Much has been said about the importance of religious evangelicals in the current Presidential nomination process, especially in the Republican three-ring circus. In their efforts to win these sanctified votes, some candidates have miraculously changed themselves from politicians trying to get elected into divinely inspired prophets leading the way to the Promised Land.
Despite pious invocations of the Almighty by Cruz, Rubio, and Carson, and, until they fell from electoral grace, by Huckabee, Jindal, Perry, and Santorum, evangelicals surprisingly are giving their strongest support to Donald Trump, whose ecclesiastical credentials are on the light side, to say the least. It is has been suggested that it is Trump’s frequent belligerent assaults on political correctness, which evangelicals associate with anti-Christian liberalism, that attracts them to him.
What, precisely, are these evangelicals whose votes are so highly sought?
The word evangelical derives from the Late Latin evangelicus, which came from the Greek evangelikos, both of which mean “relating to good news,” a reference to the Christian gospel. The Greek roots are eu-, meaning “good,” and angelos, meaning “messenger” (the same root as the English word angel).
The modern Christian evangelical movement traces its origins to the eighteenth century, especially in the teachings of English Methodists and German Moravians and Lutheran Pietists. It gained great momentum in the United States in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, in the religious revivals known as the “Great Awakenings.” Today Christians of an evangelical persuasion can be found in all denominations, though they are largely concentrated in Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Pentecostal congregations.
According to the National Association of Evangelicals, the hallmarks of evangelical belief are Conversionism (the need to be transformed by a “born again” experience), Activism (the spreading of the gospel by missionary work and social reform efforts), Biblicism (an acceptance of the Bible as the ultimate authority), and Crucicentrism (a stress on the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only means by which human beings are saved).
Many evangelicals are also Fundamentalists, meaning that it is “fundamental” to their beliefs that the Bible is literally and unerringly true. Some are also Dispensationalists, who hold that the Bible teaches that human history is divided into periods (known as “dispensations”), each of which has a different divine plan. The typical Dispensational division of history is into seven periods, commencing with the innocence of Eden and culminating in the millennial reign of Christ.
Evangelicals tend to be highly conservative in social policy, although there is a branch of progessive evangelicals whose views are more moderate.
The Bard of Buffalo Bayou finds these theological concepts very difficult to wrap is little brain around and prefers to the see the Presidential campaign in a different light.
From seventeen (or was it more?)
Republicans, it’s down to four,
Who still remain (or is it five?)
Hoping that their chances are alive.
The Democrats began with five,
Now only two of them survive.
Though you may try, you can’t ignore
A race with candidates galore.
And after all is said and done
In nine more months, there’ll just be one.