Reasonable evangelicals need a new name. As a voting bloc, evangelicals have, according to many of their leaders, fallen from grace. Ironically it was the “draw”—whatever that could possibly be—of the cult of Donald Trump that caused it. While encouraging their sheep to vote for him both in 2016 and 2020, some of these leaders had their eyes opened to what many of us saw from the beginning, but it took an insurrection to pry their lids apart. A story by Rachel Martin on NPR, “’How Did We Get Here?’ A Call for an Evangelical Reckoning on Trump” explores this unfortunate, and avoidable catastrophe. Such evangelicals don’t excel at fact-checking. It’s far easier to believe what you’re told by a dynamic individual. Along the way they’ve jettisoned the morality of that “old time religion” for the lust of power. Now some of their leaders are wondering what they’ve done.
I’m not one to idolize the 1950s. Heck, I wasn’t even born yet. One truth from them, however, has always stayed with me: religion and politics don’t mix. Try this experiment some time: ask Trump evangelicals what party their church (if it existed then) supported in the 1950s. Many Christians were Democrats, particularly in the south. Oh, if they confess this they’ll start using language about the Dems falling from grace (while still defending Trump, who can never fall from anything), shifting the onus back onto a theology not even half-baked. Now their ministers are trying to remind them that morality actually is part of being an evangelical. A very small part, but not completely evaporated.
History will teach us, if we’ll let it. Richard Nixon saw evangelical voters as a bloc. Himself a Quaker (currently among the most liberal of Protestant denominations, and devoted to peace), he was a political opportunist. Evangelicals are taught that they are sheep. Sheep are easily herded. Imagine what might happen if their leaders tried to get them to think for themselves. To fact check. I used to tell my students not to take my word for things just because I could call myself “doctor.” Check my sources. See if I might’ve missed something. This is the way knowledge progresses. The NPR story gives me a modicum of hope. Some leaders are realizing that their own mindless support of a known criminal—before he even got the nomination in 2016—was maybe a bad idea. Of course, others still defend his actions after his attempted insurrection. Sheep, if fed, will always follow.