Jeff Sessions Explains Why Christians Support Trump
The former attorney general compared the president to a Middle Eastern strongman.
About the author: David A. Graham is a staff writer at The Atlantic.
In Christ there is no east or west / In him no south or north, / But one great family bound by love / Throughout the whole wide earth, goes the old hymn.
But in Donald Trump, there is division among American Christians. On one side are those who insist that the president is a Christian hero who is standing up for religious rights. On the other are critics who counter that white evangelical Christians have struck a corrupt but convenient bargain with an immoral leader whose inclinations are dictatorial, not religious.
Into this debate strides former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, despite his excommunication from Trumps good graces, remains a die-hard backer of the president and his ideological agenda. Yet in a masterful profile in The New York Times Magazine by Elaina Plott, he comes down solidly, if unwittingly, on the side of the skeptics. Sessions suggests that the presidents own religious convictions are irrelevant, compares him to the dictators Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Bashar al-Assad, and makes the case for choosing a strongman who can defend Christians over democratic politics.
Why Do Evangelical Christians Love Trump
To many, it seems hypocritical that Christians who have long touted family values could rally around a thrice-married man who was accused by several women of sexual assault.
White evangelical support for Donald Trump has long puzzled observers. To many, it seems hypocritical that Christians who have long touted family values could rally around a thrice-married man who was accused by several women of sexual assault. Scholars have commented on his crassness, defined by historian Walter G. Moss as a lack refinement, tact, sensitivity, taste or delicacy. Others have observed how he has broken rules of civil political engagement.
But in my research on evangelical masculinity, I have found that Trumps leadership style aligns closely with a rugged ideal of Christian manhood championed by evangelicals for more than half a century.
As I show in my book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, conservative evangelicals embraced the ideal of a masculine protector in the 1960s and 1970s in order to confront the perceived threats of communism and feminism.
Believing that the feminist rejection of macho masculinity left the nation in peril, conservative white evangelicals promoted a testosterone-fueled vision of Christian manhood. In their view, America needed strong men to defend Christian America on the battlefields of Vietnam and to reassert order on the home front.
Why it Matters
How I Do My Work
What Still Isnt Known
Why Evangelicals Support Trumpand Why They Shouldnt
When Donald Trump came down that escalator in 2015, I had nothing but contempt for the man. I had heard him a couple of times delivering political commentary on Fox News and soon learned to go to CNN or MSNBC as soon as he came on . I had heard of his show The Apprentice, which also did not inspire much respect for him. I figured that he, like many nonpolitician presidential candidates, would be the candidate of the week for the Republicans and then we would get to the more serious candidates.
As his lead persisted in the Republican party through the winter early spring of 2016, I became more worried. I wanted two viable candidates for president. I used my Facebook page to deride Trump and tried to convince some of my conservative friends not to support him. When he won the nomination, it was disheartening to think that one of the major political parties would have such an incompetent candidate. I assumed he would lose but discouraged my Christian friends from voting for him. I even placed articles in The Stream, a conservative Christian online magazine largely favorable to Trump, to discourage Christian support. I knew my effort would have little influence, but I wanted to be able to tell my kids years later that I did my part in stopping Trump from becoming president.
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Trump Says He Now Identifies As A Non
Says Rodriguez: A tweet cannot stop my destiny, but a law signed by the president or an executive order carries the potential to infringe upon my ability to preach the gospel raise my family with Christian values. … Tone and tweets cannot take away my rights, but executive orders can.
And it isnt as if Biden exactly lives up to Catholic moral teaching. Despite cynically posing as a Catholic, says Metaxas, Biden will do all he can to expand abortion into the ninth month of pregnancy, including appointing justices to keep such infanticide legal.
Despite critics claims, evangelical support isnt about compromising values for power. For most, its about carving through the electoral fog to find the candidate most likely to advance policies that best align with their beliefs compromises made by numerous other voting blocs in this country without inviting moral opprobrium or charges of hypocrisy.
Whether evangelical support is enough to propel Trump to re-election is a different question, of course. The polls look more unfavorable to the president than they did four years ago, including in some evangelical-heavy states. But the point is this: Evangelical support for Trump isnt irrational.
Billy Hallowell has been reporting on the evangelical community for more than two decades. He is the author of Playing With Fire: A Modern Investigation Into Demons, Exorcism and Ghosts.
The Four Lies Trump Tells Evangelical Christians
Donald Trump routinely lies to his evangelical supporters. This isnt to say merely that he lies in general and that those falsehoods are heard by everyone including evangelicals, but rather that he lies specifically to Christians. Some of these lies are about himself, some are about the world we all live in. Some are about what Trump claims hes done for Christians.
