Answering the Question ‘Why Do Any Evangelicals Still Support Trump?’
You’ve seen the stories, read the Facebook posts, watched the CNN interrogations of Christian leaders. “How in the world can any evangelicals still support President Trump?!?!” Sometimes this is followed by a “What a bunch of hypocritical, phony, vile Christians!” and assorted other slanders that had the word been “Muslim” the writer would have been fired on the spot. Can’t do much about those writers. Bigots are going to bigot.
The problem is there are decent people asking the question who are sincerely confused or bothered. The question is legitimate and deserves an answer.
I may be able to bring a unique perspective to the question. I’ve witnessed up close the words and actions of faith leaders and writers. I’ve been in on group phone calls with top evangelical leaders during the turbulent, anguished days of the 2016 election. I’ve sat in the pews of some of the players. And I’ve witnessed the wrestling within The Stream itself and in my own heart.
I’ve concluded there are four general fields of support for President Trump in the faith community. But before we get there, we need to clear one thing up right off the bat.
Not All Evangelicals Support Trump
Apparently, the obvious needs to be said. There are plenty of evangelicals who were Never Trumpers and remain that way to this very day. They were repulsed by his behavior, and/or believing to their core that defending or supporting him is a terrible Christian witness. One of our writers was so aghast and heartbroken when our leadership sought a middle way with Trump she was too paralyzed to write. (She would be encouraged to articulate her position and concerns, which she did beautifully.)
I remember one noted pastor struggling to calm scores of members upset he accepted a role on the President’s so-called faith council. I know of one leader of a national faith-based organization so bothered by the notion of Trump he wanted to retire. I know of another faith leader who, due to the sexual abuse of her past, wanted nothing to do with a guy who boasted his fame would allow him to grab the crotch of women. I know a major issue on the heart of these top leaders was “How do we heal the wounds within the evangelical community caused by the division over Trump?”
I well remember how heartbroken and exhausted James Robison was during one dark stretch, when he was working 17-hour days trying to “preserve the unity of the spirit in a bond of peace” between longtime brothers and sisters of the Lord.
No, don’t believe anyone who tells you “all those evangelicals support Trump.” But what of those who do? Part of the answer has to do with what you mean by “support.”
The Pom-Pom Squad
This is the most troubling group, and — no surprise — the ones most likely to be interviewed by the mainstream media. These are leaders and laymen who make no bones about supporting President Trump regardless. They seem to dismiss Trump’s past and present follies with a shrug. They utterly separate the political from the moral, and appear completely partisan in their actions and statements. The President could bring a harem of Playboy bunnies to the White House Easter Egg Roll and you’d half expect them to still be cheering. Or at best mumble something about Monica Lewinsky and Marilyn Monroe.
The Pained But Ultimately Pragmatic
This is the group I feel for the most. These are the leaders and believers tormented by the notion of casting a vote for Trump, but ultimately did so because of the bigger issues involved and the legitimate dangers posed by Hillary Clinton. They wrestled with Trump days, weeks, even months on end. Finally, they came to this thinking:
“If I believe in the sanctity of life, if I believe in religious liberty, if I believe the culture is heading over a cliff, if I believe in the Word of God I ultimately must do what I must. I believe in principles, not politicians. And the principles I hold sacred have a much better chance of being destroyed if Clinton is elected.”
“If a vote for Trump can help spare the slaughter of countless innocents, in the end I have to back him.” “I’m not voting for Trump. I’m voting for the Supreme Court justices he’ll get to appoint.”
This is something the media or casual observers would not pick up on: When Hillary Clinton changed the words of the Bill of Rights from “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship” evangelical leaders saw the knife at their throat. A church could not engage in any activity outside its walls contrary to the anti-traditionalist agenda. Add her campaign manager conspiring with George Soros to infiltrate the Catholic church to overturn traditional teaching, and even what was going on within the church walls was under threat.
Ask the pastors who were ordered by Houston’s mayor to turn over their sermons.
I listened as some very smart, very measured, very low-key leaders shared their conviction the survival of their church and ministries were at stake. And they were definitely convinced America’s future was at stake. Sure, they care about Stormy Daniels. But they fear the storm that awaits an America that turns away from God.
