• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Two Straws in the Wind: Evangelicals and the US Election

Factoid 1: Franklin Graham all-but-explicitly endorsed Donald Trump on the eve of the election.

Factoid 2: Wheaton College students, according to a poll taken by their student newspaper, overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton.

The Graham endorsement (let’s call it what it is) is no surprise, as he has been a prominent, one might say “vociferous,” proponent of the Religious Right. Originally identified, and praised, as the successor to founder Bob Pierce at Samaritan’s Purse, he increasingly has tried to combine that work with his father’s ministry of large-scale evangelistic rallies and also with outspoken politics, thus becoming much more like Jerry Falwell than Billy Graham.

Meanwhile, however, at Billy Graham’s alma mater, students were strongly inclined to vote for Hillary Clinton.

This was a school at which I was part of a tiny, conspicuous minority when I wore a “Mondale/Ferraro” pin in the mid-1980s. I was a Canadian citizen and thus unable to vote, but we had lived in the US as permanent residents for several years, were anticipating at least several more (we returned to Canada in 1990), and I thought it best for my students at Wheaton to see that at least some members of the Wheaton community were not Republican.

(For the record, back here in Canada, I have voted Liberal, Conservative, and New Democratic Party as each election posed a fresh context, and I am not a member of any party.)

This division among American evangelicals tracks with certain findings in exit polls, such as this one in the New York Times. The younger and the more educated a voter, the more likely to vote for Clinton. And if the voter is non-white, the numbers jump much higher, just as Wheaton itself, and the broader evangelical constituency it represents, has become significantly less Caucasian in the last generation.

So if one likes the result of this election, one must nonetheless bewail it as very likely the political swan song of less educated white males, and especially those claiming an evangelical identity. The demographic trends are against you—as, of course, you know very well, and demonstrated you did during this campaign.

The more one dislikes the result of this election, the more one can feel that time is on one’s side.