricting the freedoms of people not of their faith. This is of course, important for gays, or those seeking reproductive rights. But, it doesn’t stop there. Recently they have embraced a leader who would force the clerk at Macy’s to wish you a merry Christmas. God's will? Poppycock!

Now evangelicals have politicians who have given them unprecedented access, and the power to advance their political agenda. And “all” they have to do is to embrace men whose character is decidedly un-Christlike, and who are known for fanning racial and religious prejudices.
Truly a Faustian bargain.

Some will goes as far as to argue that these odious creatures are really righteous, and the victims of some grand conspiracy by the unbelievers.
The more honest among them will admit that a Trump, or a Moore does not live by the principles that they hold dear. But, supporting them is a necessity, they say. Compromising their principles is done to affect a greater good.  To get one more vote for one more judge,,,,,,

I wonder how God will react to this. When you stand before God, you cannot say, "Well virtue was simply not convenient at the time". This will not suffice. Your soul is in your keeping alone.

I am no theologian. I am a sinner. A deeply flawed Catholic. I have spent much of my life estranged from my Church and am only now feeling a thirst for the sacred, and the pull the almighty.
As a student of history  I have seen - in the name of religion - the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of God.

I remember when the "Born again" fad really took hold people would routinely tell me "Jesus loves you".
I remember looking at my life, and my conduct, and wondering why?
As I understand it, The doctrine of sola fide asserts God's pardon for guilty sinners is granted to and received through faith alone, excluding all "works".  In other words, it doesn't matter what you do.
I reject that. Maybe I am a better Catholic than I know. But, I think that I ought to strive to be kind and upright that God might love me. Faith without works is dead.

I have concluded that Holiness is in right action on behalf of others. Especially those who cannot defend themselves. And Holiness is in goodness.
I believe that by what I do every day on behalf of others, that I will be a good man - or not.


Last edited by Goose (12/17/2017 10:11 am)

We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. 
     Thread Starter

12/17/2017 11:26 pm  #5

Re: Has Politics Ruined the Evangelical Movement?

Goose wrote:

I believe that by what I do every day on behalf of others, that I will be a good man - or not.

Spot on!

Christianity is not so much "making a decision" that is once and done, as it is making a series of decisions each and every day.

How do I love God through loving my neighbor?   How do I love God through loving the "neighbor" that has been thrust upon me by circumtances beyond either of our control?   How do I love God through loving the "neighbor" who cut in front of me in the express check out line with a cart clearly well above the "10 items or less"?

And even more difficult:  How do I love the neighbor toward which my eyes have been blinded?   The ones to which I have become completely indifferent and unnoticing?   How do I become someone, who, in the words of Fred Holloway, (Scrooge's beatific nephew) "opens their shut up hearts and regards their fellow man as fellow travellers to the grave and not some inferior race of creatures"?

Life is an Orthros.

12/19/2017 3:25 pm  #6

Re: Has Politics Ruined the Evangelical Movement?

Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith.

Saint Francis

We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. 
     Thread Starter

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