Theologians, historians, sociologists, and other scholars spill a lot of ink debating the definition of the term “evangelical.” But thanks to what happened on November 8, 2016, we can set aside the Bebbington Quadrilateral and all its rivals.
At least as “evangelical” pertains to Americans of European descent, it’s now clear that it chiefly describes the voting bloc that did the most to entrust the most powerful position on Earth to the worst candidate ever nominated by a major political party in this country.
Who are “evangelicals”? They’re the white Americans who exceeded even their past levels of support for the Republican Party in order to vote for its nominee: a misogynistic, xenophobic, racist demagogue who appeals to every one of the lowest impulses in the American character; an uninformed outsider who has no meaningful experience predictive of success in the highest of political offices; a lazy narcissist whose character lacks all of the traits — wisdom, prudence, humility, empathy, willingness to learn from mistakes, openness to multiple viewpoints, commitment to national service — that normally check the arrogance common to presidents.
That’s who they are.
That’s who we are.
I didn’t vote for him and wrote plenty opposing him, but let’s face it: I’m a self-declared evangelical who works for an evangelical university. I’m one of the “historians of broadly evangelical faith” who contributes to a church history blog at an evangelical channel. I’m on the board of a historically evangelical society of historians, and I just argued that members of that group ought to contend for evangelical identity.
But I won’t be contending for that identity tonight.
As the clock prepares to strike two in the morning here on the East Coast, I’m too tired, angry, sad, embarrassed, and unsurprised to do that. I stand by everything I wrote yesterday about faith and hope and love, but if I’m going to think about anything right now, it’s how I’m going to explain this result to a six-year old daughter who helped convince me to vote for Hillary Clinton.
So for now, I’ll just let another evangelical historian speak for me:
And if you’re done with “evangelical,” let me suggest an alternative that’s near and dear to my heart…