By Stephen Best
I possibly, like others who are not US citizens, am bewildered by the overwhelming support that US Evangelicals have shown President Donald Trump. Prior to the 2020 presidential election, eighty-two percent of white American evangelicals were prepared to further Trump’s reign. (See )
As a father and grandfather to US citizens, and as a concerned ally for our southerly neighbors, I am both surprised and troubled that the sensationalism and rising division within the US has not subsided. This growing tension is partly due to the Evangelical’s persistent fixation with Trump. In other words Evangelical Christians are partly at fault for the existing turmoil.
Evangelicals and Donald Trump are strange bedfellows. To see Donald Trump as an extension of God or as the guardian of American Christian Culture is a deeply flawed confidence. Furthermore for them to continue to encourage that notion and put their faith in him, even after Trump losing an authenticated, legal, and fair election is unimaginable but nonetheless foreseeable.
He (Trump) regularly warned rally attendees that “Christianity is under siege.” He suggested there were forces “chipping away at Christianity,” and accused Democrats of waging a war on Christmas. At a campaign stop in Sioux Center, Iowa, he promised supporters that “Christianity will have power. If I’m there, you’re going to have plenty of power, you don’t need anybody else.”
For many US Evangelical Christians, Trump is more than just a strong patriot who fights for their beliefs (prolife, pro-Israel, pro Conservative Justice, etc.). They see him as their chosen one or a leader divinely appointed by God to champion American Christian Culture. They compare him to king ‘Cyrus’ in the Bible, one who doesn’t exactly follow all the rules, but nonetheless is someone who will serve Christian Nationalism or Evangelical interests.
For believers who subscribe to this account, Cyrus is a perfect historical antecedent to explain Trump’s presidency: a nonbeliever who nevertheless served as a vessel for divine interest.
For these leaders, the biblical account of Cyrus allows them to develop a “vessel theology” around Donald Trump, one that allows them to reconcile his personal history of womanizing and alleged sexual assault with what they see as his divinely ordained purpose to restore a Christian America.
For decades US Evangelicals have modeled a faith in God that came alongside governments and institutions regardless of the party in leadership. They showed admirable confidence in a public system and prayerfully supported their leaders. However this has changed, and today the terms Evangelical and Republican appear synonymous.
A declining Christian population within the US, and a subsequent weakening Christian culture seems to have produced an understated fear amongst white Evangelicals. Most apparent is their concern regarding loss of representation, influence, and seemingly religious freedom, not discounting their trepidation over their supposed evils of socialism.
“Many of us in the faith community were very frustrated, because we had watched our rights be assaulted … We just felt like if there ever was a time that we needed to speak up, and find a candidate that would include people of faith in their policy, it was in that year of 2016. We felt that our children and our children’s children would not grow up in a free America that we had grown up in.” – Pastor Jentezen Franklin.
In their minds Trump guaranteed Evangelicals pushback against the insurgence of immigration, abortion, and socialism. While much of the US, and dare I say the world, viewed Trump as a bigot, racist, bully, slanderer, liar, autocrat, narcissist, and swindler, the majority of white Evangelical Christians willfully ignored that in view of Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’.
“There has never been anyone who has defended us and who has fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump. No one!” – Ralph Reed, Faith and Freedom Coalition founder and chairman
It’s clear that the majority of white US evangelicals love Trump, and he unashamedly swaggers that support. But more than that, they believe in him. They believe his boastings, embellishments, narratives, and fabrications. He is their ally in making the USA ‘Evangelical’ again.
White Evangelicals have enthusiastically and uncritically hitched their wagon to a wild Maverick, and it seems they are oblivious to the danger. They are all in for a ride that is possibly costing them more than what they originally feared in the first place.
The pushback found through Trumpism has unfortunately come with blatant thoughtlessness, malice, division, and sedition. It openly brandishes the spirit of Christian Nationalism at the expense of democracy, justice, and peace. With the image of Trump lifting a Bible in the air, the loyalty of Evangelicals was re-secured, and an offense of farcical narratives fused together both God and country in the most obscene forms of polyreligious recklessness.
Beth Moore said it best when she said,
“I do not believe these are days for mincing words. I’m 63 1/2 years old & I have never seen anything in these United States of America I found more astonishingly seductive & dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism. This Christian nationalism is not of God. Move back from it.”
Fellow leaders, we will be held responsible for remaining passive in this day of seduction to save our own skin while the saints we’ve been entrusted to serve are being seduced, manipulated, USED and stirred up into a lather of zeal devoid of the Holy Spirit for political gain.
And, God help us, we don’t turn from Trumpism to Bidenism. We do not worship flesh and blood. We do not place our faith in mortals. We are the church of the living God. We can’t sanctify idolatry by labeling a leader our Cyrus. We need no Cyrus. We have a king. His name is Jesus.”
