The election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. President came as a shock to some Christians across the nation, but perhaps equally shocking was the exit poll result that 81 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump.
Numerous Christians have written, tweeted, and posted their opinions online in light of the exit polls in terms of what ‘evangelical’ now means, and how they will associate themselves with — or distance themselves from — the term.
Fuller Theological Seminary’s president Mark Labberton and president emeritus Richard Mouw issued a joint statement on Monday, saying that the term was “blurred” during the elections season “both because of the media and because of some evangelical voices.”
“This polarization, even among evangelicals, led some to conclude that evangelicals on both sides were increasingly and inextricably bound to and complicit with scandalizing words and actions that degrade people and contradict and betray the gospel of Jesus Christ,” they stated.
“Evangelical has value only if it names our commitment to seek and demonstrate the heart and mind of God in Jesus Christ,” they said in the statement.
They added that Fuller will continue to identify itself as evangelical “because of its non-negotiable commitment to the evangel, God’s good news.”
However, some were more quick to distance themselves from or criticize the term, particularly the term, ‘white evangelical.’
Ray Ortlund, pastor at Immanuel Church, tweeted on Wednesday, “I am not a ‘white evangelical.’ I am a Christian, a grateful member of the gloriously diverse Body of Christ.”
“Congratulations to white evangelicalism on your candidate’s win. I don’t understand you and I think you just sealed some awful fate,” tweeted Thabiti Anyabwile, contributor to The Gospel Coalition. “I’m not alone in seeing serious problems with evangelicalism’s witness at the moment,” he added in a blog post.
Author Preston Yancey tweeted, “So I guess I’m not an evangelical. Because I’m not whatever the hell this is.”
“For white evangelicals who now feel like strangers in a strange land, this has been my experience as POC for most of my life. Let’s talk,” tweeted Helen Lee, author and director of marketing at InterVarsity Press.
Others in the public sphere shared similar sentiments as that of Fuller’s presidents, expressing disapproval for what the term ‘evangelical’ has been used to refer to, yet still not completely disassociating themselves.
Katelyn Beaty, former editor at Christianity Today, wrote in an op-ed to the Washington Post that she felt that she woke up on Wednesday after the elections “to an evangelical family [she] no longer resembled.”
“Although recently I have wished it were otherwise, evangelicals are my people,” Beaty added. “But this time, this election, I can’t defend my people. I barely recognize them.”
Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, wrote a blog on Christianity Today titled, “No, Evangelical Does Not Mean ‘White Republican Who Supports Trump.’” He explained that researchers often use the term ‘evangelical’ to really mean ‘White evangelical,’ which could present inaccurate portrayals of the group.
“Some have said they don’t want to use the label anymore, embarrassed because of its identification with Donald Trump. But that’s backwards,” Stetzer wrote. “It’s not the label that supported Trump, it’s people — White Evangelicals, primarily. But it’s not politics that unite all Evangelicals; it’s the gospel.”