Scenes of President Donald Trump proclaiming himself the “president of law and order,” urging the deployment of the military to “dominate the streets,” and then having his path violently cleared of peaceful protesters so that he could hold a Bible in an awkward photo op have resurfaced the perennial question: How can “Bible-believing” white evangelicals condone the violence, racism, and cruelty at the heart of the president and his administration?
The apparent disconnect between theological beliefs and political allegiances invites charges of hypocrisy, but evangelicals themselves are able to hold in tension these conflicting values because for many, evangelicalism is first and foremost a cultural identity. Being evangelical means listening to Christian radio, reading Christian books, and purchasing Christian products that express who they are and what they believe. For “family values evangelicals,” gender is at the heart of this identity, and it is through their distinctive gender ideals that evangelicals are able to reconcile their “biblical values” with their political militancy.
To understand the culture of white evangelicals, look no farther than your nearest Hobby Lobby.