Category: Anne-Christine Hoff

The Decline of the NFL



The kneeling protests could be only one of many reasons why Americans opted out of watching the Super Bowl. 



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'He Said We Were Good': Why Trump's Message Resonates with Evangelicals


Despite Donald Trump’s sometimes boorish behavior, his approval ratings remain stubbornly high among evangelicals. According to an analysis of Pew Research surveys conducted in February and April 2017, Trump’s approval ratings are at 75% among evangelical Christians, almost twice as high as among the general populace. While some Democrats might express surprise at evangelicals’ support for a man whose extravagant lifestyle would seem to eliminate him as a conservative hero, a closer look reveals the close alignment between Donald Trump’s rhetoric and the Biblical values of evangelicals.

Evangelicals are by and large a churchgoing group. According to Pew Research Center, among white evangelical Protestant registered voters interviewed in 2016, eight in ten said they attended church once a week, and 63% said they attended religious service at least once a week.  While the values of evangelicals are anything but uniform, University of Stirling historian David W. Bebbington  boiled the evangelical belief system down to four core ideas, what he called the “quadrilateral of priorities”:

  1. The need to be born again;
  2. The supremacy of biblical authority;
  3. Salvation through the death and resurrection of the Son of God;
  4. Active sharing of the gospel through evangelism.

When looking at Trump’s rhetoric, for example, in his Poland speech on July 6 and his inaugural speech in January, certain patterns emerge that align closely with the Biblical worldview of Christian evangelicals.

1. You are good. You are loving. You are courageous.

In the Obama years, we commonly heard negative things said about America and Americans. We could do better on healthcare, for example. We needed to overcome our inherent racism. The lecture of Attorney General Eric Holder under the Obama administration and the attendance of representatives from the White House at the funeral of Michael Brown, for example, signaled to some the administration’s embrace of a narrative that America was guilty and in some ways, irredeemably so.

Trump’s Inaugural Address, on the other hand, asserted a very different view of Americans:

“So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words:


You will never be ignored again.


Your voices, your hopes, and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.”

Trump’s simple allusion to the courage, goodness, and love of all Americans was to many evangelicals a gentle reassurance that the highest office in the land no longer viewed us as bad. Trump even went further than to simply exculpate us from guilt. He called us courageous and good and loving. Such a view is in close alignment with the evangelical view that while all humans are sinners, through Christ’s love we are redeemed and made clean no matter the color of our skin or our gender. Such a positive perception of our identity as Americans was not lost on evangelicals in no small part because they closely aligned with the Biblical view of our redeemed spirit as a result of our faith in Christ.

2. Everyone deserves redemption.

In his inaugural speech, Trump continued to develop this theme that everyone deserves redemption regardless of his or her external identity. Once again, his reference to Detroit, a city nearly 85% black, and Nebraska, a state nearly 90% white, and his assertion that the children from both places are God’s children resonated powerfully with evangelicals.

“And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky; they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the same breath of life by the same almighty Creator.”

Such a message was inclusive enough to even include Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables,” whom the once favored-to-win Democratic nominee reviled and slandered as racist, homophobic, and sexist for supporting Trump.

Some may recall that clever pundits and journalists were once skeptical that any Trump supporters actually existed. The Russian-American satirist Oleg Atbashian wrote a clever piece on this phenomenon back in March 2016 before the election called “Some of my best friends are Trump supporters.”

When the electoral map is fluid, when things are happening rapidly in real time, and when no reliable historical data exists, we rely on personal experience and anecdotal evidence. In the absence of such, the writers simply fill the gap in their knowledge with their own prejudices, similar to how medieval mapmakers marked unexplored areas with “here be dragons.”

In retrospect, it did seem that Clinton’s Democrats marked vast stretches of territory with the words “Here be dragons.” The idea that our current Commander-in-Chief thought highly of these “dragons” as worthy, righteous people garnered even more support for the president from evangelicals.

