Revelations: The political beliefs of evangelical Christians

Einer Sache bin ich mir sicher: mit solchen „Mitchristen“ will ich nichts zu tun haben! (hfk)   

Date: 29-06-2017
Source: The Economist

Personal morality in politics is negotiable

TEN MINUTES BEFORE the Sunday morning service begins at the Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia, shuttle buses are ferrying worshippers from the north and south car parks to the church’s 3,000-seat auditorium. Newcomers are being welcomed with coffee and doughnuts in the Connections Lounge. Inside, the church is equipped with a lighting rig and sound system as for a gig by a soft-rock band. Most of the service is taken up with Christian pop, the congregation listening rather than singing along. This Pentecostal church has grown rapidly over the past decade, thanks to its charismatic pastor, Jentezen Franklin (pictured). It now has several campuses around the country, funded by the tithes paid by regular churchgoers. Mr Franklin is a member of Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board.

Back in 2011, white evangelicals were the most likely group to say that personal morality was important in a president, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. Since Mr Trump became the Republican standard-bearer, they have become the least likely group to say that, changing what seems like a fundamental issue of morality to accommodate their support for the president.

One possible explanation for this swift change of heart is that many of those who identify themselves in surveys as evangelicals are not as religious as they seem. But Greg Smith of the Pew Research Centre says that idea is not supported by Pew’s polling of different religious groups, which shows that most self-described evangelicals are fairly observant. According to Pew, the president’s approval rating among white evangelicals is close to 80%, even though some of the younger ones are appalled by him.How do evangelicals explain their support for a thrice-married adulterer whose biographers have not found a man preoccupied with his salvation? “He doesn’t pretend to be anything he’s not,” says Ed Henry, a state senator for Alabama. Mr Henry is one of a number of Alabama lawmakers who spent months pursuing his state’s governor (himself a prominent Baptist) for covering up an extramarital affair. He sees no conflict between this and support for Mr Trump. Other evangelicals mention the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as evidence that what they perceive as a long assault on them from the judicial branch is now over.

In the Free Chapel, Mr Franklin is recounting a recent visit to the White House for dinner. Cheers and applause greet the first mention of the president’s name. “I’m so glad that the Lord’s Prayer is being prayed in the White House,” he tells the congregation. Most of his sermon does not touch on politics; instead, he uses the visit to the White House to show what can happen when the faithful throw off self-doubt. He returns to the president at the end. “I prophesy that God will open big doors for his people in 2017,” he declares, before sending the faithful out, squinting in the bright Georgia sunshine.

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