Why Does Trump the Felon Still Have Evangelical Support?

Why Does Trump the Felon Still Have Evangelical Support? June 2, 2024

AI generated image of Donald Trump Behind Bars

Will anything stop American Christians voting for Trump this November? The depressing answer seems to be, no, nothing.

Is Trump a Villain or Victim? Convicted Criminal or Hero?

Despite  34 felony convictions, most US Christians seem to agree with Trump’s assessment of himself as a political prisoner, It is an misleading phrase since so far he has not spent a single night behind bars.

Some evangelicals are blatantly likening Trump to Jesus and creating memes that portray his convictions as the same as Jesus. The memes are nothing short of blasphemous and take the Lords name in vain. As fellow Patheos blog Anxious Bench said “keep the Name out of your mouth!

If you have somehow missed the news this brief SkyNews report summarises it well:

NBC News also has an article with several video clips which is worth looking at.

The Trump phenomenon is a mystery to those of us outside the USA. Here in the UK for example Christians vote for both main parties. Following his criminal convictions, which may just be the first of many, the cash is rolling in even faster to re-elect him. As a Christian I do understand that the abortion issue is a huge factor but it is not the only issue we vote on in the rest of the world. The majority of Evangelical Christians in the USA seem to support Trump not just as the best of a bad bunch, but enthusiastically. This seems strange given how Trump’s values do not seem to align with Christian ones such as compassion, kindness, faithfulness, and truthfulness.

Why isn’t kindness to disabled and sick people a vote winner for Christians? What about social justice, so beloved of much of the Bible? Why don’t we want to alleviate suffering by improving health and social care?

Back in 2021, Time Magazine wrote, How Trump Stole Christmas—And Why Evangelicals Rally to Their Savior explaining that back then:

“Over two-thirds of white evangelicals felt the 2020 election had been stolen from Trump . . . For the vast majority of white evangelicals in the U.S. . . Trump is still their warrior. And his promises are still the same as those he made as a candidate in 2016: that he would fight for Christians like them.” READ MORE

I thought I would have a look at what different Christian voices have been saying about Trump in the wake of his conviction. Would him becoming a convicted criminal make any difference?  Or was Trump right when he said back in 2016:

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”

Many non Christian voices are welcoming this verdict:

“Donald Trump repeatedly tried to argue that he was above the law in this case, as well as others.

When the grand jury in this case subpoenaed his financial records, he took the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that as president he did not have to provide the information. The Supreme Court ruled against him. He argued to this court that he could not be prosecuted in New York State Court because he took the actions — writing the checks and falsifying the business records — when he was president.

The court rightly rejected this, and the case was tried before a jury. Donald Trump was convicted on all counts because the evidence was overwhelming that he authorized payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels, illegally concealed it as business records, and did so to help his campaign. The legal system worked as it is supposed to with a fair trial before a conscientious judge. The rule of law was upheld.” READ THE REST

In the Washington Times, Christian pastor Shane Idleman asks after guilty verdict, can a Christian still support Donald Trump? He replies,

“The short answer to whether Christians can support Donald Trump is absolutely, especially after a sham trial that resembles Venezuela more than America. . .If a leader lacks Christian character but is pointing the nation back to God, is that a bad thing? If they are being a terror to terrorists and making America secure, is that a bad thing? Is that a bad thing if they are honoring hard work and minimizing free handouts? If they are fighting the global agenda to enslave America, is that a bad thing?” READ THE REST

In a recent survey reported in Christianity Today,

“More than 9 in 10 white evangelical voters said a guilty verdict in the hush money trial would make no difference in their vote or would make them more likely to back Trump.”

The article goes on to quote many Christian voices who all seem to be suggesting that it is trust in the courts that is weakened after this vertict not trust in Trump, one pundit is quoted:

“He’s a martyr for the cause. . .Trump almost paints himself in a messianic light. And all messiahs face persecution.”  READ THE REST

Franklin Graham seems to have forgotten that his father regretted getting into politics and was the trusted and confidential friend and advisor to many presidents from both sides of the party divide. Graham Jr expressed his distrust in the courts:

Roger Olson seems to be, like me, somewhat despairing of this state of affairs and asks,

“What would it take for Trump’s die-hard supporters to give up their support? Is there anything that would accomplish that in them? It seems not.

So I ask myself Why? Why do so many Americans support Trump seemingly unconditionally? He’s an adulterer, a liar, a convicted felony. And an admitted would-be dictator (even if only for one day). He’s a bully . . .

They are convinced that America has fallen into an abyss out of which only a bully can rescue it . . . Still, and nevertheless, Trump is more dangerous than any left-wing agenda . . .

I’m appalled at people who are saying the recent trial that ended in a jury convicting Trump of thirty-four felonies was “rigged.” Folks! It was a jury of ordinary fellow Americans who found him guilty. No one forced them to. Let’s refuse to be distracted by the claims of a “rigged trial” and focus on the fact that a jury of Trump’s peers convicted him. They could have declined to convict him.

