When white evangelicals gained the world but lost their soul

I am not surprised that Trump won.

I am disgusted, saddened, and angry, but not surprised for I have lived amongst the Trump supporters as an interracial family. They threw eggs at my house, tried to run my husband off the road, drove pick-up trucks with confederate flags back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth in front of my house, and made threatening phone calls to my home in the middle of the night.

Having seen it up close, I understand these Trump supporters in a way that many of the elite leftists can’t. First and foremost, they are people, just like the rest of us, making a life for themselves. Many love their families and care for their neighbors and work hard to provide for their children. While I will never condone their racist perspectives or hate-filled actions toward my family, I can understand where their angst is born. Everything they know is changing. The small towns that used to be vibrant communities are now desolate piles of abandoned buildings. The jobs their grandparents taught them to rely on are gone and there’s nowhere to turn – no education to lean on, no career back-up plan. Their world is bleak and it makes sense that Trump’s message to Make America Great Again appealed to them.

I am, however, speechless and astounded that white evangelical Christians voted for Trump in such overwhelming numbers, 81% to be exact—the highest percentage of such evangelicals ever to vote for a Republican candidate.

capture

I grew up in the evangelical tradition, and learned well that the pure message of the gospel is this:

Here is how we overcome evil with good.

Be genuine in your love for others. Hate what is evil. Hold on to what is good. Love each other like brothers and sisters. Give others more honor than you want for yourselves. Work hard. Serve God with all your heart. Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes. Pray at all times. Share with people who need help. Bring strangers in need into your homes.

Wish good for those who do bad things to you. Wish them well and do not curse them. Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad. Live together in peace with each other. Do not be proud, but make friends with those who seem unimportant. Do not think how smart you are.

If someone does wrong to you, do not pay them back by doing wrong to them. Try to do what everyone thinks is right. Do your best to live in peace with everyone. Don’t try to punish others when they wrong you. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Instead, do this:

If your enemy is hungry, feed them; If your enemy is thirsty, give them a drink. Doing this will be like pouring burning coals on their head. (Disarming love requires creative action. In this way you are both showing love and helping them to see their shame for what they have done)

Do not be overcome by evil. Overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21*

I’m deeply grateful for this theological grounding. It has served me well and continues to be a deep and abiding foundation of my life. As a result, it astounds me that so many of these believers who taught me this depth of faith weren’t more outraged by Trump’s blatantly unbiblical and unchristian values. ‘Character’ and ‘virtue’ have long been a cry of the conservatives and this value all but disappeared the closer we got to election day.

While I can empathize with conservative arguments for voting Republican, it is simply inexcusable to me to give Trump’s horrible treatment of people a ‘pass’ simply because he speaks the language these evangelicals want to hear. Comfortable with and unaware of their privilege, many are still trying to figure out why people are so upset about this. In his article, Church, we’ve got some explaining to do, Veggies Tales creator Phil Vischer sums up the conundrum perfectly:

Last night America voted to transition from our first African-American President to a President whose campaign was marked with charges of implicit and explicit racism and xenophobia.

Former KKK “Imperial Wizard” David Duke claimed after the victory that Trump couldn’t have won without the support of “my people,” which, in this case, would be white nationalists and white supremacists.

Trump was also supported by a significant majority of the white church in America. White Christians, “alt right” white nationalists and white supremacists found themselves side-by-side pushing Donald Trump into the White House. (Suddenly the repetition of the color “white” becomes too ironic to ignore.)

Now think about this:

The world is growing more brown. America is growing more brown. Global Christianity is growing more brown. More and more of our neighbors – those we’re called by Christ to love – are various shades of brown. And yet here we stand, white Christians, having just pushed a man into office who built his campaign on pledges to wall off and otherwise restrict the movements of brown people.

I know white evangelical who voted for Trump. I have spoken with them about it and know that some of them made this choice with great angst, sorrow, and protest to the conservative platform. In the end, they could not, in good conscience, vote for Hillary for reasons that are personally important to them—not because they are racist. However, the exit polls on the evangelical vote suggest a great deal of blind devotion to a political party who likes the power it gained in the era of the Religious Right.  When you read the history books, this plotline never ends well.

Your privilege is showing, white church, and it’s getting in the way of your true message. That may not have been your intent, but it certainly supports the notion that the white evangelical church as a whole has checked its mind at the door for the sake of political power. “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind,” author Mark Noll predicted over twenty years ago. “American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations.”

