Apparently, the candidacy of Donald Trump is splitting evangelicals. Trump presents them with the ultimate dilemma: As president, Hillary Clinton and a Democratically-controlled Senate could change the Supreme Court in ways highly antithetical to evangelicals. Today’s Houston Chronicle quotes Robert Jeffress of the Dallas First Baptist Church as saying, “…in the end, the election is a binary choice between a pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-conservative justices on the Supreme Court candidate, and a candidate who embraces just the opposite.”
On the other hand, by supporting Trump, evangelicals must countenance a candidate who has expressed and even boasted in the coarsest terms of his vile attitudes and lewd actions against women, and that is just the tip of the iceberg of scurrility that is this man’s character. As conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer notes, Trump’s views on women had been on display for years before the disclosure of the recent “Access Hollywood” sex tape, “And he had offered a dazzling array of other reasons for disqualification: habitual mendacity, pathological narcissism, profound ignorance and an astonishing dearth of basic human empathy.”
So, do evangelicals vote for a leering creep whose character is in gross opposition to some of the most basic professed Christian ideals, yet who promises to nominate ideologically congenial justices? If they do, how seriously are the rest of us to take their commitment to their purported Christian ideals? Some of us have been cynical about the religious right all along, seeing it as essentially a political movement promoting an extremist ideology, a movement actuated far more by an aspiration to power than any commitment to traditional Christian values. Evangelicals who support Trump abundantly confirm that cynical suspicion.