Why Evangelicals Are Hypocrites and So am I

According to a poll released yesterday by the Public Religion Research Institute, “white Evangelical support of President Trump is at an all-time high, with 75 percent holding a favorable view of the president and just 22 percent holding an unfavorable view. This level of support is far above support in the general population, where Trump’s favorability is at 42 percent.”

Evangelical support for Trump remains high despite the allegations of an affair with Stormy Daniels. And, well, despite so much more. President Trump puts Evangelicals in spiritual crisis. Prominent Evangelicals like Tony Perkins and Jerry Falwell Jr. emphasize the importance of morality in public life. They castigated Bill Clinton for his affairs, but they give Donald Trump a pass for his moral indiscretions.

Indeed, there is a strong element of hypocrisy among these Evangelicals, and I suppose we are justified in calling out their hypocrisy. But their hypocrisy isn’t because they are evil. It’s because they are human.

As a progressive Christian, I think it’s important that we hold on to the word “sin.” Yes, it’s an ugly word that has been abused by many Christians who use “sin” to condemn others. They point their fingers against others, claiming those others are living a life of sinful immorality because they are living contrary to the will of God.

It would be so easy for me to mirror our Evangelical siblings in pointing my finger against them for supporting Trump despite his immortality. I’m tempted to claim that their fervent support of Trump is hypocritical and stems from the fact that they are living under sin.

I’m tempted to make that claim because I believe it’s true. For Evangelicals to attack Bill Clinton for his moral failures yet give Donald Trump a free pass is hypocritical and sinful. David Brody, co-author of the book The Faith of Donald Trump, states that, “Evangelicals believe in the grace principle; they’re willing to allow him grace.”

I love grace. I think we live by grace. We need more grace in the world. In Jesus we receive grace upon grace, not because we deserve it, but because Jesus freely bestows it.

But the Evangelical faith crisis stems from a misunderstanding of grace. Grace isn’t just for the people in our group or for those we support. It’s for everyone.

So yes. Grace is for Donald Trump. It’s for Bill Clinton. It’s for Evangelicals. It’s for atheists and theists and conservatives and liberals and Syrians and presidents and dictators and you and me.

And yet there’s also a place for calling out evil and sin and oppression wherever we see it. After all, Jesus had some harsh words for those who opposed him, even calling them a brood of vipers. But as we call out sin, it’s important to remember Jesus’ question,

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye. You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Some think Jesus’ statement means we should only deal with the log in our own eye. But notice that Jesus doesn’t just leave it there. He says that there’s still a speck in your neighbor’s eye, but before you do anything about their speck, you must first do the difficult and painful work of taking the log out of your own eye.

I believe the Evangelical claim that we all fall short of the glory of God because of sin. I have a log in my eye, but I’d rather not do the painful work of taking it out. I’d rather emphasize the speck in my neighbor’s eye because when I do I get distracted from that painful log in my own eye.

I think this tendency is what makes Evangelicals who support Trump hypocritical. And it’s what makes me hypocritical, too.

And it’s why we need more grace. Having more grace for ourselves when we discover that massive log in our own eye enables us to have more grace for others. Because on some level, to be human means to find ourselves acting like hypocrites. For example, when it comes to politics, I often give people on my side a pass I would never give to the other side. This is hypocritical and it’s human.

And when we fall into that trap, we could all use a little more grace from the other side.

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5 replies
  1. Gary Long
    Gary Long says:

    So what are you saying? There are no agents of the devil? Without even believing in Christ we have benefit of his grace? Do you believe as Romans 6:1 says “we are to continue in sin so that grace may abound?” Time and again Trump has shown us the kind of man he is. You cannot get an agent of the devil to do God’s work. If you truly believe that an omniscient and omnipotent being needs you so badly to see his will done, why don’t you get your own candidate that is not so flawed and push her/him for president? Don’t you believe that if God is with you that he would bless those efforts? Yes evangelicals are viewed as hypocrites and yes they do deserve it!

