Religion in Politics

The Trump era shows evangelicals ‘have not brought anything distinctively Christian to politics’

Thanks to recent reporting, we have some insight into how President Trump really feels about his base of die-hard, seemingly unwavering support from evangelical Christians. “They’re all hustlers,” Trump reportedly once said. But while Trump may see evangelicals as a means to an end, many of the more cynical among their ranks view him the same way.

Writing for The Atlantic this Sunday, Peter Wehner says that Trump may be using evangelicals to advance his aims, but they are also using Trump to advance their aims — a prime example of this being his choice of Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. It’s a transaction that is better than they could have hoped for, Wehner writes.

“Trump has reshaped the federal judiciary, particularly compared with what would have happened if Hillary Clinton had been president, and nothing else Trump has done—no moral line he has crossed, no offense he has committed—can take away from his achievements in this area.”

The hit Trump-supporting evangelicals have taken in regards to their credibility has been massive, forfeiting their right to “ever again argue that character counts in America’s political leaders,” writes Wehner.

“The carefully choreographed dance goes like this: Moral character in public officials matters quite a lot when the public officials who morally fail are Democrats; it matters hardly at all when they are Republicans. If it’s a liberal who has crossed ethical lines, emphasize righteous conduct; if it’s a conservative, emphasize forgiveness and verses like ‘Judge not lest you be judged.’ If it’s Bill Clinton in the dock, savage him; if it’s Donald Trump, savage his critics.”

But Trump’s presidency has exposed something even more hypocritical within evangelical leadership. According to Wehner, “many evangelical Christians have not brought anything distinctively Christian to politics.”

“One would hope that people of faith would act differently from members of political interest groups—that followers of Jesus would passionately defend human dignity, champion justice, and create the conditions for human flourishing, without being co-opted by any political party or power structure.”

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