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The Evangelical Capitulation: Prayer Documents from their Meeting with Trump

June 21st, 2016 | 4 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Today, over 1,000 members of the Religious Right met with Donald Trump. It was pitched as a ‘conversation’; it was very clearly a campaign rally for the Republican nominee. Over 1,000 members were invited: I was not among them.

One participant observed that Jesus was not mentioned at the event. But, we do know that attendees were asked to pray before and after the event itself. Which is, at least, something. 

Someone sent me the documents that attendees received. Specifically, they were given a prayer guide for the pre-and post-meeting and a more general guide for praying for Trump and other leaders modeled upon the Lord’s Prayer.

The documents provide a bit of insight into the mindset of the organizers of the conference. They are mostly benign, and intentionally aim to be neutral. They have a more therapeutic than political ring to them, which is perhaps surprising for this gathering.

But they are generally oriented toward overcoming any internal objections or hesitations or sense of ‘judgment’ about others and the candidate. “Acknowledge any personal feelings that would keep you from honoring Mr. Trump for his participation,” they exhort the attendees. “Take a moment to offer a blessing for Mr. Trump and his family.” They aim, in this sense, at peace in nearly every sense: an internal peace, and the unity of peace as evangelicals with their Republican standard bearer.

But those who have badly studied what (culture) wars they must fight will be ill-equipped to see the nature of the peace that we need. There’s an Anglican prayer that asks for the wisdom to know the peace we ought preserve, and the false peace we ought relinquish. No peace can be made with Trump without the sharp rebuke of the Gospel with its call to repentance; no “Yes” is evangelical unless it also clearly announces its “No.”

Was such a word offered by any of the attendees? Did they meet their candidate with the diffidence and unconcern that Jesus shows before Pilate? In the earnestness of their supplications, were they moved to renounce the ways of evil and unrighteousness that Trump has himself tacitly and, nay, openly endorsed?

There is a unity which we must seek, and a unity we cannot allow. The capitulation of the Religious Right is now complete. It is a tragically comic ending to a movement that has done far, far more harm than good.

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Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.