Diane Winston: Why Christians Support Donald Trump

President Trump, joined by Karen Pence, from left, Vice President Mike Pence and first lady Melania Trump, speaks during the Congressional Ball in the grand foyer of the White House on Dec. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

As a student of American evangelicalism, I am frequently asked how Christians can support Donald Trump. I stop myself from going into lecture mode. Most people want a sound bite, not a disquisition.

So here’s the short answer: Ever since 1980, when Ronald Reagan told a Dallas gathering of 15,000 evangelicals, “you can’t endorse me … but I want you to know that I endorse you,” white evangelicals have voted for Republicans, who mostly promise to enact their agenda.

Mostly they’ve been disappointed. In November 2016, when Trump won election to the White House, abortion was still legal, gay couples had the right to marry, government regulations inhibited the free market and the U.S. embassy to Israel remained in Tel Aviv.

Trump promised to change all that.

Despite his personal shortcomings, evangelicals believed him. He selected a solid Christian as his running mate, and his track record as a businessman proved he got things done.

God uses imperfect messengers, evangelicals reasoned, and if King David — an adulterer who arranged to have his partner’s husband killed — could still accomplish great good, why not the 45th president?

So it was a realpolitik calculation that drove so many white evangelicals to the Trump-Pence ticket. It was also stoked by economic uncertainty, cultural anxiety and a sense of social marginalization that festered through the Obama years. They wanted an affirmation of their status, and Trump offered one.

But here is another answer to the question of why evangelicals support Trump: They don’t, or at least not all of them.

While conservative white evangelicals are a significant voting bloc and, as such, command cultural cachet, they’re not monolithic. Millions of evangelicals, notably those who aren’t white, didn’t support Trump.

The evangelical world is more complex than news coverage of Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham would suggest. A handful of white conservative leaders, even if they don’t all agree, isn’t representative of American evangelicalism’s breadth.

That’s why a group of scholars, including evangelicals, former evangelicals and non-evangelicals who are black, white and brown, met regularly this fall to discuss and develop a typology that would describe the complexity of American evangelicalism. Those discussions eventually led my colleagues and me at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California to create a short guide on the varieties of American evangelicalism.

Illustrations classify five types of American evangelicalism. Image courtesy of USC

Our goal was to educate reporters for the 2018 midterm election — where white evangelicals again voted overwhelmingly Republican — and beyond.

We hope the guide will deepen Americans’ understanding of religious difference as well as religion and politics. We also hope the guide is a conversation starter: Who’s missing and how can we improve the schema?

The guide breaks evangelicals into five groups: Trump-vangelicals, Neo-Fundamentalist Evangelicals, iVangelicals, Kingdom Christians, and Peace and Justice Evangelicals.

Click here to read more.
Source: Religion News Service