Why I'm No Longer an Evangelical

November 10, 2016

Looking at the election results from Tuesday, I keep thinking about one statistic: 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. It's the most lopsided support that white evangelicals have given in a presidential campaign. Eight in ten voted for a thrice-married business mogul known for misogyny, racism, promotion of violence, greed, and bigotry.

81 percent.

I didn't support Hillary Clinton, but to see my fellow white evangelicals so heavily embrace a candidate who represents the antithesis of our espoused values greatly troubles me. The stain of the 81 percent will hurt the gospel witness of evangelicals for years. White evangelical support for Trump bothered me enough during the campaign that I wrote a book about the issues of faith and politics facing us during the 2016 campaign.

Vote Your Conscience: Party Must Not Trump Principles

As I feared, party does, indeed, trump principles. That book, which is free today and tomorrow, remains painfully relevant. We need to make sure we understand the values and goals of our president-elect, our biblical priorities and responsibilities, and how to live out our faith in politics. The election is over, but we must keep voting with our lives. When I voted Tuesday, I wore a reminder of how we must resist fear-mongering politics.

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While most white evangelicals didn't vote for Trump because of his misogyny, racism, or bigotry, by voting for Trump they condoned those vices as insignificant. The challenge will be for white evangelicals - and other Christians who better resisted the temptation of Trump - to prophetically challenge President Trump when he tries to implement the immoral policies on which he campaigned. Having hopped in bed with him, I hope some will be able to find a way out of the royal chambers.

But until then, I'll probably stop calling myself an "evangelical." Evangelicals of color resisted Trump (but were left out of exit polls as if they didn't exist). But my tribe went all in at Trump's casino table. Since I cannot drop the "white" part, I guess the only term I can change is the "evangelical" part. I'm still evangelical in my theology, but the term's been so distorted and abused that I'm not sure it can be saved.

So who am I now?

I guess I'm a "Red Letter Christian." Author Shane Claiborne captured my feelings well in his essay yesterday at Red Letter Christians. (I've written columns before at Red Letter Christians and am one of their featured "people.") Claiborne's piece, A New Home for Homeless Christians, offers a reflection on the high support white evangelicals gave Trump and what we should do next.

"The toxicity within evangelicalism leaves us few options. ... It’s time to reclaim our unique identity as followers of Jesus. It’s time to recommit ourselves to the ones Jesus named as particularly blessed in his Sermon on the Mount: the poor, the meek, the merciful, those who mourn, the pure in heart, the peacemakers."

It's time for a new political agenda, one based on those old red letters in the Bible. In particular, it's time for a religious movement that builds its political agenda on the 'Sermon on the Mount.' That's change I can believe in.

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