Will President Trump replicate his 2016 success with white evangelical voters in 2020? If he doesn't, he's likely to lose — and a prominent, conservative evangelical pastor just published a forceful argument against downplaying the president's destructive, unrepentant, and very public habits of sin.
Four years ago, exit polls famously showed 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump. That number isn't the best data we have on this — later, better sampling put it in the mid-70s — and it's somewhat misleading for a number of reasons, including that it measures Trump support among voters, but many white evangelicals (like Americans more broadly) didn't vote for anyone in 2016.
Still, even with those qualifications, it's undeniable that white evangelicals were and still are a major Trump bloc. In fact, Pew Research Center data released this month shows a near-identical proportion of white evangelicals who intend to vote are backing Trump and doing so more enthusiastically than in 2016: They're now more likely to be for Trump than against his opponent.
That's the context in which John Piper, a Minneapolis pastor well-known among evangelicals for his uncompromisingly conservative, Reformed theology, published a "long-overdue article" arguing that "the deadly influences of a leader" are felt through his character as much as his policy. Without naming either major party candidate, Piper argued Trump's unrepented "boastfulness, vulgarity, immorality, and factiousness are ... nation-corrupting" sins just as capable of inflicting harm as the "bad judges, bad laws, and bad policies" of a Democratic presidency. These evils "move out from centers of influence to infect whole cultures," he wrote. "The last five years bear vivid witness to this infection at almost every level of society."
This resolute refusal to "[treat] as minimal the destructive effects of the spreading gangrene of high-profile, high-handed, culture-shaping sin" stands in sharp contrast to many other evangelical leaders' recent election commentary — particularly California pastor John MacArthur's statement that "any real, true" Christian will vote for Trump. Piper's perspective is a welcome one, and in a few weeks we'll learn if it's more the exception or the rule.