I Thought John Fea Is Evangelical

John linked to a report from Baylor on the outlook of Trump voters. Among those voters are these characteristics:

• are members of white Evangelical Protestant churches

• consider themselves “very religious”

• think of the United States as a Christian nation

• believe that God is actively engaged in world affairs

• fear Muslims and refugees from the Middle East

• believe that women are not suited for politics

• oppose LGBTQ rights

Here’s what’s odd about this finding. I’m betting John and I are on the same side of these bullet points.

He and I consider ourselves very religious.

He and I think the United States is not a Christian nation.

He and I believe likely that God is actively engaged in world affairs since we tend not to be deists.

He and I do not fear necessarily Muslims or refugees from the Middle East, though I bet if those Muslims or refugees had fought for ISIS John might be a little afraid as I would be.

He and I do not think that women are unsuited for politics, though John was far more congenial to Hillary Clinton than I was.

He and I likely overlap on rights for LBGTQ folks, though I also suspect that the extent of those rights might be qualified.

In which case, neither John nor I fit the profile of evangelicals who voted for Trump. And yet, John still self-identifies as evangelical. I do not and have not for at least 25 years.

In which another case, why does John object to Trump as strongly as he does? Is it because he identifies as evangelical even while the majority of evangelicals voted for Trump? That disconnect could make you wonder about the group to which you belong. I imagine if Bruce Springsteen came out in favor of Trump, John would have as much psychic discomfort as I would if Ethan Coen trashed J. Gresham Machen.

In which a third case, isn’t what matters here not someone’s religious w-w but his or her politics? I can belong to a communion that includes (or used to) Kevin Swanson and that’s okay because the OPC does not require fidelity on political or cultural matters. But if you are part of a religious group that includes a wide swath of Protestants and think that faith should inform a lot of what you do — not to mention that the group has been identified with a certain political trajectory for FORTY years, evangelical support for Trump might give you pause. In other words, if you think religion and politics need to be consistent, then you might assume that a self-identified Calvinist is also a political conservative (which Donald Trump is not). But doesn’t that also mean that if you are an evangelical, your politics should align in some way with the rest of the evangelical world? Being evangelical surely doesn’t make you a liberal (though evangelical professors seem to think otherwise). And oh by the way, some of the biggest opponents of Donald Trump like Russell Moore also oppose policies like gay marriage. In other words, you don’t need to oppose Trump and go over to the editorial page of The New Republic.

Even so, nothing on that list of Trump voters’ attributes is inherently Christian.

Regarding those qualities now as sub-Christian is going to take a little more work than simply finding Trump repugnant. Ever since Ronald Reagan, most Christians in either the Democrat and Republican parties would have agreed with those convictions.

In which a fourth case, Donald Trump justifies rewriting the rules governing yucky evangelicalism.

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14 thoughts on “I Thought John Fea Is Evangelical

  1. I didn’t vote for Trump. But it wasn’t because of traits of those who voted for him.

    But a question I have from reading the article is this: Is it ok for our political views to be totally disconnected from our faith?

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  2. “Is it ok for our political views to be totally disconnected from our faith?”

    No it is not OK. However, our political views do not (should not) drive our faith. Cart before the horse.
    This is very difficult for culture warriors, conservative traditionalists, lefty emergents and social gospel types to get a grip on. Both Curt Day on the left and Kevin Swanson on the right get tripped up here.

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  3. We already knew you were not “evangelical”. But it’s a difficult thing to need to keep denying when you continue to renegotiate the meaning of the word “evangelical”. I don’t think it means you have become jaded if you go clear—I don’t mean “erasing your history” but maybe getting past the point of caring what “evangelical” means. As long as the OPC keeps accepting “evangelical” water baptism, it’s going to have to continue to be catholic enough to include Mark Garcia..