To be clear, conservative Christians have some real reasons to like Trumpthe most important being the appointment of many conservative judges and the promotion of some pro-life policies.
But on other issues, Trump has been less helpful than Christians seem to think. For instance, when it comes to protecting religious freedomwhich Trump often cites as one of his greatest achievementshe routinely lies to their faces.
Perhaps evangelicals know this and dont mind. Then again, maybe they dont quite realize the extent of Trumps double-speak.
Lie #1: Trump repealed the Johnson amendment.
During the 2016 campaign, one of Trumps main applause lines for evangelical audiences was his promise to repeal the Johnson amendment. This is the law that limits the ability of nonprofit organizationsincluding churchesfrom endorsing political candidates while still maintaining their tax-exempt status.
Trump did issue an executive order that encouraged the Treasury Department to go easy when enforcing the law, but in truth the law was rarely enforced to begin with. In other words, almost nothing has changed.
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Most White Americans Who Regularly Attend Worship Services Voted For Trump In 2020
Similar to past elections, religion played an important role in the 2020 U.S. presidential contest: Republican candidate Donald Trump continued to garner strong support from White evangelical Protestants, while Black Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated backed the Democratic candidate and eventual winner, President Joe Biden.
But religious identity alone does not tell the whole story. Among White Americans, worship service attendance remains highly correlated with presidential vote choice, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of 2020 validated voters.
As in previous years, voters who frequently go to religious services defined as those who attend at least monthly were more likely to vote for the Republican candidate in the most recent presidential election, while less frequent attenders were more likely to back the Democrat.
Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to better understand the connections between religion and Americans voting patterns in the 2020 election. It is based on data from the Centers , which surveyed U.S. adults online and verified their turnout in the 2016 and 2020 elections using commercial voter files that aggregate official state turnout records. Panelists for whom a record of voting was located are considered validated voters all others are presumed not to have voted.
Opiniontrump’s Cultural Fearmongering Is Catnip For Far
Evangelical denominations formed from these splits in the South were usually comprised of people who had made money from slavery or supported it. After the Civil War many were more likely to have supported the Ku Klux Klan and approved of lynching. The burning cross of the KKK, for instance, was a symbol of white Christian supremacy, designed both to put fear into the hearts of African Americans and to highlight the supposed Christian righteousness of the terrorist act.
During the civil rights movement, many white evangelicals either outright opposed Martin Luther King Jr. or, like Billy Graham, believed that racial harmony would only come about when the nation turned to God. in the 1970s, evangelicalism became synonymous with being “born again” and also against abortion and, with the rise of the Moral Majority in the late 1970s, they began to seek not only moral, but political power.
Ronald Reagan, who also counted evangelicals among his most vociferous supporters, started his presidential campaign on the platform of states rights from Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were murdered with the participation of local law enforcement in 1964, while attempting to register African Americans to vote. Decades later, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the evangelical leader, opposed sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid regime and insulted Bishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Prize Peace winner, as a “phony.”
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‘clearly Trying To Save Face’: Trump Endorses Two Gop Rivals In Same Race
Over the weekend, Herschel Walker addressed the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a gathering of social conservatives in Nashville, Tennessee. His speech came just days after Walker’s campaign publicly acknowledged he had three children by women he was not married to in addition to his son by his ex-wife.
Was the crowd skeptical of the Georgia Republican Senate nominee? Quite the contrary. reported that Walker “received resounding applause from evangelical Christian activists on Saturday.”How to explain that seeming contradiction? Enter , a professor of history at Calvin University. Du Mez is the author of The New York Times bestseller “,” a book that has had a profound impact on how I understand the rise of Donald Trump and his acolytes, like Walker.I reached out to Du Mez to chat about Walker, Trump and the broader Republican Party. Our conversation — conducted via email and lightly edited for flow — is below.Cillizza: Herschel Walker was cheered by a social conservative crowd over the weekend, just days after he acknowledged he has four kids, not the one most people thought he had. What gives?Du MezCillizza: In your book, you write that the rise of Donald Trump fits into a long pattern within the evangelical community. Explain.Du MezbecauseDu Mez
Political Leaders And Scripture
To deal with Christianophobia, we must challenge the cultural values emerging from this type of intolerance. But in a very practical manner, evangelical support of Trump is making our culture even more toxic for Christians. For utilitarian reasons alone, Christians should not throw their support behind our current president.
But my argument is not limited to utilitarian concerns. The way Christians have come to support Trump does not fit with a proper understanding of the Scriptures. I acknowledge that I am not a trained theologian and so people may rightly argue with my interpretations. But I am confident that the evidence for Christians to be cautious about putting too much faith in their political issues is very strong.
