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The Unintended Consequence of Misplaced Trust


This week CBS News and YouGov reported the results of poll questions asked to GOP voters. Some of the results were fairly predictable. For example, no one would be shocked to discover that the majority of GOP voters are planning to vote for Trump in the primary, or that they believe that the latest indictment (in Georgia, for those struggling to keep up) is politically motivated.[1] There was, however, one question asked of likely Trump voters that yielded a disturbing answer. Among these voters Trump is considered the most trustworthy.

The pollsters asked likely Trump voters whether they felt certain people or institutions were telling them the truth. Of the voters polled, 71% felt Trump tells them the truth–more than their friends and family (63%), more than the conservative media (56%) and, most shockingly, more than religious leaders (42%). While one could argue that these numbers could be a testament to the rise of the “Nones” and the waning influence of Christianity in American society, I am not so sure. When you consider that somewhere between 76% and 81% of white Evangelical Christians voted for Trump in the last election, there is at least a fairly good chance that some people attending church this weekend find Donald Trump a more ardent truth-teller than the pastor giving the day’s sermon.

I will admit that I am so shocked by this polling that I am unsure exactly what to make of it. In short, there is nothing I can conclusively prove from this polling, but nothing about it seems good. Let’s first dispense with the obvious. The great irony of this polling is that Donald Trump is one of the least truthful figures we have ever seen on the modern American political stage. The Toronto Star found that, by June of 2019, Trump had made over 5,000 false claims. The Washington Post, which included not only false but misleading claims in its calculations, found that Trump made over 30,000 statements of this type while in office. Moreover, Trump’s alleged dishonesty is a major element in each of his four current indictments.[2] How is it that a man who is so obviously dishonest came to be more trusted than religious leaders? What does this say about the state of religion in our country that such a thing can happen? And more importantly, what can we do about it?

I could endlessly speculate about the first two questions, but I think the answer to the third lies somewhere in the fact that many religious leaders who have been supplanted by Trump as trustworthy figures are also his supporters. Is it possible that the Evangelical Church’s rush to promote and defend Trump, despite his dishonesty and immorality, has caused an erosion of trust between these leaders and their members? That the ease with which the white Evangelical Church jettisoned its own moral standards was a sign to, not only broader society but also to their own parishioners, that they could no longer be trusted? For almost a decade now, the Evangelical Church has had to rest in the cognitive dissonance of defending a man whose immorality is beyond question and yet uphold him as a moral leader. Something had to give somewhere.

Maybe the answer for Christianity in America is to divest itself from the lust of political influence and once again become a place (if it ever was) where people can find community, love, healing, and peace. Maybe then we can make the church a church again.


Notes and References:

[1] Again, for those keeping score, Trump’s four indictments are for: 1. Falsifying business records in NY; 2. Illegal possession of classified government documents in FL; 3. Conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection to the Jan. 6 insurrection in DC; and 4. Election interference with the results of the 2020 election in GA.

[2] Falsifying business records is a lie in itself. A major element of the classified records case is that trump lied about what he had in his possession, and both the DC and GA prosecutions center around what has become known as “the Big Lie”—that Trump did not lose the 2020 election. Also, while I refer to these lies as “alleged” out of respect for our judicial system, many of Trump’s lies in these cases are well-documented and provable outside a court of law.


Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at AdventHealth University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at

Previous Spectrum columns by Jason Hines can be found by clicking here.

Title image by Sean Benesh on Unsplash.

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