See that question up there in the headline?
It's kind of a Zen question, isn't it? The reality on the ground is that hundreds of evangelicals recently met for an event called Evangelicals For Life that coincided with the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. There were major groups behind this -- the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Focus on the Family. It wasn't minor league.
However, if you check out the videos from the conference (click here for some archives), you'll notice that most of the talk at this event focused on abortion and other life-related issues -- but primarily looked at these subjects through the lens of ministry, as opposed to partisan politics.
Oh, there was some political talk about the U.S. Supreme Court, of course. Legislative battles loomed in the background. But if you listened carefully, few people were making references to a certain New York billionaire in the White House. Some of the primary speakers were from the world of #NeverTrump #NeverHillary.
So did anything newsworthy take place at this event?
It would appear not, if you surf around in Google News looking for mainstream -- especially elite -- news coverage. That was the hook for my Universal syndicate column this past week, as well as for this week's "Crossroads" podcast session with host Todd Wilken. Click here to tune that in.
Why the lack of coverage? I mean, there were influential people there -- some Democrats as well as Republicans. We are talking about real, live, evangelical folks.
Ah, but were they REALLY evangelicals, since it appears that many of them are not part of the massive choir of Donald Trump-worshipping "evangelicals" that we read about day after day in the media? After all, 80-plus percent of American evangelicals worship the ground on which Trump struts, right?
Well, I have a theory about that, one centering on the evidence that roughly half of the white evangelicals who voted for Trump in the election really didn't want to. The way I see it, the "evangelical" tent in American life is currently divided into six different camps. Wilken and I didn't have the time to talk about this material in the podcast, so let me share it with you now. Here we go.
(1) Many evangelicals supported Trump from the get-go. For them, Trump is great and everything is going GREAT.
(2) Other evangelicals may have supported Trump early on, but they have always seen him as a flawed leader -- but the best available. They see him as complicated and evolving and are willing to keep their criticisms PRIVATE.
Now, into which of these camps would you file this recent CNN story?
Washington (CNN)Tony Perkins, the president of the conservative Family Research Council, contended ... that the evangelical community has given President Donald Trump a "mulligan" when it comes to his personal behavior.
"Yes, evangelicals, conservatives, they gave him a mulligan. They let him have a do-over. They said we'll start afresh with you and we'll give you a second chance." Perkins said in a interview on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."
Perkins' remarks come after a Wall Street Journal report that Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, formed a private LLC to pay a former porn star in exchange for not speaking publicly about an alleged sexual encounter with the then-candidate.
For whom was Perkins speaking when he said "evangelicals, conservatives" have given Trump a mulligan?
(3) There are evangelicals who moved into Trump's tent when it became obvious he would win the GOP nomination. They think he is flawed, but they trust him to -- at least -- protect their interests, primarily on First Amendment issues.
(4) Then there are the lesser-of-two-evils Trump evangelicals who went his way in the general election, because they could not back Hillary Clinton under any circumstances. They believe Trump's team has done some good, mixed with quite a bit of bad, especially on race and immigration. They think religious conservatives must be willing to criticize Trump -- in public.
(5) There are evangelicals who never backed Trump and they never will. Many voted for third-party candidates. They welcome seeing what will happen when Trump team people are put under oath and asked hard questions (and ditto for FBI officials). However, they are willing to admit that Trump has done some good, even if in their heart of hearts they'd rather be working with President Mike Pence.
(6) Folks on the evangelical left simply say, "No Trump, ever." Anything he touches is bad and must be rejected. Most voted for Clinton and may have yearned for Bernie Sanders.
So, when you see elite news media coverage of Trump and the world of evangelicalism, do you ever see evidence that all of these groups exist? Do you hear these voices?
Did more reporters, for example, need to walk around at Evangelicals For Life and listen carefully?