Faith

Christian Philosopher Explains Evangelical Support for Trump

If we lived in a truly Christian nation, Donald Trump would not be leading the race for the Republican nomination. That was the thesis of a piece by author Matt Walsh published last month, his response to the fact that much of the front-runner’s support comes from avowed evangelicals. Walsh wrote:

Clearly, if America were still a nation populated by serious, observant, devout Christians, there is no way a man like Trump could launch a successful presidential campaign. If he did, he’d at least have to go to great lengths to hide the fact that he’s a philandering goon and self-obsessed tyrant with an affinity for war crimes and Planned Parenthood.

Around the same time that Walsh made his declaration, a Christian philosopher named James K.A. Smith addressed the Faith Angle Forum and was asked to explain evangelical support for Trump. Smith’s answer complimented what Walsh had to say. From The Christian Post:

Smith, who reminded the audience that he’s not a sociologist or political pundit, believes there are two explanations: 1) a failure of church teaching about the faith, and 2) a failure of evangelicalism to provide an all-encompassing way of life rather than simply a set of beliefs.

“A spectacular failure of catechesis,” Smith answered. “… ‘Evangelical’ has just been an identifier, a description that people put on themselves, a label that they wear, and insofar that’s coupled with a spectacular failure of catechesis, by that I mean actual instruction in the faith, people can almost fill that descriptor with what they think is a certain badge. So, when you ask [Trump voters] … are you an evangelical? Do you support Donald Trump? … There’s not much experience [in the evangelical faith].”

It’s a fair analysis. While it is true that Christians need not necessarily seek devout believers or moral paragons to represent them in public office, one would think that anyone who valued qualities like grace and humility would find Mr. Trump’s behavior and rhetoric utterly repulsive. Perhaps the problem is that many who identify as evangelical to a pollster do not in fact maintain a biblical worldview.