Modern Christianity and the fight for the future of evangelicalism

In late April, just weeks after the death of Billy Graham, one of the most influential Christian leaders in America, dozens of evangelical leaders from across the nation congregated at Wheaton College, Graham’s alma mater and the home of the famed Billy Graham Center. But the many present weren’t there to honor the life of the Rev. Graham, but instead to ruminate on “the future and the ‘soul’ of evangelicalism.”

For decades, Graham was the soul of the evangelical movement; a moral leader and spiritual counsel to every American president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. Now, in the wake of his death, evangelicalism finds itself at a crossroads, largely because of its association with the current president, Donald Trump.

In fact, it’s been heavily reported how much evangelicals’, specifically white evangelicals, support in record numbers (over 80 percent) helped President Trump win the White House in 2016. During the election and in the time after, a litany of Trump-centric controversies have fueled a growing disconnect between white evangelicalism and other subsets of the Christian church.

Whether it’s the over a dozen allegations of sexual assault, alleged payment from an affair with a porn star or Trump’s controversial “very fine people” statements after the Charlottesville Rally, evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr. have been largely absent of criticism, and white evangelical support for the president currently sits at an all-time high.

The lack of a response is particularly frustrating for some other Christians who feel that such incidents should be a simple opportunity to take a stand. “It’s been a crucial time for churches to reinforce Christian values. What is it that we actually say we believe if there is an off-color comment or ideology that’s being presented or persisting,” said Brian Rainville, director of ministry and service at North Central. “(Charlottesville) that was an easy one, that was low-hanging fruit and I was still surprised not a lot of churches did that. How hard is it to speak out against racism or white supremacy?”

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