Though many evangelical Christians consider a Trump presidency a success for American evangelicals, Prof. John Jefferson Davis, an evangelical himself, called his election a disaster in a lecture on Wednesday, Jan. 25.
“My view is that as an evangelical it is not my job to impose my religion or my morality on anybody else,” the professor of systematic theology and Christian ethics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary told a small but crowded room of more than 20 Brandeis students and professors.
Davis’ opinion on Trump is contrary to most evangelicals’ views. Exit polls show white evangelical voters voted overwhelmingly for Trump, with 80 percent casting their vote for him, according to the Washington Post.
“Nostalgia for a lost Christian America,” and for an America where “a person with a moderate education could make a pretty good living in a factory” explains the high percentage of white evangelicals voting for Trump, according to Davis.
Approximately 25 percent of Americans are evangelicals, according to a survey of more than 35,000 Americans from all 50 states by the Pew Research Center.
Many evangelicals believe that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, according to Davis. He does not share such a sentiment.
Davis described Evangelicals as a diverse group sharing some, but not all, beliefs. He did not provide details which he saw as distinctive to the group.
Evangelicals should move toward a new form of Evangelicalism which leaves behind traditional white male leadership and concepts of anti-evolution creationism in favor of a full inclusion of women and people of color at all levels as well as an acceptance of the scientific facts of evolution and climate change, according to Davis. He also advocated for ending what he called “theocratic politics,” the attempt to use politics to impose beliefs (such as the opposition to gay marriage shared by some Evangelicals) on society.
“To use coercive means to enforce moral norms where there is not overwhelming consensus in the political sphere, I think is foolish,” said Davis, summarizing his argument for ending “theocratic politics.”
The importance of the Gospel, missions and evangelism, biblical orthodoxy and high academic standards should be maintained in Evangelicalism, according to Davis.
“My wife and I are deeply sympathetic to the Palestinian cause,” but “I am glad that the modern state of Israel exists, and it has its right to defend itself,” said Davis, who expressed support for a two-state solution, though, he admitted, such a solution seems unlikely at the present time.
Davis spent two sabbaticals studying at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem.
“Interfaith understanding and the ability to take somebody else’s religious and moral perspective is more important than ever,” said Davis, suggesting that comparative religion is a possible solution to the political divide in the United States.
Davis was raised under Christian Science but converted to Evangelicalism while at Duke University studying physics.