The Non-Trump Evangelicals

Some evangelicals want to wean their brethren off unconditional support for Donald Trump.

Doug Birdsall, the organiser of the Wheaton meeting, who is honorary chairman of Lausanne, an international movement of evangelicals, says that many believers are tired of seeing Christians who praise Mr Trump being held up as representative of the faith. They are also tired of themselves being portrayed as racist and misogynistic because of other people’s mistaken elision of faith and politics. 

 

A group of evangelical leaders gathered near Chicago on April 16th and 17th to discuss the future of their movement. They were not well-known names—though some are pastors of large churches—mainly because they are not active in politics or the media. But that was partly the point of their meeting, held at Wheaton College, the “Harvard of evangelicalism”. Acknowledging that more than 80% of white evangelicals supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election, and that three-quarters held a favourable view of him in a recent poll, many of those attending the meeting have expressed concern that their wing of the Christian faith is being tainted by its often unquestioning support of the president. They want to return it to its spiritual roots.

Many of the country’s most prominent evangelical leaders, such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell junior, have spent years complaining about moral decay in America. Yet they have been happy to throw their support behind Mr Trump, in spite of evidence of his misogyny, racism and cruelty. Mr Falwell called Mr Trump the “dream president”. Doug Birdsall, the organiser of the Wheaton meeting, who is honorary chairman of Lausanne, an international movement of evangelicals, says that many believers are tired of seeing Christians who praise Mr Trump being held up as representative of the faith. They are also tired of themselves being portrayed as racist and misogynistic because of other people’s mistaken elision of faith and politics. “Evangelical is a theological term,” he says. “But it has become a sociological and a political one.”

Many of those attending said the greatest barrier to people believing the Christian message is evangelicals’ embrace of Mr Trump. They say they want to present a “counter-narrative” that returns believers to the central tenets of the faith: the sufficiency of Christ’s death for salvation, the need for personal conversion, and the authority of the Bible.

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