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Trump, Idolatry, & White Evangelicals
Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

In addition to writing about faith, leadership, and the church, Matt is also the founder of Spiritually Homeless.

Confusion. Disbelief. Frustration. Disappointment.

These are the feelings I most regularly experience these days. The primary cause?  White American Evangelicals.

I know that’s a sweeping statement with a broad brush. I know there are exceptions. I also know it’s a very homogeneous group that doesn’t vary much.

Before you read further… you’re probably going to read this and the minute you see me use the word republican or politics or Trump you’re going to assume that it’s a “political” article. It’s not. Don’t let those trigger words trigger your defenses or your frustrations. No, this isn’t a political article. It’s a faith article. It’s not an article about politics, it’s an article about you and me.

I was born in a midwestern Christian home.  I was raised by two believing parents in a small theologically conservative church. My parents are baby-boomers. Most of the adults I grew up with as faith leaders in my life were also from the boomer generation.

I was taught…

  • Honesty is the best policy.
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Sexual purity is worth the wait.
  • Character & integrity matters.
  • I’m responsible for my own actions.
  • Spreading rumors and lies will always get you in trouble.
  • Everyone is made in God’s image.

The list of morals could go on and on…

I’m genuinely dumbfounded at the way I now see the majority of white American Evangelicals compartmentalize these foundational morals. They now seem to be optional on a sliding scale of convenience and function.

Have the teachings of Jesus changed?

The basics of being a good person and following Jesus that I was taught from the generations before me now seem secondary to political alignments. The same people that taught me “Jesus Loves the Little Children” in Sunday school are cheering on family separations at the border.  The same people that taught me that I need to always tell the truth are regularly sharing conspiracy theories and blatant lies about people they disagree with politically. The same people that taught me that my character mattered above all else now consistently elevate a man who has shown his character and integrity to be terrible over and over again.

The same people that taught me about Jesus now seem to be OK with speaking, acting, and supporting things that they would have told me were reprehensible to them when I was growing up. 

Either their beliefs have changed, or they were lying to me as a kid.

Have the teachings of Jesus changed?

I’m not surprised that 81% of white American Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. I know for many, it was a single issue choice on a pro-life agenda. I get it, although I have so much tension with that perspective of voting. What disappoints me and breaks my heart is that I believe the majority of the 81% cast their vote joyfully for him. I’ve only encountered a small handful of people that voted for Trump with hesitance and concern.  The majority of Trump voters I’ve engaged over the past four years did so with enthusiasm and eagerness. They did it with Trump flags flying high, MAGA hats adorned, and pride in their candidate. In my nearly 40 years of life, I’ve never seen a political candidate garner such a cult-like following. I’ve never seen a flag in someone’s yard for Bush or Obama or Clinton. I’ve never seen ongoing political rallies that draw massive crowds singularly supportive of one individual.

I hear some common pushbacks to this concern.

What about Hillary?  What about abortion?  What about my taxes?  What about… What about… What about…  I’m not arguing that Hillary would have been a better president. I’m not arguing that Hillary is a more morally viable leader.  I’m simply saying that for the majority of the 81%, voting for Trump wasn’t a vote cast in the painful tension of choosing between “the lesser of two evils”, it was a confident vote for a man that massively conflicts with the faith you claim and the moral values it espouses.

Presidents aren’t moral leaders…
Trump is my president, not my pastor, so I don’t expect him to lead me spiritually.  It’s such broken logic.  The same people that boycotted Ellen because she presented an LGBTQ character on television are now supporting a man that brags about grabbing a woman by the pussy and making him the leader of our country. Ellen isn’t your pastor, right?  It’s not her job to teach your kids about sexuality and morality?  Why boycott her then? 

The same people outcried the moral failings of Bill Clinton when he was president.  But again, not your pastor, so why do his morals matter?  He was only a president.

The same people are now participating in #CancelNetflix because of the controversy of Cuties. But Netflix isn’t supposed to be a faith network, is it? Why would I expect them to have moral values? 

By this logic (or lack thereof), you are teaching your children, grandchildren, and the world around you that your moral standing is situationally based and largely determined by the benefits or challenges it creates in your own life.  Either morals are real or they are not – it can’t be both.

God uses broken people…
No one’s perfect. True. God used imperfect people in the bible all the time. Yup, He did. But show me an example of God using someone that hasn’t shown a life-changing experience with God before they are called into action for God.

I’ll wait.

Maybe the Judges, but you’d be hard-pressed to make a prescriptive theological concept from that time in the life of the Israelites. David has a confrontation with a prophet after his sin and repents.  Paul spends years isolated from leadership after his conversion before the church trusted him. The only people I see in scripture that God “uses” in an unrepentant state are the foreign leaders that God allows to engage the Israelites as a form of judgment on them. If Trump is God’s imperfect leader, the biblical precedence is that he is a judgment on our nation, not a leader rescuing us.  If that’s the case, it’s like we’re celebrating a Babylonian leader.

Most of the pushback ultimately becomes excuses and justification, not understanding.

Since the creation of the “moral majority” there has been an unhealthy and ugly intertwining of the republican party and the evangelical church.  Being a “Conservative Christian” is more a political statement than a statement of faith.  The American dream has somehow become the gospel.  The freedoms of our nation have been distorted to be the rights of our religion.  The constitution has been elevated as a companion piece to scripture.

It’s idolatry.

It’s usurping the values and culture and truth of Jesus for our own comforts, protection, and power.

It’s worshipping at the altar of self-preservation not self-sacrifice.

It’s a political power grab minimally disguised as a religious movement.

It’s idolatry.

It’s morally bankrupt.

It’s driving people away from the church at a never before seen rate.

It’s telling the non-believing world that Jesus is a political tool, not a risen savior.

It’s idolatry.

The Jesus I read about has a passion for widows and orphans. He feeds the hungry. He clothes the poor. He heals the broken. He addresses physical needs before He gives spiritual guidance. He isn’t angry. He isn’t boastful. He doesn’t celebrate the pain of others. His “moral” values are not dictated by what he may gain or lose in the moment.

Have the teachings of Jesus changed?

Jesus wouldn’t be a “Conservative Christian”. He wouldn’t be a Republican. He wouldn’t be a Democrat. He wouldn’t be a capitalist. He wouldn’t be a socialist. He would be Jesus. He was, and is, Lord and Savior of those who choose to follow Him, and He deserves and demands singular alliance.

It’s not Jesus and Trump.

It’s not Jesus and capitalism.

It’s not Jesus and your stock portfolio.

It’s just Jesus.

White American Evangelicals, I’m talking to you.  Your love of Trump is idolatry.  Your preaching of politics is drowning out the faith you claim.  Stop making excuses. Stop justifying. Stop making people that think and believe differently than you an enemy.  Those are not the actions of a follower of Jesus.  I don’t care what other people say or do. I’m talking to you.

Let me make it simple…

Remember what you taught me when I was a kid?

If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you?

No. Don’t be a blind follower. Own your own decisions and actions. Have character. Live the life of faith you preached to me when I was a kid, like it was actually the truth.

Is that too much to ask?

Your kids are watching. Your grandkids are watching.  Your neighbors and coworkers are watching. The non-believing world is watching.

What will you show them about Jesus by the way you actually live out your faith?


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