According to the Washington Post, Ralph Reed, Huckabee, Falwell Jr. and Dobson have at last managed to get the backbone of American evangelical leadership to at long last publicly denounce Jesus as a loser. They have announced that instead of Jesus they will now preach fascism. Of course that’s not how the Washington Post put it. They missed the point. In “Thrilling Christian conservative audience, Trump vows to lift ban on politicking, appoint antiabortion judges,” (June 21) the Post put it this way: “Donald Trump won a standing ovation from hundreds of Christian conservatives who came to New York City on Tuesday.”
“I think maybe that will be my greatest contribution to Christianity — and other religions — is to allow you, when you talk religious liberty, to go and speak openly, and if you like somebody or want somebody to represent you, you should have the right to do it,” Trump said.
Trump said America was hurting due to what he described as Christianity’s slide to become “weaker, weaker, weaker.” He said he’d get department store employees to say “Merry Christmas.” He’d fight restrictions on public employees, such as public school coaches, from being allowed to lead sectarian prayer on the field.
The enthusiastic audience and leaders in the standing ovation, included leaders of the far Religious Right– Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed and evangelist Franklin Graham (son of evangelical icon Billy Graham).
As Mother Jones noted “Dobson previously endorsed Ted Cruz for president and made robocalls to voters.” In a television ad released in February, ahead of critical early primary elections, Dobson said that after Trump’s statement that he would accept the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same sex marriage, “We knew we could not support him.” And now? He’s God’s man of the hour!
The meeting was bursting with other religious leaders who had been Ted Cruz supporters: Penny Nance, the head of conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America, brother entrepreneurs and anti-LGBT hate leader and “activists” from North Carolina David and Jason Benham, and Tony-change-the-gays-Perkins, president of the “conservative” (read hate-group) Family Research Council. Perkins chaired, and the Benham brothers were members of the Cruz campaign’s religious liberty advisory council. Another former member, Kelly Shackleford, president of the First Liberty Law Institute, a law firm that represents conservative causes, was also at the meeting. He told Time that he planned to ask a question about religious freedom and judicial nominations.
Many evangelicals love Trump’s nostalgic framework about taking America “back.” This is the Sarah Palin “wing” of the far right Christians.
According to the Wash Post, those attending said “the reception for Trump was very warm.” Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Dobson and others who spoke from the stage praised Trump.
“I believe that he came across very well as a messenger for everybody in the room, not just as a beneficiary of evangelical votes but as a fellow traveler. That’s not necessarily an easy distance for him to have traveled because people didn’t see him like that before,” said Marjorie Danenfelser of Susan B. Anthony List, which works to oppose abortion. “He made no missteps. There were no explosions.”
According to Mother Jones, During the meeting, Trump’s campaign also announced the formation of an Evangelical Executive Advisory Board. Its members will include former Rep. Michele Bachmann, Dobson, Jerry Falwell, the president of Liberty University, and televangelist Kenneth Copeland—who said in February that God had anointed Ted Cruz to be the next president.
In introducing Trump, Huckabee told him: “I don’t think anyone here expects you to be theological today. I want to put you at ease. I don’t think anyone here thinks we’re interviewing you to be our next pastor,” he said. “You’re off the hook on the deep theological questions.”
Organizers handed out a pre- and post-meeting prayer guide: “Ask God to help you recognize any tensions that you feel participating in this meeting,” the guide said. What “tensions”? Once you renounce the gospel in favor of xenophobic nationalism there are no tensions and the next Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stands up can be dealt with.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book —WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace
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