Tuesday, January 09, 2018


In a recent First Things essay, Darren Guerra observed, as have other Christian writers, that fault lines are springing up within the Evangelical movement. The cause of the fissures? Donald Trump.

For example, Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Conservative think tank, has decided to shed the Evangelical and Republican labels, citing his concerns about Donald Trump’s impact on both groups.

Ross Douthat, a Conservative Roman Catholic, recently observed in his New York Times column that  Donald Trump “has forced a crisis in evangelicalism.”

Guerra believes that Douthat is right and goes further. He subdivides the current Evangelical “movement into three distinct groups: Jacksonian, Tocquevillian, and elites.

Jacksonians are, for the most part, from rural America’s working classes. They found their “champion” in Donald Trump when Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party abandoned them for the wealthy. According to Guerra, Jacksonians are Trump loyalists who “will not abandon Trump unless he abandons them first.”   

Tocquevillian Evangelicals  “possess more social capital than Jacksonians. They attend church regularly, have strong family ties, and wide circles of friends, are active in churches and voluntary organizations and work steadily.”
Elite Evangelicals are “the institutional and intellectual leaders of the Evangelical world.” I can’t describe it any further than that. I don’t know any elites.
I’ve given it some thought and I’ve decided that Peter Wehner is right. The label “Evangelical” doesn’t paint a full picture of his faith, or mine for that matter. There’s much more to the Christian faith than labels, political affiliation, or political power.
I’ve never been a Donald Trump supporter, nor will I ever be, despite the claims some of my critics make. That doesn’t mean I don’t have great affinity for some Trump supporters. I know many of them. We share a common faith. I consider them friends. I would never willingly abandon those relationships.
I’m only one part of the world-wide Christian movement. My thinking and affinities are neo-Pentecostal/Charismatic/Emergent. My identity is Christian, nothing more, nothing less.
I can best illustrate what I’m trying to communicate by describing an experience I had over the New Years’ weekend in Kansas City.
Saturday morning my wife needed some things from the grocery store, so off I went to Cosentino’s in the Power and Light district. I got quite a surprise when I got there. The place was mobbed; there were young people everywhere. Some were in long lines at the cash registers. Some were sitting in the aisles, eating breakfast meals they’d purchased at the buffet. They were engaged in animated conversations. I didn’t know what to make of it. I thought perhaps there had been a power failure in the city and the crowds were trying to make the most of a bad situation. I got the few things I needed and made my way into one of the long lines. A cop motioned to me and said, “This way, Bud. I’ll take you over to customer service where the line is short.” As soon as I got there I felt quite privileged. There was only a young woman, a millenial, in the line ahead of me. As I positioned myself, she turned, smiled and asked, “Do you love Jesus?” I have to admit I was taken by surprise by her question. How often does a person get asked a question like that at a grocery store? I gathered myself and responded, “I do indeed.” We struck up a brief conversation and I found out that the aisles were filled with young people who were attending a Christian Conference in Kansas City called “One Thing.” She explained that the thousands of young people  gathered were in Kansas City to express their love and devotion to Jesus Christ. “We just love Jesus and we want to worship him and serve our communities.”
There’s  further proof in the pudding. I’ve seen some of the video from the conference. Young millenials were caught up in praise and worship for hours on end.  They were expressing their adoration for Jesus. It was as compelling to watch as it was winsome.  It was clear they loved Jesus more than anything else in this world, more than Donald Trump or political power.
The conference was aptly named “One Thing.” Read Psalm 27:4 and you’ll see what I mean.
I have to admit that I often have a hard time understanding millennials, but the young woman I met at Cosentino’s and the thousands gathered at the conference  have shown me and their Christian elders a better way, We, like they, need to come to the place where we too love Jesus more than Donald Trump or political power.
It’s time to shed the labels!