(Cartoon image is by Drew Sheneman in the New Jersey Star-Ledger.)
Evangelism is defined as spreading the gospel of christianity. In today's America, evangelicals are still trying to spread the word, but it's no longer the word of religion. It's a right-wing socio-policital agenda -- which has little to do with the teachings of their Christ. This has been happening for a while, but there support for Donald Trump makes clear that they have chosen politics over religion.
Here's part of a very good article by Hollis Phelps on the subject for Religious Dispatches:
There’s no doubt that Evangelicalism seems to have an image problem, especially since its overwhelming alliance with Trump. In the minds of many outside the fold, evangelicalism no longer represents a specific religious position centered on sin and the need for individual salvation but rather a self-serving, power-hungry political movement that will side with the devil himself for the sake of political pragmatism. . . .
It would be wrong to paint all Evangelicals with the same brush. Evangelicalism is and will remain a complex socio-political movement propped up by a religious rhetoric that emphasizes individual piety, but its adherents aren’t all the same. Indeed, some of Trump’s most vocal critics come out of evangelicalism.
That said, given the consistency with which white evangelicals as a whole have lent their support to Trump—and right-wing candidates and policies more generally—it’s far past time to own up to the fact that the image is, in many respects, the reality.
Well-intentioned evangelical leaders may not like to hear that, but it remains the case that an overwhelming majority of evangelicals continue to support Trump and his policies. Sure, they may have issues with his moral center, or lack thereof, but they’re willing to overlook all this for the sake of political expediency, for promises of “religious freedom,” and the hope of a judiciary stacked with conservative judges.
This is because, at the end of the day, evangelicalism isn’t really about personal values but, rather, social and political conversion and control. Little has changed, in this sense, since the days of Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority (as Daniel Schultz rightly pointed out recently on RD).
The Trump era, then, does not create a new problem for evangelicals and their image; it’s simply casting a very bright light on what has always been there, at least for the past forty years or so. . . .
I applaud those evangelicals who want to think honestly about the movement’s current image in the Trump age. But appealing to some “pure” form of the faith beyond its supposed political corruption—beyond the racism, xenophobia, nationalism, and the like that even critics of paper over—isn’t the way to go.
Not only do such appeals represent little more than nostalgia-laden theological desires that have little to do with what goes on on the ground, but they also ignore the fact that the line between religion and politics is flimsy at best, if not entirely non-existent. Evangelicalism, in its current manifestation, isn’t a religion that has been corrupted by its entry into politics but is, rather, a social movement that works through a specific type of politics. The substance of that politics has been clearly on display for some time now. Trump and his evangelical allies didn’t invent it; they only exacerbated it.
If evangelicalism ever wants to play a more positive role in social and political life, perhaps it’s time its leaders acknowledge that its public image isn’t a “grotesque caricature,” but the thing itself.