Evangelicals have lost their way

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Columnist Samuel Krueger argued that “Evangelicals aren’t lost,” but maybe Evangelicals lost their way a long time ago.

By Will Preble

What does it mean to be an Evangelical in America? Do the actions and opinions of the Evangelical movement align with Christ-centered love, primary justice and the wellbeing of the planet and humanity? Sam Krueger recently published an article titled: “Evangelicals Are Not Lost,” in which he argued that evangelicals have gotten a bad rap for supporting Trump.

On the contrary, evangelicals lost their way a long time ago.

What was once a biblically based, Christ-centered form of Christianity has mutated into a narcissistic form of moralist, therapeutic deism, that has been illuminated by the existence of President Donald Trump, whose road to power was paved, in part, by evangelicals.

Evangelicals have increasingly focused their political involvement on a few narrow causes, ignoring most relevant policy and instead focusing their attention on spreading “family values.” The political positions taken by evangelicals are moving farther and farther from what I see as the character of God. This shift has come partly because evangelicals no longer see a theological purpose for earthly life outside of getting into heaven. They no longer use their faith to engage with culture and society. This is why most evangelicals ignore human effect on the environment, disregard social responsibility, and completely separate their personal lives from the two heaven-oriented hours they spend at church events each week.

Jesus constantly engaged with his culture, challenging patriarchal norms, standing up to social injustice, and showing empathy for those of different faiths and backgrounds. Looking at the life of Jesus, it is plain to see that he values life on earth, and cares about the physical well-being of others. Today, it is difficult to find an evangelical voter who is well informed on any socio-political issue outside of abortion. The Republican Party uses this issue to get the evangelical vote, while at the same time, drafting legislation that contributes to inequality, destroys social safety nets and creates pockets of racial and social injustice.

The political and social apathy of evangelicals is not a new phenomenon. Evangelicals have historically preached sermons filled with moral principles and private family values, while ignoring relevant societal issues. While Focus On the Family was having its heyday in the 80’s and 90’s, emphasizing the nuclear family, the Reagan Administration launched the U.S. version of Neo-Liberalism with undercurrents of racism. Later, the Clinton Administration dramatically increased incarceration rates and racial inequality, as well as weakening the welfare social safety net.

Last year, as Krueger stated, more than 80 percent of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. Many members of the Bethel community, including a couple of my close friends, were among that group. Trump has made a name for himself treating others with less than deserved human dignity. He is a pathological liar, a megalomaniac and a mediocre businessman with an incredible talent for self promotion. His rhetoric is damaging. But what is less spoken of, usually because he is distracting us with antics, are his policies. Trump has been attempting to push healthcare legislature that would take millions of Americans off coverage. He is pushing tax reform that overwhelmingly favors the one percent. He has fought to dismantle all efforts to mitigate climate change.

Regardless of the fact that Bill and Hillary Clinton symbolize all of the negative things that neo-liberalism has done to our society, Trump’s persona is the antithesis to primary justice. If human flourishing, empathy for fellow man and primary justice are of importance to Christ, then claiming Christianity and supporting Trump borders on hypocrisy.

Where do we go from here? First, evangelicals must examine the character of God, and the purpose of life on earth. Throughout the scriptures, it is evident that God is a protector and a deliverer, both spiritually and physically. Yes, many evangelicals are willing to volunteer at a food shelf or give money to a homeless person, but they refuse to support political policy that fights social injustice and helps break poverty cycles. Christ-like love involves building relationships outside of one’s own social group, not just dehumanizing others through instagrammable volunteer events and white-savior charity. It means showing real empathy, and fighting against the root of society’s problems, not just covering up their symptoms.

It pains me deeply that so many “Christians” refuse to show Christ-like love to the poor, the immigrant or the stranger. Opposed to what Krueger stated in his article, I find it hard to see how evangelical Trump supporters can call themselves Christians. No, not all Trump supporters are explicitly racist, sexist or xenophobic, but even well-meaning evangelicals continue to remain complicit to the injustices in society. President Trump, however, leaves no room for interpretation. His personal and public actions are completely opposed to God’s character and purpose. He incites and validates racist, sexist, and xenophobic behavior with his rhetoric. He perpetuates systemic injustice with his politics. His blatant narcissism is a threat to the public good, and has no place in the worldview of a Christian.

Evangelicals must stop supporting him, period. The collective power of evangelical Christians could drastically impact our society for the better, but as it stands today, evangelicals have lost their way.

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