This is the most interesting group. They hold that Trump is a modern-day “Cyrus.” That — as shocking as it sounds — God Himself had chosen this ungodly leader for this time, and for His bidding. In 1 Samuel, we learn how King Cyrus was used by God, though he himself was not godly. He not only freed the Jews, but gave them the supplies necessary to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and Temple. (“Did you see? Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel!”)
I started hearing about this prophetic vision two-and-a-half years ago. The most notable proponent was speaker Lance Wallnau, who happens to be pals with my former pastor in Los Angeles. Another friend was the late Charismatic prophetic minister Kim Clement. Remarkably, 11 years ago this week, Kim spoke about Trump being lifted to the White House. If you want to blow your mind, check out the video.
The “Trump as Cyrus” crowd had the attitude “God has chosen Trump. Isn’t that wild?” This is not a “support” of Trump, per se. It is an embracing of what they see as a move of God.
Initially, it sounded like madness. Trump? Mr. Apprentice a Cyrus? Chosen by God? Yeah, right!
Then inexplicably, his rivals started falling. Trump was good at the campaigning thing, but not that good. He was dribbling through a line-up of all-stars like they were standing still. He was making mistakes and miscues that by all rights should have ended his campaign. Consider Election Night. It certainly felt like something miraculous, inexplicable was taking place. See what Michelle Bachmann wrote for The Stream a couple days after the election.
But Trump?!?! Donald J. Trump? Why in the world would the Lord want to use Donald J. Trump, a self-consumed, materialistic, amoral, boastful loudmouth to turn around America?
Perhaps that’s the exact point. America has become self-consumed, self-indulgent, materialistic and amoral. How better to transform America than by transforming the very embodiment of America’s ills. Which gets to our fourth group.
This is the group praying for our leader and speaking to him the Truth in love. Those who know what they’re dealing with, and are doing their best to minister to the President. Those who are doing as the Bible commands.
My boss James Robison, my former pastor Robert Morris and the founding pastor of my current church, Mike Hayes are members of President Trump’s faith council. If you were going to pick three people to be pastored by, you won’t find three better.
Throw in wise leaders like Sammy Rodriguez, Alveda King, Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz and Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church, and you have a bunch of powerful people of God surrounding and praying for and with the President of the United States. Please don’t underestimate the significance of this.
Ask Pastor Hayes. He got a call at 2 a.m. from the White House, asking him to gather a small group together of African-American clergy to meet with and work with Trump on racial reconciliation. This seeking of wise counsel doesn’t get headlines. But it’s happening.
Ask James. James was no supporter of Trump. James is personal friends with and loves many of the people Trump was up against. Solid people of faith. As James has stated publicly, he shared his deep concerns with Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson when they came out for Trump. Then Carson had a surprise for James. He had made his public endorsement only after Trump agreed to meet one-on-one with James. James did not fly off to New York with joy in his heart. However, when you have the chance to speak into the life of a leader, you accept it. And when you are James Robison, you will share the love of Jesus whether it’s in a garbage dump in Angola, a refugee camp in Africa or a Trump Tower in New York.
So James met with Trump, making it totally clear: “Only God could ‘Make America Great.’ But he could use anyone who will accept wisdom from above, which our Founders referred to as ‘divine providence.'” Trump received it, called it an “amazing meeting” and continued the communication.
Donald Trump came to trust and receive James with expressions of sincere appreciation. We need to pray their unlikely friendship continues to bear good fruit, both for the President and the nation.
As Pastor Jack Graham put it to The Stream last year, “We offer counsel and a faithful witness and leave the results to Mr. Trump.”
“Support” Means Something Different in the Christian Context
Support for the President does not mean condoning bad behavior.
The media seems especially eager for evangelical leaders associated with Trump to publicly chastise the President. That’s not the way it works, as Dr. Graham told The Stream. Would you want your pastor carrying on about your mistakes in public? His counsel and correction is for the President’s ears only.
Think of it. The prophet Nathan didn’t go on CNN to rip David for the whole Bathsheba business.
Sammy Rodriguez echoed the notion in his recent New York Times profile. He sees himself in the Old Testament role of a modern-day Joseph in Pharaoh’s court.
“If I’m not there, then what fills that vacuum?” he told the Times. “I know I will get criticized — I get that — but I have to stand up. It’s part of the calling.”
Pray for our leaders, lift them up, exhort them. This is what the Bible commands of all Christians.