Many evangelical Christians have been just as mystified as those outside the movement as to why the evangelical vote is going to Donald Trump.
Trump doesn't appear to align with the values, beliefs and religious practices of evangelicals, yet this key Republican voting bloc has overwhelmingly aligned itself with the brash, billionaire businessman's presidential candidacy.
There are plenty of theories behind Trump's rise with evangelicals, but the biggest reason may just be that evangelicals really aren't that evangelical anymore, writes Boston University religion professor Stephen Prothero at Politico.
"Evangelical" originally was simply another word for being a born-again Christian, Prothero says, explaining that for such Christian adherents, their relationship to their Lord and savior was their utmost allegiance.
"Today, when born-again Christians hold up posters at rallies that read, 'Thank you, Lord Jesus, for President Trump,' when they say they are sick of false promises from supposedly pious presidents on abortion or gay marriage and just want a strong man in the White House who can stop illegal immigration or keep us safe or just 'smash things,' what are they saying?" Prothero asks. "They are saying that their political identity has trumped their religious identity. They are saying that they are conservatives first and Christians second."
Politics has seemingly become more real to many American Christians than theology, Prothero said. "Views about abortion or gay marriage are more salient than beliefs about the Trinity or infant baptism."
Some evangelicals have opposed Christian support for Trump, including Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, but others, including Jerry Falwell Jr., have endorsed him.
But Trump has not "hypnotized evangelicals into forgetting the foundations of their faith," Prothero argues. "He is simply revealing the fact that their faith is now more political than theological.
"The white evangelicals who flock to [Trump's] rallies like their parents once did to Billy Graham revivals know that he lives a life comically at odds with teachings of the Bible and the examples of the saints," he said. "But his political theology resonates powerfully with their narrative of decline and revival."
In the end, it may seem like there aren't many evangelicals left in the GOP, he said, "there are just Republicans who happen to go to church."
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