The Religious Right Is Alive and Well

Last night, speaking in Iowa, President-elect Donald Trump extended enthusiastic thanks to evangelicals for their aggressive support during the election. This gratitude was well-deserved, with a large percentage of evangelicals turning out in significant numbers to vote for him.

Prior to the presidential election Russell Moore, spoke at the Erasmus lectures presented by First Things magazine, where he queried somewhat dubiously, “Can the Religious Right Be Saved?” Since the election, Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne in a New York Times article provided a categorical response: “The Evangelicalism of Old White Men Is Dead.”

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, in his presentation lamented that the religious right had sold its soul by the endorsement of Trump, given his human frailties that were highlighted during the campaign. His castigation of the religious right was believed by many to be leveled at people such as Robert Jeffress, fellow Southern Baptist pastor of First Baptist in Dallas, who enthusiastically endorsed Trump. Campolo and Claiborne made similar accusations against evangelicals, specifically aimed at their white majority.

These evaluations of the religious right, especially those by Campolo and Claiborne, are problematic on several counts.

First, voters in the real world had the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Choosing between a candidate who advocated protecting the lives of unborn babies and one favorable toward killing them, it is difficult to understand how opting for the former is tantamount to selling one’s soul. Rather, it seems to me that a Southern Baptist spokesman like Russell Moore in discouraging support of Trump might do some soul-searching. Claiborne and Campolo (seeking to atone for being an old white man), wrote in the Times, “Many faithful Christian did not vote for Hillary Clinton because of their commitment to a consistent pro-life agenda. True faith can never pledge allegiance to anything less than Jesus.” None of the above seem to have noticed that Jesus was not on the ballot. It is hard to imagine how they could have missed that fact, but in their judgmentalism against the evangelical majority it seems that they did.

Also troubling is the divisiveness of Campolo and Claiborne, identifying the religious right as being comprised of old white men. It seems that they have borrowed a page out of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals that has been so avidly employed by Barack Obama that advances the strategy of divide and conquer. The employment of the strategy suggests that Campolo and Claiborne not only lean left in their theology but also in their tactics. The real issue should not be age, race, or gender, but whether or not their position is biblical. This description of conservative evangelicals marginalizes the significant numbers of young, black and Hispanic, and women evangelicals who voted for Trump, another reality these critics seem to have overlooked.

Perhaps their failure to acknowledge black and Hispanic evangelicals who voted for Trump is rooted in the same perspective that liberals take in their analysis of conservatives like Clarence Thomas, concluding that he is not actually black. For Campolo and Claiborne real Black and Hispanic evangelicals are those that embrace a liberal social agenda. Conservative ones don’t count.

This brings us to the real point that Campolo and Claiborne seem to be making. They want us to believe that conservative evangelicals, white, black, Hispanic, young, old, male, or female represent relics of the past, while those agreeing with their pseudo-evangelical position and politics represent the future.

I rather think that this position and their article in the New York Times might be classified with Jill Stein and Hillary Clinton’s demand for a recount and students needing grief counseling as a result of the election. Maybe the real problem is not that conservative evangelicalism, the religious right, is on the verge of demise, but that they are.

One comment on “The Religious Right Is Alive and Well
  1. Paul Liebert says:

    Right on Dr Brownback! Christians in the USA will ALWAYS have to back candidates on a composite of stands on key issues and not on the perfection of their personal lives or even their lifelong track record. Not that those things are irrelevant- they are very relevant, but they can’t have the priority over the hierarchy of core issues at stake in this war. The central moral issues today of protection of human life, legal definition of the family, respect for biblical morality, among others, are the core of who we are as a people on earth. As a nation we have been allowing a clear minority to define and control and fundamentally change the laws of the land as they stem out from those core issues. They actively seek to replace them with laws that reflect a worldview that is entirely hostile to the worldview that has been, and still is, considered right by the vast majority of Americans of all races and backgrounds (and which has served our nation and many others well for centuries). This is the central contribution of the Christian Right in our 21st century times: the war on values!
    As in any major war, to lose sight of the main objective is to lose the war. Even though that objective can’t be fought with ideal conditions and clarity it must remain the central thrust of every activity. To lose sight of the war for the less-then-ideal conditions of the individual battles is to prolong the agony and risk losing altogether. Just study the Civil War and see how distractions, and inaction due to getting bogged down by less-than.-ideal conditions on the main fronts, made that war much worse than it had to be, and ran a real risk of it being lost. We don’t have the luxury of an ideal war on our hands, and we need to come to grips with the fact that every general chosen is going to have flaws. The worst flaw that any general can be guilty of is inaction. We elected Donald Trump chiefly as a man of action. Nothing left to do now, but “loose him, and let him go…”. We must see how, and if, he gets the job done- that’s all we can do now on this front- we shall see.
    The worst thing we can do is let the enemy take “the high ground” – they occupy the lowest ground possible, they just deny it (of course they do—their values are bankrupt)

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