Earlier this week I received a query from a journalist who covers the United States for a conservative Protestant daily newspaper in the Netherlands affiliated with the Calvinist Reformed Political Party. (Follow the links to the paper and its party. They are very Calvinist and very conservative.)
The reporter was covering the Iowa caucuses and had some questions about why so many evangelicals and conservatives in the United States believe that the 2020 election was stolen. “Orthodox Christians in the Netherlands do not understand that,” he wrote in his e-mail to me. He added:
How can we explain why conservative Americans, including many evangelicals, still insist that the 2020 election was stolen? What are the causes, evidence and reasons for this? We would like to know that to better understand our friends in America. Have we been misinformed? Or are the conservative Americans who support Trump clinging to a view that is misplaced? Would you be so kind as to clarify this for me?””
Here is an edited version of my response:
First, there is no evidence whatsoever to prove that the 2020 election was stolen or that anyone but Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States.
The idea that the election was somehow stolen is a conspiracy theory. Donald Trump created this narrative on the night of the 2020 election and his followers blindly accepted it. Many of those who bought into this “Big Lie” have faced legal troubles, including Sydney Powell and Jenna Ellis, an evangelical Christian lawyer who worked with Trump to help overturn the election. Both Powell and Ellis have now admitted that the election was NOT stolen and Biden is the legitimate president.
Many conservative evangelicals are loyal to Trump because they believe that God has anointed him to save the United States from the secular liberals who want to undermine it. They believe that the United States is an exceptional nation—a new Israel—and Donald Trump will make the country Christian again. They believe just about everything he says.
American evangelicalism has a long history of anti-intellectualism. Many uneducated evangelicals blindly follow political leaders who promise to restore America to its supposedly Christian founding. If Trump tells them the election was stolen, they believe him. Others—self-professed “prophets”–believe that God told them that Trump will help them gain control of American culture and government.
This narrative is reinforced by the media. Many American evangelicals live in a media bubble. They only read like-minded social media feeds and get their news from Fox News, Newsmax, One America News, and other pro-Trump outlets. All of these outlets advanced the Big Lie to different degrees.
Many evangelical leaders who know better remain silent. If asked, they will say that Joe Biden won the election, but they do little to correct their congregations and followers.
Conservative Protestants in the Netherlands do not understand this because they believe in truth and evidence and are not taken-in by conspiracy theorists.
I thought about this exchange again after reading CNN’s Manu Raju’s tweet about Mitt Romney’s take on the Iowa caucuses:
Here’s the full tweet:
Just asked Mitt Romney about Iowa caucus entrance polls showing that a majority of GOP caucusgoers didn’t believe that Joe Biden was elected legitimately. “I think a lot of people in this country are out of touch with reality and will accept anything Donald Trump tells them. You had a jury that said that Donald Trump raped a woman. And that doesn’t seem to be moving the needle. There’s a lot of things about today’s electorate that I have a hard time understanding.”