There's one candidate running for president that is a former Sunday school teacher, has delivered guest sermons, carries around a Bible on the campaign trail, and has been married to the same person for over 40 years. The other has shown a complete lack of Biblical understanding, boasted about the fact that he's never asked for forgiveness, and has been married three times. Can you guess who the Christian community is voting for?
Last week, Donald Trump stood proudly at the Rediscovering God in America conference in Orlando, Florida after receiving their support to run for president. It wasn't an unusual event for Trump, who has received the support of a slew of pastors and political leaders in the Evangelical community, including Jerry Falwell Jr., Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum.
How Trump pirated the Christian vote from Ted Cruz and the GOP field has been widely discussed, but why the Christian community stands overwhelmingly behind him is less understood to many outsiders. According to Pew Research Center, Trump's numbers with Evangelicals are 10 points higher than Mitt Romney's four years ago. So what prompts the Religious Right to vote for a man who is neither particularly religious nor to the right?
We know Christian leaders have aligned themselves with conservative candidates for the last 50 years or so, and that many of them are single issue voters primarily concerned with abortion above all else.
When Evangelical groups endorsed Romney, a Mormon, in 2008, it made sense because Romney was a man who lived by religious values and was a staunch defender of conservative principles. Trump, to say the least, has not. In his 76 minute convention speech, Trump never mentioned the issue of abortion once, making him the first GOP candidate in 36 years to fail to do so in a nomination speech. In fact, Trump has spent the majority of his life very outspoken about his pro-choice beliefs before tepidly claiming he was pro-life during the primaries. It would seem this would be a dealbreaker for those single-issue Christian voters, but yet poll after poll shows them lining up to vote for Trump.
By almost any subjective measure, if Christians wanted to support the candidate that best exemplified the values of the Bible, they would vote for Hillary Clinton. Though she has her clear shortcomings, her faith-based foundation has been well documented for anyone willing to look it up. In 1993, the New York Times wrote a story titled "Saint Hillary" which highlighted her strong relationship with her Methodist church and her former pastor Don Jones. Another New York Times piece 12 years later revealed the fact that she was known to carry around a heavily marked Bible on the campaign trail. The very same Hillary Clinton who was tossed around in the same sentence as Lucifer by Ben Carson at the GOP convention was a member of a senate prayer group for years.
Where's Jerry Falwell praising Hillary for leading Sunday School and preaching at churches in Arkansas? Where's Mike Huckabee telling an audience that "the most important person" in Hillary's life was her youth pastor, as author Carl Bernstein wrote in his profile of Hillary? They're standing hand in hand with Trump invoking the name of God to get Christians to vote for a man who has bragged about his multiple affairs and then refused to apologize for it.
What the Evangelical community has made clear this election is that electing a leader with Christian values is only an afterthought. What's important is maintaining white Christianity's preeminent role in society, something Trump promises to do and Hillary very clearly doesn't.
Interestingly, this will be the second election in a row where Christian's will vote against the only lifelong Christian candidate - quite the departure from the George W Bush era when it was so important to have a Christian in the White House. Barack Obama has repeatedly shown a masterful understanding of the Bible, and when given the opportunity, such as in this CNN interview, speaks deeply about his personal relationship with God. Yet his support from the white, Christian community has been almost non-existent.
Perhaps these are the reasons behind Robert Jones' newest book "The End of White Christian America" which shows the startling rate at which young people are leaving the church. But instead of figuring out how to communicate the message of the Bible to a new generation with a fresh perspective, Jerry Falwell Jr. is busy trying to get them to vote for Donald Trump.
2016 has been a topsy-turvy year, but perhaps the strangest fact of all is that in all likelihood the only lifelong Christian candidate running will be elected President of the United States, and the majority of Christians will be disappointed.