Opinion | Trump is gone. What will evangelicals do now?

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20:3, King James Version


In the biblical story of the Ten Commandments, found in the book of Exodus, Moses journeyed up Mt. Sinai to retrieve the inscribed stone tablets, leaving the newly freed Isralites for 40 days and 40 nights. 

During that time, the Israelites grew restless and demanded that Moses’ brother collect all of their jewelry and other gold adornments to create the Golden Calf, an idol for them to worship. 

Thousands of years later, white evangelicals, with the same desperation and restlessness, have chosen a new Golden Calf: Donald Trump.

In lieu of burnt offerings, we have given our votes, money, allegiance and servility. And, now, much like the Israelites, we are left to wander the desert of the American political landscape, ashamed, confused and bitter.

Trump hypnotized us with a dangerous and seductive form of populism. He said all the right things and made all the right moves. We praised his “roughness” and “honesty” as he launched diatribes against women and minorities. And we castigated any Christian who didn’t ascribe to his discourse. 

We fell in love with his unabashed embrace of Christian nationalism. We capitulated core tenets of the faith and forgot the sound doctrine we had once practiced and preached.

Over the last four years, I have watched the church trade its conviction for Trump’s perverted, watered down version of the Gospel. I watched, and I prayed. Fervently. In my own discomfort and complacency, I remained silent as it all played out, because a strong denunciation of Trump would have been futile and ineffective. 

Painfully and regrettably I knew his words had quickly and gracefully led many to the slaughter. He had already captured the hearts and minds of Christians, using fear tactics and manipulation to place them under his dangerous spell. He conjured up conflict to fan the flames of racism and xenophobia. 

And yet, the church still bowed in reverence at the ballot box because he promised judges, guns and a pro-life, America First platform. 

We celebrated when he mocked a disabled reporter.

We called it “locker room talk” when he bragged about women and how he could “grab ‘em by the p—y.”

We agreed when he described Haiti a “s-hole country.” 

We cheered him on when he called Mexican immigrants “criminals and rapists.” 

We threw our Bibles at him to sign

We agreed with the family separation policy at the border because “they shouldn’t have been here anyway.” 

We offered no rebuke when he called neo-nazis and White nationalists “fine people.”

We praised his audacious spirit when he tear-gassed a crowd to have a photo-op with a Bible.

We were emboldened when he called an NFL football player a “son of a bitch” for protesting racial injustice.

We watched, in hopeful silence, as the Capitol building was invaded by domestic terrorists.

We were complicit in all of it. 

Despite the evil sting of his rhetoric, we embraced his promises. We claimed him to be “ordained by God” and chosen for a higher purpose. Much like Eve was with the serpent in the garden of Eden, we were enticed and intrigued when he offered the fruit of closed borders and Muslim bans. 

As the rhetoric grew more incendiary over the years, the message of love that we preached on Sunday mornings depreciated. The church became more insular, more exclusive, more dangerous. 

Trump commodified the cause of Christ, often depending on evangelical leaders, such as Paula White, Franklin Graham and Greg Locke, to do his bidding.

The rise of Trump is on the shoulders of the church. We must admit to our role in social deterioration. Trump’s unfettered access and control of Christianity has diluted the very reason for our existence. We allowed him to weaponize our faith and infect our Sunday sermons with wickedness. We ceded our moral high ground for his political expediency. 

The end of his presidency should be an inflection point for Chrisitians, and we must look inward to determine how we move ahead. Disillusioned, skeptical, and dejected, it is time for us to repent for the sin of Trumpism and wash the slime of his legacy off the church. It is time for our body politic to change.

And in our change, we cannot give in to our normal pattern of revisionist history. We must hold ourselves accountable by exposing our own fruitless deeds. We must see to it that Trumpism in any form never happens again. We must repudiate those who intend to hijack the precepts of our faith and wield it to inflict harm. The usurpation of our beliefs for any one man’s power will be our downfall.

The paradox of Trumpism and Christlikeness cannot abide together in the sanctuary. As scripture says, we cannot serve two masters. 

It is time to tear down the Golden Calf.

“I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.” Rev. Billy Graham