Politics before God
How Americaâ€™s political divisiveness is trumping religious identity
Americaâ€™s 2018 midterm elections provide an opportunity to assess white evangelical Protestantsâ€™ counterintuitive embrace of Trump. Reports of the Presidentâ€™s past infidelities, suspicious business deals, and possible electoral collusion with Russia appear to have done little to abate the support of Americaâ€™s most socially conservative law-and-order voters - white evangelical Protestants. PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) data demonstrates though Trump never polled above 50 percent favourability with white evangelical-Protestants during the primaries, since his 2016 election the constituency has only grown more â€˜Trump-drunkâ€™ with a record 75 percent endorsing the President and his commitment to put â€˜America Firstâ€™.
Although Americaâ€™s Christian right have long-standing Republican inclinations, evangelicalsâ€™ self-abasement under Trump remains difficult to understand. White evangelicals have migrated from a Christian movement guilty of overt partisan identification to a movement willing to corrupt their faith values and religious tradition for political opportunities. The effect, as Gerson (2018) notes, is a faith tradition now riddled with â€˜political tribalism and hatred for political opponents, with little remaining of Christian public witness.â€™ Keller cuts deeper, saying â€˜evangelicalâ€™ used to mean those who took the moral high ground, but now itâ€™s nearly synonymous with â€˜hypocriteâ€™ (Keller cited in Gerson, 2018). â€˜With an end-justifies-the-means style of politics that would have been unimaginable before [Trump]â€™ (Jones cited in Coppins 2018a), it seems Americaâ€™s evangelicals are putting politics before God.
Subsequently, this article reflects on four dimensions of Trumpâ€™s success with white evangelicals. First, it discusses howTrump and the GOP presented 2016 as the â€˜last chance electionâ€™. Secondly it explores Trumpâ€™s â€˜priestly rhetoricâ€™ and evangelicalsâ€™ â€˜priestly faithâ€™ in him. Thirdly, what have white evangelical-Protestants achieved under Trump in return for their votes? Lastly, how has Trump changed American evangelicalism and the nation? Is nativism and tribalism consuming their faith-tradition just as itâ€™s dividing the country?