Even church choirs have sung a Make America Great Again hymn that Trump has re-shared on multiple occasions. Trump is relying on the enthusiastic support of evangelicals to keep him afloat.
Nevertheless, conservative white evangelicals are a precarious firewall for Trump to have. Their world and their political power is very much coming to an end. This is the argument recently put forth by Robert P Jones in his book The End of White Christian America. Based on his work at the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), he points to trends demonstrating that the “White Christian Strategy” will yield diminishing returns in future elections.
What Jones calls the White Christian Strategy is an outgrowth of the Southern Strategy, a tactic Republicans used to appeal to white southern voters angry with Democrats for their support of civil rights. The White Christian Strategy allowed Republicans, especially since Regan, to monopolize the electoral market for conservative evangelical voters by promising to fight for their values and to restore America to an idyllic past.
Evangelicals may have propelled Trump to the presidency, but Jones sees this more as the “death rattle” of white Christian America. The percentage of white Christians living in this country fell to 43% in 2016. Although white Christians have managed to be overrepresented in voting power, in proportion to their diminishing share of the American population, they are projected to make up only 52% of American voters in 2020. By 2024, white Christians will no longer constitute a majority of voters.
In spite of the high visibility evangelicals are currently enjoying in Trump’s administration, their political power will continue to decline. Trump and the Republican Party masterfully exploited evangelical religion even as evangelicals lost a great chunk of their soul. In 2016, Jones demonstrates, white evangelicals went from being the least likely to the most likely group to agree that a candidate’s personal immorality has no bearing on his or her performance in public office.
I don’t know what evangelical leaders like Michele Bachmann or Johnnie Moore (former vice president at Liberty University) prayed for as they huddled around Trump in the Oval Office. What I do know is that the biblical prophets talk about God refusing the prayers and worship of corrupt leaders unless they “cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
All four Gospel accounts describe a monumental event in the life of Jesus involving prayer and money. In this event, Jesus angrily lashes out at the religious establishment for mixing religion with greed. He overturns the tables of financiers in the temple and says God’s house “shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a den of robbers.”
The Republicans’ alternative proposals to the Obamacare figure to produce a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich while leaving millions uninsured. Trump may surround himself with evangelicals but he has made a mockery of prayer.