When Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” he seemed to be saying inconsistency isn’t always a problem. Still inconsistency sometimes puzzles me.

The most conservative Christians, for example. Seventy percent of white evangelicals in 1992, when Bill Clinton ran for president, said a person’s moral character was important in how the person would govern, according to Jim Wallis, head of Sojourners, an evangelical Christian organization. And, they voted 3-1 (59-21 percent) for George H.W. Bush over Clinton. In 2016, they voted 5-1 (80-16 percent) for Donald Trump.

Wallis said that today just 30 percent of evangelicals say moral character is important. Only with such a massive swing could they have voted for the current president.

So, those conservative Christians who found Clinton unacceptable because of credible reports of philandering, saw no problem with the Trump, who admitted on tape to assaulting women sexually, who has been married three times, whose second wife bragged that he was the “best sex I ever had,” sex she was having with him while he was still married to his first wife.

Why the inconsistency? Herschel York, a Southern Baptist theologian, believes the evangelicals put the ends, mostly to stop legal abortion, ahead of the means. He says they feared the turnaround in attitude toward gay marriage might happen on abortion, too.

Wallis, on the other hand, believes the conservative Christians follow Trump for non-religious reasons. He says polling shows their top issue is immigration. Either way, it is an electoral riddle that they would reject one philanderer and cleave to another.

Whatever led evangelicals down a primrose path, York and Wallis agree that they have damaged their credibility, perhaps beyond repair, with the rest of us. York: “I think we are in danger, as evangelicals, of losing influence . . . for a generation because of this uneasy alliance.” Wallis: “So much is at stake for our faith and the soul of the nation. How we respond as Christians has got to be more than the ends justify the means.”

Wallis says this hypocrisy puts conservative Christianity in dire straits: “American Christians have not really reckoned with the climate President Trump has created . . . and the spiritual obligation we have to repair it. As a result, the soul of our nation and the integrity of the Christian faith are at risk,”

Though these two conservative Christian leaders have figured out the damage Trump does to their movement, that realization hasn’t trickled down. On Dec. 12, the same 5-1 ratio of white evangelicals voted for Roy Moore for the U.S. Senate seat from Alabama.

This despite reports that the former chief justice of Alabama had stalked teen-aged girls, reports so credible that Moore was said to have been banned from a shopping mall in Gadsden, Alabama. Now, folks who own malls don’t often turn away business. But if the mall’s owners were so worried that he was a sexual stalker that they banned him, one has to wonder how any Alabamans could have voted for the man. Slow learners, maybe?

Oh, by the way, black evangelicals voted 19-1 (95 percent) against Moore. That should pretty well put an end to any notion of white supremacy.

Conservative Christians aren’t the only folks caught up in riddle-worthy inconsistency. Trump’s party cohorts in both houses of Congress, after feigning great reluctance to back him, have jumped into bed with him as surely as have his three wives. Why?

Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives and perhaps the shallowest political “thinker” in our history, demurred well into the 2016 campaign before saying he would vote for Trump. Mitch McConnell, majority leader of the Senate — the same McConnell who in 2009 said his only goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president — jumped more quickly onto Trump’s bandwagon during the campaign, but always a bit reservedly.

USA Today reported McConnell in May 2016 as saying it would be a mistake for Republicans not to back Trump, who had already sewn up the nomination. As USA Today put it, McConnell assured “Republicans nervous about their nominee’s ideology and temperament that a President Trump ‘would be fine.'”

“Trump will not change the Republican Party,” McConnell told USA Today. Oh, yeah?

Neither Ryan nor McConnell waxed giddy about Trump. Last month, though, The Washington Examiner, a conservative outlet, wrote that, “McConnell . . . and Ryan heaped praise on President Trump over the first year his presidency.”

McConnell said during a visit to the White House Rose Garden, “This has been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the Trump administration.” He cited the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the 12 circuit judges nominated to the federal bench and the tax package.

“You’ve ended the over-regulation of the American economy, and that, coupled with (the tax-cut bill), means America is going to start growing again,” McConnell said. “Thank you, Mr. President, for all you’re doing.”

As for Ryan, he argued the bill would not have passed without “exquisite presidential leadership” and thanked Trump for helping to get the tax-cut bill through Congress.

So, wha’ happened? Two less-than-rabid Trumpsters now heap praise on him like manure on a garden. Hypocrisy may be a riddle we cannot solve.

Bob Neal learned in 30 years of farming not to expect consistency from the weather. He wishes we could expect more consistency from our leaders.


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