Strangest Hot Take of the Day: Why Evangelicals Like Trump

The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody wants to tell you why evangelicals like Donald Trump. It’s a good try, but it’s not very convincing.

Brody has spent many years interviewing presidential candidates, pressing them for answers on evangelical hot button issues—abortion, same-sex marriage, religious liberty. His program and his blog are the go-to place for finding out where the candidates stand, and what they will say when they know they are speaking directly to an evangelical audience.

askbadgeI would have expected Brody to write a post telling us why evangelicals don’t like Trump: his glib formulation of forgiveness, his reference to “my little cracker” (that would be communion), and perhaps some of the reasons Russell Moore and Samuel Rodriguez laid out the other day when they critiqued him in the Wall Street Journal. They took aim not just at his anti-immigrant diatribe, but at his weak stances on their key issues.

In the service of explaining what there is of an evangelical attraction to Trump (and, as I wrote earlier this week, it is there, although by no means a majority), Brody portrays Trump as a no-holds-barred honest broker and, therefore, victim of the media. That’s why, he says, evangelicals can relate.

“Donald Trump operates in a world of absolutes,” Brody writes. “A world of right and wrong; a world of winners (him) and losers (McCain, Perry, etc); a world of put up or shut up (literally).”

“And what does Trump get for speaking out so boldly without holding back?” Brody asks. “Public ridicule.”

Evangelicals, Brody contends, can commiserate with poor Donald Trump:

Now, think of conservative evangelicals. In their quest to champion biblical values, their mindset is much the same. It is a world of absolutes. They believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God. Non-negotiable. They believe there is only one way to heaven and that is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Non-negotiable. They see the world through the lens of spiritual warfare (good vs. evil). And what do evangelicals get for speaking out so boldly without holding back? That’s right: public ridicule.

That’s a pretty thin argument for an evangelical-Trump bond. Trump’s non-negotiables begin and end with Donald Trump. Not the Bible. Not God. Not Jesus. To compare the non-negotiable of Donald Trump’s ego with, say, divine infallibility or the trinity is a bit of an apostasy, is it not?

What’s more, the “public ridicule” of Donald Trump is not because he is “speaking out so boldly.” It’s because he’s injected a narcissistic circus into the presidential campaign, kept alive only because he has more money than he knows what to do with, and he’s not afraid to bully anyone with it. Is that the comparison to evangelicals that Brody really wants to draw?

Brody rips into previous Republican candidates who he says sold evangelicals a bill of goods, taking aim at the 2004 George W. Bush reelection campaign, during which the “Federal Marriage Amendment was trumped up as the big thing and there was a concerted effort to attract evangelicals to the polls on this issue.” But, Brody laments, “we find out later that the guy who orchestrated the whole thing, campaign manager Ken Mehlman was a homosexual who really didn’t believe in the whole effort but it sure was good for political business.”

To seal the deal, Brody has some breaking news: Trump is for a 20-week abortion ban. He’s for defunding Planned Parenthood. Sure, he used to be pro-choice, but he changed his mind on that in 2011—when he was running for president.

What was that Brody wrote about that “homosexual” Mehlman? That he “really didn’t believe in the whole effort but it sure was good for political business?”


  •' Camera Obscura says:

    And that’s because, as opposed to “homosexuals” Donald Trump is so famous for his adherence to the letter of the scriptures, the one where Jesus says that divorced people who remarry are guilty of adultery, things like that.

  •' cranefly says:

    No, I think Brody’s right. He just has no idea how right he is. People are not paying attention to Trumps’s religion; he’s Republican, he isn’t denouncing his own party (Jon Huntsman-style) and that’s the purity test. Most people project themselves onto their candidates anyway. Furthermore, the particular absolutes that Evangelical conservatives hold could be summarized in the word “ethnocentrism,” (which probably does require an increasing amount of narcissism to maintain in an increasingly pluralistic nation). You think it’s really personal commitment to Christ that matters? What matters is loyalty to the Jesus-Bible tribe, and Trump sounds uncommonly loyal because of how unapologetically he stands up for ethnocentrism. His total ignorance of his own ignorance makes it impossible for him to seem (or be) insincere. It’s reassuring in these troubled times when mean people are calling us racist just because we think most black people deserve to die. Best of all, he gives us fresh tools to help us keep ignoring the biblical commands to welcome immigrants: surely God didn’t mean welcome rapist immigrants. Thank goodness, the cognitive dissonance was getting heavy. See, we’re not racist, we’re just protecting our special children.

  •' NancyP says:

    Trump is a TV star. Americans worship money and celebrity, especially TV celebrity. Trump is a crude bully, that is to say, charismatic in the political / entertainment sense. He appeals to people’s baser instincts (greed, fear, hatred) and doesn’t ask them to think or to move their butts from the TV couch. Why should evangelical voters be any less subject to the appeal of such a candidate? Here’s hoping that he has jumped in too soon, and that the electorate will get bored fast.

  •' What Would Jesus Shoot? says:

    Trump may disdain the “Biblical” Jesus who demands forgiveness, but he loves the “American” Jesus, just like his audience. They are all peas in a pod.

