I need to thank Thomas Lecaque, a historian and assistant professor at Grand View University in Iowa, for the explanation I have been seeking: Why would 80 to 90 percent of evangelicals support the Pandemic President in the recent election?
Now, keep in mind, I knew a lot of that support was there.
I understood that Bible-thumpers thought Trump would pack the Supreme Court with anti-abortion conservatives who would overturn Roe v. Wade. I understood that many of these fundamentalist Christians believed Barack Obama was Muslim, and I understood that many of them believed Hillary Clinton should have stayed home and baked cookies. (“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church . . .” That’s from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.)
But certainly, I thought, evangelicals in the red states must see the coronavirus pandemic as a plague, as pestilence, as the Apocalypse. As I write this, nearly 300,000 men, women and children have died since the virus started spreading across God-blessed-America. Surely, with Trump’s denials and mishandling of the pandemic, some evangelicals would see this as a sign that they backed the wrong man in 2016 and needed to purge evil from the White House in 2020.
If they really believed in the Apocalypse, in End Times, at least some evangelicals would have seen the light and repented with a vote for someone other than Trump or no vote at all.
That Trump’s support among evangelicals continues at a high rate, even now, after he lost the election to Joe Biden, baffles me.
Here is the explanation provided in an excellent November essay for The Washington Post by Lecaque: “Trump’s evangelical allies have subjugated theology to partisanship.”
And there you have it: Evangelicals don’t really believe what the Bible says because it conflicts with their extreme political conservatism. They are part of the Trump cult and they certainly can’t see him as the cause of the plague.
“Trump said over and over again that [the pandemic] was not a crisis,” Lecaque writes. “If it was, [evangelicals] would have to take it seriously, split with Trump, and close their churches — which they will not do.”
For the Great Tribulation and Apocalypse to come about, Lecaque writes, “an ungodly ruler must be in power, which means if the moment we’re living through is the ‘Great Tribulation,’ Trump is not the apocalyptic hero but one of the villains — and they are following the wrong leader.”
And who wants to admit they are following the wrong leader?
Certainly not hard-headed evangelicals, and certainly not the ridiculous Republicans they send to Congress.
So that’s why neither the pandemic nor climate change have aroused “apocalyptic alarm” among evangelicals or the House Republicans who have wasted valuable time supporting Trump’s election fraud claims while millions of Americans suffer through the recession caused by the pandemic.
What the evangelicals and the Trumped-out Republicans need is an “ungodly ruler” to fear, hate and associate with apocalyptic phenomena. Perhaps they get that with Joe Biden.
“Now that Trump has lost, let the apocalypse recommence,” Lecaque writes.
End note: I never thought for a moment that there’s anything clear-eyed or rational about anything evangelicals think or say, so I understand that the premise of this post — that I didn’t understand why they continue to support Trump — might seem contrived. But I really thought, for a time, that the most fundamental of the fundamentalists would see the pandemic as the great plague bringing us to End Times. Of course, as Lecaque explains, they do not see that because it means they backed evil when they backed Trump. The explanation for the evangelicals easily applies to the much larger picture of America today: The Trump backers will never admit they were wrong.