People often ask me: “Why do so many evangelical Christians support Trump?” . It’s a good question. What is with having a high view of Scripture that leads people to celebrate someone who in so many ways doesn’t sound and act like Jesus?
What many people tend to forget is that while 70-80 percent of white evangelicals support Trump, only 20 percent of black evangelicals – that is, African Americans with evangelical beliefs – do the same.
The difference between these groups is not their view of Scripture: they all see it as the authoritative Word of God. Something else is going on here. Let’s look at some statistics to find out!
This survey was conducted after the 2016 election and shows that for black evangelicals, helping the needy is one of the most important election issues – but one of the least important for white evangelicals. White evangelicals were very interested in the immigration issue (in the sense of not receiving refugees, more on that below) and national security, something black evangelicals did not find as important.
Abortion played a surprisingly small role – only 7 % of white evangelicals viewed it as the most important issue, and black evangelicals did not prioritize it at all even though most of them are pro-life.
A survey from this year shows that evangelicals vote in favor of people who are equal to themselves to a greater extent than the rest of the population, while they vote in favor of the most vulnerable to a lesser extent. This may explain why white evangelicals are not more outraged that Trump cuts food stamps and why most of them believe that immigrant children from Latin America should be separated from their parents.
The United States is the richest country in the world. Despite this, two-thirds of white evangelicals believe that the US has no responsibility to receive refugees at all. Thus, they don’t have much of a problem with the fact that the US has received record low levels of refugees during the Trump administration. Black Christians, on the other hand, are more welcoming to refugees than the American population as a whole.
We can also see that an increased negative attitude towards blacks correlates with supporting Trump, and that a majority of white evangelicals see a reduced white population as something negative. Black evangelicals clearly think differently about this. For them, it is outrageous that Trump has been slow to condemn white supremacy or that he lied about almost all murders being committed by blacks. White evangelicals simply don’t seem to care as much.
These numbers are the most chocking of all, in my opinion. While many evangelicals say that they support Trump despite his moral shortcomings, there are millions of white evangelicals who say that he is actually morally upstanding. Even more – 57 % – say that he is honest.
Black evangelicals, on the other hand, do not perceive Trump as a moral role model. Interestingly, both white and black Christians agree that Trump is self-centered. Apparently, that’s not a serious moral flaw to many white evangelicals.
I find these stats to be devastating. This isn’t merely about what party to pick on election day – this is about our discipleship. I can understand someone valuing pro-life policy to the extent that they are willing to bite the bullet and legitimize a presidential candidate they have a lot of problems with for the sake of the unborn.
But these surveys paint a different picture. Many white evangelicals don’t vote for Trump despite his flaws – but because of them. Many of them don’t value the lives of the poor and vulnerable as much as black Christians do.
It hasn’t always been like this. Take Pentecostals (who are usually labelled evangelicals in these polls): they were originally united, regardless of race, in valuing selflessness, justice and equality. Movements like Black Lives Matter and Fridays for Future show us that the world is desperate for such an ethic today.
What would happen if white evangelicals started to share the values and priorities of their black brothers and sisters?
Update: Here’s a great, short video that looks at the history of white and black Christian voting patterns:
Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author and editor for PCPJ.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!