Is What Someone Does More Important Than Who They Are?
Evangelical support for Trump has consistently been high. Over 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, and they remain his most loyal base. Yet two new studies done by the Teleios Foundation reveal an odd combination of opinions by evangelicals on Christian society and their views on Trump.
The two studies were conducted on an Instagram account that is highly frequented by Christian millennials. In both surveys, those who participated were mostly women, under the age of 35, Americans, and evangelicals.
Unsurprisingly most of them found numerous benefits to living in a Christian society. To avoid creating a despotic theocratic government most of the respondents agreed that individuals should continue showing God’s love and respecting non-Christians by not forcing them to act as Christians until they’ve made an independent decision to convert.
These answers seem to contradict the second survey about religion in government. 63 percent asked stated that Trump was supportive to Christians and the church. The majority of evangelicals also wanted elected leaders and judges who are supportive of Christian faith.
Over 92 percent believe that it is essential to maintain Christian morals and ethics in society. However, Trump has been divorced, cheated on his wives, regularly uses profanity, doesn’t attend church, and makes fun of other individuals for their faith, like Vice President Pence. The survey did not ask about Trump’s morality directly, but the majority of respondents do believe Trump is helping the church. Therefore, even if someone if not acting morally, they still can be seen as an ally to the morality of the church? It seems difficult to process how a Christian society can be produced by someone who seemingly has little to no personal interest in following those moral codes.
While evangelicals believe that forcing non-Christians to act like Christians will lead to religious repression, the same group also wants government officials to create laws that support traditional biblical values. How can one value the beliefs of another while pushing laws that force them to act in a particular manner? The recent Masterpiece Bakeshop Supreme Court case reveals the flaw in logic. Christians might argue that individuals can have individual freedom, but they don’t want to have to support it by providing goods and services, even if the government subsidizes those goods and services.
The explanation behind this faulty logic can be explained in two parts. First, for evangelicals, conversion is a matter of when not if. Evangelicals in the survey stated that non-Christians should be respected until they convert. To evangelicals, conversion is going to happen, and so the creation of laws that establish biblical ethics makes sense because they believe everyone is going to be following them at some point.
The second is the image of the persecuted Christian. 57 percent of Christians believe Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. There is some truth to that statement because in 2016 over 90,000 Christians were killed across the globe. But Christians are not especially oppressed in Western, liberal democracies like the United States. The myth that American conservative organizations and evangelical leaders tell themselves is that Christianity is under attack. Therefore, to protect themselves they elect leaders who will create beneficial laws, even if they might hold their noses while doing it.
The study is not comprehensive. It only uses an Instagram survey, and it is unclear what percentage of those that took the study have recently voted. While it makes sense that Christians would find a Christian society to have positive effects, it is dangerous for that to supersede the liberty of other citizens that may have different beliefs. This mentality is what allowed the influence of the Orthodox Church in the Russian government to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses. When a particular denomination decides that it must determine the rules and regulations of a society, other viewpoints automatically become suppressed.