Strangely, some Evangelical leaders do not see Donald J. Trump’s (R-New York) presidency as the beginning of Christian domination. Instead, some Evangelical leaders see Trump’s administration as a temporary respite before the complete collapse of Christian America.
“As a Christian, I believe that regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C., that the general trajectory of evangelicalism is going to be downward until Christ returns,” Robert Jeffress tells The Washington Post. Significantly, Jeffress; the pastor at the First Baptist Dallas megachurch, is an outspoken Trump supporter.
Yet the Trump story Jeffress gave The Wash Post’s Elizabeth Bruenig in a recent interview is all gloom and doom. The pastor says, “If you read the scripture, it’s not: Things get better and better and more evangelical-friendly or Christian-friendly; it is, they get worse and more hostile as the culture does.”
Pastor Trump is a Pause and a Respite before Post Christian America
“I think most Christians I know see the election of Donald Trump as maybe a respite, a pause in that,” Jeffress notes. “Perhaps to give Christians the ability and freedom more to share the gospel of Christ with people before the ultimate end occurs and the Lord returns.”
Remove the theology and Jeffress admits he thinks America is fast becoming a Post-Christian nation. In addition, I get the sense Jeffress believes Trump could be the last President of the United States he will like.
This is an odd admission from a man whose choir once sang an ode to “Make America Great Again.” Yet there is little optimism or excitement in what Jeffress tells Bruening.
Notably, Jeffress refers to Jimmy Carter (D-Georgia), America’s most Evangelical president. Jeffress admits to being disappointed by Carter. However, I cannot tell if Jeffress uses Carter as a cryptic reference to Trump.
Evangelicals are a Minority in America
My guess is that Jeffress has seen statistics that show Evangelicals are a minority in America.
For example, the Pew Religious Landscape Survey estimates what it calls Evangelical Protestants make up 25.4% of the population. Moreover, there is evidence that secular Americans already heavily outnumber Evangelicals.
As I note elsewhere, Pew’s numbers estimate various groups of secular or nonreligious Americans make up 45.7% of the United States population. To elaborate Pew claims the unaffiliated, or “religious nones” make up 22.8% of the population, America’s atheists make up 3.1% of the population, agnostics make up 4% and those with nothing in particular (no religion) make up 15.8% of the national population.
Nor is it just Pew, in a 2017 poll, Gallup estimated that 33% of Americans are “not-religious at all.” In addition, Gallup claims the percentage of not religious Americans rose from 32% in 2016 to 33% in 2017. Meanwhile, the percentage of highly religious Americans fell from 38% to 37% in the same period.
I think; unlike left-wing evangelical bashers, Jeffress has seen these numbers and understands their implications. Jeffress knows that the heathen outnumber his people and understands they need all the friends they can get. Even questionable friends like Donald J. Trump.
Can Trump Protect Christians?
Interestingly, what Trump can do for Evangelicals in this respite is unclear. Yes, the President can sign executive orders. However, the next president can erase those orders and whatever policies they implement with a stroke of her pen.
The only action Trump can take that could provide some long-term protection for evangelicals is appointing judges. U.S. Supreme Court Justices; in particular. On the other hand, Trump has not appointed an Evangelical to the Supreme Court.
In fact, there are are no Evangelicals on the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, there is one Mainline Protestant Neil Gorsuch; an Episcopalian, five Catholics, and three Jews., the Religion News Service reports. Moreover, most African Americans are Protestants but the one black Justice; Clarence Thomas, is a devout Catholic.
If Trump is the Evangelicals’ protector why isn’t he appointing them to the U.S. Supreme Court? Just imagine how African Americans would react if a Democratic president refused to appoint their people to the bench?
Yet, Evangelical leaders like Jeffress are not interested in power. Instead, of fighting for influence, Evangelical leaders are happily accepting whatever crumbs Trump tosses their way.
Will Trump Save Evangelical America or Betray it?
I suspect Evangelical Leaders like Jeffress hope the Trump presidency will give their people enough time to build institutions capable of withstanding a destructive secular onslaught.
History shows that pinning hopes on particular leaders or parties can is a lousy strategy for minority groups. African Americans; for instance, pinned their hopes on the Republican Party in the 1870s.
To explain Republican President Ullyses S. Grant (R-Illinois) fought for blacks during reconstruction. Grant backed black voting rights and deployed the Army to the South to fight the Ku Klux Klan.
Yet, Republicans betrayed African Americans in the Compromise of 1877. To explain, in 1877, Democrats were blocking the ascension of President Rutherford B. Hayes (R-Ohio) by challenging the validity of elections.
Democrat leaders dropped the challenge and let Hayes become president, after a backroom meeting at Wormley’s Hotel in Washington D.C. In exchange, Republicans withdrew the Army from the South paving the way for racist Democrats to strip black Southerners of their voting rights.
How Trump could Betray Evangelicals
Given America’s history, Evangelical leaders like Jeffress must be careful. I suspect political operators; such as Trump, will sell Evangelicals out to stay in office.
For instance, President Trump could endorse the entire progressive agenda; including gay rights and abortion. In exchange, a Democratic Congress could shelve impeachment plans and let the Donald serve out his term.
I think such a compromise is likely if Democrats win control of both houses of Congress and the Electoral College reelects Trump. That could happen in 2020, because New York Times number cruncher Nate Cohn thinks both the Democratic margin of victory in the popular vote and the Republican margin of victory in the Electoral College could grow.
Moreover, The U.S. Supreme Court seems increasingly hesitant to intervene in electoral disputes as it did in 2000. Tellingly, the Supremes voted five to four to stay out of electoral issues in a group of cases called Thursday, Rucho v. Common Cause, No. 18-422, and Lamone v. Benisek, No. 18-726, in June 2019.
Evangelicals need to be careful because Republicans have a history of betraying minority groups. In addition to the Compromise of 1877, Republicans betrayed black Southerners to win votes during the 1960s. To elaborate, Republicans; like U.S. Senator Goldwater (R-Arizona), began voting against Civil Rights legislation in the 60s to attract the votes of white Southerners.
Republicans will Betray Evangelicals
Given that history, I can easily picture corporate Republicans like President Trump, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) selling out evangelicals for votes. Notably, Jeffress describes many of those around Trump as ”vipers” in The Washington Post.
I predict Trump and Republicans will bitterly disappoint Evangelicals. I have to wonder if Evangelicals will withdraw from American politics and national life after Trump. If that happens American culture and politics could change beyond recognition.
The ultimate lesson demographics, history, and leaders like Jeffress teach us is that Evangelical Christians are not the mighty political army hysterical leftists portray them as. Instead, Evangelicals are a declining minority whose power could soon vanish completely. Consequently, American leftists will need a new bogeyman to demonize soon.