Evangelical Support for Trump Is Pragmatism, Not Blind Worship
The president isn't an exemplary man, but he fights for Christians' religious liberty.
In the final weeks prior to the 2016 elections, Democrats and their mainstream media mouthpieces were giddy at the predicted landslide election by Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump.
Yet a constant source of irritation for them was their inability to figure out the unshakeable support Trump garnered from the unlikeliest place — Evangelical voters.
On paper, Trump should have been anathema to Christian Evangelicals. He’s a man whose moral failings are both extensive and widely publicized: multiple divorces, an adulterous affair with a porn star, and a payoff to a Playboy model to keep another affair quiet — and both affairs happened after his third wife had just birthed their son. Moreover, he’s crude, brash, and once said he doesn’t ask for God’s forgiveness. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right,” he said in 2015. “I don’t bring God into that picture.” That’s a lot of things, but it’s not Christianity.
And yet Trump’s Evangelical support has not wavered. Folks who are baffled by this have a fundamental misunderstanding of how Evangelicals (and Trump supporters generally) actually view him.
Democrat 2020 presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg insists, “God doesn’t have a political party,” and he’s made other statements claiming his homosexuality and pro-abortion stance are compatible with his Christian faith. The Reverend Franklin Graham responded in a series of tweets stating, in part, “Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman — not two men, not two women.” Reverend Graham is exactly right.
But in response to Graham’s tweets, National Review columnist and Never Trumper David French accused Graham of selling out his Christian faith for political expediency as an early and steadfast Trump supporter.
Said French, “The proper Evangelical position toward any president is not hard to articulate, though it is exceedingly difficult to hold to, especially in polarized times when one party seems set on limiting religious liberty and zealously defending abortion: We should pray for presidents, critique them when they’re wrong, praise them when they’re right, and never, ever impose partisan double standards.”
On the surface, French is right. But his comments reflect that fundamental misunderstanding of the support for President Trump by Evangelicals and the broader Republican base.
No Evangelical or conservative Republican has or would argue that we should praise Trump for his moral failings, or argue that these sinful acts are “no big deal.” Just the opposite.
But what Evangelicals and rank-and-file conservatives see in Trump is not an ideological purist, or a faith leader; they don’t look to him as a moral icon, or a political philosopher. They look to him as a happy, indefatigable warrior defending the Christian faith and conservative values, as counterintuitive as that might seem.
Mitt Romney was arguably the most personally moral, scandal-free Republican candidate in decades. George W. Bush was a born-again Christian. But both were gentlemanly fighters, adhering to the Marquis of Queensbury rules while their progressive Democrat opponents slashed and gutted them in a political knife fight. Bush saw his presidency weakened because he refused to really fight back against accusations of racism, bigotry, and lack of compassion. Romney was taken down by a brazenly dishonest Barack Obama long before he even had a chance to step foot in the Oval Office.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a fighter. He is a street brawler who matches blow for blow, and then some. He responds to every attack. He epitomizes the Sean Connery line in “The Untouchables” about how to take down Chicago gangster Al Capone: “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue!”
The Christian faith and conservative values have been under relentless assault for years, and the choirboys that Republicans keep running for office don’t seem up to the task of defending them, offering platitudes and lip service as the lives of Christians are destroyed under attacks from the Rainbow Mafia and left-wing judges.
But Trump is up to the task. As our Brian Mark Weber noted last year, “For decades, Republicans at all levels of government gave campaign lip service to the hopes of Christians around the country only to turn their backs on those same voters once in office. Why, then, continue to elect these well-meaning but mild-mannered choirboys? Instead, why not throw in behind a serial philanderer who’s delivering the strongest pro-life message in our history and seating a conservative Supreme Court that will defend religious liberty for the next generation?”
Donald Trump may not be the best person to articulate Christian doctrine, but he has fought valiantly to defend religious freedom and Judeo-Christian values in the public square. His administration, much to the dismay of anti-Christian leftists, is stocked with faithful Christians, from Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo down to junior aides. He has been the most actively pro-life president in decades and arguably the most pro-Israel president ever. He has put two solid conservative, pro-life justices on the Supreme Court, partially defunded Planned Parenthood, and ended IRS harassment of churches.
No, Christians are not hypocrites for supporting Trump over the horrible Hillary Clinton. Nor are they the dimwitted lemmings the press paints them out to be. In fact, their support of Trump has turned out to be far more politically astute than anyone could have suspected. While there is only one Savior, which is Jesus Christ, in Donald Trump they see their political David, slaying their anti-Christian Goliaths.
And so long as Trump continues to fight for them, their support for him will remain unshakeable.