White evangelical affection for President Donald Trump can be explained by three frameworks, Molly Worthen, professor of history at UNC-Chapel Hill, described Nov. 6, 2017, at Faith Angle Forum — selective libertarianism, women and authority, and presuppositionalism.
Many evangelicals (by which she means white evangelicals) hold a selective libertarian view of government, Worthen says. They’re opposed to an expansive social safety net but support a large government role in other areas, such as immigration. Evangelicals are suspicious of centralized government power that could infringe upon their liberty, but have supported government power to advance a moral agenda they support, such as prohibition, she noted.
Worthen doesn’t view this position as inconsistent, but as based in “the Puritan genius.” “The Massachusetts Bay Puritans saw both of these strategies, this rejection of a certain kind of centralized power and a very confident use of certain government tools as necessary to build and guard their city on a hill,” she said.
This selective libertarianism has an “internal logic,” Worthen says, that provides evangelicals the flexibility to both cheer a Republican de-regulatory platform and an authoritarian leader like Trump.
Women and Authority
The second reason evangelicals backed Trump, Worthen continued, had to do with the role of women and authority in evangelical churches.
The socioeconomic decline of white men, discussed in books like Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, Worthen noted, is both an American story and a particularly evangelical story. In evangelical circles, concerns about the feminization or emasculation of the Church played out in debates over women leaders and Paul’s New Testament writings on the topic. And these concerns, Worthen believes, helps explain evangelical women who voted for Trump.
“In a family where the man is no longer the breadwinner, where he feels he has lost his dignity, he has no hope of attaining the status that his father or grandfather had, where the women in his life have seen him feel demeaned, they have watched men drift away from Sunday worship. Perhaps we can start to understand why even for women this hierarchical theology of gender has real staying power, why there is a certain perverse appeal in Trump’s pseudo-masculinity,” she said.
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Source: Christian Post