3. We are a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values.

Under Obama we were often told that the United States was a secular multicultural nation where people of many different creeds and colors came together to make a rich American tapestry. Trump presented a very different image of our nation. According to him, we are a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles and this foundation is at the core of our free society.

Trump asserted the historical foundations of our religiosity at a speech he gave at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia in May 2017:

“When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, they prayed. When the Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they invoked our Creator four times, because in America, we don’t worship government, we worship God. That is why our elected officials put their hands on the Bible, and say, ‘so help me God’ as they take the oath of office.”

In Trump’s America, we the people have a soul and a spirit. We are good and loving people, and we have the right to defend our identity as at our core our identity is linked to our belief in a loving God.

4. America has a soul worth preserving.

Such a vision, of course, fits neatly into the worldview of evangelicals. A loving God created each one of us and gave us a soul. Trump’s Poland speech extended this theme as he projected his worldview that the West is engaged in a grand struggle between good and evil. Here Trump’s central and recurring idea of the everlasting soul of a nation rising against the Zeitgeist to assert its place and identity resurfaces.

As Mark Bauerlein wrote in his excellent analysis “We Want God,” religious Americans understood the message of Trump’s Poland speech clearly because even though some in the mainstream media presented it as being subliminally racist, “It wasn’t a dog whistle. It was an acclamation.”

Trump states, “Poland is the geographic heart of Europe, but more importantly, in the Polish people, we see the soul of Europe.”

Later, he goes on to say, “I’m here to hold Poland up as an example for those who wish to summon the courage and the will to defend our civilization.” According to Trump, our civilization is under threat and we are engaged in a battle that we don’t even realize is taking place.

“Our own fight of the West does not begin on the battlefield — It begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls.”

In the same way that Bebbington boiled evangelical beliefs down to four core values, I would argue that the values espoused in Trump’s rhetoric can be boiled down to four main principles:

  1. We are good people with a good history.
  2. We are deserving of redemption;
  3. We are a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values;
  4. We have a soul that is worth preserving.

My prediction is that as long as Trump’s message remains consistent, evangelical Americans will continue to overlook his personal and political failings and remain instead Trump’s most ardent supporters, for Trump was one of the few who said they were good when for so long they had been told they were bad. 

Despite Donald Trump’s sometimes boorish behavior, his approval ratings remain stubbornly high among evangelicals. According to an analysis of Pew Research surveys conducted in February and April 2017, Trump’s approval ratings are at 75% among evangelical Christians, almost twice as high as among the general populace. While some Democrats might express surprise at evangelicals’ support for a man whose extravagant lifestyle would seem to eliminate him as a conservative hero, a closer look reveals the close alignment between Donald Trump’s rhetoric and the Biblical values of evangelicals.

Evangelicals are by and large a churchgoing group. According to Pew Research Center, among white evangelical Protestant registered voters interviewed in 2016, eight in ten said they attended church once a week, and 63% said they attended religious service at least once a week.  While the values of evangelicals are anything but uniform, University of Stirling historian David W. Bebbington  boiled the evangelical belief system down to four core ideas, what he called the “quadrilateral of priorities”:

  1. The need to be born again;
  2. The supremacy of biblical authority;
  3. Salvation through the death and resurrection of the Son of God;
  4. Active sharing of the gospel through evangelism.

When looking at Trump’s rhetoric, for example, in his Poland speech on July 6 and his inaugural speech in January, certain patterns emerge that align closely with the Biblical worldview of Christian evangelicals.

1. You are good. You are loving. You are courageous.

In the Obama years, we commonly heard negative things said about America and Americans. We could do better on healthcare, for example. We needed to overcome our inherent racism. The lecture of Attorney General Eric Holder under the Obama administration and the attendance of representatives from the White House at the funeral of Michael Brown, for example, signaled to some the administration’s embrace of a narrative that America was guilty and in some ways, irredeemably so.

Trump’s Inaugural Address, on the other hand, asserted a very different view of Americans:

“So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words:


You will never be ignored again.


Your voices, your hopes, and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.”

