Why Do Christians Love Trump?: Kevin H
As the primary season (or caucus season in some cases) is upon us, we are seeing the beginning of the official coronation of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for president, or as in many cases, coronation as King, Savior, and Supreme Potentate.
Many Christians are included among those Republicans who will be crowning Trump. My concerns as to how many Christians have handled the whole Donald Trump situation are well documented here, however, that will not be my focus today. Rather, I want to look just a little bit as to how the church has gotten to such a saddening, unsettling, and even in some ways blasphemous place.
I am not a historian nor a sociologist, so I speak to such things as an interested observer, not as an authoritative expert. But I think many of these things are palpably observable enough that it makes some good sense. Most of these observations are of the popular, conservative, American Evangelical Christian culture, however, such things have had influence across many factions of Christian belief. In the end, I think various factors help paint the picture of how we have ended up with a vile, and in many ways anti-christ man, as an esteemed and glorified figure in many Christian circles.
We can first look at the conservative Christian political movements in the church which began in the 1970’s and really came to prominence in the 1980’s that told us the Republican party was the political party that far more reflected God’s values and for which every good Christian should vote. From the Moral Majority to the Christian Coalition to the Family Research Council and more, for more than forty years now conservative Christians have been inundated with the message that the Republicans are the good guys and the Democrats are the bad guys. Much of this messaging has come through people’s own churches and other Christian organizations that they may revere and follow. From issues like abortion and gay rights, to everything like tax rates, government subsidized healthcare, and those toxic illegal immigrants, Christians have been told that the Republicans stand for Christian values while the Democrats are out to rip God out of our land.
We can also look to the Christian infatuation with fame, popularity, and celebrity that has grown over a similar period of time. If we look from the 1970’s and back, we do not find anywhere near the number of Christian celebrities and megachurches that we do today. Fifty years or more ago, we seemingly had Billy Graham as the big Christian celebrity, and then a whole host of others who were well regarded and/or had some prominence in the church. I would venture to say that today is very different where we have so many Christian celebrities who are routinely praised and adored and treated like they walk on water, and are constantly popping up in Christian media, sometimes even incessantly angling on social media to grow their influence and following. Since the days of Billy Graham, much of the Western American church has followed along and mirrored the Western American culture’s growing obsession with fame, popularity, influence, and celebrity. The multitude of megachurches we have today compared to fifty years ago is one more indicator of a church culture that is infatuated with popularity and celebrity.
Along with this increase in existence and desire for celebrity, has come a corresponding increase in desires for character traits that are befitting to celebrity. Thus, in many corners of the church, there is a greater desire for a pastor or ministry leader to be popular, charismatic, funny, famous, entertaining, have the right politics, etc., than to have character traits that are prescribed in Scripture. It’s treated as okay if a pastor may be crude, divisive, have fits of anger, or other vices or corruptions, as long as he or she checks off most of the boxes in the first list.
Then we have the church’s preponderance towards authoritarian, strongman figures who make it simple by assertively telling us what and how we should believe, as such is easier to just take than to do the hard work of taking time to read and listen to varying perspectives and to do some study for oneself. This very well may not be a new phenomena, but it sure dovetails quite conveniently with the desire for famous, powerful, celebrity figures.
There is also the factor of fascination with the End Times that has paralleled this same time period in American Christianity. Even as the dogmatic attachment towards a dispensational view that the Rapture and Return of Christ must be just around the corner has waned some in recent years, many of its postures have become ingrained in many parts of the church. Postures such as seeing how things are only going to keep getting worse and worse, how the world is increasingly against and out to get “us”, and how it’s only going to get fixed when a Savior comes. Conspiracy theories abound when the narrative is of a powerful and increasingly evil “them” who are increasingly out to get “us”, the righteous and oppressed.
Of course, amongst all of this we have had all the cases of abuse and corruption occurring in the church, many of which have been covered-up. With the advent of the internet and social media, many more have come to light these last several years. Beyond the increase in exposure of such stories, it is also quite plausible that such cases have also increased not just in exposure but also occurrence, because we all know the old adage the greater power one has, the greater the chance for corruption. Thus with the exponential increase in celebrity pastors and ministry leaders and powerful megachurches and parachurch organizations, there is a set-up for greater corruption. The factor that then comes into play here, is the penchant for many Christians to not want to see their admired, if not idolized pastors, leaders, and organizations fall, and thus they have learned to go to many extents to ignore, excuse, justify, or even help cover-up such corruption when it occurs.
So when you wrap all of these factors together, along with other ones I have certainly overlooked, it creates an environment in the church that is ripe for an authoritative, famous, charismatic strongman to come along and tell them that he is for them and he will fight for them and that he will set things right. Donald Trump, if nothing else, is an opportunist, and he saw a great opportunity where he could leverage a people group to help gain for himself greater power and fame. And take advantage of that opportunity he did, indeed.
Thus we are left in a landscape where many in the church have clamored to a man who is disgraceful and reprehensible in so many of his ways, the utter opposite of so many of the ways of Christ. This did not happen overnight, rather, it has been in the making for at least forty to fifty years. Many things have seeped into the church that have taken on far greater importance than they should have ever had, and this has been detrimental to not only the church, but even to the country that so many of the same in the church claim to love.
God bless those churches and Christians who have faithfully resisted, and/or course-corrected when realizing they were falling to the excesses of many of these factors that have led us to this current state of affairs. The conservative American evangelical church right now is badly in need of your wisdom, goodness, and perseverance.