Evangelicals Are Politically Irrelevant

FalwellJuniorby Fay Voshell2/28/16
A plurality of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in the Nevada caucus. 41% voted for The Donald; 26% voted for Cruz. What exactly does evangelicals’ support for a man like Trump signify?

First, it reveals the extent to which many evangelicals have been assimilated into secularist culture. The evangelical call to confront the corruption of culture rather than to rationalize and to assimilate it has been badly weakened over decades. Many evangelicals have absorbed and imitated the celebrity and secularist political culture, swimming with the tide rather than against it.

How did the assimilation of evangelicals into the secularist word happen?

It happened much as the Hellenization of the Jews of the Diaspora occurred. Alexander the Great and his successors insisted Jews assimilate into Greek culture. Circumcision, a religious rite considered barbaric mutilation by the Greeks, was forbidden; Jewish youths were expected to compete naked in Greek games; Jewish holidays were renamed and celebration of them forbidden. Under Antiochus, the Torah was banned under threat of death, and the Sabbath was not to be observed. Much pressure was put on the Jews, who were considered an indigestible cultural subgroup as long as they retained their religious differences, to convert to Greek ways. Many did, seeing that if success was to be had in the Seleucid world, capitulation to Greek mores was necessary.

Christians in America have been under similar pressure. They have seen their children forbidden to read the bible in public schools, forced to accept “gender free” bathrooms in which ten-year-old girls are to share restroom facilities with grown men who have declared themselves women; seen their holiday celebrating the birth of Christ turned into a secularist Saturnalia; watched as their college-age youths are ordered to stomp on pictures of Jesus, and seen their children forced to study and to recite the tenets of the Muslim faith.

At work, evangelicals are under constant pressure to be silent about their faith and to stifle talk of sexual morality under threat of losing their jobs or businesses because of so-called “hate speech.” It has been easier to stay silent or to capitulate to the multicultural, secularist world view.

In large numbers, evangelicals have surrendered rather than fight.

Further, the Hellenization of American Christians has meant the shared consensus among evangelical Christians and practicing Catholics concerning Christian social values has broken down. For instance, at one time, both could be counted on to oppose abortion, stand for marriage between a man and a woman and support the traditional family. Most could be counted on to support the Constitution.

But the numbers of evangelical Christians who voted for Trump South Carolina primary and the Nevada caucus reveal those assumptions are no longer true. The moral consensus that once existed among Catholics and evangelicals has broken down due to secularist assimilation outlined above.

The trend that has hastened nearly complete assimilation of evangelicals (and other formerly orthodox Christian churches) into secularist culture is long standing, having begun a century or more ago with the erosion of two foundational Christian beliefs. One was the denial of Christ as the Son of God. Albert Schweitzer’s Quest for the Historical Jesus and similar books trashed the orthodox Christian belief Christ was more than mere man; that indeed, Jesus was and is God incarnate.  Rather, Jesus was seen only as a prophet and teacher among many equal prophets and teachers.

The multiculturalist view of Jesus, plus the destruction of another core foundation for evangelical belief — namely, the idea that the Bible is supernaturally inspired revelation from God to us — shook to the foundations evangelicals’ belief in the authority of Christ and scripture over the affairs of men.

After huge victories over societal corruptions such as slavery, the erosion of foundational beliefs meant that evangelicals began to back off from involvement in political affairs. Attempts to regroup were largely characterized by withdrawal into what now is essentially a subculture that does not effectively confront the intellectual challenges presented by an aggressive and anti-Christian secularism promoted in the past by such authors as Bertrand Russell and H.L. Mencken — and in the near past by people like the late Christopher Hitchens and Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

The failure to meaningfully and powerfully engage challenges to Christianity effectively resulted in a kindergarten mentality Christianity that could not hold up under the kind of withering ridicule dealt out by Clarence Darrow to William Jennings Bryan in the famous Scopes “Monkey Trial.”

