Yesterday, leading evangelical publication Christianity Today published an op-ed calling for Donald Trump to be removed from office, on the grounds that his Ukraine extortion scandal was morally disqualifying. Trump has dominated with evangelical voters, perhaps more so than with any other voting block. Are they really going to turn against him just because one of their leaders told them to?
The hashtag #ChristiansAgainstTrump is trending on Twitter right now, as it should be. For those Christians who actually believe in the liberal teachings of Jesus Christ laid out in the New Testament, someone like Donald Trump is almost literally the devil. Evangelicals – at least the ones on the political right – do not subscribe to Christ’s teachings in any way, and instead have made up their own greedy conservative version of Christ.
If you look at the #ChristiansAgainstTrump hashtag, it’s being used primarily by people who are anti-Trump to begin with. A number of preachers are helpfully using the hashtag right now to spell out why Donald Trump is no Christian, but these are the preachers (and congregations) who were never in Trump’s corner to begin with. The thing is, though, the hashtag isn’t Trump’s problem here.
We tend to think of voting as a binary choice: you decide to vote for either Candidate A or Candidate B. But in reality it’s more complex than that. Most people aren’t giving serious consideration to voting for either candidate. They either think Candidate A is better and they’re trying to decide whether it’s worth it to go vote, or they think Candidate B is better and they’re trying to decide whether it’s worth it to go vote.
Donald Trump’s problem isn’t that far-right evangelicals are going to go vote against him in 2020 just because the publisher of Christianity Today told them to. It’s that some of them could end up staying home in 2020, after having voted for him in 2016. Even if Trump loses a few percentage points in the evangelical column, it could make a difference in the election.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report