“I’m Not Totally Sure I Deserve It”: Evangelical Support of Donald Trump

Donald Trump showed a rare glimmer of humility in accepting the Republican presidential nomination at this week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, saying, of evangelical Christians’ support for his effort, “I’m not sure I totally deserve it …”

For a man not usually given to understatement, this was a big one.

On the surface of it, Trump does not in any way deserve the support of evangelicals[1], as major evangelical leaders and news organizations, including The Christian Post, began noting during the Republican primary. He’s a thrice-divorced serial adulterer who began the affair that ended his first marriage in a church. (That’s right—he went to church in order to conduct an affair with Marla Maples, whom he later got pregnant, marrying only after the birth of daughter Tiffany.) He bragged about spending the years he could have been serving in Viet Nam having sex with countless beautiful women, calling his effort to avoid STDs during the time his own “personal Viet Nam.” He has fathered five different children from three different women. He is a chronic liar, a business cheat, a man who inherited and then mismanaged and wasted considerable wealth in a career marked by exploitation of employees and customers. He’s never submitted himself to public service or held himself accountable to a community, and his relationships are primarily transactional—all about what he gets out of them. He has repeatedly expressed lust for his daughter Ivanka, herself accused of cheating in her shoe design business, and he has been credibly accused of child rape as well as numerous cases of sexual assault, intimidation, and harassment. He speaks about women with contempt, mocks those with disabilities, and foments racial and religious unrest by threatening the safety of minorities born here and those who immigrate, positions not surprisingly from a man with a long history of discrimination against people of color. He has business ties to the mob and made much of his money in gambling through shady and exploitive business practices. All that makes James Dobson’s remark that Trump is “tender to the things of the spirit” (that is, the Holy Spirit) laughable. The fruit of the spirit is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” according to the Christian scriptures. None of these qualities are visible in the public life of Donald Trump, not before his “born again” experience under the direction of prosperity gospel preacher Paula White or after. And this is besides the fact that he has long been a supporter of positions that evangelical Christians have widely rejected, including gay rights and abortion rights. He explicitly links these opinions to his background in New York City, directly in contrast, he says, to a person from Iowa, a state that often stands-in for conservative American Protestant Christianity.

So, why, then, do more than three-fourths of white evangelicals say that they will vote for Trump now that he is the nominee?

Significantly, a number of them—45%–will vote for Trump simply as a vote against Clinton, according to a recent Pew poll; just 30% see themselves as voting for Trump because they actually want to vote for him. Forty-two percent of white evangelical voters don’t like either candidate.

(Note to Democratic leadership: How did you mess this up so terribly? Nearly half of Republican evangelicals don’t want to vote for the candidate they are planning to vote for, but you still couldn’t give them any better option? And, no, Tim Kaine, a social-justice style Catholic, is not going to close that gap. What would have? Perhaps nothing could make Hillary Clinton vote-worthy for many evangelicals, but faster recognition and action in response to the genocide of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East at the hands of Daesh might have helped a bit. Or maybe nominating someone other than Clinton, who was actually perceived to be less likely to be a good president than was Bernie Sanders by white evangelicals in a January 2016 Pew poll.)

[1] Or anyone of any faith who sees their faith as important in their political decisions, actually. His unethical behavior violates the codes of all major religious groups.

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