The following post is an edited version of an article written by Bruce Ashford, Provost and Dean of Faculty, as well as Professor of Theology and Culture, at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mr. Ashford is also the co-author of the recently released “One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics“. This article was originally published at Fox News and can be viewed in its original form here: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/05/04/its-trump-heres-what-evangelicals-should-do-now.html
It’s Trump. Here Is What Evangelicals Can Do Now
With his victory in the Indiana primary, Donald Trump becomes the presumptive Republican nominee for President of The United States. This may make some Evangelicals despondent, and may even make them want to detach from the political process out of frustration. Fear not. God is still on His throne. And while our desired candidate may not have won the nomination, we have been handed an unprecedented opportunity to regain our Evangelical witness. And make no mistake, this is yuge.
We Must Regain Our Witness
Even if Trump were to have lost the nomination in a contested convention, Evangelicals had, in the writer’s view, already slipped-up by supporting a candidate who holds, at best, unclear positions on issues that should be important to Evangelicals. Moreover, based on his campaign, his fidelity to the Constitution and conservative principals are equally unclear. In spite of these things, a certain sector of the Evangelical world, let’s call them “Trumpangelicals”, supported his candidacy.
But what about the rest of us? Those who are Evangelical and find the idea of an Evangelical-supported Trump nomination deeply troubling? How do we recover from the rise of Trumpangelism within our ranks? How might we reposition ourselves in order to regain our witness?
The current election cycle offers an almost irreplaceable opportunity for Evangelicals to redefine ourselves and regain our witness. This regaining has three key components:
First, it offers us the opportunity to do something we should have been doing all along: by challenging both the Democratic and Republican nominees, we can show that Christian wisdom goes beyond traditional social and political categories such as Democratic and Republican. This Gospel-centered Christianity will diminish the culture’s ability to dismiss the church as simply the religious special interest wing of any one political party.
Second, we now have the opportunity (and responsibility) to speak with a clear voice on a broader array of policy issues. Instead of applying our moral exhortations to, say, the Clintons, we can also apply them to a GOP nominee where his words and actions cause us moral concern. We can move beyond pro-life and marriage to a fuller spectrum of issues.
Finally, we can help provide healing for the unhealthy and toxic nature of American politics and public life. Over the past decade, public discourse has become increasingly uncivil. For our part, Evangelicals can show the world what it looks like to speak and act with conviction, while doing so civilly. We can take unpopular positions on issues while refusing to distort, demean, or demonize those who oppose us. We can treat our political opponents as people with whom we disagree, rather than as people who should be demeaned and degraded.
If Evangelicals are going to regain our voice going forward, we must reposition ourselves as something other than the religious special interest arm of the Republican Party. I am a registered Republican. I’ve voted Republican in every election. But first and foremost, I am a Christian. My allegiance to Christ and the gospel transcends my allegiance to the Republican Party. When the GOP’s platform or politicians are at odds with my Christian convictions, I must and will speak out.
Let us remind ourselves that these are things we should have been doing all along. We’ve failed to do so consistently or recognizably, and the rise of Trump’s candidacy offers us remarkable and irreplaceable opportunity to renew and regain our witness.
The moment has come to seize it. If not now, when? If not you, who?