How much did religion and evangelicalism influence our vote during the 2016 presidential election? Professor Randall Balmer of Dartmouth College gave a lecture on Tuesday, March 6 that discussed this idea in the Mason Library at Keene State College. Professor Balmer started off the lecture by defining evangelicalism and honoring its roots in the Presbyterian, Puritism and Pyism Movements. Balmer defines Evangelicals in three ways:

Somebody who:

1. “Believes that the Bible is God’s revelation to humanity, and therefore should be taken very seriously to the point of interpreted literally.”

2. “Believe in the centrality of the conversion of the born-again experience.”

3. “Takes seriously the mandate to evangelize, or bring others into their faith.”

Originally, this meant Evangelicals were people who tried to change society and make it fitting for the return of Jesus Christ. Social reform and holding high positions of power in the church and state were the the long-practiced ways of changing the world. However, the late 19th century altered the idea of social reform as the way of doing this shifted towards individual change.

Balmer detailed this by quoting Billy Graham: “The only way to meaningfully change society is to change Man’s hearts,” meaning change can only be created by first changing the individual self, and people will follow suit. This was, as Balmer put it, “The motto of Evangelicals moving into the 19th and 20th century.”

So how does this apply to politics? Balmer spent a portion of the lecture discussing how Donald Trump, and others like him, use the idea of a religious right to push racist rhetoric based on selfish means. Balmer’s statement on this should be clarified, as he doesn’t mean that all evangelicals are racist, but rather evangelicals often lean towards racism because of their selfish views in the modern day.

On top of this, Balmer discussed the idea of victimization and the deception that Trump used to get many of his supporters to think he was a man of family values. Trump gained support not because he had political experience, worked hard throughout his life or had ideas and thoughts above others. He gained his support because he appealed to the idea of modern Evangelicalism, as defined by Balmer, noting that the individual reformation and perspective is actually more selfish and becomes a form of racism as they put themselves, and others like them, above others.

The questions many took away from Balmer’s lecture were, “Am I a modern Evangelical? Do I put my personal needs and beliefs above that of the nation when I cast my vote? And, more importantly, will I do the same in the upcoming midterm election?”

Too often, people put themselves before the country. Voting for what is better for the nation doesn’t mean destroying your financial situation or going against what you necessarily believe in, it means doing what you think will be best for everyone. Professor Balmer’s lecture is an important lesson for everyone when considering their vote for the next election, on the local or presidential level.

Taylor Beaven can be contacted at

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