Less than half of evangelicals will publicly rebuke their own political party for wrongdoing

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump at the launch of his 2020 re-election campaign at a rally in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday June 18, 2019. |

Fewer than half of evangelicals will publicly disapprove of their political party for actions or words recognized as unacceptable, a new study from Lifeway Research says.

Results of study were gathered via an online survey of 1,317 evangelicals conducted November 14–23, 2018. It showed that less than half, 42 percent, of evangelicals expressed public disapproval of political allies for using what respondents recognized as unacceptable words or actions.

In addition to more than half of evangelicals refusing to publicly rebuke political allies for unacceptable words or actions, 33 percent of them also admitted that when someone with their political beliefs is accused of wrongdoing they would point to examples of wrongdoing by political opponents.

Just about a quarter said they believed insulting remarks made by political leaders they support against opponents are justified while some 16 percent do not have a problem with bending the truth if it helps to promote their political ideology.

“Evangelicals, like many Americans, simplify politics to being more about sticking up for your party than finding the best solutions to our nation’s problems,” Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research said in a statement.

For the study, evangelical beliefs were verified using the NAE LifeWay Research Evangelical Beliefs Research Definition. Respondents in the survey were asked to state their level of agreement with four separate statements using a four-point, forced choice scale of strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree. Those who strongly agreed with all four statements were categorized as having evangelical beliefs.

The four statements were: The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe; It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior; Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin; and only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

The study was also released two days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump for allegedly pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a telephone call in July to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden “for personal gain.”

The move, according to megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress, has angered “thousands” of evangelicals and he controversially predicted it “will cause a civil war-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal.”

“Look, I don’t pretend to speak for all evangelicals but this week I have been traveling the country and I’ve literally spoken to thousands and thousands of evangelical Christians. I have never seen them more angry over any issue than this attempt to illegitimately remove this president from office, overturn the 2016 election and negate the votes of millions of evangelicals in the process,” Jeffress said on Sunday.

Jim Wallis, left-leaning evangelical leader and founder of the progressive Christian magazine Sojourners, also noted that he believes the “threat of evangelical anger” over the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump “is real,” following comments made by pastor Robert Jeffress. 

“Trump since entering political life has evoked, capitalized on, and fanned America’s worst demons — demons like racism, xenophobia, and misogyny,” Wallis said. “It’s hard to say how much anger was already there in his white evangelical supporters, who have felt for decades like their pride of place in American society and culture is being eroded or actively under assault, and how much anger is new and the result of Trump’s incitement.”

Among all respondents in the survey, some 48 percent  identified as a Republican, 31 percent as Democrat and 21 percent said they were independent, something else, or other.

The study was sponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission with funding from the Fetzer Institute.

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