This is a post that has been on my mind for a while. Recent developments in evangelicalism tell me its the time to compose this post. American evangelicalism is going to fracture into two camps. The cause of the split will be Donald Trump and Christian nationalism. Expect pain, division of churches and families to continue and Christian nationalism to lead to the demise of evangelicalism. Evangelicals are going to have to pick sides, and many will choose wrong and end up on the wrong side of history as many have done already.
Its coming, and it will be painful for many evangelicals. Other white evangelicals are so lost they will run off the cliff like lemmings with joy when Christian nationalism fractures white evangelicalism. Before I get into this post let’s look at two previous claims that will lay the foundation of this post. A well known claim by Michael Spencer and John Fea.
Remembering Michael Spencer’s Coming Evangelical Collapse
At the blog The Internet Monk on January 27, 2009 Michael Spencer wrote a post. A post which put him on the map and was carried by a lot of press and noticed nationally. Michael Spencer wrote a blog post about the coming evangelical collapse. He predicted that many will leave evangelicalism and society and culture will react to the situation. The post is a warning about evangelicals who have engaged in the culture wars. Evangelicals have also failed to pass on the faith to those who are younger. Christian education is not doing the job it should. The collapse will weaken missional work and occur in places that are known for their evangelicalism like the Midwest or the South. If you are not familiar with Michael Spencer’s classic post you can read it in, “Guest Editorial: Coming Evangelical Collapse.”
Remembering John Fea’s July 2017 Washington Post Op-Ed on How Trump Will Change American Christianity for the Worse
In July of 2017 John Fea of Messiah College wrote an op-ed at The Washington Post that has aged exceptionally well. In this blog’s view this article remains his most important article John Fea has contributed when it comes to the issue of Christian nationalism. This blog believes that in the future in history courses this article will be used to study what happened during this era of American history. In his article Fea writes about the “Court Evangelicals” like Robert Jeffress and others like him. He then proceeds to write about how evangelicalism isn’t changing Trump. Instead its Trump who is warping American evangelicalism. And in embracing Trump evangelicals made a decision to compromise Christianity in the long term. Many white evangelicals will support Trump at all costs and they will compromise their faith. They will sell themselves out. Nothing Trump can do will cause a Court Evangelical to challenge or call out Trump. In embracing Trump white evangelicals have married faith with white nationalism, xenophobia and racism. And in the process white evangelicals built a wall between themselves and black evangelicals. And for those who were of the 18% who didn’t support Trump their message is that they don’t belong in evangelicalism. This blog would encourage you to read the Washington Post op-ed in, “Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity.”
The Patriot Church Network is the Start of the Fracture in American Evangelicalism
For me what triggered this post is the development of the Patriot Church movement or network that rose from the era of Donald Trump. The Patriot Church movement is a growing group of churches that openly advocates and advance Christian nationalism. Recently I wrote about the Patriot Church movement in the following post, “A Look At the Patriot Church Network and an Examination of Its Problems.” The Patriot Church movement is the beginning of the end of American evangelicalism. This is the start of evangelicalism being spiritually suicidal and consuming itself from within. What history will remember Ken Peters, Jay McPherson and Jason Binder for is the destruction of evangelicalism inside the United States. These individuals who are starting this movement are the tipping point who are going to known in the history books for the destruction of evangelical faith inside this country. And that is how their descendants will remember them. The Patriot Church movement is like a cancer, or a group of cancer cells who pose a great harm to the organization where it resides. This deviance is going to fracture evangelicalism into two camps and it allows an issue that exists below the surface to come to the top and be honest about one thing. Many parts of American evangelicalism are not about faith. They are about politics and this allows this warped development to continue.
Dolchstosslegende and Trumpism Being a Religious Movement
In 2020 white evangelicals continue to attach themselves to Donald Trump. According to NPR and the Guardian white evangelicals voted 75% for Trump in 2020. That was a minor fall from 81% in 2016. But evangelical support for Trump historically is actually higher overall than for other Republican presidential candidates. After all while Trump had a high of 81% Mitt Romney had 79% while John McCain had 72% and George W Bush had 78%.
But there is something else that will happen that will fuel the Christian nationalism in the United States and led to the fracture of American evangelicalism. Donald Trump is contesting the election and saying he was cheated, that there was fraud and that he won. His supporters, including many white evangelical Christians are going along and accepting the claims. Why? Because many have white grievances and falsely believe they are being “persecuted.” This blog has written about the fallacy of persecution in inside the United States. Its a myth. American evangelicals in the United States come no where close to what Christians in China, Syria, Iraq or elsewhere experience. Many white evangelicals live in their own bubble cut off from reality. This warped thinking alongside Trumps’ claims will lay the foundation of “Dolchstosslegence” or the stab in the back legend amongst white evangelicals. The stab in the back legend is how Germany explained its defeat in World War I. What the legend stated is that Germany was on the verge of winning World War I when it was betrayed from within. The German military was stabbed in the back and that is why it failed in the German war effort at the end in 1918. Adolf Hitler who was a soldier in WW I seized on the theory and blamed the Jews during the Weimar Republic years. When he wrote his Mein Kampf he pushed this theory. If you would like to read more about this theory Global Security has a good write up of it here.
