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Quote of the Day: Is Evangelicalism a Solution to MAGA?

quote of the day

An excerpt from Paul A. Djupe’s article We Should Probably Stop Thinking Religion is a Solution to MAGA.

In his latest piece for the New York Times, he [David French] describes the “Rage and Joy of Donald Trump’s MAGA America.” It’s a neat argument, backed by his personal observations while immersed in the South, that MAGA supporters are not just angry about the state of the world and the leftist/globalist/whatevers they believe are wrongly in charge. They are actually pretty happy in the MAGA communities they’ve inhabited in the traveling circus following Trump around the country and in their local communities. The importance of that observation is this: they will need a replacement for that communal joy to encourage them to sever their connection to MAGA, not just steps that would defuse their anger.

That’s all fine with me in the sense that it’s worth studying more systematically to see if there’s something to it.

What I’m concerned with is his extension to religion and especially evangelicalism. The parallel he draws is this: “Evangelicals are a particularly illustrative case. About half of self-identified evangelicals now attend church monthly or less often. They have religious zeal, but they lack religious community. So they find their band of brothers and sisters in the Trump movement.” I’ve heard this sort of argument A LOT in the Trump years, trying to make the argument that church-involved people are the good, well-behaved ones who wouldn’t support Trump, while the non-attenders who still identify as religious/evangelical/whatever are the ones doing the objectionable thing in the news at the moment. The implication is that if those MAGA types could just get back to church (or in some other community), then the MAGA problem would be solved.

I’ve addressed this several times before in several different ways and I’m surely missing some posts, but let me say it again: church attendance is linked to Trump support.


What I think French and many others are missing is that church involvement is not the crucial dividing line here, but instead the kind of religious beliefs that the people hold are. This is a particular blindspot among some scholars of religion who think of American society as divided between church attenders versus those who are not. Of course there’s some of that, but if you really want to understand who is MAGA and who isn’t, you need to be thinking about apocalypticism. The people fixated on dividing the world into the forces of good and evil (demonic, embodied evil), see Christians facing rampant persecution, and foresee (yep, prophecy belief is a big part of this) a final battle ahead are on a different plane of existence from other people. And they certainly do feel warmly toward Donald Trump, anointed to be their savior.


David French laid out a thoughtful approach to thinking about how to deradicalize MAGA folks, but he’s wrong in his assumptions about the role of religion here. Among some, church involvement as it shows through apocalyptic beliefs is an accelerant of MAGA, not a replacement for it. The dividing line is clear. Those with religious beliefs that draw sharp lines between good and evil and feature elites who are making the case that Trump is the anointed ruler of America (and whose indictments are demonic) are the most dangerous and powerful support structures of the MAGA movement. We need to stop thinking that religion is the antidote – particular forms of it, like the New Apostolic Reformation, may be the cause of the problem.

Professor Paul A. Djupe directs the Data for Political Research program at Denison University, is an affiliated scholar with PRRI, the series editor of Religious Engagement in Democratic Politics (Temple), and co-creator of

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    The DutchGuy

    No, the one can not replace or even mitigate the other. Evangelicals and MAGA-heads are just sides of the same coin, or perhaps it’s better said they are suffering from the same mental quirk which is susceptibility to cult.thinking. Both are necessarily driven by belief in fantasy. When evangelicalism is subjected to rules of evidence, nothing about is credible, pretty much the same as Trump.

  2. Avatar
    Ted M. Gossard

    I think you’re right on here, Bruce. Well, it may be anecdotal in my case, but I have close family who are extremely devoted conservative Baptists or Calvary Chapel and the like adherents, quite religious, steady attenders of church. All they want to talk about is their religion and a big part of that is the terrible evil enveloped all over them which is going to bring an end to America and that Jesus surely will return soon and rescue believers. And they are MAGA through and through, if anything it seems, more and more. The other side is full of lies and their side at worst is just rough on the edges. That’s the way it is. I know these people and their complete sincerity. They’re as sincere as you or I, completely so. But like you say, Bruce, it’s about accepting an apocalyptic vision of total good versus total evil. Really poor I say no matter from what perspective you’re looking at it. It is what it is, and unfortunately, we’ll have to live with it and hope that we’ll be spared the worst. Though you have to hope that something better will emerge from what might happen.

    In my opinion too, Evangelicalism does not have the theological chops to begin to deal with Christian Nationalism. They do have some good Biblical scholars and theologians among the many who are not so good and plenty who to me are not good. No matter how hard the best ones try, they won’t make much if any dent in MAGA. A few of them do seem to have a more expansive less individualistic understanding of the gospel, but it will largely fall completely on deaf ears of those in the MAGA cult. In fact, Evangelicalism as it has come to be is indeed part of the problem. I imagine you’ve read Kristen Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne, Bruce. That’s an eye opener indeed. And it’s only getting worse.

    Thanks, Bruce for your helpful posts and thoughts.

  3. Avatar

    I agree to some extent because the vast majority of the MAGA and Qanons I am acquainted with have one thing in common- they live isolated lives and have very little socialization in the outside world. A great many Qanons are disabled with mental illness or elderly with few friends and they get drawn in easily by the conspiracy angle and believing they know something the rest of the world is not privy to knowing. It also gives them something to “belong” to and feel a part of which they are otherwise missing in their lives. Most of the Trump supporters I know who attend church are not even aware of the Qanon stuff for the most part, though there are a few extremist churches that held Q meetings in the basement I heard about a few years ago. But overall the southern baptist church goers are too busy with attending church and potlucks, etc. and don’t have the time to spend online falling down the rabbit hole. People who are home alone all day are the ones tend to fall prey to this.

  4. Avatar

    I don’t think that MAGA and conservative religion are inseparable – they’re so closely intertwined that they’re like 2 invasive species of vines wrapped around each other. You’d need a blow torch to exterminate the lot, let it all cool off, and rip out the dead vines by hand, making sure to pull out all the roots and bulldoze the whole area.

  5. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    If anything, I think the relationship between MAGA and conservative/fundamentalist religion is symbiotic: While, as OC says, they aren’t inseparable, they need each other in order to have the kind of influence they’ve attained. Donald Trump never would have been elected without the support of Evangelicals, Fundamentalists and conservative Catholics, and they wouldn’t have been able to get what they want (e.g., overturning Roe v Wade) without Trump and his Supreme Court appointments.

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Bruce Gerencser