From the outside, it appears that the majority of white Evangelical Christians were seduced into supporting Trump. Their concern of losing power and becoming an irrelevant movement seemingly made them easy prey to his trickery (see Eph. 4:14). Yet on the other hand Evangelical leaders welcomed Trump’s support, and undiscerningly elevated the nation’s religious insecurities and put their faith in him. In addition, bewildering religious predictions, visions, and impressions were widely publicized assuring this deal.
By believing in Trump, Evangelicals aligned themselves to his actions, attitudes, platforms, and friends. Their association affiliated them with flagrant discrimination, deception, subversion, injustice, intimidation, preferentialism, and irresponsibility on multiple levels. As Trump crossed lines and blurred realities, and as he berated friends and foe alike, white evangelicals for the most part remained vocally supportive of him. With a few exceptions, Evangelicals mostly ignored his dreadful behaviour.
But here lies the problem. The church is the testimony of Christ, and because US Evangelicals flirt with Christian Nationalism, that testimony is now joined to Donald Trump’s secular agenda. It’s just wrong and I don’t think God will own that.
Christian Nationalism tangles together the Kingdom of God and secular government in a worldly or secular way. In the USA, church leaders and politicians regularly package the nation’s destiny in biblical terms that are contextually specific to the Kingdom of God. This embellishment supports a longstanding notion held by many Evangelicals, that the US alone is the model and imparter of the Kingdom of God to the world. In essence this is a nationalistic saviour complex. In a ‘Sate of the Union’ address Donald Trump says as much,
“We must keep America first in our hearts. … And we must always keep faith in America’s destiny — that one nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise and the light and the glory among all the nations of the world!”
When patriotism and spiritual faith are entangled and left unchecked, the potential result is a state religion that coerces religious values through laws, and that is in this instance, anti-bible. And since the interests of the state and the interests of most white US Evangelicals are for the most part one and the same, US politics becomes the means by which the Kingdom of God increases in the US and consequently the world. This is wrong and we all know that the end never justifies the means.
“Christian nationalists have drawn a line in the sand regarding their belief that the endorsement of Trump is a sign that they are following their faith. For instance, in the October 2020 issue of The Christian Chronicle, respondents stated that they support Trump because of their faith. They go on to say that they support Trump because they are concerned with issues such as freedom of religious assembly, economic growth, national security and defense.” – Tanya Smith Brice, Dean of the College of Professional Studies at Bowies State University, Maryland
While the union of church and state is unconstitutional in the US, the lines between them are certainly blurred if not blended in some minds. Coupled with the loss of significance, and the burden of advancing the Kingdom of God in America, white US Evangelicals have found refuge in Donald Trump. In their minds he is their Cyrus who will stop the evils of socialism and push the Christian agenda forward.
While the decision to ally with Trump might serve an Evangelical agenda, it does not serve God’s Kingdom. Jesus says, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over …” (Jn. 1:36). In other words God’s Kingdom does not come through Christian laws, policies, or customs, but rather through righteousness, peace and joy found by people constantly living a life in the Holy Spirit (Zech. 4:6, Ro. 14:17).
God’s Kingdom does not need democracy or autocracy to increase. Furthermore it does not need capitalism, socialism, or communism to survive. It is neither left or right, or liberal or conservative or green. And most of all it doesn’t need Christian Nationalism. The Kingdom is the richness and flavour of Christ in us, and it is moving forward because of the passionate commitment of God, regardless of where we live and what type of government we have.
Through association with Trump, white Evangelicals have been complicit in stoking the fear and sedition that we now see within the USA. They have enabled him and left him unchecked. Very few Evangelical leaders have publicly spoken with the courage of the likes of Senator Mitt Romney, Beth Moore and John Piper.
In my humble opinion, it’s vitally important that white US Evangelicals quickly turn away from the Trumpism and Christian Nationalism that they have so passionately endorsed. In doing so, they might regain the respect they once held from Christians around the world, or better yet from their unbelieving neighbours across the street in Somewhere USA. Yet most of all, they should do it for the Lord Jesus and for the intentions that he has for the world he created.
If you consider yourself to be wise and one who understands the ways of God, advertise it with a beautiful, fruitful[a] life guided by wisdom’s gentleness. Never brag or boast about what you’ve done and you’ll prove that you’re truly wise. 14 But if there is bitter jealousy or competition hiding in your heart, then don’t deny it and try to compensate for it by boasting and being phony. 15 For that has nothing to do with God’s heavenly wisdom but can best be described as the wisdom of this world, both selfish[b] and devilish.[c] 16 So wherever jealousy[d] and selfishness are uncovered, you will also find many troubles[e] and every kind of meanness.
17 But the wisdom from above is always pure,[f] filled with peace, considerate and teachable.[g] It is filled with love[h] and never displays prejudice or hypocrisy[i] in any form 18 and it always bears the beautiful harvest of righteousness! Good seeds of wisdom’s fruit will be planted with peaceful acts by those who cherish making peace. – Jas. 3:13-18 TPT
 Beth Moore, @BethMooreLPN Dec. 13, 2020