How NeverTrump Evangelical Leaders Influence their Audience

Joe Scudder
Written by Joe Scudder

It someone is a NeverTrump evangelical he will inevitably use slogans as if they are actual principles or arguments.

How do NeverTrump Evangelical leaders argue that it is some kind of sin or compromise to vote for Donald Trump or his policies? Most of them don’t argue that all immigration restrictions are wrong, but apparently enforcing the immigration laws we have is somehow opposed to the Gospel. “Nationalism” is a big sin because God loves all nations, but the fact that God loves all mothers doesn’t mean that a child should have no special attachment to his own mother and want to help her.

If you’ve started to think that these plattitudes or slogans are not intended as intellectual arguments but only emotional triggers, you may be on to something. Thomas Bradstreet writes at RodMartin.org on “The Sorry State of Evangelical Political Theology.

Evangelical leaders have simply changed the nature of political socialization. It is an engineering of unity not through the development of a lowest-common-denominator political theology, nor a bare assertion of policy-goals, but by means of—and this is what I think these “principles” actually are—a collection of disparate slogans, themes, expressions, tropes, tweet-sized aphorisms, and one-liners by which people are signaled or cued due to socialization to support whatever political goal that accompanies them. It is a kit-bag of rhetorical devices. Mention one of these lines in association with some policy and the socialization kicks in to lend support to some policy or to reject some policy.

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The process of political socialization does not involve the presentation of an evangelical political-theological framework, nor a coherent system to understand or engage political phenomena. There are few distinctions, if any at all, given to the average evangelical. No attempt is made to distinguish between the principles, roles, ends, and nature of the civil and ecclesiastical spheres, for example. There is no detailed treatment of the two kingdoms or natural law, and nothing but contempt is shown to political principles that the Protestant reformers considered the orthodox positions on the role of civil magistrate in religion. But these new “principles,” operating as they do on the socio-rhetorical level, do not offer a real political theology at all. What characterizes evangelical political commentary today is the repeated re-sorting of these lines in application to selected recent political events in order to cue support for some action (or inaction) as part of a particular program of witness. Evangelical political thought, at least at the popular level, revolves around a particular set of rhetorical devises. Read this post, for example, which in other contexts might be a parody, entitled, “Jesus is not your American Patriot” at The Gospel Coalition.

The average evangelical has no framework or theological system through and by which to evaluate these rhetorical devices. They are stuck in ignorance and channeled into right action by means of political socialization.

Read the full essay.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com


About the author

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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