Theo Anderson writes: Donald Trump is deeply divisive among the Republican base of white evangelical Christians in the U.S. In a recent story on NPR, one evangelical called the billionaire New Yorker a “reprehensible” and “wicked” man. A popular evangelical novelist, Joel Rosenberg, has said Trump “would be an absolute catastrophe as president.” Even so, Trump has done well enough among conservative Christians to become the GOP’s presumptive nominee. In May’s decisive primary in Indiana, where about half of Republican voters were white evangelicals, exit polls showed Trump winning their votes by a margin of six points over Texas Senator Ted Cruz. They preferred a man who has been married three times, and who has been pro-choice much of his life, to the most outspoken evangelical Republican in the race. Why?
Trump has promised to seal off the nation’s borders from perceived “outside” threats, namely Mexicans and Muslims. His signature policy proposal is to build a wall along the entire southern border, and he has called for a moratorium on allowing Muslims into the U.S. These proposals, and his habit of stirring up fears related to nationality and religion, no doubt speak powerfully to many his supporters. But that animus isn’t the primary source of Trump’s appeal among white conservative Christians.
For more than a century, white evangelicals have been unsettled and infuriated by what they view as the nation’s subversion — not by forces outside the nation’s borders, but those within its most powerful institutions. These actors have corrupted and secularized one sector after another, evangelicals argue, especially universities, public schools, and the federal government. [Continue reading…]