The NYT's Portrayal of Anti-Trump Evangelicals Isn't Quite Complete
Donald Trump rose to the presidency thanks in part to an astonishing level of support from evangelical Christians. It's the kind of backing we haven't seen for a single political figure in a long time. In fact, many conservative Christians count themselves among the president's biggest boosters today.
Because the support among Christians for a man whose morals are questionable at best baffles so many, the media thinks that believers who don't revere Trump are an anomaly. That's why the New York Times recently published a breathless piece about a group of Christians who hosted a crusade near Liberty University — a school whose president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., has been one of the president's biggest cheerleaders:
The night before Shane Claiborne came to town to preach at a Christian revival, he received a letter from the chief of police at Liberty University warning that if he set foot on the property, he would be arrested for trespassing and face up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
At first glance, Mr. Claiborne hardly appeared a threat to Liberty University, a dominant force in Lynchburg, Va., and a powerful engine in evangelical Christianity. Wearing baggy clothes that he sews himself, Mr. Claiborne preaches the gospel, lives among the poor and befriends prisoners on death row, modeling his ministry on the life of Jesus.
But to the leaders of Liberty, he was a menace to their campus.
The Times calls Claiborne and his organization, Red Letter Christians, "the other evangelicals." What the article doesn't tell you is that Red Letter Christians is a liberal organization. Their website asks for donations by urging visitors to "spare some social change," while the RLC slogan is "taking the words of Jesus seriously." A 2007 Christianity Today profile of the group and its co-founder Tony Campolo gives us a taste of the leftist bent of RLC:
Campolo also says RLCs are upset about "gay-bashing, anti-feminism, anti-environmentalism, pro-war, pro-gun, and Religious Right politics." These items sound a lot like talking points from a James Carville memo.
Further, Campolo regularly uses the highly pejorative term Religious Right for politically conservative Christians but declines a comparable label, Religious Left, for his group. His reasoning? "[I]t suggests that we are an arm of the Democratic Party in the same way in which the Religious Right has become an arm of the Republican Party."
Claiborne and RLC aren't immune to both the theatrical stunts and the condescension of the left, as we can see from an anecdote in the Times piece in which Claiborne admits he wanted to take advantage of a hot-button issue and present Falwell with the gift of a plow made from melted gun metal (you know, beating swords into plowshares). Instead, RLC sent Campolo with a box of handwritten prayer requests, including this patronizing gem: “Dear Liberty, I am praying for your campus. The Jesus in the Bible speaks of love and acceptance. I hope you learn to speak of this too.”
What the New York Times is missing in their coverage of Red Letter Christians is that "the other evangelicals" — those who refuse to make an idol of Donald Trump and GOP power — aren't necessary liberals like Claiborne and Campolo. There are plenty of us Christians on the right who aren't fans of Trump, and we're not afraid to admit it.
I've written at length here and elsewhere of the danger of Trump idolatry, and I know I'm not alone here at PJ Media. My friend Susan Wright was one of the authors whom RedState purged — presumably over their lack of support for Trump — and she continues to bravely tell it as she sees it at The Resurgent and Patheos.
Erick Erickson, one of conservatism's leading Gen-Xers, faced death threats and even intimidation toward his wife and children in the run-up to the 2016 election because he dared speak out against Trump. Russell Moore at the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has faced his share of detractors for speaking out about Trump both before and after the election. These names just scratch the surface.
Here's a news flash for the New York Times: an evangelical who doesn't bow to the altar of Donald Trump doesn't have to be a liberal like Shane Claiborne or Tony Campolo. There are plenty of Christians who aren't blind Trump followers who still hope for a smaller government and socially conservative Biblical solutions to the problems of this world. All you have to do is look around to find us.