Good Riddance, Evangelicalism Incorporated
Trump's base in 2016 was defined not by race or class, but by belief in God. Evangelical Christians and Catholics came together and pushed Trump to the win, in defiance of the media, academia, Hollywood, the professional class, elite Republicans, the Democrat masses, libertarians, and self-professed moralists.
Both the pope and many prominent Protestant leaders expressed antagonism toward Trump, so this mass of religious voters defied their church elders as well.
This was nothing less than stunning. It was perhaps one of the great revolutions in America's religious history. Rather than a serious study of this event, we have had a spasmic flood of pedantry from the very people whose authority these Christian voters rejected in the first place.
I count myself among evangelical Trump voters. As I am sure this issue is for almost everyone in America, the historical questions feel very personal.
I resent being mocked and reviled by secular liberals who I know hate all religion.
My patience has worn thin with people claiming to embrace a new liberal Christianity that I recognize as a warmed over version of the liberation theology my radical leftist family held in the 1970s and 1980s.
Conservative Christians who position themselves as valiant defenders of the Bible and Trump opponents have been exposed in brutal ways as the "Evangelical Deep State."
Many so-called conservative Christians pulled a fast one on Alabama by handing a Senate seat to Doug Jones to banish Roy Moore for sins he probably never committed. But my prediction is that in upcoming months, Doug Jones's radical sexual agenda will terrify many Christians in Alabama. Black Christians will realize the Democrats will do nothing for them, while the national anti-Moore Christian voices will be remembered as detestable traitors.
After 2016, the left went slumming, scrambling to become experts in religion overnight and sending out an army of infiltrators to flip our churches to their politics. Unfortunately, the left is still so beholden to the LGBT lobby that it must do this while still making no compromises on the question of homosexuality. Stars like Rachel Held Evans and James Martin talk themselves in circles with the impossible goal of getting the faithful to accept sodomy with no complaints or resistance.
To cash in on the newly discovered power of the Christian vote, some on the left decided to pitch a not so novel alliance of feminists and Christian conservatives against the trans movement. This strategy shined through at the Values Voter Summit in October 2017. The panelists told a crowded room of faith-based voters that they had three rules to resist trans ideology: (1) cite no religious arguments, (2) include but do not attack gays, and (3) do not express any resistance to homosexuality.
The esprit of "common ground" reprised the 1980s, when Ed Meese allied with Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon against pornography, because Christians objected to depravity and feminists objected to exploitation of women. Pornography continued to proliferate, feminists grew ever more anti-Christian, and Christians never found their renaissance of chastity.
History repeats itself in 2017. The fruit of this hopeful alliance of lesbian feminist Julie Bindel and Catholic activists pushing for female safety in restrooms was no headway against the trans agenda at all; a feminist-emboldened #MeToo movement that Christians got roped into; and a new war on men, patriarchy, and heterosexuality. It was, in other words, a flaming Hindenburg.
Meanwhile, carefully scripted religious "leaders," meant to win over Christian conservatives, play both sides, stressing the importance of upholding the Bible's sexual mores while camouflaging their concessions to the LGBT lobby.
This "have your cake and eat it too" game has led to preposterous and downright dangerous positions. We have key leaders in the Catholic Church refusing to change doctrine on homosexuality but also refusing to discipline or banish rogue parishes that teach children that God made them gay.
In the Southern Baptist convention, some leaders say homosexual orientation is innate (and by implication God-given, though they will not say this directly) and condemn efforts to change sexual orientation. Yet they proclaim that homosexuality is a sin. For someone who has been sexually abused or otherwise prompted to feel unwanted sexual attraction, this incoherent position means that it would be a sin for him to say he wants to stop being gay and a sin to do anything gay.
The backdrop for our current moment is a massive, systematic failure of religious leaders to provide for the spiritual needs of the Christians they lead. The endlessly repetitive articles promising to diagnose a nonexistent spiritual crisis among evangelicals all serve to mask the true problem. Evangelicalism is doing what it has always done. Evangelicalism, Inc., has imploded.
While many Christian leaders condemn Trump voters for bringing politics into their faith, that charge is best leveled at the Christian leadership. They gave the faithful no hope that anyone but Trump could hear them and help them live their faithful lives without being constantly oppressed by ungodly forces like the LGBT lobby.
For all the reasons above, Timothy Keller's recent piece in the New Yorker, sporting the utterly hackneyed title "Can Evangelicalism Survive Donald Trump and Roy Moore?," was not bad, but offensive. The opening paragraphs belabor the etymology of terms, perhaps to intimidate the reader into thinking Keller's insights are beyond criticism. Catty swipes about people who support conservative politics appear intermingled with self-important reminiscences of his life planting a church in Manhattan.
We get it. Tim Keller is a famous author. He is well connected, and liberals like him. But he speaks for a cadre with fading relevance. Evangelicalism will survive. His class and vision will not. That's sad in some ways. In other ways, it is biblical. Isaiah 5:8: "Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field until there is no more room and you alone are left in the land."