One of the interesting trends in our electorate is the percentage of people who feel a candidate’s personal morality is not a big factor in determining who they will vote for. In 2011 we saw that 44% of American voters thought that this was not a big deal. Within this number it was noted that 42% of Catholics agreed but only 30% of evangelicals did. I remember seeing some smug condemnations coming from within our faith family that bordered on the “I thank [God] I am not like this Man.”
Fast forward to 2016 and we can see changes. A current poll shows that the number of Americans who see personal morality as not significant has increased to 61%. The percentage of Catholics who agree is up to 58%. Unfortunately for evangelicals we can’t pull out our smug speeches from 2011 because the percentage of evangelicals seeing this as not significant has increased to 72%. Instead of being the most concerned about personal morality we now are those least concerned.
This can only be explained by the reality that most evangelicals are not voting for Trump but against Clinton. We are largely for Trump despite his morality, not because we share it. Why is this?
I’ve spent the last few days reading evangelical commentary on the election. I’ve read and charted 73 different opinion pieces. I thank many of you for using e-mail or Facebook to send me some of them. It is clear that many of us are conflicted. Poor Wayne Grudem was for Trump, then flipped to being unable to support him, and has now flopped back to being for him. But at the end of the day there was a pattern in the comments. Three issues dominated the evangelical opinions – abortion, religious liberty, and the definition of marriage. A few mentioned racial justice, which is good, but you can see what is on our minds.
This makes the evangelical flip on attitude about personal morality understandable. It is not that we are unconcerned about it; it is that, rightly or wrongly, this is over-ridden by the big three. We all know exactly where Clinton stands on those issues and most of us don’t like it. Evangelicals may not trust Trump but they hope, perhaps desperately, that he will support them on these issues.
In the meantime we, like the rest of America, are growing weary with this election and can’t wait for it to be over. We expect to trudge to the polls and cast a vote that does not make us happy. Voting, the only real way we can say “this is what I stand for and what I want my country to be,” is becoming a task akin to a visit to the dentist.
But let me close with a silver lining. I read this article in the satirical Babylon Bee assuring us that “Christians across America are looking forward to questioning each other’s standing before God as they discuss…the looming election at large.” Being salvation inspectors has always been a reliable evangelical hobby. We now can have fun declaring, whatever our views, that,as the B says, “It’s a convenient way to tell true from false believers, since no one who disagrees with me politically is a true Christian.”