I know. It baffles me too. It’s like watching a tumor grow. Or listening helplessly every day as a really bad song climbs to the number one spot on pop radio. Like everyone else, I can only make guesses, especially since, as an evangelical, I still can’t find any evangelicals who support Trump. Even on Facebook. None. It’s all very weird and suspicious.
But I do know many evangelicals, and I am one. On the other hand, watching liberal media trying to analyze the phenomenon of evangelical Trump support is like reading restaurant reviews by a vegan. It’s an utter waste of time. Liberals so do not “get” evangelicals. All such analysis comes through the lens of conservative Christians being racist, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-poor, theocratic, uneducated, etc. Here are 3 results of a 2 minute Google search:
> Author Sarah Posner thinks it’s because Trump is “arguably the candidate most resembling a televangelist.” (Sigh…)
> Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, thinks “Trump’s appeal to bring back an America that many conservative white evangelicals feel is slipping away turned out to be a more powerful appeal than a checklist of issues.” (…because we’re racists and want a white candidate.)
> And finally…(as if you didn’t know this was coming)…the inevitable and predictable liberal mantra voiced by someone who goes by “Hunter,” at the Daily Kos. Obviously evangelicals are flocking to Trump because “Trump hates the same people they hate.” (It’s gotta be all about hate. Because what other explanation could there possibly be for people to disagree with someone like Hunter?)
‘Sorry for wasting your time there.
So, the deal is that Trump won 34% of the evangelical vote in the South Carolina caucuses. In Nevada, ABC News says he had his best showing yet among evangelical voters, winning four in 10 of their votes, vs. an average of three in 10 in earlier contests. Trump won overall in Nevada with 45% of the vote.
This is a surprise to everyone because Trump doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy that evangelicals that would line up behind. Especially considering that several of the top runners are self-described, strong evangelicals who have actually been courting the evangelical vote. Whereas Trump says and does mean, weird, and/or stupid things and it’s anyone’s guess what he would actually do as President, other than “make America great again.”
So what’s going on?
First, why are conservative Christians not solidly lining up behind Cruz, Rubio, or Carson, the 3 overtly evangelical candidates? I see one shining reason, but you must defy the liberal stereotyping of evangelicals in order to see it.
It is this: Conservative Christians love the American founding documents and the U.S. Constitution. We believe they were founded on Biblical principles. Therefore we don’t need, or even necessarily want, an evangelical Christian in the White House. A President who is committed to restoring and upholding Constitutional government is enough.
Remember when evangelicals chose former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan over “born-again Christian” Jimmy Carter? Remember when Newt “open marriage” Gingrich got widespread evangelical support?
After all, conservative Christians don’t place their hope in government – we believe that it is the people, not the system (or the President) that brings life and health to the nation. We do not believe in, nor are we attempting to establish, a Christian theocracy. In other words, we do not need a “Christian nation,” whatever that means. Freedom and Constitutional self-government allow everything we need to thrive in our faith as U.S. citizens.
By contrast, the Left seeks a president and a government that will create a system that takes care of everyone. While this is a seductive idea, such ideas not only don’t work, historically they entail a loss of freedom while promoting dependence. We believe the universal brokenness of the Human condition corrupts all that humans attempt to accomplish. We can’t afford to see this on a massive, irresistible scale. Since governmental authority always equals force, limited government is the best we can hope for as a free people.
And speaking of hate…
There may be another practical consideration that evangelicals have in mind. I’ll speak for myself and you can tell me how this resonates with you.
As a follower of Jesus, my faith is far more important to me than what country I live in or who the president is. In fact, presenting a clear picture of Jesus is too important to risk having a “Christian” president muddying up the picture. Half the country will hate the next president within a couple of years, no matter who he or she is. If that person strongly identifies as an evangelical Christian, people will inevitably associate his or her actions with his or her Christian beliefs.
Considering the issues facing our polarized nation, we are poised for a hate-fest unlike anything this country has ever seen. If Planned Parenthood loses it’s taxpayer funding (as it should,) a Christian president will be accused of hating women. If the definition of marriage is sent back to the states (as it should be,) a Christian president will be accused of hating LGBTQ people. If we go to war, (as we probably will,) many Muslims around the world will see it as a religious war because of our Christian president. If the president attempts to balance the budget, whoever is affected by the cuts will accuse the Christian president of hate. Immigration restrictions will be viewed as hateful. And so on. Hate, hate, hate. Anger, anger, anger.
However, if Donald Trump does these things, nobody for a minute thinks he’s a legitimate follower of Jesus. They’ll just think he’s a racist, sexist, ego-maniacal bully, which everyone already thinks anyway.
I think evangelical Republicans don’t want to throw Ben Carson under the bus because he’s a nice guy. Plus he’s black. Same with Cruz and Rubio, the two Hispanic guys who may still have a shot at the nomination. Whereas Donald Trump is practically running out in front of the bus, calling it names and bragging that it can’t hurt him. Well…okay then…
But still…why Trump?
I realize that, even if I’m right, this still doesn’t answer the question of why evangelical voters are backing Trump. For me the best choice would’ve been Rand Paul, the most articulate defender of the Constitution in the race. He ran his campaign as “the only fiscal conservative on the stage,” and vowed to make the hard choices based on Constitutional principle, as opposed to his personal religious beliefs. For me he was the best candidate because his stated devotion to Constitutional government landed him on the right side of every issue, without the religious “baggage.”
But even though he placed better than most candidates, he dropped out after the first caucus, too early in my opinion. Apparently he wasn’t enough of a circus act for America.
All I’m left with then is that people, evangelicals included, think that Trump can win. Cruz and Rubio may be seen as too “religious right” to win broad support.
A freaking weird election year
On the Democrat side we have a former U. S. president’s wife, and a self-described socialist arguing over who is the most “progressive.” Incredible. On the (“racist and anti-woman”) Republican side, we have a woman, two Hispanic children of Cuban immigrants, and potentially, America’s first black president. And Donald Trump.
Before Trump joined the race, I had always said I’d vote for Humpty Dumpty or Minnie Mouse before I’d vote for Hillary. Now that a cartoon character is actually running, I can’t bring myself to vote for him. Not that I’m voting for Hillary or Bernie. I secretly suspect that Hillary is somehow blackmailing Trump to run against her so that she has some chance of winning. It makes more sense than anything else. But I don’t have any evidence for that, so I’m left with my thoughts above.
What are your thoughts? How is this even possible?
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