So Trump is going to proclaim that he was stabbed in the back. Cheated. That he was on the verge of winning when the election was stolen. Many white evangelicals are going to buy into that theory and believe it. After all for many white evangelicals Trumpism is a religion that supplements their Christian faith. Others have gone farther and called it a cult. Steven Hassan who writes heavily about religious cults has focused on Trumpism being a cult and even publishing a book about it. Called, “The Cult of Trump” Hassan explained his views not long ago to Vox.
So here is the scenario…you have many white evangelicals into Trumpism who are practicing this faith system who will seize Trump’s narrative and embrace the stab in the back legend. These white evangelicals will embrace Christian nationalism and go down that path and it will lead to an evangelical schism.
People like Paula White have been mainstreamed these past four years and many more evangelicals have been exposed to the likes of prosperity theologians like her.
Other Factors That Will Lead to the Fracture of American Evangelicalism Through Christian Nationalism
There are many reasons why this fracture is going to happen. Let’s look at the reasons why this fracture will take place.
- Many evangelical pastors are not prepared for this coming threat. They are not trained to identify Christian nationalism. Seminaries will have again failed them to identify this and call it out. Other pastors are too scared to speak out knowing that their congregation will reject them and conduct an insurrection against the pastor.
- There are way too many evangelical churches that currently flirt with Christian nationalism. The number I think would stun many people if it came to be known how many churches struggle with this topic. Many evangelical churches will come out and embrace Christian nationalism and they will push the divide in evangelicalism.
- In many evangelical churches Fox News has supplemented the pastor and the Bible. For way too many white evangelicals the Gospel comes from Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingram, or Sean Hannity. The Bible I would contend for many evangelicals is no longer relevant. The Bible is translated through Fox News. In addition many pastors and evangelicals are susceptible to misinformation and dishonest alternative media. Facebook became a good breeding ground for alterative facts and to fan the flames from echo chambers. Organizations like Breitbart, or The Gateway Pundit and social media and like minded alternative media will encourage the schism and evangelicals will follow and listen to them in the process.
- There are way too many white evangelicals who are into conspiracy theories. They can’t tell fact from fiction and in an emotional strain they will run with conspiracy theories. Issues like Q Anon and/or racial conspiracy theories happen heavily in white evangelicalism. How many white evangelicals embraced birtherism and thought that Obama was born in Kenya and not Hawaii? All I had to do is look at my social media feeds and see how many white evangelicals I knew jumped on the train of conspiracy theories. Worse the rejection by many white evangelicals of science and evolution as well as education has resulted in many white evangelicals to embrace conspiracy theories. The way to combat conspiracy theories is education, and yet many white evangelicals are skeptical of education as they call it “elitist.” Some of these evangelicals are a lost cause and will not listen to reason. After all way too many white evangelicals live in a world of fear. And evangelicalism has taught them one thing…to fear their neighbor, those who are different or those who do not think like them.
- Prosperity theology has been mainstreamed in the Trump era. Fringe personalities in the prosperity gospel movement. Recently Paula White wrote a column in Christianity Today. Did you ever imagine in your lifetime that such a flaky personality like Paula White would be given access to such a prominent magazine in evangelicalism?
The Fracture Will Be Painful for Many People
When the fracture in evangelicalism takes place it will be painful. It will divide families, friends, churches, seminaries and more. Brothers and sisters will be divided as one goes the Christian nationalist route and as one refuses. But the fracture will reveal quite about about evangelicalism. And some of that we have learned from white evangelicals in the Trump era. Many white evangelicals are spiritually lost and don’t know what Christianity is about. If you were to ask Christians what is missionary work, or what is the book of Romans, Galatians, 1 John, or Esther is about they could not tell you.
Because many are consumed by prosperity theology and spiritually lost. Many evangelicals are Biblically illiterate. And their ignorance is going to continue as evangelicalism is permanently broken. This fracture will show how broken and lost much of white evangelicalism is as a movement. This is why many white evangelicals will go the Christian nationalism route. Expect Southern Baptist, non-denom, some EFCA churches and others to go this route. This will be difficult for many people and can not be stopped. The die is cast and this will commence in time. And many will chose wrongly and go down the wrong path. It will be interesting to see how this post ages in time.