  •' Bobby P says:

    I would have to agree with you. The American Jesus that would carry an AR- rifle, could care less about the hungry and the poor,and would deny Healthcare to those without. Oh, and is white with six pack abs and fully believes in capitalism over income equality for a fellow man. Yes that is today’s American Jesus.

  •' Alencon says:

    Only a child, a fool or a madman thinks the world consists of absolutes.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    I appreciate Trump because he is like a mirror being held up to America and to the Republican party. The Republicans usually have tight control over their message, and with enough control and effort they can make crazy seem OK, at least to their conservative audience. Trump can sometimes see the flaws in the Republican message, and he unlike all the rest is not guarded about speaking out. He might say some crazy things, but he might also be in a position to speak truth to Republicans in power. If he is still around for the debates he might make them worth watching.

  •' apotropoxy says:

    Fundamentalists are authoritarian cultists who, when presented with an opportunity to follow a non-reflective narcissist who can change the subject on a dime, will do it. The Donald is a Pied Piper to those facing political obliteration.

  •' ObscurelyAgnostic says:

    Brody’s argument for evangelicals feeling kinship to Trump isn’t just “thin” — it exposes how desperate some bloggers are to 1) manufacture relevance for their ceaseless opining, and 2) fill the vast empty spaces of their electronic canvass …

  •' Eric says:

    “Is that the comparison to evangelicals that Brody really wants to draw?”

    You betcha.

  •' Eric says:

    “His total ignorance of his own ignorance makes it impossible for him to seem (or be) insincere.”

    The central pillar holding up the tent of evangelical ideology: the myth of innocence.

  •' bluestatedon says:

    Donald Trump is the perfect candidate for the endlessly-gullible Evangelicals who regard the Robertson Duck Dynasty frauds and the Duggar weirdos as examples of moral rectitude. Donald will use Evangelicals for his own political purposes just as Reagan did.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Don’t you think Huckabee would be a better candidate for them because of his door of the oven comment? He is the one who best understands how to talk to them.

  • ATP,

    What’s your evidence for any prospect of a decline in ignorance and authoritarianism?

    I’d like to share your optimism, but first I’d like to see some reasn for it.


  •' apotropoxy says:

    The global data regarding religiosity in the modern world shows a steady decline in the superstition.

  • ATP,

    I have seen no such evidence. No, your claim is not evidence, unless we perhaps count it as one more data point for belief in the unproven.

    There do seem to be numbers of people saying they no longer belong to orthodox organized Abrahamic religions, but I see no reduction in loony superstition anywhere.

    In the United States large numbers of people who used to support a fairly rational group called the Republican Party today support a crazy authoritarian cult which for some reason uses the same name. The desire for violent, irrationalist, and authoritarian political groupings seem to me to be on the upswing.

    Channelling, crystal worship, astrology and the like all seem to be flourishing.

    What do you have in mind?


  •' Jim Reed says:

    A few years ago it seemed like 90% of the nation was ready to follow Bush off to wars of choice, including torture, and watching the Fox 24 torture works series so that we could be proud patriotic Americans. The nation might be more divided now, but I would consider that progress.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Crystal worship and astrology are very tiny negligible issues compared to Christianity. Having more nones and less Christianity is a significant advance for the nation.

  •' seashell says:

    So in yesterday’s online Charisma Magazine, the column headed as Prophetic Insight was written by an evangelical pastor who had a dream where God told him that He had given Trump great wealth so he (Trump) could investigate and … wait for it… Trumpet the Truth for the 2016 elections. This is not a joke or a parody yet (give the Internet a minute and it will be). I can’t link because of the black hole of pending doom, but Google still works.

  • Jim,

    I see you’re joining ATP in putting forward your own data point for belief in the unproven.

    I agree with you that the number of crystal worshippers is probably small. Negligible? I don’t think they’re called “blood diamonds” for nothing.

    There are almost certainly more sincere believers in astrology than there are sincere Christians in the world. Again this doesn’t strike me as “negligible.”

    Some clown on the Dallas staff of the Southern Baptists said the other day that the increase in self-declared “nones” was simply churches getting rid of their chaff, or words to that effect. Modulo the implied value judgement, his view strikes me as reasonable. Don’t you agree?

    And if not, on what evidence?


  •' Jim Reed says:

    However negligible astrology is, I don’t feel much danger from them. I do feel danger from Christians because of their support for Bush and his war and torture, and their wish for war with Iran, and supporting the rich who do everything they can to make this nation work for helping the rich get more rich by taking advantage of everyone else in every way possible. I think this is class warfare. On every issue, the Democrats want to help the people, and the Republicans want to help the rich and ignore the needs of the people. When the Christians decided to get more involved in politics, they joined the Republicans for some reason. It seems insane, but that is where we have been for the last few decades.

  • Wey-yull, Trump’s the only person I’ve seen speaking loud and true about Governor Walker’s trashing Wisconsin.

    His attack is strictly from supposed Republican principles: the guy is administratively and fiscally a total fool. A big huzzah for the blind pig hitting a major truffle, doncha think?

    The reality, though, is that plain bad government is the Republican normal. Could the fact that they preach that government is bad, and buying votes with voters’ own money are the Way Things Work, have anything to do with this?


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