Ironically, evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2016 precisely because they believed he would govern the United States “as an explicitly Christian nation, protecting Christians and Christian values,” according to a recent article in the Charleston, South Carolina, Post and Courier.
The irony is that Mr. Trump exhibits the least Christian values of any president perhaps in history if the Golden Rule — treat others as you wish to be treated — is a minimum standard.
Half of American Southerners agree or strongly agree with the misassumption that America was founded “as an explicitly Christian nation,” according to a recent poll conducted in late 2018 by Winthrop University, located near Charlotte, South Carolina. The poll queried 969 residents in 11 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
This view of Christian exceptionalism is “a crux of Christian Nationalism,” said poll director Scott Huffman, adding:
“Research has shown that increases in Christian Nationalist beliefs lead to more exclusionary views on immigration and more negative views of multi-culturalism in America. Those who hold these views care more about whether they have a strong leader who will protect their religious and cultural values than whether a leader is individually pious.”
And this bias “is particularly popular among white evangelicals” the poll report noted — three-fourths of them agree or strongly agree with this wishful view of how the nation was actually founded.
In 2016, more than 80 percent of American evangelicals voted for Trump, and 80 percent of Republican or GOP-leaning Southerners still approve of the president today despite his continuing amorality, while a miniscule 4 percent of Southern Democrats do.
To preserve the nation’s “perceived Christian heritage,” evangelicals voted for Trump en masse in 2016 despite his appalling behavior, according to “Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election,” a 2018 academic treatise by Andrew L. Whitehead, Samuel L. Perry and Joseph O. Baker, the Post and Courier reported.
The Rev. Dr. Kevin Baird, the conservative pastor of Charleston Legacy Church, agreed with that assessment:
“In 2016, evangelicals were so concerned about the direction of the country that when they were comparing Hillary Clinton, they held their noses and voted for Donald Trump.”
But not everyone agrees with the Christian nationalist agenda of white evangelical denominations, which hold “exclusionary views on immigration and multiculturalism,” the newspaper reported.
“It’s called Christian hypocrisy,” said the Rev. Joseph Darby, first vice president for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Charleston, of the hypothesis that the country was founded to be explicitly Christian.
Darby contends the country should not favor one religion over others but rather follow the Golden Rule.
“If the laws reflect that, we’d be one nation under all,” he told the Post and Courier. “If you have something that’s exclusively Christian, you’re walking a very slippery, nationalist slope. Everyone in America is not Christian.”
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