Evangelicalism in the Trump Era

I grew up in the Evangelical Christian world. Its various tenets that were most vaulted were:

  1. Missions (spreading the Gospel to other nations)
  2. Marriage sanctity and nuclear family (one man / one woman, having children)
  3. Christian education (curriculum designed for Christian families to be apart from non-Christian public education)
  4. American patriotism (gun rights, strict Constitutional interpretation, nationalism, pledge of allegiance, etc.)
  5. Republican political activism

This type of culture naturally fosters a “bubble” existence, i.e., a construction of philosophical walls around the community so that outside opposing influence cannot penetrate. This in turn leads to the notion that if those defenses cracked, a “slippery slope” of secularism rushes in and poisons the community. So it’s natural then for community members to distrust their own critical thinking and instead rely on the structures in place that do the work for them.

Despite however you might feel about the above list, this same community also taught me:

  • the value of working hard
  • taking responsibility for my actions
  • giving generously
  • being positive
  • humility
  • loyalty

And yet, I remember being told that Democrats were likely Satanists because they voted in ways contrary to the order of our community. Note that this was in the 80s and 90s, the birth of the Moral Majority and Religious Right, and way before the “Q Anon” movement.

To vote Democrat was to vote for the Devil.

So you can imagine my confusion when I found out that my grandfather was a lifelong Democrat, hailing from humble midwestern farm life. How to square the two?

Even that question (the dissonance between two opposing viewpoints) belies a certain kind of fundamentalism, that there is only one right answer, that politics is a winner-take-all endeavor. The question demands that one side is the side of Jesus, the other is destined for Hell.

Grandpa’s politics served as a crack in my thinking. He was also a lifelong Lutheran, devout and faithful. He hummed hymns while playing solitaire. I hum them too to this day.

Perhaps there is a third way. Perhaps two viewpoints can exist inside our minds in harmony, not in tension. Perhaps we have created the tension we feel between one side of the bubble and the other.

Today as America votes, I hope that love wins. I hope that grace and compassion and humility of spirit is extended to our fellow humans so that we can be well and heal from a period of chaos, hatred, and rage. And I hope that churches begin to shed their politicized Evangelical roots and get back to the basics of loving one another. I know that Grandpa would vote for that.

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