When allegations about President Bill Clinton’s infidelity emerged in 1998, the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest evangelical denomination, passed a resolution declaring that “moral character matters” for public officials. Back then, the SBC urged Americans to vote for candidates who “demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.”
Two decades later, the fact that most white evangelical Christians are willing to overlook President Donald Trump’s infidelity, his dishonesty, his disparaging rhetoric toward immigrants and refugees, and the multiple accusations of sexual misconduct lodged against him suggests that their views on morality have changed dramatically.
Rev. Adam Taylor, executive director of the progressive Christian group Sojourners, told HuffPost that these evangelical leaders have struck a “Faustian bargain” with the president. As long as Trump continues to support their political agenda, Taylor said, they will turn a blind eye to the “many other ways in which his immoral statements, behaviors and policies contradict the gospel and should assault Christian conscience.”
Taylor said he also fears that this vocal support for the president is exacerbating the perception that evangelicals are “an overly politicized, intolerant and nationalistic movement,” which Taylor believes “misrepresents Christ.”
He pointed to a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. encouraging the church not to be the “master or the servant” of the state but its “conscience.” Taylor said that Campbell and Layman’s analysis confirms his fear that for too many white evangelicals, “their Republican loyalty and identity has become more primary than their Christian identity.”
“Many white evangelicals have made the mistake of trying to become the master of the Republican Party, but, in the process, they have often ended up being a servant to the Republican Party and now increasingly to an amoral president.”