Evangelicals retreated into emphases on personal piety and self-examination that largely avoided confrontation of an increasingly secularist culture. Alas, for not a few of the extreme fundamentalist variety of Christians, the speeches of politicians like Huey Long, Orval Faubus, and now Donald Trump have had a revivalist fire and brimstone Devil-may-care tone some are attracted to, regardless of the fact such politicians’ secularist faith and mores are unalterably opposed to Christian values. Anger looks like strength.

There were and are notable exceptions to the secularist trends, of course. People of renowned scholarship like J. Gresham Machen, a great thinker and founder of Westminster Seminary, a man whom even H.L. Mencken admired, did take a stand against the erosion of Christianity’s core foundations, worrying openly about issues like the corruption of public education. Calvinist theologian Francis Schaeffer attempted to confront the deterioration of Western culture; and notable writers like Alexander Solzhenitsyn also took a stand against the corruption of the West, noting the slide from Christian belief into reductionist secularist dogma. There were and are others, of course.

But such holdouts are now few, and those who do take a stand often speak in the incomprehensible language of academic theology or the subtext of narrow, hyper-denominationalism. Coupled with the prevalence of the kindergarten variety of evangelicalism among masses of Christians, the lack of meaningful and comprehensible intellectual and spiritual firepower has meant the tide of secularism has overwhelmed millions of evangelicals, including evangelical youths.

What does the assimilative trend going on in the world of evangelicals portend in the world of politics?

Essentially, shrewd political observers now understand clearly the emperor has no clothes. There is nothing to fear from the now naked “Christian voting bloc.” The stunning fragmentation of evangelicals and the ease with which they have been persuaded to vote for candidates who do not hold anything even approximate to Christian values essentially means evangelicals are not worth courting for votes. It also means any given candidate will no longer have to give even lip service to Christian values, as evangelicals have demonstrated millions of them no longer have a distinct moral voice from that of the surrounding culture.

The social issues deemed so important to Christians for decades, abortion being but one example, will no longer count in most politicians’ minds — not when so-called people of faith by the hundreds of thousands have voted for Trump, a man who is almost rabidly pro-abortion.

Secular politicians, doubtless relieved they will no longer have to put up any pretense at holding Christian values, will see it is a far more politically savvy tactic to promote identity politics, seeking to cobble together the disaffected and the victimized. Aligning one’s self with the social values of Christian voters will be considered drinking a cup of political hemlock.

Last, and perhaps most importantly, evangelicals have demonstrated they have really absorbed the Leftist position demanding draconian separation of church and state. They have revealed they are content with their subculture; content to leave the wider cultural arena, including politics and government, in the control of secularists. Even many evangelical preachers, once megaphones against corruption of the culture, have acceded to secularism out of fear of retribution or from weakness stemming from reluctance to confront the anti-Christian trends within and without the church.

What more loudly trumpets the surrender of evangelicals to the broader cultural capitulation to the world, the flesh, and the Devil than the support for Trump given by Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, one of evangelicalism’s foremost institutions? Is there a more obvious and unrepentant secularist than Donald Trump?

Falwell’s complete capitulation, along with Catholics like Phyllis Schlafly who have joined the Trump secularist bandwagon, means the acceptance and reinforcement of a basic tenet of the Left; namely, that there really is to be a wall of separation between faith and the world. We leftists will take over and run the real stuff. You evangelicals can have your church rituals.

In sum, evangelicals have not only helped build the wall of separation, but they are living behind it in their own closed communities.

What the departure from former values and the support of a raging secularist means for the future of evangelicals in general is open to speculation.

But one can hazard a guess that after seeing the soft underbelly impotency of evangelicals in the realm of politics, the Left will ratchet up its attacks on Christian individuals and organizations opposing the leftist agenda. The reasoning will be something like this: What is there to fear?  So many evangelicals are not that much different than us!

