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How evangelical Republicans brought themselves to vote for Donald Trump

President Donald Trump
REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
President Donald Trump was elected with overwhelming support from evangelical Christians.

When New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller ran for president in 1964 (as a liberal Republican, which was a thing then), the fact that he had been divorced and remarried (to a younger woman!) was treated as a potential deathblow to his presidential aspirations. Back then, more so than now, getting divorced was generally treated as a moral failing.

Rockefeller did end up losing the 1964 Republican presidential nomination to Barry Goldwater, and his divorce was often cited as a major factor. (The first divorced person to be elected president was Ronald Reagan in 1980.)

Then along came the thrice-married divorce-a-holic Donald Trump (each wife younger than the one before). And the (formerly) moralistic Republican Party forgave him his marital track record and even forgave him for bragging about grabbing women by the pussy and a great many other behaviors that were deemed disqualifying moral failings in earlier times.

Overwhelming evangelical support

Even more unprecedented given all of the above, Trump was elected with overwhelming support from evangelical Christians. I say it’s unprecedented based partly on polling data taken from the latest great column by Thomas Edsall, who basically explores the ironies and anomalies of it.

Before I go into the Edsall argument and findings, I just want to mention that the most unwaveringly loyal Trump supporter, since the day Trump put him on the ticket, has been Vice President Mike Pence, whose signature line has for years been (and still is), “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican – in that order.”

I’m no expert on Christianity, but as best I understand it, Donald Trump is pretty weak on the Christlike virtues. He’s greedy, arrogant, lascivious and he definitely doesn’t turn the other cheek.  He’s also not much of a conservative, nor a Republican, as I understand those terms, except in the sense that he decided to seek the Republican nomination so he could be president. And he somehow obtained that party’s nomination.

Having done so, he obtained the support of the overwhelming majority of Republicans on Election Day, including many who are more serious about their Christianity and about their conservatism than the man for whom they voted.

It's not about policy views

So Edsall’s point, if I could paraphrase it, is that if you think that people are Republicans (or Democrats) because they hold certain policy views, you are seriously misunderstanding. If you think people voted for Trump because of the policy views he held, with which they are agreed, or his personal moral qualities, of which they approved, you are also mistaken.

Edsall’s argument, which I hate to agree with but can’t help it, is that you will understand voter behavior better if you think of partisanship as an element of identity, and a powerful element. We are used to thinking of a set of elements of identity, like race and religion and class. We have come to accept that these elements of identity may be powerful predictors of voting behavior. Most blacks vote for Democrats. Most evangelical Christians vote for Republicans.

But if partisanship is also an element of identity, then it’s not too surprising that most, almost all, Republicans don’t just feel like Republicans as some ethereal aspect of identity; they also vote for Republicans. And the same goes for Democrats. In fact, most voters end up identifying with the party that their parents supported. I know it’s true of me and most people I know. There are surely many exceptions. But for most of us, rather than making a “choice,” based on either some of our political ideas or issue positions, it mostly works the other way around. Most of us grow up in a party, the party of our parents, and that informs our political positions on many issues, and we vote for that party most of our lives. (There are some who argue there’s a genetic component to this.)

These are not iron laws, but the correlation is pretty strong.

Identity in internal conflict

Now (and I’m really getting close to the big Edsall aha! moment) what happens when elements of your powerful partisan identity come into conflict with other powerful elements of your identity? You’re an evangelical Christian, which makes you more likely to vote for Republicans, but you are also more likely to care about conventional moral behavior. Or at least you were.

Edsall built his column around an interesting poll finding by a group called the Public Religion Research Institute, which sponsored a poll in 2011 that asked whether a political candidate who is immoral in private life will still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.

In 2011, white evangelical Protestants, by 61-30 percent, were the group most likely to say that someone whose personal behavior was immoral would lack the ability to behave ethically in public life. All religious groups said no, but by much smaller margins. (If you’re curious, Catholics also said no, but only by 49-42; mainline (non-evangelical) Protestants said no, but only by 44-38 percent, and those without a religious affiliation said yes, by 63-26.

