Could the Trump Compromise Cause Evangelicals to Follow the Path of the Mainline?

I’ve long thought that one of the most important stories of modern times is the precipitous decline of so-called mainline Protestant denominations. It wasn’t long ago that mainline denominations such as the Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church (USA) were titans in the American religious landscape. Now, many of them are declining so fast that they’re in danger of disappearing entirely. Books and essays have been written analyzing the decline, and the point of this post isn’t to rehash every explanation. However, central to the analysis is that fact that each of these churches compromised on core tenets of biblical Christianity. In fundamental ways, they secularized. They responded to social pressure by conforming to (mainly) secular progressive moral norms. They merged with the ambient culture to the extent that the distinct meaning and purpose of the church was lost.

The loss of the mainline and the corresponding rise of the Evangelical church has changed American culture and transformed American politics. And each step of the way, Evangelicals looked at their brothers and sisters across the theological aisle and told them that church is purposeless when it merges with NPR.

I’m haunted by the costs of compromise when I think of Evangelicals’ ongoing embrace of Donald Trump. Like their mainline brethren, they responded to a felt urgent need. Like their mainline brethren, they ended up conforming to the wishes of their secular political and cultural allies. And like their mainline brethren, the end result is that they made the church more like the world. It’s not quite the case that the church has merged with Fox News, but the alliance between the network and white Evangelicals is uncomfortably close.

If you don’t think Evangelicals are compromising when they continue to stand by their (political) man, I want to bring your attention to the Southern Baptist Convention’s sterling 1998 Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials. It’s worth quoting at length, so that we can see the true extent of the Evangelical transformation. Here’s the preamble:

WHEREAS, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34 NAS); and

WHEREAS, Serious allegations continue to be made about moral and legal misconduct by certain public officials; and

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