Find the Matrix: Evangelicals

Transpartisan Note #118

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

If you are a subscriber to our weekly Transpartisan Mailing, you are aware, for the past year, we have been sharing “Find the Matrix” articles from major news outlets as examples of the application of our Transpartisan Matrix. On December 19, in the article “Trump Should Be Removed from Office,” Christianity Today’s editor-in-chief wrote, in the very spirit of transpartisan:

We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now. Some have criticized us for our reserve. But when it comes to condemning the behavior of another, patient charity must come first. So, we have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump.

This editorial launched a nation-wide conversation focused on the political role of religious leaders and the evangelical press.

In this week’s “Find the Matrix” article, “Journalist leaves Christian Post amid its plans to attack Christianity Today,” Sarah Pullman Bailey of the Washington Post explores the impact of this conversation which recently included the resignation of a Christian Post journalist, Napp Nazworth, in protest of a Christian Post article condemning Christianity Today.

In our time of powerful forces – demographic, technological, economic, moral and others – sweeping across the country and the globe, every institution feels its moorings shifting.  This Washington Post article on the ‘Trump Evangelicals’ and Trump’s evangelical critics shows the Transpartisan Matrix form taking shape within the ranks of American Evangelism.  Making up about 25% of the American population, Evangelicals occupy various political positions on various issues.

To get a flavor of the history and development of Evangelical politics, see Wikipedia entries on Evangelicalism in the United States and on the Evangelical Left.  In the Washington Post article, note the references to efforts at dialogue – sticking to religious, moral and biblical issues; staying away from explicitly political issues; and questioning the notion that the Bible defines who a Christian should vote for.  These would tend toward what we call Transpartisan comments.

For a further context to consider in grasping the Evangelical situation in relation to politics in general and Trump in particular, note the following articles. In 2016, The Gospel Coalition shared “No, the Majority of American Evangelicals Did Not Vote for Trump” which suggests that about 35% of American Evangelicals voted for Trump and explains how the author arrived at that number.  The data-driven Outside the Walls regularly posts “This Week’s Shocking Stats” about religion in America. It reports only 8% of regular church attenders believe that sharing their faith is ‘very important.’

When looking at Evangelicals in American politics, it is useful to remember that the most successful Evangelical in those politics remains Democrat Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States.  In 2018, Cater wrote in Faith: A Journey for All:

“I believe now, more than then, that Christians are called to plunge into the life of the world, and to inject the moral and ethical values of our faith into the processes of governing.”

The powerful forces roiling the Earth flow through every institution, including those of American Evangelicals.  Read the articles and look for the Matrix.

(Feature image by ToBeDaniel and shared as CC BY 3.0 on Wikimedia.)

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