I have been pondering for a long time the support of Evangelicals in the U.S. for Donald Trump. I can see that he’s broadly pro-life like me and that he’s prepared to carry out his diplomacy in Israel “for the Evangelicals”. I also know that bipartisan politics means that you always have to choose the lesser of two evils. But I still don’t get how the Evangelical voting bloc in the U.S. can so strongly support a man whose life seems to me to be so distant from the personal holiness, wisdom, patience, generosity, courage, faith, hope and love which are the basic requirements for leadership in the New Testament and the foundations of society in the Old Testament. I can’t see how they can stand seeing him waving a bible around like it’s a symbol of his divine right to rule when he seems so unfamiliar with it’s contents.
I may have had an epiphany this morning. A recent biennial survey of beliefs and attitudes in the U.S. by Lifeway Research and Ligonier Ministries found that 30% of U.S. Evangelicals believe that Jesus was merely a good teacher. If this is true, it means that U.S. Evangelicals are something rather different from UK Evangelicals.
Evangelical is not a label which is likely to endear you to the U.K. mainstream press. It’s still how I self-identify though. We are the Christians who read and love the bible. We’re the ones who think it would do you good to repent, be baptised, be filled with the Holy Spirit and follow Jesus. We think that faith and action are unbreakably joined together in every sphere of personal and political life. We believe that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus were the central act of all human history, revealing once and for all the love and the power of God. The word evangelical comes from the Greek work for good news. It’s a word I like.
The Evangelical Alliance UK represent a million Evangelicals. We’re not a voting bloc. We vote for parties across the spectrum. Read the EAUK statement of faith and you will see that Jesus is the living object of our worship and our present ultimate authority as well as an historical good moral example. This is the kind of view of Jesus which is plainly held by the first Christians as portrayed in the New Testament. We’re aware that some Christians, some quasi-Christians and some ex-Christians have reinterpreted or moved on from this Christology, to one with a nice first century chap kind of a Jesus but we still believe it, like it and live it.
I was already aware that evangelical is simply a synonym for protestant in mainland Europe and that it is often used in the UK to mean uneducated, antiscientific and bigoted. Is it possible that Evangelical in the US is now a label only loosely linked to the teachings of Jesus and the bible and more closely linked to an ill-defined set of socially conservative, young earth creationist, second amendment, America-first values? This would be a shame. It means further constant qualifying my use of the word as a self-identifier. Maybe I need a new label? Part of me hopes it’s true though. It would be good to think that my links with this Trump-voting bloc were simply etymological. Maybe Evangelical is just like trunk or pants – a word that means something different stateside?