Why evangelicals are wedded to Trump as he makes a more biblical appeal

The fervent embrace of Donald Trump by evangelical voters is both beyond dispute and something of a mystery, at least to those eternally puzzled by the former president’s appeal.Now the New York Times says he is mixing religion and politics to entice followers into the “Church of Trump.”Perhaps that’s why he reposted a Washington Times opinion column this Easter weekend with the headline “The Crucifixion of Donald Trump.”Now a few caveats are in order. Candidates have been commingling religion and political motives for a very long time. Jimmy Carter, who taught Sunday school, openly touted his faith when he won the presidency in 1976.HOWARD KURTZ: ‘NOT MANY MINDS LEFT TO BE CHANGED’ AHEAD OF 2024 ELECTIONOver the weekend, President Biden sent “warmest wishes to Christians around the world celebrating Easter Sunday. Easter reminds us of the power of hope and the promise of Christ’s Resurrection. As we gather with loved ones, we remember Jesus’s sacrifice. We pray for one another and cherish the blessing of the dawn of new possibilities.”The church-going Catholic president is of course entitled to talk about the holiest day of the year. The Trump campaign accused Biden of desecrating Easter with a proclamation on National Transgender Visibility Day, but it was just a coincidence that the observance, which has been celebrated for 15 years on March 31, fell the same day as Easter this year.Trump, who has been collecting royalties on sales of $59.99 Bibles, calling it his favorite book, had a more mixed holiday message:”HAPPY EASTER TO ALL, INCLUDING CROOKED AND CORRUPT PROSECUTORS AND JUDGES THAT ARE DOING EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO INTERFERE WITH THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 2024, AND PUT ME IN PRISON, INCLUDING THOSE MANY PEOPLE THAT I COMPLETELY & TOTALLY DESPISE BECAUSE THEY WANT TO DESTROY AMERICA,” taking shots at “DERANGED” AND “SICK” Jack Smith and also ripping Fani Willis and Alvin Bragg.The Times piece says Trump tends to end his rallies like an “evangelical altar call”: “We will pray to God for our strength and for our liberty. We will pray for God and we will pray with God. We are one movement, one people, one family and one glorious nation under God.”This, says the paper, reflects his attempt “to transform the Republican Party into a kind of Church of Trump.”Only later does the story acknowledge that Trump “has mostly been careful not to speak directly in messianic terms” – kind of a key detail.Now obviously Trump can’t control what others say about him, though I’m sure he welcomes some of these comparisons.SUPREME COURT THROWS A CURVE BALL IN HEARING ON LEGALITY OF ABORTION PILLSA real estate broker at the CPAC conference said Trump has “definitely been chosen by God.” A restaurant worker in South Carolina said “they’ve crucified him worse than Jesus.”Now we get to the part about Trump as unlikely evangelical hero:”He has been married three times, has been repeatedly accused of sexual assault, has been convicted of business fraud and has never showed much interest in church services.”The Washington Times column makes a stark Easter reference, saying much like Pontius Pilate “tried to placate the mob by merely beating Jesus nearly to death, the judge ‘relented’ by lowering the bond required to a paltry $175 million and gave Trump an additional 10 days to secure it.” (That’s factually inaccurate; it was an appeals court that slashed Judge Arthur Engoron’s draconian bond demand by 60 percent.)The column did add that “Donald Trump is no Jesus. He’s committed a sin or two along the way. He can be brash and rude. He is, however, living proof that certain elements of mankind, in a quest for power, are willing to sacrifice, are willing to crucify another human being.”Andrew Sullivan, no fan of Trump, tries to find a middle ground. On his Substack, he says the new, more intensified version today is “an explicit fusion of a particular strand of Christianity with the identity of the entire country and the transformation of a secular politician into an anointed instrument of God’s will. It makes voting an act of religious faithfulness, not democratic deliberation.” HOW THE MEDIA DOWNPLAYED TRUMP’S MAJOR VICTORY ON THE MASSIVE BOND BUT PLAYED UP HIS NEW YORK TRIAL DATEBut he’s unhappy with liberal Christianity as well: “The constant refusal of mainstream and online conservatives to break from the ever-crazier fringes to their right is an exact mirror of the cowardly toleration of the woke fanatics on the center-left. But while the left now draws on the energies of the new religion of neo-racism, the right still has the depth and range of Christianity to plunder, use and abuse its opponents with…”But once the populist devils are unleashed, and there is never any cost to moving ever-rightward or ever-leftward, the old hatreds emerge,” especially among those who feel marginalized and view their country under the control of “sinister forces.”The ethos of Christianity is that we’re all sinners. So if evangelical Trump supporters want to view him as a flawed vessel who is nonetheless superior to Biden on the issue of abortion, that’s their right.And if they also choose to view Trump as persecuted, it’s another challenge for the media to grasp his unshakable appeal among those who might otherwise abandon a repeatedly indicted candidate with a different name.
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