Donald Trump has given certain types of evangelicals a voice, and they have delivered a loud and resounding message to the establishment politicians at the polls — we are mad.
These evangelicals are the ones who have been fueling Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's meteoric push toward the party's nomination and they are angry and looking for vengeance, says Dr. Anthony B. Bradley, and evangelicalism is not among their top concerns as they head to the polls.
"Trump evangelicals are evangelicals who have been on the margins. They are not mainstream evangelicals who are burdened by the sort of traditional concerns of the church. Trump evangelicals are angry. They are mad at the Obama administration. They believe that the Obama administration has ruined the country," said Bradley, chairman of the program in religious and theological studies who also serves as associate professor of religious studies at King's College in New York City, in an interview with The Christian Post on Friday.
And that's why other candidates like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have been getting walloped at the polls as the twice-divorced, formerly "very pro-choice" New York billionaire who curses and says things like "Two Corinthians" notches win after win.
For months, Trump has been declaring "the evangelicals love me and I love them" but no one took him seriously with candidates like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who had positioned themselves as more mainstream standard bearers of evangelicalism.
When Cruz announced his bid for the White House at Liberty University, the world's largest Christian university, last year, he imagined "millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values." The expectation was that he would be their candidate, but it was Trump, the candidate Cruz criticized for his "New York Values," who message resonated most with a certain bloc of evangelicals.
"They are mad because they see that their jobs have been lost to globalization. They fear the threat of loose immigration in terms of how it affects their own neighborhoods. In terms of things like jobs … they are extremely distrustful of politicians," said Bradley who described them as more like "cultural evangelicals."
"They have had it with Washington D.C. They have had it with politics as usual. They cannot stand outside special interests from lobbyists and so both Rubio and Cruz represent the establishment Republicans that Trump evangelicals can't stand. So Donald Trump is speaking right to the heart and core concerns of the types of evangelicals that have been ignored probably over the last 10 -15 years," Bradley continued.
There is a strong socioeconomic divide that now trumps the usual values voting message that both Cruz and Rubio have ignored to their own peril, said Bradley.
"The kinds of concerns that the establishment evangelicals, the institutional evangelicals care about are the kinds of issues that people like Cruz and Rubio are speaking to. The kinds of issues that Trump evangelicals care about, the establishment and institutional evangelicals do not really address," he said.
"These are primarily working class and lower middle class people who want the America back that they grew up in. They want the America back where there were jobs in smaller towns. They want the America back where there wasn't that sort of liberal encroachment on all sorts of institutions from public schools and churches. They want the America back that gives them and their children the projection that they'll be able to make it in small town America. They want that America back and Donald Trump speaks directly to those concerns," said Bradley.
"When he [Trump] says things like 'Make America Great Again,' he's speaking right into the core concerns of the types of evangelicals who care more about America than they do evangelicalism. They don't need Trump to be a moral leader. They don't care about the number of divorces he's had, they don't care about his character, they care about the fact that he finally speaks for them. Finally they have someone who articulates the sorts of fears, and cares and concerns that the establishment and institutional evangelicals have been slow to care about and respond to and to do it in such a way that makes them believe that there is hope for real change," he explained.
"Cruz doesn't do that. The types of evangelicals that support Trump don't trust Cruz. They've seen him flip-flop on all sorts of issues, they believe him to be the sort of slippery politician that Washington D.C. produces and so he doesn't appeal to them at all. Donald Trump is clear, he is articulate in terms of reducing things to really simple sayings and aphorisms that makes sense to the types of evangelicals who care about the sorts of things that he directly speaks to," Bradley added.