by William Trollinger

When I first read the story, I was stunned. Upon reflection, not so much.

The title of Tim Reid’s article says it all: “In age of Trump, evangelicals back self-styled top U.S. pimp.” The pimp is Dennis Hof, who runs a strip club and five brothels in Nevada (including the Moonlite BunnyRanch which has been featured on HBO’s “Cathouse”) and who has been accused of sexual abuse by several women.  

On June 12 Hof defeated an incumbent legislator to secure the Republican nomination for a Nevada State Assembly position in a Republican-tilting district. According to Hof, his victory was evidence that:

People will set aside for a moment their moral beliefs, their religious beliefs, to get somebody that is honest in office. Trump is the trailblazer, he is the Christopher Columbus of honest politics.

In the article Reid quotes a number of evangelicals who have no trouble setting aside their moral and religious commitments to support a man who makes his money from selling women’s bodies for sex. This includes an evangelical pastor who thanked God for Hof’s primary victory, and who explained his vote thusly:

We have politicians, they might speak good words, not sleep with prostitutes, be a good neighbor. But by their decisions, they have evil in their heart. Dennis Hof is not like that.

What does this mean? Is this where evangelical political thinking in 2018 has landed?

Importantly, Reid’s article on the Dennis Hof campaign is based on interviews. There seems to be no polling data – yet — regarding the percentage of evangelicals in Hof’s district who are supporting his candidacy.

That said, if we look at the polling data that is available regarding evangelicals and their political choices, we have to say that it would be more surprising if evangelicals did not support Hof. After all, 70% of white evangelicals continue to support Donald Trump, despite his breathtaking sexual amorality, including his hush money payments to porn stars. And 80% of white evangelicals in Alabama voted for Roy Moore in his bid for the U.S. Senate, despite his past sexual relationships with underage girls.

Last week I was at USC with a small group of scholars working on the phenomenon of growing religious non-affiliation in the United States. When I mentioned the possibility of evangelicals supporting Dennis Hof for the Nevada state assembly, one of my colleagues pointed out that patriarchy is at the very heart of white evangelicalism: “Supporting a pimp for political office does not threaten that – in fact, it fits!”

In 2018, it is more visible than ever that, for many evangelicals, “family values” is simply code for white heterosexual males running the show.