Now we face the possible prospect of a convicted felon in the White House. But even that isn’t the worst part. He’s not only a convicted felon, he’s a bully. And I don’t mean “like Theodore Roosevelt.” I mean LIKE Benito Mussolini.”  READ THE REST

Albert Mohler is a leading voice for the Reformed Evangelical movement in the USA.  His view is at  pro Trump, although he acknowledges the morally uncomfortable side. But like many Evangelicals he clearly sees Trump as a victim of a political witch-hunt rather than a villain who’s legal challenges are only just beginning:

“A former president of the United States is now a convicted felon. . .  The seven-week trial was nakedly political . . .  Trump seethed as he was tied up in court, even as President Joe Biden was able to hit the campaign trail . . . the former president will not have a hard time convincing untold millions of Americans that the whole trial was a sham—which it was . . . At the same time, Christians trying to think and act within a Biblical frame find the entire picture just sickening . . . it’s hard to imagine that many evangelical Christians can look to Donald Trump without shaking their heads and wanting the whole sordid picture to just fade away . . . The moral weight of it all is massive  .  . .  Say what you will about Donald Trump and his sex scandals, he doesn’t confuse male and female . . . The biggest effect of this verdict. . . is likely to be that Biden’s team feels self-satisfied and Trump’s team is fired up.” READ MORE

But it is not mere political expediency that drives evangelical support for Trump. Politico interviews Religious Sociologist Samuel L. Perry:

“How could Christians embrace a leader who has seemingly treated half the “thou shalt nots” in the Bible as a challenge? . . . anyone who’s so much as set foot in an evangelical church over the last eight years knows that Christians don’t describe Trump as an unfortunate necessity, but a literal God-send. Political convenience alone doesn’t explain that. Sex might . . .Trump’s sinful behavior may actually reinforce his support among at least some evangelicals.

Trump’s sexual misdeeds may break religious doctrine, Perry says, but they also affirm his masculinity — at least in the evangelical view. They demonstrate that Trump is a virile, red-blooded man, afflicted by God — like all “real men” — with lust. Not just lust for sex, Perry says, but for power. And much like Biblical warriors who themselves struggled with sexual temptation, Trump can wield that power to lead the faithful to glory.”  READ THE REST

If this is really what is driving Evangelicals to support Trump then what has happened to Christian morality? As Patheos author Stuart Delony puts it

“In the peculiar world of fragile evangelical masculinity, Trump’s brand of machismo is revered as a badge of honor. His sexual exploits, far from being condemned, are twisted into a narrative of virility and strength. In the evangelical playbook, a “real man” is defined not by his character but by his ability to assert dominance and power—qualities that Trump seemingly possesses in spades.

The evangelical obsession with masculinity reaches absurd heights, with leaders and followers alike fawning over Trump’s faux alpha male persona . . .  In the warped logic of evangelicalism, a man who lusts after power and women is not just forgiven but exalted as a paragon of masculinity . . . It’s a narrative as old as time itself: men are the victims of temptation, while women are the architects of sin.” READ MORE

The extent of the commitment to Trump from some Christians is staggering, and the extent of the bipartisan divide is astonishing.  Eric Metaxes dramatically declares:

Stephen Altrogge retorts quite correctly  “dunno slavery was pretty terrible”!  That reply demonstrates what is so wrong about making Trump into the ultimate victim, when the truth is he has brought this on himself.  What are Christians saying about themselves if they tie ourselves so closely to Trump?

Joey Cochran suggests that,

“If you’re an evangelical, you may wish to examine your embodied, emotional, and social response to the verdict of Donald Trump and consider what that means about what has discipled or catechized you. Your visceral and instinctual response to this news points to what you really long for and desire.” READ MORE

Many American Evangelicals clearly long for someone to fight vigorously back on their behalf against what they perceive to be a Democratic Party which hates them and is opposed to everything they value.

Some American Christians don’t get on so well with Trump. The ongoing support of Evangelical voters for Trump even during the primaries when there were other genuinely conservatives to choose from is puzzling:

“This has frustrated a minority of conservative evangelicals who see Trump as an unrepentant poser, using the Bible and prayer sessions for photo props. They see him as lacking real faith and facing credible, serious misconduct allegations while campaigning with incendiary rhetoric and authoritarian ambitions.” READ THE REST

Adam Russell urges Christians “DON’T REPEAT THE LIES ABOUT TRUMP’S CONVICTION

Patheos author Karl Forehand  says that watching the way many Christians loved Trump contributed to the deconstruction of his faith. He examined Trump under the headings of the fruit the Spirit and concluded:

