Why Do Evangelicals Suspend Disbelief about Trump?

It’s becoming a tiresome question: How do evangelical Christians continue to support Donald Trump when his actions and character don’t align at all with what they have traditionally stood for? A recent Pew Survey found that 78 percent of white evangelical protestants approve of Trump’s job in office, and only 18 percent of this group disapprove. How (and why) do they continue to suspend disbelief?

Though traditionally, evangelicals embrace the black and white thinking of moral absolutism, they are suddenly willing to embrace moral relativism when it comes to Donald Trump. Every day is Opposite Day when it comes to how they view Donald Trump; “bad” is “good,” and “wrong” is “right.” Biblical references are spun into rationalizations for misbehavior.

Though we should note that many evangelicals have not supported the Trump administration’s recent “zero tolerance” policy involving the separation of children from their parents who have attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, many evangelicals have maintained their staunch support of it, as well as other questionable Trump administration actions. One way they’re able to is by employing denial.

“I don’t believe it’s happening,” said Mike Jones of North Carolina, on Today. Jones questions whether the footage and images of children in detention facilities are even real. “I think it’s a big lie.” Some evangelicals have responded to recent mass shootings with similar denial.

So why are evangelicals so intent on their narrative that Trump, no matter what he says, does, or is, is ordained by God, and can do no wrong, even when he is blatantly doing wrong?

“The answer,” says Ben Howe, a contributor to Medium.com, “is simple: ends.”

The end justifies the means for many evangelicals, no matter how vile the means. Many of them justify the means with the assertion that God uses every person and situation for His glory.

Dr. Bill Sutton, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in McAllen, Texas, says, “Blind faith is how you have to trust the Lord.” (Elected officials) are ministers of God for righteousness’ sake.”

God, say evangelicals, is working to further the Christian political agenda through those He places in office. Sure, Donald Trump is vile, but look, they say, at what he’s accomplishing for the Lord! As an example, they would cite Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, along with his vow to move the American embassy there.

Many evangelical Christians in the U.S. say they have had years of feeling embattled, with no one to stand up for them. They cite Hillary Clinton’s open hostility toward them, and her insistence that “religions are just going to have to change regarding abortion.” They remember when Bill Clinton mistreated a young woman while the feminists rallied their support around him. They consider the controversies and laws supporting same-sex marriage.

“They’re in because they’ve hired him to do a job…He’s like a political bouncer, if you will,” says CBSN political contributor and Boston Herald columnist Michael Graham. “They believe it when Trump says, ‘I will fight for you.’

Perhaps, but for some, the belief that Trump is ordained by God to defend their place in the world positions Trump as a Christian leader – a role model. And this, in turn, can be construed as license for leaders and public officials use the Bible as justification to act despicably. And Evangelical Christians, as they have done with Trump, would be likely to support them.

Why evangelical Christians still support President Trump despite controversies | CBS News [2018-03-27]

Evangelicals keep faith in Trump to advance religious agenda | PBS News Hour [2018-05-03]

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