    Reply
    • Adam Ericksen
      Adam Ericksen says:

      Hi Gary. I’m saying that offering more grace is a good thing.

      There are agents of the devil and the devil roams around encouraging us to make accusations against one another. Satan is the Accuser, after all. So when we make accusations and point fingers, we would do well to do so with a fair amount of humility and care, lest we do the devils work.

      I believe that God’s grace is unlimitted and freely given. So people who don’t believe in God’s grace benefit from God’s grace. Otherwise God’s grace would have strings attached, and that’s not grace.

      I’m not sure what translation of the Bible you are using to quote Romans 6:1, but every Bible I’ve read states it as a question. “Should we continue in sin so that grace may abound?” The answer is, “Certainly not!” In context, Paul states that where there is great sin, God’s grace abounds all the more. God deals with sin through even more grace. That’s what the cross is all about. Humans killed Jesus and how did Jesus respond? with forgiveness. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” That’s grace abounding in the midst of sin.

      Yes. Trump has shown what kind of man he is. And I’m afraid many on the other side are mirroring his hostility. We need less hostility and more grace as we work for justice.

      I don’t truly believe in an omniscient and omnipotent God. I believe in the vulnerable God that Jesus revealed.

      Every canidate for president will be flawed because they are human. Some candidates will lead us in better directions that others. By that I mean less hostility and accusation. I would vote for a candidate like that.

      Sure God would bless efforts. But God’s blessing doesn’t necessarily mean “winning.” Ask the prophets. Ask Jesus.

      Yes, Evangelicals are viewed as hypocrites for their actions and deserve it. But grace isn’t about what we deserve. It’s about what we need. And we all need a little more grace these days.

      Grace and peace,
      Adam

      Reply
  2. Gary Long
    Gary Long says:

    Wow! Thank you for that insight into the evangelical mind set. I have not had much exposure to evangelicals and find this enlightening.

    Just a few points and I will let it be.

    First, I believe God’s grace is a gift freely given. However, in order to receive grace (or any gift really) there most certainly is one requirement. One must accept it. So I believe people only benefit from God’s grace if they accept it.

    Second, you did get my point about Romans 6:1. In accordance with the grace freely given by God, we do not then sin more. We try from the point that we accept his grace to show appreciation for that gift by trying to the best of our ability to not sin any more.

    Third, even if you believe that sins are forgiven as they are committed, that does not mean it is appropriate to assign any man as your leader and follow that man blindly.

    And lastly, all humans are flawed yes. But some humans try to align themselves with God in a show of appreciation for that gift of grace. I never made the claim that God’s blessing would always result in “winning”. But also the reverse is true. Winning is not always evidence of God’s blessing.

    Reply
    • Adam Ericksen
      Adam Ericksen says:

      Hi Gary.

      Thank you for your points. They are well put. I think there is a mystery to God’s grace and to its effect on people. I’m not sure that one must consciously accept God’s grace for it to have an effect. I think that even if people consciously reject it, that grace might be able to find its way into everyone’s heart.

      I agree with your second point and try to live that in my daily life, although showing appreciation for the gift is a struggle and I keep finding myself in the position of sinning, trying as I do to avoid it. I assum this is the case for others, which, in my better moments, helps me to extend grace towards them.

      Yes, we should not blindling follow any political leader. Totally agree.

      I agree that we should try to align ourselves with God. Of course, the God we believe in matters. Some believe in a God of war. Jesus reveals that God is nonviolent love. I think moving in that direction is important.

      Grace and peace,
      Adam

      Reply
  3. Larry C Graham-Johnson
    Larry C Graham-Johnson says:

    I believe that grace is a gift from God and God alone. Perhaps you have confused grace with forgiveness. We can receive grace but God alone determines the giftee, there’s nothing we can do to earn it and it is not ours to give away. We can only be thankful when it comes our way.

    Trump and his evangelicals and other supporters must pass the Christ test: loving God and neighbor (and yourself). I nor you nor anyone else on earth can judge them, we can only try to support those whom they harm and destroy. Tough work, but it is our true calling.

    Reply

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