Why Christian evangelicals still say AMEN to Trump

It occurs to me that if Donald Trump was still President of the US, Vladimir Putin might not have invaded Ukraine.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but here’s my thinking. I believe Putin is a tyrant and tyrants don’t lose sleep over predictable men like Joe Biden. Biden isn’t going to overreact, Biden won’t “push the button” on nuclear war. But tyrants are very wary of unpredictable, irrational and impulsive men who might do anything … Men like Donald Trump.

My train of thought isn’t bulletproof, but it echoes how many white evangelical Christians view Donald Trump. Whatever his character failings, Trump delivers what evangelicals want. To this group, the barrage of charges and indictments against Trump are just background chatter.

And, in recent days, this chatter has reached a crescendo This week, Trump was formally charged with the most severe indictments yet. 45 pages accusing him of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 US election through fraud. This is in on top of ongoing charges concerning payments to a former porn-star and misuse of official government documents, and charges yet to come, regarding direct interference in the 2020 election in the state of Georgia.

And yet, US evangelicals, by and large, are convinced there is a Washington led crusade against him. To them these charges only enhance his appeal, and his lead over other Republican candidates for 2024 carries on growing.

Why?

Christianity will have power. If I’m there, you’re going to have plenty of power, you don’t need anybody else … Remember that (Donald Trump)

Trump delivers what Evangelicals want

Back in 2016, before becoming President, Donald Trump said: “Christianity will have power. If I’m there, you’re going to have plenty of power, you don’t need anybody else … Remember that.”

It’s a promise he has kept. He has delivered on the number 1 issue for many evangelicals by making abortion more difficult across America. He nominated “Supreme Court Justices” who helped overturn the constitutional right to have an abortion. He moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, again playing to evangelical support for Israel, and he has stood up for religious freedom.

He understood the evangelical wish-list, and he got it done.

Another appealing trait his supporters love is certainty. Trump is certain about many things and certainty sells. He takes the truth as he sees it and he calls it out, candidly and bluntly. He doesn’t care who gets offended. We may disagree with him, but we are never in doubt as to what he thinks. Trump speaks directly and people like it. It wrong-foots his opponents — and people like that too. Many politicians lack this clarity. They worry about people’s opinions, they nuance and spin their statements. Certainty sells and Trump is certain about many things even when he’s wrong.

The Christian evangelical vote is key

According to Reuters, 1 in 3 Americans call themselves evangelical Christians, and 60% of the Republican electorate are evangelicals. This is a nationalist Christian movement that blends together patriotism, politics, and God. It is powerful and profoundly influential to an extent those of us outside the US find hard to grasp. Their programme drives many faith-led political movements and public rallies, including the recent “Pastors For Trump” campaign, targeting churches in swing-states like Georgia and North Carolina for the upcoming 2024 elections.

They even base their support for Trump on the Bible, likening him to the Old Testament character King Cyrus. Despite being an unbelieving Persian ruler from another religion, Cyrus is anointed in Isaiah 44–45 as God’s “shepherd” to help deliver ancient Israel from Babylonian captivity. This concept of an “imperfect vessel used for greater good” then gets applied to Donald Trump.

Many evangelicals don’t personally like Trump but their relationship with him is transactional – they vote for him and he shapes the country to their liking. They hold their nose and vote for policy over character.

Other evangelicals of course love the man himself. They see Trump’s enemies as God’s enemies. In their eyes he can do no wrong and he really was robbed of the 2020 election. These off-the-scale opinions tend to get the press coverage.

How different all this is to 20 years ago. Back then, the highly respected President Bill Clinton was accused of having an affair with former Whitehouse intern Monica Lewinsky. After the “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” half-truth was exposed, he was held in contempt of court. It was very likely a factor in the subsequent Democratic election defeat of 2001. Public attitudes have changed a lot.

(And suffice to say I don’t remember anyone using the Bible to defend him).

Certainty sells and Trump is certain about many things even when he’s wrong

 

Listen to Chris’s interview on TWR Radio that led directly to this article

The 64 million dollar question

What’s your number 1 political issue as a Christian?

If a UK party-leader (for those of us in the UK) was to say, “give me your top 3 issues for Christians and I will get them sorted”, would you vote for them? Even if their character was repugnant? It might be assemblies in schools, or “pro-life”, or ensuing there would always be a prominent Christian voice in Parliament, or something else you hold dear.

Personally, I feel I could not vote for Donald Trump. I view him as having made textbook racist and misogynistic comments, amongst other things But, hopefully, you see it’s not always as black and white as we think.

As the global news organisation POLITCO recently remarked: “Two things can be said of Trump. Firstly, his personal and public life make a mockery of Christian evangelical ideals. Secondly, he is the person who has delivered more policy victories for Christian evangelicals than any other president”.

This article was also published by Premier Christianity. All Chris’s work for Premier can be found here.
If you enjoyed reading this, try What Christians can learn from the new Queen Camilla
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Graham Gowland
Graham Gowland
9 months ago

Some interesting points. I’m not sure Putin would in any way have been deterred by Trump. Remember he saw a major success was pulling out of Afghanistan and taking America out of the role of world policeman — real or imagined. Right wing politics seem to promise something — so issues like abortion control — but gives no compassion or support for children born into need. People have “held their noses” and voted charlatans into power both here and in the US. We need politicians who care about people, and not about dogma

Zita Józefina
Zita Józefina
8 months ago
Reply to  Graham Gowland

ds

Craig Gaydos
Craig Gaydos
9 months ago

What is your take on this article? https://www.newsweek.com/evangelicals-rejecting-jesus

Stephen Langton
Stephen Langton
9 months ago

USA has had from square one an unresolved Church/state issue. Obviously the rebellious British colonists would not accept the established Church of England, and on a wider scale there were so many both national churches and assorted ‘dissenters’ that it would be impractical to have any uniform church. Needs saying, mind, that many of the dissenting groups might reject the established church of their former country, but still would have liked to establish their own version of Christianity. Only Mennonites and similar, a few Baptists, and assorted atheists and ‘freethinkers’, truly believed in religious freedom.… Thus there is a kind… Read more »

Stephen Langton
Stephen Langton
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Goswami

Chris Goswami I don’t see a major incompatibility between “call(ing) people out of the world into a counter-cultural church” and “… the church being the salt and light that works to transform the land we are in, ‘to seek the welfare of the city where we have been sent’ ”. I think rather that we do the salt, light, etc job better as an independent not to mention supranational body than by trying to superficially ‘Christianise’ the state.

Malc Brown
Malc Brown
9 months ago

Thanks Chris. A fascinating insight into American Christianity, which is very helpful. US Christians are influenced by the society they live in, which is about ‘the deal’. As you say, transactional. Three reflections – firstly, therein is the issue – Christians are reflecting the society in which they live, which is not always a good thing. The church is oftentimes called to be counter-cultural – we set the pace rather than the other way around. Secondly, integrity matters. Cyrus may be an example but we live in a new covenant world where Jesus is Lord. We are no longer OT… Read more »

Martin
Martin
9 months ago

Another great read
I never knew
I shudder at the thought of that idiot getting elected again

Amy
Amy
9 months ago

Loved this one Chris! Trump’s support base amongst evangelical Christians has always been something I have struggled to comprehend — this was v insightful. Thanks