It was more apparent than ever during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Too many conflated being a Republican with Christianity, as if identifying with a political party meant that one automatically espoused a very specific set of religious beliefs. Naturally, as the months of the season continued on and Trump became the last man standing, this mindset grew even more popular.
Trump the candidate, who the GOP clearly wanted, must be the political messiah we’ve all been waiting for! After all, if God wanted someone else, he would have allowed that candidate to be successful, right?
And so, major rationalizations were born that are alive and well to this very day.
God knew Trump would win, thus, his presidency is divinely blessed and we shall hold him in high esteem, no matter what.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m one of those people who believe that God is aware of all events before they occur and was in no way caught off guard by the results of November 8, 2016. That being said, I also know that man is fallible and should be held accountable for words and actions. That he was the victor out of not only a crowded field of Republicans, but a head-to-head battle against a Clinton doesn’t change anything for me.
He won. So what?
You know who else won? Twice? Barack Obama. The self-described community organizer. The guy who played identity politics. The man who ushered in Obamacare. The same individual who told Planned Parenthood “God bless you!”
He won twice.
God himself did not stop all in the heavenly realm at the sound of Obama’s victory and exclaim, “Whoa. I did not see that coming.” In fact, you may be able to say that – gasp – Barack Obama was divinely appointed. Why, if we take this line of thinking to its logical conclusion, this means all leaders around the word are divinely appointed?!
So, great. Donald J. Trump was divinely appointed. I can’t argue with this statement. However, the problem is that this truth now has become a free pass for his behavior. Anything goes if you’ve been handpicked by Jesus to lead the world’s superpower. Anything in your past can be glossed over because you’ve been touched by the holy. Repentance? Asking God for forgiveness? Not necessary.
That may sound like I’m exaggerating, but this is essentially what the Jerry Falwell, Jr., Tony Perkins, and Franklin Graham-types are saying. And like it or not, they are the faces of modern Evangelicalism. Because of that, they’re hurting not only a community of faith that should stand athwart contemporary society and all its ills but also a political party that likes to pretend it’s today’s leading moral compass.
Everything comes down to politics. Don’t believe me? Just ask Tony Perkins.
Perkins knows about Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who claimed, in a 2011 interview, that in 2006 she had sex with Trump four months after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son, Barron. He knows of the reports that Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) was paid off to keep the affair quiet in the waning weeks of the 2016 election. He knows about the cursing, the lewdness and the litany of questionable behavior over the past year of Trump’s life or the 70 that came before it.
“We kind of gave him—‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,’” Perkins told me in an interview for the latest episode of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast.
…and here’s the kicker.
Evangelical Christians, says Perkins, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”
Trump is the rude, big tough guy on the playground who has a questionable background, but he’s doing it for Jesus! Sorry, that’s exactly how it sounds, and that sound is a dumb rationalization.
The gospel during 2016 turned into “beat Hillary Clinton” and anything else was secondary or further down the list. Getting back that White House is what mattered. Period. This didn’t stop with his election night victory, though. It’s a leading theme as his higher-profile supporters in religious circles discuss his wins and losses one year after he assumed the throne. You read what Perkins said. Falwell continues to excitedly preach the Trump gospel during media appearances. Graham tweets out glowing praise for the guy.
And I expect it will continue all the way through his first term no matter how he behaves, speaks, or what is revealed about his already seedy, very recent, unrepentant past.
Before you write me off as some disgruntled, non-religious anti-Trumper, I say all these things as the daughter of a minister who grew up in the Evangelical church and still attends one to this day.
I speak as someone who sees this exact behavior around me, permeating the pews and causing the usual level-heads to forsake principles just so they can bask in the glory of President Donald Trump’s ascendancy.
After all, dear faithful, he was appointed by God.