Neither daily lies, hyperbolic rhetoric, wild tweeting, the Russian scandal, politicizing the Boy Scouts, nor endless White House chaos, has dissuaded Donald Trump’s ultra-loyal conservative Christian evangelical from wholeheartedly embracing the president. As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin recently pointed out, Christian conservatives “have not let religion or values get in the way of their support.”
These days, the president’s Christian base are one heck of a happy bunch: Tony Perkins, head of the Washington, DC-based Family Research Council, has been a guest at the White House so many times, he might just as well move in; Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, claims he has found the fighter he has been yearning for; and, for Richard Land, former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, it’s all about “unprecedented access” and having an “impact on policy.”
Last month, about two dozen evangelical leaders, including Perkins, Land, Reed, mega-church preacher John Hagee, “prosperity gospel” preacher and longtime Trump ally Paula White, Gary Bauer, Robert Jeffress, Rodney Howard-Browne, Land, and Tony Suarez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, prayed with Trump during a day-long “listening session” with the Office of Public Liaison. Johnnie Moore, a former senior vice-president at Liberty University, told CBN News that “It shows a substantive relationship between the evangelical community and this administration.”
Over the past several weeks, Trump has been feeding his conservative base what they want: an aggressive re-launching of the culture wars. “We’re under siege. You understand that,” Trump told the audience at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual gathering in Washington. “But we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever.”
Using the term “under siege” was music to the ears of conservative Christian evangelicals who believe that Christians are under attack from the entertainment industry, on college campuses, and the media. ‘They see people and organizations of faith—florists, wedding cake bakers, Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor—persecuted for living their spiritual convictions,” Politico’s Tim Alberta recently observed in a piece titled ‘Trump and the Religious Right: A Match Made in Heaven.'”
“They shudder as pastors are subpoenaed for their sermons. And they fear, as same-sex marriage becomes culturally entrenched, a cascade of further defeats as the population, the electorate and ultimately the government becomes less pious and more accepting of ideologies that have no place in their vision of a Judeo-Christian nation.”
“We are being discriminated against. There is an anti-Christian movement in the culture,” Fr. Paul Grant, a priest with the Catholic Information Center in Washington, told Alberta after Vice President Mike Pence addressed the Faith and Freedom gathering. “The devil is using his tools to keep us out of the public square.”
“Jimmy Carter sat in the pew with us. But he never fought for us,” Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told Alberta after the Trump’s speech. “Donald Trump fights. And he fights for us.”
Whether it was his bringing Pence onto the ticket, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, his tweet banning transsexuals in the military, the reinstatement of the Mexico City policy, which eliminates U.S. funding for international nongovernmental organizations that perform abortions, the move to defund Planned Parenthood, and the Justice Department’s renewed attack on affirmative action and marijuana, Christian right leaders are downright giddy over Trump’s moves.
Trump’s conservative base has attended “small Oval Office gatherings, dinners with the president at the White House, regular strategy sessions with his senior staff, [and] meetings with Vice President Mike Pence in his office and at his Naval Observatory residence,” The New York Times’ Jeremy W. Peters recently reported.
According to exit polling, 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in November. Recent polling has indicated that the vast majority of these voters are sticking with him, and the White House continues to take steps to insure there will be no fall off. “Every Friday afternoon the White House sends an email to movement leaders called ‘The Trumpet,’ which lists the latest events and achievements that conservatives might find of interest and asks for their help in promoting the president’s policies,” Peters pointed out.
“And it is sort of nice when you walk around the halls of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to keep running into people you know who are evangelicals,” Richard Land said on the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” program. “Personnel is policy. And there are more evangelicals in this administration as personnel than any administration in my lifetime, probably since Calvin Coolidge. And, you know, it’s a lot easier to explain evangelical concerns to evangelicals.”
He added: “Not only do we have access, but we have had impact on decisions. We have had impact on policy. And it’s a whole different atmosphere, there really is, there’s a different atmosphere in the White House and the administration.”