Why Do Evangelicals Suspend Disbelief about Trump?

It’s becoming a tiresome question: How do evangelical Christians continue to support Donald Trump when his actions and character don’t align at all with what they have traditionally stood for? A recent Pew Survey found that 78 percent of white evangelical protestants approve of Trump’s job in office, and only 18 percent of this group disapprove. How (and why) do they continue to suspend disbelief?

Though traditionally, evangelicals embrace the black and white thinking of moral absolutism, they are suddenly willing to embrace moral relativism when it comes to Donald Trump. Every day is Opposite Day when it comes to how they view Donald Trump; “bad” is “good,” and “wrong” is “right.” Biblical references are spun into rationalizations for misbehavior.

Though we should note that many evangelicals have not supported the Trump administration’s recent “zero tolerance” policy involving the separation of children from their parents who have attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, many evangelicals have maintained their staunch support of it, as well as other questionable Trump administration actions. One way they’re able to is by employing denial.

“I don’t believe it’s happening,” said Mike Jones of North Carolina, on Today. Jones questions whether the footage and images of children in detention facilities are even real. “I think it’s a big lie.” Some evangelicals have responded to recent mass shootings with similar denial.

So why are evangelicals so intent on their narrative that Trump, no matter what he says, does, or is, is ordained by God, and can do no wrong, even when he is blatantly doing wrong?

“The answer,” says Ben Howe, a contributor to Medium.com, “is simple: ends.”

The end justifies the means for many evangelicals, no matter how vile the means. Many of them justify the means with the assertion that God uses every person and situation for His glory.

Dr. Bill Sutton, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in McAllen, Texas, says, “Blind faith is how you have to trust the Lord.” (Elected officials) are ministers of God for righteousness’ sake.”

God, say evangelicals, is working to further the Christian political agenda through those He places in office. Sure, Donald Trump is vile, but look, they say, at what he’s accomplishing for the Lord! As an example, they would cite Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, along with his vow to move the American embassy there.

Many evangelical Christians in the U.S. say they have had years of feeling embattled, with no one to stand up for them. They cite Hillary Clinton’s open hostility toward them, and her insistence that “religions are just going to have to change regarding abortion.” They remember when Bill Clinton mistreated a young woman while the feminists rallied their support around him. They consider the controversies and laws supporting same-sex marriage.

“They’re in because they’ve hired him to do a job…He’s like a political bouncer, if you will,” says CBSN political contributor and Boston Herald columnist Michael Graham. “They believe it when Trump says, ‘I will fight for you.’

Perhaps, but for some, the belief that Trump is ordained by God to defend their place in the world positions Trump as a Christian leader – a role model. And this, in turn, can be construed as license for leaders and public officials use the Bible as justification to act despicably. And Evangelical Christians, as they have done with Trump, would be likely to support them.

Why evangelical Christians still support President Trump despite controversies | CBS News [2018-03-27]

Evangelicals keep faith in Trump to advance religious agenda | PBS News Hour [2018-05-03]

Not All Evangelicals Want to Be Associated with Trumpism

Although Donald Trump’s base consists largely of white evangelicals, not all evangelicals see Trump as the Anointed One. To those who do, however, speaking out against Trump, his behavior, or his policies, is akin to blasphemy. Indeed, many evangelicals appear to have embraced the dogma of “Trumpism” as part of their Christian theology.

Last week, however, about 50 evangelicals, concerned about the negative perception of American evangelicals, met at Wheaton College, a conservative Christian school in Illinois, to discuss the future of the evangelical movement in the era of Donald Trump as president. Several who attended the invitation-only gathering left after the first day, offended by the “fault-finding” toward Donald Trump and his supporters, and characterizing the event as a “Trump bashing.”

Many are concerned that, to the rest of the world, including Americans who don’t support Trump, “evangelical” is synonymous with “Trump supporter.” And they’re concerned that “Trump supporter,” in turn, is associated with white racism, divisiveness, and nationalism.

“When you Google evangelicals, you get Trump,” said Doug Birdsall, honorary chair of the international evangelical movement Lausanne, and organizer of the Wheaton event. “When people say what does it mean to be an evangelical, people don’t say evangelism or the gospel. There’s a grotesque caricature of what it means to be an evangelical.”

“Trumpist” evangelicals stress that whomever God puts into office is there for His purpose (except, apparently, Barack Obama). Indeed, it’s easy to see God’s hand in the matter when the one who wins the election appears to further your agenda. The evangelicals are pleased with Trump’s judicial appointments, and they’re over the moon with Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem (putting things in place for some elements of Biblical prophecy to come true, they believe).

Yet, despite Trump’s “pro-Christian” moves (does anyone really believe Donald Trump makes any decision on the basis of its “Christ-centeredness”?) a growing number of evangelicals feel that association with Trump has tainted the movement.

It’s difficult to understand how a group of people who claim to follow the teachings of a man (Christ) who is believed to symbolize goodness, mercy, love, and empathy, can reconcile their political choice of a modern-day leader (Trump) who is the antithesis of those qualities. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to know that some members of that same group find the association with Trump to be repugnant.

“No matter what happens to American evangelicalism, it is here to stay, says Darrell Block, of Dallas Theological Seminary, and a co-organizer of the gathering in Wheaton. Perhaps, but will we ever be able to undo the negative association of evangelicalism with Donald Trump? It may be that the only hope for those evangelicals who don’t want to associate themselves with Trumpism is to change the name of their movement.

Faith leaders reportedly hold anti-Trump meeting  |  Fox News [2018-04-19]

Leaders Criticize Trump right or wrong???   |  [2018-04-19] Truth Time Radio