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losersWell, the reality TV show that was the 2016 election cycle is now over. Congratulations to President-elect Trump and all of his supporters. You shook up the world. I thought he’d lose, and I was wrong. I think he’ll be as terrible for our nation as Hillary Clinton would’ve been (perhaps in different ways, but in many of the same ways), and I will be really glad, honestly, to be wrong about that. I’ll be praying for our new leader, mostly for repentance and humility and restraint, but also for wisdom.

So my candidate lost. I can live with that. If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t have voted the way I did. But Trump’s victory, of course, comes at the expense of others’ defeat, even if only for the moment. Here, then, are some thoughts on the yuge losers.

Hillary Clinton and (Especially) The Liberal Establishment
“Hillary: yuh fired.” I do not think it’s a stretch to say that the vast majority of votes cast for Donald Trump were really cast in opposition to Hillary Clinton. The popular vote once again reveals the near-equal division of voting ideology in our nation, but the voters who put Trump over the top have felt marginalized for years now by the increasingly progressive agenda of the political left. The health care boondoggle that is Obamacare, the institutionalization of same-sex marriage, further entrenchment of abortion-on-demand, growing threats to religious liberty, leftist propagandizing in public schools, and so on. This and more (economic instability, terrorism at home and abroad, increasing taxes and welfare state, etc.) has only served to make millions of conservatives feel like strangers in their own country. Never underestimate anger. And never overestimate the influence of liberal elitism. All the Beyonces in the world couldn’t stop the Trump train. This election was fundamentally a referendum on Clinton and the liberal establishment. The people have spoken, and they overwhelmingly desire change.

Pollsters, Consultants, and Other Assorted Political Prognosticators
They were wrong. Dead wrong. Whether by incompetence or willful deception, they’d been projecting a Clinton victory all along. I’m not an expert of this kind by any stretch, but I couldn’t see how, as a more divisive personality than Mitt Romney, Donald Trump could win this election against a shrewd and determined Clinton. And I didn’t think right-wing anger for Hillary Clinton could exceed that for then-candidate Barack Obama. I was wrong. Dead wrong. These election results have made fools of the experts. I didn’t watch any television news coverage of the returns last night, but via social media I learned that the pundits and personalities had gone slack-jawed. Were they really surprised they’d gotten it so wrong? Maybe they will now come to terms with just how out of touch the media is with the average American. And maybe in the future we’ll remember that predictive polls are practically worthless.

Yes, I know a Republican won the election, and Republicans won the House and Senate. But this is not the Grand Ol’ Party of yesteryear. This is Trump’s GOP. Convictional conservatism, intelligent conservatism are effectively dead. It is the populist’s GOP now. It is the Drudge Report’s GOP, Fox News’s GOP, Breitbart’s GOP--heck, David Duke’s GOP. We elected a Manhattan liberal in Republican clothing, a guy who was pro-choice all his public career until it became politically expedient. Real principled Republicanism is dead--which is what many people wanted, I know. I don’t know if this will pave the way for a viable conservative party or not, but I suspect not. I’ve already stated how terrible I’ve been at predicting the political future, but I suspect this GOP success is only a set-up for a liberal backlash the likes of which we have yet to see (scary, I know) and by choosing this Republican president, we ensure more losses to come.

Evangelical Credibility
In my mind, there may have been no popular image more representative of this winning campaign than that of Jerry Falwell Jr. gleefully standing with Donald Trump in his office, Playboy magazines prominently on the wall in the background. Again, this may sound counterintuitive, since the candidate backed by what’s left of the Religious Right and the Moral Majority won handily last night. But what institutional evangelicalism has gained in a presidency it has lost, in my estimation, in gospel witness. And it’s not like this was hanging in the balance. Evangelical credibility was already circling the drain. It just experienced a decisive flush last night. Our new president had the full-throated support of the Klu Klux Klan and other white nationalist/supremacist groups, the conspiracy-obsessed tabloid alt-right, misogynistic shock-jocks, and . . . evangelical Christians? As the weeks went by and more of us became shocked by the kind of thinking--poor logic, poor theology, poor spirituality--on display from certain Christian Trump-supporters, it wasn’t so much a Trump ascendancy we feared but a certifying of evangelicalism’s biblical illiteracy and, thus, theological bankruptcy.

