I just finished reading Tim Alberta’s masterly new book, “The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism.” It’s a powerful and emotionally resonant account of the transformation in evangelical politics that has brought us to the current moment: A godless man, Donald Trump, may now possess more devoted support from white evangelical Christians than any other president in the history of the United States. And most worrisome of all, that support is now disproportionately concentrated among the most churchgoing segment of the Republican electorate.
One of the troubling aspects of the Trump era for me, as a churchgoing evangelical, has been watching the evolution of his support among white evangelicals. During the 2016 primaries, I took some solace in the fact that Trump’s support seemed to decline the more a voter went to church. According to the 2016 American National Election Studies Pilot Study, he received majority support from white evangelicals who seldom or never attended church, but he received barely over a third of the votes of white evangelicals who attended weekly.
As we headed into the general election, a self-justifying narrative emerged. Countless churchgoing evangelicals told friends and neighbors that Trump had been their last choice among Republicans but that they had to vote for him against Hillary Clinton as the only pro-life option remaining.
Soon enough, however, the churchgoing dynamic flipped. I noticed the change among people I knew before I saw it in the data. After Trump won, folks in the pews warmed up to him considerably, especially those who were most firmly ensconced in evangelical America. Most home-schooling families I knew became militantly pro-Trump. I watched many segments of Christian media become militantly pro-Trump. And I always noticed the same trend: the more fundamentalist the Christians, the more likely they were to be all in. [Continue reading…]