Frankly, isn’t that about what you would expect, that certain kinds of voters, like evangelical Christians for example, would drive a harder bargain on “moral conduct” than some other kinds?

But then, you would ask yourself: Most of those evangelical Protestants who answered that way ended up voting for Trump, whose personal ethical/moral conduct stinks. Why would they get behind someone whose immoral private life would render him unlikely to ethically fulfill his responsibilities as president?

Well, they didn’t, because in the year that Trump was the Republican nominee, their answer to that question moved – by 42 points!

The 42-point swing

Yes, that’s the big aha moment from the Edsall piece. A 42-point swing. 42! Evangelicals, who, pre-Trump, said that by 61-30 personal/private moral failings would be a strong predictor of public moral shortcoming in a candidate for president, in 2016, by 72-20 percent, now say that if a candidate’s personal behavior is immoral, that is no reason to assume that his or her public behavior will be also.

The other groups in the poll moved slightly in the same direction. But their movement was dwarfed by the movement among evangelicals, who went from being the  group that was most concerned about supporting a personally immoral candidate to the group least concerned.

It’s just one quirky poll question, but it’s hard not to be impressed. What to make of it?

Edsall pretty much offered an explanation, to which I referred above. His piece was headlined: “Trump says jump. His supporters ask: How high?” Which may err on the rude or crude side, but loops back to the point above, which I stole from Edsall and he stole from several political scientists quoted in the piece. It goes something like this:

The internal dialogue

If you accept that partisan affiliation is a piece of identity, it’s hard to go against one’s identity in deciding whom to support for president, but if different elements of one’s identity are in conflict, one’s mind or gut may look for a way. Imagine the internal dialogue of evangelical Protestant Republican needing to vote for Trump without willingly helping to elect an unethical president. Something like (I’m making this up):

“I used to believe that an immoral person cannot make an ethical president. And I can’t disregard the evidence that Trump’s life does not demonstrate moral behavior in his personal or business life. But I’m a Republican and cannot seriously consider voting against my party. So I have to adjust something, and the least painful thing is to adjust my belief that an immoral person cannot make an ethical president.”

Edsall asked the rhetorical question: “Are the moral convictions of white evangelical Protestants writ in stone?” And he answered: Apparently not.

If you read the full Edsall column, you’ll get a bunch of really smart political scientists weighing in on how and why this works.

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Comments (38)

Calvinism

Much of it is rooted in the conceit that material success is a sign of G_d's love and approval.

Calvinism?

Calvinism is not related to the prosperity gospel that I think you are attempting explain.

In that Calvinism says that

In that Calvinism says that God has long-ago chosen the spiritual "winner and losers", it is often bleeds into the worldly rewards:

(quote)

"There is certainly a long history of efforts to reconcile Epicureanism, Platonism, Aristotle, and more with the Christian message. But I think prosperity theology is an effort to reconcile the Gospel with the American dream: prosperity, health, good feelings, and happiness. They don't talk too much about "take up your cross and follow me." You can dignify it by saying that it is part of the long tradition of reconciling Christianity with various motifs in Greek thinking, but it's really the American dream of doing well and having your children do better.

The sources for this type of theology are a certain kind of distorted Calvinism. Calvinism had an enormous influence on American institutions. One reading of it says that if you're doing well materially, God must favor you. It's a sign that you are one of the elect. If you're not doing so well, you must not be one of the elect. There's a real motivation to do well in worldly terms—to bring assurance that you were really in the Kingdom of God. That's found its way into American preaching and religion right up through Norman Vincent Peale and The Power of Positive Thinking.

https://hds.harvard.edu/news/2014/10/07/god-and-money#

(end quote)

No conection...

"Winners and Looser" are not based on economics in the New Testament.

