Billy Graham, the most influential Christian leader of the 21st century, must be rolling over in his grave while witnessing how some white evangelical Christians have abandoned moral judgment and social responsibility as they support Donald Trump’s stance on immigration and asylum seekers. Ed Stetzer, director of the Billy Graham Center, concurs.
A majority of Americans from any race, religious creed, ancestry and age reject Trump, not due to his policies, per se, but due to his ethnic and racial ill will and moral behavior. However, research reveals most white evangelical Christians love Trump.
William Saletan’s Trump’s Christian apologists are unchristian and Randall Balmer’s Under Trump, America’s religious right is rewriting its code of ethics are must-reads for people-of-faith perplexed by who supports our 45th president.
Recently the Billy Graham Center asked evangelicals how candidate traits would influence their voting behavior. Black and Hispanic evangelicals ranked a candidate’s “ability to help those in need” in the top 25 percent of importance. Among white evangelicals, this core Christian tenant ranked in the bottom 25 percent of importance.
Additionally, a preponderance of minority population evangelicals are “disturbed by comments Trump has made about minorities” — a plurality of white evangelicals are not disturbed by Trump’s racial comments.
What’s behind many white evangelical Christians supporting Trump and not seeing his moral, social responsibility and racial fault-line? Michael Gerson, a Christian essayist and Republican, views white evangelicals as having degenerated into an “anxious minority,” where race and ethnicity are the driving forces and exhibit a genuine fear of people from other creeds, colors and languages.
Most Americans are realists and aren’t bothered that by 2045, African Americans, Latinos, Asians and other mixed racial-ethnic groups will displace the white population. The Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study notes many white evangelical Christians view a growing population of immigrants as a “change for the worse, hurting the economy and threatening traditional American customs and values.”
Stetzer agrees too many white evangelicals are consumed by racial anxiety and xenophobia. Trump’s explicit actions of breaking up immigrant families, denying refugees due process, restricting Muslim travel and ridiculing people from “s---hole countries” are supported by you-know-who.
Over 99 percent of Iowans and 96.65 percent of all Americans live in the USA due to their family’s immigrant orientation. Immigration to America started around the year 1000; it will continue. (I extend my gratitude to Nicholas Corbin for traversing from Guernsey, United Kingdom to Baltimore in 1671.)
My religious training at Memorial Lutheran Church (Nevada, Iowa), in college and self-study says everyone is to love the stranger, be kind, caring and generous, and treat all people as children of God. Research is replete more and more white evangelical Christians, more so than any other religious constituency, are starting to displace those values.
So, is the white evangelical Christian who witnesses and supports discrimination, xenophobia, misogyny and obstruction of justice the new face of Christianity? Or, does moral sickness exist in any faith group and working hard to educate and eradicate purveyors of evil is today’s new calling for religious leaders?
Stetzer and the Billy Graham Center recommend people of all faiths to turn off cable news, interact with their brothers and sisters from diverse pews, learn to reject Trump’s message that “our love for others is conditioned by country, race or ethnicity” and see the fear of others for what it is ... un-Christian and not sanctified nor sacred in any religion.
The late George H.W. Bush once said “America is never wholly herself unless she is engages in high moral principle.” The Holidays are the proper time for everyone to revive the spirit of peace and goodwill toward men.
Steve Corbin is an emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa. Reach him at Steven.B.Corbin@gmail.com.