As I talk with the folks who come to these events for Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, a narrative seems to be emerging. People are deeply troubled about the state of evangelical Christianity in America. Last night I heard stories of men and women deeply scarred by experiences with authoritarian, politically-driven evangelical Christianity. Some have left evangelicalism for the Protestant mainline. Others have left Christianity entirely. Still others are in search of a more hopeful Christianity. Evangelical pastors are wondering how they can minister to congregations divided by politics.
These people are telling me their stories–sometimes through tears. The other night I spoke with an evangelical Christian who said that he felt more at home with the people he met at the book signing than he did at his own evangelical church. What does this say about the state of the evangelical church?
I expected a lot of knock-down, drag-out political debates on this book tour. Instead I am hearing from a lot of hurting people. I am trying to offer encouragement and prayers. But mostly I am just trying to listen.
This sounds about right. Of course, the people who show up to a bookstore to hear an anti-Trump evangelical author talk about his work are a self-selecting group. My question is how large this group is. I was just in the library this morning looking at some alienated and angry white evangelicals in the 1980s! I see lots of anecdotal evidence that the sense of alienation from evangelicalism is larger now than it was then, more pervasive. But we will probably have to wait several years for the trend lines to become clear.