Who voted for Trump? “It’s not us!” Who stuck with Roy Moore? “It’s not us!” Who supports white bigot supremacists?’ “It’s not us!” so-say the so-called respectable evangelical leaders as they take to the editorial pages to try and salvage their image.
Reminds me of the Germans I met after the war: No one’s own dad was in the SS! No real Germans were camp guards!
As Timothy Gloege writes in Religion Dispatches:
#ItsNotUs: Being Evangelical Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry
The defenders of “respectable” evangelicalism were out in force in 2017. In newspapers, magazines, and National Public Radio programs, they delivered a consistent message. That group of Trump-loving, Roy-Moore-supporting evangelicals? “It’s not us.”
As a historian of evangelicalism, I find it troubling that a group of media-savvy evangelicals is poised to dictate the terms of our national conversation. Insiders, not scholars, now determine who “counts” as an evangelical. But their proffered definition reflects a religious agenda rather than a careful analysis.
Respectable evangelicals have been defining away their embarrassing spiritual kin for a century, at least.
When working-class evangelicals began speaking in tongues in the 1900s, respectable evangelicals declared the movement a delusion of Satan. It’s not us, they insisted.
When the Scopes Monkey Trial made William Jennings Bryan a laughingstock, respectable evangelicals disclaimed leadership in the fundamentalist movement they helped create. It’s not us.
In the 1940s and 50s, respectable evangelicals perfected the “not us” technique. Abandoning the fundamentalist label (though holding nearly identical beliefs), they created a “neo-evangelical” identity to distance themselves from the red-baiters and conspiratorialists. Ever since, the toxic byproducts of their movement have been shunted outside the evangelical camp. Whether tele-evangelist scandals, or hurricanes-are-God’s-judgment-jeremiads, or homophobic protests at military funerals: it’s not us.
Now evangelical leaders are trying to distance themselves from the Trump mob. Nice Try. Saying “We didn’t all vote for Trump” is just more of respectable evangelicals defining away their embarrassing spiritual kin as they always have tried to do. But it’s a lie. As I show in my book, Letter to Lucy – A Manifesto of Creative Redemption—In the Age of Trump, Fascism and Lies, there are no respectable evangelicals- if by the word respectable you mean intellectually honest, and open to real questions that might make you “lose” your faith. And bigotry has always been part of their package.