The Trump Era Has Turned a Lot of Evangelicals Into Fighters

Updated on September 14, 2019
Jason Capp profile image

I grew up in South Carolina, USA, and I currently live in Tokyo, Japan. I am well versed in religion, various cultures, and world politics.

The Evangelical Vote

For most of American history, the evangelical church did not play a major role in politics. Outside of some strong religious influences during the prohibition era, most Americans were fairly secretive about their political views, and Christians were free to vote for any candidate they deemed worthy of an office no matter what their political affiliation.

However, the rise of the evangelical vote, also known as the Christian Right, began around the Reagan administration and has become a force to be reckoned with ever since. From the 1980s, evangelicalism began to grow, and the association with several nonprofit political and issues-focused organizations gave the movement strong legs as it began to march forward.

According to recent Pew Research polls, 70.6% of Americans still refer to themselves as Christians. Among that 70.6%, we see that Evangelicals make up about 25.4%, and a majority of that grouping are quite involved in politics. When it comes to voting numbers in America, the evangelical vote is not just important, but it is a crucial group of voters that can change the landscape of an election.

For perspective, according to exit polls from the 2016 Presidential Election, 81% of evangelical voters voted for Donald Trump, while only 16% of evangelical voters voted for Hillary Clinton. Trump's biggest wins in the electoral college came from states that had high evangelical turnouts, and Donald Trump won the electoral college in a landslide victory.

President Trump with televangelist Pat Robertson
President Trump with televangelist Pat Robertson

Evangelicals and Trump

When it comes to Trump and evangelicals, many would find the relationship between the two to be quite peculiar. I mean, let's be honest with ourselves; President Trump has never been recognized for his displays of Christian love, affection, or humility. He rarely-to-never apologizes for uncouth actions, and he uses aggressive and insulting language towards his opposers on a regular basis.

So why do so many evangelicals flock behind President Donald Trump? What is it about his personality and character that has struck a chord with the most influential religious group in the United States?

A Strong, No-Holds-Barred Leader

Evangelical Christians love strong leaders. Biblically, people like King David are revered not simply for their affection towards God but for their ability to fight, battle, and wage war.

Trump's ability to stand up to opposers, insult liberal leaders, and fight various news networks has inspired many evangelicals to do the same. Before the 2016 presidential election, evangelicals often complained about these very things, pointing out the flaws they viewed of atheists, liberals, and the media, but they lacked a certain punch. Once Donald Trump entered the picture, evangelicals learned that there are more effective ways to attack these outlets than simply complaining about them.

The Trump approach is to attack them head on, and although evangelicals have little to justify this behavior, there has been a sigh of relief, the chains have been unlocked, and the punches are being thrown.

An Updated Prosperity Gospel

Another thing Trump has promised that has gotten the attention of a large base of evangelicals is money.

Prosperity gospels have been floating around for generations, and they have suckered in countless Christians over the years. Trump similarly has promised a lot of financial gain under his presidency, and it really excited evangelicals. For years, raised taxes were put in place to help better serve the nation and provide better care and resources for struggling Americans, but many conservatives are strongly against this style of government.

The idea of eliminating certain programs, particularly the Affordable Care Act, became a major priority and a strong campaign for the Trump Administration. Evangelicals will not openly admit this, but like Trump, a large desire is to keep more earned income. Seeing Trump aggressively express wanting to protect his finances has given evangelicals a similar attitude.

President Trump at the Western Wall in Israel, 2017
President Trump at the Western Wall in Israel, 2017

One Who Stands For Israel

For Christians, more so than the American Jewish Committee, a president's position with Israel is of utmost importance. When it comes to President Trump, we see a man who is clearly using Israel for political points, and he does not seem ashamed about it at all.

Trump has spread all kinds of rumors that have stirred tension between himself and American Jews as well as siding strongly with Israel in the divisive Arab-Israeli conflict, something that has caused severe tension in the Middle East. It has even caused a lot of evangelicals to become more hostile and aggressive towards people from the Middle East or ties to the Middle East who oppose the views of President Trump. Trump even retweeted and quoted Wayne Allen Root, a conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed "Jew turned Evangelical Christian", that he is like the King of Israel and that Israel loves him like he is the second coming of God.

This has given Trump a lot of credibility with the evangelical community, but it has also further irritated relationships with Muslim Americans. Despite the Arab-Israeli conflict being incredibly complicated, evangelicals love that Trump is taking a side, whether that is becoming of a United States President or not.

The Importance of a Wall

Another driving point within the Trump Presidency is the call for a better border wall. Even before Trump took office, the accusations, name-calling, and insulting towards our neighbors to the south became commonplace, and evangelicals began to rally behind the idea of protecting our country from "drug dealers", "rapists", and "animals".

