For two years we’ve seen and heard it everywhere. Eighty-one percent of white evangelical voters chose to cast their vote for Donald Trump. Recently, my colleagues Ed Stetzer and Andrew MacDonald, in partnership with LifeWay Research, conducted a survey that brought more nuance to that 81% number.
They pointed to six key factors in evangelical voters’ approach to the 2016 election that might help differentiate between those identifying as evangelical and those holding evangelical beliefs.
The gist of their findings: There are several nuanced issues among evangelicals by belief that led them to vote for Trump. Understanding those nuances might help soften the perceived blow that accompanies looking at voting trends in the 2016 election.
Unenthusiastic and Apathetic?
One surprising data point from the research found that many evangelicals proverbially held their noses while voting for Trump, unenthusiastic about him as a candidate. For many, it was less about casting a vote for Trump and more about casting a vote against Hillary Clinton. Seeing these votes as begrudging ballots helps contextualized the number of white evangelical voters who voted for Trump. In that way, the data is beneficial.
While the data tells one story, I’m worried about the perception of apathy among evangelicals surrounding some of the President’s actions. In some instances, it’s more than a perception of indifference—it’s outright defense. Some are dumbfounded by a level of apathy or defense for issues that seem ripe for critique from the Christian community.
It’s hard to process data that says many evangelicals were unenthusiastic about Trump as a candidate when some apathetically ignore some of his words and actions as the President.
I’m not talking about Supreme Court nominations, the economy, and other issues the study also found were important to evangelicals. I’m talking about things that Christians should hold out as important matters—like honesty, character, and integrity.
If so many evangelicals held their noses voting from Trump, then why is it so difficult for some to criticize the President when he says or does something that doesn’t align with the evangelical worldview—or embodies common human decency?
Why is it hard to call a lie a lie, even when it comes from the West Wing? Why is it, as the data shows, we’ve lowered the bar over the years on character in a political leader’s personal life?
For Blacks, Character Still Very Important
One group increasingly asking this question is African-American Christians. Trump has a 3% approval rating in the African-American community as a whole. This hardly fits the narrative that black unemployment falling to record lows makes him an endearing figure among African-Americans.
African-Americans have seen the tweets and heard the statements. Low IQ. Crazy. Unhinged. Dog. Crime loving. Disrespectful. These are just a few of the descriptive terms President Trump has used to describe Black men and women throughout his presidency. And this isn’t new behavior.
Before becoming the commander in chief, the Department of Justice sued Trump’s organization for discrimination against African-Americans in his renting practices. Trump also took out a full-page ad in four New York City newspapers calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five—five minorities accused of raping a jogger in Central Park.
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Source: Christianity Today