Trump’s religious dealmaking pays dividends

“We don’t need a religious president,” said Burns, who was touched by the gift and recounted the story in a recent interview. “We need a president who can build relationships with people.”

.. And now, that transactional cycle seems likely to shape his White House agenda on issues of interest to the religious right.

.. But as much as religious conservative leaders respected Bush’s personal evangelical bona fides, they say that Trump — a man who has struggled to articulate his faith principles and is unapologetic about his tabloid-worthy personal life — has made more concrete commitments. They range from his pledge to appoint only Supreme Court justices who oppose abortion rights — a commitment Bush wouldn’t make — to his vow to defund Planned Parenthood.

.. He ultimately won the support of nearly every politically prominent Christian leader and landed 81 percent of the evangelical vote, a higher percentage than Bush netted in 2004.

.. “I think that he understood that his best and likely only chance to win the nomination and ultimately the presidency was to compete for and win the support of voters of faith,” said Ralph Reed

.. “I will say, having been involved with administrations from Reagan’s forward, this is the most solicitous that any incoming administration has been for input from evangelicals concerning personnel decisions that I’ve experienced,” Land said

.. ‘He’s very grateful for the faith community, he wants your input.’ That didn’t even happen under George W. Bush. They were willing to take our recommendations, but they didn’t actively solicit them three times before inauguration.”

.. He has not yet reached out to National Presbyterian Church, which has a rich political history — Ronald Reagan attended services there, Dwight D. Eisenhower laid a cornerstone there

.. “I think Norman Vincent Peale is the definition of a kind of transactional religion where it’s all about getting ahead,” said Blair, who has also written about Peale’s effect on the Trumps.

.. “Norman Vincent Peale’s message was, do whatever it takes to be successful, everything is transactional,”

.. Members of the evangelical advisory board certainly don’t question Trump’s faith, but they tend to be more voluble in describing his policy promises than in the particulars of what he believes. And to them, that’s what matters most.

.. “He said, ‘the only way I’m going to get to heaven is by repealing the Johnson amendment,’” which restricts tax-exempt churches from engaging in political activity, Land recalled. “Immediately, one of our people on the call said, ‘No, sir, the only way you’re going to get to heaven is by trusting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.’ Mr. Trump said, ‘Thank you for reminding me.’”