Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Oct. 27, 28 or 29, 2016
But Evangelical Christians aren’t all the same, and they were never 100-percent Trump supporters. Further, after multiple women accused the Republican nominee of sexual assault (and recordings confirmed he’d claimed to have done so), many Evangelicals went public in their rejection of him.
Of course, mercy is part of Christianity (and, after all, the Bible says Noah got drunk, David had an affair, Peter was intemperate, Paul was a killer and Thomas was a doubter). So some said they were being merciful to Trump; others wondered why they didn’t extend mercy to Clinton, too.
Anyway, some Evangelicals’ endorsement of Trump is only part of a story that misled the country.
First, Evangelicals’ coziness with conservative Republicans has been overblown since 1979, when Jerry Falwell and his “Moral Majority” endorsed Ronald Reagan, a divorced actor who wasn’t a churchgoer, over Democrat Jimmy Carter, a devout Baptist and Sunday school teacher. But, again, Evangelicals are no more in lockstep than minorities, unionists or rural Americans, and each man had Evangelical supporters.
Trump’s shortcomings are known: berating Hispanics, the disabled, veterans, women, Muslims and African-Americans, plus, for Evangelicals, divorcing twice, admitting to extramarital affairs, once supporting abortion rights, refusing to seek forgiveness, and seeking to regulate religion (but not Christianity – yet).
Nevertheless, he was backed by some high-profile Evangelicals, including Jerry Falwell Jr., James Dobson (Focus on the Family) and Tony Perkins (Family Research Council).
Still, Politico says Trump has the support of just 37 percent of self-identified Evangelicals (Pew put it at about 50 percent), compared to almost 80 percent backing the GOP nominee in recent presidential elections.
Generalizing from South Carolina primary results, some commentators said Trump’s victory was ensured by Evangelicals, although he got 33 percent of the self-identified Evangelical vote compared to 27 percent for Ted Cruz and 22 percent for Mario Rubio. Such a leap from unscientific exit polling was like asking if people liked sports and then jumping to the conclusion that they loved soccer. Fans of baseball NASCAR, the NFL and college basketball would scoff.
In St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy, the Apostle urged him to “convince, reprimand, encourage.” Were there reprimands to Trump? Yes, in fact, from Evangelicals including author Max Lucado and Kay Warren (wife of “Purpose Drive Life” author Rick Warren). An open letter was issued by dozens of Evangelical leaders, including Jim Wallis, William Barber and Tony Campolo, saying, “Whether we support Mr. Trump’s political opponent is not the question here. Hillary Clinton is both supported and distrusted by a variety of Christian voters. We, undersigned Evangelicals, simply will not tolerate the racial, religious and gender bigotry that Donald Trump has consistently and deliberately fueled.”
Elsewhere, Evangelical Alan Noble said, “Any man who is so unaware of his own depravity that he cannot recognize his need for forgiveness is incapable of justly leading any country” and called Trump “a deceptive, infantile, racist demagogue with no political principles aside from his own self-interest.”
Evangelical Russell Moore called Trump’s campaign “reality television moral sewage,” and the Christian Post denounced Trump in its first political stand. Evangelical Owen Strachan called on men to rally against Trump, saying, “We … boggle at how some Christians and conservatives still defend Donald Trump. Without telling anyone who to vote for, let me speak directly: His words are inexcusable. His conduct is reprehensible. He deserves no defense.”
Evangelical Julie Roys from Moody Radio said, “I honestly don’t know what makes me more sick: listening to Trump brag about groping women or listening to my fellow Evangelicals defend him,” and Evangelical Albert Mohler said, “I am humiliated by arguments about character I am hearing from some Evangelicals. Lord, help us.”
Wallis, from Sojourners, addressed forgiveness in Doctrine, writing, “Even if Donald Trump was sincere in asking for forgiveness (which many still don’t feel he is), people could forgive him and hope that he turns his life around but still not believe he is morally fit to be president of the United States. The word ‘repentance’ means more than just saying you are sorry; it requires a change of heart and direction.”
Instead of challenging Evangelicals who’ve backed Trump, a better question might be: Why did so many Republicans stand by him?
[PICTURED: Evangelical Christian Jim Wallis of Sojourners, photographed by Sonny Hong for the Christian Post.]