As Michael Novak wrote in National Review in 2002, we will see what happens as religion is increasingly pulled out from the foundations of the republic. Alexis de Tocqueville, Novak wrote, “reflected more deeply on the inherent weaknesses of democracy, stripped of religion, than anybody at the ACLU today:”

“Tocqueville began with a shocker: That the first political institution of American democracy is religion. His thesis went something like this: The premises of secular materialism do not sustain democracy, but undermine it, while the premises of Judaism and Christianity include and by inductive experience lead to democracy, uplift it, carry it over its inherent weaknesses, and sustain it.

[Because of its] own inherent tendencies, democracy tends to lower tastes and passions, to devolve into materialistic preoccupations, and to undercut its own principles by a morally indifferent relativism. Further, democracy left to itself tends to surrender liberty to the passion for security and equality, and thus to end in a new soft despotism, tied down with a thousand silken threads by a benign authority.”

What are evangelicals thinking when they rush to support a politician whose secular materialism and morally indifferent relativism does not sustain democracy but undermines it? What are they thinking when they surrender the premises of Judaism and Christianity, premises that uplift the republic, carry it over its inherent weaknesses, and sustain it?

The answer to that is that too many evangelicals are not thinking. They have forgotten what Christianity means to the security of the Republic. As de Tocqueville wrote:

“I have already said enough to put Anglo-American civilization in its true light. It is the product of two perfectly distinct elements which elsewhere have often been at war with one another but which in America it was somehow possible to incorporate into each other, forming a marvellous combination. I mean the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom…  Far from harming each other, these two apparently opposed tendencies work in harmony and seem to lend mutual support.”

In de Tocqueville’s words lie a remedy for evangelicals’ capitulation to the premises of a secular materialism that ultimately promotes tyranny rather than republicanism.

If evangelicals, along with other Christians, return to promoting both the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom, there may yet be hope for our country.

If they once again seek to articulate a Christian world view that encompasses all aspects of society, including world of politics, they may yet have something to say.

They may even escape being ignored in the political process.

This article originally appeared in AmericanThinker.


Fay Voshell is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and other online publications. She received the Charles Hodge Prize for excellence in systematic theology from Princeton Seminary. She was also selected as one of the Delaware GOP’s “Winning Women,” Class of 2008. She may be reached at fvoshell@yahoo.com. • (899 views)

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15 Responses to Evangelicals Are Politically Irrelevant

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I read this on American Thinker this morning and thought, wow, we were just talking about this subject. I think Fay has done a fantastic job of analyzing this situation. We also share the view on how so many Christians have been bamboozled and put in a box by the Leftist- or secular-branded notion of “the separation of church and state” — something I would be in favor of if we actually then separated the state from the Religion of Leftism which dominates discourse and hides itself as something other than the religious faith that it actually is.

    Dennis Prager calls Leftism the most dynamic religion in the world. It has penetrated Judaism almost completely and is now wending its way through Christianity, taking over the founding principles and replacing them with Cultural Marxist ones (under different names, such as “social justice”).

    Granted, I think we could have a riveting good discussion on whether or not Jesus was the Son of God and whether or not the Bible is divinely inspired. But if you are a Christian, unless you’re just looking for a weak social club of kumbaya, that is what you signed on for.

    • SkepticalCynic SkepticalCynic says:

      What we Christians really lack is genuine principled leaders with a fire in their belly for Jesus Christ and no fear of anything but God. They need to be able to speak to all of us about Christian morals with the vehemence of someone like Adolph Hitler.

      Presently, there is not one of these type leaders in all of America. Many souls in America are spiritually dead. I wonder where are God’s prophets , He always sent them before.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        As I frequently tell Mr. Kung. As soon as I see a light on the road to Damascus, I’m there with bells on.

