Opinion

Where are the Trump evangelicals now?

President Trump, center, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, delivers remarks at Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 25, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

(RNS) The Trump administration is off to a very bad start.  It seems as if he and his staff cannot tell the truth.

Last Saturday (Jan. 21), President Trump told his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to lie about the crowd size at his inauguration.

On Sunday, Kellyanne Conway, a Trump senior adviser, said Spicer was not lying, he was just offering “alternative facts.”

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Trump is still claiming millions of votes were cast illegally in the November 2016 election.

Trump’s claims about the size of the crowds at his inauguration and widespread voter fraud are simply not true. Either he is woefully misinformed, has allowed his narcissistic personality to get in the way of the facts or is deliberately trying to deceive the American people. All three are probably true.

Christians believe that lying is a sinful practice.

The last time I checked, Christians stood for things that are true. With this in mind, why don’t I hear a massive chorus of evangelical Christians – especially the 81 percent of Christians who voted for Trump – calling the POTUS to task?

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Where are the marches? Where are the appearances on cable news? Where are the blog posts and tweets? Where is the outrage from evangelical pulpits, especially among preachers who are intent upon using their influence to build a Christian culture?

Where is the voice of Robert Jeffress today? The Dallas megachurch pastor was one of the earliest evangelical leaders to support Trump. At the pre-inaugural prayer service, Jeffress used the Old Testament book of Nehemiah to praise Trump for his plan to build a wall to keep out immigrants and protect our borders against enemies. Jeffress believes that Trump was called by God to be our president.

(RNS1-jan8) Dr. Robert Jeffress reads from the Bible. For use with RNS-JEFRESS-OBAMA, transmitted on January 8, 2014, Photo by David Edmonson, courtesy of First Baptist Church, Dallas, TX

Robert Jeffress reads from the Bible. Photo courtesy of David Edmonson/First Baptist Church, Dallas

Jeffress fashions himself as a spiritual adviser to Trump. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew prophets called their kings to task for their immorality. They challenged kings to lead justly. I hope Jeffress is doing this behind the scenes right now.

Jeffress’ Pathway to Victory website includes a devotional titled “Telling the Truth.” He writes:

Although lying is rampant and socially acceptable in our culture, it violates one of God’s most foundational principles for living. … God desires for us at all times to speak the truth.

Back in 2008, Jeffress wrote a book titled “Outrageous Truth.” One of these  “outrageous truths” is the idea that “America is a Christian nation.”

Jeffress believes that our democratic republic is built upon Judeo-Christian principles. Most evangelical Christians who think this way also believe that the republic will ultimately crumble if the people and their leaders do not conform to Judeo-Christian morality. If Jeffress is such a great champion of a Christian nation built on the foundation of truth, where is the outrage over Trump’s blatant lies?

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And where is Jerry Falwell Jr. today?  He is the president of a university. Does Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world, value the pursuit of truth? I think it does.

So why isn’t Falwell on Fox News speaking out against the lies emanating from the leader of the free world?

Why isn’t he standing up before the thousands of students at convocation and defending truth? Why isn’t he saying Trump’s lies run contrary to the kind of evidence-based thinking that I am sure nearly all of the professors at Liberty try to teach their students?

How much longer will Christian leaders like Jeffress and Falwell, and the people that they represent, sit by and let POTUS lie to us in this way?

As long as politics are more important than speaking truth to power, don’t expect to hear from the Trump evangelicals anytime soon.

By the way, if you are looking for them you might find them at their kitchen tables eating a mess of pottage.

(John Fea teaches American history at Messiah College, a Christian liberal arts college in Mechanicsburg, Pa. He blogs daily at www.thewayofimprovement.com)

This story is available for republication.

About the author

John Fea

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