The idea of a wall has strong biblical roots, and the history of David and Solomon working towards and completing the building of the temple and its walls have heavy ties to Judaeo-Christian religions. It is assumed that keeping out bad people was the purpose of these biblical walls, but rarely do evangelicals reference the fact that the gates remained open except on the sabbath and in times of war.

At the core of this issue lies some strong and intentional barriers that prevent genuine understanding. Because of Trump's aggression towards immigrants from the south, we have seen a surge of evangelicals also villainizing, insulting, and harassing people with Central American or Caribbean heritage, often including true American citizens.

The Trump Prophecy

In 2018, right before the mid-term elections, a film called The Trump Prophecy was released. The film, created by ReelWorksStudios and Liberty University's Cinematic Arts program, compares President Trump to the first emperor of Persia, Cyrus.

The idea is that God uses ungodly people for his doings all of the time, and Cyrus, a pagan, was used to help free the Jewish population from captivity in Babylon. Trump, through the ideas of this film and many evangelicals, is being used by God very similarly.

The mentality is that many Christians do not have to be so worried about Trump's behavior, because they truly believe that God is using him to free the evangelicals from liberal persecution and "fake news". He is seen as the king that America needs, not necessarily as the king America desires.

Source

Evangelicals Need to Become More Christ-Like, Not Trump-Like

A significant amount of the justification for Trump and evangelicals' behavior rests on the idea that it is Biblical. However, the problem with something being Biblical does not always mean that it is right.

From Rachael Held Evans' book "A Year of Biblical Womanhood", we are reminded of some harsh truths when we use the term "Biblical" to justify things:

If you are looking for verses with which to support slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to abolish slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to oppress women, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to liberate or honor women, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to wage war, you will find them. If you are looking for reasons to promote peace, you will find them. If you are looking for an outdated, irrelevant ancient text, you will find it. If you are looking for truth, believe me, you will find it.

This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the text is not what does it say? But what am I looking for? I suspect Jesus knew this when he said, “ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” If you want to do violence in this world, you will always find the weapons. If you want to heal, you will always find the balm.

Evangelicals have found their weapons, and they are learning to wield them furiously.

This is why I propose that evangelicals and the Christian right need to revert back to the popular 1990's catchphrase of "What Would Jesus Do?" The behavior and attitude needs to be one of love, grace, and forgiveness, values that Jesus displayed in his own life over and over again. It is not about causing violence and aggression, but as Jesus showed, it is about healing and bringing life.

The term "Christian" also carries a lot of weight, too, because it literally means "Little Christ". If Christians are to wear that title around their neck, then following Jesus' teachings should take even more of a top priority.

Only then will Christianity become an honored religion once again, because there is honor in the name Jesus, there is honor in his teachings, and there is honor in how he lived his life. If evangelicals continue to idolize and mimic the behavior of Donald Trump and other leaders like him, then Christianity will maintain losing its power and become more and more obsolete over time.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Jason Reid Capp

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      • Jason Capp profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Reid Capp 

        6 days ago from Tokyo, Japan

        @Tim Truzy

        Thank you for coming back and contributing! Yes. This was precisely my point in the article, and it is what John and I were alluding to as well. The evangelical right has transformed in the past 20+ years, and it has not been for the better. Politics have become more important than the religion, and the rhetoric of Republican leaders has taken precedent over the teachings of Jesus. To me, this is just mind-boggling.

        How can people who claim to be Christian be so unchristlike when it comes to loving their neighbors, loving the least, and loving the immigrant? It seems like such a simple teaching with no addendum, and yet, so many so-called Christians elevate American values and Republican teachings over the centerpiece of the Christian religion.

      • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

        Tim Truzy 

        7 days ago from U.S.A.

        I peeked back because this is an interesting topic which we are all concerned about. What would Jesus do? When confronted with a nation totally destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, (the Bahamas) would Jesus offer such people comfort or tell them they cannot come to His house because they don't have "visas?" As Christians, our greatest commandment is to act in love, and this is what worries me about the evangelical right. (We emphasize we still love our brothers and sisters and it's not just about misguided politics, it's about acting as Christ would.) Thanks, Jason, Tony, John, and Abwilliams. Bless you all.

      • Tony Muse profile image

        Tony Muse 

        7 days ago from Texas, USA

        A B Williams

        Jerry Falwell Jr. was asked "Is there anything President Trump could do that would endanger that support from you or other evangelical leaders?"

        His answer was simply "No."

        He then went on to say "Only because I know that he only wants what’s best for this country, and I know anything he does, it may not be ideologically “conservative,” but it’s going to be what’s best for this country, and I can’t imagine him doing anything that’s not good for the country."

