In his column for the New York Times, conservative David Brooks spoke with evangelical leaders who are attempting to pick up the pieces after some within the church embraced Donald Trump ,which led to many abandoning the church.
Late last year, NBC reported that polls showed that the term "born again" has come to mean "less about faith, religion or the church and instead become a political distinction," and more about "they're against immigration, science and abortion and to signal a belief that discussions of racism in America are antithetical to their idea of America."
With Christian writers lamenting "The evangelical church is breaking apart," Brooks spoke with some Christian leaders who explained the past few years while Trump was president were a terrible ordeal for Christians.
Writing, "There have been three big issues that have profoundly divided them: the white evangelical embrace of Donald Trump, sex abuse scandals in evangelical churches and parachurch organizations, and attitudes about race relations, especially after the killing of George Floyd," Brooks spoke with the president of Christianity Today, Tim Dalrymple, who came under fire after calling for the former president to be ousted after the first of his two impeachments.
"As an evangelical, I’ve found the last five years to be shocking, disorienting and deeply disheartening,” he stated. “One of the most surprising elements is that I’ve realized that the people who I used to stand shoulder to shoulder with on almost every issue, I now realize that we are separated by a yawning chasm of mutual incomprehension. I would never have thought that could have happened so quickly.”
According to Brooks, the embrace of Trump is the "proximate cause" of the turmoil among Christians.
"Trump is merely the embodiment of many of the raw wounds that already existed in parts of the white evangelical world: misogyny, racism, racial obliviousness, celebrity worship, resentment and the willingness to sacrifice principle for power," he wrote. "Then there is the way partisan politics has swamped what is supposed to be a religious movement. Over the past couple of decades evangelical pastors have found that their 20-minute Sunday sermons could not outshine the hours and hours of Fox News their parishioners were mainlining every week. It wasn’t only that the klieg light of Fox was so bright, but also that the flickering candle of Christian formation was so dim."
"The turmoil in evangelicalism has not just ruptured relationships; it’s dissolving the structures of many evangelical institutions. Many families, churches, parachurch organizations and even denominations are coming apart. I asked many evangelical leaders who are wary of Trump if they thought their movement would fracture. Most said it already has," the columnist explained.
Writing that "something more fundamental is going on than a fight over just Donald Trump," Brooks suggested that the church is in dire need of reappraisal.
"Institutional rot has been exposed. Many old relationships have been severed. This is a profound moment of turmoil, pain, change and, while it’s too early to be sure, possible transformation," he wrote before warning, "There can probably be no evangelical renewal if the movement does not divorce itself from the lust for partisan political power. "
"Over more than a century, Catholics have established a doctrine of social teaching that helps them understand how the church can be active in civic life without being corrupted by partisan politics. Protestants do not have this kind of doctrine," he suggested before adding, "Those who are leading the evangelical renewal know they need one."
You can read his whole piece here.
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