Who Is Evangelical? 4 Views

Darren Guerra

Franklin Graham (R) and Donald Trump
Franklin Graham (R) and Donald Trump in Alabama at a photo posted on December 18, 2016. |

Darren Guerra, associate professor and chair of political science at Biola University, wrote a piece published last week by First Things titled "Donald Trump and the Evangelical 'Crisis.'"

In the essay, Guerra broke down the evangelical label into three categories: "Jacksonian Evangelicals," "Tocquevillian Evangelicals," and "Elite Evangelicals."

The Jacksonian category of evangelicals were nominally Christian, residents of rural and blue-collar communities who are marginalized economically and culturally. They overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump during the early GOP primaries.

The Tocquevillian category of evangelicals were regular church attenders and had greater economic and social connections. They largely rejected Trump in the primaries and only came to support him later when more like-minded options were absent.

The Elite category of evangelicals were the leadership of evangelical organizations and churches, who moved in select circles. Because of this, many of them remained opposed to Trump leading up to and even after the 2016 election.

"Trump's candidacy and presidency have bitterly divided not just Jacksonian, Tocquevillian, and elite evangelicals, but evangelicals of all stripes, all of whom continue to address each other in harsh tones and with dismissive rhetoric," wrote Guerra.

"It is curious to see communities formed by grace show so little of it toward fellow believers. Given their theological kinship and belief in a transcendent and knowable moral order, evangelicals have deep resources for modelling sound deliberation about the common good."

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