        Seriously? That kind of blind support goes beyond reason or logic. I'm not saying that all Trump supporter feel this way, but it certainly isn't uncommon.

      • Jason Capp profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Reid Capp 

        7 days ago from Tokyo, Japan

        @A B Williams

        I hope you can see the irony of your reaction just now. It is quite fitting with what I talked about in this very article.

      • abwilliams profile image

        A B Williams 

        7 days ago from Central Florida

        Oh....you and John "have already covered it", got it! I'll not spend any more of my precious time here then. Good day.

      • abwilliams profile image

        A B Williams 

        7 days ago from Central Florida

        I've seen no evidence of this John.

      • Jason Capp profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Reid Capp 

        7 days ago from Tokyo, Japan

        @A B Williams

        You do not know where I am getting my information? Since I'm from South Carolina, my Facebook feed is flooded with pro-Trump propaganda. It may not be idolizing for some people, but you best believe that a lot of evangelicals consider him to be the great savior of the masses. I mean, if you need a look at how some people react to Trump's presence, just refer to the first picture I used for this article. Those people are freaking out in the same way teens do at a pop star's concert.

        Would you not consider a 13-year-old's extreme fascination with Taylor Swift to be idolizing? If you do, then you have to know some Trump idolizers too, because I know way too many adults that seemingly worship the politicians they think can become their saviors.

        I am not saying, nor have I ever mentioned, that Christians should not be politically active. The problem stems in how they apply their faith with politics. I do not need to go into any more detail here. John and I already covered it.

      • John Welford profile image

        John Welford 

        7 days ago from Barlestone, Leicestershire

        A Christian who idolizes President Trump? How about the VP, Mike Pence?

      • abwilliams profile image

        A B Williams 

        7 days ago from Central Florida

        America doesn’t “need” nor “want a king”. It was decided long ago that we’d not defeat tyranny only to set this Nation up for a repeat of history.

        This new ploy, Christians need to be seen and not heard, which I am sure the secular left is all in on....you know, for free speech to apply to some, not to all, to them, but not to those that think differently than them!

        When you make a decision to follow Christ, that doesn’t mean you forsake citizenship, it doesn’t mean that you turn your back on your Country and subserviently take a back seat

        We stay involved, we elect those that we feel will do their best to abide by the U.S. Constitution and do their absolute best to see to it that we hold on to this great Republic of ours!

        Especially now....the ‘transformed Democratic Party’ is set on seek and destroy, in order to carry on the legacy of the fundamental transformation President, Barack Obama.

        I don’t know where you are getting your information Jason, but I do not know of one single person (one Christian) that “idolizes” President Trump. I know there are many that appreciate this return to a love of Country over the one who was hellbent on destroying it! I know there are many that understand what Benjamin Franklin meant when asked what we were given, “a Republic, if you can keep it.”

        I plan to keep it, I’ll not be silent.

      • Jason Capp profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Reid Capp 

        7 days ago from Tokyo, Japan

        @John Welford

        Precisely. The real religious side of Christianity and Christ's teachings would be to approach life selflessly (Luke 9:23, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."), whereas the political side of Christianity is clearly selfish and do not follow the teachings of Christ.

        I desperately hope that a mental shift happens, because this aggressive attitude recently has truly devalued Christianity worldwide. It is not helping the religion at all, and it is not helping the world at all. It is quite the lose-lose situation.

      • John Welford profile image

        John Welford 

        7 days ago from Barlestone, Leicestershire

        There is always a problem when evangelicals turn to politics. That is because truly religious people have a mindset that can be summarized as "What can I do that will benefit my fellow human beings, particularly those at the bottom of the heap?" When people think politically, such as when casting a vote, the mindset is usually "Which politicians will take action that benefits ME?"

        Which mindset is going to prevail?

      • Jason Capp profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Reid Capp 

        7 days ago from Tokyo, Japan

        @John Welford

        My worries and sentiments exactly. Trump, Republicans, and many evangelicals lack a real sense of empathy. They seemingly can only understand their own problems and completely neglect the real problems of others. This can easily be followed by how these groups have reacted to the fiascos in Puerto Rico, at the southern border, and at each recent location where mass shootings have taken place.

        This black-and-white narrative has to stop, and like you said, we need real compromise and respect between all sides. I have been arguing for years that discussion needs to be prioritized once again, because it is what can get us to those conclusions. Fighting, bickering, and lying, among many other toxic actions for so long have handicapped a lot of people. It is as if many Americans forgot how to have a civil, honest, and open discussion. The type that helps understanding on both sides to happen, and Trump is absolutely not the leader to help Republicans and evangelicals to get back on that path.

