John Fea, an evangelical and professor of American History and chairman of the Department of History at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA, has written an essay where he tries to understand why his fellow evangelicals have such a deep devotion to Donald Trump that they are willing to overlook and even celebrate actions that should revolt them because they contradict the basic values they claim to profess.
My distress about Trump’s election did not wane, but I should have seen this coming. Trump’s win was just the latest manifestation of a long-standing evangelical approach to politics.
Ever since World War II, white evangelicals in the United States have waged a desperate and largely failing war against thickening walls of separation between church and state, the removal of Christianity from public schools, the growing ethnic and religious diversity of the country, the intrusion of the federal government into their everyday lives (especially as it pertains to desegregation and civil rights), and legalized abortion.
But these anxieties extend even deeper into the American past. They are the logical result of 300 years — from the Puritans to the American Revolution, and from nativism to fundamentalism — of evangelical fears about the direction in which their “Christian nation” was moving.
Why do so many evangelicals believe in Donald Trump? Because they privilege fear over hope, power over humility, and nostalgia over history.
It has become a cottage industry to try and understand why evangelicals are devoted to Trump and why is a large degree of overlap between the racists, xenophobic, bigoted population of the US and evangelical Christians. But one thing is clear: whatever the reasons that are postulated, whether deep or shallow, Christianity does not come out looking good.