What White Evangelicals See When They Look at the Trump Administration

court evangelicals

“Court evangelicals” outside the White House, July 27, 2017

Apparently, there is a “spiritual awakening” in the White House. The Christian Broadcasting Network reports:

A spiritual awakening is underway at the White House.

Some of the most powerful people in America have been gathering weekly to learn more about God’s Word, and this Trump Cabinet Bible study is making history.

They’ve been called the most evangelical Cabinet in history – men and women who don’t mince words when it comes to where they stand on God and the Bible…

Health Secretary Tom Price, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Agriculture Secretary Sunny Perdue, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo are just a few of the regulars.

“It’s the best Bible study that I’ve ever taught in my life. They are so teachable; they’re so noble; they’re so learned,” [Capitol Ministries Founder Ralph] Drollinger said.

It’s groundbreaking since he doesn’t think a formal Bible study among executive Cabinet members has been done in at least 100 years.

America’s top cop, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, also attends the study.

“He’ll (Jeff Sessions) go out the same day I teach him something and I’ll see him do it on camera and I just think, ‘Wow, these guys are faithful, available and teachable and they’re at Bible study every week they’re in town,'” Drollinger said…

Like others, Drollinger often compares President Trump to biblical strongman Samson.

“I just praise God for them,” he said. “And I praise God for Mike Pence, who I think with Donald Trump chose great people to lead our nation.”

A former professor of mine at a white evangelical college shared this article yesterday and wrote, “This is one of the many reasons I’m glad I voted for President Trump.”

It’s hard for those of us outside the bubble of right-wing nationalist Christianity to understand or even imagine what this administration looks like from the perspective of many white evangelicals. This article gives us a hint. They really believe that this administration is full of godly people trying to restore Christian values to America.

What does that return to Christian values look like? It looks like Bible studies, and accolades and access for the right people, most of all white evangelicals themselves. It means relentless symbolism to demarcate the righteous and unrighteous teams. And it means discrimination against the bad people: transgender, homosexual, immigrant, black, and so on.

The mythic Trump administration most white evangelicals see goes part way toward explaining the puzzling phenomenon of white evangelicals apparently being unconcerned about their “witness.” If you’re familiar with the evangelical world, you know that among our highest values is representing Jesus to the world. We want Christianity to appear winsome and attractive. Jesus said his disciples were “witnesses” of his life, death, and resurrection. Now, 2000 years later, when evangelicals share with others our own encounter with Jesus, we might say that we are “witnessing.” In evangelicalism, few things are worse than damaging your “witness” before a watching world.

So it’s amazing that more white evangelicals aren’t responding to the widespread perception that they are hateful hypocrites. I wouldn’t expect white evangelicals to agree with the critique, but I would have expected them to be concerned about it. Instead, their right-wing nationalist bubble is so thick that they don’t seem able to comprehend or imagine how their behavior looks from the outside. When what you’re hearing about the Trump Administration is Bible studies and prayer sessions and enthusiastic praise from Christian leaders you trust, it’s all too easy to believe the critics are just “liberals” and “secularists” and people hostile to Christianity anyway. This bunkered, tribal mindset has a long tradition stretching back at least to the modernist-fundamentalist battles of a century ago. It shows no signs of abating.

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