Donald Trump’s presidency continues to overflow with the creation and upholding of racist policies, sexual scandals, childish virtual chest-puffing over Twitter and a general disregard for the well-being of the rest of the world. This is not particularly shocking if you consider the things he promised on the campaign trail. However, the unwavering and increasing support from white evangelicals begs us to consider what it is that they see in Trump’s policies, personality and work that “Make America Great Again.”
Very little detail has been given about what the controversial campaign slogan actually means. Yet, Trump leaned on this rhetoric to win the presidency and capture the support of 81 percent of White evangelicals. We only have Trump’s subsequent actions, words and policies to define his version of greatness, as well as what it is that white evangelicals believe so-called Christian politics look like.
This “great” America ostracizes the marginalized, seeks profits over people on a global scale and uses inflammatory rhetoric to justify its violence. It is a version of America where Muslims are not allowed entry, where buying a wedding cake cannot be a free act for LGBTQ people, where children are separated from their parents and put in cages and all the while a real-estate investor-leader of the free world threatens his nuclear power with impunity.
“It’s become clear that the way of Jesus is inferior and disposable when political power is on the table.”
It seems that the more immoral Trump’s behavior, the more evangelicals scramble to his defense, throwing the Bible at his scandals to defend their political savior. From defending the caging of children at the border by quoting Romans, to using the Scriptures to smooth over an affair with a porn star, white evangelical politicians are maintaining that into order to make America great again, we must in effect make America Christian, leaning on the myths that the United States was ever good, virtuous and committed to the teachings of Jesus.
In seeking to be the light of the world through moral control, Christians have succeeded only in giving power to the whites of the world while perpetuating darkness for people of color and other marginalized identities.
It’s become clear that the way and teachings of Jesus are inferior and disposable when political power is on the table. Evangelicals have exchanged the way of Jesus for a mythical past greatness where America was Christian. They live to reach backward to a time of greatness as fictional as Narnia, seeking a magical land where they are given power by God to dominate all others instead of simply admitting that they have created and perpetuated that power all by themselves.
Can evangelicals at least be honest? In the last 18 months, an already problematic and dying evangelicalism has redefined what is appropriate and acceptable by allowing Trump to get a pass on innumerable cruelties.
“Jesus never asked Christians to make a Christian nation.”
It is no surprise that white evangelicals believe themselves to be making anything great again. They have ignored the problematic and ambiguous past that they harken back to because if they did acknowledge it, they would have to admit their racism, xenophobia and worship of moral control and power.
They have ignored present demographics that prove that “American” does not mean “white,” because if they acknowledged the full humanity of people of color, they would have to reckon with historical slavery and genocide, and the present-day caging of children and police brutality.
They have ignored the calls of Jesus to make ourselves humble and small, to love our enemies and to choose the non-violent way because if they were to acknowledge these teachings, they would have to reject the militarism (and its subsequent budget), their obsession with guns and make reparations for our historical globalized violence.
A group that cannot decide between God and country will always inevitably choose the country that blesses them with tangible and violent power, and they will settle with attributing that to God. The power that Jesus offers seems to be much less politically sexy. Jesus asks us to rely on the power of gentleness, and inclusion, and reject the fear of the “other” in the spirit of greater life for all, not the protection of power and authority of some.
Jesus never asked Christians to make a Christian nation. On the contrary, He asked them to pledge their allegiance to His kingdom. The notion of prioritizing country is inherently unChristian and it has become exceedingly clear that while evangelicals claim to want greatness in the name of God, that they will settle for creating a pseudo-theocracy in the image and name of President Trump.
Evangelicals continuously use the Bible in order to oppress others and have called it greatness. This community will never make America great because it cannot see its own hypocrisy. Evangelicals will sacrifice every word of Jesus in order to see their political ends met.
Brandi Miller is a campus minister and justice program director from the Pacific Northwest.