For Christians who oppose him, Donald Trump is obviously someone whose behavior runs counter to the Gospel message, which stresses concern for refugees and the poor, the sick and the broken, the "losers" of society whom Trump derides. He commits the seven deadly sins with ostentation--greed, pride, wrath, and lust come readily to mind--and speaks of them as though they are virtues.
Why, then, did the majority of Christians in the United States, including the vast majority of white evangelical Christians, vote for him? Many people have made economic or cultural arguments to explain their support. But was there something about their understanding of Christianity that encouraged them to adopt, or at least prefer, Trump's policies?
First let's acknowledge signs that American culture is moving away from an exclusively Christian identity. The percentage of white Americans who identify as Christian is "declining every year by a percentage point or more as a proportion of the population," Robert P. Jones, chief executive officer of the Public Religion Research Institute, told the National Catholic Reporter the day after Trump's election.
Jones, author of The End of White Christian America, elaborated, "White evangelicals in this election aren't values voters. They're nostalgia voters. Trump's line 'Let's make America great again'--and his last-minute saying, 'Look, folks, I'm your last chance'--was really powerful for white evangelicals who see their numbers in the general population slipping."
Although white American Christianity is not a monolith, a sense of decline concerns many of those who share this identity. Conservative Christians fear that political and cultural authorities don't understand their opinions, or are outright dismissive of them. They worry about "activist judges" making decisions about religious liberty, gay marriage, and abortion rights.
"The Republican Party's platform positions on unborn human life and religious liberty were the bridge between Donald Trump and Christian conservatives," said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Christian lobbying group Family Research Council, in an interview with conservative radio host Todd Starnes. "It was the party platform that brokered the deal between Trump and Christian Conservatives--a deal that was sealed in the final debate when Trump vividly described a partial-birth abortion and pledged to appoint pro-life justices."
Indeed, one pre-election survey of evangelical...