Evangelical Absolution

In the wake of the recent raucous, hateful election we have all watched a divided nation’s reaction to the events. Some jubilation, but quite a bit more sorrow and anger. Of particular note this time was the extent of dissatisfaction with both candidates. As my Evangelical friends were quick to point out, both candidates had serious character flaws. What was telling though was that 80% of White Evangelicals choose to vote for a wicked person. Does that seem to be a harsh assessment of Mr. Trump? Or, lets be honest here, a truthful statement of Mr. Trump’s character?

While it is true that the percentage of Progressive or Liberal Christians who voted for Mrs. Clinton was probably similar to the Conservative Christian vote for Trump, there are glaring differences between the two candidates messages. Clinton’s message of racial equality, care for the poor, protection for minorities, etc., was much easier to align with the message of the Gospel. In contrast, Trump sounded harsh, bombastic and sought to find scapegoats among illegal immigrants, refugees, Muslims and the press. He denigrated women, our military, the handicapped, not a day went by in which he didn’t try to offend someone, yet 80% of Evangelicals voted for him.

Evangelical leaders like Falwell Jr., James Dobson and Franklin Graham bent over backwards to excuse Trump’s behavior, much to the horror of more moderate Evangelicals like Phillip Yancey. The result was that a group of popular Evangelical voices swayed 80% of Evangelicals to vote for a wicked person. How was this possible? How did a group of people so incredibly obsessed with the sins of others, the sins of society and the sins of Liberal Christians manage to overlook their own sin in this matter?

While there has been some short shrift given to economics: the usual tax benefits to the big corporations and the wealthy (a conservative policy that is also hard to square with the Gospel), the most obvious reasons given for their choice revolved around fear: “Make America Great Again” was about the fear that the old ways of privilege were slipping rapidly away. Over 8 million people with brown skins have managed to sneak into our country over the last 30 years. Non-Christian refugees have poured into European countries recently and the fear is that it will be repeated here. The SCOTUS decision to make SSM legal was a shot across the bow of conservative Protestantism’s past attempts to force society’s compliance with the Evangelical view of a “Christian America.” Fear that Evangelicals would not be free to force their own agendas on society but would be forced by our own Constitution and Bill of Rights to treat others fairly.

I will mention abortion briefly, as it is perhaps the only justifiable moral concern mentioned in the Evangelical list of reasons to vote Trump. 600,000 to 700,000 abortions a year in the US I think all would agree, is not a good thing, not cause for celebration. It is not the sign of a healthy nation. The problem for Evangelicals is not the desire to end abortions, but how to go about it. As is often the case with Evangelicals, men like James Dobson call the shots for women and create scapegoats to blame. Women become the guilty ones here and Evangelicals seek to punish them for their decisions to end pregnancies. This is terribly counter-productive and shows a lack of compassion and understanding of the underlying social-economic problems that lead to abortions in the first place.

But the real head-scratcher following the election has been the Evangelical attempts at absolving themselves form moral culpability in their choice of Trump. No sooner had the final results of the Electoral College come in than the Scriptural excuses began to saturate social media.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Rom 13:1

“He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” Dan 2:21

This use of Scriptural “snippets” is nothing new, and reflects a general use Scripture by Evangelicals that seeks to find Scriptures that support their suppositions while ignoring passages that do not. But what is disturbing here is how easily a group of moral individuals could throw their support behind a terribly immoral person. This should be a red flag to all Evangelicals. Yes, I know a lot of Evangelicals claim it was a hard decision, a choice between two evils, blah, blah, blah. Really?!! Come on, the minute Trump opened his mouth the choice became apparent, not this man! He does not reflect our values as Christians! It should have been a no-brainer!

Instead, feeling guilty, Christians try to excuse their actions with verses taken out of context. How sad and frightening. It is easy to see how the spirit of the antichrist could fool, if possible the very elect (Matt 24). 2000 years ago people had little say in who became rulers, who was in power. Today we have an unprecedented influence on the choice of our leaders. Evangelicals, own up to this, take responsibility, don’t make excuses and don’t seek to absolve yourselves for sin. Absolution requires confession and repentance. I am seeing neither.

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