The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll, originally published in 1994 by Wm. B. Eerdmans, now available in several formats, including audio. (If you follow the link and purchase the book I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.)
I am going to assume that you have already read or will read my review of this book over at my main site, Intentional Living. As I said there, this is a dense, challenging book that will reward readers who take it on.
For the purpose of this post, however, I want to concentrate specifically on some ideas that help explain why so many earnest, sincere Evangelical/ Fundamentalist Christians felt that they had to vote for a lying, cheating, adulterous playboy with a pro-choice Liberal Democratic background and a profane, vulgar vocabulary. Their votes reflected a failure of the mind in several different areas. I hope the following won’t sound too scathing, but we are in a predicament today that does not allow for mincing of words. America has elected an utterly unfit man to the Presidency, and Evangelicals helped to put him there. Why?
A careful reading of Noll’s book (published in 1994) and equally careful observations of our current political landscape yield the following answers, which by no means exhaust the entire story but which point to the main issue, which is that those sincere people in the pews have not been encouraged to think deeply for themselves, on a biblical foundation, with careful attention to the issues at hand. Indeed, many Evangelical church members simply asked their pastors for whom they should vote. (John MacArthur said as much in a video I was sent by a friend.) And the pastors obliged. What did they, and other conservative/Religious Right leaders, say?
1. They promulgated a “sloppy equivalency” between specific figures in Scripture and Donald Trump. So we had this whole laughable theory that Donald Trump was the new Cyrus, come to lead American Christians back to the Promised Land. Or he was the re-embodiment of King David, because, let’s see, David committed adultery (and murder) and Donald Trump committed adultery, so they’re exactly the same! And we should forgive Donald Trump, just like God forgave David! I hope I don’t have to go into an explanation of how absurd, and indeed how blasphemous, this whole line of reasoning is. Hey, folks, we don’t get to forgive people’s sins for them!
2. They encouraged a reading of Scripture that leads to belief in conspiracy theories. This was an insight from Noll’s book that had never occurred to me before. But if you have this bent for interpreting biblical prophecy in the light of current events it’s inevitable that you’re going to start looking for dark schemes behind everything. And yet Christians who read their Bibles carefully already know what the dark scheme behind everything is: “the whole world lies in the power of the wicked one” (I John 5:19 ESV). We know that a vast drama is being played out between God and Satan, we know that God is in control and that His victory is assured, and we should therefore realize that it’s not up to us to figure out how every event in world history fits into that grand scheme. That type of presumptuous thinking (“I know what’s going on!”) leads to all sorts of rabbit trails.
3. They therefore encouraged apocalyptic thinking: “It’s now or never!” “This will be the end of America as we know it!” etc., etc., etc. The problem is, we’re always being told that. Just as in #2 above, when the apocalypse doesn’t take place our credibility as Christians takes another hit.
4. They emphasized one main issue almost to the exclusion of all others: abortion. When word got out that I was planning to vote (and indeed did vote) for Hillary Clinton, I was immediately accused of being pro-abortion, when I was actually just refusing to take the word of a Liberal pro-choice Democrat (Donald Trump) who was pretending to be a conservative pro-life Republican. As I said until I was weary and my hand clave to the hilt of my sword, “Vote for the person who can be intelligently opposed.” But because Trump was willing to say that he was pro-life, many sincere people were guilted into voting for him. (And yes, we got Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. He’s a great guy–but the price for him was too high. I’ll get to a consideration of that idea in a later post on this site.)
This is a vast topic, but I’m going to stop with the four brief points I’ve made. Below I’m listing some of the articles I’ve read over the past year and a half that directly address the issues above. All are thoughtful and worthwhile. Take your pick, or read them all. And be sure to head over to my personal Facebook page to read dozens and dozens more!
“If Donald Trump Has Done Anything, He Has Snuffed Out the Religious Right” by Russell Moore
“Why This Election Makes Me Hate the Word ‘Evangelical‘” by Russell Moore
“Why Christians Should Not Succumb to the Apocalyptic Language of the Election” by Russell Moore
“Pro-Lifers are Being Guilted into Voting for Roy Moore Even Though Morality is Multi-Faceted” by Kimberly Ross, a writer with extensive pro-life credentials. The Alabama Senate race was the 2016 Presidential election writ small, and this time the monstrosity was kept out of government. Many Evangelicals stayed home rather than vote for Moore, who sexual escapades were only a part of what made him unfit for office.
“Donald Trump Would Set Back the Pro-Life Cause More Than Hillary Would” by Matthew Loftus
“Seven Reasons You Should Vote for Hillary instead of Donald” by Daniel Payne–read the first few paragraphs and see if he isn’t pretty prescient.
“I’ll Take Hillary Clinton Over Donald Trump” by Tom Nichols