DID WHITE EVANGELICALS DAMAGE THE CHURCH DURING TRUMP’S ERA?


Author: Michal W. Dewar, Sr.
01/24/2021 (michaeldewar.com)

Introduction

As we reflect on the debacle of the four years of the Trump’s Administration, many are asking the question, did white evangelicals damaged the Church by enabling Donald Trump? This is the question explored in this article. It is self-evident that white evangelicals did not only become one with the Republican party, they threw their collective weight in support of  Trump, and continued that support even when he lost the election.

 They were willing to follow Trump to hell and back, even if it meant leading an armed insurrection to destroy property and murder who they could get their hands on, overturn the will of the American people, install a despot of their choice, and destroy democracy as we know it.

Where did they learn their theology? Certainly not from Jesus or the Bible!  What do these Trump supporters now say to the nation? What do these pastors and TV evangelist now say to their congregations and followers that were so badly deceived? Before we answer the main question, let’s first clarify the term evangelical.

The Term Evangelical

The term “evangelical” is used to identify a wide cross-section of Christianity in the United States and around the world. So, the first thing to bear in mind is the fact that evangelicals are not a monolithic group. They represent diverse groups, races, faith communities, beliefs and practices. What they all have in common is the belief that salvation from sin comes through Jesus Christ and His gospel (the evangel). That’s the unbroken scarlet thread that runs from group to group giving them commonality amidst diversity.

The word “gospel” is the good news concerning Jesus Christ: His life and death, burial and resurrection, ascension and exaltation, and His coming again to judge the living and the dead and to reign. “Gospel” comes from the Greek word, “euaggelion” (pronounced, u-ange-li-on). The gospel is the evangel, the good news about Jesus Christ. This is how the words evangelist and evangelical came to be; they are people who announce the good news of Jesus Christ, the gospel.

Use of term “evangelical” came into prominence during the Protestant Reformation to distinguish them from Roman Catholics.1  Bluntly stated, the Protestant Reformation leaders called themselves evangelicals because they firmly believed in Sola fide and sola Scriptura (i.e. salvation is by faith alone and Scripture alone is the final authority).In our time, even Catholics call themselves evangelicals, that shows how diverse the use of the term has become.

So, the term “White Evangelicals” is not representative of all white people, but it identifies the majority of church folks that have become one with the Republican Party and ending up fanatically supporting Donald Trump. They cast to the wind the theology of Jesus including love for neighbor, and trampled upon the rest of the New Testament to embrace a political agenda.

The White Evangelical Cause

This segment of evangelicals has an agenda that is neither Christological nor Scriptural; its inspiration is rooted somewhere else.  They have been searching for a national, political leader for some time to give a unified voice to their agenda. Organizations like the Heritage Foundation, Focus on the Family, the Colson Center, and the now defunct Moral Majority have been grooming pastors and churches for decades to give a gospel response to the morally decadent culture. The general feeling was that the Church is losing the culture and has to do something radical in its witness; otherwise, the whole country is going to hell in handbasket. The subtext—and with that goes our European, white power way of life.

To change the decadent culture, influential church leaders sought for a credible national leader with the political savvy, the intellectual gravitas, and a well-crafted strategy to unite behind. They found all that and more in Chuck Colson, the former legal counsel to President Richard Nixon.

Colson was involved in the Watergate debacle that brought down Nixon. Colson went to prison for his role in Watergate, but quickly found Jesus and his life made a dramatic turn around. He became the sought-after speaker in evangelicals’ circles and the right man to lead the way for evangelicals to turn the culture around. Colson who worked all his life for money, power and fame and ended up in prison was  sincere and happy for this new God-assignment with purpose. He moved with born-again zeal.

 Colson was already a Republican with powerful credentials and contacts. He was tutored in theology by R.C. Sproul but later broke camp with Sproul to sign some ecumenical document that compromised the Reformed doctrine that Sproul embraced. For Sproul, this was earthshaking betrayal. Both men were good men; they are both gone now.

Church folks like a good redemption story and Colson’s Damascus Road-like conversion was the right fit. He not only fell from the pinnacle of executive power with Nixon, went to prison, found Jesus and dramatically turned his life around, but he found Prison Fellowship, an organization that turns around the lives of many prisoners. Colson became the evangelicals’ posterchild to lead the evangelical cultural transformation of politics, government and finally the whole the country for Jesus.