Job was a" Calvinist" when he lost everything in the OT. And Paul was a "Calvinist" when he was a prisoner. Most of the Apostles were martyred and the N.T. church was persecuted by the rich and powerful.

"Doing well" is not a sign of the elect.

How right you are, Mr. Gotzman!

There were many poor believers throughout the Bible - in the Old and New Testaments. There were rich ones as well, however (Abraham, King David, King Solomon).

I myself, as a born-again Christian, have found it hard to understand how born-again Christians could stand behind a President like Donald Trump - it was explained to me by a close Christian friend who used to be a Pastor of the small church that I attend, that it was the lesser of the two evils (that they were opposed to Hillary) and also that the Republican party was more in line with Christian thinking and beliefs, anti-abortion, etc.

I guess I'm the odd man out - I voted for Hillary. And if I had to do it again, I believe I'd still vote for her. To me: she was the lesser of the two evils.

And then too: it seems to be hard for the Republican party to really understand the lower and middle class families of America today. I don't believe they can relate to poverty and all the problems that come with it.

Calvinism

Calvin taught that hard work and frugality are virtues in themselves, but counseled against accumulating wealth for its own sake.

Are you thinking of predestination? That is a Calvinist doctrine not strictly related to wealth or material success.

The endlessly hypocritical

The endlessly hypocritical modern Christian conservative is an easy target.

Google under images--"what would Republican Jesus do"--a pretty entertaining catalog of the miserable truth.

As it is stated in the New Testament, Jesus came to set the Jewish people onto the correct path after a couple millennia of the Jews heading down all of the wrong paths of religiosity.

The same hairless monkey that populated the world then is around today--so there is no reason to expect that we get our religiosity any more right than the Jewish people--even though the New Testament is the Cliff's Notes of how to get it right (“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.").

Another couple millennia of getting it wrong, for the most part.

Religion and politics

Who said they don't mix? Eric's explanation is part of the explanation. People generally pick the party of their parents and stick to it. And I don't doubt that the gospel of wealth- that God picks winners and losers and material wealth is an outward sign of God's grace is part of it. Nor do I doubt Calvinism (which I think suggests but does not emphasize the gospel of wealth) plays some role.

For the Evangelical Right, Trump "trumps" all other candidates because he's gonna stop abortion by packing the Supreme Court with justices who want to repeal Roe v. Wade. Apocalyptic thinking is in there too: it's a fallen world and Trump is no worse than anyone else but at least he admits it. That's what I get from hearing all their rationalization. Once you start with "abortion must be made illegal at any cost", you can rationalize anything and even compromise your own "values."

I, too have heard the

I, too have heard the abortion issue as a key driver.

And the "yearning for the end times" is part of it also--some have said explicitly if Trump brings on the end time, so much to the better.

Abortion

Abortion became a big cause for evangelicals when explicit racism stopped being politically or socially acceptable. It's just a fill-in.

The Southern Baptist Convention did not declare its opposition to legal abortion until some years after Roe v. Wade. Abortion had been treated as a matter of personal conscience, if I recall.

A lot of what passes for evangelical Christianity today

is preached by self-ordained "ministers" with no theological training. This is most likely to happen in the so-called "non-denominational" churches, which sounds all nice and ecumenical but really means that no one is there to set standards for either training or financial honesty.

In a denominational church, clergy are required to go through vetting and training (usually two to three years of seminary) and a sort of internship under the guidance of an experienced member of the clergy before being ordained. Once in a church position, they do not have personal control over the church's finances, which are administered by a committee of lay people elected from the congregation. Clergy are paid a salary, and dipping into the church's money for their own personal use would be considered a serious offense.

These rules do not weed out all the bad apples, but they tend to discourage the type of con man who sees founding a church as a way of getting naive people to finance a lavish lifestyle.

