What I Learned from Evangelicals This Election Season

Our American election seasons are commencing sooner than they should and, hence, lasting far longer than anyone cares to endure. We learned 18 months ago that Donald Trump was running for President and others began organizing and campaigning for their own candidacy during the same time frame. A year and a half is a long time to spend hearing and reading about campaign slogans, promises, policies and why the other candidates are the worst choice imaginable. No wonder we are worn out -- physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

The so-called evangelical vote is usually very typical: whoever is the Republican candidate is God's obvious choice for the White House. I am being facetious here, of course, but this is true from the perspective of most conservative evangelicals. They think a "pro-life" vote is the Christian vote. Technically, however, evangelicals are not pro-life but pro-birth: they are staunchly anti-abortion. But being pro-birth is not synonymous with being pro-life. What is pro-life about denying equality to minorities? What is pro-family about deporting illegal immigrants in this country and, thus, breaking families apart?

Regardless, evangelicals harbor a sense of (self-) righteousness about their Republican vote, no matter who is the candidate. Take, for instance, Donald J. Trump. No matter how vile, no matter how demeaning and degrading and sexually-assaultive toward women, evangelicals would not be swayed. No matter his abusive language, his sexual assaults on women -- as discovered through Access Hollywood -- no matter what else he committed -- he even mockingly confessed that he could shoot someone and people would still support and vote for him (link) -- he maintained the evangelical support. What did I learn?

Here is what I learned from evangelicals during this election season: their alleged fervor for traditional family values is hypocritical at best and merely smoke and mirrors for a greater agenda. All they primarily care about is that Republicans gain control. Why? Because they imagine that Republicans will secure their agenda: special interests toward special religious rights, halting equality for LGBTQ persons, and advancing an "us-four-and-no-more" mentality. Thank goodness this is not true for all evangelicals. But, sadly, this is true for many. God has commanded us, via the Jewish people, to love the foreigner living among us (Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:19). So building a wall and deporting the undocumented is counter-intuitive to the sentiments of God.

Evangelicals have learned absolutely nothing since the failure of the Religious Right in the early 1990s. Two former Religious Right advocates, who labored for and politicked with the late Jerry Falwell, confess that the Religious Right failed: "Two decades after conservative Christians charged into the political arena, bringing new voters and millions of [wasted] dollars with them in hopes of transforming the culture through political power, it must now be acknowledged that we have failed."1 But evangelicals continue to be manipulated by men like Franklin Graham who frame the political narrative in this vein: liberals, progressives, and Democrats are godless souls who hate God, Christ, and Christianity. Franklin Graham basically uttered these very sentiments from his own lips this political season. (link) Never mind the sinful greed of his own heart (link): all he seems to cares about is his Republican religion.


 
Our former Religious Right authors also rightly state that, when "preachers start talking about politics, they begin using the power of their position to legitimize political issues."2 This is how they manipulate the so-called evangelical vote. When they begin to speak in this vein, they allude that God is speaking through them, and thus a Republican vote is the right and the Christian vote. This is manipulation. This is deception. Men like Franklin Graham, including their followers, seem to demonstrate that their religion is not biblical Christianity but the Religious Right branch of the Republican party.

What evangelicals who voted for Trump have taught me in this 2016 election season is that Donald J. Trump's perverse lifestyle does not matter: he is, as Franklin Graham alludes, "God's man." (link) But if I were to love a man, being a man myself, then, according to these same conservative evangelicals who advocate a perverse man as God's man, I am going to hell. This is called overt hypocrisy. This is called the most obvious double standard. This is called justifying evil for one's own agenda. Evangelicals who voted for Trump have, in effect, called evil good and good evil (cf. Isa. 5:20) -- and, still, I find them on Facebook sharing posts from Franklin Graham insisting that God saw to Trump's election. This sickens the life right out of me. This exposes evangelicalism as not only unbiblical, and toxic, but anti-Kingdom. This brand of evangelicalism has devolved into being merely the Religious Right branch of the Republican party.

For years I was taught by conservative evangelicals that liberals and liberal "Christian" denominations were part of the end-times deception. I now think the exact opposite: conservative evangelicalism now appears to me as the most obvious end-times deception possible. They have replaced the Jesus of Matthew 5-7 with the ideology of any Republican candidate. Even when this candidate opposes just about every single principle that Jesus teaches -- as Christ outlines who is actually going to inherit the soon-coming kingdom of God -- all such is ignored in order to advance the Republican agenda. But there is more.

Many evangelicals have become so painfully and obviously unbiblical and unChristian that they swarm to ungodly entertainers, witty orators, or other conservative evangelicals masquerading as godly and conservative ministers. All one need do, in order to get a large conservative evangelical following, is to play to the tune that evangelicals are used to hearing. That tune includes any notion regarding pro-life (which is really pro-birth), the theory of the inerrancy of Scripture, conservative politics that include all-things heteronormative to the exclusion of any semblance of homosexuality, make certain that only men lead the church, throw in some emotional (and poorly produced, poorly written, poorly constructed and ultimately shallow) "praise and worship" music, and you will have a successful church plant and a thriving "ministry." This is so tragic.

I will take what I have learned from Trump-advocating evangelicals this election season and expose the unbiblical and unChristlike nature of its core agenda and intent. Until evangelicals begin to genuinely care about all of life -- and not merely for its own special interests, privileges, and rights (the New Testament calls us to forfeit our imagined rights, cf. Matt. 5:38-42; 1 Cor. 6:7) -- I will keep pressing on this particular nerve among evangelical leaders. I will endeavor to do so not out of hatred, nor even utter frustration, but because I deeply care about those whom they are harming (deceiving), as well as those evangelicals who are under threat of spreading that deception, and also, of course, Christ's church as a whole. To say nothing at all, when I see nothing but danger and deception, would be outrageously cruel of me. I must speak. I must confront. I must challenge.

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1 Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, Blinded By Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 23. The answer to that subtitle is a clear and resounding no.

2 Ibid., 45.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.