by Richard Hurley

Richard Hurley is an author and historian who frequently answers questions on American politics for the international blog, Quora. Here is his response to the question, “What do Evangelical Christians in America stand for? And why are they so important to some presidential candidates in America, especially Trump?” Richard is Steve Hurley’s brother.

“Evangelical Christians in America” is a pretty broad category that includes people of sincere belief – like Jimmy Carter. If what you really mean is the “Religious” Right, perhaps it would be better to employ that term.

What the “Religious” Right stands for is power – political power, to be exact – because there is an authoritarian streak in the movement a mile wide. Believing that God speaks to you directly and that you represent his will on earth is pretty heady stuff. Some people like the rush that comes with that and will bend reality to any degree to achieve it.

If Michelle Obama shows some shoulder wearing a summer dress, she is wicked. If Donald Trump grabs women by the genitals and boasts of it, he is a sinner, but sinners are forgiven – if they provide political power to the “Religious” Right. The fact that Trump is no more a Christian than he is a Zoroastrian is not really relevant. The end (the victory of a Godly kingdom and its ministers) justifies the means.

It’s not a pretty picture. Those in the movement will have some explaining to do if there really is a Grand Accounting. In the meanwhile, I would treat them as any other authoritarian political group with a very fluid set of principles. Handle with care, and keep a sharp eye out for assaults by the “Religious” Right on the norms and practices of our secular democracy.

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