There is a fascinating and powerful article over on the Atlantic’s website this week. Evangelical Fear Elected Trump, John Fea writes that you can only understand evangelicalism, and evangelicals’ support of Trump, if you realize that it the movement is shot through with terror. The evangelicals are terrified of pretty much everything—racial minorities, other religions or even other forms or Christianity, women…you name it.
And this great fear has been at the heart of Evangelicalism since its origins. Whether it was Salem’s witches, Jefferson’s Freethinkers, Boston’s Irish Catholics, Southern Blacks, or today’s Hispanics, that unique sort of Protestant known as an Evangelical has looked at the world and seen endless threats and terrors.
Which is ironic, says Fea, because Christianity is at heard a religion of courage—a faith based on the idea that the powerless and poor could stand up to empires with the aid of a motivating belief. To this end, Fea notes, “But other evangelical options are available. Evangelicals are people of hope, not fear. The practice of Christian hope points us to a life beyond this world, but it also requires us to act in such a way that models God’s coming kingdom. The Kingdom of God is characterized by the love of enemies, the welcoming of strangers, the belief in the human dignity of all people, a humble and self-sacrificial posture toward public life, and a trust in the sovereign God of the universe. Fear is a natural human response to social change, but evangelicals betray their deepest spiritual convictions when they choose to dwell in it.”
In short, the great irony is that many in the Evangelical community make a fetish of their own toughness. In point of fact, they are cowards to the core. And the tradition of bravery in Christ’s teaching is utterly alien to them.