Christians: Trump pushed some young Christians away from churches

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  • President Donald Trump has been closely associated with Christians throughout his presidency, earning a majority of votes from Catholics, Protestants, and Evangelicals in 2016.
  • But for some Christians, Trump has shaken their relationship to their religion so much so that many have broken ties with family, friends, and even their churches.
  • “You’re either a Christian who’s conservative and supportive of Trump, or a Christian that’s really confused and hates the situation you’re in,” Maria Felix told Business Insider.
  • Felix is still looking for a church that she feels shares her values, but she has a lot of friends that have given up looking all together.
  • She said they no longer feel like they can count on their churches to support them, so they leave and find other communities that work better for them.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Maria Felix was on a mission trip, working alongside other Christians, when she first heard President Donald Trump’s name. It was 2015, and she said the group of teens was joking about him, baffled at the idea that he was casting himself as a Christian in his campaign for the presidency.

Five years later, Felix, 23, said Trump’s presidency — and the way he’s been embraced by so many churches, religious leaders, and Christians — has greatly shaken her faith.

“I have really struggled with continuing to even call myself a Christian, because I feel like I cannot continue to call myself a Christian if Trump is what Christians want to be like,” she told Business Insider.

In many ways, Trump has successfully wooed Christians across the US, earning a majority of votes from Catholics and Protestants, and especially Evangelicals, in 2016, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

But for others, like Felix, Trump has strained their relationship to their religion so badly, many have broken ties with family, friends, and even their churches. Some of the Christians told Business Insider that their faith been impacted to such a degree by Trump’s presidency, that they don’t know if many young people will ever find their way back to a church.

Michael Wear, who served as a faith advisor to former President Barack Obama, told Business Insider he has talked to Christians on college campuses across the US who are dismayed by the impact Trump has had on their relationship to religion.

He said Christians of all ages told him they can no longer enjoy some of the most basic aspects of their religious communities, like coffee after church and small group discussions, because of the divisions that exist now.

An Evangelical Christian himself, Wear is part of Not Our Faith, a new bipartisan political action committee of Christians who oppose Trump’s re-election. He said the goal of the PAC is to “be a voice for the majority of Christians who do, and will, oppose Trump’s re-election.”

Wear describes himself as theologically conservative, with relationships across the political spectrum. But he said he is one of many Christians whose “conservative theology leads them to oppose a man who frankly has shown a deficiency of character and a deficiency of morality and a deficiency in his policies.”

Pastor Joshua Nink, right, prays for then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, as his wife, Melania, left, watches after a Sunday service at First Christian Church, in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 2016.

Jae C. HongAssociated Press


But for young Christians in particular, watching some of their leaders support Trump has been especially hard. For many, he said it started with the Access Hollywood tape, an audio clip from 2005 of Trump making lewd comments about women.

“Having been young during Clinton and seen the way Evangelical leaders responded to him, and then to see these same leaders make excuses for Trump,” he told Business Insider. “It just led them to think, some of these voices aren’t trustworthy.”

He also predicted Trump’s impact could last long after his presidency, as many Christians who dislike the president will not forget the way so many churches embraced him.

This point echoed the sentiments of the Christians Insider spoke to, including Felix.

“I have not found great luck in finding a church where I can worship and not feel like it’s hypocritical,” she said.

Felix, whose father is Puerto Rican, left her church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania this summer after she felt her Christian values did not align with those in her church, where she said almost everyone supported Trump.

“I just can’t be okay with the misogynistic, homophobic, racist, xenophobic, etc., things that spew from Trump’s mouth,” she said. “Or the people that follow him that also call themselves Christians.”

She said if she continued to go to church right now, she would get more and more bitter against church in general and in turn against God. For people like her, it has been a bewildering time.

“You’re either a Christian who’s conservative and supportive of Trump, or a Christian that’s really confused and hates the situation you’re in,” she said.

Felix is still looking for a church that she feels shares her values, but she has a lot of friends that have given up looking all together. She said they no longer feel like they can count on their churches to support them, so they leave and find other communities that work better for them.

trump rally evangelical christians protest sign

A man holds a sign which reads “Trump is anything but Christian, Shame on complicit and complacent pastors” outside of a church where President Donald Trump is holding a rally for evangelical supporters, on January 3, 2020, in Miami.

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press


Jesa Joy, a 33-year-old from Michigan who now lives in Los Angeles, has had similar experiences.

Joy, who worked at a Christian church for seven years and said she was raised to be a fiscal Republican, said she understands why people would vote for Trump in some cases, like if they support his tax plan or other policies. But she has been incensed by the way some religious leaders in her life praise Trump for his faith.

“It’s so crazy to me that someone who taught me what a good example of a Christian is, is now choosing to label Trump as a good example of a Christian,” she told Business Insider.

To her, she said Trump is a glaring example of a tension that already existed among Christians in America. She said more traditional Christians with a “fire and brimstone” mentality to their faith were already deterring some younger Christians, who she describes as having a more accepting and loving attitude.

She said Trump — and the way she feels he has been celebrated by the more traditional Christians — has brought that tension to a boiling point.

“I think you have this missing generation of us in our 20s and 30s that are exhausted,” she said. “And who will never really figure out a way to return back to a physical church building. I think there’s a lot of hurt there.”

But Wear, who believes most Christians will not support Trump this election like they did in 2016, said he views this as an opportunity for young Christians to recognize the differences between faith and politics.

“A lot of young people are coming to understand that their faith wasn’t just about Jesus,” he said. “Things that they thought were their faith, was actually somebody’s political opinion.”

Rather than push young people away, Wear said he hopes that distinction will help them approach their faith with more clarity.

“The predominant thing here is not a whole bunch of people losing confidence in Jesus,” he said. “What’s happening is they’re losing trust and confidence in some of these folks who have claimed to speak for Christianity.”

Despite the divisions that exist right now, Wear said he’s hopeful that Christian communities will eventually move beyond Trump, and that he’ll be a lot more hopeful for that if the country moves beyond Trump on election day.



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