“Catholic”, “Jew”, “Evangelical”, and “Christian” have more and more become words of ethnicity and demography for pollsters and statisticians. They no longer really many someone who is a practicing Catholic at mass regularly or someone who attends their local Southern Baptist Church on Sundays and prayer meeting on Wednesday.
When newspapers report that Christians have the same divorce rate as the rest of the population, that is deeply misleading. The person is characterizing themselves as Christian because they pray at mealtime and for Dale Earnhardt’s soul. They get references to Jesus and believe Jesus is coming back with an American flag and Lee Greenwood as backup music instead of the more Biblically accurate Johnny Cash.
But does the Christian really follow Christ? Does that Christian go to church? Does that Christian recognize his sin?
The data actually shows that actual Christians — people who believe in Jesus and regularly go to church, have a lower divorce rate than society as a whole. Christians are likewise more likely to produce families and those families are more likely to be stable, producing more stable children.
Actual Bible believing Christians who go to church regularly also differ in another significant way from how the media is reporting on them. The more a person goes to church regularly the less likely they are to vote for Donald Trump.
Regular, weekly church attendance — as measured by a standard Pew Research question included in my survey — predicted a statistically significant and substantive opposition to Trump.
Now, that is not to say there are not regular church goers who support Trump. There are. Just as there are regular church goers who are divorced. But overwhelmingly, people who regularly go to church to gospel centered churches that believe in inerrancy of scripture tend to oppose Trump.
The media does not report it this way. The media allows people, particularly in the South, to self-identify as “evangelical” without actually following up with the question, “Does this mean you go to church every week?” among other questions.
In my own experiences dealing with Trump supporters, many of them feel betrayed by church experiences or disconnected from organized worship. They consider themselves Christian without needing the very trappings of faith the Bible commands they embrace, i.e. regular, corporate worship.
The corollary to their distrust of corporate worship is their anger at their cultural way of life slipping away, reflected in a hostility to political correctness. In a number of cases I’ve encountered online and off, Trump supporters feel battered by life and blame the government or “the man” for their situation. Siding with Trump is a way of sticking it to the man, often without having to make self-assessments they’d rather avoid making.
What separates these Trump supporters from regular church goers is that those who go regularly recognize this world is temporary and they should not put their faith in flawed sinners promising to “Make America Great Again,” which is essentially a call to idol worship.
John Calvin said the human heart is a factory of idols. Regular church attendance tends to help shut that factory down and redirect the heart from world of here and now to the world we yearn for. Regular church attendance tends to shift anger toward a happiness that Trump is unable to feed off of.
Christ followers, 2016 years in, continue to stand athwart history yelling “Jesus” and they do so with a smile — a big difference from many in the angry mob of campaign politics.