Strange Bedfellows: The Evangelical Right and Trump

Strange Bedfellows: The Evangelical Right and Trump September 2, 2015

By Derek Penwell:

Why, this author is asking, is Donald Trump attractive to the Evangelical Right? That question is not only a good one, and this analysis reasonable, but an answer to that question lays bare much of what goes on evangelical political rhetoric and aspirations. 

It’s baffling. The incongruity of Trump’s appeal to evangelicals prompted New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni, to wonder in astonishment, “I must not be watching the same campaign that his evangelical fans are, because I don’t see someone interested in serving God. I see someone interested in being God.”

So, here’s the question I have: Do evangelicals (at least in South Carolina) prefer Donald Trump because he’s convinced them he’s a Christian, or are they attracted to him because he’s a Republican? Or do they just like the guy who’s unafraid to say the kinds of things your crazy uncle says in those email forwards?

The answer to those questions bears scrutiny.

First, let’s all just admit up front that the thing that attracts evangelicals to Donald Trump is not first his sterling Christian example. (See above.)

Second, Donald Trump can’t be attractive to evangelicals just because he’s Republican–given the fact that there are sixteen other candidates that also fit that bill. And, interestingly enough, a number of those Republican candidates have the kind of evangelical bona fides that should have greater appeal to that particular interest group, if being an evangelical Christian is the first box on the voter guide that needs to be checked off.

So, if “evangelical Christian” and “Republican” aren’t the primary criteria luring evangelicals to Mr. Trump, it must be his outrageousness that appeals to them. Apparently, his Christian and Republican credentials act merely as available options, like the Sports Package with the 17-inch wheels, floor mats, and cargo netting–nice if they’re in stock, but certainly not deal breakers….

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