While Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia hold special counseling sessions and solidarity demonstrations to help college students process President-elect Donald Trump, the post-election atmosphere at nearby Liberty University is a bit different. Last Thursday afternoon, I visited the Evangelical university to talk with a specific demographic where Trump performed better than expected: women.
In analysis of national exit poll data collected by Pew Research, nearly the same percentage of women supported Trump (42 percent) as did Romney in 2012 (44 percent) and McCain in 2008 (43 percent). White evangelicals also surprised pollsters, with a massive 81 percent supporting the GOP candidate.
That most Christians—especially women—were displeased with Trump’s vulgar comments relating to his treatment of women (among other comments), I was curious to hear the voices of young Christian women on the results of the presidential election, the trajectory of the nation, and the future of the Church.
It happened that I visited the campus of the world’s largest Christian university at the start of the popular College for a Weekend program, in which prospective students pack a bag to stay in campus dormitories and attend college classes. Traffic and parking were nightmares. But a welcome inconvenience I suspect for the ever-growing college. According to an official statement from Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., the Christian college currently enrolls 15,000 resident students and 90,000 online students.
The Jerry Falwell Library, appropriately named after the school’s founder Jerry Falwell Sr., seemed like the best place to randomly walk up to female students with seemingly diverse backgrounds and politely request a brief interview.
It became clear quickly that the opinions among the young women I talked with were notably optimistic.
“Personally, I was happy with the results. I think Trump will be good policy-wise, economic-wise. It’s good he is a business man and has been really successful. He knows the problem of the national debt and that we have to address it and we can’t keep ignoring that,” said Claire, a 21 year-old student studying government and pre-law. “I think both candidates have things they need to work on, obviously in how they approach people and make sure their diplomacy is up to par. But overall I think he was the better choice.”
When asked her opinion about the presidential election, another student addressed the backlash and anti-Trump protests among her peers across the nation. “Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for hypocritical backlash because people will say one of the reasons for not liking Trump is because he is rude and crude and they won’t tolerate hate speech and whatever,” said Karen, a 24-year-old business major who supported Trump in the election. “But then they turn around and use social media to make hate speeches and say crude and rude things…You can’t say you don’t stand for hate and then use social media to spew hate on people who don’t have your opinion.”
Becky, a global studies major who has felt God calling her to the mission field since middle school, commented on the trajectory of the country: “We don’t know where the country is going to go. But I do know that we do have more of a chance to glorify God as Christians, as Americans to focus on him and show people that God is real and we aren’t worried because we have a greater Hope.”
Not every young women I spoke with was as enthusiastic about Trump’s presidential win. “I was a little surprised because I was expecting Clinton to win,” said Rachel, a 19-year-old journalism major. “When I think about it I laugh a bit because he’s said a lot of comments that seem ridiculous to me.”
“My initial reaction was that God is in control,” said Christi, who is currently pursuing global studies. “I’ve just been reading through I Kings and it’s evident how God placed those kings in place whether they were good kings or not and they were there so that God would ultimately be glorified and His people would be drawn closer to himself.”
On the future of the Church, two young women shared some of their concerns. Rebecca, an 18-year-old piano performance major shared she worries churches were “not being founded on Biblical truth.”
“If you aren’t believing that the whole Bible is God’s Word and absolute truth then you really can’t defend the Gospel either,” she continued. “If you don’t believe same-sex marriage isn’t sinful then why do you believe that Jesus died for your friends, you know?”
The young business major Karen shared similar concerns. “As far as the Church goes, there have been some where they’ve accepted societal norms which is not a good direction,” she said. “But even if we look in the New Testament when Paul wrote to certain churches they had good aspects and things that they needed to work on. Churches that have problems is nothing new.”
Rebecca, who dreams of using music to minister to lost souls, said her concerns for churches and particular leaders could not overshadow her confidence in the future of the global Church. “I’m encouraged by the vulnerability of the Church. At least at the church I grew up in it’s stressed that church is for broken people,” she said. “Whereas, maybe in the past people felt like you had to be perfect or put on masks to attend church. It seems like churches are encouraging vulnerability more.”
Karen was also confident in the future of the Church and her role within it. She dreams of using her degree to start a salon that ministers to women. “Thirty minutes to an hour of me-time can make a world of difference especially when you’re working and have kids, a husband, and this, that, and the other. I would love it [my salon] to be a ministry for women.”
“I’m hopeful for the Church,” agreed Claire. “Christians are always going to go through hard times. The Bible promises it’s not going to be easy but we are going to be victorious in Christ. We don’t have the Spirit of fear but of power, of love, and of self-control.”
Of course, I was only able to talk with several young women and not every female student on Liberty University’s campus hold similar sentiments relating to President-elect Trump or even the trajectory of the nation.
In October, The Washington Post reported a group of students issued a statement denouncing Trump and his vulgar comments about women writing, “We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history. Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him.” A petition with about 1,200 signatories reportedly accompanied the letter, but the number of signatures belonging to enrolled Liberty students was not verified.Google+