Here’s what everyone’s missing about the surprising bond between the president and the faithful.
Dismissed by the cultural elite. Disrespected by the mainstream media. Delegitimized by the American left. And desperate to stop the bleeding.
.. But it is equally the story of American evangelicalism, whose adherents feel marginalized in a culture that they believe no longer reflects its core values or tolerates its most polarizing principles.
.. why they felt a connection with him as a candidate, or why many feel an even stronger kinship with him as president today. One fascinating explanation, proffered repeatedly during conversations with evangelicals over the past year, is that they identify with Trump because both he and they have been systematically targeted in the public square—oftentimes by the same adversaries.
.. he was also expressing solidarity with an audience that can relate to feeling victimized.
.. “The most politically incorrect thing to do these days is talk about Christianity,” says Steve Scheffler, president of Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Iowa chapter and a prominent grass-roots player in Trump’s victory there last fall. “Religion has been under siege for a long time. And I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but if Hillary Clinton had won, religious liberty in America would basically be finished because of her appointments to the courts.”
.. for Christians who feel they are engaged in a great struggle for the identity of America—and fear that their side has been losing ground—the most important question is not whether Trump believes in their cause, but whether he can win their wars.
.. “Jimmy Carter sat in the pew with us. But he never fought for us,” Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told me after the president’s speech. “Donald Trump fights. And he fights for us.”
.. This casting of Trump as a great champion of the faithful, engaging the forces of secularism on behalf of a beleaguered religious right, is essential to understanding his appeal among evangelicals.
.. Critics point to religious people occupying the highest public offices and governing by their faith, often to the detriment of nonbelievers
.. wonder how this sense of martyrdom came to be so misplaced.
.. Christianity is under attack from the worldly influences of academia and entertainment and media
.. They see people and organizations of faith—florists, wedding cake bakers, Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor—persecuted for living their spiritual convictions. They shudder as pastors are subpoenaed for their sermons. And they fear, as same-sex marriage becomes culturally entrenched, a cascade of further defeats
.. Many Christians believe in the idea of “spiritual warfare,” the concept of God and Satan enlisting their armies of angels and demons to battle for the souls of people through everyday occurrences and experiences.
.. Many also believe in what might be described as divine irony—that is, the notion that God uses flawed, unlikely individuals to achieve his ends and advance his kingdom. (Jacob, Moses, David, et al.)
.. “George W. Bush was one of them, but he was a compassionate conservative. They want someone who’s a fighter
.. “It’s a lot of things: the policy battles, the way he ran his campaign, the way, frankly, that he’s handling the FBI investigation into Russia. Trump doesn’t back down. And that kind of leadership, evangelicals feel like they haven’t seen it from the White House.”
- nominating a conservative in Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court;
- reinstating and strengthening the Mexico City policy, which eliminates U.S. funding for international nongovernmental organizations that perform abortions;
- signing the Congressional Review Act to route federal money away from Planned Parenthood;
- and issuing an executive order that begins to broaden religious liberty guidelines
.. “I believe we’re winning this battle,” James Dobson, the lionized Christian author and radio host, said to thunderous applause Saturday night during the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s closing dinner.
.. By standing up and fighting on behalf of a community that has long felt the same way, Trump has earned its lasting loyalty