A few days ago, I predicted that Donald Trump’s love affair with evangelicals will be short-lived. The evidence continues to mount.
Trump has declined the invitation of the Family Research Council, one of the main sponsors of the annual Values Voters Summit, where Republican candidates typically seize the opportunity to give a fiery speech to a receptive and politically active crowd. (Jeb Bush isn’t going either, but which may be an expression of discontent over not receiving an invitation to address last year’s summit.)
About Trump’s decision not to attend, FRC president Tony Perkins told the Christian Post, “I think that is going to send a message to Evangelicals and values voters that he wants their support, but he is not really interested in having a conversation with them.”
Not only is Trump missing the not-to-be-missed religious right political event of the year, he continues to blow smoke on his alleged love for the Bible. The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, who has been writing glowing accounts of Trump’s appeal to evangelicals, is out with a new Trump interview, during which the real estate mogul utters many words about the Bible but, once again, doesn’t appear to actually know much about it—or what evangelicals believe about it.
“There’s so many things that you can learn from it (The Bible). Proverbs, the chapter ‘never bend to envy,'” Trump told Brody, who didn’t press him to cite chapter and verse. (Brody does write about the interview, “the subject of envy does come up in the Book of Proverbs a few times. We’re trying to get clarification about what chapter and/or verse he may have been referring to.”)
There isn’t actually a verse that has the words “never bend to envy,” but there’s Proverbs 3:31 (which says not to envy violent people or emulate them), Proverbs 6:34 (about the rage and vengeance of a jealous man, although jealousy and envy in the Bible are different things), Proverbs 14:30 (about how envy can rot your bones), or Proverbs 23:17 (not to envy sinners). I have to admit I’m disappointed in the lack of exegesis on CBN, because, Bible aside, it surely would be interesting to know more about how Trump’s brain processes envy.
For Trump, the Bible is “special,” like a “great movie.” But conservative evangelicals believe it is the literal word of God. Does “special,” like a “great movie,” cut it?
Of course Trump hasn’t drawn the support of even the plurality of evangelicals, splitting the top honors with Ben Carson. Still, though, he sits atop the GOP field, something that would be difficult to accomplish without at least some evangelical support.
For some weeks, his vitriol against immigrants has troubled evangelicals like the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore, who is deeply conservative but is urging evangelicals to take a turn away from harsh religious right political rhetoric. Moore doesn’t represent all evangelicals by any stretch of the imagination, but if you couple the dismay of Moore’s like-minded evangelicals with Values Voters Summit attendees irked about Trump’s no-show next week, it will start to look like he’s running out of evangelical mojo.
Take a look at a sampling of recent conservative coverage of Trump and evangelicals:
- Evangelicals Don’t Love Trump (Keith Miller writing at the Federalist, breaking down the polls, and arguing that church-going evangelicals are not as enamored with Trump as a cursory look at the polls might suggest);
- Donald Trump Losing Evangelical Support to Ben Carson Amid Questions About Faith (Washington Times);
- Donald Trump and GOP: Evangelicals Don’t Support Denigrating Immigrants (the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Dan Darling and Matthew Soerens, author of a book on immigration, in the Christian Post);
- Digging Into Donald Trump’s Religion (D.C. Innes in World, calling Trump’s refusal to name a favorite Bible verse in a Bloomberg interview his “Sarah Palin moment” for evangelicals, referring to when Palin told Katie Couric she reads “all” the newspapers);
- Conservative Columnist Says Donald Trump is Scamming Christians for Vote, Urges Conservative Evangelicals to ‘Wake Up’ (Gospel Herald referring to Kirsten Powers’ op-ed in USA Today).
If Donald Trump can win the Republican nomination without significant evangelical support, that could signal the bloc’s decreasing clout within the party. But something tells me the opposite is going to prove to be true: that the religious right, between pro-immigration evangelicals and those appalled by Trump’s Bible-loving avowals backed only by his biblical illiteracy, could very well save America from Donald Trump.