      • John Welford profile image

        John Welford 

        7 days ago from Barlestone, Leicestershire

        I am very worried about Trump's attitude towards Israel, because giving a blank cheque to Netanyahu and his crowd could lead to very serious consequences.

        You don't get a lasting peace by one side crushing the other, especially if the losing side harbours deep-felt grievances that will bubble to the surface sooner or later. You get lasting peace through diplomacy, compromise, and respect of both sides for each other. I do not see these qualities in Donald Trump.

        If he is being one-sided simply to win votes from people in his own country who prefer to believe in myths than in reality, then that only confirms what one had always suspected about Trump - that he is the worst sort of person to run any country, let alone the United States.

      • Jason Capp profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Reid Capp 

        8 days ago from Tokyo, Japan

        @John Welford

        Thank you very much. I really wish more evangelicals, southerners, and other people from my home state would read this and realize how much vitriol they are spewing, especially since it contradicts so much of the Bible's teachings.

      • John Welford profile image

        John Welford 

        8 days ago from Barlestone, Leicestershire

        You make some very sound points here.

      • Jason Capp profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Reid Capp 

        2 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

        @Tony Muse

        I have similar reserves about Pence. To me, Trump comes off as a pure liar, including in regards to his faith. I just do not think he is sincere about spirituality at all, and often times, it comes off like he is just pandering to easily influenced religious folk (I mean, he even said something similar, "I love the poorly educated!").

        But with Pence, I find him hyper-religious, which is much more worrisome in my opinion.

      • Tony Muse profile image

        Tony Muse 

        2 weeks ago from Texas, USA

        Pence actually scares me more than Trump. Pence believes that God wants him to be President. If he were ever elected, I'm afraid that we could be headed into full-scale war with Iran and the Arab world. Evangelicals have bought into the whole "Hal Lindsay" end-time narrative and believe that Islam is the "antichrist" system and that Armageddon will be a war of involving them. There is nothing worse than a man of war with a "holy intent".

      • Jason Capp profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Reid Capp 

        2 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

        @Tim Truzy

        Ooh. That really is a good point about Pence. I honestly was not thinking about him, as I was solely focusing on the direct relationship between Trump and evangelicals, but you are right. The Pence aspect could apply to the thinking of the "Trump Prophesy", where Trump is "the king that America needs", but Pence could be "the king that Americans want."

        And by "Americans", I do mean evangelicals. haha. Thank you for the comment and insight! I really appreciate it.

      • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

        Tim Truzy 

        2 weeks ago from U.S.A.

        Hi, Jason. Another factor in this: Mike Pence. He is seen as the light behind Trump, and evangelicals adore him. I've also read the evangelical right pull much of their philosophy from the Old Testament, and your idea of bringing back: "What would Jesus do," is really a great remedy for this to help them remember Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law with the great Commandment of Love. Great article.

      • Jason Capp profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Reid Capp 

        3 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

        @Tony Muse

        I actually had a section on Israel that I was working on for this article, but I decided to omit it for now (I will add it in later when I have a better way of wording what I want to say). But you're right. There's a strong sense of reading what we want to read in the Bible and not reading everything in context. It's easy to cherry pick verses that apply to us, our politics, and our own moral convictions, and then force those verses on others as an absolute statement. It is quite jarring and prevents people from having progressive discussions.

        Thank you so much for reading and for commenting! I appreciate your insight, too.

      • Tony Muse profile image

        Tony Muse 

        3 weeks ago from Texas, USA

        Indeed. I've heard Christians argue that since Jerusalem had a wall, the U.S. should have have a wall on its southern border because would want it that way. Of course, this totally ignores the fact that the city gates remained open except on the Sabbath (at times) and when they were directly faced with a hostile enemy.

        Israel was commanded to welcome sojourners and to leave the edges of their crops unharvested for the poor and sojourners. It is simply amazing how we have the tendency to preach the passages that fit our politics or agenda and yet ignore the everything else.

        Good read!

        Tony

      • Jason Capp profile imageAUTHOR

        Jason Reid Capp 

        3 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

        @RTalloni

        I may need to reword it, but I am referring to the citizens, not the leaders. That's why I used prohibition as an example, because the church and its congregants were heavily against alcohol consumption. Prior to the 1980s, though, "Christians" were not really a target audience for politicians, but now, it is one of America's most important voter groups.

        I'll think of something else to say in the beginning. Thank you for pointing that out, though. I honestly didn't think twice about it. haha

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 

        3 weeks ago from the short journey

        Christianity and politics do not go very far back in American history?

        Besides the country's founders own words in their letters, reading that could help clear this up includes:

        John Eidsmoe's "Christianity and the Constitution"

        Donald S. Lutz's "The Origins of American Constitutionalism"

        David Barton's "Separation of Church and State"

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