Trump won and about 81% of white evangelicals helped make that reality. Translation: people who look like me, who share some of my cherished religious beliefs helped put Donald Trump in the White House. This is despite the fact he was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, his locker-room talk normalized sexual assault, he is currently on trial for fraud, he fat-shamed a beauty pageant contestant, and admitted to going into dressing rooms while contestants were naked. Despite the fact he made fun of people with disabilities and let us not forget about the wall. He ran on a platform of xenophobia, promising to protect us from refugees, devout Muslims, bad hombre Mexicans and other widows, orphans and aliens in the land.
81% of evangelicals. Sigh. I’ve heard progressive-minded evangelicals, disavow their evangelicalism in the wake of Tuesday’s results. It makes sense. It is easier to stop being evangelical than it is to stop being white or male (61% of white males voted for Trump and 63% of white women). Leaders who denounced Bill Clinton for his moral lapses overlooked Donald John Trump’s. Some for pragmatic reasons (i.e. Supreme Court appointments, pro-life concerns), others out of disdain for Hillary Clinton. I am part of the 19% of white evangelicals which voted the other way. I did so because Trump’s platform, tone and substance struck me as antithetical to the gospel, even if he gave lip-service to faith and pro-life concerns. Hitting a few Christian coalition talking points doesn’t transfer to a Christlike policy.
So what does being an evangelical actually mean?
The word evangelical is so often, poorly defined. If you ask the mainstream media or the faculty of your local university, you may get the impression that evangelicals are just nicer versions of fundamentalists. Evangelicals may not boycott military funerals, hold up “God Hates Fags” protest signs like Westboro Baptist church or blow-up abortion clinics; yet some think they are cut from the same cloth. Others see ‘evangelical’ as political speak for being ardently Pro-life and anti-LGBTQ rights. And yes, the majority of evangelicals uphold traditional marriage definitions and the sanctity of life. None of this gets at the heart of what it means to be an evangelical.
At its heart, evangelicalism is a commitment to the ‘good news.’ (εὐαγγέλιον). This means both the good news about Jesus (John 3:16-17), and the good news he preached, “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). The Kingdom good news was Jesus’ major theme. He announced God’s reign had come and was coming. Implicit in this was a call to live lives which reflect Christ’s reign and reconciliation: a right relationship with God, with neighbors and enemies, and with all creation. The good news of Jesus meant good news for poor folks, freedom for prisoners, sight for the blind, and justice for the oppressed:
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16:21)
It is commitment to good news which provides the identifying marks of evangelicalism. Can you claim to be good news people and capitulate to hate and fear-mongering? Can you follow the one who tore down the dividing wall of hostility and advocate building a wall?
I am Evangelical and So Can You!
I call myself an evangelical because I believe in Jesus’ good news. Not just a little. I am sold out on it, trusting in Him for salvation and wanting to see his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. I won’t give up the label ‘evangelical’ because the good news of Jesus Christ—his life, death & resurrection, his compassionate actions and challenging words—has shaped and is shaping who I am. I believe the Kingdom of God has come and is coming. My trust in Jesus marks me as a good news person. Can we call ourselves evangelicals if we have no good news right now for the frightened, disenfranchised, the poor, the widowed, the alien and the orphaned?
My tribe didn’t vote the way I voted in this past election. Friends and family voted for Trump, some of them quite happily. Here is the thing: many on the margins are now frightened by the prospect of a Trump presidency. If you call yourself an evangelical, embrace it. Evangelical become what you are! Because it is good news time! How are you bringing good news to the high school senior who is afraid president Trump will deport her undocumented parents? What good news do you have for Muslim immigrants who now find this nation less hospitable? How about victims of sexual assault traumatized by this entire election cycle? People of color who fear Trump’s support of stop and frisks? The working man who is afraid he will lose healthcare for his family when Obamacare gets repealed? It is over. Trump won (had Clinton won we would still be in desperate need of good news). Now is the time to bear good news to those who are struggling.
Half the nation celebrates, the other half mourns, the margins fear. What good news do you have for them? If you voted for Trump or Clinton, or Johnson or Stein there is room at the table. Good news, people good news. Bring good news!