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Evangelicals may be turning away from Trump, but Christian nationalism is going nowhere

Since the heady days of Donald Trump’s first presidential campaign, Caleb Campbell’s congregation has been split in two. Pastor of an evangelical church in the northern suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, he has seen his flock both energized and repelled by the real estate mogul’s political rise.

“When Trump came to town, we had members of our congregation inside the building for the rally and some outside the building protesting,” he says. The Independent. “I was naive. I remember thinking that of course people see clearly. I was shocked to find that most people really supported not only his politics, but also his cruel and dehumanizing rhetoric.

Evangelical support for Trump was crucial to his 2016 presidential victory and has remained stubbornly high despite his continued closeness to scandal. Pastor Campbell, who grew up as a John McCain Republican, was not one of those supporters. He has spent much of his time since that first victory trying to steer his fellow evangelicals away from Trump and the MAGA movement, often to no avail.

Now, six years later, he thinks the cracks are starting to show.

“I think what we’re seeing is people who quietly opposed it four years ago are now saying the quiet part out loud,” he says.

Over the past few months and weeks, a number of prominent evangelical leaders have publicly signaled that they may be willing to leave Trump. Taken together, they make for ominous reading for the recently announced Trump 2024 campaign.

David Lane, the head of the American Renewal Project, which is dedicated to mobilizing evangelical pastors to run for office, wrote in an email to some 70,000 evangelicals following the midterm elections that the “Trump’s original mission and message are now subordinated to personal grievances and self-importance.

Mike Evans, a Christian Zionist and former member of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Council, wrote in an essay sent to the Washington Post that “Donald Trump can’t save America. He can’t even save himself.

Several evangelical leaders have said Semafor that they too may be looking elsewhere, among them Bob Vander Plaats, President and CEO of Family Leader. Tony Perkins, the influential chairman of the Family Research Council who said in 2018 that evangelicals allowed Trump to “redo” his past behavior, recently said Policy that the former president has no lock on evangelical support.

You’d think Pastor Campbell would celebrate the cracks in the wall of support for Trump among fellow evangelicals, but he thinks the problem is bigger than any man. It is Christian nationalism that worries him today.

The ideology that believes Christianity is the foundation of the United States and government should be Christian in nature and laws are by no means new, but experts say Trump’s ascendancy has led to an increase in its adherents within the Republican Party.

The movement often overlaps with other right-wing ideologies and conspiracy theories. A significant number of those who took part in the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 adopted Christian nationalist symbols and speeches.

Campbell describes himself as a “missionary to Christian nationalists” and considers it his job to convince evangelicals to turn their backs on the toxic mix of religion and politics as practiced in the United States today.

“Christian nationalism promises power by the sword,” he says, “and the way of Jesus is not the sword, it is the cross. So for me, as an evangelical pastor, what is at stake is the message of the Gospel. You just look at people using the name of Jesus to take over the power of government, it’s directly contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

He is definitely in the right place to do something about it. Just five miles up the road from where he is pastoring is Dream City Church, a giant mega-church with an average weekly attendance of more than 16,000 that has become a center of Christian nationalism in the United States. The church regularly hosts Turning Point USA, a conservative political activist organization, and in July 2020 hosted a Trump rally.

For the pastor of a congregation of about 600 people, it’s a kind of David versus Goliath battle, but Campbell thinks it’s worth fighting. Today, much of his work focuses on raising awareness of the type of parishioners who might attend Dream City Church down the road.

Support from white evangelicals was a major factor in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign success. unchristian behavior.

Christian nationalism, he argues, has used Trump as a vehicle to achieve political power, just as Trump has used evangelicals for the same. Campbell describes it as “a Machiavellian exchange”.

But Campbell said Trump’s arrival ushered in a period of great division in his congregation.

“Our families were split in two. The church split in two. It revealed a huge flaw in the church. We had groups of people meeting in homes that couldn’t even stand each other anymore,” he says.

While there may have been a small shift from Trump over the past year, it’s not due to a change of heart or winning an argument. This happened because his political power declined. In the recent midterm elections, Democrats defied political gravity to keep control of the Senate or ensure the House remained closed. Many Republicans pointed the finger at Trump and saw the results as a sign of his growing toxicity.

“Honestly, I think it’s because he lost,” Campbell said. “And while I think some leaders are moving away from Trump, I don’t think they’re moving away from the power source. I think they’re just looking for a different headliner.

Campbell says that even if evangelicals move away from Trump, the divisions revealed by Trump’s arrival are likely to persist.

“In evangelical spaces, especially since 2020, there has been a huge shift of congregations basically heading to churches where they think the pastor aligns with their politics. There is this homogenization within evangelicalism where you get less and less political diversity within each congregation,” he says.

“Most of my job is to guide people through the pain of divided families. I have a long list of deep relationships that have been frayed or broken or no longer exist because of this stuff,” adds “For us, the work has only just begun.

The Independent Gt

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