Why do some evangelical Christians support President Trump? What’s the appeal, to people who profess family values, of a man whose life includes multiple marriages and affairs and who tends to be crude?
Let’s dive into this alleged mystery.
Turn with me if you will to the book of Isaiah, chapter 45. We come to the story of Cyrus the Great. He was not a king of Israel or Judah. He was emperor of Persia from 539-530 BC. Persia tended to be an enemy of the children of Israel. It’s now called Iran, and continues to be an enemy of Israel.
But Cyrus himself was not; God called Cyrus “my servant” and Cyrus followed through. Cyrus decreed that the Jewish exiles in Babylon could return to their homes and re-establish their country. He also allowed them to rebuild the temple. This was a big deal; Judah had been subjugated and exiled for 70 years, their ability to worship disrupted by the destruction of their temple in Jerusalem. Yet here was Cyrus, who was not one of them, playing a major role in fostering the Jews’ return home.
I do have a point.
NeverTrumper Ben Howe has a book out called The Immoral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power over Christian Values. Howe has been doing a lot of TV, MSNBC included, defending that incendiary title.
I have not read the book. I’ve seen him defend, it including the title, which suggests it reflects what he really thinks.
The thesis smears evangelicals.
It’s fair to say Donald J. Trump is not an evangelical. He’s never been called one and has not called himself one. Technically, he’s Presbyterian. As a New York liberal for most of his life, he had no conservative credibility prior to 2016. This conservative evangelical was very skeptical of him, and did not support him in the 2016 primary. I initially thought his candidacy was Seinfeldian — about nothing.
But by the time he won the Republican primary in 2016, and he wasn’t my first or second or third choice then, a few things were clear.
One: Donald Trump could win the presidency (though it looked unlikely).
Two: He seemed to have grasped a fact that eluded Jeb Bush and John Kasich; namely, that if you run as a Republican you shouldn’t spend most of your time insulting Republicans. Not, at least, if you want them to vote for you (or applaud your speeches). You should probably spend the bulk of your time articulating a positive conservative vision and lambasting the left’s rage and socialism. Trump did that. His passion suggested he might actually put up a fight against the left. The worse they treated him, the more he seemed to be readying for a fight.
Three: However flawed Trump might be, and he is, he was obviously better for the country and for evangelicals than any Democrat would be.
Recall that Trump was running after eight years of President Obama. Those eight years saw the federal government attempt to force nuns, literally the Little Sisters of the Poor, to violate their consciences and fund birth control. Obama took ’em to court over that. The eight years of Obama saw activist leftists haul Christian cake bakers to court and destroy their livelihood. The eight years of Obama saw a very emboldened left vent its hatred for everyone to their right, and evangelicals knew we were in their crosshairs. They went after Christian-owned Hobby Lobby, they used our tax dollars to fund abortion, they made their disdain for our faith abundantly clear. The Democrats’ 2016 appeal to us amounted to “Vote for us, you stupid, racist, bucktoothed haters!”
That’s terrible marketing anywhere outside the New York Times newsroom.
Their 2020 message is worse. They’re pushing failed 19th-century socialism paired with anti-Semitism (while calling us “racist”), along with the policy plan that just finished killing Venezuela. They want to erase our borders and take away our guns. They’ll betray Israel at the first opportunity. Remember — Rep. Eric Swalwell (D) threatened to nuke gun owners, fellow Americans! Plus: they still hate evangelicals and want us to pay for abortion on demand.
Hillary Clinton did not offer a break from any of that. She called us “deplorable” and relished cranking Obama’s hostility up a notch. The third-party guy, Evan whatever, also spent too much time attacking to his right, not his left. That’s not a good look. Ditto for the NeverTrumpers.
So Trump emerged as a kind of Cyrus figure: Not necessarily “one of us,” but not someone who would not go out of his way to smear or hurt us either.
Somebody is going to misread that previous line, so as Obama would say, let me be clear: Trump would be benign toward evangelicals, and might even be helpful, as Cyrus was helpful toward Israel. The previous is not meant to suggest Trump would literally become an emperor. We’re not interested in that.
Speaking for myself and the evangelicals I know, Trump earned our votes by articulating many of our ideals fearlessly. This suggested he might actually follow through, unlike many who have called themselves “conservative” for their entire lives but “grow” left once they get to Washington. If we got some policy wins out of him, all the better.
Trump has been strongly pro-life, strongly pro-American, strongly pro-Israel, strongly pro-capitalism, and he has pushed back against the freedom-robbing regulatory state. He cut taxes and he left evangelicals alone. He didn’t sue the nuns. He doesn’t want our guns.
Voting for Trump is not “trading Christian values for political power.” It’s voting in self-defense against the radical, evangelical-hating left and hoping for the best – and getting more than expected.