To those relieved by Trump’s win, my friend Stephanie offers this challenge:

You 80% white evangelicals who voted for Trump, who thought it was because of your faith that you had to— you need to get talking with your black and brown evangelical friends who voted the complete opposite and find out what’s going on with their faith. Because somehow their faith told them it wasn’t okay…

I don’t think you realize how badly you’ve wounded the body of Christ in this election. I don’t think you realize how heart-sore, disillusioned, and embittered you’ve made people. And maybe you think— “Those fears are unfounded. There’s not really going to be a wall, or deportations, or any of those crazy things.” Maybe you voted because you felt like it was the lesser of two evils. 

But those are real fears. And so if you want to be reconciled to your black and brown brothers and sisters, it’s going to take a lot of work to make up that lost ground. A lot. If you thought we could just sing and pray together and it would be okay before, that opportunity has completely passed us by. There is no chance of that kind of “reconciliation” any more.

My facebook feed is blowing up with angry conflict; and I’ve told myself to stay out of the fray, to not care, to keep quiet. But complicit silence is the white evangelical norm in the face of prejudice, and I don’t walk that path anymore. Call me angry, strident, or a pot-stirrer; but the hope of the gospel means enough to me that I can’t bear to watch it compromised by so many evangelicals who have, in Jesus’ words, ‘gained the whole world’, but in the process lost their souls and their minds in the pursuit of political power.

May the Lord have mercy on our souls.


*Thanks to my FB Friend Luke Owsley for this succinct summary of the Good News from the ICB, TLB, and ESV Versions of the Bible.
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10 Responses to When white evangelicals gained the world but lost their soul

  1. Jenae young says:

    David does not know that Trump actually is on camera supporting abortions? He just changed his tune solely to gain the pro life supporters. He flat out lied to gain those votes. Fantastic article! It has been hard to understand how self proclaimed Christians voted for Trump. I will never understand.

  2. Bill Farnum says:

    I did not vote for Trump because of my beliefs that are ground in the word of God. I do have many friends who did vote for him and they are people I am certain are born again. This election presented a very odd situation. You had two people that did not present anything that I would call a Christian testimony. What you don’t seem to cover is that was is better to vote for Hillary? She said that christians are going to have to change.

    “Far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth. All the laws we’ve passed don’t count for much if they’re not enforced,” Clinton said, using the euphemism for abortion.
    “Rights have to exist in practice — not just on paper,” Clinton argued. “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed,:

    This is not possibly for a true believer in Jesus Christ. I can not and will not change my deep seated beliefs. No christian should ever vote for a politician that supports abortion. If you do you are going to stand before God one day and answer for that. Hillary has a long track record of supporting abortion. Another huge one for me is that Hillary was a public servant and she continually and unrepentantly abused her office. I am a public servant as well in my community. I am a full time Fire Fighter. If I had conducted myself the way that Hillary Clinton had I would certainly be fired and probably jailed. Trump my only have been saying the rights things but Hillary has proven that she stands in complete disagreement with the Bible. I think Christian’s should not have voted for either but I can understand why they could not allow Hillary Clinton to win.

  3. Danielle says:

    Excellent. We are pushed to greater solidarity than ever with the margins of the white-powered nation. The growing margins.

  4. Amy L Peeler says:

    Thank you Jodi. So powerful!

  5. KEVANN says:

    Jodi, thank you for this heartfelt and insightful article. I just wish you had added the word “some” (Evangelicals) to your title. I didn’t vote for Trump or Clinton and I still consider myself part of the Evangelical church. It is hurtful to be lumped into the “deplorable” basket just because of my whiteness and church affiliation, though granted, not nearly as hurtful as what my brothers and sisters of color are feeling right now. I don’t want to be complicit in my silence, but wounds are so fresh right now, I’m not sure how to begin to reach out. Thank you for continuing to shine light in an increasingly dark world.

  6. DeAnn says:

    I too have lived in that world longer than I have not. I understand that world even though I’m accused of not. My sorrow and grief is their inability to hear our concerns and our grief. Thank you for writing Jodi.

  7. Christa Lee-Chuvala says:

    This is a beautiful piece, Jod. It captures so many of my thoughts and emotions.

  8. Kitty Purgason says:

    Thank you.

  9. davidpark says:

    what a crock

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