Explaining Evangelical's Support For Donald Trump

For many religious leaders, there has been dismay as they have witnessed the strong support that Donald Trump has gleaned from white, Protestant, Christians, and especially among those who define themselves as Evangelicals.

A recent meeting in New York that brought Donald Trump together with prominent Evangelical church leaders gives evidence of a growing ideological marriage between Trump and the Evangelical community. While this group of church leaders did not overtly endorse his candidacy, the very nature of this meeting gives the impression of an endorsement. Add to that the highly visible support of Donald Trump provided by two of the most prominent Evangelical leaders in America -- Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell Jr.

There's the obvious realities that Hillary Clinton's promotion of the rights of LGBT Americans generate the ire of the majority of Evangelicals. Add to that, the negative attitudes of many Evangelicals towards the kind of feminism that she espouses and it is easy to understand some reasons why they should look for an alternative to a Clinton presidency. But even given such negative concerns that Evangelicals have about the Democratic party in general, and about Hillary Clinton in particular, there is among some social critics a belief that something even deeper may be a latent reason for Evangelicals becoming a major voting bloc for Donald Trump. That unarticulated underlying basis for the support given by Evangelicals for Trumps candidacy may be related to what they believe about God.

It is a truism among most social scientists, following the lead of the famous French sociologist, Emile Durkheim, that the concept of god held by any given group is often a projection and incarnation of that group's dominant traits and values. Picking up on that theme George Bernard Shaw once said, "God created us in his image, and we decided to return the favor."

The values inherent in the American society, which values arguably tend to be the values of many American Evangelicals, are values that they have projected to be the values of God. Those values are wealth, power and prestige (or fame). That being the case, Donald Trump embodies those very values. He's a billionaire. His tough talk depicts a man of power, and his fame, via his television show, gives him incredible social prestige. Trump, for many, is the incarnation of the traits and values of their cultural version of God. It does not follow that Evangelicals worship Trump, but it just may be that he represents the values that they project as the values of God.

What is ironic is that the perceived values of many white American Evangelicals that are found in Donald Trump are the anti-thesis of what is found in the Jesus revealed in the New Testament. There, Jesus promotes a lifestyle of simplicity wherein wealth is sacrificed to help the poor. In the New Testament Jesus gives up power as he comes into the world to express infinite sacrificial love. While Trump proudly parades success, the God revealed in Jesus, according to the Bible, "humbled himself" and made himself of no reputation. (See Philippians 2:5-8).

Evangelicals (of whom I have been one) need to be asking themselves, "Do we affirm a culturally created deity, as expressed in the lifestyle of Donald Trump, or do we worship the God revealed in Jesus?" I can almost hear the Hebrew prophet crying out: "Choose ye this day who you will serve!"

Do not suppose that this analysis is any kind of endorsement of Hillary Clinton. The Jesus of Red Letter Christians (www.redletterchristians.org) is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and refuses to be squeezed into our partisan boxes.