    1. Love – Trump seemed to love only those who supported him . . .
    2. Joy . . . Trump . . . lied more and played the victim card every chance he got. He exemplified white privilege, having everything but still seeing everything as rigged against him . . .he can’t find joy unless he’s criticizing others, cheating at golf, cheating on his wife, or concocting illegal business schemes.
    3. Peace . . Trump, other politicians, and religious people make a living creating people to hate . . .
    4. Patience  . . . Trump imploded because he had to sit still for a few weeks. It was really shorter than a normal work week for most Americans, but he wanted special privilege because of who he imagined himself to be: the King . . .
    5. Kindness . . . Trump and his supporters avoid the basic injunction by Jesus to love your neighbor, treat them fairly, and respect differing opinions. I noticed this at Trump’s first press conference, but it didn’t improve . . .People carrying Jesus banners at the January 6th insurrection were shouting “Hang Mike Pence” . . . If you want to boil my reason for deconstruction down to one thing, it would be the unkindness of Jesus followers and the politicians they idolize.
    6. Faithfulness – Trump is faithful only to himself . . .
    7. Gentleness . . .  I don’t see gentleness in any fiber of Trump’s being or in most popular pastors . .
    8. Self-Control – Do we really have to go into the fact that Trump cheated on all of his wives, including at least once with an adult film star? He can’t control his mouth, actions, or propensity to cheat . . .

What I’m looking for in leaders is very simply some integrity, not a specific stance on a popular issue. I ask questions like, “Is this person honest? Do they care for the little people, and would they sacrifice for those struggling?”

Maybe it’s a fool’s errand to look for those people in politics and religion. The nature of politics and religion is to defend your current position, not to keep exploring to find the better truth.  READ MORE

There is one more reason many believe why white Christians support Donald Trump: Racism. I do hope this is wrong, but it does seem that for many American Christians their faith is tied up in the superiority of the USA, and in particular Americans coming from a White European background.  May God have mercy on us if this accusation is fair, but I fear it is at least for some. Racism must never be dressed up in Christian clothes.

Will anything stop Evangelical Christians voting for Trump this November? The depressing answer seems to be, no, nothing.

Conclusion

Whilst I do not think it is helpful to generate whole articles via Artificial Intelligence, tools like ChatGPT are great at summarising the broad range of perspectives they have been fed and trained with. So to conclude this piece, I asked GPT the following prompt and thought I would share its reply in full:

ChatGPT, why do American Christians like and support Donald Trump when he doesn’t have many christian character traits or values?

“The support of Donald Trump by many American Christians, particularly Evangelicals, is a complex phenomenon influenced by various factors. Here are some key reasons:

1. Policy Alignment: Many American Christians, especially conservative Evangelicals, prioritize certain policy issues where Trump has shown strong support. These include opposition to abortion, appointment of conservative judges, religious freedom, and support for Israel. Trump’s administration made significant strides in these areas, which resonates deeply with these voters.

2. Political Pragmatism: Some Christians may view their support for Trump through a lens of pragmatism. They might not see Trump as embodying Christian character traits but believe he is a means to an end for achieving policy goals that align with their values. This includes the appointment of conservative justices to the Supreme Court and other federal courts, which can have long-term impacts on legislation related to key moral and religious issues.

3. Perceived Defense Against Secularism: Many Christians feel that American society is becoming increasingly secular and hostile to their beliefs. Trump is seen by some as a defender against this trend, standing up for their right to express and practice their faith publicly.

4. Economic and Social Issues: Beyond religious and moral issues, Trump’s policies on the economy, immigration, and national security resonate with many Christian voters who prioritize a strong economy, secure borders, and robust national defense.

5. Populism and Cultural Identity: Trump’s appeal to a sense of cultural identity and national pride resonates with many Christians who feel alienated by the perceived elite and liberal media. His rhetoric on “America First” and traditional values strikes a chord with voters who are concerned about cultural changes and the perceived erosion of traditional American values.

6. Media Influence and Misinformation: Media consumption plays a significant role. Many Christians consume media that portrays Trump in a positive light, emphasizing his achievements and downplaying or justifying his flaws. This creates an echo chamber that reinforces their support.

7. Forgiveness and Redemption Narrative: Some Christians believe in the power of redemption and forgiveness, viewing Trump as a flawed individual who can be used by God to fulfill a greater purpose. They may cite biblical figures like King David, who, despite personal failings, was used by God for significant purposes.

8. Charismatic Leadership: Trump’s assertive and charismatic leadership style appeals to many voters, including Christians, who appreciate a strong, decisive leader who speaks his mind and challenges the status quo.

These factors, among others, contribute to the complex relationship between American Christians and Donald Trump. It’s important to note that not all Christians support Trump, and there is a diversity of opinion within the Christian community regarding his leadership and policies.” SOURCE: ChatGPT 4.0  Generated 2 June 2024

READ MORE

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About Adrian Warnock
Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor. He worked as a psychiatrist and in the pharmaceutical industry on clinical trials. He has been a Christian writer since 2003 and is a published author. Alongside his career Adrian also served on a church leadership team. He was diagnosed with blood cancer in May 2017 and is the founder of Blood Cancer Uncensored an online patient support group. Adrian is passionate about helping people learn to approach suffering with hope and compassion. Adrian qualified in 1995 with an MB BS medical degree from London University (in the USA this would be called an MD). Adrian also has post graduate qualifications in both Psychiatry (MRCPsych) and Pharmaceutical Medicine (MFFM and DipPharmMed). He studied theology through courses organised by Newfrontiers. You can read more about the author here.
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