This is how Joel Osteen (a dropout from Oral Roberts University with no further training) "inherited" his father's church (his father is described as a "former" Southern Baptist minister) and started on an extremely lucrative career.

Combine a bunch of Middle Americans who know nothing about theology or anything else with a determined con man, and you have a cult that will believe anything you say if you just call it "a Christian principle."

The so-called Prosperity Gospel is one of the worst distortions, since if there's anything Jesus and his apostles are consistent about, it's condemnation of greed.

One of my friends, a former fellow graduate student, is a Southern Baptist living in Georgia. He is well-versed in a lot of areas, follows standard evangelical Christian theology, and doesn't tolerate racism, but he has some Facebook friends who provide insight into the Trump voters. (He and some of his more theologically knowledgeable friends, including Baptist seminary professors, were appalled by Trump.)

For some of these megachurch types on Facebook, abortion and homosexuality are the ONLY issues. These folks probably would have loved Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, if they even knew about him, because he banned abortion and birth control. One even said that God would punish the U.S. if people elected Hillary, because she would appoint a Supreme Court justice who favored reproductive rights. Another believed that Hillary was a closet lesbian, because why else would she seek a job that, in his eyes, rightfully belonged to a man?

This is where we see the effect of the non-denominational megachurches. They preach gut issues, such as abortion, which evokes sentimentality about "poor little murdered babies" and homosexuality, which is extremely threatening to the macho man types, and ignore most of what the Bible--not only the New Testament but the later Jewish prophets-- actually teaches, such as concern for the poor, kindness to foreigners, personal integrity, and opposition to injustice.

Deep down, the megachurches worship the worst aspects of white Middle America: a smug assurance that America is the greatest country in the world and has the right to tell the rest of the world what to do (the megachurches are big on militaristic patriotic displays), a belief in education as job training rather than as personal enlightenment or preparation for informed citizenship, an obsession with sports that bleeds over into other areas of life so that there are only winners and losers, not cooperation for the common good; obsession with celebrities and a show business system that makes banal and untalented people famous; and above all, economic insecurity, even among the relatively affluent (the average Trump voter had a household income of $70,000 per year in a country where half the households earn less than $55,000).

This insecurity leads white men to see women, dark-skinned people, and immigrants as competitors for a tiny pie, and by extension, to see these groups as "threats to the American way of life." Hence the panic about "Muslims imposing Sharia on America," even as there are groups of evangelical Christians who want to make the Bible the law of the land.

Some of the less intelligent white people take offense when introduced to the concept of white privilege and think, "I'm struggling, while Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire and we've had a black president. How am I privileged?"

The Trump voters are also a sign of extreme dissatisfaction with politics as usual. Trump defeated 15 other more conventional Republican candidates, simply by *acknowledging* the problems and anxieties of the voters, even though he obviously had no intention of doing anything about them.

There's a lot of blame to go around, not only the megachurches but also an anti-intellectual educational system, anxiety about racial and sexual diversity, and two political parties that for years have sought to win votes by taking opposite positions on hot button issues instead of dealing with America's pressing problems.

I suppose the election of Donald Trump or someone much like him was inevitable given the trends of the past thirty-five years.

Maybe

Evangelicals realized that Hillary was just as morally wrong and corrupt as the President and had to vote for
Someone. Two wrongs syndrome and they really dont care for those who divide and either support or belittle based on their place in a victim tribe. Dems have gome so far backward since 2008, maybe time to attract rather than divide?

On the Other Hand

I've seen no evidence that white evangelicals held their noses and voted for Trump, or that they were reluctant. They seemed pretty enthusiastic, both the flock, and the leaders, such as Jerry Falwell Jr. Neither do I see much sign of buyer's remorse.

And to accuse the Democrats of being divisive since 2008, well that just too rich. Sounds like GOP senators complaining about obstructionism.

Identity politics as a strategy

by it's very definition is divisive.

Apparently

so is having the audacity to be a black President

way

to prove my point.

