Time is running an excellent article by David French about why evangelicals continue to support Trump. He asserts that it's all about fear. And he's right.
French first points out that evangelicals are taught from the cradle not to be afraid because God is with us. Our Bible stories from Sunday School are shot through with that theme. And, of course, he reminds us of 2 Timothy 1:7.
But in 2016, something snapped. I saw Christian men and women whom I’ve known and respected for years respond with raw fear at the very idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency. They believed she was going to place the church in mortal danger. The Christian writer Eric Metaxas wrote that if Hillary won, America’s chance to have a “Supreme Court that values the Constitution” will be “gone.” “Not for four years, not for eight,” he said, “but forever.”
That wasn’t faith speaking. They were the words of fearful men grasping at fading influence by clinging to a man whose daily life mocks the very values that Christians seek to advance.
But, fear among evangelicals is not new. Sure, it may have come to a head politically in 2016, but fear was rampant in the evangelicalism I knew.
Take purity culture, for example. Evangelical culture used fear based tactics to try to keep teenagers in line sexually. Girls were told how they would be tainted and worthless before God and their husband if they were sexually active before marriage. It was also made clear how they were responsible for the lusting eyes of their male peers. A whole generation of teens were made afraid of their sexuality.
Since even before 9/11, evangelicals have been afraid of Muslims. There is an entire cottage industry that paints the Muslim world as ready to invade the US, militarily or culturally, and take over all of our cultural institutions.
The fear of Islam is so real that many conservative evangelicals do not believe that Muslims should be allowed to hold public office. They also believe that Islam should not be considered a religion that is eligible for protection under the First Amendment. Hence, their fear of anything that might smack of freedom for Muslims, like a president with a middle name of Hussein.
Fear also plays a role in evangelicals' worldview in immigration. Many white evangelicals are afraid of changing the status quo, particularly where immigration is concerned. There is no Biblical reason for this, but it exists. Many evangelicals seem concerned about having too many brown people coming into our country. It makes them afraid of losing their jobs, changing the economy, and bringing in violence and crime (despite the statistics).
But, the biggest fear is that of losing the culture war. Many evangelicals look back with fondness on a world when their values held cultural sway and life was good. Sadly, either that idyllic world never existed, or they are looking at a world in which people of color, women, and LGBTQ people were oppressed and which is unlikely to exist again.
The evangelicals have lost on many fronts, particularly the sexual revolution and LGBTQ rights. Evangelicals look at the culture and no longer feel that they have any influence. The one place that they still hope to make a difference is in abortion. And that is a big deal to them because they are convinced that life begins at conception. Electing Trump was important because they are hoping to move the Supreme Court to the right and overturn Roe v. Wade.
So, yes, evangelicals were afraid. But, they've always been afraid. At least during my lifetime. Evangelicals preach a gospel of freedom, but they live a political life of fear. David French isn't the first to notice this. John Fea wrote about this in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.
It's time for evangelicals to put aside the fear and get rid of Donald Trump. It's possible to have a viable conservatism without giving in to fear and feeling the need for a strongman. As David French says -
It’s time for evangelicals to exercise their political veto power. America’s conservative people of faith should seek a primary challenger to Trump and send a message to the GOP that it will not compromise any longer. And it should do so from a position of confidence–and faith.
P.S. Read the Time article. It's good. Also, read John Fea's book. It's also really good
And here's some video of David French and Jon Meacham that you might find interesting.