        A Christian has to be able to dispute:

        + Darwinism/Materialist metaphysics
        + Relativism
        + Kumbaya-ism
        +Namby-pamby-ism

        I was reading a book by David Limbaugh that 1st Timothy StubbornThings recommended and in it Paul recommends that leaders be a bit less flamboyant and combative than I would tend to be. So perhaps that light will never shine. But somebody needs to pickup the gauntlet and lead the charge againsr the corrosive forces of Leftism/atheism.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    This does a very fine job of explaining why “you will be made to care” is so important to those who wish to maintain genuine Christianity in America without taking the Amish path. But the evangelicals voting for Trump aren’t necessarily secularized, though they are voting for secular reasons rather than religious ones. As Robert Jeffress (a Trump-supporting evangelical pastor) pointed out last night, something similar was one 36 years ago when evangelicals chose the divorced Hollywooder Reagan (who had signed a liberal abortion law in California) over the pious (but incredibly weak) Carter.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      But the evangelicals voting for Trump aren’t necessarily secularized, though they are voting for secular reasons rather than religious ones.

      That’s a good question, Timothy. Religion scares the hell out of me because, first, it could be true and, second, if I believed it to be true, I would have a totally different view of reality. The mere “gloss” of church (as commonly practiced today) would not be an option and would, in fact, be sort of a sick joke.

      I do think much of Christianity has been secularized in that few actually believe it. I’m not sure that I do. But if I did (and I may read David Limbaugh’s new book that you noted), sitting on the sidelines and valuing kumbaya over reality would not be an option. I would have to live like I believed it.

      That is, of course, an entirely different question as to whether a political candidate has to be the Second Coming of Christ before you can vote for him. I think it’s a complicated question. Indeed, as many (elsewhere) have pointed out…well…let me quote from a commenter to Fay’s article at American Thinker:

      As a Christian I would rather vote for a full time blowhard that will fix the problems of this country over those who will proclaim that they are good and honest Christians with a bible in hand one week, but lie, cheat, and are downright nasty the next week to possibly improve their chances of getting into office. Only to sell our cherished values down the river later for the god of money/mammon. If you call that “secularist” so be it.

      Of course, that’s either a conveniently false choice or this poster is just too fed up to think correctly. If someone *is* a true-blooded Christian, that is a good sign that you can trust them with your politics. Is hypocrisy the norm now? I really don’t know. I suspect it’s far too common. But the point is, there is more to judging a person than that person’s personal statements of piety and religious commitment. And, I think, if too many people are fooled it’s because they’re being lazy. Good god, it’s possibly that most people in 2008 didn’t know who Obama was, but that is only because they did not care to know or to look.

      Carter vs. Reagan in terms of religious devotion is a great example. Reagan was indeed divorced. But the Reagan who ran for president was a changed man, just at the atheistic Lincoln as a young man was different from his older self as president. Reagan was apparently a very faithful man while Carter’s religion seems to be Leftism.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Many people would probably be surprised at the number of Americans who believe there is some clause in the Constitution requiring the “separation of Church and State.” I have been told by a number of “intelligent” people that the Constitution clearly demands said separation.

    In fact, the Constitution mentions religion only twice.

    The first mention is in Article VI section 3 which states,

    “But no religious test shall every be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

    The second mention is in the First Amendment which states,

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

    There is nothing in either clause which says or comes near saying, “separation of Church and State.”

    Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists notwithstanding, no such legal opinion existed until the 1940’s when the Supreme Court started its well known habit of finding things in the Constitution which did not exist.

    Up until the 1960’s, religious thought still played a major role in American politics. Until I was in third grade, we had daily prayers said in school.

    Blue laws, which required the closure of stores on Sundays, existed until much later than that.

    That both school prayer and Blue laws were wiped away is just another example of the unholy alliance between the Left ala Madalyn Murray O’Hair and the big business Right. We should never forget this. Right-wing business interests are, more often than not, no friend of religion. They are materialists just like Marxists, but they come at materialism from a somewhat different angle.

    The present union of the Left and Crony Capitalists as regards open border immigration is just the latest, most obvious, example of this historic fact.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      There is nothing in either clause which says or comes near saying, “separation of Church and State.”

      Thanks for spelling all that out, Mr. Kung. What we have here is a case of misinformation by the ne’er-do-wells.