Pot, Meet Kettle

Is appealing to rural white working class voters identity politics? How about appealing to coal miners?

The goal of the Right

is to concentrate wealth and power in very few hands. The ABSOLUTE CORE of the strategy toward this goal is division: create false enemies, create fear about what those enemies may do, dehumanize them, and promise to protect against and visit vengeance upon them. Authoritarianism 101. This both distracts the fearful from the real cause of their economic and social anxiety - that the very few are taking all of their money and destroying their collective social capital - and gains their assent in an even more accelerated consolidation of power.

The goal of the left is an ecologically sustainable economy, equal opportunity, and the right level of existential risk sharing (safety net). Among the strategies toward this goal are efforts to elevate the opportunity of those to whom, by laws and norms, it has not been equally extended. Identity politics is not a strategy, it is a tactic toward the strategy of equalizing opportunity. And it is a tactic with which many on the left disagree. We disagree precisely because the CORE of leftism is that there is no “us” vs. “them,” and indeed that society’s survival depends on overcoming such concepts, but that advocacy based on identity politics can so readily be mischaracterized, innocently or willfully, as an “us” vs. “them” frame and, indeed, risks over time erasing the critical premise that we’re all in this together. The left must keep the flame of this premise burning or we’re all very quickly done for, and the flame is flickering mighty low.

But again, the inadvertent division of leftist identity politics is the result of a poor tactic toward a fundamentally non-divisive goal, while without the unceasing propaganda of division, the Republican base would not exist, Trump’s supporters would all be with us over here on the left, and we'd have a nice majority working together toward a decent society.

It's a photo op, folks!

Trump has never been religious.
Nor is he a deep thinker.
But he is a consummate fraud and con.

This is his sole motivation:

Being surrounded by evangelicals with their hands on him like they
are blessing him is a photo op designed to expand his 'base'.

WHITE evangelical Christians

"Most blacks vote for Democrats. Most evangelical Christians vote for Republicans."

What about black evangelical Christians? What's their position on abortion? How do they vote?

Attend a service in any racially mixed region of the South, and you'll discover that theologically conservative Protestant congregations come in two hues — black or white. By no historical accident, rarely doth the twain meet. Abortion is the cover story used to explain white evangelical support for cretinous politician like Trump — including in the '16 primary, when 16 other candidates were available. (No, you don't win every Republican nominating contest between Virginia and Arkansas, Louisiana and Georgia, without significant evangelical backing.) What was it about the crass, hedonistic, formerly "very pro-choice" New Yorker that so enthralled the evangelical flock? Here's a clue:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-orig...

TL;DR: It's the racism, stupid.

And This Keeps Rolling

So, what is the next article going to be about Trump winning and how dare an electorate vote for someone like him? Trump was not voted for based upon religion. But now there is another angle yet again to insult large groups of people. People voted for Trump because he was going to say it like it is and it does not matter who offers up alternatives. Obama set it up for Trump to win by the constant dumbing down of America, telling us that we need to settle, and all of the world's ills are our fault. Let's not forget the 'clinging to guns and religion,' the 'you didn't build that,' and 'finally proud of our country' elitist comments that are the Obama way of thinking. Then the Democrat party doubled down by setting it up for Hilary to be the nominee.

But let's keep going on these wild goose chases with surveys and polls to yet again continue to demonize the voters. Maybe chose a poll to see who makes the voters feel more insulted by or which candidate would be more trustworthy (different than do you trust). That might be telling. Even so, can't wait to see whose fault is next.

Saying It Like It Is???

He contradicts what he said the day before on a daily basis.

Yes, abortion

but the evangelical Christian Trump voters I know also justified their vote by telling themselves that "Hilary Clinton is worse", having fallen victim to incessant false rhetoric and conspiracy theories. And yes, some still manage believe (because of the bubble in which they live) that Trump is "saying it like it is" despite the continual flow of lies and deception that define his existence.

