GOP Hypocrisy

Evangelicals Contend With Stopping Trumpism Because It’s Tearing Apart Their Churches

Politics and religion don't mix. That's why the Founders worked so hard to separate them.

It’s a tale as old as time: Religious leaders, recognizing their followers’ susceptibility to suggestion, inject their personal politics into sermons. That’s not new or surprising. But it is dangerous, and not just to political discourse in America.

The rise and fall of Donald Trump is perhaps the best example ever of why a mixture of faith and “freedom” can be so toxic. Now churches are dealing with the fallout of an administration that twisted not just the beliefs but the priorities of their attendees.

A new piece in The Atlantic by a speechwriter for George W. Bush lays bare the issues that faith leaders now face. Even the internal politics of churches are in disarray at this point, with Trumpian congregants deliberately derailing the election of elders who weren’t sufficiently admiring of the former president.

One can see the same in school board elections and city council elections and countless other venues in which radical Trump adherents attempt to take control of decision-making in areas they believe Trump has not been enough of an influence.

But churches hold so much more sway over conservative voters that it’s hard to imagine a more effective way to ensure loyalty to Trump policies — and even false beliefs — than a complete takeover by Trump acolytes.

And just like Republican politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Matt Gaetz use misleading statements and outright lies to convince their followers, those inside the church who have decided to value Trump over Jesus are telling other parishioners ridiculous things in order to get their support.

That’s what happened at McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia, where ultra-right-wingers successfully convinced gullible churchgoers that elders were planning on selling their church to Muslims, who would then convert the property into a mosque. It was total nonsense, of course, but it was enough to deny leadership roles to three elders who had previously been widely expected to win election within the megachurch.

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Similar falsehoods about critical race theory and “wokeness” leveled against the MBC elders aren’t limited to the one church, either. Leaders have been forced out of prominent roles all over the country by small groups of dedicated Trump followers who will stop at nothing to ensure that Jesus’ message of justice for the poor and oppressed is replaced by America-first jingoism and loyalty to a specific brand of politics: Hate.

Can those who still preach peace and love reclaim their flocks from the influence of peddlers of intolerance? It’s hard to tell, but it’s likely to play out on a national stage well before we have another presidential election.

Andrew Simpson
meet the author

Andrew is a dark blue speck in deep red Southwestern Arizona, writing with the conviction of 17 years at the keyboard and too much politics to even stand. When not furiously stabbing the keys on breaking news stories, he writes poetry, prose, essays, haiku, lectures, stories for grief therapy, wedding ceremonies, detailed instructions on making doughnuts from canned biscuit dough (more sugar than cinnamon — duh), and equations to determine the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. A wife, three kids, and a grandson round out the story, and in his spare time, Andrew loves to think about how nice it would be to have spare time.

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