By Hollis Phelps & L. Benjamin Rolsky
Most of the commentary on the support of right-wing evangelical Christians for Trump has assumed that it is, somehow, out of the ordinary. One of the threads that supposedly runs throughout contemporary evangelicalism is an emphasis on personal piety which, in the public realm, expresses itself morally. Conservative evangelicals, we are told, care deeply about individual conduct, and that goes double for our leaders, who should be held to a higher standard.
Why, then, do conservative evangelicals continue to support Trump? As the popular religion journalist Jonathan Merritt put it during the last presidential election, “Donald Trump is immodest, arrogant, foul-mouthed, money-obsessed, thrice-married, and until recently, pro-choice. By conventional standards, evangelical Christians should despise him.”
The basic assumption that Trump is out of step with evangelical values continues to shape popular opinion and commentary. Just last month John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College, expressed virtually the same sentiment, noting that Trump is, “a far cry from the sort of leader white evangelicals say they admire.” Fea goes on to assess the distance between Trump and evangelical values in the same terms that Merritt does, writing that “His personal life is well out of step with Christian teachings on fidelity, honesty, humility and charity.”
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