Colson’s strategy rest on four pillars: 1) Christians must be good citizens, 2) Christians must practice their civic duties in all walks of life, 3) Christians must be directly involved in the political process, and 4) “the church must act as the conscience of society, as a restraint against the misuse of government authority.”2   This not only sounds attractive, but it also wittingly or unwittingly reflects the Roman Catholics’ theological position. The devil is in the details, but it became the common evangelical view.

The Unchristian Agenda

The implementation of the Colson’s approach got some good things done, but according to James Davison Hunter, the Colson’s culture change evangelism approach was fatally flawed.3  Rather than the church changing the culture, the very opposite took place; the church largely became one with the culture. The homosexual lifestyle became legal as well as abortion, the prosperity gospel took center stage , and young people left the church in droves. Worldliness took over the church, Sunday morning worship began to look and sound like a Saturday night rock concert.

Hunter was right, the Colson’s approach to culture change was fatally flawed.  Jesus intended the Church to reflect the culture of the kingdom of God and stand as the alternative culture to the decadent cultures of this world. Again, the Colson’s evangelical approach did some good, but it failed to achieve the transformational outcomes the architects envisioned.

Inasmuch as the evangelical worshippers had danced around this new cart, it was unchristian and unbiblical. The gospel was reduced to a few human preferences. Colson died but evangelical did not turn the culture around; the culture turned the church around to accept its way of life. This arm of white evangelicals has lost its way and greatly damaged the Church and its mission in the world. Some view it as the emergent apostate church.

The Trump Era

 With the Colson’s framework not achieving the sweeping desired outcome, White evangelicals regrouped but not with anything new. They double down on certain core issues that they already lost. But with bright hopes for tomorrow, they resolved to reverse these losses at the ballot box and through the courts. They reduced their gospel to three core campaign issues: anti-abortion, anti-homosexual rights, and the preservation of religious liberty. They intended to wage war and die on these three hills.

 They closed their eyes to just about every other sin including racial injustice, police brutality, economic disparity, and the stranger at the gate, to name a few. They hijacked the Republican party and became one with it. And here comes Donald Trump riding a milk white stallion and he became their savior. They hailed him, the messiah! But those who really knew Trump saw him as a false messianic con man.

Some white evangelicals prophesied that Trump is biblical Cyrus; he is God’s man for the cause (2 Chron. 36:22-23; Isa.45:1-7). So, they held their nostrils and elected the amoral Trump to the presidency. They did not care about his lack of moral scruples or his inability to speak  truth nor his lack of compassion or whether he is a Russian asset or not. They did not care whether he was sent by God or Satan, he was their man.

Some so naïvely thought that because one of Trump’s daughters married to a Jewish man, that makes Trump pro-Israel. Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem was just another con move to make him more attractive to a wider Jewish audience. Anybody with a first grade understanding of Hebrew history knows that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel from the time of King David, but it is unlikely to happen before the return of Yeshua, the true Messiah. Antichrist dictators will arise pretending to be pro-Israel to get Jews sign on the dotted line, but they are no friends of Israel (Daniel 9:27).

The American insurrectionists brought our democracy to a near disastrous end and white evangelicals are not innocent in this matter. Some of Trump’s followers, sympathizers and enablers are still in the Senate and the Congress, trying to keep the gate opened for him to make a comeback. But the nation cannot go through this again. The new administration should ensure that this man is not given access ever again to political office or to national secrets. If we do, we may as well kiss good-bye to liberty as we know it.

The True Church

Pastors and other church leaders who with eyes wide-opened deceived their congregations and the nation, greatly damaged the mission of the Church in the world and the cause of Christ; they are behaving more like the apostate church than the true church. They need to break their silence, come out of hiding, and repent publicly for the damage they have done to their local congregations, the worldwide Church, and the nation.

White evangelicals need to abandon this childish, myopic vision that persons are satanic and going to hell because they vote in a political party that is pro-abortion, pro-gay and lesbians rights, and do not shout for religious liberty with a megaphone on main street. This narrow, hypocritical thinking that make demon out of citizens who are different. It is thinking like that that brought Hitler to power in German and the church failed to see his diabolical, amoral and hellish scheme until it was too late.

A word to church people, those in the pews. When your pastor begins to tell you who to vote for or turn the pulpit into a platform for any political party, it is time to find a different church. Stop feeding this beast with your hard-earned money and get out!

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 1 Sproul, R. C. What is Reformed Theology: Understanding the Basics. Grand Rapids, MI: Bakers,1997, p.35.

2 Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010,p.8.

3 Ibid, 18.

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I am, Michael Dewar, author and director of Dwelling Place and the chief writer. Professionally, I am pastor, Bible teacher, mentor in the spiritual life, a specialist and consultant in church and family conflicts.

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