      The Constitution was drafted with the need for a moral and religious people in mind, but with also in mind some of the religious strife and chicanery that was happening in the states. Many, if not most, of the states had an established religion. And through the power of the state, this meant that governments could, and sometimes did, use the power of taxation to support one denomination over another.

      That is how to understand the First Amendment. It wasn’t a prohibition of religion (and expressly protected the free exercise of). It was a prohibition of the Federal government favoring (or establishing) one denomination over the other.

      As it has worked out, “secularism” is most precisely about favoring one denomination (atheism) over another (theism). This, of course, is not honestly revealed or discussed by those who stump for secularism and for “the separation of church and state.” They are lying.

      Of course, one is free to stump for an atheistic state wherein the government supports your religion and undermines all others. But then you’d first need to erase the First Amendment and would need to (as they are trying) re-write American history and the centrality of the Christian religion.

      Also keep in mind that the government apparently used to print Bibles and hand them out. There are biblical passages and icons all over the Federal buildings and even the state government buildings. This shows exactly that the intent of the Founders was not the separation of religious influence from the government but the separation of the support of one Christian denomination at the expense of another.,

      To the extent that “no law respecting an establishment of religion” intersects with so-called secularism it is that the Federal government was not to be a theocracy. It was expected that the people who held office would be good, god-fearing Christians. But the offices themselves would not be religious offices and the United States itself would not be a direct extension of any church.

      Fine. If you want to call that “secularism” then stick that in your cigar and smoke it. You would be correct. But if there is a blurry line (and I admit there is) between establishment and expression of religion in and through government, the line of so-called “secularists” is crystal-clear: They wish to establish atheism as the official religion of the Federal government. Let’s just be forthright and honest about this before getting into the sometimes difficult areas of this whole subject.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      You will note that when liberals discuss the First Amendment regarding religion, they have a history of not actually quoting it. We conservatives understand why they don’t: because the actual words of the amendment don’t support their arguments. So they cite interpretations such as Jefferson’s as if they were the actual contents.

      Personally, I don’t support blue laws, and have opposed them since I first became aware of them. A single-day-closure (without requiring which day) would be one thing; Jews could close on Saturdays, Christians on Sumdays, and others as they chose (liberals might pick whichever day of the week has Earth Day that year).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Personally, I don’t support blue laws

        I’m just about to run to the mall to pick up some stuff. Blue laws would be an inconvenience. But I’m all for an individual state, county, or municipality doing so. I could deal. It might even be good for me.

      • David Ray says:

        Yep. It’s sad, but most confuse Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury baptists, ” . . . separation of church and state” statement as constitutional writ.
        I can hardly blame them as such is not taught in schools (if not banned outright).
        I learned the details courtesy of David Barton back in 1994.

  4. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    The Constitution was drafted with the need for a moral and religious people in mind, but with also in mind some of the religious strife and chicanery that was happening in the states. Many, if not most, of the states had an established religion. And through the power of the state, this meant that governments could, and sometimes did, use the power of taxation to support one denomination over another.

    To understand the meaning of the two clauses mentioning religion, one must know the context.

    The Founders were well educated men who knew of the conflict which arose from the Reformation. More importantly, they knew the troubles which religious differences had caused in Great Britain from the times of Henry VIII. Most importantly, the Founders were well versed in English history and saw how the various denominations jockeyed for power and the uncertainty it caused. From Henry’s foundation of the Anglican Church, back to Mary’s attempt to re-establish Catholicism, to the rise of Calvinism/Puritanism and the execution of Charles, to the return of the Stuarts and banishment of the Stuarts, back to the securing of Anglicanism as the official Church of State, buckets of blood were shed, huge treasures were lost, and countless numbers of people had to flee from one group or another.

    The Founders understood that as long as there was any type of official State Religion, there would be a constant struggle amongst the various denominations to be THAT religion. By forbidding an official State Religion, the Founders insured long term peace in this area.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Great points, Mr. Kung. Hopefully more people will read this site and become reacquainted with American and world history. I don’t think many people these days have much more context than the gab at the tattoo parlor.