"Telling it like it is"

Anytime someone starts boasting about "telling it like it is," I immediately think it's code for "I'm a egotistical, inconsiderate boor."

Be careful of the term Calvinism

We need to be careful when we use the term, 'Calvinism." The guy has been gone for 500 years and so called Calvinism has undergone many iterations since then. The most direct descendants of Calvin, the Reformed Churches, don't really use the term any more because their churches are "reformed and always reforming" and after 500 years of this are pretty different from stereotypical Calvinism. The term as used by many people writing in this discussion really does not exist any more.

Karen Sandness does a nice job above with this. I would just add that for many mega-church attendees the Jesus they follow is a fiction in their mind-very detached from the actual historical person and what he said (hidden in the gospels.). And yes these churches don't follow a disciplined lectionary but allow "ministers" to cherry pick and preach on whatever is on their mind. Powerful rhetoric, like-minded people, good coffee, entertainment and stadium seating is a nice way to pass a few Sunday mornings a year but for many that's all there is-not much commitment. When people answer polls and say they are evangelical it is a term of identity not related to the actual correct use of the word and not a commitment to morals or beliefs aside from abortion and gays. Most evangelicals are like Trump's secular voters-pretty committed to Randism.

That said there are fine churches in this genre who are doing good work. This is the change happening in this world and it's a good one.

The doctrine of TULIP is

The doctrine of TULIP is still used to define Calvinism--

http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_41.html

https://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm

One has to wonder at the full theological impact of the point that only some have been chosen to be "saved" regardless of their actions and those who are chosen cannot lose their status as "chosen", regardless of their actions.

But anyway....

(quote)
...It sometimes feels like Calvinists first invoke the five points[TULIP], then apologize for invoking the five points, then explain how the five points don’t really mean what they seem to mean and aren’t really saying what they seem to be saying. This can’t possibly be the best way to introduce people to what we believe....
"The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God’s Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love" Greg Forster"
(end quote)

The Real Reason

Trump said he was against the same thing the conservative evangelicals are against. It wasn't a matter of being in favor of anything. Contemporary American conservatives are defined by their opposition to much of American life as it is now lived.

Trump gave voice to the same hatreds they have, especially the hatred for the amorphous concept of "political correctness." He also hated good and hard on Obama and Hillary without explaining much about what he would have done differently. In fact, the Trump presidency isn't much for explanation and his fans like it that way. As long as he keeps jeering at the same things, he's doing what his acolytes elected him to do.

Mea Culpa

I did rather oversimplify things in my rush to post.
A much more complete discussion is at
http://reflections.yale.edu/article/money-and-morals-after-crash/calvini...
(the Yale divinity school).

Sorry, this is more Both Siderist hoohaw.

Party-line voting is not about a tribalism that infects us all as humans. The unceasingly lazy establishment punditry notwithstanding, the political spectrum is not symmetrical and there is no a priori reason why it should be.

The Republican party has spent the past 50 years forming its base by collecting and cultivating authoritarian followers. It is now, quite decisively, the authoritarian party, as can be seen both from its substantive political goals and from the methods it uses to pursue them. It does not occupy a place on the continuum of democratic values but has made a clean break from that continuum. Those among the Republican base can hold wildly inconsistent attitudes, and turn them on a dime, because a fundamental feature of authoritarian followers (and I would guess that white evangelical Christians rank high in this category) is both the capacity and the eagerness to suspend critical judgment and think what the charismatic leader says to think.

The Republican base votes reliably for Republicans because it is composed of authoritarian followers, and Republicans appeal to authoritarian followers in both message and method. Those who vote reliably for Democrats do so because if one thinks democracy is still something to aspire to, there is no other party left to vote for.

Oh, Lord!

Saying Obama set it up for Trump with the "constant dumbing down of America," is the height of irony. Just admit you're willing to support this person who basically personifies everything you purport to be against: greed, arrogance, dishonesty, cruelty, unreligious, the list goes on. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Could it be tha the answer is real simple ?