I said it before the election, and I’ll say it now: most evangelical support of Donald Trump was hypocritical, double-minded. Character matters, except when it doesn’t. Biblical virtue matters, except when it doesn’t. When power and influence (and fear) are on the line, we will sell out in a heartbeat. The result is this: evangelicalism as an institutional movement has revealed itself to be exactly what the world has accused it of being all along. What will it profit the movement to gain the White House and lose its convictional soul?

There’s no use belaboring that point. Those who disagree aren’t likely to be convinced at this stage. The victory is too fresh, and this will sound like sour grapes. Those who agree don’t need me to spell it out any further.

And now, a beam of gospel hope:
If you’re like me, you noticed that most of the evangelicals you know personally who supported Trump tended to do so reluctantly--holding their noses, as it were. They acknowledged he was “flawed” but reckoned Clinton a more brazen evil. I think this kind of thinking was wrongheaded, but it’s different from the all-out endorsement of Trump as some kind of political messiah. I’ve seen that too, but most of that I’ve seen--all anecdotal, I know--has come not from convictional evangelicals but cultural evangelicals. If you put the overwhelming Trump support together with the continued decline of church attendance and uptick in heterodox thinking among professing Christians (as revealed in latest research), I think what we might see is that the majority of evangelicals who think nothing of supporting a greedy, race-baiting, vengeful sexual predator are really only evangelicals in name only. The nominals have their president, in other words.

The rest of us? Well, we are a smaller minority than we realized. And this may be the best thing to happen to us, to the church, to the world. If the Lord is doing anything in ordaining these confusing cultural shifts, it is perhaps a great sifting--we are finding out where the real church is.

For Christianity has always prevailed not from the places of power and prominence but from the margins. For real gospel witness to go forward, it must do so as a bright and salty counter-culture. So there is good news here, I think. Christ is still on his throne, of course, and the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. He wasn’t crossing his fingers when he said that, and he didn’t make it contingent on our numbers or even our cultural capital. (What does the strong, faithful, growing church in China have that we don’t have? I’ll tell you one thing they don’t have--religious liberty.) We few, we happy, weary few--committed to justice, committed to mission, committed to the local church, committed above all to the cross (where earthly messianic expectation goes to die)--let’s put our faces forward and grip the plow doubly harder and keep on keepin’ on. We’re vastly outnumbered, which--biblically speaking--is to our advantage.


If you need me, I’ll be on the Amazons pre-ordering this.

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7 thoughts on “The Biggest Losers: A 2016 Election Reflection”

  1. Renee Byrd says:

    Maranatha fo sho.

  2. Jonathan Roberts says:

    Do you recommend that book? I would like to know your take on that option.

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Jonathan, not sure. I just preordered it, as it doesn’t come out till March.

  3. tbp1990 says:

    Well said.

    While many have been urging us to pray for our country, I have been praying for the church. I pointed out to someone that the early church turned the world upside down and amazingly they didn’t have a Supreme Court that was favorable to them.

  4. Keith says:

    I appreciate your post. It sums up how a lot of us in the conservative evangelical wing of Christianity feel and think about the presidential election results. I especially liked the subtle book recommendation (or should I say strategy for navigating our culture given its current trajectory).

  5. mdb says:

    You have to be careful who you typecast. Many people who supported Trump are genuine believers, not nominal…I know them. Supporting Trump does not=biblical illiteracy. I supported Trump, and, in as humble a way as possible, I can say I am not illiterate when it comes to scripture. I can say the same for many who did. It does not come down to being nominal or scriptural literacy. In my circles, I have found that the more politically conservative one was, the more likely they were to vote for Trump. The more liberal, less so. Believers on both sides.

  6. Curt Day says:

    Perhaps the biggest takeaway that can garnered from the election of Trump is that America, not just evangelicals, are suffering from a terminal case of myopia. That is because we cannot see past our own immediate concerns and interests, we are making self-destructive decisions including those decisions regarding for whom we will vote.

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

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