Many evangelicals actually denounced the GOP candidate in this election cycle, and yet the evangelical voting bloc elected Donald Trump. Trump had more support from white evangelicals than John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012. Trump garnered five times as much support from evangelicals as Clinton, with 78 percent of the white evangelical vote.
This isn’t an evangelical voting bloc; this is a zombie evangelical voting bloc. The heart and soul of the evangelical bloc, the actual evangelicals, have left. What remains is a group of angry white people who couch their anger in religious language about fighting for their faith. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission took a stand and called out Trump as antithetical to Christian values. Trump still won evangelicals by a commanding margin.
Trump, who walked onto the stage at Liberty University and quoted Two Corinthians. Who couldn’t name his favorite Bible verse when asked early in the campaign. (My fiancé is Jewish and even she could’ve told you to just say John 3:16. It’s not hard to fake this.)
Trump, who wants to give pastors their voice back (whatever that means) to endorse political candidates from the pulpit. Even though that leads to loss of a church’s 501(c)(3) status and, more importantly, the church’s prophetic voice.
Trump, who thinks religious freedom means Christian freedom and nothing else.
Trump, who refuses to listen to the voices of those on the margins when they cry out in pain.
Trump, who feels no sympathy for the sojourner attempting to flee in search of a better life. (Again, somebody needs to crack their Bible.)
Trump, whose vice president supports conversion therapy for members of the LGBTQ community.
Trump, who won overwhelmingly with the evangelical voting bloc.
This man does not represent evangelical values, and actual evangelicals have said as much. Ronald Reagan wasn’t much of an evangelical, but he was a good actor. He learned to speak born-again language and managed to outmaneuver Jimmy Carter to take the evangelical vote in 1980. Trump isn’t a good actor. He wasn’t able to win an Emmy for “The Apprentice,” and he has done a terrible job pretending to be an evangelical. Students at Liberty University, a bellwether of sentiment among the next generation of evangelicals, took a stand against him. And then white evangelicals put him in the White House anyway.
The evangelical voting bloc that came to prominence in the latter half of the 20th century found political power that stemmed from their convictions. It was about preserving what they viewed to be traditional American values, but they actually voted for candidates who reflected these values. Hillary Clinton, a Methodist who can quote Scripture and even the Patristics and whose policies are grounded in her faith, was not Christian or evangelical enough. More surprising, Ted Cruz, whose father headed up the Moral Majority in Texas, was not evangelical enough. Donald Trump was.
The evangelical voting bloc has lost its soul and its conviction. When we read “evangelical voting bloc,” we need now to insert “white angry voting bloc,” because that’s what’s actually happening. It’s a pushback against the tides of change and the perceived loss of an identity that they think should be representative of the entire society. It’s a fear of the other. This is a movement that has lost its soul and mind and taken on a life of its own. It’s a zombie. I know that sounds humorous, but it’s actually terrifying. It’s Christianity without feeling and without logic. It lives off of sound-bites and anger. It’s irrational and uncontrollable.
And there doesn’t seem to be a way to kill it.