October 8, 2016

Are Evangelical Christians Unprincipled for Continuing to Support Donald Trump?

Donald Trump & Melania enter the Oscar De LA R...
Donald Trump & Melania enter the Oscar De LA Renta Fashion Show, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
How can evangelical fundamentalist Christians possibly continue to support Donald Trump now that his 2005 comments have surfaced? Seems like a fair question. This is just a guess, but I wonder if they are more concerned about restricting reproductive rights, rolling back the progress LGBT persons have made, and packing the Supreme Court with conservative justices than they are with anything Trump says about women.

Haven't we regularly criticized evangelical fundamentalist Christians for waging a "war on women" and holding sexist attitudes? Don't we routinely accuse them of hypocrisy on many fronts? Why then should it surprise us that some might not be overly bothered by Trump's comments?

Does their continued support for Trump make them unprincipled, as some have suggested? I'm not sure it does. It seems like it might simply mean that they are placing some priorities ahead of others. If they think Trump will do right by them on abortion and the court, they might be willing to overlook his comments and all sorts of other things they do not like about him. If they continue to support Trump while proclaiming their "family values" or condemning Bill Clinton's behavior, this would seem to be more evidence of hypocrisy; however, I don't know that assigning different weights to one's priorities necessarily makes one unprincipled.

I have certainly heard from many secular liberals that they do not like Hillary Clinton one bit but plan to vote for her because they expect her to select less conservative Supreme Court justices. This tells me that they are making the composition of the court a high priority, so much so that they are willing to overlook various things about Clinton they do not like (e.g., her hawkish foreign policy, close ties to Wall Street). I might not agree with this particular assessment, but I would not characterize them as unprincipled for making it. In fact, it seems like a reasonable approach if the court is in fact their top priority.

I think that most of us place different weights on our priorities, especially when it comes to politics. For the single-issue voter, there really is one priority so important that it becomes a litmus test every candidate must pass to be considered. A candidate who fails the test is out even if everything else about him or her is perfect. For most of the rest of us, there are many issues we evaluate and nearly all are weighted differently.

Maybe I'm not terribly surprised by the continued support for Trump among evangelical fundamentalist Christians because I have long doubted the sincerity of their claims of moral superiority. Or maybe I'm not surprised because I recognize that someone as flawed as Trump is still going to look like a lesser evil to many of them than Clinton will.
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