Religion & Culture Forum

Evangelical Support for Trump as a Moral Project: Description and Critique​ | January/February Issue


The January issue of the Forum features David Barr’s (University of Chicago) essay, “Evangelical Support for Trump as a Moral Project: Description and Critique.” The rise of Donald J. Trump to the presidency has caused a crisis of misunderstanding in American politics. From the perspective of his critics, his ethos, rhetoric, and politics are so self-evidently evil, they cannot imagine how anyone could support him from anything other than depravity or ignorance. This essay makes the case that there is a deeper meaning beyond this apparently obvious one, and realistic political analysis requires that we recognize it. Barr argues that many American evangelical Christians support President Trump as an expression of a positive moral vision for American government and society. Drawing on the work of political scientist Benjamin Lynerd, Barr shows the deep roots of the affinity for Trumpism found in the political theology of American evangelicalism. Those affinities explained, it concludes with a turn to the thought of Reinhold Niebuhr and current research in the sociology of religion to show the errors and perils that result in and from it.

In the coming weeks, we will publish scholarly responses to Barr’s essay. We invite you to join the conversation by submitting your comments and questions.

Posted Essays:

  1. David Barr, Evangelical Support for Trump as a Moral Project: Description and Critique
  2. Benjamin Lynerd, On Political Theology and Religious Nationalism
  3. John G. Stackhouse, Jr., American Evangelical Support for Donald Trump: Mostly American, and Only Sort-of ‘Evangelical’
  4. Samuel Perry, A War for the Soul of American Evangelicalism
  5. Arlene Sánchez-Walsh, Don’t Forget Trump’s Pentecostal Fans

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Image: Donald Trump bows his head during a prayer while surrounded by Vice President Mike Pence, right, faith leaders and evangelical ministers after signing a proclamation declaring a day of prayer in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. Trump declared Sunday, September 3 a national day of prayer for Hurricane Harvey victims. (Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg via Getty Images)


David Barr is a Ph.D. candidate in Religious Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His research focuses on Christian social and political ethics, especially environmental issues. His dissertation draws on the work of Reinhold Niebuhr to offer a Christian realist environmental ethics. David blogs about religion and political discourse on





Benjamin Lynerd is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago. Lynerd’s book, Republican Theology: The Civil Religion of AmericanEvangelicals, offers an historical and theological account of the hybrid position evangelicals have long affected to hold in American culture—as champions of individual liberty and as guardians of American morality. Republican Theology traces the contentious political journey of evangelicals from its earliest moments, laying bare the conceptual tensions built into their civil religion. His forthcoming work is on democratic theory and discourse ethics.​





John G. Stackhouse, Jr., is the Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in Moncton, Canada. His first book was Canadian Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century: An Introduction to Its Character (University of Toronto, 1993). He has since written extensively on the nature of evangelicalism in North America and beyond. His latest book is Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World (Oxford, 2018).





Samuel Perry is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago where he was also a Junior Fellow at the Marty Center. His research explores the changing dynamics of religion and family life in the United States, focusing primarily on American evangelicalism. Along with over 50 peer-reviewed articles, Dr. Perry has written two books: Growing God’s Family: The Global Orphan Care Movement and the Limits of Evangelical Activism (2017, NYU Press); and Addicted to Lust: Pornography in the Lives of Conservative Protestants (Forthcoming, Oxford University Press).​




asanchez-walsh-291glgq.jpgArlene M. Sánchez-Walsh is associate professor of religious studies at Azusa Pacific University. She is the author of the award-winning book, Latino Pentecostal Identity: Evangelical Faith, Self, and Society. She has authored over a dozen articles and book chapters on the subject of Latino/a religion and has served as a media expert for outlets such as the New York TimesWall Street Journal and On Being with Krista Tippett. Sánchez-Walsh’s current projects include a monograph on Latino/as, American exceptionalism, and the prosperity gospel. Her new book, Pentecostals In America, will be published in May 2018 by Columbia University Press.​


About the Forum

The Martin Marty Center's Religion & Culture Forum is an online forum for thought-provoking discussion on the relationship of scholarship in religion to culture and public life. Each month the Marty Center, the research arm of the University of Chicago Divinity School, invites a scholar of religion to comment on his or her own research in a way that "opens out" to themes, problems, and events in world cultures and contemporary life. Scholars from diverse fields of study are invited to offer responses to these commentaries.

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The Religion & Culture Forum is edited by Joel A. Brown, Divinity School PhD student in Religions in America. Emily D. Crews, Divinity School PhD candidate in the History of Religions, was the previous editor.