It would be hard to find a pastor more perfect to stump for Donald Trump than Mark Burns.
At a March Trump rally in Illinois, Burns leapt up to the stage, pumping up the crowd in chants of Trump’s name. “Lord, this will be the greatest Tuesday that ever existed, come Super Tuesday Three,” he prophesied in prayer, naming and claiming a Trump victory. He opened his eyes. “There is no black person, there is no white person, there is no yellow person, there is no red person, there’s only green people!” he shouted. “Green is money! Green are jobs!!”
Until Trump plucked Burns out of the tiny town of Easley, S.C., few Christians knew the black pastor’s name. But it is God, Burns says, who has economically transformed his life—before he found Jesus, he relied on food stamps, lived in section 8 housing, went to jail, and faced a charge of simple assault as part of his self-described “baby mama drama” past. Then last year, Burns decided to transition his ministry to a for-profit televangelism business, so he and his followers could achieve economic success.
“Jesus said, above all things, I pray that you prosper, I pray that you have life more abundantly,” Burns, 36, explained to TIME in an interview, quoting a verse not from the Gospels but another New Testament passage. “It was never Jesus’ intention for us to be broke.” All of this is wisdom is now contained in a candidate for President. “I think that is what Donald Trump represents,” Burns says.
Trump is making inroads in the evangelical world by cloaking himself with pastors like Burns, who represent a narrow and often controversial segment of the faith. The preachers who often stand with him are born-again Christians, but most are evangelical outsiders—many are Pentecostal televangelists who often preach a version of what’s often called the “prosperity gospel,” a controversial theological belief that God wants people to be wealthy and healthy.
THE CONSERVATIVE BACKLASH
But if half of white evangelicals believe Trump would make a good or great president, half do not, and the divide is threatening the GOP’s anchor base. Popular evangelical writer Max Lucado denounced Trump, and the editors of the Christian Post came out against him in their a first-ever political stand. The evangelical stars of Duck Dynasty are split—father Phil endorsed Cruz, son Willie supports Trump.
Evangelical leaders meanwhile have been trying to rev up their base after their presidential picks fell short in 2012 and 2008. Evangelist Franklin Graham, Billy’s son, is hosting prayer rallies in every state capital to get evangelicals to commit to vote Biblical values. Conservative activist David Lane’s American Renewal Project is training hundreds of pastors to run for political office. Johnnie Moore, a National Association of Evangelicals board member, is pushing the new MyFaithVotes initiative to get 25 million evangelicals to the polls in November. “There is a certain triumphalism in evangelical theology,” says Moore, 32, who has no relation to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore. “Evangelicals like to win, it is one of the reasons they got into politics in the first place.”
Read the full article at How Donald Trump Gained Support From Evangelical Outsiders.