The Evangelicals’ Trump Obsession Has Tarnished Christianity

The recent death of Christian evangelist Luis Palau, the “Billy Graham of Latin America,” has me thinking about how the Trump era has affected the ability of Christians to share the good news about Jesus’ salvation with a diverse and skeptical world. According to his New York Times obituary, Palau “was especially aware of the common assumption that evangelicals are rabid right-wingers,” so he sought to compensate by holding “festivals” in progressive cities. “In New England, when you say ‘Christian,’ they think ‘those maniacs on the right,’” Palau told the Times in 2001. “I want to show that we are not maniacs but that we are well educated. This is a rational faith, but a faith that fires you up.” If you believe, as Palau did (and as I do), that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life,” then it makes sense to share the good news with everyone you can—yes, including college-educated urbanites and progressives. That’s what Palau did.

But what happens when so many of Christ’s messengers have sacrificed their credibility and moral high ground by allying with a controversial political figure such as, say, Donald Trump? What happens when Jesus’ brand ambassadors to a lot of Americans are Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell Jr., not Billy Graham and Pope Francis, much less Jesus himself? In today’s climate, you might be forgiven for thinking that Christians are, as Palau worried we would be perceived, “maniacs.”

Evangelical Christians thought lining up behind a Trump was worth it; they couldn’t be more wrong. The cost-benefit analysis that led them to support him as the “lesser of two evils” in 2016 didn’t factor in the long-term damage he, in fact, is still doing.

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