Some people, myself included, wonder at the level of support President Trump appears to have from conservative Christians, considering the president’s unChristian conduct, past and present.
I already had my own ideas, and most of them were supported last week by an article in National Review my son called to my attention.
A couple of days later I attended a program on the subject at the Ole Miss Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.
There, two nationally known journalists discussed religion and the 2020 election. Terry Mattingly is a senior fellow at the Overby Center and editor of the daily blog GetReligion.org. Richard Ostling is a former chief religion writer for The Associated Press and a former senior correspondent for Time Magazine.
The writer of the National Review article, a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor, and the two secular journalists were in agreement on an underlying reason the majority of white conservative Christians have and probably will overwhelmingly vote for Trump.
Simply stated, they consider him, or at least his party, the lesser of two evils.
A major consideration is the type of judges Trump has appointed and will continue to appoint if he is re-elected; judges more likely to uphold their values on abortion and LGBT rights than those appointed by a Democrat.
Noting what is purported to be the 81 percent of evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016, Andrew T. Walker, an associate professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement, wrote in National Review: “If trends hold, there will be a similar turnout in 2020. They will vote not so much for Donald Trump — with his uncouth speech and incessantly immature tweets — as they will vote against the worldview of the Democratic platform.”
Both Walker, in his article, and the speakers at Ole Miss, referred to former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke who said he wants the U.S. government to take away the tax-exempt status of religious organizations — including churches and mosques — that oppose same-sex marriage.
O’Rourke was quickly eliminated from the crowded field seeking the Democratic nomination, but Walker wrote that his “remarks were consistent with a larger profile of issues in which religious conservatives see a moral obligation to engage, even if that means using a blunt instrument like President Trump. Call it self-preservation, or call it transactional politics, but religious conservatives continue to find themselves forced into alliance with a party whose nominal leader once declared that he has no need to ask for God’s forgiveness.”
Trump, while he has captured the majority of the white evangelical vote, isn’t as responsible for it as the opposing party.
Mattingly and Ostling noted that Mitt Romney, a Mormon, received 79 percent of that vote when he ran against Barack Obama. Baptist preachers don’t consider Mormons Christians, although Romney’s moral compass is a lot more in line with a devout Baptist than is Trump’s.
Considering their platforms, white evangelicals are more likely to vote Republican, regardless of the candidates. Not so black Christians, the majority of whom vote Democratic for reasons rooted in civil rights.
Walker, who said in his article that he did not vote for Trump in 2016, wrote this: “Here’s my plea from one religious conservative to other religious conservatives in 2020. If the majority of us vote for Trump, let’s do so not because he’s a Protector of the Faith or a champion for ‘taking America back.’ He’s neither. Instead, view him as a flawed, complex political figure whose admixture of vanity and pragmatism is resulting in a political agenda that is less hostile to Christianity than its alternatives.”
Not all Christians are conservative, and there are different styles of Christianity. So, to imply that Trump will receive all the Christian vote would be wrong.
But he probably has a lock on the vast majority of the white evangelical voters, even those who consider his personal behavior deplorable.