By Katha Pollitt
Say what you will about the terrible, terrifying Trump years, one good thing has already come out of them: the discrediting of evangelical Christianity. For decades, believers have boasted of their superior virtue, especially in matters of sex and marriage and parenting and social propriety. They’ve blasted premarital and extramarital sex, LGBTQ people, divorce, pornography, sex work, foul language, crude behavior, and not being a Christian—as they define “Christian”—blaming these things for everything from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina. They never get tired of going after Bill Clinton for his infidelities and Hillary Clinton for “enabling” them. (How frustrating it must have been for them that Barack Obama, the Muslim Kenyan communist, spent eight years in the White House with nary a whiff of scandal!) Now they’ve sold their souls to Donald Trump, who has partaken freely of practically every vice and depravity known to man. Urged on by their leaders, 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump—more than voted for George W. Bush, an actual evangelical—and now everyone is laughing at them. It’s about time.
In the latest issue of The Atlantic, Michael Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter and current Washington Post columnist, mourns the loss of evangelical credibility in an angry, eloquent essay, “The Last Temptation.” As Gerson writes: “The moral convictions of many evangelical leaders have become a function of their partisan identification. This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption.” An evangelical himself, Gerson excoriates those leaders who make outlandish excuses for Trump’s behavior (my personal favorite: James Dobson’s explanation that the president is a “baby Christian”). Evangelicals, he says, have been driven to a kind of paranoia by their loss of cultural hegemony: They fall into absurd and unnecessary battles over school prayer and creationism, and losing those battles has made them seem—or actually be—“negative, censorious, and oppositional.”
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