Dwight A. Moody
I did not vote for Donald Trump, but millions of Christians did; in fact, his most loyal fan base continues to be a certain segment of the Christian population, namely, white Evangelicals. While many of us were stunned that Trump was elected, we are even more shocked that his voting base, these white Evangelical Christians, continue to support him.
I know I speak for many Christians who are deeply disturbed by the personal behavior and the public policies of President Trump: his crude treatment of women, his preference for corporate needs over those of consumers and the environment, his attacks on the press, the judiciary, and the intelligence community, his low regard for federal agencies in general, his rejection of American democratic allies in favor of dictators around the world, and his war against immigrants especially families and children.
But millions of Christians love Donald Trump and speak of him in messianic terms. God has appointed him President for such a time as this, they say, quoting the biblical book of Esther. Which presents this, the greatest of all current mysteries: why do these Christians support Donald Trump?
Here are four reasons:
Donald Trump has eschewed the traditional posture of federal officials as neutral when it comes to religion; he has embraced the values and vocabulary of Christianity. Furthermore, he has hired men and women with strong Christian commitments, especially those from the most conservative Christian communities in both the Catholic and Protestant traditions. There has been a significant increase in the number of prayer groups and Bible studies associated with this administration. Word about this gets around and confirms the impression that Trump is returning the leadership of the nation to Christian men and women.
Second, Donald Trump supports the rights of Christians to refuse to do business with people who violate their religious values. This is the new face of what they call the exercise of religious freedom, although this understanding of that first amendment right has no history in constitutional, national, or religious traditions. Under Trump, Christians (and, theoretically, others) will be free to reject business and social contact with those who violate traditional Christian teaching, especially gay, lesbian, and transgender people.
These two elements of the Christian support of Donald Trump relate to the sense of grievance that has overtaken much of the conservative Christian community, what once was called the Moral Majority. During the last four decades, conservative Christians have developed a persecution complex, telling each other that they are victims of an aggressive secular state that rejects their rights to read the Bible and pray in public and their freedom to address community issues with Christian solutions. Trump has acknowledged this aggrieved attitude and addressed it by promising that Christians will no longer be marginalized but will be recognized, authorized, empowered, and encouraged.
Third, Donald Trump supports Israel. Israel has a unique relationship with Evangelical Christianity because this branch of American Christianity has been heavily influenced by end time scenarios (prophesy, they call it) that predict the end of the world is near. Central to this imminent conflagration is the Holy Land, the nation of Israel, and especially the return of the Jews to their Promised Land. To recognize the Jewish right of return to Israel and to support Israel in all things is a modern-day fulfillment of the divine promise to Abraham: “The nations that bless you, I will bless.” Evangelicals animated by this version of what is known in theological circles as eschatology support anything that has to do with Israel. Thus, they were thrilled when the American Embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Included in the dedication program in May were two prominent Baptist/Evangelical ministers from Texas.
Finally, Donald Trump nominates men and women as judges who are hostile to the right of abortion. Over the past four decades, opposition to abortion has taken root among Evangelicals, heavily influenced by Roman Catholic teaching on the subject. Efforts to overturn the legal right to an abortion have taken center stage in the moral imagination of white Evangelicals. Hardly any conversation on ethical issues confronting the United States concludes without an Evangelical invoking the evils of abortion and the need to over turn the Supreme Court ruling of 1973, “Roe vs. Wade.” Trump shifted his position on abortion during the Republican primary, promising many times to appoint judges that will overturn the legal right to abortion. This is music to the ears of these white Evangelicals.
There may be other issues, but these four are the ones that leap off the pages of their documents and out of the mouths of their leaders. These four issues are important enough, apparently, to make white Evangelicals the core constituency of President Donald Trump and to allow them to overlook his sexual history, his public policies, his crude speech, his deceitful statements, and his personal profiteering while servicing as president. To them, he is God’s man for this time in American history; and how they come to this conclusion is the biggest mystery of the entire political spectacle known as President Donald Trump.