White Christian Evangelicals often claim that they constitute the moral backbone of the United States and serve as a lone force against the immoral behavior that is threatening the founding moral principles of this country. Paradoxically, the only thing missing from the Christian right’s argument is Christianity itself. Religious leaders on the right, who claim to represent morality, have largely excused poor behavior by conservative leaders simply due to potential political ramifications. They have frequently tried to mask their political beliefs and ambitions as Christian, family values in order to bring legitimacy to their movement.
The white Christian right, with leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr. and Pat Robertson are some of the most loyal supporters of President Trump. Trump even has a spiritual advisor, Paula White, who has repeatedly defended Trump’s faith. While Trump has a right to be a practicing Christian, evangelicals’ defense of Trump is concerning and goes against the very principles that they claim to defend.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 18 that Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen used a private company to pay porn star Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, $130,000 dollars to prevent her from going public with her alleged sexual encounter with Trump in July 2006. Trump was married to First Lady Melania Trump, who at the time of the reported encounter had given birth to Barron Trump just four months earlier. Adultery is a well-known sin in the Christian faith, so a rational observer would expect evangelicals to condemn Trump’s actions. This, however, has not been the case. Rev. Franklin Graham, a prominent evangelical leader, actually defended President Trump. The Reverend brushed off the alleged incident, saying “I believe at 70 years of age the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. He is not President Perfect…We certainly don’t hold him up as the pastor of this nation and he is not. But I appreciate the fact that the president does have a concern for Christian values.” Graham’s defense of Trump is a microcosm religious right leaders who have prioritized political ambition over true moral values. In addition to Trump, white evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore in December, even after he was accused by several women of sexual misconduct when they were still minors. There is nothing Christian about assaulting minors. Bragging about sexual assault is certainly not Christian either. Religious leaders on the right still, however, have found a way to defend actions of this nature.
In order to accomplish political goals on issues such as abortion, tax reform and immigration, the leaders of the religious right are willing to turn a blind eye to the problematic nature of some right-wing politicians. Furthermore, they sell their political beliefs as “Christian” in order to bring a divine justification on why voters should choose their ideals over the left’s ideals. This sort of action hurts both political discourse and Christianity. It is difficult for the Democrats to make political gains in rural areas because they are forced to compete with Republican ideas that are being sold as Christian, a value that religious individuals in rural areas prize. In terms of actual Christianity, the religious right’s support of Trump and other leaders of his nature harms the national perception of Christianity and conflates partisan ideas and actual Christian teachings. The lines between the actual teachings of the Bible and a select group of powerful individuals’ political beliefs are so blurred that it is hard to discern where one stops and the other begins. Toxic tribalism masked as faith creates a troubling predicament for the United States. The most disheartening aspect of this trend is that there seems to be no solution, no chiropractor to fix the twisted moral backbone of America. White rural evangelicals view their way of life as under siege on multiple fronts; immigrants and costal elites alike are threatening their ideals and lifestyle in rural America. Christianity is about acceptance, yet acceptance of immoral behavior by white evangelicals shows a total lack of concern for both religion and governance.