by William Trollinger
One of the few benefits of the Donald Trump presidency is that many smart journalists are now writing about white evangelicals in an effort to understand these Christians who make up his most loyal constituency.
The challenge is that so many great articles are appearing that it is difficult to keep up. In this post and the next we will provide links to and brief comments about four of the best articles that have appeared in just the last three weeks. One note: given Trump’s appalling treatment of women and the apparent lack of concern on the part of white evangelicals, it does not seem mere coincidence that all four of these articles are written by women (there is one male co-author in the mix).
- Meghan O’Gieblyn, “Exiled: Mike Pence and the Evangelical Fantasy of Persecution,” Harper’s.
The fact that O’Gieblyn is a former evangelical contributes to the power of this remarkable article, which is the cover story in the current Harper’s. She cogently explains how Pence and his Christian Right supporters draw upon the story of Babylonian exile to tell the story of their own persecution in America and the return of the persecuted to power, the latter thanks to a pagan leader (then Cyrus, now Trump) who is carrying out God’s plan to protect His chosen people (then the Hebrews, now the evangelicals). It will seem incredible to many readers that Pence can straight-facedly claim that – as quoted by O’Gieblyn – “no people of faith face greater hostility or hatred than followers of Christ.” However bizarre it may seem, the persecution trope is now commonplace in American evangelicalism, and Pence is simply channeling leaders such as Ken Ham who believe that, as we report in Righting America, “in what was and should be Christian America, true Christians are in the minority, true Christians are the downtrodden and the persecuted, true Christians are portrayed as the enemy, and true Christians are seen as ‘fair game’ for ‘brazen’ attacks that ‘are vicious, slanderous, and full of lies and hatred’” (162-3).
- Katha Pollitt, “Why Evangelicals – Still! – Support Trump,” The Nation.
The print version of this scathing article is entitled “Church of Hypocrisy.” Pollitt convincingly argues that evangelicals have willingly sold their souls to the staggeringly immoral Donald Trump for the promise of ending Roe v. Wade, rolling back gay rights and civil rights legislation, and breaking down the wall separating church and state. For Pollitt, the silver lining is that this Trumpian bargain has brought “the discrediting of evangelical Christianity,” as now “everyone is laughing” at their jaw-dropping hypocrisy. Some readers will be discomfited by Pollitt’s harsh tone and her glee at the unmasking of conservative Protestantism – but there is no getting around the fact that she accurately describes how many Americans now see evangelicals, and for good reason. More than this, and this is not something Pollitt discusses, many evangelicals – particularly evangelical youth – are equally appalled by what the embrace of Trump has revealed about white evangelicalism in the United States. Who knows what all this means for the future American evangelicalism in the future . . . but surely evangelicals do not need to be told that selling one’s soul never works out in the end.