Donald Trump is using religion to inflame his base — and they are happy to oblige.
The reaction by evangelicals to Trump’s indictment this week on 34 felony counts is once again proof that the Religious Right has long abandoned the moral high ground. As self-appointed arbiters of morality, it would seem evangelical Christian leaders would certainly be required to condemn or distance themselves from a married man (and whose wife had just given birth) who’s had an assignation with a “porn star.” (Never mind the hush money and its falsification that sent Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, to jail.)
These “holier than thou” types so quick to blame secular society for every problem have instead embraced Trump as an “imperfect vessel” and even compare him to King Cyrus, described in the bible as a “heathen” ruler who nevertheless liberates Jews from captivity. Earlier this month, Mike Pence made comments suggesting Trump isn’t much of a Christian. But so what? Public Religion Research Institute founder Robert P. Jones predicted (correctly) prior to the indictment, based on data, that the charges will not matter to most of Trump’s Christian supporters.
And the response of Trump’s religious base has proved this to be the case. After his indictment Tuesday, Donald Trump was invited to take part in an “Emergency Prayer Call” with an evangelical group called Intercessors for America, organized by Pastor Paula White, his former White House faith adviser, according to Rolling Stone magazine.
During the prayer call, Trump complained about the “fake investigation,” and claimed that believers in “our beautiful Christianity” have been targeted.
Trump made sure to remind the pastors that he had packed the court with three anti-abortion justices, then said all the other obligatory Christians-being-persecuted lines sure to please them, such as, “We’re being discriminated against as a religion. We’re being discriminated against as a faith. And we can’t let that continue.”
Trump continued, “I’m fighting very hard for people of religion, people that believe in God.” He added: “The main thing that our country needs, again, is religion. … We’re losing our religion and our country.”
Trump took pains not to stick around for the rest of the prayers, but before signing off unctuously asked: “I want you to pray really hard because we have to have a victory in 2024.”
And that’s exactly what the others on the line did, including Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker (known for his “masculine toilet” scam), and musician Sean Feucht, described as a “Christian nationalist worship leader.”
Feucht summoned “prayer warriors” to rise up for Trump and prayed: ““We know that you got a plan, God … You can take what the enemy meant for evil in this horrible, corrupt, disgusting, demonic situation with this case in New York [and] you can shift it — and turn it around for our good.”
Bachman prayed for heavenly intervention: “Father, our President Donald J. Trump has taken the blows for America. . . Oh Father, would you free Donald Trump from his trouble — and our troubles here in America?”
In a similar vein, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has been on Fox several times, including on the day of the indictment, pleading with viewers to donate whatever they can to Trump, or “just pray” if they can’t donate. Before his arrest, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., compared Trump to Jesus (and, inexplicably, Nelson Mandela):
“Trump is joining some of the most incredible people in history being arrested today. Nelson Mandela was arrested, served time in prison. Jesus — Jesus was arrested and murdered by the Roman government.”
The night before the indictment, reports Rolling Stone, Pastors for Trump also had a conference call. Pastors for Trump is a 501(c)(4) formed late last year by Tulsa preacher Jackson Lahmeyer, who has said “The purpose of America was to form a Christian nation” and has warned that a spiritual battle with the “Luciferian Left” could turn into an “actual civil war.” Pastor John Bennett, who formerly was chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party, alleged during that call that the “Lord” is working through Trump and “he, and the Lord, is the only thing between us and that evil.” Like a bad penny, even Rudy Giuliani turned up on that call, where he claimed, “If you’re Republican, if you’re conservative, if you’re Christian, watch out. They’re coming for ya.”
This sounds a lot like Jesus, who said, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” (Matthew 12:30)
I can only second the conclusions of PRRI’s Jones, who writes: “One of the most blatant acts of public hypocrisy I’ve witnessed, in more than two decades observing conservative white Christians, was their easy discarding of the ‘values voters’ moniker along the road to supporting Trump.”
Besides, we at FFRF know that the nonreligious are the real “values voters.”