From the very beginning of the white Evangelical embrace of Donald Trump, there have been a series of raging debates about how that embrace would affect the church. Will the about-face on, say, the importance of character in politicians alienate people from the church? Will the policy gains from a Republican president be “worth” the partisan anger?
But here’s a question that wasn’t asked quite enough. Will Evangelical devotion to Trump change the nature of Evangelicalism itself? Studying American religion is a complex exercise, one that requires sorting through vast amounts of data. It can sometimes be difficult to draw hard-and-fast conclusions, but here’s one that seems a bit surprising:
Between 2016 and 2020, white Evangelicalism grew, and it likely grew because of Donald Trump…
…What seems to be happening at scale isn’t so much the growth of white Evangelicalism as a religious movement, but rather the near-culmination of the decades-long transformation of white Evangelicalism from a mainly religious movement into a Republican political cause.
Why do I say the transformation is political and not religious? A key metric here is church attendance. An increasing number of self-described Evangelicals go to church rarely or not at all. The numbers are remarkable…
I suppose the questions raised will be resolved in a classic American manner. Follow the money! It ain’t rolling into the coffers of long-established evangelical churches. No brick-and-mortar surrounding a safe filled with a Sunday morning take. I imagine most of this newly-minted godly geedus reaches the leaders of various Trumpublican flocks via a PO Box or any one of a kajillion-electron-money-factories online.