Any fair assessment of the Old Testament and the trials of the children of Israel consistently comes back to the theme of relying on political figures instead of God. From the very beginning of the formation of Israel, Jews were warned about seeking a king to be the solution to their problems.
In other words, they believed more in the protection they could obtain from individuals who did not accept their God-given values than a God who has said he would protect them. Sound familiar?
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Getting A Negative Reaction From Liberals
When I was a young evangelical Christian, I was eager to be oppressed for my faith. The Bible and my pastors had warned me to avoid worldly people celebrities, intellectuals, scientists, the media and liberals. Those were the ones who forbid us from praying in school while indoctrinating us with communism and evolution.
Jesus once said: Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. So I went out of my way to piss people off telling the goth kids they were prisoners of Satans lies, handing anti-abortion literature to the loose girls, and forcing science class to run late while I debated evolution with the teacher.
My entire identity became wrapped up in being disliked by a specific group of people, and they were happy to accommodate me. Trump has had no problem arousing hatred from those same worldly people, creating what appears to some like an imploding presidency, while others see a heroic martyr against liberalism.
To evangelicals, pissing off liberals and defending unpopular opinions makes Trump appear more like one of them
I never used to watch much, but when he started campaigning I was watching it, Eike said. Ive been thoroughly angry at the media. I was pleased to see him put them in their place. It was refreshing.
Why Do Some Evangelicals Continue To Support Trump
Director of the Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations at Oakwood University and Teaching Professor at Claremont Lincoln University
Even after his apparent confessions of sexual assault, evangelical leaders have doubled down on their support for Trump. The Faith and Freedom Coalitions, Ralph Reed, obstinately announced that Trumps objectivizing of women doesnt even rank high on the hierarchy of concerns of those faith-based voters, that he is apparently empowered to speak for.
A similar insight is echoed by Focus on the Familys James Dobson, who recently declared, most evangelicals I know have decidedthat they will really have only one choice for president, Donald J. Trump. Im sure one of those evangelical he knows is Franklin Graham of Samaritans Purse, who is fervently praying that Christians will not be deceived by the liberal media about what is at stake for future generations.
Up is Down and Down is Up
The Religious Right is Wrong
A Consistent Inconsistency
Wallis is correct in denouncing the evangelicals inconsistency with the social justice message that permeates the teachings of Jesus. However, I would be amiss if I didnt point out their inconsistency is very consistent with a dominant stream of historic American Christianity. The truth is, Dobson, Falwell, Graham, and the crew of bewitched clergy that belong to their fraternity represent a distinct Christian ideology that has long existed in America.
Forward to the Past
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The Problem Is The Culture
We may not know exactly what has led to the rise of anti-Christian attitudes, but we do know the arguments used to support it. Many of those with such attitudes envision Christians as bigoted, intolerant, racist, unthinking, and crude. These are also qualities that are tied, with good reason, to President Trump. To have Christians seen as supportive of Trump is to reinforce some of the Christianophobic stereotypes. Support of Trump will ironically reinforce many of the cultural stereotypes working against Christians in the long run. I do not doubt that in the short term there are protections gained by Trump. But that is shortsighted. In the long term any legal protection gained because of Trump will be overturned by a culture that is more anti-Christian because of current evangelical support of Trump.
The second major pushback I receive is that those who hate Christians will continue to hate us regardless of whether we support Trump or not. True. Some people have such hatred in their hearts that nothing we do short of capitulating to all their political and social causes will satisfy them.
Why Evangelicals Support Donald Trump
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WHO IS AN EVANGELICAL?The History of a Movement in CrisisBy Thomas S. KiddWhy Evangelicals Chose Political Power Over Christian ValuesBy Ben Howe
How 81 percent of evangelicals could have voted for Donald Trump, given his flouting of their traditional values, has been a question for many Americans since 2016. Thomas S. Kidd and Ben Howe, both evangelicals, try to answer this question in different ways.
Kidd, a professor of history at Baylor University, finds an explanation in the history of the relationship between evangelicals and political power. It was, he tells us, a myth that the Puritans favored religious freedom for all. Rather, they wanted the freedom to practice their own religion and brought a relatively harsh form of religious establishment to Massachusetts and Connecticut. It was the evangelicals in the Great Awakenings the religious revivals in the 18th and 19th centuries who spread the idea of religious liberty John Locke inspired in them. After the Revolution, evangelicals, mainly Baptists and Methodists, adopted the principle of separation of church and state and helped James Madison and Thomas Jefferson enshrine it in the first amendment to the Constitution.
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