That the voters in the title were neither evangelical nor Christian ? After all what do those terms really mean ? Kinda like seven blind folded people trying pin the tale on the elephant while on the floor of Williams arena and being told that you'll find it somewhere in here. And of course no one would be telling them if they were hot or cold ! At the risk of seeming anti-analytical just because a group of people self identify as such and then get the label it just could be other factors that might not being measured might make more difference. I would like to see a survey where people self - identify their degree of aggressive passiveness in a number of different social situations first. And then be asked whom their choice was for President in those terms.

Parable from the familiar one

Michele Bachmann may not speak for all these folks but she nevertheless uttered volumes by comparing Trump to some biblical king who was a heretic and overall bad dude but did God's work, so there.

God is (apparently) a Democrat...

During Obama's time in office Ms. Bachmann told us:

"I believe that what the Bible says is that our nation and the people of our nation will reap a whirlwind,” Bachmann said. “We could see economic disasters, natural disasters. The United States does not want to be in that position and unfortunately the people put into office Barack Obama, not only once but twice, and the people have to rise up against his actions and demand their leaders take steps accordingly.”"

Well, all manner of natural disasters are now befalling us and I am fairly certain that Ms. Bachmann would not want to attribute these to climate change; so, all that reasonably leads to is that God, while kind of OK with Obama, has some real issues with Mr. Trump...

How did they do it?

Plenty of good points made in all these comments, but Karen Sandness comes closest to my own views, and I won't even open the Pandora's box of who qualifies to be an "evangelical minister."

The psychological term that makes the most sense to me in this context is "cognitive dissonance." Humans have proved themselves quite adept at adapting their most cherished beliefs to fit circumstances into which those beliefs would otherwise have to be cast aside in favor of new beliefs.

Most of the "conservative Christians" I've encountered over the past couple decades, whether here in Minnesota or in other places I've lived, are neither genuinely conservative nor genuinely Christian (if the New Testament is to be taken at all seriously). Evangelical Christians were able to persuade themselves to vote for Trump because their Christianity is about as carefully-reasoned and profound as one of Mr. Trump's tweets. Noises about Mrs. Clinton's character flaws are laughable, given the long list of Mr. Trump's public failings. And so on.

We rationalize whenever it seems necessary, and for evangelical Christians, the election of 2016 required a truckload of rationalization.

And never forget:

Rationalization is the key to mental health....

Evangelicals

Notice that no congregation claims Trump or any trump as a member. Notice no significant contributions to a congregation or charity from the self proclaimed "great Christian"

It was the same with Reagan.

It was the same with Reagan. In 1980, evangelicals voted for Reagan, who was not affiliated with any church and who never entered one except for funerals or weddings, over Jimmy Carter, who was actually one of their own, a devout Southern Baptist, well versed in the Bible and theology.

It was during the Reagan administration that the Republicans began playing up gut issues: trying to ban abortion, trying to encourage official prayer in public schools (even though it was never common in the Midwest or West, but just enough time had passed for young parents to forget that), and even, although it sounds silly now, proposing a Constitutional amendment to ban busing for the purposes of integration.

Thus began the Republican-Democratic battle over gut issues. If the Democrats were for gun control, the Republicans were against it. If the Democrats were for reproductive rights, Republicans were against them. And so on and so on. This battling over issues that people will never agree on is getting tedious after 35 years.

Like A Fiddle

Reagan played evangelicals like a fiddle. And they got nothing in return, yet they loved, then and still love him. A divorced man (the scandal!) who never went to church other than for funerals, but they didn't care. He would appoint anti-abortion judges and justices.

And they're still getting played by the economic conservatives nearly 40 years later. Evangelical leaders even promote tax cuts for the comfortable, forgetting Christ came to afflict that crowd. Amazing the way they get used. Just amazing.