Trump’s simple allusion to the courage, goodness, and love of all Americans was to many evangelicals a gentle reassurance that the highest office in the land no longer viewed us as bad. Trump even went further than to simply exculpate us from guilt. He called us courageous and good and loving. Such a view is in close alignment with the evangelical view that while all humans are sinners, through Christ’s love we are redeemed and made clean no matter the color of our skin or our gender. Such a positive perception of our identity as Americans was not lost on evangelicals in no small part because they closely aligned with the Biblical view of our redeemed spirit as a result of our faith in Christ.

2. Everyone deserves redemption.

In his inaugural speech, Trump continued to develop this theme that everyone deserves redemption regardless of his or her external identity. Once again, his reference to Detroit, a city nearly 85% black, and Nebraska, a state nearly 90% white, and his assertion that the children from both places are God’s children resonated powerfully with evangelicals.

“And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky; they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the same breath of life by the same almighty Creator.”

Such a message was inclusive enough to even include Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables,” whom the once favored-to-win Democratic nominee reviled and slandered as racist, homophobic, and sexist for supporting Trump.

Some may recall that clever pundits and journalists were once skeptical that any Trump supporters actually existed. The Russian-American satirist Oleg Atbashian wrote a clever piece on this phenomenon back in March 2016 before the election called “Some of my best friends are Trump supporters.”

When the electoral map is fluid, when things are happening rapidly in real time, and when no reliable historical data exists, we rely on personal experience and anecdotal evidence. In the absence of such, the writers simply fill the gap in their knowledge with their own prejudices, similar to how medieval mapmakers marked unexplored areas with “here be dragons.”

In retrospect, it did seem that Clinton’s Democrats marked vast stretches of territory with the words “Here be dragons.” The idea that our current Commander-in-Chief thought highly of these “dragons” as worthy, righteous people garnered even more support for the president from evangelicals.

3. We are a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values.

Under Obama we were often told that the United States was a secular multicultural nation where people of many different creeds and colors came together to make a rich American tapestry. Trump presented a very different image of our nation. According to him, we are a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles and this foundation is at the core of our free society.

Trump asserted the historical foundations of our religiosity at a speech he gave at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia in May 2017:

“When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, they prayed. When the Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they invoked our Creator four times, because in America, we don’t worship government, we worship God. That is why our elected officials put their hands on the Bible, and say, ‘so help me God’ as they take the oath of office.”

In Trump’s America, we the people have a soul and a spirit. We are good and loving people, and we have the right to defend our identity as at our core our identity is linked to our belief in a loving God.

4. America has a soul worth preserving.

Such a vision, of course, fits neatly into the worldview of evangelicals. A loving God created each one of us and gave us a soul. Trump’s Poland speech extended this theme as he projected his worldview that the West is engaged in a grand struggle between good and evil. Here Trump’s central and recurring idea of the everlasting soul of a nation rising against the Zeitgeist to assert its place and identity resurfaces.

As Mark Bauerlein wrote in his excellent analysis “We Want God,” religious Americans understood the message of Trump’s Poland speech clearly because even though some in the mainstream media presented it as being subliminally racist, “It wasn’t a dog whistle. It was an acclamation.”

Trump states, “Poland is the geographic heart of Europe, but more importantly, in the Polish people, we see the soul of Europe.”

Later, he goes on to say, “I’m here to hold Poland up as an example for those who wish to summon the courage and the will to defend our civilization.” According to Trump, our civilization is under threat and we are engaged in a battle that we don’t even realize is taking place.

“Our own fight of the West does not begin on the battlefield — It begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls.”

In the same way that Bebbington boiled evangelical beliefs down to four core values, I would argue that the values espoused in Trump’s rhetoric can be boiled down to four main principles:

  1. We are good people with a good history.
  2. We are deserving of redemption;
  3. We are a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values;
  4. We have a soul that is worth preserving.

My prediction is that as long as Trump’s message remains consistent, evangelical Americans will continue to overlook his personal and political failings and remain instead Trump’s most ardent supporters, for Trump was one of the few who said they were good when for so long they had been told they were bad. 



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