Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Washington Post: Evangelical Christians owe their fellow Americans something better

The Washington Post: Evangelical Christians owe their fellow Americans something better

by Jennifer Rubin

"Going forward, evangelical Christians will find a changed landscape, one in which their influence may be vastly reduced. “The idea that Trump’s most vocal supporters will in the future weigh in on the importance of character in public leaders is risible,” Wehner says. “That argument is now gone, at least for a time. Many Evangelical Christians marched under the banner — some even helped raise the banner — for a man whose personality is characterized by vindictiveness, cruelty and coarseness.” He explains, “They rallied behind a man who in my estimation embodies a Nietzschean ethic rather than a Christian one, and there’s a price that will be paid for that. Trump supporters would say it was worth it in order to prevent a Clinton presidency.”

Where that leaves evangelical Christians, both Trump supporters and opponents, is uncertain. Teetsel says withdrawal from public life is not an option. “The responsibility to love our neighbor and seek the welfare of our communities remains, no matter who is president.” That said, how they engage may change. They would be wise to start out by reflecting on their non-Christian and nonwhite brothers and sisters. Wehner says, “Trump supporters need to think about how they would view things if they were Muslim or Mexican and felt unfairly targeted — or an African American, knowing that the thing that really catapulted Trump into politics was peddling a racist conspiracy about Barack Obama not being born in America.” He muses, “In many ways empathy and sympathy – what Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments referred to as ‘fellow feeling’ — are lost, or at least de-valued, virtues.” Ultimately, however, Wehner, like Teetsel, comes down on the side of engagement, explaining that “politics, for all its mundane aspects and downsides, is still a means through which we pursue justice, protect human dignity and advance human flourishing, and those things are never unimportant.”

Evangelical Christians who justified their decision to back Trump based on Supreme Court picks, will be humiliated if Trump trades a conservative judge for something else he wants — a distinct possibility for a man who shows no convictions beyond self-promotion. Perhaps evangelical conservatives need to not only reflect on their faith but on their political acumen as well. “In the last few decades – and especially in the last year — Christians have often done politics poorly,” Wehner observes. “So do most other groups in democracy. The answer is to do politics better. I think we can, and I hope we do. Because this nation is in a difficult place just now, in need of healing and reform and restoration.” People of different faiths or of no faith at all certainly can agree with that."

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