The “Grotesque Caricature” of the White Evangelical is real

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Most are apoplectic about the White Evangelical durable and cultlike support for Donald Trump. Some see their current morality as a self-serving new thing to get the judges they want. The evil emanating from their movement is neither new nor should it be surprising.

Hollis Phelps’, Professor of Interdisciplinary studies at Mercer University in Macon, GA wrote an article titled “Maybe It’s Time to Admit that the ‘Grotesque Caricature’ of White Evangelicals is the Reality” where he examines the pathology. It is likely the best analysis of the reality of the evil that has always been a part of the sect. He wrote the following.

There’s no doubt that evangelicalism seems to have an image problem, especially since its overwhelming alliance with Trump. In the minds of many outside the fold, evangelicalism no longer represents a specific religious position centered on sin and the need for individual salvation but rather a self-serving, power-hungry political movement that will side with the devil himself for the sake of political pragmatism.

“When people say what does it mean to be an evangelical, people don’t say evangelism or the gospel,” Birdsall told the Washington Post. But this image problem isn’t new. Although polling shows that overall feelings toward evangelicals as a religious group have remained relatively stable since 2014, the perception of evangelicals as “agents of intolerance,” to quote John McCain back in 2008, well predates the Trump era. And besides, we shouldn’t chalk it all up to image. The fact remains that over 80% of self-identified white evangelical voters cast their lot with Trump. Moreover, despite a host of missteps and scandals, overall evangelical support for Trump as president hasn’t declined but grown.

Phelps posits the pretext that the White Evangelical uses to support Donald Trump and turns it on its head.

Given the consistency with which white evangelicals as a whole have lent their support to Trump—and right-wing candidates and policies more generally—it’s far past time to own up to the fact that the image is, in many respects, the reality.

Well-intentioned evangelical leaders may not like to hear that, but it remains the case that an overwhelming majority of evangelicals continue to support Trump and his policies. Sure, they may have issues with his moral center, or lack thereof, but they’re willing to overlook all this for the sake of political expediency, for promises of “religious freedom,” and the hope of a judiciary stacked with conservative judges. This is because, at the end of the day, evangelicalism isn’t really about personal values but, rather, social and political conversion and control.

Phelps reveals an inconvenient truth about the White Evangelical. Trump did not create the pathology. He is just their medium that is a reflection of them.

The Trump era, then, does not create a new problem for evangelicals and their image; it’s simply casting a very bright light on what has always been there, at least for the past forty years or so. … it’s questionable the extent to which evangelicals ever held much moral authority in the first place. … appealing to some “pure” form of the faith beyond its supposed political corruption—beyond the racism, xenophobia, nationalism, and the like that even critics of paper over—isn’t the way to go.

Not only do such appeals represent little more than nostalgia-laden theological desires that have little to do with what goes on on the ground, but they also ignore the fact that the line between religion and politics is flimsy at best, if not entirely non-existent. Evangelicalism, in its current manifestation, isn’t a religion that has been corrupted by its entry into politics but is, rather, a social movement that works through a specific type of politics. The substance of that politics has been clearly on display for some time now. Trump and his evangelical allies didn’t invent it; they only exacerbated it.

It is important that your Evangelical relatives and friends read this. It just may give them pause as they examine their morality. Maybe they will begin to see what the rest of the world see. Maybe they will realize the irreparable damage they are doing to Christianity.

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