  5. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    The Trump phenomenon is an indication of how sick our culture has become, particularly our political culture. But like I have said before, “I would rather have pneumonia (Trump) than lung cancer (anyone in the Democratic Party).” The chances of survival are somewhat better.

  6. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I received this from our county judge in one of his regular e-mails to those who are active in trying to maintain our conservative traditions.

    This is a message Christians should take to heart.

    “No Reason to Withdraw From The Chaos”

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, went to London, 1933-35, leaving behind a Germany falling under dictatorship. Karl Barth, a more senior German, wrote the attached letter when Bonhoeffer informed him that he had departed Germany. The tone is harsh, asking “What of the German church?” and telling Bonhoeffer that there “is no reason to withdraw from the chaos” of the day. Bonhoeffer returned and both men became active in the Confessing Church in the late 1930s and 1940s. Bonhoeffer was executed in the closing days of World War II.

    My dear colleague,

    From this salutation you will gather that I have no intention of regarding your going off to England as anything other than a perhaps personally necessary interlude. Since your mind was set on this, you were quite right not to seek any wisdom from me before doing it. I would have advised against it, unconditionally and certainly bringing up the heaviest artillery I could muster. And now that you come to me with this after the fact, I truly cannot do otherwise than call to you, “Get back to your post in Berlin straightaway!” What is this about “going into the wilderness,” “keeping quiet in the parish ministry,” and so forth at the moment when you are needed in Germany? You, who know as well as I do that the opposition in Berlin, indeed the church opposition in Germany as a whole, is on such shaky ground spiritually! That every honest man should have his hands fully with making it sharp and clear and solid!…

    What’s the point in singing my praises–from the other side of the Channel? What’s the point of the message I received from your student, just as I was in the midst of tussling with our splendid “Council of Brethren” of the Emergency League–instead of your being here and standing up to these brethren along with me…Why weren’t you there pulling together on the rope that I, virtually alone, could hardly budge? Why aren’t you here all the time, when there is so much at stake that calls for a few brave souls to keep watch, whether the occasion is great or small, and try to save whatever can be saved? Why, why? You see, as I said, I’m quite ready to assume that your going away was personally necessary for you. But I would then ask, what does “personal necessity” actually mean at this moment? Reading your letter, I believe I can see that you, like the rest of us–yes, all of us!–are suffering under the enormous difficulty of “making straight paths for our feet” through the present chaotic situation. But shouldn’t it be clear to you that this is no reason to withdraw from the chaos; that perhaps we are called to man our positions in and with our uncertainty, even if we stumble and go astray ten or a hundred times over, or however well or badly we then serve our cause? I am simply not happy with your putting your own private problem at center stage at this point, in view of what is at stake for the German church today. Won’t there be time enough afterward, when, God willing, we are beginning to come out on the other side of this mess, to work off the various complexes and scruples from which you are suffering, as others are suffering as well? No, to all the reasons and apologies that you may still have to offer, I can only and shall always have the same answer: And what of the German church? And what of the German church?–until you are back in Berlin, manning your abandoned machine gun like a loyal soldier…

    Since you have written me only that you are now over there, I will write you, for now, nothing more than just this: that you should be back in Berlin.

    Christians need to get back to their posts!

    “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is a quality which guarantees the others.” –Winston Churchill

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I don’t know about Barth, but Bonhoeffer became involved in the resistance, which is why he was executed. When the end was approaching, and so clear that even Hitler’s most devoted acolytes knew it, they started killing off those enemies they hadn’t gotten around to yet. But this is a good lesson for why the clergy need to be involved; one assumes this is why the Archbishop of Chicago predicted that his successor would die in jail, and the next would be executed. And at present we don’t face quite such a dire choice. I think this may ultimately be why, no matter how pessimistic I’ve been over the future, I can’t bring myself to give up completely.

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