You’re about to learn the devil – quite literally in this case – resides in the details of this GOP presidential primary.
If you delve deeply into the exit polling for 20 of the state primary contests held so far, one trend explains perfectly why Donald Trump has surged to the forefront. And let’s just say this trend doesn’t speak well for the recent track record or future relevance of either the church in America or the conservative movement. In past elections this trend would’ve shown us why a candidate as well-funded and organized as Ted Cruz was winning by a landslide, instead of currently finding himself in second place.
The good news is that, on average, Cruz is routing Trump by 25 points, 38-13, among those voting on their values – and that doesn’t count several states that Cruz won which didn’t publish reliable exit polling data like Alaska, Maine, Idaho, Kansas, and Wyoming. The bad news is too many GOP primary voters either aren’t voting their values, and/or their values have changed.
This data says something important to four groups of people:
…. A Pew survey found those who attend church “regularly or weekly” were the GOP primary voters most consistently opposed to Trump and his brand of white nationalist populism mixed with liberal authoritarianism. In mostly Mormon Utah—the only state in the union where a majority of its residents attend church weekly according to Gallup—polls show Trump is poised to get annihilated in the primary on Tuesday. And while there are significant theological disagreements between Mormons and Catholics/evangelicals, the morality preached from each of their pulpits is very similar.
The campaign’s values-based messaging (i.e. Cruz is a “courageous conservative,” “TrustTed,” etc.) definitely works with a principled electorate, but there just aren’t enough voters driven to the polls based on that messaging. Declining church attendance, combined with existential crisis, creates more fear-based voters than faith-based ones. ….. But that generation has been replaced with one far more immersed in reality television than World War II. We are now a people who respond more to solutions than values, even if those solutions are bad, and gear more toward revolution than reform.
Despite an unprecedented list of groups/leaders coalescing behind Cruz’s campaign, and many of its key figures already vowing never to vote for Trump no matter what, the conservative movement has barely served as a speed bump to Trump’s ascendancy. Some of that is because, as Matt Walsh recently pointed out, several of the movement’s biggest celebrities have muddied the waters by becoming Trump shills. But it’s also because our movement has given its street cred to any Republican who was “electable” for far too long. …. As a result, “conservative” is now synonymous with “Republican” in the minds of many people, so they view both as a failure. …..
…. There are legions of people who believe they’ve been saved from their sins because they’re patriotic and love the Constitution, not because they recognize why Easter is eternally more important than Independence Day. This is especially true in the Deep South, where Trump is performing much better with self-identified evangelicals than he is anywhere else in the country. That ought to be deeply troubling to pastors and ministries in that part of the country. …. Clearly we are duplicitous in creating an infestation of false converts who have mistaken cultural conformity for salvation. That is a dangerous place for our collective church to be. We have forgotten the warning of C.S. Lewis: “Aim for heaven and you will get earth thrown in, but aim for earth and you will get neither.”
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