    “The anxiety of influence”! Would it be less reactionary if you could stop talking about baptists and evangelicals, and focus on not being what you never were? (Roman Catholic)

    https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/5587/orhan-pamuk-the-art-of-fiction-no-187-orhan-pamuk

    Even though Mencken was burning to write, he did exactly what his father expected: He took a job at the cigar factory. He started out rolling the cigars alongside the other blue-collar men, and he actually enjoyed that manual labor. But when he was promoted to the front office, he was hopelessly bored. He finally mustered up his courage and told his father that he wanted to pursue a career in journalism. His father told him to bring up the subject again in a year. Mencken had been working at his father’s factory for three years when, on New Year’s Eve in 1898, his father had a convulsion and collapsed. His mother told Mencken to get a doctor, 11 blocks down the street, and Mencken later said, “I remember well how, as I was trotting to the doctor’s house on that first night, I kept saying to myself that if my father died I’d be free at last.”

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  4. Here we go again with one of those surveys that stacks the deck before even asking the questions. First of all, where do they define “evangelical” and who are they (evangelicals)? If I take a peek at the 2017 results, the top three highest percentages of responses are “Evangelical Protestant,” “Roman Catholic,” and “Mainline Protestant.” Suppose I’m an LCMS “confessional” Lutheran (i.e., on the historical, conservative side of that denomination). I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a “mainline protestant” (assuming the person in question understands what that means). Nor an RC. But would I consider myself an “evangelical” (assuming the respondent even understands what THAT means)? Maybe so, maybe not. Some might answer yes simply because the word “evangelical” is included in the name of their congregation. Others might answer yes simply because the next door neighbor says he’s one and I pretty much agree with everything he says about his beliefs. But many confessional Lutherans might say no, because they don’t self identify with people who insist on credo baptism (or else), nor with people who don’t necessarily hold any of the ancient creeds in esteem, or with those who consider the Lord’s Supper a mere memorial instead of a visible means of grace, or even some who think the church should be directly involved in political decision making in the U.S. To me, it’s a bogus survey that contains questions similar to the type that Barna uses.

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  5. Even if you had sacrament twice on Sunday, you would still not care about Nevin the way you care about John Fea.

    Williams Evans—“The church is not constituted, as some today curiously allege, by its confession… Rather it is constituted by its spiritual union with the great Head of the church—Jesus Christ. Virtualism tells us we receive the effects of Christ’s saving work RATHER than Christ himself, and that salvation is merely on the basis of what Christ has done RATHER than “in Christ.” As individual Christians do not make up the church; rather, we as individuals become Christians by being incorporated into something much grander and greater than ourselves—the church as the mystical body of Christ.

    https://theecclesialcalvinist.wordpress.com/what-is-poec/

    Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice: A Theology for Everyday Life—Thinking little of the church is still a view of the church. . It allows the Christian to focus instead on what ought to capture his or her attention, namely, the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Our focus turns to the head of the church and away from “a grim ersatz thing carrying the image of Christ but projected onto human nature and therefore intrinsically self-deceived” An “ecclesiology of suspicion” rejects the idea of the church as “original sin-free zone” and limits the church’s authority. No ecclesial form holds ultimate authority. It is Christ who is over churches and the Spirit who moves. Church is at best the caboose to grace… The church stands with the world under the law and ever in need of grace,.

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  6. @George I agree that the options of evangelical, main line protestant, and catholic are limiting and have gaps, but do you really think that if they added confessional protestant to the options the results would change? I suspect that the numbers would fall into the noise (similar to adding Orthodox to the options). They reached out to 11,000 people and the final sample was comprised of 1500 responses. How much do you want to bet that the number of confessional protestants who eschew the label “evangelical” or “mainline” in that pool of 1500 is more than 0?

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  7. sbd – I have to admit that you raise a good point. It may not change the final results much, if all. But it just irks me every time I see some kind of survey, media article, or other publication “lump” all “Lutherans” into one category (in this case usually mainline ELCA) when there are, in fact, ernest confessional people out there who do not subscribe to the same beliefs and practices. I assume those in “sideline” P/R communions experience the same kind of angst when they are viewed by the general populace as just on big mainline (PCUSA) denomination.

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